Lecture Five of the Lectures on Faith is where we start getting to the really fascinating doctrine: the Godhead. This is also the lecture that was one of the main excuses the 1921 committee used to remove them from the scriptures. The first reason was that they were "not received as revelations by the prophet Joseph Smith"--so what? He vouched for them and was willing to "be called to answer to every principle advanced." The second reason is supposedly that they are explanations of the principle of faith, but not doctrine. I disagree with this wholeheartedly. The preface to the original edition specifies that the lectures cover the "important doctrine of salvation": they represent the "Doctrine" in the title Doctrine and Covenants. And as I have said so many other times, there is only one true doctrine: the doctrine of Christ, as set forth in 2 Nephi 31 and 3 Nephi 11, and the first principle of this doctrine is faith in God--exactly what these lectures are about. I don't understand how anyone can say that these lectures are not doctrine, unless they are simply restating that the administration of the Church has removed them from the official canon. But the fact that they are not part of the canon doesn't take away the fact that they are still about the doctrine of Christ. The third reason the committee removed them was that they believed the explanation of who the Godhead is to be incorrect. They were wrong, and I'll address this in my post today. But consider this: who do you want to believe about the nature of God: Joseph Smith, who talked to Him face to face, and who vouched for the accuracy of the explanation in the Lectures on Faith, or a committee almost a century later, none of whose members ever claimed to have seen or spoken to God, making executive decisions without the sustaining vote of the Church? I'll let you decide.
Note: I highly recommend that you study Lecture Five along with D&C section 93. You'll see why shortly.
So let's get started! The first bit of confusion for me comes immediately in the second paragraph, when it begins talking about two personages, instead of the usual three. However, the lecture does specify that the Godhead consists of three people: the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so I'm sure it's not a mistake. These two personages "constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things--by whom all things were created and made." We are speaking of the Father and the Son. The Holy Spirit is currently being excluded from the description of the governing and creating power. More about him later.
The Father is a "personage of spirit, glory and power: possessing all perfection and fulness." This is the problem the committee had--the lecture refers to the Father as being a personage of "spirit," while the Church teaches that He has a body of flesh and bone (D&C 130:22). I don't see why the committee thought the two statements were mutually exclusive, when D&C 131:7-8 clearly states, "All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes; we cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter." So the fact that the Father is a personage of spirit does not mean that He does not have a physical body, just that it's made of matter that is a little different from the matter our bodies are made with.
The Son is a "personage of tabernacle." You can read more about tabernacles in 2 Corinthians 5:1-4; Mosiah 3:5; Alma 7:8; and D&C 93: 4, 35. Christ's body consists of matter that can walk the earth as one of us. We are formed after His likeness, and He is "the express image and likeness of the personage of the Father." The Apostle Paul talks a lot about this in his letters--I'll leave it to you to search for those references. Christ looks exactly like His Father, and our bodies are created in the same form as Theirs, though not exactly alike.
The next bit of paragraph two contains several important statements about Christ and who He is, which I'd like to address one by one.
- Possessing all the fulness of the Father, or, the same fulness with the Father--this reminds me of the language in D&C 93, and I suggest you study that section together with Lecture Five. The understanding of what it means for Christ to share the fulness with the Father is something that culminates from this very important, basic doctrinal process: "Every soul who forsaketh his sins and cometh unto me, and calleth on my name, and obeyeth my voice, and keepeth my commandments, shall see my face and know that I am; and that I am the true light that lighteth every man that cometh unto the world; and that I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one--the Father because he gave me of his fulness, and the Son because I was in the world..." (D&C 93:1-4 here, but keep reading the rest of the section). "Fulness" is an easy word to throw around, but it is clear that it is something we can only comprehend after successfully completing the process described in D&C 93:1, a verse which is unfortunately overlooked far too often.
- Being begotten of [the Father]--The difference in our likeness must come from the difference in how we were begotten versus how Christ was begotten.
- Was ordained from before the foundation of the world to be a propitiation for the sins of all those who should believe on his name--Plan of Salvation 101: Christ was prepared before any of this came into being, so that we could be saved. It was the plan all along! See Ether 3:14 and 1 Peter 1:18-21.
- Is called the Son because of the flesh--So Christ is not the same as the Father, because His flesh is somehow different. This makes sense based on the previous statement that the Father is a personage of spirit (material spirit, remember!), and the Son is a personage of tabernacle. However, this also means that people with "tabernacles" can become "Sons" even though they are made of slightly different stuff than their Creator. See John 1:12; 3 Nephi 9:17; Moroni 7:26, 48: coming unto Christ qualifies us to become Sons and Daughters of God. If you go back to D&C 93, you will find that the process by which Christ received of the fulness is the same process by which we may progress until we too receive of His fulness: "grace for grace" (D&C 93:19-20).
- Descended in suffering below that which man can suffer, or, in other words, suffered greater sufferings, and was exposed to more powerful contradictions than any man can be--I am only able to discuss many of these things analytically, since I don't have personal knowledge. But I believe the connections I have found in my study might be helpful to others, too, as we progress in our understanding until we each receive a personal testimony of these things. This particular statement reminds me of two scriptures passages: D&C 122 and 2 Nephi 2. It is not possible to have joy without knowing misery, or to do good without knowing sin (2 Ne 2:23). Christ had to be exposed to the full range of evil and misery and suffering in the world, to "descend below them all" (D&C 122:8), in order to fulfill His mission.
- But notwithstanding all this, he kept the law of God, and remained without sin: showing thereby that it is in the power of man to keep the law and remain also without sin--It is an important truth that Christ was a man, like us. He was presented with the greatest "contradictions," and still managed to always choose the right. So therefore, as we are presented with lesser "contradictions" than He was, it is technically possible for any human being to always choose the right, keep the law, and remain without sin.
- Showing...also, that by him a righteous judgment might come upon all flesh, and that all who walk not in the law of God, may justly be condemned by the law, and have no excuse for their sins--this plan would not be fair and God would not be just, unless someone demonstrated that it was technically possible to pass the test we are given. Christ demonstrated that it could be done, and therefore, we know we are not being asked to do something we do not have the capacity for. The miracle is that even though we all still fail anyway, we have a way out, through faith in Christ.
- He being the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, and having overcome, received a fulness of the glory of the Father--possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit--This describes the process by which Christ received the fulness: he overcame, and he possessed the same mind with the Father. This is also the path we must take to receive the fulness: overcome our challenges, and possess the same mind with the Father and the Son.
In the Lectures on Faith we find a definition of the Holy Ghost that we do not find anywhere else in scripture: that he is the mind of the Father. At first glance, it kind of sounds like the Holy Ghost is not a separate entity, but that is contradicted by D&C 130:22 and many other scriptures. He is a separate, individual being, he simply shares a mind with the Father.
What does it mean to possess the same mind as the Father? I think this describes an order of unity that is much greater than simply acquiescing to God's will, whether you understand it or not. To have the same mind as someone else implies that you have the same goals, the same reasons and motivations, the same methods of doing things, the same way of thinking. It's something far greater than simply saying, "Thy will be done"--it implies you actually understand that will, including all the whys and hows behind it, and that you agree with that will completely.
We are constantly admonished to "get the Spirit," "follow the Spirit," etc. How can we come to share the mind of God? It's a process, "grace for grace," and obviously is dependent on our learning the whys and hows gradually. We cannot fully share the mind of God until we know everything He knows and understand everything He understands, but we can grow by degrees, humbly following instructions and asking for understanding until it is given to us (examples: Nephi's vision in 1 Ne 11, or Adam's visitation in Moses 5:5-9).
One of the main purposes of the Holy Spirit is to "bear record of the Father and the Son." Since he shares a mind with God, he can open bits of that mind to our understanding. I think it's a mistake to associate the Holy Ghost with feelings and emotions. We may have an emotional response to something we learn or perceive by the Spirit, but that feeling is generated by us, not by the Spirit. The Spirit is the source of the light being transmitted, not the emotion we respond with. Feelings can be easily manufactured by specific techniques--techniques that are liberally and successfully used by movie and music producers, politicians, and advertising, to name a few. However, the Spirit's primary function is to share the mind of God, to communicate intelligence. If nothing has been communicated to you when you think you are "feeling" the Spirit, it is likely that it is not the Spirit's influence you feel. I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing, just that it is important that you be able to tell the difference.
Now that we have established that the Holy Spirit shares the mind of God, he is now included in the description of the Godhead as the governing and supreme power that created the world. All three members of the Godhead possess "the same mind, the same wisdom, glory, power and fulness: Filling all in all." (See also Moses 6:61.)
This Spirit is "shed forth upon all who believe on [the Son's] name and keep his commandments: and all those who keep his commandments shall grow up from grace to grace, and become heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ; possessing the same mind, being transformed into the same image or likeness, even the express image of him who fills all in all: being filled with the fulness of his glory, and become one in him, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one."
The Doctrine of Christ
Our end goal is to return to live with the Father, correct? When I read 2 Nephi 31, probably the best summary we have of the doctrine of Christ, it seems clear to me that the process we are intended to follow is for the Spirit to lead us to Christ, then for Christ to lead us to the Father. It also seems clear to me that this is intended to be a literal process to be followed while in this life, as Nephi, the brother of Jared, or the apostle Paul did, not something that somehow just happens in our hearts (D&C 130:3). We are meant to know each one of the Godhead personally. Salvation and returning to God was never meant to be limited to after we die. Haven't we always taught that repentance and progress is much more difficult in the spirit world? We're supposed to do it right here, right now!
The Lectures on Faith are clear that we are meant to follow the examples given in the scriptures to obtain our promise of salvation, and that since God is no respecter of persons, we all have an equal chance before Him.
"From the foregoing account of the Godhead, which is given in his revelations, the Saints have a sure foundation laid for the exercise of faith unto life and salvation, through the atonement and mediation of Jesus Christ, by whose blood they have a forgiveness of sins, and also, a sure reward laid up for them in heaven, even that of partaking of the fulness of the Father and the son, through the Spirit. As the Son partakes of the fulness of the Father through the Spirit, so the saints are, by the same Spirit, to be partakers of the same fulness, to enjoy the same glory; for as the Father and the Son are one, so in like manner the saints are to be one in them, through the love of the Father, the mediation of Jesus Christ, and the gift of the Holy Spirit; they are to be heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ." (LoF 5:3)
Scriptures Referenced in Lecture Five
- Genesis 1:26, 3:22
- John 17:5
- Isaiah 60:19
- 1 Chronicles 29:11
- Psalms 29:3, 79:9
- Romans 1:23
- Jeremiah 32:17
- Deuteronomy 4:37
- 2 Samuel 22:33
- Job 26:7-14
- John 14:9-11
- Philippians 2:5-8
- Hebrews 2:14-16, 1:1-3
- Colossians 1:15-17, 19; 2:9
- Ephesians 1:23
- Luke 1:35
- Matthew 3:16-17
- 1 Peter 1:18-20
- Revelation 13:8
- 1 Corinthians 2:7
- John 5:30, 6:38, 10:30, 15:26, 17:20-21
- Galatians 4:6