The Father, Jesus, and Adam
Jesus Christ was the firstborn spirit offspring of God the Father
(Colossians 1:15 and Hebrews 1:5-6). Jesus was preordained to become
the mortal son of God (Luke 1:32). God the Father declared that man
would be made “in our image” (Genesis 1:26), that is, the image of
himself and of Jesus Christ. God the Father declared that Adam would
“become as one of us” (Genesis 3:22) after his fall. Speaking
through the prophet Isaiah, Jesus proclaimed that God the Father
gave him many gifts and supported him in his saving work on behalf
of mankind (Isaiah 50:1, 4-5, 7, 9).
Jesus Defers to the Father
From an early age, Jesus recognized his role as the only begotten
son of God. Jesus sought to do the Father’s will and found favor in
the Father’s sight (Luke 2:49, 52). Jesus throughout his public
ministry acknowledged the Father as his father and frequently
reminded his disciples that he was sent by the Father (John 7:28-29
and John 5:37). Jesus made it clear that it was the will of the
Father that he was fulfilling, not his own will (John 14:23, Matthew
16:27, Matthew 16:17, and John 4:34). Jesus repeatedly confirmed
that he was the “son of God” (Mark 14:61-62) and that his father
bore witness of him as part of the testimony of two witnesses—Jesus
Christ being one witness and his Heavenly Father being the other
Jesus and the Holy Ghost
Jesus Christ spoke of the Holy Ghost with reverence. Before going
into the wilderness to fast for 40 days and be tempted by Satan,
Jesus was “full of the Holy Ghost” (Luke 4:1). Thus it was that
Jesus and the Holy Ghost, two personages of the godhead, endured
these trials together. Jesus taught that blasphemy against himself
(one personage of the Godhead) could be forgiven, but that blasphemy
against the Holy Ghost (a separate and different personage of the
Godhead) could not be forgiven in this life or the next (Matthew
12:31-32). Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus told his apostles
that the Holy Ghost (the comforter) would take his place when he
left (John 16:7). As long as Jesus was on the earth, there was
little need for the Holy Ghost among the children of men (John
The Father, Jesus, and the Holy
All three members of the Godhead were present at the baptism of
Jesus. When the savior came out of the water, the Holy Ghost
descended in the form of a dove and Heavenly Father spoke from
heaven (Mark 1:10-11 and Matthew 3:16-17). Jesus spoke of God the
Father and the Holy Ghost together (John 14:26 and John 16:13-15),
acknowledging both their divine individuality and their divine
Jesus Pled with the Father
During the events of the Atonement, Jesus Christ was particularly
close to his divine father—and then horribly separated from him.
Chapter 17 of John details the great intercessory prayer, where
Jesus poured out his heart to God the Father and pled on behalf of
the apostles and all believers that they might come to know “the
only true God” and Jesus Christ (John 17:3). This was not an
internal dialogue. Jesus was imploring another being, not merely
some aspect of his own personhood. He was imploring his Heavenly
In the Garden of Gethsemane , Jesus pled with his Heavenly
Father—calling him by the intimate “Abba”, for father—asking him if
it might be according to the Father’s will to “take away this cup
from me” (Mark 14:36). Jesus remained in this intimacy with the
Father throughout the events leading up to his death on the cross.
He pled with his father to forgive those who were crucifying him
(Luke 23:24); he cried out in agony to his father when death was
imminent (Matthew 27:46); and he commended his spirit into the hands
of his father when the work was finished (Luke 23:46).
The Personage of Jesus
Paul (Galatians 4:4, 6, and Ephesians 1:2-3, 3:14), Luke (Acts
3:13), and Peter (1 Peter 5:10) all referred repeatedly to Jesus as
being the son of God the Father. Jesus is described as the image of
God (2 Corinthians 4:4), who was made manifest of God in the flesh
(1 Timothy 3:16) to be the one and only mediator between God (the
Father) and man (1 Timothy 2:5).
The authors of the New Testament frequently referred to the Godhead
as three individual beings having a perfect unity of love and
purpose. Nowhere is God described in this testament as the mystical
union of three divine “persons” or personalities in a single
After the Ascension, the disciples frequently mentioned Jesus and
God the Father separately in the same passages (1 Corinthians 8:6, 2
Corinthians 5:19-21, 1 Timothy 1:2, Hebrews 3:1-2, Ephesians 5:5,
Romans 8:39, 2 Thessalonians 2:16, Colossians 1:2, 1 John 4:1-2 and
2 John 9). Biblical authors frequently mention all three members of
the Godhead in the same passages (Acts 10:38, Acts 5:30-32, 2
Corinthians 13:14, and Jude 20-21). Finally, Peter (1 Peter 3:22),
Paul (Colossians 3:1 and Hebrews 10:10-12), Mark (Mark 16:19), and
Luke (Acts 7:55-56) all testified of the savior being on the “right
hand” of God in the heavens.
Father and Son Differ in Knowledge
Although being divinely one in purpose, God the Father has
understanding and knowledge that his son Jesus does not (Mark
13:32), at least while Jesus occupied the mortal realm.
Father and Son Differ in Power and
Jesus said during his public ministry that his father (God the
Father) had greater power and dominion than he (John 10:29 and John
13:16). The doctrine that Jesus taught was that of his father (John
7:16). Jesus deferred to God the Father in matters of heavenly
decision making (Matthew 20:23). Jesus accepted commandments given
by his father (John 10:18). Jesus ultimately gained all that his
father had (John 5:26-27 and John 17:22), but he still acted upon
the will of his father in all things (John 5:19, 21 and John 5:30),
despite having his moral agency (free will) to do otherwise.
The Father is God to the Son
The prophet Micah prophesied that Christ would be born “in the
majesty of the name of the Lord his God” (Micah 5:4). Jesus referred
to God the Father as God (Luke 18:19, Matthew 19:17, John 17:3),
called upon God during his crucifixion (Mark 15:34 and Matthew
27:46), and referred to God after his resurrection (John 20:17).
Paul then confirms the doctrine of God the Father being the God of
Jesus Christ in his letters to the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:17) and
Corinthians (I Corinthians 11:3).
Within the Godhead, God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost
are divinely unified. By the delegated authority of the Father,
Jesus can stand in the place of God, act for God, and be called God.
However, the Bible points out that God the Father is still the God
of Jesus, a separate and superior member of the Godhead.
The oneness shared by the Godhead is beyond all human comprehension.
Jesus said of a man and woman who marry, “And they twain shall be
one flesh” (Matthew 19:5). Not one flesh physically, but in love,
commitment, and covenant. Although such a union in marriage can be
close where husband and wife speak for one another, act for one
another, and in all things are one in purpose, they are still
individual beings. No less is the individuality of the personages of
This perfect oneness is described by Jesus in the garden of
Gethsemane where he prays to the Father that his disciples would be
one just as he (Jesus) and God the Father are one (John 17:11 and
John 17:21-23). Elsewhere in the Bible, Jesus proclaimed that the
Father and he were one, that he dwelled in the Father, and the
Father dwelled in him (John 10:15, 25, 30, 38 and John 14:18-20).
John later expounded on dwelling within another person without
becoming that person (1 John 4:13).
Jesus was with God in the beginning, was and is in perfect purpose
with God, and can be called God (John 1:1-2). Jesus revealed how
such a union can be achieved in faith and unity. He prayed that
mankind would share in this unity to fulfill his purposes on earth
and in heaven. God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost can
witness as three individual beings but still maintain a complete and
perfect accord as one in purpose (1 John 5:7).
The Apostle Paul taught that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the
Holy Ghost were not separate gods in the same way that the multiple
gods of the Greek and Roman pantheons were separate gods. He used
the word Godhead to warn against idolatry (Acts 17:29, Romans
1:20-23, Colossians 2:8-9), specifying the idolatry of vain conceit,
vain imaginings, and human philosophy as well as the idolatry of
objects. He taught the hierarchy of God the Father, God the Son, and
men and women (1 Corinthians 11:3).
Paul did not deny the supremacy of God the Father, a supremacy Jesus
had repeatedly declared. Rather, Paul saw in Jesus Christ the full
delegated authority of God the Father. Paul’s reference to Christ as
God was an affirmation of this authority, not a denial of it.
The Latter-day Saint doctrine of the Godhead can be summarized in a
quote from the writings of Gordon B. Hinckley, the late Prophet and
past President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
They [the Godhead] are distinct beings, but they are one in purpose
and effort. They are united as one in bringing to pass the grand,
divine plan for the salvation and exaltation of the children of God.
In His great, moving prayer in the garden before His betrayal,
Christ pleaded with His Father concerning the Apostles, whom He
loved, saying: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also
which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be
one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may
be one in us” (John 17:20–21). It is that perfect unity between the
Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost that binds these three into the
oneness of the divine Godhead. (Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Father,
Son, and Holy Ghost,” Ensign, Mar. 1998, 2.)
God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct
beings who are one in purpose. Mormons believe that this conception
of the Godhead is fully supported by an unencumbered reading of the
plain language of the Bible, particularly the words of Jesus
Council of Nicaea
The Roman Emperor Constantine I convened the Council of Nicaea in
A.D. 325. This council was the first significant effort of the
Christian church to arrive at a consensus on various points of
At that time there was widespread dispute about the nature of the
Godhead. Many Christians believed then—as Latter-day Saints do
today—that the Godhead consisted of three separate personages united
in purpose, but not in being. For the majority of the Council,
however, this conception bore an uncomfortable resemblance to the
pagan Greek and Roman conception of multiple gods.
The Council majority came up with a compromise conception, declaring
that there were indeed three “persons”—Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost—but that these “persons” were not separate entities, not
“persons” in the usual sense, but instead “persons” who were without
substance or essence or individual existence. These newly-defined
“persons” combined to form one essence, the “Triune God.”
The Triune God
The Council of Nicaea declared the Triune God in A.D. 325. This
declaration became the essence of what is known as the Nicene Creed.
By this declaration, the Council brought unity to the Christian
world, protected monotheism from polytheistic encroachment, and gave
to the Roman Emperor Constantine the political stability he was
seeking. It brought peace on many fronts.
The Nicene doctrine of the Trinity or the Triune God has endured.
The vast majority of Christians today subscribe to this dogma.
Latter-day Saints do not.
This Mormon rejection of the Triune-God conception has led many
Christians to deny the Christian label to the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints. Mormons could reach the reverse conclusion,
but they have not—perhaps because of their Eleventh Article of
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the
dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same
privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may [emphasis
The three personages of the Godhead and their individual natures are
clearly defined in the Bible. They were defined before Christ came
to the earth; again during Christ’s public ministry; again through
events surrounding the Atonement (the passion) of Christ; and again
after the ascension of Christ to the Father.
The Bible is clear that there are differences in knowledge between
God the Father and Jesus Christ, differences in power and dominion,
differences in the consequences of blasphemy, and differences in the
references made by these personages to one another. For example,
Jesus refers to Heavenly Father as his “God” on many occasions
documented in the Bible. Because of this abundance of unambiguous
biblical evidence for the divine individuality of God the Father,
Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, Latter-day Saints cannot accept
the findings of the Council of Nicaea. This refusal has created a
divide, but not one that warrants the conclusion that Mormons are
not followers of Christ.
While the divine individuality of the three personages of the
Godhead is biblically clear, so also is their divine unity. They are
one in purpose. Their divine integration of reason, intention,
drive, objective, and other qualities of character and action is
beyond human comprehension. Thus, it is fair in the limited coinage
of human language to refer to them collectively as one God, and this
is done in the Bible, in the Book of Mormon, and other modern
scripture. But fairness of reference does not alter the truth of the
matter to which reference is made. The Council of Nicaea made a
convenient decision, in part to end a distracting theological
debate. Latter-day Saints simply believe it was the wrong decision.
The perfect oneness of the Godhead is defined clearly in John 17.
Jesus, praying to Heavenly Father, said, “That they all may be one;
as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one
in us” (John 17:20–21). Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is the
divine redeemer and savior. He is the only begotten of God the
Father and the firstborn spirit offspring of the Father. Jesus
Christ is in perfect oneness with the Father and sits on his right
hand. The Holy Ghost is the third personage of the Godhead. Together
they form one divinely unified God over the universe and all things
See Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” Ensign,
Mar. 1998, 2.
See chapter7 in The Biblical Roots of
Mormonism for a more comprehensive explanation, scriptural
references and commentary on the Trinity/Godhead
See the Sword SeriesTM paper The Trinity/Godhead for a summary