Chapters 8–10 of John present a period in the Savior’s ministry when opposition from Jewish leaders was intensifying. In response to an effort to trap Him in His words, the Savior showed compassion in refusing to condemn a woman taken in adultery (see John 8:1–11). When Jesus declared Himself to be the God of Abraham and later explained His oneness with the Father, it incited such ire among His opponents that on two separate occasions they took up stones to kill Him (see John 8:52–59; 10:29–39).
As He taught in the temple during the Feast of Tabernacles, the Savior brought greater understanding about His divinity and mission by using contrasting images: light versus darkness (see John 8:12), freedom versus bondage to sin (see John 8:31–36), and truth versus error (see John 8:40–46). We can often appreciate truth more clearly by seeing its opposite. This is further illustrated when Jesus healed a man born blind and then used the contrast between blindness and sight to teach about spiritual blindness (see John 9:39–41). Then, in John 10, we are able to compare the loving care of the Good Shepherd with thieves, hirelings, and wolves who threaten the sheep (see John 10:1–16).
As the Savior was teaching in the temple, scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman who had been taken in adultery. They asked Jesus if she should be stoned, as commanded in the law of Moses. Elder Bruce R. McConkie (1915–85) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained their motive when they asked Him this question: “In bringing this adulteress to Jesus, the scribes and Pharisees were laying this trap for the Master: (1) If he agreed with Moses that she should be stoned, he would both (a) arouse the ire of the people generally by seeming to advocate the reinstitution of a penalty which did not have popular support, and (b) run counter to the prevailing civil law by prescribing what Rome [prohibited]. (2) If he disagreed with Moses and advocated anything less than death by stoning, he would be accused of perverting the law, and of advocating disrespect of and departure from the hallowed practices of the past” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [1965–73], 1:450–51).
Referring to the Savior’s statement, “Neither do I condemn thee” (John 8:11), Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught, “In this context, the word condemn apparently refers to the final judgment.” Elder Oaks further explained that Jesus did not condone the woman’s sin, but He was allowing her time to repent and acknowledging that her final judgment would come later: “The Lord obviously did not justify the woman’s sin. He simply told her that He did not condemn her—that is, He would not pass final judgment on her at that time. This interpretation is confirmed by what He then said to the Pharisees: ‘Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man’ (John 8:15). The woman taken in adultery was granted time to repent, time that would have been denied by those who wanted to stone her” (“‘Judge Not’ and Judging,” Ensign, Aug. 1999, 8).
President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985) similarly taught about the Savior’s words to the woman: “His command to her was, ‘Go, and sin no more.’ He was directing the sinful woman to go her way, abandon her evil life, commit no more sin, transform her life. He was saying, Go, woman, and start your repentance; and he was indicating to her the beginning step—to abandon her transgressions” (The Miracle of Forgiveness , 165).
The Joseph Smith Translation makes clear that the adulterous woman did follow the Savior’s counsel and reform her life: “And the woman glorified God from that hour, and believed on his name” (Joseph Smith Translation, John 8:11 [in John 8:11, footnote c]).
“Jesus Christ is the light of the world because he is the source of the light which ‘proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space’ (D&C 88:12). …
“Jesus Christ is also the light of the world because his example and his teachings illuminate the path we should walk to return to the presence of our Father in Heaven. …
“Jesus Christ is also the light of the world because his power persuades us to do good” (“The Light and Life of the World,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 63–64).
The Pharisees challenged the Savior’s testimony that He was “the light of the world” by stating that they did not have to accept the witness of one person who bore record of Himself. Jesus responded by appealing to the law of witnesses contained in the law of Moses, with which they were very familiar (see Deuteronomy 19:15; John 8:13–20). In this instance, the law of witnesses was satisfied by the two Beings whose testimonies were irrefutable—the Father and the Son.
The Savior has repeatedly told His followers that those who believe in Him will eventually join Him in His Father’s kingdom (see John 14:2–3; 17:24; Revelation 3:21; D&C 27:18; 132:23). While the Savior invites all to come unto Him and eventually be where He is, some will decline the invitation and “die in [their] sins” (John 8:21, 24)—meaning they will not repent and be made clean through the Atonement. The Savior’s statement “Whither I go, ye cannot come” (John 8:22) applies to those who understand the invitation and the opportunity to accept the Savior but decline.
Jesus Christ is the only One to ever live on this earth who could accurately say, “The Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29). Perhaps that is why “he spake not as other men, neither could he be taught; for he needed not that any man should teach him” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 3:25 [in the Bible appendix]). He not only refrained from sin, but He actively did what pleased God. For more insight on the Savior’s perfection and His sinless life, see Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:21–22; Doctrine and Covenants 20:22; and the commentary for Hebrews 7:26.
As the Savior taught important truths about His mission as the Messiah, “many believed on him” (John 8:30). He taught these believers that if they continued to obey His word, they would know the truth and the truth would make them free (see John 8:30–31). President James E. Faust (1920–2007) of the First Presidency taught that continued obedience to the Lord leads to knowledge of the truth and to freedom:
“Obedience leads to true freedom. The more we obey revealed truth, the more we become liberated. …
“Freedom and liberty are precious gifts that come to us when we are obedient to the laws of God and the whisperings of the Spirit. … Obedience to [principles of revealed truth] makes us truly free to reach the potential and the glory which our Heavenly Father has in store for us” (“Obedience: The Path to Freedom,” Ensign, May 1999, 45, 47).
Elder Bruce R. McConkie identified some ways in which “the truth shall make you free.” These ways include being “free from the damning power of false doctrine; free from the bondage of appetite and lust; free from the shackles of sin; free from every evil and corrupt influence and from every restraining and curtailing power; free to go on to the unlimited freedom enjoyed in its fulness only by exalted beings” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 1:456–57).
Some of the Jews who believed in Jesus Christ’s teachings seemed astonished by His assertion that following the truths He taught would result in freedom. They declared that they “were never in bondage to any man” (John 8:33)—they had never been in spiritual bondage to any nation because they were the seed of Abraham. They were, in essence, asking how they could possibly be enslaved spiritually with this pedigree. Jesus then taught, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). The Greek verb translated as “committeth” implies continuing in sin rather than a single occurrence of sin. While discussing the use of addictive drugs, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described a pattern of enslavement that can inhibit the full use of our agency, a pattern that can also result from continuing in other kinds of sin:
“From an initial experiment thought to be trivial, a vicious cycle may follow. From trial comes a habit. From habit comes dependence. From dependence comes addiction. Its grasp is so gradual. Enslaving shackles of habit are too small to be sensed until they are too strong to be broken. …
“Often, however, agency is misunderstood. While we are free to choose, once we have made those choices, we are tied to the consequences of those choices” (“Addiction or Freedom,” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 6–7). For more insight on the effects of continuing in sin, see the commentary for 1 John 3:6–9.
The Savior then declared that a servant—a “servant of sin”—remains in a house only if the owner so desires, but a son—especially “the Son”—has a rightful place and “abideth ever” (John 8:35). Through His Atonement, Jesus Christ extends that rightful place to each of His followers and makes them “free indeed” (John 8:36)—free from humankind’s greatest enemies, which are physical and spiritual death.
When the Jewish leaders boasted that they were Abraham’s seed, implying they held special privileges in the sight of God, the Savior reproved them for failing to do the works of their highly esteemed ancestral father. They were not acting like the covenant children of Abraham; rather, they were trying to kill the God of Abraham, who was standing before them and telling them the truth. The book of Genesis records some of Abraham’s works that stand in contrast to the behavior of the Jewish leaders. Abraham converted others to the gospel (see Genesis 12:5). He avoided strife (see Genesis 13:7–9). He was obedient to God (see Genesis 12:1–9; 15:1–6; 22:1–19). He welcomed heavenly messengers (see Genesis 18:1–8). He exercised tremendous faith (see Genesis 22:1–19).
The Savior reproved the Jewish leaders for their actions by declaring, “Ye do the deeds of your father” (John 8:41). He was clearly implying that the Jews were serving someone other than God. In apparent retaliation, bristling at the suggestion that they were “sons” or followers of the devil, the Jewish leaders said, “We be not born of fornication” (John 8:41), which was an insult about what was thought to be Jesus’s illegitimate birth because Mary and Joseph were not legally married at the time of Mary’s conception. This insult helps us understand the kind of treatment Jesus may have endured throughout His life. In many ways, He knew what it was like to have people revile Him, persecute Him, and say all manner of evil against Him falsely (see Matthew 5:11).
The Savior proclaimed to the Jewish leaders that if they believed in God, they would love Him, “for I proceeded forth and came from God” (John 8:42). They refused to believe in Christ because the god they worshipped was the devil (see John 8:44), who is a murderer, a liar, and the father of all untruth. The Joseph Smith Translation states, “He that is of God receiveth God’s words; ye therefore receive them not, because ye are not of God” (Joseph Smith Translation, John 8:47 [in John 8:47, footnote a]). The response of the Jewish leaders was to call Jesus a Samaritan—the lowest of all people and not of Jewish descent—and state that He was possessed of a devil (see John 8:48). These leaders had hardened their hearts, refusing to believe that Jesus was the Son of God—even though their father Abraham, all other ancient prophets, and their scriptures taught clearly of Him.
When the Lord appeared to Moses in the burning bush, He used the name “I Am” to identify Himself as the God of Israel (see Exodus 3:13–14). When the Savior said to the Jews, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58), He was referring to Himself by this same title. By using this name, He declared to the Jews that He was Jehovah, the same Being who spoke to Moses from the burning bush and who has communed with prophets in all ages, including in our dispensation (see D&C 29:1; 38:1).
Jesus told the Jews that Abraham had seen His day and been glad (see John 8:56). One occasion when this may have occurred is when Abraham saw Jesus Christ on a mountain before He was born (see Genesis 22:14). Christ was crucified on the mount of Golgotha, making Himself an offering in place of all of us, just as a ram was offered in place of Isaac (see Genesis 22:13).
John recorded a number of occasions when Jesus declared, “I am …” The following chart provides some of the Savior’s significant “I am” statements found in the Gospel of John:
Reference in John
“I Am” Statement
“I am the bread of life.”
Jesus Christ gave Himself for us in the Atonement. He feeds us spiritually.
“I am the light of the world.”
Jesus Christ is the source of all truth. If we follow His words and example, we will not stumble or walk in spiritual darkness.
“Before Abraham was, I am.”
Jesus Christ is Jehovah of the Old Testament.
“I am the door of the sheep.”
Jesus Christ protects us like a shepherd at the door of a sheep enclosure. No one can enter His kingdom except through Him.
“I am the good shepherd.”
Jesus Christ leads us. He gave His life for us. He knows each of us individually.
“I am the Son of God.”
“I am the resurrection, and the life.”
Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can overcome physical and spiritual death. Jesus Christ gave us the gift of resurrection.
“I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father, and He is the source of all truth. Because of His Atonement, we will all be resurrected and through our faithfulness may inherit eternal life.
“I am the true vine.”
We depend on Jesus Christ for life. Only by abiding by His teachings will we be able to bear the fruit of righteousness.
The Jews Jesus spoke to obviously understood what He was saying—that He was God—for they sought to stone him. They believed that His claims were blasphemous, and this was the prescribed penalty for blasphemy according to the Mosaic law (see Leviticus 24:16).
Jesus performed many miraculous healings of those who were blind. Isaiah, the prophet who taught extensively of the Messiah, had prophesied that when the Messiah came to earth, He would restore sight to the blind (see Luke 4:18; Isaiah 29:18; 35:5; 42:7). When Jesus saw a man who had been blind from birth, His disciples asked Him, “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2). The disciples’ query reflects two concepts found in the Judaism of their day—that suffering was the result of iniquity and that there was a premortal existence of some kind.
The Savior’s response to this question teaches that a person suffering from a mortal adversity, such as a disability, is not necessarily guilty of sin: “Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him” (John 9:3). Jesus also declared, “I must work the works of him that sent me, while I am with you; the time cometh when I shall have finished my work, then I go unto the Father” (Joseph Smith Translation, John 9:4 [in John 9:4, footnote c]).
Like the Savior’s disciples on that occasion, we may sometimes wonder about the cause and purpose of mortal afflictions. Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained how the works of God can be manifest in us if we approach adversity with faith in the Lord:
“We are sent here to be tested. There must be opposition in all things. We are meant to learn and grow through that opposition, through meeting our challenges, and through teaching others to do the same. … The Lord will not only consecrate our afflictions for our gain, but He will use them to bless the lives of countless others.
“Jesus taught this lesson when He and His disciples met a man who was born blind. [Elder Oaks then quoted John 9:2–3.]
“If we see life through the lens of spirituality, we can see many examples of the works of God being furthered through the adversities of His children. …
“When we understand this principle, that God offers us opportunities for blessings and blesses us through our own adversities and the adversities of others, we can understand why He has commanded us again and again to ‘thank the Lord thy God in all things’ (D&C 59:7)” (“Give Thanks in All Things,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2003, 97–98).
Concerning those with handicaps and disabilities, President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:
“It is natural for parents with handicapped children to ask themselves, ‘What did we do wrong?’ The idea that all suffering is somehow the direct result of sin has been taught since ancient times. It is false doctrine. That notion was even accepted by some of the early disciples until the Lord corrected them.
“‘As Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth.
“‘And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?
“‘Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.’ (John 9:1–3.)
“There is little room for feelings of guilt in connection with handicaps. Some handicaps may result from carelessness or abuse, and some through addiction of parents. But most of them do not. Afflictions come to the innocent” (“The Moving of the Water,” Ensign, May 1991, 7–8).
When the Savior saw the man who had been blind from birth, He anointed the man’s eyes with clay and told him to wash in the pool of Siloam. In an instant, the man miraculously received his sight, but his understanding of the healing and his Healer grew only with time. Immediately after the healing, he reported only that it was done by “a man that is called Jesus” (John 9:11). Later he declared of his Healer, “He is a prophet” (John 9:17). Still later he emphatically declared, “If this man were not of God, he could do nothing” (John 9:33). Finally, with commitment and resolve, the man believed and accepted Jesus as “the Son of God” (see John 9:35–38). The conversion of this courageous disciple can be a pattern for us. Elder Bruce R. McConkie taught: “Conversion is a process that seldom occurs in an instant suddenly. Gospel grace dawns gradually upon most believers” (The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 4 vols. [1979–81], 2:188).
After Jesus healed the man who had been blind since birth, there was a division among the people concerning their feelings about Him. This division is mentioned frequently by John during the Feast of Tabernacles and immediately afterward (see John 7:12, 43; 9:16; 10:19). About this division, the Savior later said, “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind” (John 9:39).
Synagogues served as the religious and social center for many Jewish communities. Synagogues offered access to spiritual instruction and worship, as well as educational and social opportunities. Because the synagogue was so integral to Jewish society, to be cast out of the synagogue (see John 9:22, 34–35) meant more than being excommunicated and losing fellowship with the religious community. It meant banishment from cultural and social affairs as well. This threat was apparently severe enough to keep the parents of the man born blind from getting too involved in the investigation of this miracle.
When Jesus heard that the man whose blindness had been miraculously healed had been cast out of the synagogue, He sought out the man and taught him that He was the Son of God. In this way, the Savior helped him “see” even more clearly. President Howard W. Hunter (1907–95) pointed out the physical and spiritual impact the Savior had on the man born blind: “Now sight had been given twice—once to remedy a congenital defect and once to behold the King of Kings before He would ascend to His eternal throne. Jesus had quickened both temporal and spiritual vision” (“The God That Doest Wonders,” Ensign, May 1989, 16–17).
After the Savior healed the man born blind, some Pharisees asked Jesus whether they were “blind also.” In reply, the Savior used a metaphor, teaching that individuals who were “blind”—those who did not know who He was—“should have no sin” (John 9:41). On the other hand, individuals who could “see”—those who had received enough witnesses concerning the Savior and His divine mission that they should have known who He was—would be accountable for their actions. The Pharisees were among those who could “see,” and thus their “sin remaineth.” Spiritually speaking, they chose to be blind because they refused to recognize Jesus as the Son of God, despite the many witnesses they had received.
Chapter 10 of John contains an important discourse given by the Savior, in which He spoke of Himself metaphorically as the Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep. President Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994) discussed the role of shepherds in ancient Israel to provide insights into how the Savior is “the good shepherd” (John 10:11):
“In Jesus’s time, the Palestinian shepherd was noted for his protection of his sheep. Unlike modern sheepherders, the shepherd always walked ahead of his flock. He led them. The shepherd knew each of the sheep and usually had a name for each. The sheep knew his voice and trusted him and would not follow a stranger. Thus, when called, the sheep would come to him. (See John 10:14, 16.)
“At night shepherds would bring their sheep to a corral called a sheepfold. High walls surrounded the sheepfold, and thorns were placed on top of these walls to prevent wild animals and thieves from climbing over.
“Sometimes, however, a wild animal driven by hunger would leap over the walls into the midst of the sheep, frightening them. Such a situation separated the true shepherd—one who loved his sheep—from the hireling—one who worked only for pay and duty.
“The true shepherd was willing to give his life for the sheep. He would go in amongst the sheep and fight for their welfare. The hireling, on the other hand, valued his own personal safety above the sheep and would usually flee from the danger.
“Jesus used this common illustration of his day to declare that He was the Good Shepherd, the True Shepherd. Because of His love for His brothers and sisters, He would willingly and voluntarily lay down His life for them. (See John 10:17–18.)” (“A Call to the Priesthood: ‘Feed My Sheep,’” Ensign, May 1983, 43).
Jesus’s declaration that He was the Good Shepherd should be understood against the backdrop of the Old Testament concept that Jehovah was the Shepherd of Israel, the divine caretaker of His people (see Psalm 23:1; 80:1; Isaiah 40:10–11; Ezekiel 34:11–16, 23). By declaring Himself to be the Good Shepherd, Jesus was testifying again that He was Jehovah—the fulfillment of messianic prophecies.
Shepherds in Israel stood at the entrance of a sheepfold and inspected each sheep as it entered, treating injuries as needed. After the sheep were gathered in the enclosure for the night, the shepherd would lie down to sleep in the entrance, barring the way so predators or thieves could not hurt the sheep. The Savior’s statement, “I am the door,” makes clear that He was willing to “lay down [His] life for the sheep” (John 10:7, 15), and that He ultimately will decide who will enter the kingdom of heaven. Using an image similar to a door, the Book of Mormon prophet Jacob declared that “the keeper of the gate is the Holy One of Israel” and that “he employeth no servant there” (2 Nephi 9:41).
Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926–2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles referred to 2 Nephi 9:41 and also to Mormon 6:17, which declares that the Savior waits for us “with open arms.” He then suggested why the Lord stands at the door or gate to determine who may enter: “He waits for you ‘with open arms.’ That imagery is too powerful to brush aside. … It is imagery that should work itself into the very center core of one’s mind—a rendezvous impending, a moment in time and space, the likes of which there is no other. And that rendezvous is a reality. I certify that to you. He does wait for us with open arms, because his love of us is perfect” (“But a Few Days” [address to CES religious educators, Sept. 10, 1982], 7; si.lds.org).
Without the clarifying truths found in the Book of Mormon, it is difficult to understand who the “other sheep” are that Jesus spoke about to the Jews when He taught in Jerusalem (John 10:16). Elder James E. Talmage (1862–1933) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained: “The Bible contains no related passage affording explanation. Commentators treat this verse as an isolated and unconnected utterance, and content themselves with the suggestion that the ‘other sheep’ may be the Gentile nations who are to be brought into the Jewish fold under the one Shepherd. The Jews who heard the Lord speak so understood Him” (The Vitality of Mormonism , 151).
When the resurrected Jesus Christ ministered to the Nephites, He told them that they were the ones He had spoken of when He said, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (see 3 Nephi 15:21–24). Elder Dallin H. Oaks explained that the additional truths taught in the Book of Mormon teach us that the Lord knows and loves all His sheep:
“In addition to [the Savior’s] ministry in what we now call the Middle East, the Book of Mormon records His appearance and teachings to the Nephites on the American continent (see 3 Nephi 11–28). There He repeated that the Father had commanded him to visit the other sheep which were not of the land of Jerusalem (see 3 Nephi 16:1; John 10:16). He also said that he would visit others ‘who [had] not as yet heard [His] voice’ (see 3 Nephi 16:2–3). As prophesied centuries earlier (see 2 Nephi 29:12), the Savior told His followers in the Americas that he was going ‘to show [Himself]’ to these ‘lost tribes of Israel, for they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither he hath taken them’ (3 Nephi 17:4).
“The Book of Mormon is a great witness that the Lord loves all people everywhere. It declares that ‘he shall manifest himself unto all nations’ (1 Nephi 13:42). ‘Know ye not that there are more nations than one?’ the Lord said through the prophet Nephi.
“‘Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?’ (2 Nephi 29:7)” (“All Men Everywhere,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2006, 79–80).
For information about Jesus Christ’s mortal and immortal capacities, see the commentary for Luke 1:31–35.
Jesus went to the temple in Jerusalem during the Feast of Dedication (see John 10:22–23). The Feast of Dedication is also known as Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights. Hanukkah means “dedication” in Hebrew. This commemoration celebrates the rededication of the Jerusalem temple and its new altar in about 165 B.C. Syrian warriors led by Antiochus Epiphanes had desecrated the temple in 168 B.C. and tried to wipe out the Jewish religion. But freedom fighters led by a family of priests—Judah Maccabee being the most famous—repulsed the Syrians in a war of liberation for the Jewish people. A story in the Talmud recounts that the Maccabees found only a small amount of oil when they captured the temple and witnessed the oil miraculously burn for eight days. Based on this account, the Feast of Dedication lasts eight days beginning on the 25th of the month of Kislev, which roughly corresponds to the beginning of the month of December.
As He taught about His love for His sheep, the Savior declared, “My sheep hear my voice” (John 10:27; see also D&C 50:41–43). President Brigham Young (1801–77) posed the question, “How are we to know the voice of the Good Shepherd from the voice of a stranger?” He answered this question by saying: “When an individual, filled with the Spirit of God, declares the truth of heaven, the sheep hear that [see D&C 29:7], the Spirit of the Lord pierces their inmost souls and sinks deep into their hearts; by the testimony of the Holy Ghost light springs up within them, and they see and understand for themselves” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young , 319).
We may not be able to understand why all people do not accept the gospel of Jesus Christ when they hear it, but we do know that the Lord loves all people. Elder Dallin H. Oaks affirmed: “The Lord loves all of His children. He desires that all have the fulness of His truth and the abundance of His blessings. He knows when they are ready, and He wants us to hear and heed His directions on sharing His gospel. When we do so, those who are prepared will respond to the message of Him who said, ‘My sheep hear my voice … and they follow me’ (John 10:27)” (“Sharing the Gospel,” Ensign, Nov. 2001, 9).
We have eternal safety in the sheepfold of the Savior, who promised that no man can “pluck” His sheep out of His hand and that “no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (John 10:28–29).
The unity of the Father and the Son spoken of by the Savior—“I and my Father are one” (John 10:30)—comes from their singleness of purpose and shared love (see also 1 Corinthians 3:6–8; Ephesians 5:31). President Joseph F. Smith (1838–1918) clarified the meaning of the declaration that the Savior is “one” with His Father:
“Jesus and his Father are … one in knowledge, in truth, in wisdom, in understanding, and in purpose; just as the Lord Jesus himself admonished his disciples to be one with him, and to be in him, that he might be in them. It is in this sense that I understand this language, and not as it is construed by some people, that Christ and his Father are one person. I declare to you that they are not one person, but that they are two persons, two bodies, separate and apart, and as distinct as are any father and son” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith , 357). For more insights about how the Father and Son are “one,” see the commentary for John 17:11, 20–23.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles affirmed that Latter-day Saints believe scriptural teachings about the unity of the Godhead: “Our first and foremost article of faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is ‘We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.’ We believe these three divine persons constituting a single Godhead are united in purpose, in manner, in testimony, in mission. We believe Them to be filled with the same godly sense of mercy and love, justice and grace, patience, forgiveness, and redemption. I think it is accurate to say we believe They are one in every significant and eternal aspect imaginable except believing Them to be three persons combined in one substance, a Trinitarian notion never set forth in the scriptures because it is not true” (“The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2007, 40).
When Jesus declared that He and the Father were one (see John 10:30), the Jews who were present understood that He was declaring His divinity and threatened to stone Him “for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (John 10:33). He responded to their accusation by quoting Psalm 82:6, which reads, “I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.” As explained by Elder B. H. Roberts (1857–1933) of the Presidency of the Seventy, the Savior then asked the Jews why they should accuse Him of blasphemy when He said He was the Son of God, given that the scriptures in which they believed said that men could be gods:
“Let it be observed that in the above conversation when Jesus was accused of making himself God, he did not deny the charge; but on the contrary, called their attention to the fact that God in the law he had given to Israel had said to some of them—‘Ye are Gods, and all of you are children of the Most High.’ And further, Jesus argued, if those unto whom the word of God came were called Gods in the Jewish law, and the scripture wherein the fact was declared could not be broken, that is, the truth denied or gainsaid [declared untrue or invalid]—why should the Jews complain when he, too, who had been especially sanctified by God the Father, called himself the Son of God?” (New Witnesses for God, 3 vols. [1909–11], 1:465–66).
The Savior’s reply also invited those who heard Him to believe in their own divine potential, which He would help them realize if they would follow Him (see 2 Peter 1:4; 1 John 3:2; D&C 76:50, 58–62). President Joseph F. Smith taught:
“Christ is the great example for all mankind, and I believe that mankind were as much foreordained to become like him, as that he was foreordained to be the Redeemer of man. … We are … in the form of God, physically, and may become like him spiritually, and like him in the possession of knowledge, intelligence, wisdom and power.
“The grand object of our coming to this earth is that we may become like Christ, for if we are not like him, we cannot become the sons of God, and be joint heirs with Christ” (Teachings: Joseph F. Smith, 152).