The concept of God has been played with and discussed so much over the centuries after Christ because there was no ordained mouthpiece, witness or prophet to have the authority to know him. Some believe He is an unknown entity out somewhere that we cannot relate to. Some state that He is a spirit. Some state that He does not exist and of course there are many other theories. Once we get past what He actually ‘is’ there is the matter of his personality. Some say He is just and unflinching in His judgement. Some say He is so merciful that He will lovingly welcome us back no matter our choices and again, multitudes of theories are in between those two. Thanks to latter-day revelation and our Heavenly Father’s love for His children – He has revealed His true nature to the Earth to help us put our trust in Him and believe on Him and His Son, Jesus Christ, who is in the express image of His Father in every way.
First, I want to look deeper at the physical (for He is tangible) aspect of God. There are few accounts where God our Heavenly Father has actually been witnessed – but from these and other scriptures we know God does have a body of flesh and bone. To begin with, Genesis 1:26-27 states “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him…”. A statement saying we are in the image of God – also the phrasing ‘let us make man’ also has significant meaning which will be addressed later. In latter-day revelation, Joseph Smith states “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s…” (D&C 130:22). If Christ was resurrected and had a perfected, glorified body, would it not make sense that His Father has the same, perfect, physical attribute?
Now, linked with the question of God’s physical attributes, the doctrine of the Godhead must be considered. Widely known, many Christians believe that our Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are all one Being or entity. Bringing back the statement found in Genesis ‘let us make man’ we are led to question why use the plural pronoun? Obviously, there are more important revelations stating this, but this phrase in Genesis should cause us to consider the possibility that they are three distinct Personages. He was speaking to His Son, Jehovah at the time, in the process of the Creation. Stephen the martyr saw “…the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God.” in Acts 7:56. How could he have seen God and Christ separately and distinguish them if they were not separate? It could be argued that with God, anything is possible, but why confuse a dying disciple and generations of future Christians about His nature? We also have to consider that it is “…impossible for God to lie.” (Hebrews 6:18) so surely a scene that confuses the nature of Him would go against that. Jesus Christ Himself, spoke to His Father many times – one being the Great Intercessory Prayer. In that petition, Christ says “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…that they may be one, even as we are one…” (John 17:21-22) – does Christ want His followers to be one entity or Personage? Or is He referring to being one in purpose? If He wants us to be one, as He and His Father are one, then we are to be unified in purpose, as Christ is with the Father. The final (but not only) account of God and Christ together as separate Personages is the glorious appearance of them to the boy Prophet, Joseph Smith. After centuries of darkness and confusion, the truth of God was restored. He says “When the light rested upon me…I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description…One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other – This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him.” Joseph Smith saw and heard God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, separate, distinct, visual and tangible Heavenly Beings. What more evidence could we need than from a prophet of God?
Now, let’s discover God’s personality. First, His omniscient knowledge. He sees all, He knows all. He even knows what choices we will make in certain conditions. To state briefly, as He is our perfect Father, He knows each and every one of His children better than they know themselves. Elder James E. Talmage says “God reads the future of child and children, of men individually and of men collectively as communities and nations; He knows what each will do under given conditions…” – however – “…Can it be said that the father’s foreknowledge is a cause of the son’s sinful life? The son…has reached his maturity; he is the master of his own destiny; a free agent unto himself.” (Jesus the Christ pg 29). Let it not be forgotten that, despite God knowing what we’ll do – we still decide and He allows our agency because He loves us! God makes perfect choices, therefore we can trust Him. In Isaiah 55:8-9 it says “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Even when we think we know of a better solution for a situation – God sees the whole perspective of things and ultimately knows what’s best for us, like our earthly parents – only even more perfect!
God is also a just God. In Alma 42:22 it states “But there is a law given, and a punishment affixed…and the law inflicteth the punishment; if not so, the works of justice would be destroyed, and God would cease to be God.” Law is something that keeps things in order – without it, all would be chaos. God has to abide by certain laws, or commandments (such as never being able to lie), and we are the same. If we break a law, then the penalty must be be paid – otherwise, is that fair? God cannot allow the penalty not to be paid because He would violate laws. However, 1 John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins…” so there is a way we can be forgiven and the outcome will be just. Through Christ. Isn’t it settling to know that if we are dealt with wrongly in this life, despite living the best we can, we will be paid back in the next life. God is just.
As previously mentioned, God is also merciful, as well as just. He loves us so dearly that, if He could and if it would benefit us in our progression, He would make sure none of us have to feel sorrow. However, that is the only way we learn and grow from our mistakes. But, He has provided a way for us to return to live with Him – as we follow the Gospel of Christ. There are many scriptures relating to the mercy of God – one is Alma 12:33 which says “If ye will repent, and harden not your hearts, then will I have mercy upon, through mine Only Begotten Son.” As stated, this mercy which God so wants to extend to us could only be brought about through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Alma explains “…the plan of mercy could not be brought about except an atonement should be made; therefore God himself atoneth for the sins…that God might be a perfect, just God, and a merciful God also.” (Alma 42:15) God Himself, through His Beloved Son Jesus Christ, has made sure to provide a way for us to receive mercy – how much must He love us to provide that?
That, in fact, is another important attribute to consider – God’s love. As Peter testified “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons,” (Acts 10:34) – His love is unconditional and universal for all His children. He loves me just as much as He loves the vilest sinner ever, just as much as He has loved ancient prophets – we are all His loved sons and daughters. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son…” (John 3:16) says that He even offered His Beloved Son so we could return to live with Him again. God created this whole plan in the first place because He loved us – He wanted us to have everything He had for we are “…heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ…” (Romans 8:17) and this He did for us to live happily for eternity with Him and our families. Part of this plan is the fact we have our moral agency – our ability to choose. “And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life…or to choose captivity and death…” (2 Nephi 2:27) said Lehi of old. Enoch was shown in vision God’s perfect love in allowing all – including wicked people – to have their agency. Moses 7:26-33 gives this account “And he beheld Satan; And he had a great chain in his hand, and it veiled the whole face of the earth with darkness; and he looked up and laughed…And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept…And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity?…The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands…and in the Garden of Eden gave I unto man his agency; And unto thy brethren have I said…that they should love one another…but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood.” Others use their agency for evil, negatively affect others and God weeps in His love for us – because, even though He has the power to end all suffering, He doesn’t want to take away agency because it is necessary and a loving God would not subjugate all against their wills – that is how much He loves us.
Also, because of His love, He wants to help us through mortality. That’s why He has given us prophets, scripture, families and a way to communicate directly with Him, through prayer. He hears and answers our prayers! One of the most commonly used scriptures “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you…” (Matthew 7:7) states this, that God will answer, not in the way we want or expect sometimes – “If ye then…know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him.” (Matthew 7:11). He will answer the righteous desires of our hearts, because He really does love us!
God is also a God of order, He has things set perfectly, starting with His planned creation – the planets move in perfect form and animals have perfect adaptations and balance. All is put together as a master designer would have done. The Lord said, in His commandment to build a temple, “Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house…a house of order, a house of God.” (D&C 88:119) Not only does He require things established in an orderly manner, but things need to be performed in the proper order and way too. “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” (Hebrews 5:4) “Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?…and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” (Matthew 7:22-23). Each of these verses speak of the authority needed to act in God’s name – even when good things are done supposedly in Christ’s name – He won’t recognise them – that is the importance of order in God’s all-knowing eye, otherwise, it would truely be chaos, and we inevitably would become lost.
Another important attribute of God is that He is all-powerful. It confuses me that people question or argue the virgin birth of Christ when, one, today the technology is available for people to procreate through assistance of scientific methods and, two, if God is there (which He is) and He is omnipotent – would something like that not be possible? We do not need to look far in the scriptures to see other examples of God’s power “…and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.” (Exodus 14:21) ” Hear me, O Lord, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the Lord God…Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water…” (1 Kings 18:38) “Stretch forth thine hand again unto they brethren, and they shall not wither before thee, but I will shock them…I stretched forth my hand unto my brethren, and…the Lord did shake them…” (1 Nephi 17:53-54) “And it came to pass that Nephi and Lehi were encircled about as if by fire, even insomuch that they durst not lay their hands upon them…Nevertheless, Nephi and Lehi were not burned…” (Helaman 12:13). If He were not all powerful – would we want to place our faith and trust in Him and His plan? It is because of His omnipotence we are able to place our faith in our Father’s plan and His Son who made the plan possible.
Finally, in all these attributes, God is perfect. He simply does not, can not and will not make a mistake. 2 Nephi 2:24, in relation to the Fall of Adam and Eve, says “…all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.” Adam and Even did not surprise God when they took the fruit. It was part of His perfect plan. “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48) was Christ’s admonition to us – He wouldn’t ask it of us if it wasn’t true and God wasn’t perfect. This final attribute makes it easier, once we believe it, to place our trust in Him. And He doesn’t change. “From eternity to eternity he is the same, and his years never fail.” (D&C 76:4), the same yesterday, today and forever – and that is why He, our Heavenly Father, also has the title of ‘God’.
Why is it important we come to gain a knowledge of these things for ourselves? Why do we need to know God’s perfect love? Or indeed He is a separate, distinct Personage? “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) From this we may understand that, in order to gain eternal life, we need to know the God whom we worship – not blindly. Also, as mentioned before, if we are indeed to be perfect, as Christ commanded us to be, we need to know what we are aiming for. Simply, like we need to get to know our earthly parents, we need to know our Heavenly Father. Whilst it is vital to study and learn of our Heavenly Father, we also MUST develop a relationship with Him through daily sincere prayer. In the most recent General Conference, President Russell M. Nelson said “Are you willing to pray to know how to pray for more power? The Lord will teach you.” As we are taught by the Lord, we can come closer to our Heavenly Father, and then, we will truly become spiritually self-reliant.