There is One God
Elder Bruce R. McConkie
of the Quorum of the Twelve
(The Promised Messiah, p.113-136)
Are There Three Gods or One?
It is also written that there are two Gods, and three Gods, and many Gods—not one God only. And so also is it: We worship two Gods who are personages of tabernacle; there are three Gods in the Godhead; and there are Lords many and Gods many, all of whom are exalted beings having eternal dominion.
To those devoid of spiritual understanding, it is as though the inspired authors had set out, deliberately and with earnest intent, to sow the seeds of darkness and misunderstanding as to the God or Gods who live and abide and are. And again, in a manner of speaking, so it is, for "without controversy great is the mystery of godliness." (1 Tim. 3:16.) At least to the spiritually sick and to the spiritually dead, who seek God through reason and the intellect alone, the scriptures appear to be a compilation of confusion and contradiction. And it was not intended to be otherwise, for salvation is of the Spirit and comes only to those who are spiritually alive and well, those who come to know God, not by reason and the intellect alone, but through the spirit of prophecy and revelation.
God is revealed by preachers who speak by the power of the Holy Ghost, who "speak the wisdom of God in a mystery" (1 Cor. 2:7), who have the same Spirit resting upon them that inspired the prophets of old who wrote of the Lord and his ways. It is, as Paul says, "After that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." (1 Cor. 1:21.)
The Father and the Son are personages of tabernacle; they have bodies of flesh and bones and are in fact resurrected, glorified, and holy Men. The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit, a spirit person, a spirit entity. These three individuals, each of whom is separate from the other, comprise the Godhead; each is God in his own right. They are three Gods as distinct from each other as are the man Peter, the man John, and the man James, who together comprised the First Presidency of the Church in time's meridian.
And yet, let there be no misunderstanding, the revelations teach that there is one God. In one of the most profound proclamations ever to fall from his lips, Moses proclaimed: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord." (Deut. 6:4.) Paul picked up the same theme and said simply: "God is one" (Gal. 3:20), and "There is none other God but one" (1 Cor. 8:4). Jesus quoted Moses' teaching with approval (Mark 12:29), and Zechariah, speaking of the millennial day, confirmed the same eternal truth in these words: "The Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one Lord, and his name one" (Zech. 14:9). So speaks the Bible on the oneness of God.
The Book of Mormon is even more express and even more expansive. After setting forth the terms and conditions of the plan of salvation, Nephi says: "This is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end." (2 Ne. 31:21.) Amulek speaks plainly of salvation in the kingdom of heaven, of being raised from death to life through the atonement of Christ, of the wicked retaining a bright recollection of their guilt, and of the eternal judgment that awaits them, when they "shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil." (Alma 11:44.) Mormon records that the righteous shall be found guiltless in that great day and shall "dwell in the presence of God in his kingdom, to sing ceaseless praises with the choirs above, unto the Father, and unto the Son, and unto the Holy Ghost, which are one God, in a state of happiness which hath no end." (Morm. 7:7.)
This one-God concept is preserved in the creeds of Christendom in such a way as to subvert and alter, completely and totally, the truth about those Holy Beings whom it is life eternal to know. These creeds are confessions of faith brought forth in councils of confusion and contention. They preserve the names of each member of the Godhead and attempt to show how these three are one.
These creedal confessions of faith are numerous. For instance, the first Article of Religion of the Church of England, entitled "Of Faith in the Holy Trinity," sets forth this view: "There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." (Book of Common Prayer.)
But of all the creeds ever composed, the one named for Athanasius spreads more darkness and preserves more contradictions than any other. The portion of the Athanasian creed dealing with the Godhead contributes this mass of confusion to what men call Christianity: "'Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Eternal and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty.
"'So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not Three Lords but One Lord. For, like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, there be Three Gods or Three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.
"'So there is One Father, not Three Fathers; one Son, not Three Sons; One Holy Ghost, not Three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.'" (Catholic Encyclopedia 2:33-34.)
These creedal certifications, along with all the others devised during the long night of apostate darkness, came from uninspired men who had lost communion with those in the celestial realm who alone have power to reveal the truth about the Godhead. That such would be the case was foreknown and forerevealed by the prophets of old. It was Jeremiah, for one, who told how scattered Israel, in her dispersed state, would "serve other gods" than the Lord, but that in the day of restoration and gathering she would once more come to the knowledge of the Lord Jehovah. Of his gathered house, the Lord would then say: "I will this once cause them to know"—and the new knowledge commenced to come in the spring of 1820 with the appearance of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith—"I will cause them to know mine hand and my might; and they shall know that my name is The Lord."
Of the false and apostate concepts theretofore had, gathered Israel, as Jeremiah expressed it, would come together from the ends of the earth and say: "Surely our fathers have inherited lies, vanity, and things wherein there is no profit. Shall a man make gods unto himself, and they are no gods?" (Jer. 16:10-21.)
Is it any wonder that the Lord of heaven, as he stood by his Father's side on that glorious day in 1820, speaking of all the churches in all Christendom, told young Joseph "that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight." (JS-H 19.)
To those who are bound to defend the mass of confusion in the creeds of Christendom, the concept that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God is totally incomprehensible. They are baffled by their beliefs, confused by their creeds, unconverted by the incomprehensible. Their only recourse is to glory in the mystery of godliness and to suppose there is something wonderful in worshiping a spirit nothingness that is neither here nor there any more than he exists now or then. The total inability to know God becomes the most basic tenet of their religion and closes the door to that progress which leads to exaltation and Godhood.
To those who are free from creedal chains and who can and do turn to the teachings of the prophets and apostles to whom God revealed himself, there is no problem, no confusion, no uncertainty. To them the oneness of the Godhead is neither unknown nor mysterious. They know that God is their Father and that a father is a parent whose offspring bear the image, bodily and spiritually, of the progenitor. They know that Christ is the Son in the literal and full sense of the word, that he is in the express image of his Father's person, and that having come forth in the resurrection, he now has a glorified body of flesh and bones like that of the Father whose Child he is. Their ability to comprehend even God—as in due course they shall!—becomes the most important doctrine of their religion and opens the door to that eternal progress which enables them to become like him.
For reasons that we shall delineate hereafter—in language as plain, as simple, and as persuasive as in our power lies—Jesus taught, repetitiously, both while a mortal man and after being raised in glorious immortality, that he and his Father are one. And implicit in all of his utterances to this effect is found the nature of their oneness, the manner in which, though separate personages, they are one in a way of tremendous import to the children of men.
While a mortal he said to his Jewish brethren: "I and my Father are one," which they understood to mean that he "being a man" was making himself "God." (John 10:30-33.) Speaking of his Twelve Disciples he prayed: "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are." Then because every blessing bestowed upon or offered to those who hold the holy apostleship is also available for and offered to all of the faithful, he also said to his Father: "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: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." At this point in his great Intercessory Prayer, his petitions again centered on the Twelve, though in principle all that he said does or shall apply to all the saints. "And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them," he said, "that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one. . . . And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them." (John 17:11-26.)
After the inseparable union of his body and spirit in immortal glory, he said to his Nephite brethren: "I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name." (3 Ne. 9:15.) Also: "Verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one. . . . I bear record of the Father and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; . . . Whoso believeth in me believeth in the Father also; and unto him will the Father bear record of me, for he will visit him with fire and with the Holy Ghost. And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one." (3 Ne. 11:27-36.)
Later, of the whole body of Nephite believers, in a prayer reminiscent of and greater than his mortal Intercessory Prayer, our Lord said: "And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one. . . . Father, I pray not for the world, but for those whom thou hast given me out of the world, because of their faith, that they may be purified in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one, that I may be glorified in them." (3 Ne. 19:23, 29.)
1. They are three in number, three separate persons: the first is the Father; the second, the Son; and the third, the Holy Ghost. They are three individuals who meet together, counsel in concert, and as occasion requires travel separately through all immensity. They are three holy men, two having bodies of flesh and bones, the third being a personage of spirit.
2. They are one and dwell in each other, meaning: They have the same mind one with another; they think the same thoughts, speak the same words, and perform the same acts—so much so that any thought, word, or act of one is the thought, word, or act of the other.
4. Their unity in all things, their perfect oneness in mind, power, and perfections, marks the course and charts the way for faithful mortals, whose chief goal in life is to unite together and become one with them, thereby gaining eternal life for themselves.
5. Our Lord is the manifestation of the Father, meaning: God is in Christ revealing himself to men so that those who believe in the Son believe also in the Father, and unto such the Father gives the Holy Ghost, and they being thus purified in Christ are fit to dwell with him and his Father forever.
That this glorious unity of which these and other revelations speak is attainable for mortals is shown by the righteous works of certain ancient saints, of whom the record says: "The Lord came and dwelt with his people, and they dwelt in righteousness. . . . And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness." These were they who dwelt in "the City of Holiness, even ZION," which "in process of time, was taken up into heaven," because they had made themselves one with their Lord. (Moses 7:16-21.)
That other faithful saints—being otherwise assigned to labor in the Lord's vineyard, and not being translated as were Enoch's people—have yet attained similar unity with each other and with him whose they are, is attested by Paul's pronouncement relative to certain ones in his day: "We have the mind of Christ." (1 Cor. 2:16.) That is, by obedience and righteousness there were those in his day who, guided by the power of the Holy Spirit, thought and spoke and acted as the Lord would have them do. To the extent that they were so inspired, they were one with their God.
In discussing how and in what sense Christ created man, we have already noted in Chapter 4 that "the Father placed his name upon the Son; and [that] so far as power, authority, and Godship are concerned his words and acts were and are those of the Father." (The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve, cited in James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, pp. 465-73.) As we now set forth the basic thesis that the Father and the Son are one, we come to the most extensive, perhaps the greatest illustration of how this unity of thought and word operates.
Our illustrations will show, not alone how the Father and the Son operate as one, but why uninspired scriptural exegetes have so much difficulty in seeking to learn spiritual truths by the power of the intellect alone. When Jesus (the Son) quotes Jehovah (the Son), in teaching the Nephites, he attributes the pronouncements so made to Elohim (the Father). Why? Because the words so revealed by Jehovah to the prophets of old are and were those of both the Father and the Son.
We shall hereafter set forth in some detail the fact that Jehovah-Christ is the God of Israel. For our present purposes we shall note only that when he, as a resurrected person, invited the Nephites to feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet, he did it so that they may know that he was the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and had been "slain for the sins of the world." (3 Ne. 11:14.) As Israel's God, it is clear that he and not the Father spoke to all the ancient prophets—to Moses, Isaiah, Malachi, to all who were called as guides and lights to the Lord's ancient peoples. He it was who gave the Law of Moses, and in him it was fulfilled. (3 Ne. 15:1-10.) In fact, the whole Old Testament is most explicit that the Deity in whose name the ancient prophets spoke was Jehovah, not Elohim. Of this there is no question.
But in the Book of Mormon, in one sentence he says he is the One who covenanted with the house of Israel and in another he attributes the ancient hand dealings of Deity to the Father. When the resurrected Lord quoted what he himself as the spirit Jehovah had told Micah, Isaiah, and Malachi, he attributed the words to the Father. (3 Ne. 20-22, 24-25; Isa. 52, 54;Mal. 3-4; Micah 4.) His quotations, standing alone and taken out of context, leave the impression that it was Elohim and not Jehovah who spoke to the ancient prophets when in fact it was Jehovah relaying the word of Elohim, for the Father and the Son, as one, both speak the same words.
Peter did precisely the same thing in principle. He applied one of Christ's chief titles to the Father: "The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers," who is in fact the Lord Jehovah, "hath glorified his Son Jesus," Peter says, thus applying the name of the Son to the Father. (Acts 3:13.)
How truly they are one! The name of the one is the name of the other. The words of the one are the words of the other. The thoughts, acts, purposes, and perfections of the one are identical to those of the other.
He that hath seen one hath seen the other. He that hath heard the voice of one hath heard the voice of the other. He that hath felt the spirit of one has felt the spirit of the other. He that hath lived the laws of the one has lived the laws of the other.
"I and my Father are one." (John 10:30.)
As we have seen, Paul taught that faithful saints "have the mind of Christ." (1 Cor. 2:16.) That is: They think what he thinks; they say what he says; they do what he does; and their souls are attuned to his—all because they live the way he lives and have acquired the same attributes and perfections that he possesses.
As we have also seen, our Lord prayed that he might be in his saints in the same sense that the Father was in him, so that Christ and his people would ever be one. (3 Ne. 19:23.) And this brings us to one of the most glorious of all gospel doctrines—that Jesus Christ dwelleth in his saints.
This wondrous concept is one about which the apostles of old had much to say. "I am crucified with Christ" (Gal. 2:20), Paul said, meaning that he had "crucified" the "old man, . . . the body of sin," that henceforth he "should not serve sin" (Rom. 6:6). As a result—that is, because he had forsaken the world to "walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4), and had "put on Christ" (Gal. 3:27)—he was able to say: "Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God" (Gal. 2:20).
As taught by the inspired men of old, this doctrine is that the true saints turn from all evil and cleave unto all good "until Christ be formed" in them. (Gal. 4:19.) They are then able to say: We shall triumph over all the trials of mortality because we go forth, "Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body." Their pledge then is: We shall so live "that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh." (2 Cor. 4:10-11.)
Paul said to his Ephesian brethren: I pray to the Father that you shall "be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith," until through knowledge, obedience, and righteousness "ye might be filled with all the fulness of God." (Eph. 3:14-19.)
"The fulness of God"! What is it? It is to be one with the Father. Jesus spoke of gaining "all power . . . in heaven and in earth." (Matt. 28:18.) Such is the reward for all those who "pass by the angels, and the gods, . . . to their exaltation and glory in all things, . . . which glory shall be a fulness. . . . Then shall they be gods." (D&C 132:19-20.)
This doctrine that man crucifies his old, sinful self so that Christ can dwell in him, and that man as a consequence has power, through faith, to inherit all things, is truly a mystery to spiritually untutored souls. And Paul so designates it. If the saints "continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved from the hope of the gospel," he says, they shall through this doctrine become "holy and unblameable and unreproveable" in the Lord's sight. They shall then understand this great mystery, "even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints; To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:21-27.)
What is the mystery? It is that Christ dwells in the hearts of those who have crucified the old man of sin, and that as a consequence they have a hope of eternal glory! Such is what the Lord requires of his children in working out their "own salvation with fear and trembling" before him. (Phil. 2:12.) And it is in this connection that Paul says, somewhat caustically, "But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost." (2 Cor. 4:3.)
Hidden from the world, but revealed in the hearts of those who are enlightened by the Spirit, this doctrine becomes the measuring rod by which the saints determine whether they are faithful and true. "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves," Paul directs. His standard for such self-judgment is: "Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (2 Cor. 13:5.)
It is life eternal to know the Father and the Son. It is the first principle of revealed religion to know the nature and kind of being that God is. There is no real progress in spiritual things until we know who God is and what his character, perfections, and attributes are. "We know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding," John says. Why? His answer: "That we may know him that is true." There is no substitute for a true knowledge of God, which truth having been taught, the beloved apostle drives home this point: "And we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ." Then speaking of the Father and the Son as the one God that they are, he concludes: "This is the true God, and eternal life." (1 Jn. 5:20.) Thus those who know the Father and the Son, and are thereby inheritors of eternal life, so obtain because they are in God and he is in them and they twain are one.
Believe in him in the literal and true sense of the word, not in some figurative and mystical way; believe that God was his Father, "after the manner of the flesh" (1 Ne. 11:18), as the angelic ministrant affirmed to Nephi; believe that the Father-Son relationship is as real and personal as that which exists between parent and child among us mortals—all of which presupposes that his Father is an immortal Man of Holiness. Believe that because of this holy relationship the Offspring had power to work out the infinite and eternal atonement.
"We have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world," John certifies. Of all who have this same knowledge, he then proclaims: "Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God." (1 John 4:14-15.)
Obedience is the first law of heaven. All progression, all perfection, all salvation, all godliness, all that is right and just and true, all good things come to those who live the laws of Him who is Eternal. There is nothing in all eternity more important than to keep the commandments of God.
Christ himself set the example. "I and my Father are one" because I keep the commandments and do "the works of my Father," and thereby you "may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him," was his teaching. (John 10:30-38.)
"Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me?" he asked. To explain how this was and why it came to pass, he continued, "The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me." (John 14:10-11.)
If Christ was in the Father because he did the works of the Father (and the Father was thereby in him), it follows that if we do the works of Christ, we will be in him (and he in turn will dwell in us). And so it is, for the scripture saith: "He that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him." (1 Jn. 3:24.) And further: "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked." Why? Because "whoso keepeth his word, in him is the love of God perfected: [and] hereby know we that we are in him." (1 Jn. 2:5-6.)
It is well known among the saints that our bodies are "the temple of the Holy Ghost," which is in us, "which we have of God." (1 Cor. 6:19.) Of us the scripture asks: "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?" (1 Cor. 3:16.)
When we are confirmed members of the only true and living church, we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gives us the right to the constant companionship of that member of the Godhead based on faithfulness. The world cannot receive this priceless gift. It is to the faithful saints only that the promise is made: "He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you." (John 14:17.)
What did Paul mean when he said of the saints: "Ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you." (Rom. 8:9-11.)
And what did John mean when he said, "And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us"? (1 Jn. 3:24.) And also: "Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit"? (1 Jn. 4:13.)
In his church we partake often of the sacrament, to renew our baptismal covenant, to assert anew that we will "always remember him and keep his commandments," and to plead that we "may have his Spirit" to be with us. (D&C 20:77.) When this is done in righteousness, by those who are just and true, the Spirit of the Lord comes to dwell in their hearts; and as we have seen, Christ himself thereby dwells in them and they in him. Thus we find our Lord teaching: "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him." (John 6:56.)
The Father and the Son possess, in their fulness and perfection, all godly graces and all ennobling attributes. They have all charity, all love, and all mercy; they are the possessors of the fulness of judgment, the fulness of justice, and the fulness of truth; and so it is through every good thing. They are thus one, for if the Father has all charity and the Son likewise, they are thus alike where that attribute is concerned, and so it is with them where all uplifting and edifying attributes are concerned. And to the extent that we acquire charity or love or any godly attribute, we also dwell in God and he in us.
"God is love," John writes, "and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him." (1 Jn. 4:16.) Also: "If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us." (1 Jn. 4:12.) Similarly, God is charity (meaning he is the personification and embodiment of this attribute), and he that dwelleth in charity (that is, possesses it) dwelleth in God, and he in him; and if we have charity one for another, then God dwelleth in us, and his charity is perfected in us. The same reasoning applies to all of the attributes of his nature.
Of Christ our Prototype it is written: "In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." (Col. 2:9.) In other words, in Christ is found every godly attribute in its perfection, which means that the Father dwells in him and he in the Father. It follows that when men so attain, they become like God, or, as Joseph Smith expressed it:
"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." (Lectures on Faith, cited in Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., pp. 320-21.)
As a necessary prelude to a full comprehension of why the Lord and his prophets put such repeated and strong emphasis on the one-God concept, we must know what is meant by salvation in the true and ultimate sense of the word.
We are ofttimes prone to create artificial distinctions, to say that salvation means one thing and exaltation another, to suppose that salvation means to be resurrected, but that exaltation or eternal life is something in addition thereto. It is true that there are some passages of scripture that use salvation in a special and limited sense in order to give an overall perspective of the plan of salvation that we would not otherwise have. (2 Ne. 9:1-27; D&C 76:40-49; 132:15-17.) These passages show the difference between general or universal salvation that consists of coming forth from the grave in immortality, and specific or individual salvation that consists of an inheritance in the celestial kingdom. All men will be resurrected and all men (except the sons of perdition) will thus be saved from death, hell, the devil, and endless torment. But only those who keep the commandments will "be raised [both] in immortality [and] unto eternal life." (D&C 29:43.)
Since it is the prophetic purpose to lead men to full salvation in the highest heaven of the celestial world, when they speak and write about salvation, almost without exception, they mean eternal life or exaltation. They use the terms salvation, exaltation, and eternal life as synonyms, as words that mean exactly the same thing without any difference, distinction, or variance whatever. Thus Amulek says that "no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven," and then asks: "How can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven?" He teaches that men "cannot be saved" in their sins; that Christ will come to "take upon him the transgression of those who believe on his name"; and that "these are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else." Having thus spoken of the salvation which the saints seek, he also says: "The wicked remain as though there had been no redemption made, except it be the loosing of the bands of death," meaning they shall come forth in immortality. (Alma 11:37-41.) Thus all men—except the sons of perdition who are cast out into an eternal hell—are saved, in that they become immortal and go to a telestial or terrestrial inheritance, but only those who believe and obey become inheritors of that celestial rest which the whole body of revealed writ speaks of as salvation.
Eternal life is the name of the kind of life which God lives and is therefore "the greatest of all the gifts of God" (D&C 14:7); and because those who gain it become like God, they are one with him.
Exaltation consists of an inheritance in the highest heaven of the celestial world, where alone the family unit continues and where each recipient gains for himself an eternal family unit, patterned after the family of God our Heavenly Father, so that every exalted person lives the kind of life which God lives and is therefore one with him.
Salvation consists in gaining—and this is Joseph Smith's language—"the glory, authority, majesty, power and dominion which Jehovah possesses and in nothing else; and no being can possess it but himself or one like him" (Lectures on Faith, cited in Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., p. 258), and since he is one with his Father, so also are all saved beings. Truly, "There is no gift greater than the gift of salvation." (D&C 6:13.)
Thus, to be saved, to gain exaltation, to inherit eternal life, all mean to be one with God, to live as he lives, to think as he thinks, to act as he acts, to possess the same glory, the same power, the same might and dominion that he possesses.
Thus also, the Father is the great Prototype of all saved beings, and he and his Son, who also has become a saved being, are the ones into whose "likeness" Joseph Smith said we should be "assimilated." (Lectures on Faith, cited in Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., p. 258.) And thus, all those who overcome by faith, who become joint-heirs with Christ, who become one in him, as he is one in the Father, become themselves saved beings.
The greatest teaching device ever devised by Deity, whether in heaven or on earth, whether in time or in eternity, is embraced within the simple statement: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord," followed as it then is by the divine decree: "And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." (Deut. 6:4-5.)
Why is this so, and wherein is this such a transcendent teaching device? Rightly understood, these seven words—"The Lord our God is one Lord"—point the way and mark the course to eternal life in our Father's kingdom. Every true believer, every person who worships the Father in spirit and in truth, knows because of this one-God concept that if he himself is to be saved, he must be one with his fellow saints and with the Gods of heaven, as they are one with each other.
Since salvation comes by worshiping the true God; since to be saved is to be one with Christ as he is one with the Father; since salvation and eternal life consist of living the kind of life that Deity lives—and the fact that man can be as God is, is the greatest concept that can enter the heart of man—it follows that any teaching, any doctrine, any dramatization that can keep the mind of man riveted on his goal and what he must do to gain it, any such device is the greatest of all teaching devices.
And so it is that now and always—past, present, and future—for all those who have accepted the Lord as their God, the rallying cry, the slogan of slogans, the divine statement which crystallizes in the minds of men what they must do to be saved is the great Mosaic proclamation: "The Lord our God is one Lord." (Deut. 6:4.)
The Lord speaks with one voice. He is the creator of one plan of salvation. There is only one way to become like him. That way is to come to a knowledge of him and to obey the laws which lead men to a like status of glory and exaltation. No one can pursue such a course until he knows of its existence. No one will ever make the sacrifice necessary to gain eternal life until he believes in his heart that the reward is worth the price. There can never be any true and saving worship without a knowledge of the nature and kind of being God is. Immortality is a free gift; eternal life is reserved for those who believe and obey, who keep the commandments, who are faithful and true in all things, who become one with their Lord.
Satan speaks with many voices and sponsors many plans of salvation. He says: There is no God; atheism and pure reason—these are all that count. Or: God is a spirit—an essence, force, or power—that fills immensity and is everywhere and nowhere in particular present. Or: He is the laws of nature, some great First Cause, some impersonal power in the universe—as all scientists and thinking men must agree! Or: He is made of wood or stone, is carved by man's device, and sits as Diana in her Parthenon atop her Athenian acropolis. Or: The Godhead is the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, but this Holy Trinity compose one spirit nothingness that is really not three Gods but one God, which means they are not really one God but three Gods—incomprehensible, unknowable, incorporeal, and uncreated. Or: Whatever the mind of man can imagine or the machinations of devils devise, it matters not. As long as men believe in false Gods they are damned. What else need Lucifer do than to spawn and sponsor systems of false worship? There is no salvation in anything except truth—pure, diamond truth, the truth about God and his laws.
No doctrine is more basic, no doctrine embraces a greater incentive to personal righteousness, and no doctrine so completely embraces the whole realm of revealed religion as does the wondrous concept that man can be as his Maker. It was revealed first to Adam, to whom—after his baptism, after he had received the holy priesthood, after he had walked in paths of righteousness—the Lord said: "Thou art one in me, a son of God; and thus may all become my sons." (Moses 6:68.) Thereafter, in all ages, whenever the Lord has had a people on earth, the same hope and the same promise have been renewed.
After this doctrine had been revealed to Enoch, in a declaration of wonder and exultation, he exclaimed to the Lord: "Thou hast made me, and given unto me a right to thy throne." (Moses 7:59.) In ancient Israel the repeated proclamation of their God was: "Ye shall be holy: for I the Lord your God am holy." (Lev. 19:2.) The Risen Lord, being holy and desiring that all his spirit brethren attain a like state of holiness and oneness with him, uttered these words: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne." (Rev. 3:21.) And to certain faithful disciples among the Nephites who had so qualified he said: "Ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one." (3 Ne. 28:10.)
"Let this mind be in you," writes our theological friend Paul, "which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God" (Phil. 2:5-6), thus showing how Christ, our Prototype, has attained oneness with his Father. Paul's associate apostle John takes the next step and applies the same principle to all who by faith become the sons of God. "Now are we the sons of God," he wrote, meaning that here and now while in mortality we have been adopted into the family of Deity and have become joint-heirs with his natural Son. "And it doth not yet appear what we shall be," he continues, meaning that no mortal man can conceive of the glory and dominion which shall be heaped upon those who reign on thrones in the exalted realms. "But we know that, when he shall appear [the Second Coming of our Lord], we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." As a natural conclusion to such a doctrine, John draws this obvious conclusion: "And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself even as he is pure." (1 John 3:2-3.)
Pondering these words of the two ancient apostles, Paul and John, President Lorenzo Snow, a modern apostle—who also is the author of the couplet: "As man now is, God once was; As God now is, man may be"—addressed these poetically phrased truths to Paul:
Hast thou not been unwisely bold,
This royal path has long been trod
In the light of all that in our revelations is written, is it any wonder that the same God who has offered salvation to his brethren in all dispensations should say, "Be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine." (D&C 38:27. Italics added.)