Joseph Smith, Mormons and the Godhead
I always prefer hearing directly from people what they believe about God rather than just a summary by a critic. So, how do Mormons and Christians compare when it comes to an understanding of God? We both use the term “Godhead” but don’t necessarily use it in the same way.
Historical Christianity has understood the Godhead as a Trinity, one God in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
What did Joseph Smith, Jr. teach? This is from his Lectures on Faith:
Q. How many personages are there in the Godhead?
A. Two: the Father and the Son.
Q. How do you prove that there are two personages in the Godhead?
A. By the Scriptures: Genesis 1:27 (Inspired Version); “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.” …. (Lecture Five)
It should be clarified that the “Inspired Version,” also known as the Joseph Smith Translation, it is not really a Bible translation, not even like the Jehovah’s Witnesses’s New World Translation. The JST is more of a midrash, that is a paraphrase and interpretation and it is not based on translating Hebrew and Greek. Interestingly, the official translation of the Bible for Mormons is the King James Version and not the Joseph Smith Translation.
This is what Genesis 1:26-27 says in a recognized translation, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [a]sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
Aside from differences in how the Father and Son relate to each other, Joseph Smith taught that only the Father and the Son were a part of the Godhead. However, in the same lecture, Smith claims that the mind that is shared by the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit. He then says:
Q. Do the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit constitute the Godhead?
A. They do.
This seeming contradiction is because Smith saw the Godhead as comprising two persons (Father and Son) and their shared mind (Holy Spirit). This is far from historical Christianity that claims that Father, Son and Spirit are all person and comprise the same God.