The Bible and the Book of Mormon

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Home LDS Writers Our God is one by Ron Cappelli

Our God is one by Ron Cappelli

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There are many doctrines which the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has that are different from the views of traditional Christianity. Perhaps one of the more controversial ones is the doctrine of the Godhead.

Not only did the ancient Israelites believed in one God, but Jesus also taught that there is one God (John 10:30). And so, the great majority of churches have taught for centuries that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one God. By this they mean that these three terms do not refer to three separate people, but are all the same being.

How can this be? How can the Father also be the Son who is also the Holy Ghost? This is where Christians begin to divide. Some teach that these are merely different manifestations of the same being - i.e., like water, steam, and ice are all the same thing, but appear in different forms. Others believe these are terms meant to represent God's functions - i.e., He is the Father because He created the universe, He is the Son because He came to save us, and He is the Holy Ghost because He guides us spiritually. Others say that since God is a spirit (John 4:24), He is therefore a much different form of being than we are, and consequently it is beyond our ability to comprehend how He can be three different entities and yet still be one. In other words, it is a mystery that we cannot explain.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints declares that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct individual people. That is, they each have a separate human form and each has their own individual personality. The LDS church also teaches that each of these distinct persons is a God. Hence, the conclusion is made that we believe in three Gods, not one. Since this seems to say something different than not only what is recorded in the Bible but what has been accepted as truth for centuries, this viewpoint has been ridiculed and attacked as being anti-Christian.

On the surface this would seem to be a valid argument, however, that is only because the word "one" is being interpreted in a very limited way. When properly understood, this is not only in harmony with the Bible, but we gain a much clearer concept of what type of being "God" is.

To most Christians the word "one" is interpreted to represent the number "1". In other words, if you have "one" of something and you add another "one" to it then you have "two" somethings. When used in this sense the term "one" is purely a numerical value. Hence, if the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are "one" that means there is only "1" being (numerically speaking). If they are distinct and different entities, that would make each of them a "one" and together that would make them a threesome, instead of a "one"some.

But that is not the only definition of this word. The dictionary tells us that the word "one" can also mean: "Shared by or common to all: as one nation indivisable" or "a state of unity or harmony" or "being all the same." The question to be asked then is: What does the Bible mean by the use of the word "one?" To determine it's intended meaning we need to examine how the word is used in the context of the sentence.

Unfortunately, in John 10:30 there is no way to determine the meaning of the word "one" as used in this verse, therefore we must look to see how it is used in other parts of the Bible. The first use is found in Genesis 2:24, where God had just made the woman Eve and gave her to Adam and then made this statement, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall become one flesh."

God, in effect, gave a commandment that a husband and wife shall become one flesh. Does this mean they are to become, numerically speaking, "one" person? Obviously not. It means they were to become one in the sense of sharing or having things in common; they were suppose to become united, indivisable, or be in a state of harmony with each other. Is this not what we today believe marriage should be like?

The next time the Bible again uses this word we read: "And the Lord God said, Behold the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil" (Genesis 3:22). First of all, notice that the Bible refers to both Adam and Eve as "man" - a singular term rather than a plural word. Does this mean that the two of them had now literally become numerically "one" being? Of course not. Furthermore, God said the two of these people had become as "one" with God. Does this mean they were numerically a part of "1" God? Not at all.


As we look at this verse in context we see that Adam and Eve now had something that God, and whomever He was talking to, had - knowledge of good and evil. They had their eyes opened and now knew something they didn't know before. They became "one" with God because they now had something in common with Him, and they shared in something that seemed to be unique to God, at least up to that point in time. Since once they received this knowledge they couldn't lose it, in this respect, they were indivisable from God. In other words, you can't divide Adam and Eve into one category of people who don't know good from evil and put God in another category of someone who does know about good and evil.

Also notice that when speaking about Himself, God uses the plural word "us" rather than the singular word "Me." If God is a numerical being of "one" then why does He use the plural noun? Some say that He was talking to the angels when He made this comment, and perhaps so, but that would mean the angels were also one with God. Either way, we're left with only one conclusion - there is more to being "one" than just being a number.

After the time of Noah, apparently there was only "one" language being spoken. This can be taken to mean the number "one" or it can also be interpreted to mean that the language spoken was common to all, or shared by all. At any rate, the people decided to build a tower that would reach the heavens. "And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold the people is one" (Genesis 11:5,6). Again, we need to ask ourselves what does this word "one" mean. Does it mean that all of these people were literally "1" in a numeric sense, or is it more reasonable to conclude that it means they were united in their efforts to build this tower which was an affront to God, that they had a common goal, and that they all felt the same in respect to this undertaking?

The answer is very obvious. We further read that God confounded their language and they could no longer achieve their collective desire. In other words, God caused them to talk in many different languages (numerically speaking) and as a result they could not continue the common purpose they once had. Since they couldn't share the same language, they no longer could remain as "one", or as a united people.

We refer to the Ten Commandments as the Law of Moses. That means there is only "one" Law. We don't say there are ten laws of Moses; we say there is only "one". And yet we know that in this "one" law, not only is there contained "ten" laws, but there are actually hundreds of laws that the Israelites were commanded by God through Moses to keep. Yet all of these rules are referred to as the (one and only) law (singular, not plural) of Moses.

But what did Jesus mean when He said that He and His Father are "one"? Did He mean they were numerically "1" being, or did He mean they had something in common which they shared together, that they were united or indivisable, that the two of them were of the same mind, had the same goals, and shared the same glory?

As we said before, from the verse in John 10:30 alone we cannot make that determination, but let's look at another statement Jesus made where He used the word "one" in referring to Him and His Father.

Jesus was in Jerusalem in an upper room having supper the night before He was to be crucified. His heart was heavy, and, wanting to strengthen the apostles that were with Him, He gave them considerable counsel and instruction. But this was not enough. He was still concerned for their spiritual well being, so He prayed to His Father in heaven and said, "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one as we are. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word that they all may be one: as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: And the glory which thou hast given me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one" (John 17:11,20-22).

Christ's fervent prayer for His followers was that all of them, collectively, would become "ONE" in the same way as he and his father were one! If we are to interpret this word "one" in a numerical sense then we have to conclude that all Christians are to become "1" person, not tens of thousands of people. Then we have to say there is only "1" Christian in the entire world.

But we don't say that. We say that Christians have "1" faith, "1" belief, and "1" God they worship. They all share a common Bible, they all pray to the same person, and they are united in their acceptance of one savior. Hence Christians are (or at least are suppose to be) one, even though there may be thousands or millions of them. Jesus prayed for all Christians to become "one" just like, or in the same way that He and His Father were one. The clear context of this word means, "Shared by or common to all," as "indivisable" or "a state of unity or harmony" or "being all the same." Certainly the Father and the Son are indivisable. Certainly they are united and in harmony with each other and share the same goals and have the same aspirations (as Jesus said, "Not my will be done but thine"). It is in this way that the two of them are one.

But there is another way in which the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one. In John 17:22 Jesus said, "And the glory which thou has given me I have given to them that they may be one even as we are one." The Father had given His glory to His Son. Therefore they shared, or had in common, the same glory. In other words they were "one" in glory. Then Jesus said that He had given this glory to His apostles thereby making them one with the Father and with Christ. Paul declared that the purpose of the gospel was to help us obtain "the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 2:14) and that when Christ comes again, we shall "also appear with him in glory" (Col. 3:4) and "receive a crow of glory that fadeth not away" (1 Peter 5:4).

What is this glory that Jesus shares with His Father and which He gave to His apostles and which we can obtain? In Hebrews we are told that Jesus was glorified by being made a High Priest after the order of Melchsedec. Furthermore, Christ did not take this honor (or glory) upon Himself, but was given this glory by His Father (Hebrews 5:1-10). The glory spoken of here is associated with being a priest after the order of Melchsedec.

In the seventh chapter of Hebrews, the apostle Paul speaks of two types of priesthoods - the Levitical priesthood after the order of Aaron, and another one after the order of Melchsedec (verse 11). The clear indication is that the latter is more glorious than the former in it's power.

In the days of Moses, the Lord gave a priesthood to Aaron and then eventually to all males who were of the tribe of Levi. Although the numerical number of people who held this priesthood was in the thousands, we do not refer to this glory (and they considered it a glorious honor to hold this power) in the plural sense. In other words, we don't say there were thousands of Levitical priesthoods, but rather we say there was only one priesthood which thousands of people held. It is true that there were thousands of priesthood holders (or priests), but each of them held the same, one and only, priest-hood (singular).

In Revelations we are told that those who are saved will sit with Jesus in His throne and will be made kings and priests to reign on the earth in the same way that Jesus sits down in His Father's throne (Revelations 3:21, 5:10). The clear implication is that we will share in the glory which Jesus shares with His Father, and that glory seems to be connected to being made a priest and a King.

While he lived on earth, Melchsedec was both an earthly king and held the same spiritual priesthood that Jesus had. Jesus gave this power to His apostles, but they did not become spiritual kings to rule over the earth at that time. The scriptures in Revelations seem to indicate that this glory will come to those who are saved after the resurrection. Hence, the apostles did not receive the full glory that Jesus had, but will receive it fully after the resurrection.

What is the glory that Jesus shares, or has in common with or is united with, and is indivisable from the Father? The answer is: The priesthood after the order of Melchsedec!

But there seems to be more to it than this. As already stated, Melchsedec was only an earthly king, not a "God." Yet, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost each hold the title of "God." Yet these three individual people are not three "Gods." Instead they are three people who hold the same God-hood. The scriptures also state that we who have accepted Christ and have been faithful will inherit the same glory as Jesus and will sit in His throne even as He sits in His Father's throne. When that happens, there will not be many "Gods" but there will still be one God because the God-hood is "one" regardless of how many people hold this power, or glory.

When we understand what Christ taught, His statement that "God is one", not only become clearer, but we can better comprehend the true nature and character of the being we call "God."

POSTSCRIPT: Augustine, one of the founding fathers of the early Christian church, wrote in A. D. 397: "Thus the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, and each of these by Himself, is God, and at the same time they are all one God; and each of them by Himself is a complete substance, and yet they are all one substance. The Father is not the Son nor the Holy Spirit; the Son is not the Father nor the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is not the Father nor the Son: but the Father is only Father, the Son is only Son, and the Holy Spirit is only Holy Spirit. To all three belong the same eternity, the same unchangeableness, the same majesty, the same power." - English Translation of Augustine's "On Christian Doctrine" book 1, chapter 5, taken from the "Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers" series.

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Last Updated on Monday, 17 May 2010 08:46  

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