One of my favorite books on Mormon doctrine is “Line Upon Line“. It is a collection of essays on Mormon Doctrine, and its evolution to what we have today. I especially loved learning about things we believe today as “the gospel truth” (pun intended) that started out much different years ago.
We all grew up learning that Mormon’s were special, because we knew that Jehovah was Jesus Christ. Jesus was the God of the old testament, and used the name Jehovah as such.
Well guess what, that was not always the case. In fact Joseph Smith used the names Elohim and Jehovah interchangeably. From Boyd Kirtland’s essay in the book:
Given the interchangeability of the roles of the Father and the Son in earliest Mormon theology, it is impossible to identify specifically Smith’s first few Jehovah references as applying to either the Father or the Son. However, after the identities of the Father and the Son were more carefully differentiated around 1835, Smith clearly began to use the divine name Jehovah to refer to the Father. Significantly, he never seems to have specifically identified Jehovah as Jesus, nor Jehovah as the Son of Elohim. Rather, he followed the biblical Hebrew usage of the divine names in specific verses and either combined them or used them interchangeably as epithets for God the Father. The following prayer, which he wrote in 1842, demonstrates this: “O Thou, who seest and Knowest the hearts of all men–Thou eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Jehovah–God–Thou Elohim, that sittest, as saith the Psalmist, `enthroned in heaven,’ look down upon Thy servant Joseph at this time; and let faith on the name of Thy Son Jesus Christ, to a greater degree than Thy servant ever yet has enjoyed, be conferred upon him.” On a few occasions, Smith referred to the Father by the title Elohim alone.Line Upon Line, page 37
One of the fist mention of Jesus as Jehovah came in 1871 by George Q Cannon, who said that Jesus was “the being who spoke to Moses in the wilderness and declared I am that I am” (Juvenile Instructor Sept 1871)
The Jehovah is Christ “doctrine” did not get solidified until 1915 when James Talmage’s book “Jesus the Christ” was punished under the direction of the First Presidency. In it he states:
“Jesus Christ was and is God the Creator, … the God of the Old Testament record; and the God of the Nephites. We affirm that Jesus Christ was and is Jehovah, the Eternal One.”Jesus the Christ, Talmage
How this plays out with the Temple Endowment story line is another whole post. While we see it today (post Talmage) as God sending Christ and Adam/Micheal down to create the world, that is not how Joseph Smith saw it, and it is definitely not how Brigham Young saw it, with the Adam-God doctrine coming out of this temple ambiguity. If you are interested in this, I recommend reading Kirtland’s entire essay here.
How do you cope with changing doctrine? Is their another explanation to this changing view of God? Is it a big deal, or are we “staining at gnats” when we even talk about this?