Having grown up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the basic truths of the Godhead have been common knowledge to me. The Godhead consists of three personages: Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. They are three separate beings. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have a body, the Holy Ghost is a spirit. I have always accepted those truths without question, and because of that I have never personally dived deeper into understanding the role that the Godhead has in Heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation. Elder Dallin H. Oaks’ April 2017 conference address “The Godhead and the Plan of Salvation” taught me how important a deeper understanding of the Godhead is for our mortal journey and our eternal salvation.
Elder Oaks’ talk was a deep doctrine talk for me. He taught a lot of things that I did not know, or hadn’t really thought about. It wasn’t like, “How could I have never been taught this before?” It was very spiritual and powerful, and one of my favorite talks from that conference.
In introducing the Godhead, Elder Oaks quoted Joseph Smith:
“Any person that had seen the heavens opened knows that there are three personages in the heavens who hold the keys of power, and one presides over all …
…These personages … are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the Witness or Testator.
[It is] the province of the Father to preside as the Chief or President, Jesus as the Mediator, and the Holy Ghost as the Testator or Witness.”
In this teaching by Joseph Smith, I really like that the labels or positions for the individual members of the Godhead are action nouns. God created us, he is the Creator. Jesus’ mission was to redeem mankind, so he is the Redeemer. Jesus Christ’s suffering, Atonement, and resurrection makes him a mediator between us and God. The Holy Ghost witnesses to us the reality of Jesus Christ and the truthfulness of His gospel, he testifies of the truth of all things, so he is the Witness or Testator.
The knowledge that the Godhead participates in our lives is undeniable evidence that they exist. They aren’t lifeless statues that we worship and receive nothing in return. We can literally feel their love and presence. We can receive blessings, messages, and inspiration from them. We can communicate with them.
God the Father
Elder Oaks said that we learn the most about Heavenly Father through His son Jesus Christ’s ministry and teachings. He pointed out two scriptures that teach us that Jesus Christ is the exact image of our Heavenly Father:
“If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him…
…He that hath seen me hath seen the Father…
…Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? 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: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.” (John 14:7-11)
“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,
Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he that appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;
Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:” (Hebrews 1:1-3)
Those two sets of scripture verses also teach that Jesus Christ does the will of Heavenly Father. This is Heavenly Father’s plan, and Heavenly Father’s glory. We come to know Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ.
Elder Oaks pointed to a First Presidency doctrinal statement made in 1909 that teaches that Jesus Christ is our Heavenly Parents’ firstborn in the spirit, and Heavenly Father’s only begotten in the flesh. He pointed to three times in the scriptures where Heavenly Father personally introduced Jesus Christ as his son:
- On the Mount of Transfiguration Heavenly Father introduced Jesus as His son to Peter, James, and John. (Mark 9:-1-7, Luke 9:28-35)
- When Jesus visited the people of Nephi after his resurrection, Heavenly Father introduced His son to the people right before he appeared. (3 Nephi 11:1-7)
- In the Sacred Grove when Joseph Smith prayed in the woods looking for guidance Heavenly Father introduced Jesus Christ who answered Joseph’s question. (JS-H 1:14-20)
In all of those introductions, Heavenly Father tells those listening (and us readers) to “hear him” (Jesus Christ). This means that Jesus Christ speaks on behalf of our Heavenly Father. What Jesus says, comes from God because God chose Jesus to be the Mediator. Using that truth, we can safely say that our Prophet speaks by revelation and inspiration from Jesus because Jesus chooses our leaders.
The Holy Ghost
The Holy Ghost has several names: the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Lord, the Comforter, the Witness, the Testator. Elder Oaks described him as “the agent of personal revelation.” He is the means by which Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ communicate with us. Elder Oaks said:
“Many scriptures teach that His mission is to testify of the Father and the Son. The Savior promised that the Comforter will teach us all things, bring all things to our remembrance, and guide us into all truth. Thus, the Holy Ghost helps us discern between truth and falsehood, guides us in our major decisions, and helps us through the challenges of mortality. He is also the means by which we are sanctified, that is, cleansed and purified from sin.”
The Holy Ghost is literally our biggest lifeline here on earth. It is because of his testifying power that we can know of the reality of Jesus Christ even though we haven’t seen him in the flesh. It is because of the Holy Ghost that we feel the truthfulness of the words of the ancient prophets when we read the scriptures and modern prophets when we listen to them speak today. It is because of the Holy Ghost that we can bare our own testimonies and teach others. It is because of the Holy Ghost that we can feel Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ’s love for us.
Elder Oaks said that knowing who the Godhead is and understanding our relationship with them and the Plan of Salvation will help us. He called it “the ultimate road map and assurance for our journey through mortality.”
We must know who they are and why we worship them: Heavenly Father is the father of our spirits and the creator of the earth and our mortal bodies, Jesus Christ is our older brother and Savior, and the Holy Ghost is a spirit who can dwell within us, teach us, and help us communicate with Heavenly Father. We worship Heavenly Father because He is our creator, he loves us, and we love him. We worship Jesus Christ because he is our Savior, he loves us, and we love him. We use the Holy Ghost when we worship. We must know who we are and what we can become: we are spirit children of Heavenly Father, and we have the ability to become like Him. We must know who makes that possible: Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost through the Plan of Salvation. And we must know what to do in order to enjoy the blessings that come from following the Plan: come to know the Godhead and follow them. Everything else falls into place when we come to know these three beings and follow them, because they are the way back home.