Chapter 3: God the Eternal Father

Doctrines of the Gospel Teacher Manual, (2011), 7–8


Introduction

  1. Write the text of John 17:3 on the chalkboard, and discuss it with your students. Emphasize that eternal life consists in knowing God and his Son, Jesus Christ. This knowledge involves more than being able to speak intellectually about various aspects of God’s divine nature; it also involves developing a relationship with him. How does knowing someone affect the quality of our relationship with him? How does knowing God intensify our relationship with him? Explain that this chapter teaches truth about the nature of God, which will help us to achieve one of the essentials of eternal life.

  2. What we know about God is limited to what he has chosen to tell us through his prophets. The Prophet Joseph Smith’s first vision in 1820 (see Joseph Smith—History 1:11–20) and the famous King Follett discourse given shortly before Joseph’s martyrdom in 1844 (see Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 343–62) are significant doctrinal teachings on the nature of God. From the beginning of his ministry until its end, the Prophet shared his increasing understanding of his Heavenly Father. The First Vision taught us that—

    1. 1.

      God and Jesus Christ have glorified bodies.

    2. 2.

      The Father and the Son are two separate beings.

    3. 3.

      The Father presides and works through the Son.

    In the King Follett discourse, Joseph Smith declared that the first principle of the gospel consists of knowing the character of God. Joseph taught that God “was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself” (Teachings, p. 346; or Supporting Statements B on pp. 7–8 of the student manual). The twenty-four-year ministry of Joseph Smith was characterized by continual revelation about the nature of God.

    Elder James E. Faust gave further insights regarding the nature of God (see Conference Report, Apr. 1984, pp. 92–93; or Ensign, May 1984, pp. 67–69).

Ideas for Teaching

  1. A.

    The existence of God is a reality.

    1. Use the dialogue between Alma and the anti-Christ, Korihor, to discuss evidences of the reality of God (see Alma 30:37–52). In the dialogue Korihor evolved from atheism (see v. 38) to agnosticism (see v. 48) to an eventual acknowledgment of his sin and a confession that he “always knew that there was a God” (v. 52).

      Alma summarized his position beautifully when he stated that “the testimony of all these thy brethren, and also all the holy prophets” and “the scriptures” denote the reality of God (Alma 30:44). Point out that the prophets have not felt the need to debate either the existence or the reality of God; rather, they have boldly testified of their own experiences with him.

      Alma added that the earth itself is a witness of a supreme creator (see Alma 30:44). How do the universe and this natural world affirm the existence of God? (see Supporting Statements A on p. 7 of the student manual). The hymn “Our Mountain Home So Dear” (Hymns, 1985, no. 33) also speaks eloquently of God’s handiwork expressed in nature; ask a student to read the lyrics.

  2. B.

    God is the father of all mankind.

    1. Point out that Elohim is a name-title we often use to identify God the Father. Read the explanatory statements of the First Presidency (“The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve,” in James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, p. 466) and of President Brigham Young (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 50) in Supporting Statements B on page 7 of the student manual. Indicate that another name-title for the Father is Man of Holiness (see Moses 7:35).

    2. Jesus stressed the fatherhood of God. When the disciples sought instruction in prayer, he tutored them to begin by saying, “Our Father which art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9). After his death and resurrection, the Savior explained to Mary Magdalene that he had yet to ascend to “my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17).

      We are begotten spirit children of our Heavenly Father. We are actually his offspring. Develop that idea with the scriptures in Doctrinal Outline B on page 6 of the student manual and with the statements in Supporting Statements B on pages 7–8 of the student manual. Point out that literally being children of God validates the scriptural claim that we are created in God’s image. Read the statement by President Spencer W. Kimball on page 8 of the student manual (see The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 25).

    3. Discuss the Prophet Joseph Smith’s statement in Supporting Statements B on page 8 of the student manual: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man” (Teachings, p. 345). What does the King Follett discourse teach about the nature of God? Does it teach that God continues to progress throughout the eternities? If so, how does God progress? Ask the students the following questions:

      1. 1.

        Does God progress in attributes and characteristics? (No. He is perfect in these things. See Matthew 5:48; Alma 7:20.)

      2. 2.

        Does God progress in knowledge, light, and truth? (No. He has a fulness of knowledge, light, and truth. See D&C 66:12; 2 Nephi 2:24.)

      3. 3.

        Does God progress in power or in his ability to accomplish his work? (No. He has all power, though he will not violate eternal law nor the agency of man. See Alma 26:35; Luke 1:37; 1 Nephi 7:12; Mosiah 4:9.)

      Yet God does progress. To explore the nature of God’s progression, read the statement by the Prophet Joseph Smith on page 8 of the student manual (see Teachings, pp. 347–48).

  3. C.

    God is perfect in his person, character, and attributes.

    1. Write on the chalkboard the following statements to illustrate the nature of God’s perfection. Explain that knowing these things about God enables us to trust and obey him.

      The Nature of God’s Perfection

      1. 1.

        God is a resurrected, exalted personage of flesh and bone.

      2. 2.

        God possesses all characteristics of perfection. He is perfectly kind, truthful, honest, and moral.

      3. 3.

        God has a fulness of intelligence, light, and truth. He knows all things: he is omniscient.

      4. 4.

        God has all power inherent in knowledge: he is omnipotent.

      The Characteristics, Attributes, and Perfections of God

      1. 1.

        God is the creator and upholder of all things.

      2. 2.

        God is merciful and great, slow to anger, and abundant in goodness.

      3. 3.

        God is consistent and unchanging.

      4. 4.

        God does not lie: he is a god of truth.

      5. 5.

        God is no respecter of persons.

      6. 6.

        God is a god of love, knowledge, power, justice, and judgment.

Conclusion

To know God we must understand his true nature, the kind of being he is, and the characteristics he has manifested to his children throughout the centuries. This knowledge alone, however, may become too intellectual in nature. If we are to know God, we must accept his fatherhood and develop a relationship with him by responding to his counsel and love. Challenge the students to cultivate a strong love between themselves and their Heavenly Father.