Is Jehovah Jesus or is he the same as Elohim?
One of the more curious evolutions in Mormon theology is that of God. Any active member of the LDS faith will now tell you that Jehovah of the Old Testament was in fact Jesus and the father of this Jehovah-Jesus is God or Elohim. In fact, a recent proclamation confirms this changed belief. Both of these supposed beings have bodies. When this same Mormon begins to read some of the writings of the early church leaders (including the first edition of the Book of Mormon) they are generally surprised to find out that this wasn’t always the doctrine of the church.
Up to the turn of the 20th Century the LDS Church taught, like the rest of Christianity, that Jehovah was the Father. With the turn of the century and new interpretations, such as that given by James Talmage in Jesus the Christ and The Articles of Faith, the concept started to change. Joseph Smith Jr. believed Jehovah and Elohim to be one in the same (The Father) and Jesus to be Jesus (The Son).
Until the early 20th Century it was taught that Jehovah was the name of God the Father, along with Elohim. Biblical scholars state that Elohim is a Hebrew plural for God and JHVH was the symbol for the unspeakable name of I AM. Even the LDS hymnist sings:
“Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah
Jesus annoited that Prophet and Seer.”
W. W. Phelps, Praise to the Man
Joseph Smith taught that the two were separate individuals. Jesus and Jehovah were two personalities. Jehovah being the singular form of the name of God the Father in the Hebrew and Jesus Christ, Our supposed redeemer and His Son. Joseph Smith taught:
The Lord (Jehovah) hath spoken through Isaiah (xiii: 1), saying, “Behold my servant whom I uphold–mine elect in whom my soul delighteth;” evidently referring to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, chosen, or elected by the Father. (I Peter i:20). “Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, who by Him do believe in God to serve Him in the redemption of the world, to be a covenant of the people (Isaiah xlii: 6), for a light to the Gentiles, and the glory of His people Israel, having ordained Him to be the judge of the quick until dead (Acts x: 42), that through Him forgiveness of sins might be preached (Acts xiii: 38), unto all who would be obedient unto His Gospel.”(Mark xvi: 16, 17).
Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 4, Ch. 14, p. 256
If you will put away from your midst all evil speaking, backbiting, and ungenerous thoughts and feelings’ humble yourselves, and cultivate every principle of virtue and love, then will the blessings of Jehovah rest upon you, and you will yet see good and glorious days; peace will be within your gates, and prosperity in your borders; which may our heavenly Father grant in the name of Jesus Christ, is the prayer of yours in the bonds of the covenant.
Joseph Smith & Hyrum Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 4, Ch. 12, p. 226
…trusting in the arm of Jehovah, the Eloheim, who sits enthroned in the heavens…
Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 5, Ch. 5
But may the Almighty Jehovah shield and defend me from all their power, and prolong my days in peace, that I may guide His people in righteousness, until my head is white with old age. Amen.
Joseph Smith, History of the Church, Vol. 5, Ch. 9
Brigham Young taught this doctrine too. Brigham Young says:
We cannot even enter the temple when it is built, and perform those ordinances which lead to spiritual blessings, without performing a temporal labor. Temporal ordinances must be performed to secure the spiritual blessings the Great Supreme has in store for his faithful children. Every act is first a temporal act. The Apostle says, faith comes by hearing. What should be heard to produce faith? The preaching of the Word. For that we must have a preacher; and he is not an invisible spirit, but a temporal, ordinary man like ourselves, and subject to the same regulations and rules of life. To preach the Gospel is a temporal labor, and to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ is the result of a temporal labor. To be baptized is a temporal labor, both to the person administered to and the administrator. I am a living witness to the truth of this statement, for I have made my feet sore many a time, and tired myself out traveling and preaching, that by hearing the Gospel the people might have faith. The blessings we so earnestly desire will come to us by performing the manual labor required, and thus preparing all things necessary to receive the invisible blessings Jehovah has for his children.
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 9:240.
The excellency of the glory of the character of Brother Joseph Smith was that he could reduce heavenly things to the understanding of the finite. When he preached to the people — revealed the things of God, the will of God, the plan of salvation, the purposes of Jehovah, the relation in which we stand to him and all the heavenly beings, he reduced his teachings to the capacity of every man, woman, and child, making them as plain as a well-defined pathway. This should have convinced every person that ever heard of him of his divine authority and power, for no other man was able to teach as he could, and no person can reveal the things of God, but by the revelations of Jesus Christ.
Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:206.
John Taylor also taught the that Jesus Christ and Jehovah were separate beings:
But what is the reason for all this suffering and bloodshed, and sacrifice? We are told that without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. This is beyond our comprehension. Jesus had to take away sin by the sacrifice of himself, the just for the unjust, but, previous to this grand sacrifice, these animals had to have their blood shed as types, until the great antitype should offer up himself once for all. And as he in his own person bore the sins of all, and atoned for them by the sacrifice of himself, so there came upon him the weight and agony of ages and generations, the indescribable agony consequent upon this great sacrificial atonement wherein he bore the sins of the world, and suffered in his own person the consequences of an eternal law of God broken by man. Hence his profound grief, his indescribable anguish, his overpowering torture, all experienced in the submission to the eternal fiat of Jehovah and the requirements of an inexorable law.
John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, p. 116
Neither Joseph Smith, nor Hyrum Smith, nor Sidney Rigdon, nor Brigham Young, nor myself, nor anybody associated with the Church at the present time, has had anything to do with the origination of these things. This work was commenced by the Almighty; it has been carried on by him, and sustained by his power, and if it is ever consummated it will be by the power and direction and sustenance of the Lord Jehovah, of Jesus, the mediator of the new covenant, and then through the medium of the priesthood here upon the earth. These things originated in the heavens, in the councils of the Gods; and the organization of the priesthood and the power thereof, and everything pertaining thereto, have been committed from the heavens through Joseph Smith, principally, and through others who have been associated with him in this great work.
John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, 24:227, 1884.
Go! to all the gospel carry,
Let the joyful news abound;
Go till every nation hear you,
Jew and gentile greet the sound;
Let the gospel,
Echo all the earth around.
Bearing seed of heavenly virtue,
Scatter it o’er all the earth;
Go! Jehovah will support you,
Gather all the sheaves of worth,
Then, with Jesus,
Reign in glory on the earth.
John Taylor, The Gospel Kingdom, p. 388
Yet today the doctrine has been changed. How can such an essential doctrine be changed? During the time of Joseph Fielding Smith (1950s) the question was still being asked:
Question: Will you be kind enough to answer the following question? Who is it that speaks to Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Moses and the Prophets of the Old Testament? Is it our Eternal Father or Jesus who was known as Jehovah? We have had several discussions on this question, but we seem to be hopelessly divided. Some of our members maintain that it is Jesus Christ who represented the Father, others that it was the Father himself.
[Joseph Fielding Smith goes on to express the current view that Jehovah is the God of the Old Testament and the same being as Jesus.]
Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, Vol. 1, p. 13
Spencer W. Kimball wrote decades later that he had a difficult time accepting the doctrine:
I was surprised and perhaps shocked a little when I learned that it was the Son, Jehovah, or his messengers who led Abraham from Ur to Palestine, to Egypt, and back to the land of Palestine. I did not realize that it was Jesus Christ, or Jehovah, who inspired the long line of prophets in their leadership of the people of God through those centuries.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 8
It seems strange that a church that has direct revelation and that claims that its founder actually spoke face to face with both God and Jesus could be so confused on such a seemingly basic doctrine. This isn’t the only doctrine which is now rigidly in place despite very different origins. The Melchizedek Priesthood has also evolved over the years. Joseph Smith’s own version of his visitations from God the Father and Jesus rapidly evolved during his lifetime. The first few versions didn’t even mention the supposed fact that two personages where involved.
The idea of God having a body didn’t come about until 1835 or shortly thereafter. Although it is one of the core doctrines of Mormonism today, it wouldn’t even be included in the Mormon canon of scripture had Willard Richards not jotted it down on April 2, 1843. (It subsequently ended up as part of D&C 130). Joseph Smith apparently said the words found in D&C 130, or words similar, as a response to Elder Orson Hyde’s speech in which Apostle Hyde stated that God was a warrior who dwelt in our hearts.