“The Truth Found Me” by Marianne Rohrbough is the true story of a Dutch girl who, after World War II, yearned to know the truth about God and Christ. I recommend it. Here’s an excerpt from the account in the Dec. 2007 Ensign:
When I was 18, my mother wanted me to attend a confirmation class at our church. I was eager to go because I loved to learn about God. But it quickly became the most confusing time in my life. I was taught that God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost were the same person–that Jesus was God in physical form. That brought up a lot of questions in my mind: Who was in heaven while God was on earth as Christ? Was Christ praying to Himself when He prayed? How could God forsake Himself while He was hanging on the cross? How could God stand at His own right hand as Stephen saw in a vision? Things just didn’t seem to add up, and when I said that I couldn’t understand such things, I was told in a very decisive way by my teacher, “We can never comprehend God. The moment you understand God, He will cease to be God to you.”
I was too timid to say anything more, but my teacher could tell that I didn’t believe him. Consequently, I flunked the class.
Even though I decided not to go back, I still felt the need to belong to a church so I could draw closer to God. A friend talked me into seeing a clergyman of another faith, but when he told me that only members of his religion would go to heaven, I asked, “What will happen to all those people all over the world who have grown up and died having never heard of your church?” He just shrugged his shoulders and said that heaven was out of their reach. That shocked me–God could not possibly be that unfair!
I searched among several other denominations, but their teachings didn’t sound or feel right. Every church seemed to have its own interpretation of scripture. I felt that just coming to church on Sundays, dropping money into collection pouches, listening to a sermon, and then going home for the rest of the week was not enough. There had to be more to the life of a Christian.
Walking home, I looked up at the sky, which was cloudless and blue (a rarity in the Netherlands), and asked silently, “God, why was I created? What am I supposed to do with my life? And why don’t we have Apostles anymore? They would be able to clean up all this confusion we have in the churches.”
I received no answer then, but in the middle of the summer that followed, God sent to Rotterdam two missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who had the answers I sought. But first, they had to find me.
It was almost noon one day as Elder Beazer and Elder Van Bibber were tracting in the eastern outskirts of Rotterdam. They were hungry. It had been a long morning, and they hadn’t received any invitations from those they spoke with to come back. “Let’s go home and have some lunch,” Elder Beazer said.
“How about one more door?” suggested Elder Van Bibber.
“All right,” Elder Beazer replied. “One more door.”
They rang the doorbell, and a slim, dark-haired woman with brown eyes opened the door. After the young men introduced themselves as missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the woman invited them in. They taught her the first lesson and made an appointment to return.
When I came home from work that day, my mother greeted me with the words, “You’ll never guess who came to the door today.”
“Who?” I asked.
“Two young men from America. They wanted to talk about God, and I let them in.”
“Oh,” I said, uninterested. Had I been home to open the door, I wouldn’t have let them in.
“They explained God to me.”
I froze in my tracks. “What did you say?”
“They explained God to me,” she repeated. “Here, I’ll show you.”
Curious, I followed my mother into the parlor. From the coffee table she picked up a small piece of paper. On it the missionaries had drawn three stick figures. “One is God the Father, one is the Son, and the third is the Holy Ghost. The Father and the Son have bodies of flesh and bones, but the Holy Ghost doesn’t. That is why He’s drawn in dotted lines. They are three separate beings.”
For a moment I just stared at her. “That’s it!” I finally said. “That makes sense.” I knew it was true.
It’s interesting that the crude and silly drawings that some missionaries use could play a memorable role in her recognition of the truth. But why not?
It’s wonderful to me that the precious knowledge of the nature of God has been restored in this day. Christ did not say that God was incomprehensible, but said that “this is life eternal, that they might KNOW thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” Truly we are created in His image (gen. 1:26-27). Truly Jesus Christ was and is “the express image” of God the Father (Heb. 1:3). Christ looks like we do (though glorious beyond description), and the Father looks like Christ. They are one – as Christians should be one (John 17). The innovations in the fourth and fifth century to reconcile the understanding of God with the teachings of “science” (Greek philosophy, with all of its aversion to materiality) were not the result of revelation to apostles and prophets, but the teachings of men that took us further from the truth. How wonderful that we can now know the basics about God, basics that early Christians and Jews understood in the days of the Bible.
31 thoughts on ““They Explained God to Me””
What think ye of Christ?
Is He God? -Yes; John 1:1
Does He have a body of flesh and bone? -Yes; Luke 24:49
Then John 4:24 doesn’t mean what Traditional Christianity tells the world it means concerning the nature of God.
1. There is one God who eternally exists as three distinct Persons—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Stated differently, God is one in essence and three in person.
2. Each Person is fully God.
3. There is only one God.
If the above three statements are not true, then what do you do with John 1?
“Stated differently, God is one in essence and three in person. “
NM, you certainly have a right to believe that, and I respect your right to believe that. But that is not in the Bible. That’s the Nicene and Athanasian creeds.
You say the stick figures were crude and silly. But they weren’t. In 1953 two lady district missionaries taught my mother, brother and me the lessons (my dad had joined in 1948)in Miami, Fl. And guess what? They too used those crude and silly stick figures. I was only 8 years old at the time and can’t remember a thing they said but I remember those stick figures. By the time I went on my mission in 1963 we used the flannel board with paper cut-outs. But to this day I can’t think of an easier way to explain to a small child a physical body and a spirit body. Maybe you shouldn’t be so harsh on God’s missionaries. Whatever works. Thanks, Richard G.
My experience was similar to that of Marianne Rohrbough. Today I almost wonder if I was too “narrow” to believe in the miracle and mystery of the Trinity.
RE: Nicene and Athanasian creeds.
Aren’t they beautiful. Our ancestors did the best they could.
The funny thing about her conversion is that she began with the assumption that there is a God and a Son and a Holy Ghost, and the only thing keeping her from embracing the more common Christian understanding of that was the contradiction of combining the three into one being. But as soon as someone came around and said the obvious that it doesn’t make sense to combine the three – they must all be separate – then she knew that was the religion for her. Even though she knew nothing else about it. She was clearly desperate to believe in something, but not quite enough to overcome her skepticism of the Holy Trinity contradiction.
That’s the brilliance of Mormonism. Arriving on the scene as late as it did, and free from the pressure of tradition, it was able to look at Christianity objectively and revise a lot of its more blatantly flawed beliefs. Baptism for the Dead is an ingenious answer to the problem of people who died never hearing of Mormonism, for instance – another thing that would have helped convince this Dutch girl.
But Mormonism has its flaws too. And one day another religion will come along and clear those up for the people desperate to believe, but not quite desperate enough to overlook all the contradictions.
This is where you might see huge gaping cracks in my theology. I just don’t know enough about ‘church history’…I certainly know NOTHING about Nicene nor Athanasian creeds…
And while I might agree that the comment, “Stated differently, God is one in essence and three in person” is NOT found anywhere in the Bible – there are open passages, which seem to point in this manner, for example John ch.1? I don’t know, what do you think?
Did you mean Luke 24:39?
We believe that God the Father is God and that Jesus is a God, but that they are still separate and distinct beings in both body and spirit. We even believe that it is through Jesus that God created all things (Ephesians 3:9 and Hebrews 1:1-3).
The idea that God and Christ and the Holy Ghost are one God is not to say that they are literally one God, but to say that they are united as one in mind and purpose. They are in such complete harmony that they can be considered as “one” in a figurative sense, but not literally one God manifested in three personages. John 17 (specifically verses 21-23) is a perfect illustration of the “oneness” which exists between the Father and Son, which should exist between us and them as well. You could also say that the three of them make up the Godhead which is three individuals joining together to form a single entity.
John 20:17 says, Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
If Jesus and the Father are the same God, and there is only one God, then why would Jesus have to ascend to His God if He is in fact that very same God? If Jesus is in fact the one and only God, why would He have a God over Him?
Mark 13:32 says: But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
If God the Father and Jesus Christ are the same God, then wouldn’t Jesus also have the same knowledge as God?
Specifically regarding John 1, Jeff has this information posted on his website:
In John 1:1-2 we read, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.” In English, to say that Christ, the Word, was with God and was God could be understood in either the LDS sense (two beings perfectly united in one Godhead) or in the trinitarian sense (two persons in one Being) or arguably in other senses as well, such as Modalism (two manifestations of the same person). However, the Greek text helps us sort through these possibilities a little better. The first and third occurrence of the word “God” in these verses comes from Greek Ho Theos, meaning THE God, while the second occurrence is simply Theos, meaning God. The English translation could be rendered, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with The God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with The God.” There is no suggestion that the Word and The God are the same Being. One divine being, Christ, was WITH another divine being, THE God. As LDS doctrine teaches, Christ is God, but is not the same Being as THE God, who is the Father. (Thanks to Eugene Seaich for the information about the Greek text.)
Long time no see! It’s good to read from you again =) BTW, did you manage to listen to that talk by that lady (I forget her name now)? I’ve been reading some of your comments on Zelph’s blog and I must say, you have your work cut out there! And where did Russell disappear to? I think his thoughts prove valuable at Zelph’s blog…
So, anyway. You made some AMAZING observations about the separateness of Jesus with God the Father, there. Especially with Mark 13:32. To tell you the truth, I have ALWAYS been STUMPED by this verse; and this is a verse that I continually challenge my elders to answer! If they are one and the same being; how is it that only God knows when His Son should return to earth?!?! And until I have some sort of resolution to Mark 13:32; in a way, I count myself out of this conversation! This post is way too high over my head!
John 10 and John 1 are the passages of Scripture that I cling to, which serve to show who Jesus is – especially in John 10, where Jesus clearly says that He and His Father are one…
…but don’t jump straight to that specific verse in vs 30; instead look at what Jesus says about who God the Father is in verse 29…
…the sheer magnitude of who God is, is revealed in verse 29; which then serves to pack the punch in verse 30.
But, yes, I have to concede when it comes to Mark 13:32… it does and has always STUMPED me.
I read an interesting article in a FARMS publication recently, “Glimpses of Lehi’s Jerusalem”, titled “The Temple, the Monarchy, and Wisdom: Lehi’s World and the Scholarship of Margaret Barker”. It is available on the FARMS website, http://www.farms.byu.edu/publications/bookschapter.php?bookid=2&chapid=35. It examines the work of a non-LDS scholar, who is considered a revisionist biblical scholar, and compares her theories to the Book of Mormon as some of her theories deal with the same time frame as Book of Mormon origins.
The basic premise she proposes (at least as I understand it), is that the look of Judaism changed greatly in the pre-exilic era during and after King Josiah’s reforms. The Deuteronomists basically did a cover-up job with their portion of the Old Testament to purge the historical account of all those old and embarrassing temple, monarchy, and wisdom traditions, leaving some difficult contradictions between their accounts in Chronicles, Kings, etc. and the more prophetic books of the Old Testament. One such change was moving Judah towards a strict monotheism, where before, “there was a High God and several Sons of God, one of whom was Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel.” I had thought that the strict monotheism was most likely a result of the Hellenization of Judaism and was a later development, but she is proposing that this change was much earlier.
Yes, I did read the talk by that lady (whoever she is). Loved the accent. She sounds so sweet. I did enjoy it, and I had some thoughts on it, but they’ve escaped me. Perhaps I should have taken notes. If they manage to come back to me, I may respond to you about it.
Anyway, I was gone the week of Thanksgiving, and during the same period was suffering from a bit of blogging burn-out (is there such a thing?), so I took a bit of a break. Maybe it was more of a frustration from narrow-minded thinking, which I find a lot of at Zelph’s blog. Not that there isn’t intelligence there, but just a complete lack of belief in virtually anything spirital or anything that can’t be seen or understood by conventional wisdom.
It is interesting that you pointed out John 10, particularly verse 29. Note also verse 28. Jesus points out that He gives eternal life to those who follow Him, and that no man can “pluck them out of my hand.” Then He goes on to say that His Father is greater than all (interestingly John 14:28 says “for my Father is greater than I.”)and that “no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.” The “one” reference in verse 30 once again pertains unto their unity of purpose in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.
Why would Jesus have to differentiate himself from His father in verses 28 and 29 and then imply that they are the same God in verse 30? Why is it that Jesus and His Father are so clearly differentiated throughout the New Testament if they are of the same essence? What logical reason is there to establish a distinction if it is only physical and not the true essence? Also, how can Jesus and God be the same God if God the Father is greater than Jesus?
Jayflow 22 5:06 AM wrote:
“Does He [Christ] have a body of flesh and bone? -Yes; Luke 24:49”
An interesting essay in the book “Early Christians in Disarray” edited by Noel B. Reynolds is the essay titled “The Doctrine of Divine Embodiment: The Earliest Christian Understanding og God” written by David Paulsen. It is a must read for anyone interested in the early Christian concepts of God as being an embodied Deity.
Just one question. I am somewhat new to Jeff’s [great job on your material Jeff, by the way] blog so I am not too aware of your personal view on whether or not God is an embodied being. Well, what is your view on this issue?
Really interesting questions you have posed there.
It seems that throughout the New Testament, the three protagonists (God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit) play different roles.
What I am MOST impressed by is Jesus’ humility, especially when it comes to how He thinks of Himself in relation to His Father. Notice, Jesus always places Himself lower than God the Father…
But notice that when Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit (I can’t for the life of me remember where it is in the gospels) but He says that the one that He sends will testify of ME, that is that the Holy Spirit will bring glory to the Son…
Do you see the correlation here? It seems they all testify to each other and they all humble themselves to each other…isn’t that amazing?! So Jesus will always talk highly of His Father and the Holy Spirit calls people to Jesus, the Son…
…and also notice how important the Holy Spirit must be when Jesus talks about the unforgivable sin…notice He didn’t refer to God the Father, but to the Holy Spirit…?!?!?
I think what I was getting at with verse 29 is when Jesus said this about His Father: that, He is greater than all…we then need to mull over what does ‘greater than all’ mean?
Does it mean greater than ALL? i.e. all of His creation? all of that which is in heaven? and certainly greater than anything of that on earth? If we start to entertain the magnitude of who God is by this single statement, we glimpse at His Sovereign Majesty…
…but look at Jesus’ next audacious statement…I and My Father (who, earlier I mention as one who is greater than ALL) are one! Blasphemy! =D
I get so carried away by Jesus’ life as described by the gospel writers; you need to excuse me because I go on all sorts of tangents…
The other thing that I find quite profound about John 10 is that it seems Jesus claims to occupy TWO roles…who in the world occupies two roles? How can someone both be a shepherd and the doorway? =D
The other profound statement in John 10 is Jesus’ statement (and I’m sure I’ve said this before) when He said, “You do not believe BECAUSE you are not my sheep” Notice Jesus didn’t say “You are not my sheep because you do not believe…”
Our salvation is not determined (primarily) by our decision…but by His choosing! =) Craziness…
I know what you mean about Blog Burn Out. I got into such a deep discussion with Robert and his wife that by the end of it…I started to suffer from sleep deprivation! It’s SO GOOD to have you back though…
I really wouldn’t do any justice if I tried to explain what I think about the Trinitarian concept of God…
I’m inclined to agree with the the Trinitarian view, only upon the basis of justification – that is that it takes divinity to absorb sin for all eternity…Does that make sense? I doubt it does because to be honest, I haven’t really spent that much time thinking about the Trinity… =( I have always understood that the Godhead, and although I stress ARE INDIVIDUALS in their own right, are also all fully God…and there is ONE GOD.
There is no single statement in the Bible which categorically says that God is three persons and that they are all fully God…it seems that His nature of three personhoods is progressive, starting with the book of Genesis. I need to dig out a few books by my trusted friend, Wayne Grudem to give you his perspective, but other than that, I can only tell you that when I pray, I acknowledge that God is three and that they all do specific tasks in bringing about glory to Himself…
Confused?! I am.
This is a good reminder that we should appreciate being lucky enough to have been taught this precious truth. My God is not a god of confusion, and I think we all see a lot of confused Christians in the world who are left devoid of modern revelation.
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For the record…yes I did mean Luke 24:39 in first post.
And although I hate to be cliche…I will go the route of referring any John 10 folk out there to John 17…where almost the same phraseology of “being one” is applied to the disciples of Christ. We are to be one in the same manner that Heavenly Father and Jesus are one.
So…does that mean we’ll be one in essence, but billions upon billions in person?? Or maybe it means we’ll be one in purpose, love, knowledge, etc…basically being one in every way that matters, with the exception of being one numerically.
I just knew somebody would come up with the comment that you made =)
Please know that my lack of understanding is not a reflection on others’ knowing…
My lack of understanding is a mere reflection of my inadequacy and my laziness in NOT being motivated enough to learn about His nature as revealed in His Word =)
From a mere intellectual perspective, I cannot give you the means by which you might ‘see’ the true nature of the Godhead. I can only testify of His nature in three personages through personal testimony; a testimony that is born out of humility and awe because of Him that saved me =) Therefore, I can say that God the Holy Spirit resides in me, who calls me to santification. And it is God the Holy Spirit who stirs my spirit to declare who Jesus really is, and what He has done that I might be justified before the presence of God the Father. And it is with God the Father that I give my thanks for giving Jesus over – even to death, that I might have the means to receive life =)
Again, please know that my lack of intellectual understanding is not a reflection of others’ knowing of who God is…
First of all, I appreciate your personal testimony that you posted. I am sure that in return you will not mind (not that you already don’t mind) if Latter-day Saints share their personal testimony of the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. I also am sure that you might not mind if I testify that the plain and precious doctrines of the Godhead, as Restored by the Prophet Joseph Smith, are true Christian and eternal doctrines. As I study not only the words of the Scriptures in the Old and New Testaments but also the teachings of the early Church Fathers and Saints, I find that the Prophet Joseph Smith was right on the money when he declared that if we were see God now, he would look exactly as we are. In other words, he is a dvine embodied God who is willing to grant his godliness onto those who have faith in his Son Jesus Christ.
Which brings me back to my original question: do you believe in an embodied God? With all due respect, I do not feel that I got an answer from you. To be sure, I appreciate and respect your right to worship however you would like and to believe whatever you would like, and I appreciate your testimony, but I nevertheless feel as if you did not answer my first question.
Surely you believe in the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, but do you believe that the God that Christ was praying to on the cross was divinely embodied as well?
Just wondering your view on this doctrine.
NM, thanks so much for participating here, and for your candor. You add a lot to these discussions. And I’m glad I’m not the only one who finds verses that simply stump me!
I’d like to meet you someday. Best wishes, cheers, etc.
I too would like to thank you for your participating on this blog. Your comments add some spice to the discussion here on Jeff’s blog and I truely appreciate your comments and views on certain issues.
Please note that I do not mean to be mean spirited in my earlier comments, I just wish to have a good conversation with a fellow Christian with different ideas and views.
I also have enjoyed some of the videos on your own blog.
Thank you for your kind words; transparency is a beautiful thing. It probably isn’t so beautiful for the person who admits to being wrong/inadequate etc, but it certainly makes for a more open discussion.
So, with that, I might need to repeat to Steve Smoot what I said earlier to tatabug, that: this topic is way over my head.
Saying that, I don’t know if I would subscribe to an embodied God. I don’t quite know why I might come to think that God the Father has a body in the first place either. Please understand that I am neither agreeing or dis-agreeing with you here. If we DO take the notion that God has an immortal body, what do we do with verses that say that God is spirit and that we should worship Him in Spirit and in truth? Or what do we do with verses that say that Jesus is the image of the invisible God?
SteSmo, perhaps you could start the ball rolling for me by presenting with what makes you say that God is embodied?
I’ve been reviewing the church’s official baptism interview questions and temple recommend questions.
None of the questions deal with the person’s view of the nature of the Godhead as three distinct persons or as a traditional Trinity.
So technically, a Trinitarian could still get baptized in the LDS church, if I’m thinking it through correctly.
Didn’t They, meaning God the Father and Christ(Yahweh) create man in their own image and likeness in Genesis? I remember reading that verse when I was younger and it just made sense to me. There were more than one persons up there that created man and woman. And on top of that, they created them in their image, or in other words with flesh and bone. What is interesting, is that, not too much later, it’s back, to stating God as one individual instead of more than one, almost as if the writer can’t make up his mind.
In the baptismal interview questions, they do ask if you have a testimony in God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. I would say a testimony in them includes a knowledge of their distinct natures. Also, you are asked if you have a testimony in the calling of the Prophet Joseph Smith. That would include a belief in the truth of the First Vision and belief in D&C 130:22 as scripture.
Also in answer to NM’s questions:
As far trying to reconcile John 4:24 for you, I would refer you to my first comment on this thread, also to D&C 93:29 where we are told that “man is spirit”. As C.S. Lewis said, “You don’t have a soul, you are a soul and you have a body.”
Heavenly Father is spirit and must be worshiped that way…but that’s not to say He doesn’t have a perfected, spiritual, flesh and bone body. Having that takes nothing away from Christ’s divinity, why would it take away from the Father’s??
“SteSmo, perhaps you could start the ball rolling for me by presenting with what makes you say that God is embodied?”
Sure. I do not have a lot of time right now to elaborate, but my views on this issue can best be summed up by the works of David Paulsen and John Tvedtnes. I would suggest that you start by reading Paulsen’s essay that I mentioned earlier. This is a good reference for getting an LDS approach – including my own approach – and analysis of the concept of a divine embodied God, including an analysis of how the early Christians veiwed this issue. You can find it here:
John Tvedtnes also has a good essay on this issue, among other LDS doctrines about the Godhead, here:
It’s times like this that I wish I could read Hebrew/Aramaic. =/
In my spare time, I’m actually going through Greek New Testament with a few guys from my church. And each week as we read through the gospels, I am always blown away by the things that I read in Greek. I grew up reading and memorizing scripture using the KJV. I love how easy it is to memorize from the KJV and seeing as it is by far the most accurate English translation, I only have my parents to thank for modeling the version that I read from today…but saying this, when I come to read the New Testament in Greek – it’s a whole different ball game! For example, in John 14:6 – why does the KJV use capitalized letters for when Jesus made His self-declaration: “I AM the Way, the Truth etc…”? Have you ever wondered that? Why didn’t the translators just use proper english? Why didn’t they just use: “I am the way etc.”? Interesting huh?
So coming back to your points in Genesis, you said: “What is interesting, is that, not too much later, it’s back, to stating God as one individual instead of more than one, almost as if the writer can’t make up his mind.”
That’s an AMAZING observation!! It really is AS IF the writer could not make up his mind! The implications of whether or not he could make up his mind are STAGGERING! Don’t you think? Here he is referring to the singular then refers to Him in the plural then reverts back to the singular! Come on; make up your mind! =)
Your links are not conducive to my bed-time routines =) It’s not exactly light reading now, is it? but I’ll persevere…
While you’re busy reading the articles which Steve recommended, I would like to also add a recommendation. I just ran across this article that fits so well with this discussion as well as others we’ve had recently. It’s entitiled The Fallacy of Fundamentalist Assumptions by Blake Ostler. I think you might find some of his ideas intriguing. You may not buy them, but they nonetheless inspire some deep thought as they challenge a lot of traditional thinking.
Ok Tatabug. I have the link and I’ll read it…
Frankly I think Rhymes’ comment near the top is the truest of all of these.
“How can someone both be a shepherd and the doorway? “
You are kidding right? The shepherd, shephereds the sheep to the gate then the shepherd opens the gate and determines which get in and which are left out. This idea of Christ as guiding us is throughout the scriptures, if we are willing, then judging us to determine if we enter Heaven or not.