From the Life of Joseph F. Smith
President Joseph F. Smith often bore powerful testimony of Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, the supreme objects of our faith. He said, “I believe with all my soul in God the Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”1 While he was President of the Church, he sought to clarify the identity and roles of the Father and the Son, especially since some scripture passages designate Jesus Christ as Father. In an effort to help the Saints better understand certain scriptures concerning the Father and the Son, the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve issued a doctrinal exposition on 30 June 1916 titled “The Father and the Son.” This declaration affirmed the unity between God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and clarified the distinct roles of each in the plan of salvation. It also explained the ways in which the term Father is applied in the scriptures to both our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ.
Several excerpts from the exposition are cited in this chapter along with other teachings of President Smith, who affirmed that to gain “the knowledge of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ, … is the first and last lesson of life.”2
Teachings of Joseph F. Smith
To know God and Jesus Christ is life eternal.
It is a scriptural truth, that this is life eternal to know the only true and living God and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent [see John 17:3]. I believe that the Latter-day Saints, through the teachings of the scriptures and through the revelations that have come to them by the voice of the Prophet Joseph Smith, are able to learn the true and living God and know Him and also His Son whom He has sent into the world, whom to know is life eternal.3
Not only is it necessary to have faith in God, but also in Jesus Christ, his Son, the Savior of mankind and the Mediator of the New Covenant; and in the Holy Ghost, who bears record of the Father and the Son, “the same in all ages and forever.”4
The Father of our spirits is an eternal being with a body of flesh and bones.
God has a tabernacle of flesh and bone. He is an organized being just as we are, who are now in the flesh. … We are the children of God. He is an eternal being, without beginning of days or end of years. He always was, he is, he always will be.5
I do not believe in the doctrine held by some that God is only a Spirit and that he is of such a nature that he fills the immensity of space, and is everywhere present in person, or without person, for I can not conceive it possible that God could be a person, if he filled the immensity of space and was everywhere present at the same time. It is unreasonable, a physical, a theological inconsistency, to imagine that even God the eternal Father would be in two places, as an individual, at the same moment. It is impossible. But his power extends throughout the immensity of space. His power extends to all his creations, and his knowledge comprehends them all, and he governs them all and he knows all.6
God the Eternal Father, whom we designate by the exalted name-title “Elohim,” is the literal Parent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and of the spirits of the human race. Elohim is the Father in every sense in which Jesus Christ is so designated, and distinctively He is the Father of spirits.7
[We] pray unto the Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in whose image and likeness we are made, or were born into the world, and in whose likeness and image we are, for we are God’s children, and therefore must resemble his Son in person, and also spiritually, so far as we will obey the principles of the gospel of eternal truth. For, we were foreordained … to become conformed to his likeness through the wise and proper use of our free agency.8
God, the eternal Father, is constantly mindful of you. He is mindful of his people throughout all this land, and he will reward you according to your faithfulness in observing the laws of righteousness and of truth.9
God our Heavenly Father is the Creator.
The Lord Almighty is the Creator of the earth, he is the Father of all our spirits. He has the right to dictate what we should do, and it is our duty to obey, and to walk according to his requirements. This is natural, and perfectly easy to be comprehended.10
The scriptures plainly and repeatedly affirm that God is the Creator of the earth and the heavens and all things that in them are. In the sense so expressed, the Creator is an Organizer. God created the earth as an organized sphere; but He certainly did not create, in the sense of bringing into primal existence, the ultimate elements of the materials of which the earth consists, for “the elements are eternal” (Doc. & Cov. 93:33).11
Beware of men who … would make you to think or feel that the Lord Almighty, who made heaven and earth and created all things, is limited in his dominion over earthly things to the capacities of mortal men.13
Jesus Christ is the Firstborn in the spirit and the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh.
Among the spirit children of Elohim, the first-born was and is Jehovah, or Jesus Christ, to whom all others are juniors.14
Jesus Christ is not the Father of the spirits who have taken or yet shall take bodies upon this earth, for he is one of them. He is the Son, as they are sons or daughters of Elohim.15
[Jesus Christ] is essentially greater than any and all others, by reason (1) of His seniority as the oldest or firstborn; (2) of His unique status in the flesh as the offspring of a mortal mother and of an immortal, or resurrected and glorified, Father; (3) of His selection and foreordination as the one and only Redeemer and Savior of the race; and (4) of His transcendent sinlessness.16
There is no doubt in the minds of Latter-day Saints in relation to the existence and personage of the Lord God Almighty, who is the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. There is no doubt in the minds of Latter-day Saints that Jesus is the Son of God, being begotten of the Father in the flesh.17
Jesus Christ is the Son of Elohim both as spiritual and bodily offspring; that is to say, Elohim is literally the Father of the spirit of Jesus Christ and also of the body in which Jesus Christ performed His mission in the flesh, and which body died on the cross and was afterward taken up by the process of resurrection, and is now the immortalized tabernacle of the eternal spirit of our Lord and Savior.18
Jesus Christ was born of his mother, Mary. He had a fleshly tabernacle. He was crucified on the cross; and his body was raised from the dead. He burst the bonds of the grave, and came forth to newness of life, a living soul, a living being, a man with a body, with parts and with spirit—the spirit and the body becoming a living and immortal soul.19
God the Father … is the Father of our spirits, and … the Father in the flesh, of his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who joined divine immortality with the mortal, welded the link between God and man, made it possible for mortal souls, on whom the sentence of death had been placed, to acquire eternal life, through obedience to his laws. Let us, therefore, seek the truth and walk in the light as Christ is in the light, that we may have fellowship with him, and with each other, that his blood may cleanse us from all sin.20
The Father and the Son are one.
“… I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one” [3 Nephi 11:27]. I do not apprehend that any intelligent person will construe these words to mean that Jesus and his Father are one person, but merely that they 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.21
[The Father and the Son] are one—in attributes. They are one in love, one in knowledge, one in mercy, one in power, one in all things that make them united and powerful, glorious and great, because in them is perfected all truth, all virtue and all righteousness.22
Jesus Christ is called the Father.
The term “Father” as applied to Deity occurs in sacred writ with plainly different meanings.23
Jesus Christ is the Father of heaven and earth.
Jehovah, who is Jesus Christ the Son of Elohim, is called “the Father,” and even “the very eternal Father of heaven and of earth” [see Mosiah 15:4; 16:15; Alma 11:38–39; Ether 4:7]. With analogous meaning Jesus Christ is called “The Everlasting Father” (Isaiah 9:6; compare 2 Nephi 19:6). …
… Jesus Christ, whom we also know as Jehovah, was the executive of the Father, Elohim, in the work of creation. … Jesus Christ, being the Creator, is consistently called the Father of heaven and earth … ; and since His creations are of eternal quality He is very properly called the Eternal Father of heaven and earth.24
Jesus Christ is the Father of those who abide in His gospel.
[Another] sense in which Jesus Christ is regarded as the “Father” has reference to the relationship between Him and those who accept His Gospel and thereby become heirs of eternal life. …
That by obedience to the Gospel men may become sons of God, both as sons of Jesus Christ, and, through Him, as sons of His Father, is set forth in many revelations given in the current dispensation [see D&C 11:28–30; 34:1–3; 35:1–2; 39:1–4; 45:7–8]. …
A forceful exposition of this relationship between Jesus Christ as the Father and those who comply with the requirements of the Gospel as His children was given by Abinadi, centuries before our Lord’s birth in the flesh: “… And who shall be [Christ’s] seed? Behold I say unto you, that whosoever has heard the words of the prophets, … and believed that the Lord would redeem his people, and have looked forward to that day for a remission of their sins; I say unto you, that these are his seed, or they are the heirs of the kingdom of God …” (Mosiah 15:10–13). …
Men may become children of Jesus Christ by being born anew—born of God, as the inspired word states [see 1 John 3:8–10].
By the new birth—that of water and the Spirit—mankind may become children of Jesus Christ, being through the means by Him provided “begotten sons and daughters unto God” [D&C 76:24; see also 1 Corinthians 4:15; D&C 84:33–34; 93:21–22]. …
If it be proper to speak of those who accept and abide in the Gospel as Christ’s sons and daughters—and upon this matter the scriptures are explicit and cannot be gainsaid nor denied—it is consistently proper to speak of Jesus Christ as the Father of the righteous, they having become His children and He having been made their Father through the second birth—the baptismal regeneration.25
[Jesus Christ] is the foundation and chief cornerstone of our religion. We are his by adoption, by being buried with Christ in baptism, by being born of the water and of the spirit anew into the world, through the ordinances of the gospel of Christ, and we are thereby God’s children, heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ through our adoption and faith.26
Without repentance and baptism and the reception of the Holy Ghost, which constitute the new birth, we are not of the family of Christ, but are aliens, estranged from God and his laws, and in this fallen condition we shall remain, whether in the body or in the spirit, for time and for eternity, unless we render obedience to the plan devised in the heavens for the redemption and salvation of the human family.27
I know that I can find [salvation] only in obedience to the laws of God, in keeping the commandments, in performing works of righteousness, following in the footsteps of our file leader, Jesus the Exemplar and the Head of all. He is the Way of life, he is the Light of the world, he is the Door by which we must enter, in order that we may have a place with him in the celestial kingdom of God.28
No other name, under heaven, is given, but that of Jesus Christ, by which you can be saved or exalted in the Kingdom of God.29
Jesus Christ is the Father by divine investiture of authority.
In all His dealings with the human family Jesus the Son has represented and yet represents Elohim His Father in power and authority. This is true of Christ in His preexistent, antemortal, or unembodied state, in the which He was known as Jehovah; also during His embodiment in the flesh; and during His labors as a disembodied spirit in the realm of the dead; and since that period in His resurrected state [see John 5:43; 10:25, 30; 14:28; 17:11, 22; 3 Nephi 20:35; 3 Nephi 28:10; D&C 50:43]. Thus the Father placed His name upon the Son; and Jesus Christ spoke and ministered in and through the Father’s name; and so far as power, authority and Godship are concerned His words and acts were and are those of the Father. …
None of these considerations, however, can change in the least degree the solemn fact of the literal relationship of Father and Son between Elohim and Jesus Christ.30
My brethren and sisters, I know that my Redeemer lives. I know, as I know I live, that in person he has visited man in our time and day, and that we are not now dependent alone on the history of the past for the knowledge that we possess, of which record is borne by the Spirit of God, shed abroad in the hearts of all who enter into the covenant of the gospel of Christ. But we have the renewed and later witness and manifestation of heavenly visions and of the visitation of God the Father and Christ the Son to this their footstool; and they have in person declared their entity, their being, and they have manifested their glory. They have stretched forth their hands to accomplish their work—the work of God, and not the work of man. … This is my testimony to you, my brethren and sisters, and I bear witness of it in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.31
Suggestions for Study
Why is it life eternal to know our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ? How does our understanding of them affect our relationship with them?
Why is it important to know that our Heavenly Father is an eternal being with a glorified, resurrected body of flesh and bone?
How are we blessed because we know that Heavenly Father is the Father of our spirits?
What does the statement “the Creator is an Organizer” mean?
In what way is Jesus Christ unique among Heavenly Father’s spirit children? What was the Savior able to do because he was born on earth as the Only Begotten Son of the Father in the flesh?
How are Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ one? How can we be one with the Father and the Son? (See also John 17:22–24.)
Why are both the Father and the Son called the Creator? (See also Moses 1:32–33.)
What is meant by “divine investiture of authority”? Why does Jesus Christ speak the words of the Father as though He were the Father? What does this suggest about the relationship of the Father and the Son?
Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 5.
In Brian H. Stuy, comp, Collected Discourses Delivered by President Wilford Woodruff, His Two Counselors, the Twelve Apostles, and Others, 5 vols. (1987–92), 2:354.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1916, 4.
Gospel Doctrine, 100.
Gospel Doctrine, 64.
Gospel Doctrine, 55–56.
“The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve,” Improvement Era, Aug. 1916, 934.
Gospel Doctrine, 57–58.
Gospel Doctrine, 53.
Gospel Doctrine, 80.
“The Father and the Son,” 934.
Gospel Doctrine, 62.
Gospel Doctrine, 56.
Gospel Doctrine, 70.
Gospel Doctrine, 69.
“The Father and the Son,” 941–42.
Gospel Doctrine, 4–5.
“The Father and the Son,” 935.
Gospel Doctrine, 64.
Gospel Doctrine, 28.
Gospel Doctrine, 68.
In Collected Discourses, 4:66.
“The Father and the Son,” 934.
“The Father and the Son,” 935.
“The Father and the Son,” 936–39.
Gospel Doctrine, 138.
Gospel Doctrine, 90–91.
Gospel Doctrine, 262.
Gospel Doctrine, 3.
“The Father and the Son,” 939–40.
Gospel Doctrine, 505–6.