To Know Our Father in Heaven

Every year there is an outpouring of celebration for Mothers in the LDS Church, and rightly so because of their importance. The next month comes Father’s day that gets mentioned and quickly fades away. To be honest, current American culture sees fathers as almost unnecessary. When there are fathers represented in pop culture, they are sloven and stupid. Many of them are shown as sports fanatics and bad mechanics. Certainly for Mormons with Heavenly Father as the guide there shouldn’t be such bad stereotypes. With his son Jesus Christ as an exemplar, husbands and fathers have a great responsibility not to become what media thinks they are. They should be loving, honest, and protective of women and children.

Many complain that we don’t know anything about Heavenly Mother, and some make up theories and rituals to elevate her. If honesty is important, those who want to “graduate” the female half of Heavenly Parents must acknowledge there isn’t much known about Father in Heaven either. We know as much as we do about Him because Jesus is His representative. Ultimately it is through Jesus Christ that we get near the Father. Time and again Jesus Christ states states only in getting to know him can one know the father, (John 14:9) ” . . . he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?”

When Joseph Smith had what we call the First Vision of Father and Son, Jesus was introduced and then was charged to be the spokesman:

“It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JSH 1:17).

This is similar to when Jesus was first publicly introduced as prophet and teacher to the masses on the day of his Baptism. When John the Baptist took him back out of the water, there as the witness, “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17). We are to look toward Jesus Christ to know Heavenly Father. The Gospel writer of St. John continually emphasised this relationship, essentially making both of them a collective along with the Holy Ghost. There is the culmination statement of John 14:6-7 that, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.” Every teaching and action by Jesus Christ is in parallel to what Heavenly Father had said or done in the past.

Joseph Smith based the King Follett Discourse upon the knowledge of how connected Jesus’ life is to Heavenly Father. He stated in length:

First, God himself, who sits enthroned in yonder heaven, is a man like one of you. That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today and you were to see the great God who holds this world in its orbit and upholds all things by his power, you would see him in the image and very form of a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion and image of God. He received instruction from and walked, talked, and conversed with him as one man talks and communes with another.

In order to understand the subject of the dead for the consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends, it is necessary they should understand the character and being of God; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined that God was God from all eternity. [That he was not is an idea] incomprehensible to some. But it is the simple and first principle of the gospel-to know for a certainty the character of God, that we may converse with him as one man with another. God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did, and I will show it from the Bible.

I wish I had the trump of an archangel; I could tell the story in such a manner that persecution would cease forever. What did Jesus say? (Mark it, elder Rigdon!) Jesus said, “As the Father hath power in himself, even so hath the Son power.” To do what? Why, what the Father did. The answer is obvious–in a manner to lay down his body and take it up again. Jesus, what are you going to do? To lay down my life as my Father did, and take it up again. If you do not believe it, you do not believe the Bible. The scriptures say it, and I defy all the learning and wisdom, all the combined powers of earth and hell together, to refute it.

Here, then, is eternal life–to know the only wise and true God. And you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves–to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done–by going from a small degree to another, from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you are able to sit in glory as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power.

And I want you to know that in the last days, while certain individuals are proclaiming his name, God is not trifling with you or me; it is the first principle of consolation. How consoling to the mourner when he is called to part with a husband, wife, father, mother, child, or dear relative, to know that although the earthly tabernacle shall be dissolved that dear one shall rise in immortal glory, not to sorrow, suffer, or die any more but shall be God’s heirs and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. What is it? It is to inherit the same glory, the same power, and the same exaltation until you ascend the throne of eternal power the same as those who are gone before. What did Jesus do? Why, I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds came rolling into existence. I saw my Father work out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom I shall present it to my Father so that he obtains kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt his glory. And so Jesus treads in his tracks to inherit what God did before. It is plain beyond disputation.

It is a lot to take in for those who are used to a simplified view of God as some force in the universe with the designation of “Father” as a spiritual figurative. For a Latter-day Saint, there is a literal relationship between an Earthly and the Heavenly Father. While preaching on Mars Hill, Paul in Acts 17:28- 29 declares to the pagans, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring. Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man’s device.” The implication is that God is like humans and not some form of “other” element. That isn’t to take away his glory, for He is more than we are as an exalted and immortal being. Still, He is not so far different that we cannot ever know him.

No matter how different Heavenly Father is to humans because of His glory, we are promised that someday (Matt. 5:8) we have the opportunity to see Him. Critics might quote John 1:18 where it read, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him,” to say its impossible to ever see Heavenly Father. To a degree this is true for no unworthy and evil person has or can see Him. Yet, the scriptures are filled with stories of prophets who witness God through their own eyes. The most prominent are Adam and Eve who walked with him in the Garden, Jacob whose called the place he was renamed Israel at “Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” (Genesis 32:30), Moses who was transfigured from the experience, and Stephen who “saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55) before his martyrdom by the hand of those he testified of the vision.

Most importantly we must know Heavenly Father better because we are commanded to, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). This is not possible if there is an assumption either that we cannot know or identify with Him. Those who search for someone or something else as role models are seeking idols and false Gods. The perfection we seek in Him is not where no mistakes are made, but turning over our sins to Jesus Christ on a daily basis through repentance. As one commentator wrote on the subject:

We are positionally perfect in Christ Jesus. Colossians 1:28
“Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”
We are practically becoming perfect in our lives. 1Peter 5:10
“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.”
We will prophetically become perfect in the future. Ephesians 4:13
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.”

Eventually we may become perfect enough to obtain holiness through peace and purity of heart, enough to be worthy to see God for ourselves. Almost all people on the Earth will have to wait until the next life for that to take place. For the moment we can learn from the experience of witnessing prophets and the life and teachings of Jesus Christ to learn of Him. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in his talk The Grandeur of God said on the subject:

“I make my own heartfelt declaration of God our Eternal Father this morning because some in the contemporary world suffer from a distressing misconception of Him. Among these there is a tendency to feel distant from the Father, even estranged from Him, if they believe in Him at all. And if they do believe, many moderns say they might feel comfortable in the arms of Jesus, but they are uneasy contemplating the stern encounter of God. 8 Through a misreading (and surely, in some cases, a mistranslation) of the Bible, these see God the Father and Jesus Christ His Son as operating very differently, this in spite of the fact that in both the Old Testament and the New, the Son of God is one and the same, acting as He always does under the direction of the Father, who is Himself the same “yesterday, today, and forever.”

Let us seek to be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ and know our Heavenly Father more fully.

26 thoughts on “To Know Our Father in Heaven

  1. It’s not very hard to sumise what we can know of Heavenly Father and Mother considering our own upbringing, the overall, scope of the work and glory of God, and our knowledge that they want us to be like them. They are united, just, and the enternal parents of immortal offspring whom they desire to become just like them and it made it possible through the plan of redemption of which Jesus Christ is the key. They lived mortal lives prior to becoming exalted together and created all of us as spirit offspring in their external existence. Their plan for us is precisely the same as their parents plan for them (where was there ever a father without being a son, and so on).

    We can know this because we know that our Father (and by extension of the perfect unity, It would be redundant to also say our Mother after Father…but we could do so for purposes of clarity and in doing so undo also the unity which they represent) desires us to become like them and we can’t become like them by going down entirely different paths so to speak.

    Just as they once did, in principle, what we are doing, and we will yet do, if we remain faithful what they are now doing. Why we have to so frequently make Gods origins so distantly “other” than our own to satisfy unrevealed aspostate notions of deity is beyond me.

    If you believe Brigham and some early leaders after creating us, preparing the plan with this world with the assistance of their Savior and Father they then came down to this world and brought us into mortality as the mother and father of all living.

    Regardless of whether or not you accept that final teaching as most lds members havnt even considered, let alone heard it, I submit that the real truth many of of our brothers and sisters flee and are uncomfortable with is the reality of an eternal family as it relates to the generations of Godhood. That we are collectively bereft of the revelation that sheds true light on our eternal destiny. As Joseph once said (paraphrasing) if we knew the whole truth from him we’d reject him and it anyway – as has likely been done in the past.

    If you think this post sounds crazy, consider why the prophets have seen fit to withhold further light and knowledge from us on this issue.

  2. The Adam-God theory has not just been ignored or withheld by the Brethren. It has been repudiated.

  3. Not only that, but those who taught what seems like the theory, and that includes Brigham Young, were very inconsistent with the subject. I have concluded that what they taught was misunderstood and misinterpreted, taking literally what they were presenting metaphorically. Again, a moot point considering it as repudiated by prophets.

  4. I will also not this entire “we came into existence born as spirits from Heavenly parents” is a relatively recent phenomenon. As I see it, it’s one of those things that has been extrapolated from a few non canonical sources, built upon and accepted by a whole lot of LDS as the way it really is. Also seems to me many do an awful lot of ‘this is how I view families and relationships here, so it’ll be just like that in the Celestial Kingdom, only better!”

    Here’s some very good background on the topic:

  5. “I will also not this entire “we came into existence born as spirits from Heavenly parents” is a relatively recent phenomenon. As I see it, it’s one of those things that has been extrapolated from a few non canonical sources, built upon and accepted by a whole lot of LDS as the way it really is.”

    I’m with you so far. I lean towards an adoption model for God’s Fatherhood myself.

    ” Also seems to me many do an awful lot of ‘this is how I view families and relationships here, so it’ll be just like that in the Celestial Kingdom, only better!””

    Well, in fairness, there’s some scriptural basis for this.

    D&C 130:1-2

    1 When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves.

    2 And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy.

  6. Kent,

    I think the adoption idea has merit. There’s a quite a bit of it in other situations in scripture. The whole ‘house of Israel’ thing.

    What I meant by the families in hereafter was not that they will not be, not that there is not scriptural basis, but that I think we may be only scratching the surface. Which is fine, really wouldn’t expect anything more at this point. Just not convinced the modern American nuclear family is it. I think of how we’re all interconnected, how when one goes back even a couple generations the interconnectedness becomes apparent, that, as I said, the ‘sociality that exists among us’ may be pretty widespread.

    Rather the same thing I see in a lot of LDS discussions about Heavenly Father. First thing: has a body, check. Second thing: separate being in the Godhead, check. Third thing: wait, there’s more? Not being critical, just noting what some are comfortable with. It’s the extension of what we see here and fast-forwarding it to the next life as ‘what we understand and see here is the way it is there, only…. better.” I think we sometimes unintentionally limit thinking and understanding.

  7. My model of pre-existence has always been that we are eternal, but that before being born as spirit children of God (Father and Mother) – called forth in some manner – we were pre-spirit intelligence. Roughly as “less-than” spiritual life as our spiritual life was “less-than” mortality.

    Alo, the chapter in which we are told to be perfect as God is perfect is talking about loving all, as He loves all. We were being told to be complete in our love, not that we had to achieve some other sort of doing everything right type of perfect.

  8. Meg, I think you may enjoy the Ostler article. It’s one that’w worth reading, pondering, rereading, digesting and having another go. I will not (smiling) it’s amazing how, when one becomes head of Church History and outlives one’s contemporaries, that one’s opinions on a topic are accepted by many as ‘the way it is.’

  9. I wish there was an editing function. Tend to not catch in the typing section. “that’w” for “that’s” and “I will not (smiling)” for “I will note (smiling).”

  10. Hi PA,

    Enjoyed skimming the Ostler article. However I have a relatively hard time following the development of this theology since, as a teenager, I had my own revelatory experience, something like a cross between what is described for Joseph Robinson and the experience of Moses learning that “man is nothing.” Which is to say, not literally nothing, but initially so completely limited as to be like nothing. Therefore I look at the teachings regarding intelligences from Joseph Smith and my own experience and simply dismiss those who were either speaking before Joseph’s revelations made the eternal nature of souls clear (or speaking later and misunderstanding).

    At the time the experience brought me to my knees, praising God and honoring Him for bringing me forth from the near-nothingness of the state of the simple intelligence.

    Later, as a college student, I and my friends discussed this. The idea that there was an undifferentiated mass of intelligence from which individual spirits were drawn was described by one fellow as like scooping ice cream-like intelligence to create the individualized spirit. Given my prior experience, I merely dismissed this as the maunderings of a naif. For me, intelligence had obviously been individual, if so limited as to in my mind be a candidate for the term prisoner, as in “the prisoners shall go free.”

    One of the great things about Mormonism, in my view, is that rather than studying the writings of scholars, we are encouraged to go to God ourselves. Even if at times our experiences of the divine leave us arguing like the blind men who had experienced the elephant, still I prefer direct (if limited) experience of the divine to dusty book learning attempting to describe that divine.

  11. I figured the Adam God comment would detract a bit…the broader point isn’t that particular teaching, but what’s the point of revealing more when we wont accept it anyway. A/G was a case study of sorts, to show that even when something is taught rather plainly, there are all sorts of dissensions, then and now. People testified of a/g back then and they also hauled others before high counsels to explain themselves as to why they reject it. New teachings that are revolutionary will sow discord in an institutionalized church.

    Btw, repudiation is meaningless as a metric of truth when it comes to withholding further light which would be damaging for the church and the members. Joseph repudiated publicly what he taught privately. Ask me something specific about the temple that I can’t avoid dodging in my answer and I’ll likely lie as well.

    Again this isn’t that we should accept this or that theory. It’s not taught or focused on and that’s what’s important. I’m just doubtful we’d accept it anyway that if anyone ever did reveal more truth about Heavenly Father and Mother.

    But if you deny enternal increase with your sealed spouse you haven’t yet really grasped the fullness of Mormonism.

  12. I suppose the question is the nature of the “eternal increase” sealed individuals assist God in bringing to pass.

    Some fear that this “eternal increase” portends an eternity of morning sickness and tending toddlers.

    As for me, I an persuaded that this eternal increase is calling forth those eternal beings who are trapped as mere intelligence and gifting them spiritual life – an experience potentially sufficiently different from the physical realities of bringing forth mortal children as to cause me no concern that I am doomed to an eternity as a brood mare. Not that I minded pregnancy so much. Death and disability of the mortal vessels of the children with whom I was pregnant, yes.

    In mortality, God chose not to make righteousness a pre-requisite for engendering or conceiving mortal children. In heaven, it appears that righteousness (rightness with God’s purposes) is and will be a pre-requisite for engendering or conceiving spiritual children.

    Who knows what sorts of sociality will exist between fallen immortals in eternity, but as (per our doctrines) those forms of sociality won’t involve the purpose of bringing forth spiritual children, they are not marriages.

    Or so it seems to me. Armchair theologian as I am.

  13. Thank you, Meg. That was quite personal and I appreciate the feeling communicated along with the writing.

    I give very little consideration to the ‘mass of… scooped out…’ view. I focus more on eternal nature of man (eternal means what it says, I think, both literally and figuratively) and the concept embedded in “I am.” I think Joseph Smith was on to something when he was forming the idea of ‘you cannot create something from nothing’ – a huge break with Christian tradition.

    I look at the eternal increase as more along the lines of what we do in our homes and temples: binding families and extended families and extended families of those families together for eternity. Those results, with the added efforts of those people, themselves keep increasing, and so forth. I know some see it as a future-oriented process (we get to a point where, together with someone else, we’ll increase the number of whatever-it-is-that-becomes us). I see it also as looking to the past (those who have gone before and lived here without saving ordinances) and sealing those together and (briefly, the interconnected part of an earlier post) and being with them through many layers through eternity. We provide the means for others to progress in their true destiny, we are bound together in ordinances, each one adding as individuals and together all of us eternally increasing the glory of God. And that’s just the bare, poorly-worded outline of what I feel inside.

    This is one of the things I like about “Mormonism.” We are not a doctrine-based faith. There are a very few givens, but the vast part is open, with agency and inspiration leading the way for each person. Still, everyone is respectful of, and supportive of, others who are traveling the same path.

    Thanks for the topic and your thoughts, thanks for your blog.

  14. Oh, and Meg, I’ve also thought of and hold to the broad outlines of your third paragraph. In my mind, the jury’s still out on how much what others in whatever stage of progression are ‘called out’ or ‘created’ and how much is an act of mind or will involving agency by them to become ‘transformed’ or ‘adopted into’ a state that will lead to life in the manner of Heavenly Father. Rather like what we go through on earth when we respond to the Holy Ghost’s witness and decide, through baptism etc to follow Christ’s example and change where we’re headed and what we’ll ‘be’ in an eternal sense.

    I know blog exchanges can go on and on and I appreciate how many respondents have their say and let it go. So this is all I’ll say about that. 😉

  15. One of the primary functions of our body is reproduction. We believe God has a form just like us, or rather we are created in his image. Since we believe that our bodies will be immortal and glorified, it seems strange to wash away the reproductive half of our bodies, especially when it is so closely linked to the crowning ordinance of our faith.

    There are many reasons why certain aspects of this part of our faith isn’t talked about, but its saddening to me that false doctrines and confusion have crept into the vacuum. Of course, we as a society are so screwed up sexually, that we’re probably not worthy or ready to really embrace this aspect of humanity to it’s fullest as if it ever was taught frequently, we’d end up in two camps – sexual libertines or sexual abusers a la Colorado City.

    It does shed at least a little light on the sexual dysfunction that plagued the final years of the early restoration period, as these things were talked about amidst the teachings on plural marriage.

    For me, what is amazing about the atonement is the degree that it is infinite and eternal. God or Father does not sin, and has never sinned because he went through a similar experience we are going through now and was exhalted through a similar process to what He and His Son offer to us. That’s the strength of our doctrine, which we admittedly do not teach frequently because it’s looking a few too many steps a head of the practical of what we need to teach hear and now.

    I guess I don’t insist that anyone else accept this teaching as it’s not something I claim authority to teach. But that’s the essence of our faith.

    We are adopted into the seed of Abraham and made an heir to the blessings of exaltation and eternal increase as he was. Likewise we are adopted into a relationship with Christ as our Father through the atonment, just as we are spirit children of a Heavenly Father, and descendant of an earthly Adam and Eve (ie. many can lay claim to the title Father, or Mother).

    But the blessings of eternal increase, when you consider our bodies which were designed after Gods, are not metaphorical. Our bodies are literally designed to procreate and that is part of what it means to achieve a fullness of joy. Receiving the fullness of the Priesthood through Exhalation endows our bodies with power to do eternally what they were patterned after in this fallen world.

    Ours is the faith that holds up the body as divine, without falling to licentious sex cults on one hand or the hate of the flesh on the other (admittedly, there are and have been those within our faith that have fallen on either side of the line). It would be a shame to see us turning away from some of Joseph’s and his closest successors teachings and instead adopt a bit of a wishy-washy we’ll be like angels on a cloud serving God vision of eternity.

  16. Regarding the oft proclaimed retort about morning sickness and eternally pregnant in the kitchen – this is an aspect of feminism that has crept into our faith and scared us from further developing our understanding of the truth.

    Why it is so, I don’t understand as even many of us accept in the Garden of Eden fruit and flowers were brought forth spontaneously. It was the fallen world that brought slow and painful reproduction. As far as an eternity of raising toddlers? If we can’t love that we can’t understand what it’s like to be God in the first place. That’s not a bad place to be of course, as it’s a high bar to raise — but we shouldn’t denigrate the potential of spending an eternal life to the development of our increase. Nothing strikes me as more noble and Godlike. Behold, this is my work and my glory…

  17. Indeed. Are we not toddlers? Do we really think less of God because He makes us His chief vocation?

  18. Exactly Kent – and to the exent that many feminist-infected (scratch that, anti-family thinking?) LDS thinkers tend to agree they completely miss the mark as to what they are aiming for. It strikes at the heart of the whole gay marriage issue as well.

    It’s just about developing ourselves into a beautiful tree in the vineyard which produces no fruit. God wants us to develop to become like Him – which of necessity means eternal parenthood. He’s not just looking for servants to help him in his work, his ultimate goal for his children is that they will become like him and carry on in the exact same work. That’s the exalting part of Mormonism.

  19. DQ: “It’s just about developing ourselves into a beautiful tree in the vineyard which produces no fruit. God wants us to develop to become like Him – which of necessity means eternal parenthood. He’s not just looking for servants to help him in his work, his ultimate goal for his children is that they will become like him and carry on in the exact same work. That’s the exalting part of Mormonism.”

    Yes, and only the exalting part, the highest of three separate degrees within the Celestial Kingdom. Everyone else ARE servants, or beautiful trees that bear no fruit. That is God’s work and glory, to create a universe where only His most faithful children get to procreate.

  20. Exactly, DQ. I didn’t think I’d ever find common ground with you, but I’m glad to have been mistaken.

  21. Commenting on the opening paragraph, I agree that much of popular culture looks down on fatherhood. Part of that, I believe, is that after the growing respect for women because of the women’s rights movement, women, wives or mothers as a class are not considered the proper butt of jokes very much, but men, husbands and fathers still are. (By the way, I recommend the book _Save the Males_ to those concerned about broader aspects of this issue.)

    It frustrates me, but it is not the entire picture. Most of society still understands the value of fathers and fatherhood, and I relish the signs I see in both the church and the general culture. (There was a church-related committee meeting on Sunday that was rescheduled to tonight when it was realized it fell on Father’s Day, which surprised me; I heard reference to several special programs about fathers on the radio, which though I did not listen to, was glad to know about.)

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