Question: What are modern Church leaders' views on the Lectures on Faith?

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Question: What are modern Church leaders' views on the Lectures on Faith?

Bruce R. McConkie offers his perspective

Bruce R. McConkie left some interesting, although non-authoritative, commentary on these passages in question. He interprets the term "personage" to mean a being who possess a physical body. The statement that "there are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things" is interpreted by him to mean that the Father and Son are "personages" (i.e., they possess physical bodies) while the Holy Ghost is not. Indeed, the statement is clear that there are three beings who make up the Godhead (see below). In McConkie's view, the statement that the Father is a "personage of spirit" actually means He is a "spiritual" man, that is, a resurrected and glorified man. His exegesis is added here in length:

Using the holy scriptures as the recorded source of the knowledge of God, knowing what the Lord has revealed to them of old in visions and by the power of the Spirit, and writing as guided by that same Spirit, Joseph Smith and the early brethren of this dispensation prepared a creedal statement on the Godhead. It is without question the most excellent summary of revealed and eternal truth relative to the Godhead that is now extant in mortal language. In it is set forth the mystery of Godliness; that is, it sets forth the personalities, missions, and ministries of those holy beings who comprise the supreme presidency of the universe. To spiritually illiterate persons, it may seem hard and confusing; to those whose souls are aflame with heavenly light, it is a nearly perfect summary of those things which must be believed to gain salvation.

"There are two personages [of tabernacle] who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things, by whom all things were created and made, that are created and made, whether visible or invisible; whether in heaven, on earth, or in the earth; under the earth, or throughout the immensity of space." (Lectures on Faith 5:2.)

These two, standing alone, are not the Godhead. But they are God the first and God the second. They are personages, individuals, persons, holy men. They created and they have power over all things. Their power is supreme and their wisdom infinite; there is no power they do not possess, no truth they do not know. From eternity to eternity they are the same; they are omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent.

"They are the Father and the Son—the Father being a personage of spirit, glory, and power, possessing all perfection and fullness, the Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle." (Lectures on Faith 5:2.)

They are the two personages who came to Joseph Smith in the spring of 1820 in a grove of trees in western New York. They are exalted men. Each is a personage of spirit; each is a personage of tabernacle. Both of them have bodies, tangible bodies of flesh and bones. They are resurrected beings. Words, with their finite connotations, cannot fully describe them. A personage of tabernacle, as here used, is one whose body and spirit are inseparably connected and for whom there can be no death. A personage of spirit, as here used and as distinguished from the spirit children of the Father, is a resurrected personage. Resurrected bodies, as contrasted with mortal bodies, are in fact spiritual bodies. With reference to the change of our bodies from mortality to immortality, Paul says: "It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body." (1 Corinthians 15:44.) "For notwithstanding they [the saints] die, they also shall rise again, a spiritual body." (DC 88:27.)

"The Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle, made or fashioned like unto man, or being in the form and likeness of man, or rather man was formed after his likeness and in his image; he is also the express image and likeness of the personage of the Father, possessing all the fullness of the Father, or the same fullness with the Father." (Lectures on Faith 5:2.)

Christ as the Firstborn, the firstborn spirit child of the Father, was in the bosom of the Father before the world was. Though he was then "in the form of God" and was "equal with God," as Paul expresses it—equal in knowledge and truth and all of the attributes of godliness—yet he "made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men." Thus he was "found in fashion as a man." (Philippians 2:6-8.) After the days of his flesh and when he had been raised from mortality to immortality by the power of the Father, he was able to say: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." (Matthew 28:18.) Thus, the Son, as Paul tells us, now possesses "the brightness of his [Father's] glory, and the express image of his person." (Hebrews 1:3.) From all of this it follows that the Son possesses the same fulness with the Father, that is, the same glory, the same power, the same perfection, the same holiness, the same eternal life.

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"And he being the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, and having overcome, received a fullness of the glory of the Father, possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit, that bears record of the Father and the Son." (Lectures on Faith 5:2.)

The mortal Jesus, as a man among men, had both a father and a mother. God was his Father, and Mary was his mother. He was begotten by a Holy Man, by that God whose name is Man of Holiness; and he was conceived in the womb of a mortal woman. Mary, a virgin of Nazareth in Galilee, was "the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh." (1 Nephi 11:18.) She was overshadowed by the Holy Ghost; "she was carried away in the Spirit" (1 Nephi 11:19); she conceived "by the power of the Holy Ghost," and she brought forth a son, "even the Son of God" (Alma 7:10). That Son, who is called Christ, is the Only Begotten, the only offspring of the Father born into mortality. As a man, as God's only Son, his only mortal Son, he overcame the world. He overcame the world of evil and carnality and devilishness, and then, having died, he rose again in glorious immortality to receive all power both on earth and in heaven, which power is the fulness of the glory of the Father. He thus possesses the same mind with the Father, knowing and believing and speaking and doing as though he were the Father. This mind is theirs by the power of the Holy Ghost. That is, the Holy Ghost, who is a personage of spirit (a spirit man!), using the light of Christ, can give the same mind to all men, whether mortal or immortal. The saints who are true and faithful in all things have, as Paul said, "the mind of Christ" ({b|1|Corinthians|2|16}}), which means also that they have the mind of the Father. It is to the faithful saints that the Holy Spirit bears witness of the Father and the Son, and it is to them that he reveals all things.

"And these three are one, or, in other words, these three constitute the great, matchless, governing and supreme power over all things; by whom all things were created and made that were created and made." (Lectures on Faith 5:2.)

In what way are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost one God? Though three persons are involved, they are one supreme presidency, one in creating all things, one in governing the universe with almighty power.

"And these three constitute the Godhead, and are one; the Father and the Son possessing the same mind, the same wisdom, glory, power and fullness—filling all in all, the Son being filled with the fullness of the mind, glory, and power; or, in other words, the spirit, glory, and power, of the Father, possessing all knowledge and glory, and the same kingdom, sitting at the right hand of power, in the express image and likeness of the Father, mediator for man, being filled with the fullness of the mind of the Father; or, in other words, the Spirit of the Father, which Spirit is shed forth upon all who believe on his name and keep his commandments." (Lectures on Faith 5:2.)

One Godhead! Three persons possessing the same mind, power, and glory! Three individuals actuated by the same spirit, knowing all things, and working together in perfect unity! God the Creator united in all things with God the Redeemer, who mediates between the Great Creator and his fallen creatures! And—wonder of wonders—the same spirit which unites the Gods of heaven is shed forth on the righteous, that they may be one as the Gods themselves are one.

"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 fullness of his glory, and become one in him, even as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one." (Lectures on Faith 5:2.)

Thus is set forth in the creedal document the doctrine—later to be endorsed and expounded in even plainer language—that as God now is, man may become.

"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 fullness of the Father and the Son through the spirit. As the Son partakes of the fullness of the Father through the Spirit, so the saints are, by the same Spirit, to be partakers of the same fullness, 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." (Lectures on Faith 5:3.)

Such is the course whereby the saints gain eternal life, the greatest of all the gifts of God. And how could Deity give anything greater to any man than the glory, power, and dominion that he himself possesses? The name of the kind of life he lives is eternal life, and all those who know him in the full and complete sense shall have eternal life."Behold, the mystery of godliness, how great is it!" (DC 19:10.) [1]

Notes

  1. Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1985), 72–76. ISBN 0877478724. ISBN 978-0877478720. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)