The Uncommon Christ series explores lesser-known scriptural names and titles of Jesus Christ.
WHICH ONE IS THIS SCRIPTURE TALKING ABOUT?!
Have you ever read a verse of scripture and wondered if it was referring to Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ?
Many years ago, I decided to read the Book of Mormon highlighting in turquoise everything about the Savior, and all references to Heavenly Father would be in purple. It didn't take me long to realize that my goal was impossible. Frequently in scriptures there's no way of determining exactly which Being the writer was referring to, since words like "God" and "Lord" are used interchangeably.
This can be confusing, but it doesn't have to be seen as problematic! By exploring one of the shared titles, we may be able to clear up some of that confusion and frustration.
According to Latter-day Saint theology, the Godhead is comprised of three separate Beings who are one in purpose. So how do we reconcile this doctrine with scriptures such as Ether 3:14 that says, “I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son”? To truly understand either Being, we need to understand the Son's role as Father.
The First Presidency once defined three ways this title applies to Christ: the Father of creation, of the spiritually redeemed, and by divine investiture of authority. (1)
Jesus is the FATHER OF CREATION
“He shall be called Jesus Christ, ... the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning” (Mosiah 3:8).
Under the direction of His Father, Jesus Christ formed the objects that influence our mortal experience: the earth, sky, space, and all living things. This process made Him the Father of our world's physical creation.
Jesus is the FATHER OF THE SPIRITUALLY REDEEMED
By atoning for every sin of God's children, our Brother became the Father of our spiritual rebirth. This process has been described as adoption into the Savior’s spiritual “family” by all who choose to enter into and abide by the covenants of His gospel (2).
King Benjamin taught this to his people: “Because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you [and] your hearts are changed" (Mosiah 5:7, emphasis added).
Jesus is THE FATHER WHEN HE SPEAKS ON BEHALF OF GOD
This concept is referred to as “divine investiture of authority”: God endowed His Son with the power and authority to represent Him. Christ only says what the Father directs and only does what the Father would do (3), which can come across as if the Father Himself were speaking (4).
Think of it this way: while ordering food for my child at a drive-thru I don’t say, “My oldest child would like…,” but “I would like….” My child gives me authority to speak for him as though I am him, and it carries the same weight.
DOES DISTINGUISHING MATTER?
One latter-day Apostle taught that the scriptures don't usually bother distinguishing between the Father and the Son "simply because it doesn't make any difference which God is involved. They are one. The words or deeds of either of them would be the words and deeds of the other in the same circumstance (6)."
The Son’s words, character and actions mirror His Father’s; to know One is to know the Other.
If we desire to understand the Father, to have a closer relationship with Him, or to one day be like Him, the Son is the path. The intent of all the Savior has ever done is to bring glory—and us—to the Father (5).
That is what matters.
Artwork credit: Gary E. Smith (see churchofjesuschrist.org). Used with permission.
(1) Statement by the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah, 30 June 1916. (See James R. Clark, comp., Messages of the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–75), 5:24–34; reprinted in the April 2002 Ensign magazine. See also James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith. Salt Lake City: LDS Church, l913, 465-73.)
(2) Robert Millet (former Dean of Religious Education at BYU), The Book of Mormon: The Keystone Scripture, 44–72.
(3) see John 5:19; 6:38; 7:16; and 8:28.
Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote, "Divine investiture is defined as that condition in which ... the Son represents ... His Father in power and authority. [Therefore,] so far as power, authority, and Godship are concerned His words and acts were and are those of the Father" (Sermons Not Spoken, Bookcraft , p.22).
(4) see, for example, Moses 1:4-6.
(5) see Moses 4:2.
(6) Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “Our Relationship with the Lord,” in Brigham Young University 1981–82 Fireside and Devotional Speeches (Provo: Brigham Young University Publications, 1982), p. 101.