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2006-07-04

D&C 29 and 49. Who is Jesus's Only Begotten Son?

Reading the D&C, I came up with a few theological questions. I present these two for your investigation.

I verified D&C 29 with the scanned pages from the original Book of Commandments. Aside from some minor words (is/was, forest/forests) the text remains intact with no additions, deletions, or changes except the verse numbering.

Doctrine and Covenants Section 29 begins with this:
LISTEN, to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the Great I AM, whose arm of mercy hath atoned for your sins; Who will gather his people even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, even as many as will hearken to my voice, and humble themselves before me, and call upon me in mighty prayer.

It appears to be a revelation from Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith. Interestingly, he will gather those who pray ... to him? Pray to Jesus? That's something not taught in the LDS Church today, but seems to be required in this verse in order to be one that Jesus will gather. To remove any shadow of doubt, verse six (BOC) or five (D&C) further demonstrates the identity of this figure:
Lift up your hearts and be glad for I am in your midst, and am your advocate with the Father; and it is his good will to give you the kingdom;

There are several other points to demonstrate that this is indeed Jesus, the Son of the God the Father who is speaking.

In verse 31 (BOC) or 27 (D&C), we find: "And the wicked on my left hand will I be ashamed to own before the Father." Okay, it's still Jesus speaking.

Then something unusual happens. The creation is reviewed, including the creation of Adam (!!), and by the time we get to verse 51 (BOC) or 42 (D&C) we find:
But behold I say unto you, that I the Lord God gave unto Adam and unto his seed, that they should not die as to the temporal death, until I the Lord God should send forth angels to declare unto them repentance and redemption, through faith on the name of mine only begotten Son:

Verse 53 (BOC)/46 (D&C) also refers to "mine only Begotten", and if we backtrack up to verse 45 (BOC) / 36 (D&C) we will see the the Devil had "rebelled against me saying, Give me thine honor"

I call this the Son-to-Father "Bait and Switch"

Now let's take a look at D&C 49. I compared it quickly to BOC but I'm not going to give BOC verse numbers on this one:

Verse 5:
Thus saith the Lord; for I am God, and have sent mine Only Begotten Son into the world for the redemption of the world, and have decreed that he that receiveth him shall be saved, and he that receiveth him not shall be damned--

Verse 7:
I, the Lord God, have spoken it; but the hour and the day no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor shall they know until he comes.

Verse 11:
Wherefore, I give unto you a commandment that ye go among this people, and say unto them, like unto mine apostle of old, whose name was Peter:

Verse 28:
Behold, I am Jesus Christ, and I come quickly. Even so. Amen.

I call this one the Father-to-Son "Bait and Switch"

So... Does anyone know what the story is on these? Other sections in the D&C mention when multiple revelations were combined together, but these seem to gradually shift from one personage to another. Help?

18 comments:

Geoff J said...

Hey Jeff,

These are clssic candidates for the "Divine investiture of authority" concept.

"Divine investiture is defined as that condition in which --in all His dealings with the human family Jesus the Son has represented and yet represents Elohim His Father in power and authority. ... Thus. .. Jesus Christ spoke and ministered and through the Father's name; and so far as power, authority, and Godship are concerned His words and acts were and are those of the Father. (James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, pp. 470-71.)"

"[Jesus] is the Father by divine investiture of authority, meaning that the Father-Elohim has placed his name upon the Son, has given him his own power and authority, and has authorized him to speak in the first person as though he were the original or primal Father." (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, p.64)

Jeff said...

Geoff,

This is all very quaint, and settles the matter according to the Sunday-interpretations common today, (whether or not I agree with them), it also puts a shade of doubt on how literally we can interpret any theological statements in scripture to try to learn things from them... But, for the sake of any of our Non-LDS readers who may be seeking truth as well, are there any references you can supplment this with to demonstrate that the early Saints entertained this concept at all? To me, the Divine Investiture of Authority answer seems to have its origin in the early part of the twentieth century, even though the scriptures whose interpretation seems to necessitate the question existed long prior to that?

Geoff J said...

Jeff,

It is sort of popular in some circles to scoff at the whole "divine investiture of authority" thing as some made up idea created to prop up questionable doctrines. But I think the notion describes the Oneness of the Godhead rather well. The scriptures repeatedly declare that the Godhead is indeed "One God". I think that entails an indwelling unity among the members of the Godhead. Lest you forget, it is probably the Holy Ghost who is specifically speaking to the prophets in the vast majority of our scriptures to begin with -- but the Holy Ghost relays messages in the first person from the Father and the Son as well as his own messages. The fact seems to be that they all have the same message for us anyway. So this switching back and forth of "who" is speaking in first person in the revelations doesn't bug me. Usually when one speaks they all speak to begin with.

The same goes in reverse with us speaking to God I think -- we may address the Father but what we say to the Father we say to the entire Godhead. What one hears they all hear.

Jeff said...

Geoff, thank you for your explanations here. I can see what you're saying. I guess it would be interesting to investigate just how separate Joseph Smith ultimately (his entire prophetic mortal career considered), considered the "distinct personages" in the Godhead to be.

One in Purpose. I hear that a lot. I also see that set forth very well in the Lectures on Faith, using the Holy Ghost there as a "Mind" of the Father, which is shared by the Son. This view of the Holy Ghost seems to almost be suggesting that the Holy Ghost is the 'disembodied' attributes of Deity, and that anyone who possesses it (the Mind of the Father) would do the same thing the Father would do. This seems very different from the Holy Ghost as a personage that we deal with later in Mormonism, but I think this concept also has a place in theology -- we might name it differently today, if we were teaching about it, I'm not sure. Having the Mind of the Father, does not to me indicate that the Son would claim to BE the Father. It instead is the thing we are all striving to achieve. Becoming one with God and Jesus, as true disciples. Reaching that point where they can implicitly trust us to choose the same thing they would choose. Reaching a unity of mind - one accord together.

Again, I ask: Can someone demonstrate to me any place where the early Latter-day Saints would have indicated an understanding of the concept of Divine Investiture of Authority, perhaps in the way of explanation? If they believed it, they should have written of it somewhere?

larryco_ said...

Early Christians dealt with the same confusion. Justin Marytr (ca. 160 a.d.) declared in his Dialogue With Trypho that Jesus was Jehovah of the old testament. Later, in his own brand of divine investiture of authority, he stated that all statements from God came from the Father, whether they were said by the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost, or an angel. (I'm sorry I can't give the exact quote, but I'm at work).

Jeff said...

larryco_, you are right. I think this extends even into the scriptures themselves: The Israelites, or the Book of Mormon people, themselves were no more experts concerning the things of God than we are today. They had some things we don't have... We have some things they don't have. We all have our certain level of confusion, and to expect them to have had a perfect understanding, is as silly as to expect that we have a perfect understanding of things today.

I also wanted to add, that I have since writing this post discovered that the original edition of the Book of Mormon contained, in a couple of places, the title: "the Son of the only begotten of the Father" (for example, what is now Alma 5:48) Doing a cursory search on the web to see where else this title crops up, I found a site titled "GNOSIS" that uses it (not in an LDS context). It is worth reading, I think.

Although easily attributable to scribal error, I think it is ironic considering the title of this blog post.

Stenar said...

"Divine Investiture"!?? HA!!

Mormons have an excuse for every mistake in their theology, don't they?? That's quite a nice house of cards, but it'll come tumbling down some day.

David J said...

Divine investiture my foot -- more like an "oops" after-thought doctrine if you ask me. Joseph Smith, to me anyway, seems like he was trinitarian when he first set out. The BofM (Mosiah 15:1ff I think) even has some in it. Of the four written accounts of the First Vision, the currently "canonized" version of 1838 is the only one that mentions two people appearing to him, and even then, I would beg that it's been doctored over by later church historians. However, we know by the end of his life, especially when the KFD in mind, he had flipped on Trinitarianism to the current model of godhead the church (surprisingly) still espouses.

Don't get me wrong, as a believing Mormon, I think the Mormon concept of the godhead is rational and logical. Mainline Christianity has an even bigger problem -- ever read the Chalcedonian Creed? Talk about paradoxes and illogical reasoning...

Stenar, you're the type of guy that makes Mormons want to stay Mormon. Could you be any less relational, condescending, or rude? I doubt it.

Jeff said...

David,

Thank you for your comments. You said Joseph switched "to the current model of godhead the church (surprisingly) still espouses."

Are you SURE that the Church still espouses the things Joseph switched to? I think the modern emphasis is completely different, if not the teachings themselves. Joseph was last seen emphasizing a very human God (or very Godly humans, however you look at it), and admitting boldly to the plurality of Gods.

He taught that God the Father once dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ did, and these are things we hardly ever hear today. In fact, all of these ideas have been placed on the high shelf just out of reach of Sunday School students, labelled "speculation."

Divine Investiture I believe, has a bit of Truth to it, it has its place. But I think it is overly used as a FIX, a PATCH to "correct" confusing scriptures, instead of being recognized in the places where it really might have happened (Jesus's own mortal life, where he would talk of the oneness of himself and the Father, anyone who has seen (or heard) Jesus has seen or heard the Father, that type of notion.) But this investiture of authority has nothing to do with pretending to BE the Father, it is only taking up the authority of the Father.

Also, when a Prophet speaks the Word of God, and we call it the "Word of God", isn't that another investiture of Authority? They are God's words, but they are coming from a Man who frames them into suitable sentences for us to hear. On the other hand, there are manifest revelations where words are spoken directly by divine beings, and those, when recorded are the literal words of God.

Stenar said...

All y'all can stay Mormon with your head stuck in the sand... just leave the rest of us alone and don't foist your condescending, rude policies on us.

Love ya!

Jeff said...

Now, Stenar... In all fairness, you are on a blog with "Mormon" in the title. Nothing said here could or should be interpreted as forcing anything upon anyone. Participation here is voluntary. :)

I think that among the best types of questions to ask ourselves in these cases is what the original authors actually thought their own words meant. In the absence of being able to ask them directly (although sometimes we can), we should be able to try to ascertain this by evaluating the context of the writing not only textually, but in every other way (by their literature, poetry, music, actions, etc.)

David J said...

Jeff,

I see your point. Joseph's God was very human indeed, which I think is a novelty. No, I'm not absolutely sure the church espouses all of what JS taught. After all, the KFD has all but been considered heresy to read/talk/discuss, except for a few parts, like the "god was once a man" ordeal. For example, the KFD utterly challenges the universal fatherhood of God, stating instead that we're all co-eternal with God and completely uncreated or made (in spirit). That doctrine will get you into trouble now days because of the "heavenly father" and "Jesus is my elder brother" stuff. I think JS was attempting to clear things up with the KFD, not create new problems. So yeah, the church has espoused and rejected much of what JS taught, but what I was getting at before was the espousal of a non-trinitarian godhead. You made it a bigger issue than that. So we had a miscommunication. It happens. We're still cool, right? :) What I was saying is that the church had espoused the non-trinitarian notions of JS's teachings, not the earlier trinitarian ones.

I see Stenar's point. Most members of the church, in politics anyway, want to vote their own morals onto others (another reason I'm Libertarian -- we believe in personal freedom wihtout impugning others with our own convictions). But Jeff you have a point -- this isn't a blog for bashing Mormons, even if you were one, or hate them, or happen to be a gay Mormon now, or whatever.

Jeff said...

David J.,

Yes of course "we're still cool", I just have a tendency to make issues bigger ;-)

Your original point is well taken: The Church does reject the Trinitarian position now. Which, I think is more or less good: It means we adopted the teachings of the Prophet (which I would call Revelations) instead of locking in on something taught earlier) Yes, he was clarifying. He was trying to answer questions, not make more questions. I also think he did a good job at that. Brigham Young testified of the way Joseph preached and said:

// When I first heard him preach, he brought heaven and earth together; and all the priests of the day could not tell me anything correct about heaven, hell, God, angels, or devils: they were as blind as Egyptian darkness. When I saw Joseph Smith, he took heaven, figuratively speaking, and brought it down to earth; and he took the earth, brought it up, and opened up, in plainness and simplicity, the things of God; and that is the beauty of his mission. I had a testimony, long before that, that he was a Prophet of the Lord, and that was consoling. Did not Joseph do the same to your understandings? Would he not take the Scriptures and make them so plain and simple that everybody could understand? Every person says, "Yes, it is admirable; it unites the heavens and the earth together;" and as for time, it is nothing, only to learn us how to live in eternity. //

If people aren't getting this same feeling when they read Joseph Smith's words, they must have some sort of stumbling block before them. Every person says Yes? I certainly do.

If one accepts Joseph as a Prophet but not his later teachings... well, that indicates that one should be RLDS. :) I think the only sane position if accepting Brigham's sucession is to fully embrace Joseph's later teachings as well. Some of them may be up to personal interpretation, but we at least had better be able to answer to them.

David J said...

If one accepts Joseph as a Prophet but not his later teachings... well, that indicates that one should be RLDS.

Then the whole church should be RLDS! ;) Actually, the "new RLDS historicism" movement is one that says that JS went mad near the end of his life and so his later teachings are irrelevant to them. They state that madness was in his family because David Hyrum, his youngest son, also went mad (this is true), and so JS might have had the same "bug" working at his mind as well. Sadly, for them, if JS was indeed going mad, he died too young to tell. All theory, no hard-and-fast fact, if you ask me. If Stenar is upset about Mormon theology coming crashing down "like a deck of cards," he ought to have much more to say about RLDS theology/historicism. ;)

Seriously, since the correlation movement of 1979-1981, the church history department has gone back into church history and edited, revised, redacted, and in a sense "picked and chose" what they wanted to be "official" history or not. It saddens me. You should see what they've done to many of Ezra Benson's old talks, especially when he got political. The quotes on the church website are simply trimmed up (most of the time without an elipsis to mark it) or omitted here and there so that Benson's reputation doesn't look... what's the word... radical? Sometimes I wonder if his grandson Charlie Benson is telling the truth -- that the church leadership kept him sick until he died because of his radical views. He loved a good conspiracy. I liked him.

Anyway, BY's succession is best conveyed in Andrew Ehat's M.A. thesis: Joseph Smith's Introduction of Temple Ordinances and the Mormon Succession Question. If you can find a copy, I suggest getting it. You WON'T regret it!

Ben said...

Could we please define what we mean by the "Trinitarian" position? Teh BoM clearly talks abut unity between the Godhead, but one-ness doesnt' equate to classical trinitarianism.

David J said...

Ben,

That's the very quandary that we've been discussing. JS might have believed in the Trinity (naturally so, since he was partial to Methodism), and as the BofM's translator, didn't know any better while translating. Consequently, there's some trinitarian thought in it.

Or--the more liberal view--JS was a trinitarian Christian when he translated the plates, and only learned later that God and Jesus and the HG are three distinct persons. Hence the trinitarian language in both the BofM and in the two testimonies of the 11 witnesses.

Ben said...

You've illustrated the problem.

Classical trinitarianism posits three distinct personages.

By "trinitarian" do you mean "modalist"?

I'm convinced that neither JS nor the BoM has modalist thought in it.

David J said...

Classical trinitarianism posits three distinct personages.

Ben, indeed, there seems to have been some debate in Tertullian's writings (to an individual named Praxeas) for personal distinction and difference in the godhead. In fact, after the Arian controversy was resolved at Nicea in 325, Athanasius was a little perturbed on the resulting Greek phrase homoousios ("of the same substance"), preferring instead homoiousios ("of a similar substance") so that Christians didn't think the Father and Jesus were one and the same with the adoption of the former term. What's funny is that in 362 at a synod in Alexandria, Athanasius declared it was acceptable to refer to the Father, Son, and HG as "one substance" as long as this was not understood as obliterating the distinction among the three, and that it was also legitimate to speak of "three substances" as long as this was not understood as if there were three gods. So, in my haste to get the post up before dinner was ready, I should have clarified what I meant by "trinitarianism" with the "modalist" tag, the thing that most Christians think of in the modern era when they hear the word "trinity." I remember in grad school (Christian history course) that most Christians don't even know about this stuff with Athanasius and the goings-on regarding the reasons for convening the council of Nicea. So today, "Trinity" probably includes the modalist label you point out, which was the brand of "trinity" I was getting at--the modalist kind that was prevalent in the Methodism of Joseph's day, the kind he most likely knew about and engaged often.

Christian history is fun. I'm not too good with theology, obviously.

Either way, the early BofM writings (and accompanying testimonies of witnesses) could be read as modalist, despite your rejections. I'm not saying that's the way I go (I'm totally with you on that), but it can be read that way.