Tuesday, January 13, 2015

AoF 1: The God Who Knows Us

This posting is part of a series of studies of principle and application of the Articles of Faith.

News has changed a bit since the Garden of Eden.  Today we turn on the TV or open a browser to get our information and learning.  A handful of millennia ago, the protocol was: 1) build an altar, 2) offer prayer, 3) wait on heavenly messengers (and a fourth step that I'll mention later on).

Here's the problem: we've lost site of God.  Adam and Eve pined after truth - they knew the Father and the Son.  They yearned for teaching and for reconciliation.  We yearn for fast food and for YouTube videos of cats.  We live in a world saturated with information that is seldom validated, and the information we seek too often distracts more than it guides.  More than ever we have to ask ourselves if the First Article of Faith is true for us.  Is it true for you?

The First Article of Faith reads:
We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. 
Check out the Bible Dictionary entry for more details.  For those too lazy for links, I'll summarize below, though I'll bypass most references as they're found in the Bible Dictionary link.

God, the Eternal Father


We call him "Heavenly Father", "God the Father", and various derivatives of the two.  In scripture, he is referred to as "Man of Holiness".  He is literally the Father of our spirits.  It is by His authority that we are here on earth to learn to become more like Him.

Heavenly Father has a body as tangible as man's.  It is He we seek to be like.  He's the goal.  He lives in a state of Exaltation - that of the highest glory, where He enjoys the splendor of Eternal Life - meaning he's able to have children - us.  We are all children of God. 

His character is perfect.  He is all-knowing, all-loving, forever patient, perfectly just, full of wisdom and all powerful (the list could go on, but you get the idea).  Now think about that for a bit... He's got all this swagger regarding attributes, yet He prefers the title "Father".  Nifty, eh?  He's humble.  His interest is in us, not Himself.  He wants each of us to be like Him.  That's what He does for work.  And He likes it:
For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.  - Moses 1:39
As far as we know, He's visited the earth to create man (the final piece of the creation puzzle), to instruct Adam and Eve, and to call Joseph Smith to be a prophet.  His voice was heard during Christ's baptism.  Most of the time, when something requires the work of a God, Heavenly Father trusts Christ to do it.

God, the Christ


Firstly, "Christ" is a title.  It means the "anointed one".  Christ has many names, like the Father.  He is known as the "Only Begotten of the Father in the Flesh" - meaning He's the only physical child of Heavenly Father during mortality (the rest of us have two earthly parents, where as Christ only had one - the virgin Mary).  He's also the first spiritual child of the Father, earning Him the title "Firstborn". 

Christ is known as "The Lamb of God", because He came here to sacrifice Himself.  Similar names are derived from that role, such as, "Redeemer", "Messiah", "Savior", etc.  "Jesus" literally translates to "Jehovah is salvation".  Christ was known as "Jehovah" before He was born, and is the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob".  He is the God of the Old Testament, and was rejected by His own people in the New Testament.

Christ is also known as the "Word", meaning the word of God the Father.  He carries out the will of the Father.  Think of Him as an authorized representative of the Father.  In this manner, He created the world, led the people of the Old Testament, and Christ continues to lead us today.  He defined His role in the following, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life".  Where Heavenly Father is the goal, Christ is the path.  He leads us to the Father, setting an example before us.  He allows us to life again as He did, and He inspires our lives to have meaning while we're still getting fat and bald in mortality.

He also enables us to get back home to Heavenly Father, with a clean record.  Without Christ, we would have had no way of becoming like God.  His status requires perfection.  His presence requires perfection, and the Kingdom where He exists similarly holds to the same standard.  We're just not that perfect.  Christ enables us to work on our weaknesses in this life, and if we dedicate ourselves to Him, and continue to work on our weaknesses - He covers the deficit so we can be counted as "perfect".  And for those who reach this quality, there will come a day where they maintain perfection within themselves, and have all the rights and privileges of a god.  Exhibit A: Abraham - he's already there.

Christ is also our Advocate to the Father.  Not only does He represent Heavenly Father to us, but He represents us before Heavenly Father.  He pleads our case as a Mediator.  One who can simultaneously meet the demands of justice and mercy - a singular trait.  Christ is able to fulfill this role by virtue of His own perfection.  Heavenly Father placed confidence in Christ to come to earth, maintain His perfection, and to be able to atone for all of us.  Some believe that Christ's fate was automatic, as it was foretold.  Such is not the case.  Christ had the ability to fail.  Our futures hung in the balance.  We banked on Him being able to fulfill His mission, and the Father did also.

God, the Holy Ghost


While Heavenly Father's presence on this planet is rare, and Christ's presence also uncommon, this earth is able to withstand the glory of the Holy Ghost quite regularly.  He is known as the "Holy Spirit", the "Spirit of God", the "Spirit of Truth", as well as the "Comforter".  In order to fulfill His unique role, the Holy Ghost has not yet received a body.  However, His character is perfect - He is a God.  The Holy Ghost is able to influence each of us simultaneously.  He is omnipresent. 

The Holy Ghost teaches us all things, causes us to remember truth, inspires us, enables us, and gives us spiritual gifts.  He can only accompany us as we're worthy, and the right to His consistent companionship is the reward of our covenanting to follow Christ.  When we promise to strive to do what's right, we're given the companionship of a God to help us keep that promise.  Nifty, eh? 

The Holy Ghost is our tour guide.  Heavenly Father is the goal, Christ is the trailblazer, and the Holy Ghost guides us along the path.  That's how the three are related.  The effect of the Holy Ghost can be observed by analyzing the Pentecost.  For some reason, when Christ was on the earth, the Holy Ghost wasn't functioning as He normally did.  When Christ was resurrected, and left the earth, He sent "the Comforter".  Notice how quickly the apostles transformed from blind followers to powerful, authorized servants.  Peter became known as "The Rock" and James and John were called the "Sons of Thunder" - so bold was their testimony after they realized the truth of their experience through the Holy Ghost.  

The Godhead


God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost constitute what is called the Godhead.  They are one in purpose, and one in doctrine.  They work together, they teach the same things, they support each other.  For example, when the Father came in answer to Joseph Smith's humble prayer, He introduced Christ by the following, "This is my Beloved Son, hear him!". 

The best thing we can be doing in this life is learning to be more like our Heavenly Father.  I used to be confused about the roles of the Godhead.  I'm sure I'll still learn more as I study, pray and live, but here's something that I learned a while ago... prayer.  Prayer shows not only the relationships between members of the Godhead, but also us. 

When we pray, we address Heavenly Father - but as we're not worthy to be around Him, we have to use Christ to advocate for us.  That's why we say, "in the name of Jesus Christ".  It's like a stamp on a letter - it allows our message to have the clearance it needs to get to its destination.  When Heavenly Father answers us, He sends the Holy Ghost to touch our minds and hearts.  We get feelings, thoughts, impressions, comfort, inspiration, peace, etc.  That's how we're answered. 

I know that God lives.  I know He loves us.  I know He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to help us make it back to live with Him and to improve our character along the way so we can become like Him.  I know the Holy Ghost is real.  I notice His presence the most when I either lose or regain His companionship through my own choices.  I know each of us are spiritual sons and daughters of God.  We are cherished by them.  Each of them loves us enough to design this plan for us to grow and develop.  We are their work and glory.  Let us follow the first Article of Faith by believing in and following the God who knows us. 


Laura Scott said...

Eli - This is so wonderfully written. Growing up Catholic, I did gain a testimony of the Godhead when I joined the Church, but I have sometimes struggled with the relationships and how to understand their roles and my interaction with them. Thank you for taking the time to ponder and understand this and then for sharing it with the rest of us.

mammasweet said...

I love that the primary kids can learn them to music. Easier memorization and longer retention. The fact that we get all the way through 13 and feel so accomplished as kids is perfect.