It is a common Mormon belief that Jesus is Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament. This belief is reaffirmed in the current Christ-centred Ensign (p.69): “Jesus Christ is Jehovah of the Old Testament.”
I don’t think this tells the whole story. Quite apart from the historical complications that surround this belief, there are simpler theological issues that the basic Jesus-Jehovah doctrine doesn’t quite get to grips with.
I say this because I have recently been reading the Book of Moses, the most impressive of the uniquely Mormon scriptures. In modern Mormon terms, Moses’ theophany and subsequent encounter with Satan is striking for portraying “God” in an Old Testament setting as the “Father”:
- I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten.
- By the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son.
- And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so.
I could go on. The point is that in these chapters the so-called “God of the Old Testament” portrays himself as the Father and is in some way “separate” from his “Only Begotten.” Read it if you don’t believe me.
How would a reader unfamiliar with current Mormon doctrine read these verses? Perhaps not only that God (the Father) and the Only Begotten are in some senses separate beings (modes? essences?), but also that God (the Father) was the God of the Old Testament, or, at the very least, that the Father was the being (mode? essence?) of God known to the Israelite prophets. Hearing the direct voice of Jesus (in his classic Mormon incarnation) in these verses is, in my opinion, not the most parsimonious of interpretations. (Of course this stands in complete contrast to the Brother of Jared’s theophany, where God clearly is Jesus.)
Mormons typically invoke the “Divine Investiture of Authority” (DIA) paradigm to get around this, viz., that it is indeed Jesus (“Jehovah”) who is speaking in these verses in Moses, but that as one divinely invested with his Father’s authority, he can speak as if he is the Father.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the “Jesus is the God of the Old Testament” doctrine does not quite cover all that it needs to cover. Reading the Book of Moses makes that very clear. Our aversion to classic Trinitarianism sometimes forces us to crudely pry Father and Son apart and then attempt to re-bridge the gap with doctrines such as Divine Investiture of Authority. I personally believe that “God” (in whatever dispensation) is more often the Father — Father and Son as somehow One, if you prefer — than we care to admit. But do not ask me to come up with a systematic Mormon theology of God. I couldn’t possibly do it.
1. It is complicated both in terms of Old Testament religious history, where God=Jehovah (Yahweh) isn’t quite as easy as all that, and in terms of the Mormon doctrine of Jehovah.