Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chapter 3: Jesus Christ, Our Chosen Leader and Savior

If you have not yet done so, please read the “Welcome…” introduction at the beginning (very bottom now) of this blog.

For this lesson, there are some terrific quotes in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church that pertain to the Savior being chosen in premortality. My favorites are found in Heber J. Grant (pp. 221-225), David O. McKay (pp. 7-8), Spencer W. Kimball (pp. 24-26), and Joseph Smith (pp. 53-54). The way to access all of these is found in this blog, Chapter 2, section 3.

A SAVIOR AND LEADER WAS NEEDED
The two questions asked at the beginning of this section are great ones to utilize the “For teachers” suggestion at the bottom of p. 10. However, the discussion of these questions should lead at least to the two answers found in this sentence later in this section, “Our Heavenly Father knew and loved each one of us.” As pertaining to the “omniscience of God” discussed previously (Chapter 2, section 2) Our Father “knew” that all of us would sin as Paul would later proclaim in Romans 3:23. Because He “loved” us He did as proclaimed:

“Heavenly Father has provided us, His children, with a way to be successful in this life and to return to live in His presence.” (“Preach My Gospel”, 31)
The following material is mostly for our adult institute class on Wednesday, Jan.20. Some of the material may be useful for teachers of Priesthood/Relief Society in either this lesson or Chapter 11.

This lesson deals with the premortal battle between Jesus and Satan. While it is crucial to avoid inviting the presence of Satan at any time, it is important that, as taught in this lesson, we understand who Satan is, as well as his agenda. As Brigham Young said:
…study…evil, and its consequences. (Discourses of Brigham Young, 256)

As President James E. Faust also stated:

Since Satan is the author of all evil in the world, it would therefore be essential to realize that he is the influence behind the opposition to the work of God. (Finding Light in a Dark World, 69-70)
The following chain of scriptures help us understand this battle between Jesus and Satan, which began in the War in Heaven and continues today (section 3).

D&C 76:25 (see “Additional Scriptures” at end of lesson) - - Satan “was in authority” in premortality.

Moses 4:3 - - “Satan rebelled…that I should give him mine own power.”

For years, I thought the above scripture meant that Satan wanted the assignment and the Priesthood. However…

D&C 76:28 (see “Additional Scriptures” at end of lesson) - - “Satan…sought to take the kingdom of our God.”

This was the first recorded attempt at a very hostile takeover.

As President David O. McKay declared:

…he [Satan] desired to supplant God. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: David O. McKay, 207)

President Ezra Taft Benson also stated:

In the pre‑earthly council, Lucifer placed his proposal in competition with the Father’s plan as advocated by Jesus Christ....He wished to be honored above all others....In short, his prideful desire was to dethrone God. (Ensign, May 1989, 4)

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism states:

The devil…is also known by the personal names of Lucifer in the premortal existence and Satan since being cast down. The name Lucifer means “light bearer” in Latin and is a translation of the Hebrew…which means…”morning star.” The name Satan comes from a Hebrew root meaning “to oppose…” (p. 379)

In 2 Nephi 24:12-14 (Isaiah 14:12-14) we read:...Lucifer...hast said...I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God...I will be like the Most High
There is only one way that Satan could “ascend…above” God, who is the highest there is - - and that is to attempt to replace Him.

Paul prophesied about an important attempt by Satan to do just that:
2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 - - [between Paul’s time and the Second Coming of Christ, during the apostasy] “…that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; “so that he as Godsitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God.”

Spencer W. Kimball further explained:Men with keen intelligence got together...[at] Nicea and created a God. They made it just about like a political party would do, and out of their own mortal minds created a God which is still worshiped by the great majority of Christians. They did not pray for wisdom or revelation. They claimed no revelation from the Lord. They took away all his physical properties; they took the Father and the Son and made them into one undefinable spirit... (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 426)

President Kimball comments that the concept of the “Trinity” is “worshipped by the great majority of Christians.” He may be speaking conservatively. This doctrine is the most universally accepted, unifying doctrine of all religions which are usually categorized as “Christian.”

Interestingly, the concept of the “Trinity” (usually defined as 3 Gods in one and 1 God in 3, without a physical body) is the most common reason LDS are not considered “Christian.” The following newspaper statement was given as the reason that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was excluded from the National Day of Prayer:

“Mormon faith…not in accordance with… evangelical principles…a belief in the ‘Holy Trinity,’ or in the idea that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all one being.” (AP article, May 5, 2004)

The following statement is from The Encyclopedia of Religion (not an LDS work), a book edited by dozens of scholars, most with several PhD’s to their credit:

... theologians agree that the New Testament also does not contain an explicit doctrine of the Trinity... it is incontestable that the doctrine cannot be established on scriptural evidence alone... By the end of the fourth century...theologians went beyond the immediate testimony of the Bible and also beyond the liturgical and creedal expressions of Trinitarian faith to the ontological trinity of coequal persons "within" God.

Dozens of statements like the above can be found in scholarly books.

Now let’s look at how Jesus explained all of this to Joseph in the First Vision:
…the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt…having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof. (Joseph Smith-History 1:19

Note that Jesus condemned “professors” here. In fact, most members of other churches and even many ministers have no knowledge of the fact that the definition of God that their churches teach came after the Bible was written and is not Biblical. This doctrine falls into what many call “traditional” or “historic” Christianity. But Jesus Christ made it plain to Joseph Smith that power is at the root of the struggle between Jesus and Satan. This power struggle continues on earth today.

In Conference Elder Jeffrey R. Holland summarizes much of what has been discussed:

Indeed no less a source than the stalwart Harper’s Bible Dictionary records that “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament].”

So any criticism that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not hold the contemporary Christian view of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost is not a comment about our commitment to Christ but rather a recognition (accurate, I might add) that our view of the Godhead breaks with post–New Testament Christian history and returns to the doctrine taught by Jesus Himself. Now, a word about that post–New Testament history might be helpful.
In the year a.d. 325 the Roman emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea to address—among other things—the growing issue of God’s alleged “trinity in unity.” What emerged from the heated contentions of churchmen, philosophers, and ecclesiastical dignitaries came to be known (after another 125 years and three more major councils) as the Nicene Creed, with later reformulations such as the Athanasian Creed. These various evolutions and iterations of creeds—and others to come over the centuries—declared the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be abstract, absolute, transcendent, immanent, consubstantial, coeternal, and unknowable, without body, parts, or passions and dwelling outside space and time. In such creeds all three members are separate persons, but they are a single being, the oft-noted “mystery of the trinity.” They are three distinct persons, yet not three Gods but one. All three persons are incomprehensible, yet it is one God who is incomprehensible.

We agree with our critics on at least that point—that such a formulation for divinity is truly incomprehensible. (Ensign, Nov 2007, 40–42)

There are some great quotes about Joseph Smith’s feelings concerning the “Trinity” in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, p.42. The scripture that Joseph refers to concerning Stephen is one of the “Additional Scriptures” at the end of Chapter 1 (Acts 7:55-56). Also listed there is the reference to the First Vision (Joseph Smith History 1:17).

It is significant that that the first thing God restored to Joseph Smith was the nature of God. This knowledge completely counter to what was taught before Joseph’s prayer in 1820 and continues today. As Joseph Smith stated:

I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, p. 41-42)

What Joseph Smith said about this matter is still true today:
There are but a very few beings in the world who understand rightly the character of God. The great majority of mankind do not comprehend anything, either that which is past, or that which is to come, as it respects their relationship to God. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, p. 39)

JESUS CHRIST BECAME OUR CHOSEN LEADER AND SAVIOR
Far more important than historical scholarship, is the wonderful restored doctrine that God the Father called for and His son accepted the mission of being a Savior, as taught in the first section of this lesson. John 3:16 (see “Additional Scripture” at the end of Chapter 1) reads:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

In our dispensation, D&C 20:21 reads:

Wherefore, the Almighty God gave his Only Begotten Son, as it is written in those scriptures which have been given of him.

Because of our knowledge of the nature of God as restored to the prophet Joseph Smith, we know that John 3:16 speaks of two gifts. One was given by God the Father, that of His Son. The second gift was given by Jesus Christ that we might “not perish, but have everlasting life.” The “Trinity” concept robs one of these two gifts. If one accepts the “Trinity,” this scripture could be vastly shortened to”

“For God so loved the world, that he came…”
As I once pondered that idea, a second question can came. “Why DID God the Father send His Son to do something as excruciatingly difficult as was the Atonement?” If it were at all possible, any good parent would rather do something deathly dangerous him/her self rather than ask his/her own child to do it.

It seems that there are at least three reasons why God the Father could not have performed the Atonement.

ONE: The Father could not die. He was a resurrected being over whom death had no power (Romans 6:9, Alma 11:45)

TWO: The Father could not be tempted (James 1:13)

THREE: The Father could not suffer physical pain.
President Wilford Woodruff taught, “When the resurrection comes, we shall come forth clothed with immortal bodies; and the persecutions, suffering, sorrow, pain and death, incident to mortality, will be done away forever.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, 81)

ALL THREE of these were crucial to the completion of the Atonement. Jesus Christ (or Son of Man as He is called 33 times in Matthew alone) could do ALL THREE of these things only because He was born the son of mortal Mary.

But the only way Jesus Christ could possibly complete the Atonement was because of what He inherited from His immortal Father in Heaven in ALL THREE of these areas.

ONE: He did not have to die, but gave his life (John 10:11).

TWO: He overcame temptation (Hebrews 4:15, 2 Nephi 17:16 or Isaiah 7:16).

THREE: He suffered every kind of physical (and every other kind of) pain (Mosiah 3:7, Alma 7:11, D&C 19:18-19).

The concept of “Trinity” cannot explain these three areas. Simply put, there could have been no Atonement without Jesus being the Son of an immortal Father and a mortal Mary. We are eternally grateful that Jesus Christ answered the call “Whom shall I send?” (p. 13).

The concept of “Trinity” also raises questions about how Mary could conceive the Son of God. There are three good answers to that question.

FIRST: The role of The Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost had a role in the birth of Jesus, but that role is vastly misunderstood in the Christian world. Most Christians believe in something similar to the Apostles Creed (several versions, most in agreement on this point) which states:

I believe in God the Father almighty And in Christ Jesus, his only Son, our LordWho was born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary…

This misunderstanding may arise in part from Matthew 1:18 which states:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.

Also, in verse 20 Joseph is told by the angel:

…for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.

A similar statement about the Holy Ghost is found in Alma 7:10, which reads:

And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and conceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

The key concept here is that although many times in scripture (34 times in the Gospels alone) Jesus is referred to as the Son of God, He is never called the Son of the Holy Ghost. Luke, who incidentally was a physician and, more than others, would understand the medical process of birth, wrote:

And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)

Note that Luke clearly states that the angel said, “…the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee…” It would seem reasonable that any Christian, if asked to name the “highest” in the Godhead, would name “The Father.”

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism states:
He [Christ] was not the son of the HOLY GHOST; it was only through the Holy Ghost that the power of the Highest overshadowed Mary (Luke 1:35; 1 Ne. 22:19). (p. 729)

Further on the subject of "Tranfiguration" the Encycopedia of Mormonism also explains:
Transfiguration for mortals consists of a temporary physical and spiritual change, allowing them not only to behold the glory of God but to enter his presence. (1484)

Bruce R. McConkie adds:
By the power of the Holy Ghost many prophets have been transfigured so as to stand in the presence of God… ( Pearl of Great Price Institute Student Manual, 4)

President Ezra Taft Benson also explained:
Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. He was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost. He is the Son of the Eternal Father! (Ensign, Dec 2001, 8

SECOND: Some of the specifics of the birth of Jesus Christ are none of our business.

I like how this is clearly demonstrated in 1 Nephi 11 when the Angel showed Nephi Mary in vision:

…the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh” (verses 14-18).

Then these significant verses (verses19-20) follow:

And it came to pass that I beheld that she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time the angel spake unto me, saying: Look!
And I looked and beheld the virgin again, bearing a child in her arms.

Note that the bolded words indicate what Nephi did not see. If Nephi, a prophet of God experiencing a revelatory vision concerning this part of the birth of Christ, was “excused,” we should also excuse ourselves.

THIRD: The most important in all of the above is simply this - - Jesus Christ is literally the Son of God. He is indeed the “Only Begotten of the Father” (more on that in Chapter 11). This is by far our best answer to members of other faiths when they ask about this.

THE WAR IN HEAVEN

In D&C 52:14 is found a powerful principle in the battle between God and Satan, as well as many other truths:

And again, I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived; for Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations—

One of the very important patterns to recognize is that of the battle between God and Satan, part of which is as follows:


  • Satan allowed in Garden
  • Satan cast out of Garden
  • Satan allowed on earth
  • Satan cast out on earth
  • Satan bound during the Millennium
  • Satan loosed for a little season
  •  Satan’s power destroyed at end of Millennium (D&C 88:114)
In reality, there were two things Joseph Smith learned before God revealed the doctrine of the nature of God in the First Vision. First Joseph learned about the power of Satan (Joseph Smith-History 1:15-16) Second Joseph learned that God had power over Satan (verses 16-17). Moses learned the same two lessons in reverse order (Moses 1:1-21).
We also have power over Satan, as Joseph Smith taught:
All beings who have bodies have power over those who have not. The devil has no power over us only as we permit him. The moment we revolt at anything which comes from God, the devil takes power. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 181)
As Joseph herein implied, we also need God’s power to overcome Satan (as did Moses, see Moses 1:16-21). God even controls the ability Satan has to tempt us (1 Corinthians 10:13).

An important part of this scripture, often overlooked is “God…will with the temptation also make a way to escape…” (1 Corinthians 10:13). If we remember that Jesus Christ said, “…I am the way…” (John 14:6) it becomes clear that we indeed can overcome any temptation with “the way” provided by Our Father in Heaven, even Jesus Christ. Again affirmation of this important principle, Jesus Christ, if we come unto Him, is more powerful than Satan or his temptations.


Another illustration of the importance of Jesus Christ being “the way” appears in the Book of Mormon where Alma counsels his son Shiblon:

And now, my son, I have told you this that ye may learn wisdom, that ye may learn of me that there is no other way or means whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ… (Alma 38:9)
It is significant that in the accounts in Genesis and Moses where God casts Satan out of the Garden, God tells the serpent (mouthpiece for Satan) that [Christ] will “bruise thy [Satan’s] head.” However, footnote “c” to “bruise” in Genesis 3:15 gives the Hebrew translation as “crush.” In the temple, we learn that “crush” is the right word. This is clarified in D&C 19:3 where Jesus Christ proclaims:
“I AM Alpha and Omega, Christ the Lord; Retaining all power, even to the destroying of Satan and his works at the end of the world…”
Now let’s combine these two principles to see how the battle between God and Satan will play out during the the beginning of Millennium. Nephi declared:

And because of the righteousness of his [Holy One of Israel’s] people, Satan has no power… (1 Nephi 22:26)

John the Revelator also prophesied about this event:

And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years, And cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up,
and set a seal upon him… (Revelation 20:2-3)

This important combination was discussed by Elder George Q. Cannon:

Satan will be bound by the power of God; but he will be bound also by the determination of the people of God not to listen to him, not to be governed by him.” (Doctrines of the Gospel Institute Manual, 101)
The final chapter in this battle is described in Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
Toward the end of the Millennium, Satan will be loosed (D&C 88:110-15) because people will again hearken to him. But he will be vanquished and sent from this earth to outer darkness, where he and his followers, both spirits and resurrected sons of perdition…will dwell in the misery and darkness of selfishness and isolation forever. (p. 381)
It is most interesting that the Hebrew meaning of Satan is “to oppose,” since one of the principles of why a Satan is necessary is “opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:21). Another principle is found in this quote by Brigham Young:
I ask, is there a reason for men and women being exposed more constantly and more powerfully, to the power of the enemy, by having visions than by not having them? There is and it is simply this--God never bestows upon His people, or upon an individual, superior blessings without a severe trial to prove them, to prove that individual, or that people to see whether they will keep their covenants with him, and keep in remembrance what He has shown them. Then the greater the vision, the greater the display of the power of the enemy. (Journal of Discourses 3:205)
Let us all pray to stay on the Lord’s side in this battle.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful resource! I'm the 3rd Sunday RS teacher in my branch, and this will be a very valuable resource in helping me prepare my lessons.

    ReplyDelete