The Father and the Son are Jehovah

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,[1] 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.

(That Mormons sometimes see Jehovah as the Father is demonstrated by this old post. For an argument that Mormons are more Trinitarian than they realise, see Clark’s post.)


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.


  1. Nice post Ronan. This more nuanced view (based on the Pearl of Great Price) is actually quite helpful, I think.

  2. I agree we get there on the basis of trying to come to terms with Biblical ambiguity and the confusing complexity of Trinitarianism. On the basis of the 1840s, I’m coming toward a belief that one of the strands that informs this Mormon pseudo-Trinitarianism is the notion of a fairly refined version of correspondence across scale. In this model, terms like Father, God, or Lord have wide and variable application. Through a kind of metaphysical metonyme, a variety of divine beings are referred to by these various terms. DIA seems to me a later attempt to push out metaphysics and push in sacerdotalism, though DIA is not at all inconsistent with earliest Mormon beliefs and emphases.

    You are correct to note that Jesus=Jehovah is a fairly Trinitarian argument.

    Doesn’t someone need to link to the Dialogue article on this?

  3. I think that even if we might disagree with who spoke to Moses, that it was a message from the Father. DIA is indeed prevalent in the scriptures with an excellent example found in the Book of Revelation. The speaker identifies himself as the Alpha and Omega, and then later on when John seeks to worship him, rejoins him with a reminder that he is just an angel (a fellowservant, Rev 19:10).

    When Philip asked to see the Father, Christ responded that if you’d seen JC, you’d seen the Father. (John 14:8-9).

    When I first read the verses you reference in Moses, and I think that it’s a natural inclination to do so, I assumed that it was God the Father speaking. However, based upon the above, I had to go back and consider. I believe that the message is from the Father, and no one here (who believes the book inspired) would say otherwise most likely. Who actually delivered the message is probably immaterial.

    The only places in scripture in which we can say for a surety that the Father spoke are those instances in which he introduced His Son (This is my beloved Son, hear Him!) There’s also a bit in 2 Ne 31:11 that also references the words of the Father. Did it come literally from the Father’s mouth? I don’t know how that all goes down. The vessel isn’t as important as the message, nor its source. I think the rest is gravy.

  4. Sam,
    Speakest thou of Boyd Kirkland? I linked to his Sunstone piece above. There’s also Dialogue 19, but I can’t be bothered to link to it.

    I found this article at CESNUR. Great quote:

    When engaging in religious dialogue with Latter-day Saints, it should be remembered that there is not a unified Mormon theology of God. While this has always been the case, it is probably truer in the early 21st century than in decades past.

  5. There is perhaps a more nuanced truth to the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost that has not been revealed. But, of course, the same is true of almost all doctrines related to the eternities. One thing we know for sure—Joseph Smith taught and frequently reemphasized that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are separate personages. Now, whatever else Their relationship may be, we know that they are not one in substance or being.

    Although our doctrine of the Godhead may, in fact, have more in common with Trinitarianism than many would like to admit (or would even be aware of), its main thrust for the average Latter-day Saint is to establish the personal nature of God and our relationship to Him as His literal spirit children.

    By the way, I rather think the Ensign article you mention did a pretty good job of laying out, in a comprehensive if rudimentary fashion, our beliefs about Jesus Christ.

  6. “terms like Father, God, or Lord have wide and variable application. Through a kind of metaphysical metonyme, a variety of divine beings are referred to by these various terms.”

    I have always viewed this as the primary reason we have no systematic theology of Godhood. Christianity in general views Father, God and Lord as distinguishing titles for one “entity”; Mormonism views them as conditions with limitless application. Also, DIA is rooted in our practical church experience, as counselors in presidencies, apostles, High Councilors, etc. are understood often to be representing their direct Priesthood authority. The complexity of such a construct makes it impossible to know with absolute certainty exactly who is speaking in each and every instances of divine visitation – and, more specifically, whose words are being spoken.

  7. Add “as far as it is translated correctly” and Nephi’s definition of “true” (I wrote it, and it’s what I really believe.) and the complexity gets even more difficult to unravel.

  8. Julie M. Smith says:

    “I couldn’t possibly do it.”

    Yes. Why do people insist on trying? Why can’t we just admit that we don’t understand everything about the divine relationship(s)?

  9. Truly, I think I can freely admit I don’t understand everything (or basically anything) about divine relationships.

    Because, I assume like most everyone, my brain tries to make sense of puzzles and the complexities of the scriptures, I have often found myself thinking, “well, that’s HF speaking here. Oh, now Jesus is talking. Back to HF again.” This is the only way I can rationalize both Jesus=Jehovah and passages like those from the PoGP.

    My mind forces a logic out of what doesn’t compute. I’m part Vulcan.

  10. B.H. Roberts seems to have arrived at the same conclusion as Orson Pratt, but without reducing the essential God to “fluid.”

    From one of his last discourses, entitled, “God.” June 18, 1933, Salt Lake Tabernacle, reprinted in Discourses of B.H. Roberts, Deseret Book, 1948:

    “United in this Divine Essence, or Spirit is the mind of all Gods; and all the Gods being incarnations of this Spirit, become God in unity; and by the incarnation of this Spirit in Divine Personages, they become the Divine Brotherhood of the Universe, the ONE GOD, though made of many.”

    I am quite comfortable with the notion that the divine essence of God, the One, is so interwoven into the beings of the personages of God that it makes little difference which one did what. This extends the doctrine of trinity and raises it many orders of magnitude, or infinitely.

  11. Sam,
    Should we use the 1840’s to try and understand 1830?

  12. Careful, Ronan. You’re skirting dangerously close to heresy, here. Trinitarians are the scoffing Gentile church of the devil.

  13. Clair (#10) – I’ve had a similar feeling over time as well, though I don’t know if that started before reading some of what B.H. Roberts said/wrote. We don’t know a lot about the Godhead, and yet we know a great deal more than some. We know that there are three separate, and distinct beings who make up the Godhead, we have knowledge from D&C 130 that the Father/Son have bodies of flesh/bones. We also know that per John 17 that they act as one. (JS had some great discourses about this topic that were purposefully not intended to be tactful to other religions methinks…)

    This gets more to the point of what I was trying to articulate in #3 that the message and the source is usually more important than the messenger, whether it be angel, JC, the Father, the Spirit, etc. If God gives the message, then it would be the same if it were any one of the three speaking.

    I had a missionary companion once who said that Jesus Christ was God at a doorstep. At first I found it disturbing, but after a moment’s reflection it became interesting, but didn’t say anything right away. We had a chat afterwards and went on to talk about the nature of the Godhead and what it means to be God. Perhaps some would chafe at calling JC God, but not bat an eye at calling Him God the Son. Connotations, tradition, and dogma. Ah what tangled webs we weave.

  14. Kevin Barney says:

    Here are two holes left by the Talmagian equation of Jehovah as being the Son rather than the Father:

    1. Missionaries still use OT prooftexts of divine corporality, without stopping to think that those prooftexts no longer work if Jehovah is the pre-incarnate Son.

    2. When I was young we were taught that the purpose of this life was to gain a body, which is essential to become a God. But oops, it couldn’t have been too essential, because the God of the OT doesn’t have a body himself.

    Obviously I wasn’t around prior to the 1916 1P Statement, so I think there are a lot of old time Mormon ideas that persist even though they no longer work under the new formulation, but a lot of people just don’t think through it all.

  15. RJH:
    sorry, i’m 45hrs into a 60hr shift. I skimmed a little. I did mean Boyd K.
    Well, 1840s is clearer, but 1835-6 has a lot of correspondence. i’d need to go read the Genesis exegesis more closely to refresh my memory about 1830.

  16. Thomas Parkin says:

    I think you’re actually headed in the wrong direction, Ronan. Divine Investeture of Authority may go much further and deeper than simply having the Son speak as the Father. It may be, so to speak, the order of heaven, the way things get done. Authority to speak and act for the Father, or the Son, for that matter, may be divested in any number of heavenly entities. (Whether by His voice or the voice of His servants, it is the _same_.) As a perfect being that occupies one place in time and space, Divine Investeture of Authority may be the way God gets virtually everything done. This makes Heavenly Father a being we can comprehend that we can _know_ – in other words, a being closer to Joseph’s God. This is the profound heresy, the limited Father, the rejection of the Monist religious impulse, the desire to unite all things in one being – the reason we can never reconcile with the mystics.


  17. To follow-up on #5 and #15: At various times, HTs can represent the quorum/group leadership, the Bishop, the Stake President and/or the 1st Pres. – depending on what message they are providing. High Councilors represent the SP, but they can speak by assignment of the Bishop – thus representing the Bishop AND the SP at that time.

    It can be hard enough in the mortal church to figure out whose words are being spoken, especially if the speaker doesn’t give explicit attribution. Figuring it out in the scriptures is almost pointless, imo. “God” is good enough for me, in most cases.

  18. Peter LLC says:

    It can be hard enough in the mortal church to figure out whose words are being spoken, especially if the speaker doesn’t give explicit attribution.

    It is safe to assume that like the rest of us, they are making it up as they go, largely off the cuff, based on personal experiences, loosely adapted to whatever topic the Stake president/bishop etc. decided for that month.

    Figuring it out in the scriptures is almost pointless, imo. “God” is good enough for me, in most cases.

    Pointless? My eyebrow is raised. Don’t mormons believe that one must know whom one worships in order to gain salvation? It would hardly suffice to develop faith in, gain a testimony of and follow the example of some being that didn’t exist, would it?

    “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.” John 4:22

    “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3

    Seems to me getting that stuff straight is something more than pointless.

  19. #17 – “Don’t mormons believe that one must know whom one worships in order to gain salvation? It would hardly suffice to develop faith in, gain a testimony of and follow the example of some being that didn’t exist, would it?”

    That is totally irrelevant to the question of whose words are being recorded in any given situation – particularly within a theology that posits the Godhead acting and speaking as one. For example, I couldn’t care less if different parts of the Proclamation to the World express the particular impressions or revelations of individual apostles or if it came in totality from Pres. Hinckley and simply was signed by all of them. I know whom I accept as having that authority, so if one of them or all of them gives it in the name of all of them, that’s good enough for me.

    Same goes for something I tell my children as their father. I don’t care if they know that the words are mine or my wife’s; all I care is that they accept them as coming from their parents, since they know who those parents are.

  20. Joshua Madson says:

    Lets not forget the whole issue of the Brother of Jared seeing someone it claims no one else had seen before. It seems to imply Christ is not always Jehovah unless we adopt the, well it must have been different because Jesus is always Jehovah.

  21. Dan Knudsen says:

    This has all been quite interesting, as I’ve had many of the same questions, and have not articulated them to the extent done here. Suffice it to say that there is much we currently don’t know, or understand, about the Godhead. I’m waiting for the Great Conference (whenever it occurs) where all the mysteries are explained and made clear to us dummies. About 40 years ago I took a class from Cleon Skousen, wherein he mentioned that Great Conference, and said that when the Lord explained how the Earth had been created, the scientists who’d been studying all of this, will exclaim, “Ah, that’s how it was done!” while the rest of us will be yawning, anxiously waiting for the meeting to end, so we can go do something more exciting. I think the same will happen when the Godhead is fully explained: Those who have worked long and hard trying to understand it, will have a bright light turn on in their minds, as “Ah-ha!” hits them, whereas the rest will rather be elsewhere.

  22. a random John says:

    Divine Investiture of Authority is a duct tape patch on our concept of God that seems clever at first but over time becomes more and more ugly.

  23. I’ve always thought that, Ronan, but it didn’t seem worth an argument. I just could never make it make sense.

  24. Aaron Brown says:

    Yeah, ditto re: the duct tape. In my more cynical moments, I see Divine Investiture of Authority as just a euphemism for “the Scriptures support Mormon theology on the identities of God and Jesus, except when they don’t, in which case just don’t worry about it, cause, ya know, we’ve got our DVA wild card that makes it all OK.” The fact that we need to invoke DVA at all should give us pause before we indulge in pious proof-texting on the Godhead.

    Aaron B

  25. Thomas Parkin says:

    This is probably the most notable instance we have of what we call DIA. Peter says the Lord visted the spirits in prison – but we see that this is not literal – the spirits in prison were taught those called to speak in His name.

    This scripture seems to me the single most typical Mormon scripture we’ve got. It shows God as a limited being – who doesn’t skip around in time in order to preach the gospel to every dead person in three days. This is a God whose face we might recognize, and whose society we might enjoy much like we enjoy the society of friends here. It isn’t an undifferentiated mass of light, or a union that can’t be understood and known, or mystically both this and that and every other thing.

    D&C 138:

    “5 While I was thus engaged, my mind reverted to the writings of the apostle Peter, to the primitive saints scattered abroad throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, and other parts of Asia, where the gospel had been preached after the crucifixion of the Lord.
    6 I opened the Bible and read the third and fourth chapters of the first epistle of aPeter, and as I read I was greatly impressed, more than I had ever been before, with the following passages:
    7 “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit:
    8 “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison;

    11 As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord erested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great.

    25 I marveled, for I understood that the Savior spent about three years in his ministry among the Jews and those of the house of Israel, endeavoring to teach them the everlasting gospel and call them unto repentance;
    26 And yet, notwithstanding his mighty works, and miracles, and proclamation of the truth, in great apower and authority, there were but few who hearkened to his voice, and rejoiced in his presence, and received salvation at his hands.
    27 But his ministry among those who were dead was limited to the abrief time intervening between the crucifixion and his resurrection;
    28 And I wondered at the words of Peter—wherein he said that the Son of God preached unto the spirits in prison, who sometime were disobedient, when once the long-suffering of God waited in the days of Noah—and how it was possible for him to preach to those spirits and perform the necessary labor among them in so short a time.

    Now here comes the lesson. In 1918, more than half a century after Joseph, we get a big canonized lesson.

    29 And as I wondered, my eyes were opened, and my understanding quickened, and I perceived that the Lord went not in person among the wicked and the disobedient who had rejected the truth, to teach them;
    30 But behold, from among the righteous, he organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and dcommissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in edarkness, even to fall the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead.
    31 And the chosen messengers went forth to declare the acceptable day of the Lord and proclaim liberty to the captives who were bound, even unto all who would repent of their sins and receive the gospel.


  26. Thomas Parkin says:


    You’ve really been disappointing me lately.
    Maybe a little less cynicism is called for.
    I only say it because you once gave me permission to.


  27. Thomas Parkin says:

    I should add:

    Near the end of my time in Seattle 1st, Aaron and I both taught Elder’s Quorum. I enjoyed Aaron’s lessons very much. There was an openness, even casualness, that wasn’t a lack of seriousness. You could let down your hair some when he taught – and I found it very enjoyable, and often enlightening.

    Right about the time we moved, he mentioned that he blogged here. I have a long sordid history with web discussion, and wasn’t very interested in doing more of it – but Aaron brought up BCC by name, and I couldn’t help checking it out, and here I am. When Aaron mentioned it, he specifically said I could, I don’t recall, set him straight, or something. It was in good humor. The above post is mostly cause he made me mad.

    Time to find a pillow.


  28. Peter LLC says:

    I’m with you in the sense that as long as we’re pretty sure the words we are hearing are inspired, the prudent course of action would dictate that “[Ours is] not to reason why,
    [Our is] but to do and die.”

    Still, if we are going to distinguish among speakers/members of the godhead at all, I don’t see divining the speaker as pointless or as an exercise in navel gazing. Leaving stones unturned in this regard is hardly the pattern that Joseph set.

  29. In my opinion, Divine Investiture of Authority is a doctrine with no clear scriptural basis, and indeed an idea that makes God a deceiver. For example, high councilors often speak to a ward or branch for the stake president, expressing the president’s love or concern over some specific issue. However, in doing this, the high councilor rarely if ever actually impersonates the stake president — explicitly and verbally claiming to be the stake president. If a high councilor did this, we would quite rightly suspect him of having come unhinged. However, if on further examination we came to learn that the high councilor was both sane and sincere in his self-presentation as the stake president, we would regard this act as a very clumsy effort at fraud. If God the Father routinely instructs other entities to speak and act as if they were in fact the Father, a less clumsy version of the same kind of deception seems to be at play. Why represent oneself as the Father, if one is not in fact the Father? Presumably there must be some reason. Perhaps recipients of visions take them more seriously if they are experienced as involving the highest God, or perhaps those recipients feel more privileged to think that God Himself cared enough about them to visit them in person. Yet in fact neither of these things actually took place, under the Divine Investiture theory.

    Would it not be a clearer, less needlessly confusing, and equally verbally parsimonious approach to Divine Investiture if angels/the Son/the Spirit/whoever simply said something like, “What follows is the message that the Father instructed me to give you”?

    It has, I think, become difficult for us to approach the idea that Mormon scripture and experience records a human experience of God that is diverse and inconsistent with simple systematizations. That God seems to us to be one way at one time and another way at others is an easy solution to this, and raises few theological problems.

  30. Kevin #13, a third hole for me: Jehovah in the Old Testament orders the Israelites to have no other God before Him, and indeed to worship no other God. This seems as if it might be an act of usurpation if Jehovah is the Son of the Highest God, rather than the Highest God in His own right.

  31. While that’s a bit of a complication Ronan, I think that the Son speaking as the Father can be Jehovah. (Indeed I think in effect this is what Mosiah 15 demands)

    In a sense this is a variation on modalism. Since Jesus has multiple modes. Although in LDS theology it ends up being more complex since it is more different role/titles that multiple beings can fulfill.

    I actually think Pres. Hinkley was quite familiar with the complexities of Jehovah. But I think it is a fairly mainstream doctrine that typically the person in the role of YHWH is Jesus.

  32. To add what it demonstrates to me is that “only begotten” ends up being a more complex term than “only begotten in the flesh” (i.e. the emphasis on parentage by reproduction which is what I think Mormonism has emphasized over the other senses which were probably more important at the time of Jesus in late antiquity)

  33. 1. Missionaries still use OT prooftexts of divine corporality, without stopping to think that those prooftexts no longer work if Jehovah is the pre-incarnate Son.

    That’s not quite true since the emphasis on divine corporality is really materialism vs. Thomist souls. That is our belief in the embodiness of spirits (and thereby the Father) is pretty key.

    Jehovah in the Old Testament orders the Israelites to have no other God before Him, and indeed to worship no other God. This seems as if it might be an act of usurpation if Jehovah is the Son of the Highest God, rather than the Highest God in His own right.

    The role view resolves this though. Jesus as YHWH is speaking as the Father. Interestingly there are some Jewish texts – especially the Metatron texts where Enoch is made the Lesser YHWH – where this same situation occurs. I’d also argue (along with others like Blake Ostler) that this (typically called Merkabah mysticism) is the context for Mosiah 15.

    In my opinion, Divine Investiture of Authority is a doctrine with no clear scriptural basis, and indeed an idea that makes God a deceiver.

    I’d disagree and would once again point one to Mosiah 15. I’d also argue that there are scriptures for it. Indeed one could argue that this is the basis of the LDS concept of priesthood. (See especially Helaman 10)

  34. Clark, pointing to Mosiah 15 doesn’t really help, as that chapter doesn’t look like Divine Investiture theory unless you take a Divine Investiture hermeneutic with you to the text. That is to say, the text looks consistent with Divine Investiture if the reader is already persuaded by the Divine Investiture theory, but it looks like a text against Divine Investiture from perspectives that are not already persuaded by Divine Investiture.

    Helaman 10 also doesn’t really help. God there gives Nephi the power to tell the people what God will do, and God will do what Nephi says he will do. If this were Divine Investiture, God would instead tell Nephi to tell the people that Nephi was God.

  35. The problem with that is that Mosiah 15 demands that the Son be the Father in some deep sense. Now it’s true that one needn’t interpret that purely as divine investiture. One could always read it as modalism proper. But then that poses problems with texts like 3 Nephi 11.

    The question is whether one can read Mosiah 15 as internally consistent without adopting a doctrine akin to an investiture theory. I don’t see how one can.

    The fact is that there are many scriptures where we have one being functioning as both Father and Son.

    The doctrine of divine investiture of authority is to have one person speak as an other. Which is the key to both prophesy and priesthood. Certainly it is the case that we don’t confuse a prophet with God even though in most cases (especially in the OT) he is speaking in first person as if he were God. But it is also the case, especially in extra-canonical Jewish texts, that confusion does appear. (Thus my argument that Merkabah texts provide context for the rhetoric Abinadi is using and his exegesis of Isaiah)

    So to discount this as merely bringing something to the text neglects the fact we always bring to the text in order to interpret it. The question is (a) what the alternatives are and (b) whether our reading works and is fair to the purported context of the text.

    One can also point to Revelation 22:8-9 as an example of just these sorts of confusions. This actually isn’t that uncommon. (Although admittedly John, in the prior chapter, provides a clue that this is an angel – one of the seven – rather than the figure from the throne. Although it might be conflated a bit.)

    The other obvious place (and one discussed in Jewish Midrash) is Ps 110 where one YHWH speaks to an other YHWH. Does that make sense without divine investiture of authority?

    Now if you mean, is there a scripture clearly and unambiguously laying out the doctrine? No there isn’t. But then that tends to not be the focus of scripture.

    BTW – for those interested here’s an excerpt of a well known paper on the topic of the Lesser YHWH.

  36. The money quote from 3 Enoch, btw, is the following:

    R. Ishmael said: Metatron, Prince of the Divine Presence, said to me:
    Out of the love which he had for me, more than for all the denizens of the heights, the Holy One, blessed be he, fashioned for me a majestic robe, in which all kinds of luminaries were set, and he clothed me in it. He fashioned for me a glorious cloak in which brightness, brilliance, splendor, and luster of every kind were fixed, and he wrapped me in it. He fashioned for me a kingly crown in which 49 refulgent stones were placed, each like the sun’s orb, and its brilliance shone into the four quarters of the heaven of Arabot, into the seven heavens, and into the four quarters of the world. He set it upon my head and he called me, “The lesser YHWH” in the presence of his whole household in the height, as it is written, ‘My name is in him.’ (3 Enoch 12 in Charlesworth’s Old Testament Pseudopigraphia)

  37. I think Divine Investiture is implicit when the angel prevents Abraham from sacrificing Isaac.

    see Gen. 22:9-18

    I could probably come up with others given time.

  38. Aaron Brown says:

    Thomas Parkin,

    Sorry if my cynicism sometimes gets to you, but I’m not sure I understand why comment #22 riles you so. I was merely alluding to an irritating phenomenon that I have observed: Many of us like to tell ourselves that the truths of Mormon theology are self-evident upon a fair reading of the scriptures. If you’ve served a mission, you know that Mormon views of the Godhead are often bolstered with a large collection of proof-texts. Yet the fact that we have to invoke DVA to make sense of certain scriptures should serve as pretty clear evidence that our proof-texting ducks really aren’t in a row. DVA works as a “Get-Out-of-Scriptural-Bind” card, and, at least as I’ve observed it used, has no limiting principle. (It also can promote laziness. Why grapple with the precise words of the text, if we know that we can always just fall back on DVA when our preferred Godhead reading doesn’t work and the going gets tough).

    Note that I’m not arguing against any particular understanding of the Godhead, per se. If Jehova is really Jesus, fine. If DVA is a true principle, and I’m failing to appreciate its importance in certain contexts, fair enough. If DVA is true and important, let’s say so, and point to the relevant authoritative voice that establishes it is so. But let us also not pretend that we aren’t importing an extra-textual doctrinal tool — not obviously derivable from a straightforward reading of the text — to make our case. In my experience, DVA, as-so-often-invoked, is just a form of scriptural cheating. A tool for avoiding the reality that the scriptures don’t always completely jive with our preferred doctrinal understandings, any more than they do with certain other Christian readings we like to disparage.

    Aaron B

  39. Aaron, isn’t that true of any reading of scripture? We have to decide on some context that makes a reading consistent. Otherwise all we have are words.

    To suggest this is cheating seems…odd.

  40. Keller, that text doesn’t necessarily work, either. The identity of the “Angel of YHWH” in the Old Testament is heavily debated. Some readers in the broader Christian world regard this figure as an angel, others as God the Father, and still others as a premortal Jesus. So it’s not clear that there’s investiture here; this may simply be God speaking

    However, even if the “angel” in this passage is a being other than one member of the Godhead, the text is at best murky for investiture. In the crucial segment of this passage, verses 16-18 in which Abraham is given a promise from God, the “angel” begins the statement with the phrase: “By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord…” (emphasis added). If this is literally God speaking, then the emphasized words are simply redundant self-reference of the kind often found in the Old Testament. However, if this is not God, then the emphasized words make the passage a quotation. The investiture theory revolves around the idea that those who have been invested with divine authority do not quote God but rather speak as if they were God, so the central words in this passage are weak evidence.

    Indeed, the only part of the text that potentially looks like investiture is the very last part of verse 12, in which the “angel” points out that Abraham has not withheld his only son “from me.” This is a very slender reed on which to base a theological argument, especially since there are plausible alternative readings, other than investiture theory, about why the “from me” might be appropriate. Once again, the “angel” might be a member of the Godhead, so no investiture is necessary. Alternatively, since this angel appears as a supernatural figure given responsibility over Abraham’s sacrifice, the “from me” passage might simply refer to not withholding Isaac from the angel of sacrifice.

    My least favorite thing about the Divine Investiture theory is that it is both nourished by, and the evident motive for, raw and unreconstructed prooftexting.

  41. Clark, I agree that all readings of any text necessarily import extra-textual ideas into the process of interpretation. Yet Aaron is certainly right to say that we routinely criticize non-Mormons for doing this. Furthermore, not all extra-textual ideas are equally successful in making sense of the evidence of the text. I think it’s both plausible and reasonable to argue that the Divine Investiture approach is an extra-textual idea that is in relative tension with the texts of Mormon scripture, especially compared with alternative available readings for most relevant passages.

  42. Aren’t most theologies underdetermined? That is there is more than one way to read the texts? Consider whether there was an “intelligence” independent of the spirit which was born or at least organized as a spirit. A pretty mainstream kosher theology but one underdetermined by the texts. (i.e. there are alternative theologies defensible by the texts)

    So I’m not sure what’s being argued here. Is it merely that the investiture theory isn’t clearly stated by a revelation? OK, I can accept that. Has anyone said that it is? At best I’ve argued that it is a natural and clear implication of some texts. But I’d never say it is the only way to read those texts.

    I’d agree that Gen. 22 isn’t the best scripture for the idea. As I said I think passages like Ps 110 are better, although hardly univocal. Better yet might be Exodus 23:21

    Given that the doctrine of divine investiture of authority is merely that Jesus speaks for the Father with the Father’s power, why isn’t Mosiah 15 sufficient? (Where Jesus is the Father and Son) Beyond that why isn’t John 14:7-11 sufficient?

    Could you clarify what you take the investiture theory to be and why it is problematic? I really must be missing something here.

  43. In tension with what scriptures?

  44. Thomas Parkin says:

    Except, Aaron, that God isn’t known by proof-texting, or by the process you are describing, at all. The fact that we have always indulged in it notwithstanding. If He could be known in that way, then there would be no confusion among the churches, or among ourselves. That one can have a ‘straitforward reading of the text’ even seems to me like a conceit. One always sees what one is prepared and conditioned to see, and rationality, such as it is, is always stictly contained in that. You say that there is no ‘obviously derivable’ source for DIA,that it is ‘extra-textual’ … I see it everywhere in the text. The scriptures are a mystery – and if one insists on taking ‘straitforward readings’ – a mass of confusion, contradicting themselves at every turn. Tensions in our reading and experience, and between our reading and experience, can motivate us to deeper understanding, but not if we are insisting that what we see in the scriptures are plain on the surface of it. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned, and that is an entirely different process.


  45. Would it not be a clearer, less needlessly confusing, and equally verbally parsimonious approach to Divine Investiture if angels/the Son/the Spirit/whoever simply said something like, “What follows is the message that the Father instructed me to give you”?

    Of course it would be. That doesn’t help much though, since that’s obviously not what happens in some cases. We have a lot of examples in the scriptures of people speaking on behalf of divinity without explanation or preamble. The best example may be Isaiah, speaking in the first person as if he were Christ. It’s a convention that we have to learn to accept, even when it makes understanding difficult.

    Since we know that it happens, it’s not “cheating” to suggest that it is happening when the scriptures seem out of sync with our understanding of the identity of the speaker, and not knowing for certain who precisely is speaking is not the same as not knowing who God is.

  46. Clark, I think the “divine investiture” approach to John 14, in particular, is superficial at best. That Jesus may speak with God’s authority is perhaps inherent to that passage, although not emphasized in that passage — and indeed appears to me to be an anachronistic projection of modernist projects of authority and bureaucracy on a text written with quite different concerns. The John 14 material speaks to a unity far more profound than simple messengership; this is where divine investiture seems to me to be a wrong turn, in that it prevents us from exploring the nature and implications of the deeper unity (whatever that might be) contained in John 14 and Mosiah 15. Messengers are common, mundane, and lacking in deeper lessons of fellowship and eternal destiny, while the theme of deep and indeed nearly total divine unity contains powerful (if perhaps almost unsystematizable) lessons regarding discipleship, fellow feeling, and our eternal possibilities.

    MCQ, I don’t think the Isaiah material is particularly helpful — Isaiah’s words often do provide prophesies of Jesus, but they were also straightforward first-person expressions of Isaiah’s current situation. The prophetic part is a poetic extension of Isaiah’s self-characterization; that self-characterization, though, was literally about Isaiah, not about investiture.

    I agree that it’s not “cheating” to suppose that difficult-to-understand scriptures reflect our already-settled convictions. Everybody does this with at least some texts. However, when we do this to the extent that we close the opportunity for the text to alter our settled convictions, we’re breaking the hermeneutic cycle and asserting that our understanding now contains everything of value in the text. It seems to me that such an implicit assertion is unhelpful — and, indeed, when we make such an assertion we may be cheating ourselves.

  47. It seems to me I’m taking the investiture of authority as essentially vague. That is it is merely the doctrine that the Son can speak for the Father. You appear to take it as more determinate and as entailing ontological commitments for the unity of the Godhead.

    Might I suggest that reading goes well beyond what the investiture theory entails? Even in the original doctrinal statement on God I don’t think one can take the theory as you are taking it.

    However now that you’ve clarified how you are taking investiture your comments make more sense. I just think that an incorrect way of taking the investiture. For instance I think that the unity of the Godhead must be more extensive than some think. But I still hold to the thoery.

  48. Clark, I think it’s certainly clear that Jesus Christ can speak with the power of the Father. My objection arises when this is offered as a complete and satisfactory explanation for Jesus Christ’s identification of Himself as the Father in the Book of Mormon. If we define investiture narrowly to only include the question of whether Jesus can speak authoritatively, I think investiture is almost certainly acceptable to nearly everybody. At that point, however, we should recognize that our working definition of investiture is narrower than some uses of it, and that it no longer has any obvious consequences for the nature of the Godhead.

    It also seems to me that the original first presidency statement on investiture isn’t really about the claim that Jesus Christ can speak with the power of the Father. That statement explicitly uses investiture as an explanation for why Jesus Christ calls Himself the Father. This is the part of the investiture idea that seems unhelpful to me; it is clear that there are other reasons why Jesus calls Himself the Father, and investiture seems neither necessary nor sufficient as an account for this.

  49. Well as I said, in that I agree. I’d just note once again that the theory proper never makes that assertion. It’s certainly true that some adopt a nominalistic approach where the Father and Son share only a common set of intents and values. But certainly that position goes well beyond the investiture theory.

    With regards to the original First Presidency message unfortunately it isn’t available online and I’m at work and can’t look up the exact phrasing. I’d argue that it is one reason why one can speak of the Son as Jehovah. I’d argue it is insufficient to explain all the Book of Mormon and I honestly don’t recall them asserting that.

    But I’ll check the statement when I get home.

  50. OK. I found one online version of the statement. Not the most readible (when will people realize that black text on white background is most readable?) I’m not sure it’s complete but it’ll probably do.

    Rereading it I have a hard time seeing your position. Since it lists numerous ways Jesus is the Father and only one (#4) is about investiture of authority, I don’t know how you can say that they are arguing this is sufficient. I don’t even see them saying their list is exhaustive. (Although it seems pretty complete)

    Interestingly they quote the scripture I find most relevant (Revelation 22)

    It seems though that the four categories they list cover most use. It doesn’t really get into the whole Jehovah issue which is separate in many (most?) ways from the issue of Father as a title.

    I’d also say the statement really doesn’t address the unity of Father and Son. So reading that into it seems incorrect. It does address the use of the label and title but not the unity of the persons.

    Clearly historically within the Church figures have promoted a rather strong unity. Orson Pratt and his spiritual fluid. Lectures on Faith in the earlier Church and the Spirit as the unity. Even Roberts had a strong unity although I don’t think he was clear on what it was. But it appears to go beyond nominalism.

  51. As one the people who got this whole DIA discussion started, and as the one who couldn’t get back to it until now, I will try to clarify one thing:

    I try as hard as anyone else to figure out who is speaking and whose words are being spoken, but, in the end, I don’t really care – mostly because I believe they came from “God”, whoever that might be in any given situation and however it is being transmitted (as far as it is translated correctly).

    Ironically, perhaps, I agree with the following from JNS:

    “It has, I think, become difficult for us to approach the idea that Mormon scripture and experience records a human experience of God that is diverse and inconsistent with simple systematizations. That God seems to us to be one way at one time and another way at others is an easy solution to this, and raises few theological problems.”

    That complexity and elasticity is why I ultimately say it doesn’t matter to me if I am unable to determine exactly who is speaking and whose words are being spoken sometimes. I understand it is complex, since “God” is a title of condition with multiple legitimate applications.

    I want to know, but I believe it’s OK not to “get it” all the time with this particular question. I believe this will be a “faith” issue and not a “knowledge” issue until the day I die. It’s also why I try to cut others some slack and not get all riled up about how they view it. Arguing that the resurrection is only spiritual is one thing; arguing about who (which “God”) actually said what is quite another. To me, that is purely an academic issue – one I’d like to understand, but not one in which I want to invest emotional capital.

  52. J (#37),

    I realize that citing any just about any scriptures is not anything that can settle the question in forums like these. I appreciate getting your thoughts on why Gen. 22 might not entail a DIA reading. I do not consider myself an expert in OT studies but some analysis offered up by David Bovokoy (who is such an expert) intrigues me.

    One of the interesting, albeit seldom recognized, examples of witness invocation that I believe appears in the Bible includes Genesis 22: 12. In the story of the Akedah, God’s heavenly messenger, i.e. angel appears suddenly informing Abraham that he had successfully passed God’s test with the statement:

    “And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”

    The immediate switch between the statements expressed personally by the angel to the words spoken by God via his divine messenger need not present interpretive challenges.

    As a messenger whom God had sent, the angel spoke the words of God as direct speech. However, the initial portion of the speech, i.e., “now I know that” may reflect the view of the angel as council witness.

    Including Genesis 22: 12, the expression “now I know that” appears only four additional times in the Hebrew Bible (see Ex. 18:11; Judges 17:13; Psalm 20:7).

    The phrase describes Jethro’s reaction as a witness to Yahweh’s power over the gods of Egypt; Micah’s witness that Yahweh would provide prosperity; and the testimony of the Psalmist in a movement from petition to one of assurance.

    None of the attestations of the statement “now I know that” are spoken by Israel’s deity. Instead, the idiom is expressed by a human being who can serve as a witness of God’s power. “Now I know that” is a always a witness statement.

    Based upon this evidence, it seems most likely to me that the initial portion of the utterance spoken by the angel in Genesis 22:12 represents the role of the angel as a witness for God’s ability to fulfill the covenant described in verses 15-18 followed by the message: “seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.”—-MADB forum Jul 19 2006

    Since I tentatively accept this line of reasoning, the non-DIA reading is understandably less convincing to me. However even if ancient Israelite folk religion had a concept analogous to DIA, it doesn’t mean we should be forced to believe like they did.

  53. Clark ,
    Some of the passages you mention are what I had in mind when I said there were other texts that hint at DIA.

    I wouldn’t want to sell Gen. 22 short, though. Basically we catch an angelic messenger in the act of speaking in two different modes. In one mode speaking as El or Yahweh and in other a regular member of the divine council.

  54. Clark, I still find the investiture account as an explanation for the title “Father” kind of strange. I invest authority in an attorney but would still reject the idea of that attorney literally assuming my identity. Investiture of authority seems a different thing than investiture of identity, which is what is needed to be a justification of Jesus as Father.

    In any case, this narrow version of investiture theory doesn’t accomplish the rhetorical task that investiture theory seems to be used for: to reduce instances in which Jesus claims to be the Father to mere wordplay.

    Ray, cheers. Agreeing with me is indeed ironic.

  55. JNS, ironic on this topic only, I hope. :-)

  56. I find myself, once again, agreeing with Thomas Parkin. Aaron, can I have permission to call you a cynical bag of wind too?

  57. Yes, but as I noted this is a context for Hebrew use. Just because it’s strange to us doesn’t mean it was strange in the ANE.

    However there is a good analogy in the modern world: a diplomat or ambassador who speaks for the President. It’s not perfect but it’s pretty close to what the idea of divine investiture entails.

    As I said, I’m surprised you see a problem with that. My sense is that this is because you’re taking the theory to be implying more than it is.

  58. Now that I think about it an other obvious example are actors who clearly aren’t the figures they portray on stage but are treated as if they were.

    So this really isn’t that unique a rhetorical trope.

    I should note that the necessary background to this trope is how statecraft was handled in the ancient near east. So the analogy to diplomats is not at all out of place. Rather many scholars feel that prophets and their structure comes completely out of this. Thus the older view is that the prophet is part of the Court of the Heavenly King, receives the message and delivers it. (See for example “Assyrian Statecraft and the Prophets of Israel” in Harvard Theological Review, 63:20)

    One thing to keep in mind is that in the ancient near east modern communication wasn’t possible. So when a messanger or representative was sent (especially when on a military mission) their ability to act for the King was filled with a fair bit of initiative.

  59. Clark, the Hebrew examples you’ve given all involve investiture of identity as a poetic trope, and not as a general presumption to be made in contexts where such investiture is not explicitly invoked. And the Assyrian material seems to involve investiture of authority rather than of identity. This is a narrow objection, but since we’ve defined the investiture idea narrowly, it’s perhaps worth being precise here.

    As long as the investiture notion isn’t taken as preempting further thought about the nature of the Godhead in Mormon scriptural texts, it seems an anodyne idea in whatever formulation. But, even so, some formulations seem more reasonable than others.

  60. However many scholars see that the “Son of Man” usage entails this investiture and at a minimum makes use of it. Add in Mosiah 15 where the parallels to Merkabah literature is pretty pronounced and I’m not sure what more you need.

  61. StillConfused says:

    This article was a shocker to me. I grew up in a Southern Baptist community and I guess I didn’t pay attention at LDS Church as well as I should. I have always considered the Old Testament God to be God, the father and New Testament to be Jesus. It seems that the references that I recall seemed to support that. My husband did quite a bit of research on the support of the LDS view. I have to be honest — I am not convinced. Help.

  62. StillConfused says:

    Also, why does LDS belief require that the Old Testament God be Jesus? What is to be gained by that approach?

  63. Aaron Brown says:

    MCQ, you may call me whatever you like, but know that I am (divinely?) invested with the authority of Steve Evans, so take up your beef with him. And then run the risk of a swift banning.


  64. StillConfused, I think it’s blurry at best in the OT. The usual view is that Jesus is speaking as the Father or representing him. So saying, “it’s the Son” is a bit misleading since it’s the son portraying the Father.

    As to why some (most?) feel this way. It ends up reducing to the idea that Jesus is our mediator to the Father and that the Father reveals himself through Jesus. But simply because of what is being portrayed I don’t think it really ultimately matters.

    The textual reasons are more complex and one could always argue they reflect incomplete knowledge of God. Leaving LDS scripture and sticking to the OT there are passages such as Malachi 3:1-2 which Mark sees fulfilled in Christ. You then have passages like Psalms 23 being quoted by Christ in John 10. You then have many titles given to Jehovah (YHWH) being applied to Christ.

    Add in various LDS scripture like D&C 110:1-4 or 3 Nephi 15:3-5 and you have a pretty compelling reason that at least some of the time Jesus is Jehovah.

    As I said, if one sees Father and Jehovah as titles this becomes less significant. Likewise if Jesus has the investiture of the Father it becomes less significant. Add in some rather common views of things like the Son of Man in apocalyptic literature, the Lesser YHWH who is the visible manifestation and mediator of YHWH, or even the idea of the glory of God being embodied whereas God proper was hidden and you can see the tradition. Even if Mormons wouldn’t adopt all these Jewish traditions and literature I think most scholars see them as an important setting for the NT and believe that Paul and the Gospel writers adopted many elements of them to present Christ.

    Once you add in unique LDS scripture like Mosiah 15 and D&C 93 then, as I argued above, I think the LDS meaning becomes clear. I don’t think Christ as God is merely divine investiture but clearly it is at least such investiture.

    Christ is our mediator with the Father. (See 2 Ne 2:27-28, 1 Tim 2:5, etc.)

    Of course there are passages where the title of Jehovah (YHWH) is used that can’t be referring to Jesus. Some might see that in D&C 109 although I’d argue that this is merely a prayer where the identity is fairly muddled. I think that prior to this time (1836) the early Saints simply weren’t careful about terminology. Which, given the religious environment within American Protestantism of a rather muddled and usually incorrect view of the Trinity, is rather understandable. After that time Joseph starts to make a more careful distinction and tends to identity Jehovah with the Father. The tendency to emphasize him as Jesus is an innovation in the 20th century.

    I’d note that The Encyclopedia of Mormonism notes that sometimes Jehovah is God the Father.

    Anyway, to your point. It’s understandable to be confused on the issue and perhaps even shocked. Here’s what Spencer W. Kimball wrote.

    I was surprised and perhaps shocked a little when I learned that it was the Son, Jehovah, or his messengers who led Abraham from Ur to Palestine, to Egypt, and back to the land of Palestine. I did not realize that it was Jesus Christ, or Jehovah, who inspired the long line of prophets in their leadership of the people of God through those centuries. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 8)

    As I said I don’t think it ultimately matters especially since I think Jesus in the OT is working on behalf of the Father as mediator.

    (PS – I spent all this time making links for everything only to be told that the blog won’t accept any comment with more than 3 links. C’est la vie)

  65. Geez Aaron, I don’t think I can get banned for calling you names that I have your permission to call you.

    But as this thread has shown, if you were truly invested with Steve’s authority, you would speak as though you were Steve.

    But you don’t. So you’re not. So there.

  66. StillConfused, there is a huge amount of variation among Mormons over time (and possibly even today, although nobody really knows) regarding these issues. Joseph Smith on various occasions called Jesus Christ the son of Jehovah, a phraseology that would certainly identify the God of the Old Testament as the Father. There’s substantial evidence to suggest that almost all Mormons throughout the 19th century saw the God of the Old Testament as the Father of Jesus Christ, and not as Jesus Christ Himself.

    The identification of Jesus Christ with Jehovah was, as far as we can tell from the historical record, first proposed in the 1870s and not a majority position among Mormon leaders until the early 20th century. It was adopted as a post hoc counterargument to two Mormon theologies of the godhead that were no longer popular: the Book of Mormon theology that proposes a close link of identity between the Father and the Son, and Brigham Young’s Adam-God theology that identified Jehovah as Adam, Jesus as Adam’s son, and Elohim as Adam’s father.

    This is an instance where an argument offered for a very specific purpose has long outlived that purpose. Obviously, it might be true, but there are some important unresolved anomalies introduced by the Jehovah=Jesus view, and revelation on the subject is muddled by the fact that all members of the Godhead always seem willing to identify themselves as each other in any case. The identification of Jesus as the God of the Old Testament is at best a minor point of current Mormon orthodoxy, but probably shouldn’t be treated as a genuinely settled part of the Mormon gospel message.

  67. I’d be careful with the claim that Jesus as Jehovah only took place in the 1870’s. While I favor the “muddled” view of D&C 109-110 the section in 110 certainly has Jehovah speaking as Jesus. The typical apologetic for this from more fundamentalist types is interestingly the divine investiture of authority. i.e. it is Jesus speaking as Jehovah. (LOL)

  68. Clark, the scriptural documents that were later interpreted as Jesus=Jehovah surely date before the 1870s, but this interpretation of those passages wasn’t common, and may well not have existed. Joseph Smith in particular doesn’t seem to have been careful or consistent in his application of the title Jehovah.

  69. One could argue that of Brigham too since Brigham used the term with Michael as well as Michael’s Father in his theology. It is true he never applied it to Jesus though.

    I believe it was George Q. Cannon and Franklin D. Richards who got the Jehovah = Jesus ball rolling. Is that what you’re referring to with the 1870 date?

    I think there is good reason to make the Jehovah = Jesus as well as the Jehovah = Father connections. I personally think the idea of Jesus as mediator explains these connections as does the idea of Adam, Jehovah, and Eloheim being titles with flexible persons filling the rolls. As I suggested this is in keeping with some elements in Jewish tradition as well. (Not perfectly of course – especially since the most interesting texts clearly have a Platonic context of viewing God to them)

  70. To add – making the scripture/interpretation division is problematic with D&C 109-110 since that was a dedication prayer and so arguably exposes understanding. The easier way to explain it might be that Joseph was simply not consistent before around 1836 and then moved more towards equating Jehovah with the Father. However he died before he clarified some key ideas publicly so I’m not sure we can really be sure of what he was thinking.

  71. Clark, I think I pretty much agree with your position in the last two comments, although I am somewhat hesitant about endorsing your explanation of the linkages in comment #69. It sounds possible, but more detail would be needed, etc.

    One thing I find helpful to remember in thinking about Joseph Smith and theology is that he seems to have strongly preferred freedom and flexibility to consistency, and indeed said so himself on a few occasions. If a particular framing seems, in one moment, to best capture his understanding and inspiration, he uses it — but if it is inconsistent with another framing that, in another moment, seems to best capture his understanding and inspiration, he just uses that other framing as well. Joseph never did much reconciliation among his different statements, seeming to prefer to move forward to his next prophetic expression rather than to clarify and order the relation between that expression and past expressions. I find this approach attractive, but it does cause trouble for those of us who would go back to Joseph’s prophetic work and try to impose logical systematicity upon it.

  72. Kevin Christensen says:

    Interesting conversation. Besides the standard references to Kirkland’s two studies, Talmage, and the 1916 declaration, I also like to consider
    The Development of the Mormon Understanding of God: Early Mormon Modalism and Other Myths, by Ari D. Bruening, David L. Paulsen in FARMS Review 13:2, and Barry Bickmore’s Of Simplicity, Oversimplification, and Monotheism, in FARMS Review 15:1. And of course, I very much like Margaret Barker’s The Great Angel: A Study of Israel’s Second God, which I think makes the Jesus/Jehovah case across a much wider range Jewish and Christian materials than LDS had previously considered. A very brief summary of Barker’s approach is available at a Catholic site, listed here, as “The Second Person,”

    I recommend Barker for “Stillconfused.”

    Regarding Mosiah 15, there were two fresh discussions of late on MADB worth notice here.

    The first is from Hashbaz on December 1, 2007, in the Book of Mormon Archeology Thread:
    A curious fact about Mesoamerican gods is the fact that sometimes they are lumped into “diety complexes”, and sometimes a single god is split into multiple “manifestations”. We find this concept mirrored in the Book of Mormon. Sometimes Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are called “one”, ie they form a “deity complex”. Despite this ‘oneness,’ Christ clearly has multiple manifestations in the Book of Mormon. He appeared as a premortal spirit to the brother of Jared (Ether 3:13), was seen by Nephi in vision as an infant (1 Nephi 11:20), and descended as a resurrected being to the righteous in Bountiful (3 Nephi 11). He is known variously as a creator deity (Jacob 2:5), a destroyer (3 Nephi 9), a rain god (Ether 9:35), a god of agricultural fertility (Alma 34:24), a solar deity (1 Nephi 1:9; Helaman 14:4,20), a fire god (1 Nephi 1:6; Helaman 13:13), a king (Mosiah 2:19), a god of medicine (Alma 46:40), a shepherd (Alma 5:38), a lamb (1 Nephi 14), and even a rock (Helaman 5:12 – yes, it’s metaphorical, but the Maya were likewise highly metaphorical in speech and visual arts).

    With this in mind, Abinadi’s description of Christ as Father/Son, Spirit/Flesh, God/Man is made infinitely more understandable when we look at it through a Mesoamerican lens of multiple manifestations of a single deity. In fact, when we use Mesoamericanist definitions of what a “god” is (“a supernatural sentient being that appears in sacred narrative” Taube, Major Gods of Ancient Yucatan, 1992:8 ) we realize that there are actually a dizzying array of gods in the Book of Mormon. Father, Son, Holy Ghost. Angels, devils, the devil, angels to a devil, the Three Nephites, etc. Should we find an ancient Mesoamerican image of “concourses of angels”, would scholars recognize it as such, or would they call it a pantheon of gods?

    Further linking Christ and his multiple manifestation to the Sun God, the modern Ch’orti’ Maya (among whom I have done fieldwork) believe the following:

    They say that the Sun has not just one name. The one which he is best known by people continues to be Jesus Christ. They say that when it is just getting light its name is Child Redeemer of the world. One name is San Gregorio the Illuminator. One name is San Antonio of Judgment. One name is Child Guardian. One is Child Refuge. One is Child San Pascual. One is Child Succor. One is Child Creator. They say that at each hour, one of these is its name (Fought 1972:485). [/quote]

    The problem with critics is that they expect to find Mormons in the Book of Mormon. They aren’t there. Nephite Christianity looked far different from the modern Church, just as the worship and practice of modern Christianity bears little resemblance to the Primitive Church (or did they have Megachurches with Starbucks and rock bands back then?). I don’t mean that the Nephites worshiped a different Christ, I mean the buildings they used, the clothes they wore, and the art they produced certainly wouldn’t resemble a typical ward in Provo. My LDS friend who came from a Buddhist tradition conceptualizes Christ different than my LDS friend who came from a Jewish tradition, but both accept Him as their Savior and Redeemer. The Church museum of art in SLC has artwork contributed by faithful members from around the world that depict events from the Book of Mormon and from Church history, yet were they not assembled together in one place with clear labels, one would be hard pressed in some instances to understand that it had anything to do with the restored Gospel.

    My point is, when a Nephite saw an image of a dying a resurrecting god, whatever form it took, they thought of Christ. Can we prove this? No. But think of it – would the Nephites have been out of place for worshiping a dying a resurrecting god? Would they have been out of place for having their own local triad? Would they have been out of place for offering burnt sacrifice at the altar of the temple? Would they have been out of place for using the temple as a place of instruction about creation and for enthronement? No on all counts. Their religion would not have stood out. Which is of course your criticism – that we can’t prove it was there. But I maintain that the textual evidence from the Book of Mormon suggests that Nephite Christians interpreted their belief through a Mesoamerican lens, and we can better understand the Book of Mormon by understanding Mesoamerican beliefs and practices.


    And the next is from Ben McGuire, December 10, 2007, on the MADB “Was Jesus a Modalist?” Thread:

    Mosiah 15 has never seemed very modalistic to me. Part of the whole point of modalism is that while God can take on different “modes”, God is never more than one of these modes at the same time.

    For Mosiah 15, it becomes an interesting exercise is to substitute the terms “immortal God” for “father” and “mortal man” for “Son” – yielding this:

    1 AND now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
    2 And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of immortal god, being immortal god and mortal man
    3 Immortal god, because he was conceived by the power of God; and mortal man, because of the flesh; thus becoming immortal god and mortal man
    4 And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.
    5 And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the mortal man to immortal god, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people.
    6 And after all this, after working many mighty miracles among the children of men, he shall be led, yea, even as Isaiah said, as a sheep before the shearer is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.
    7 Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the mortal man being swallowed up in the will of the immortal god.
    8 And thus God breaketh the bands of death, having gained the victory over death; giving the mortal man power to make intercession for the children of men

    What the Mosiah text does not do is make a clear case for Modalism. The theology involved far exceeds the simple question of being Father and Son at the same time. This is not about “modes” or “offices” of the Godhead, but rather the dual-nature of Messiah.

    This statement in the Book of Mormon has always reminded me of the statement of faith at Chalcedon:
    Following the holy Fathers, we unanimously teach and confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, composed of rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father as to his divinity and consubstantial with us as to his humanity; “like us in all things but sin”. He was begotten from the Father before all ages as to his divinity and in these last days, for us and for our salvation, was born as to his humanity of the virgin Mary, the Mother of God.

    We confess that one and the same Christ, Lord, and only-begotten Son, is to be acknowledged in two natures without confusion, change, division or separation. The distinction between the natures was never abolished by their union, but rather the character proper to each of the two natures was preserved as they came together in one person (prosopon) and one hypostasis. [/quote]

    In other words, the Mosiah text seems concerned with trying to demonstrate the dual nature of Jesus Christ – and isn’t referring to that being that we distinguish as God the Father.



    Kevin Christensen
    Pittsburgh, PA

  73. …[Joseph] seems to have strongly preferred freedom and flexibility to consistency, and indeed said so himself on a few occasions.

    What quote are you thinking of?

    Kevin, that’s quite interesting although I’m a bit loath to read too much mesoAmerican religion into the Book of Mormon. Especially Abinadi with his emphasis on exegesis of Isaiah. I’d expect him to be trying to maintain more of a Hebrew religion in the face of the indigenous culture.

    While it is a bit of reading into the text I have to admit that I see Alma as introducing quite a few more elements into the religion with there being more of a break with Hebrew culture starting with him.

  74. It seems like the Moses material that Ronan points to is the main difficulty with the divine investiture of authority problem. I should note that a pre-mortal Jesus as the God of the Old Testament, i.e. Jehova, is not only consistent with the scriptures and other precedents that Clark has laid out, but it is also consistent with some of Joseph Smith’s ideas (no need for something that came to be better understood after the death of Joseph Smith to have been understood entirely by Joseph Smith — let’s not forget the principle of gathering truth wherever we may find it and the principle of continuing revelation), and with additional scriptures that Clark did not invoke in this discussion, for example 3 Nephi 1:13-14:

    13 Lift up your head and be of good cheer; for behold, the time is at hand, and on this night shall the sign be given, and on the morrow come I into the world, to show unto the world that I will fulfil all that which I have caused to be spoken by the mouth of my holy prophets.
    14 Behold, I come unto my own, to fulfil all things which I have made known unto the children of men from the foundation of the world, and to do the will, both of the Father and of the Son—of the Father because of me, and of the Son because of my flesh. And behold, the time is at hand, and this night shall the sign be given.

    The divine investiture of authority theory (I think we should all view it as a theory rather than as catechism — or even if it is catechism right now to accept that with a flexible view that understanding can still change over time) does not need to apply to every instance where God appears to speak in the Old Testament. In fact, I believe that one possibility that has been discussed in the Church is that the vision to Moses mentioned by Ronan is so special because it is one of the few instances of which we know that God the Father himself has appeared to and dealt directly with man rather than through Jesus through the divine investiture of authority or otherwise. One other occasion is when God the Father’s voice addressed those assembled on the occasion of Jesus’ baptism. Finally, another such occasion is when God the Father appeared to Joseph Smith and spoke, introducing Jesus Christ — but we should note that in that instance Jesus Christ still gave all the instruction after that. But taking this into consideration should help us see new aspects of Moses’ vision in the Book of Moses rather than derail divine investiture of authority.

    In short, “divine investiture of authority works as an explanation except when it doesn’t” is an okay position to take — why wouldn’t it be?

  75. john,
    That’s all fine, but it still means that when we say “Jesus is the God of the Old Testament,” it’s not entirely accurate. Plus, given that Moses intends to be a prologue to Moses’ own revelatory career, would you say that it was the Father rather than the Son who appeared to Moses elsewhere (burning bush, Sinai)?

  76. But Ronan, I think this is more a problem where the Mormon tendency to emphasize the persons of the Godhead rather than their unity confuses issues. To make an analogy there are many policies done by the executive branch of the US Government (recognizing you’re not American and that things probably work different where you are). Some of these policies are directly crafted by the President. Most are not but are done in the attempt to be in harmony with the wishes of the President. Yet all are done by the Executive Branch whose head is George Bush.

    When someone (say an ambassador) acts they are not acting as themselves but acting in behalf or as George Bush.

    When we talk about God our cultural expectations are focused more on who is acting rather than as whom they are acting. But I think this is more a characteristic of American culture than anything.

    But I agree that given those expectations the way the question of “who is the God of the Old Testament” is framed is poor and confusing. Perhaps the better answer is that God is God of the Old Testament. However I’d argue that the divine investiture of authority is one (fairly good) way to try to explain this to the American mind in a way they can understand.

  77. God is God of the Old Testament

    Hooray! Consensus!

  78. given that Moses intends to be a prologue to Moses’ own revelatory career, would you say that it was the Father rather than the Son who appeared to Moses elsewhere (burning bush, Sinai)?

    Why would that need to follow?

  79. Ronan,

    My evangelical buddies believe that Jesus is the God of the OT based on John 8:58. I agree with them and find that the correlated materials back this idea up. Also is there not a 1915 or so FP statement on the godhead that is the basis for our understanding of the situation now?

  80. My evangelical buddies believe that Jesus is the God of the OT based on John 8:58.

    Yes, but there’s a radical difference…

  81. also this Wiki article semems to contradict your post as well

  82. Umm. Quoting a Wiki isn’t exactly a strong counter-argument considering how they are made.

  83. Todd Wood says:

    I post today on “the true God” and I come over here to find this highly provocative post.

    Ronan, I need to start quoting you in Ammon, Idaho. :)

  84. Todd,
    Quote not me. I’m a lousy theologian. The post intended only to raise questions, not answer them. I think in matters of God’s nature, we see through a glass, darkly. I’m happy with this and wish Mormons would resist the urge to systematise. One thing I will pin my faith on, though: God condescended to Earth in Jesus. All the rest is mere dressing.

  85. Too late. :)

    Ronan, this is an awesome topic.

    You have got me so excited, I can hardly sit in my chair.

  86. Peter LLC says:

    The identification of Jesus as the God of the Old Testament is at best a minor point of current Mormon orthodoxy, but probably shouldn’t be treated as a genuinely settled part of the Mormon gospel message.

    The current Liahona (I assume Ensign as well) seems to treat it both as a fairly major point and as one pretty settled. From the article “Plain and Precious Truths”:

    8. Jesus Christ is Jehovah of the Old Testament. From the Bible: John 8:58; Genesis 22:14; 1 Corinthians 10:1–44. From latter-day Scripture and Prophets: “He was the great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Creator who, under the direction of His Father, made all things.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “A Season for Gratitude,” Liahona and Ensign, Dec.1997, 4; see also Abraham 2:8)

  87. StillConfused says:

    So Mormons believe that it was Jesus behind the burning bush? That is so freaky to me!