In LDS theology we have a very concise understanding of who Christ is. The doctrine is simple and easy to understand. Jesus Christ is the Son of God. He is the first born of the Father in the spirit and is also the literal son of God in the flesh. We believe in the immaculate conception, but we also believe that our Heavenly Father is the earthly father of Jesus Christ in every sense of the word. We learn this in part through the first vision of Joseph Smith, wherein Joseph says that he “saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above [him] in the air. One of them spake unto [him], calling [him] by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” This glorious manifestation clarifies the nature of the Godhead like no other Earthly creed ever has. Two personages, with one pointing to the other!
As I ponder the significance of this transcendent event I consider the teachings in The Book of Mormon regarding the nature of Jesus Christ. I first turn to Mosiah 15, which states in verses 1 through 4:
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 the Father, being the Father and the Son—
3 The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—
4 And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth.
While these verses seem complex I believe there is a logical explanation as to why the Book of Mormon teaches that Christ is the Father and the Son and that they are one. I believe that the Book of Mormon is trying to teach us that Christ becomes our father through the atonement and is the father of our eternal life. I have taught in classes and over the pulpit in Sacrament meeting that Christ only had one father, and that is our Heavenly Father. For His pre-mortal life, mortal life, and eternal life, Christ’s father is God the Father. For all of us, we have three fathers. Our pre-mortal father is God the Father. Our mortal father is our earthly mortal father. Our Eternal Father is Jesus Christ, and we are adopted by him when we are baptized.
I begin to question though if this is true doctrine. I learned this in the MTC, and believed what I was taught. However, why doesn’t the Book of Mormon clarify this doctrine in the same way? Why does the Book of Mormon seem to imply a trinitarian viewpoint of God and Jesus Christ? Considering the clarity of the First Vision and later teachings by Joseph Smith, why doesn’t the Book of Mormon clearly teach that Jesus and the Father are only one in purpose?
In the 1832 version of the First Vision as recorded in Joseph Smith’s journal he states:
In the 16th year of my age a piller of light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy way walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life. (See JS Papers here)
Why doesn’t Joseph mention the appearance of God the Father in this account?