The Godhead and the Plan of Salvation

By Dallin H. Oaks | May 2017 | Liahona
Before I was converted and joined the  Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I grew up in a Christian home that believed in the Holy Trinity.  The entire concept of God the Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost being one person confused me to the point of not understanding the scriptures because they seemed to be contradicting.  My thoughts just couldn’t grasp the fact that Jesus Christ, upon being baptized by John the Baptist, saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and heard the voice of His Father saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:13-17).  How could these beings be one person?  And why would one person tell himself that he is well pleased?   I went to a Christian school.  It didn’t matter how many times I heard this from teachers or priests, I knew there had to be more…I felt it.  When I was taking the missionary discussions in my late teens, one of the first things they had taught me was about the Godhead.  It was as if a light was switched on in my head and the Spirit spoke to me testifying of the truthfulness of the things they were teaching me.  It made sense!  I felt joy in knowing my Heavenly Father, my Brother, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, are all separate beings, but “one in purpose”!

Because we have the truth about the Godhead and our relationship to Them, we have the ultimate road map for our journey through mortality.


Our first article of faith declares, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” We join other Christians in this belief in a Father and a Son and a Holy Ghost, but what we believe about Them is different from the beliefs of others. We do not believe in what the Christian world calls the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. In his First Vision, Joseph Smith saw two distinct personages, two beings, thus clarifying that the then-prevailing beliefs concerning God and the Godhead were not true.

In contrast to the belief that God is an incomprehensible and unknowable mystery is the truth that the nature of God and our relationship to Him is knowable and is the key to everything else in our doctrine. The Bible records Jesus’s great Intercessory Prayer, where He declared that “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (John 17:3).

Holy Bible

The effort to know God and His work began before mortality and will not be concluded here. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “It will be a great while after you have passed through the veil before you will have learned … all the principles of exaltation.” We build on the knowledge we acquired in the premortal spirit world. Thus, in trying to teach Israelites the nature of God and His relationship to His children, the prophet Isaiah declared, as recorded in the Bible:

“To whom then will ye liken God? or what likeness will ye compare unto him? …

“Have ye not known? have ye not heard? hath it not been told you from the beginning? have ye not understood from the foundations of the earth?” (Isaiah 40:18, 21).

We know that the three members of the Godhead are separate and distinct beings. We know this from instruction given by the Prophet Joseph Smith: “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us” (D&C 130:22).

As to the supreme position of God the Father within the Godhead, as well as the respective roles each personage performs, the Prophet Joseph explained:

The Prophet Joseph Smith

“Any person that had seen the heavens opened knows that there are three personages in the heavens who hold the keys of power, and one presides over all. …

“… These personages … are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the Witness or Testator.

“[It is] the province of the Father to preside as the Chief or President, Jesus as the Mediator, and the Holy Ghost as the Testator or Witness.”

II. The Plan

We understand our relationship to the members of the Godhead from what is revealed about the plan of salvation.

Questions like “Where did we come from?” “Why are we here?” and “Where are we going?” are answered in what the scriptures call the “plan of salvation,” the “great plan of happiness,” or the “plan of redemption” (Alma 42:5, 8, 11). The gospel of Jesus Christ is central to this plan.

As spirit children of God, in an existence prior to mortality, we desired a destiny of eternal life but had progressed as far as we could without a mortal experience in a physical body. To provide that opportunity, our Heavenly Father presided over the Creation of this world, where, deprived of our memory of what preceded our mortal birth, we could prove our willingness to keep His commandments and experience and grow through the other challenges of mortal life. But in the course of that mortal experience, and as a result of the Fall of our first parents, we would suffer spiritual death by being cut off from the presence of God, be soiled by sin, and become subject to physical death. The Father’s plan anticipated and provided ways to overcome all of those barriers.

III. The Godhead

Knowing the purpose of God’s great plan, we now consider the respective roles of the three members of the Godhead in that plan.

We begin with a teaching from the Bible. In concluding his second letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul makes this almost offhand reference to the Godhead of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion [or fellowship] of the Holy Ghost, be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

This biblical scripture represents the Godhead and references the all-defining and motivating love of God the Father, the merciful and saving mission of Jesus Christ, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost.

To learn more about the Godhead, please


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