We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
This article declares our belief with respect to the nature of God. A simple subject, it would seem, but the true nature of God has been obscured so successfully by Satan as to confuse the greatest theologians of Joseph Smith's day. Setting the record straight, the revelations of the Prophet have taken the mystery out of the Trinity of Christianity: "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." (D&C 130:22)
A foundational principle of Mormon faith is that it must be based the true nature of God.
"Three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation. First, the idea that he actually exists. Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes. Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will." (Lectures on Faith, [SLC, Bookcraft] Lecture 3, verses 2-5, p. 32)
We repeat the second concept, that man must exercise faith in God with "a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes." Latter-day Saints are keen on the idea than man must strive to become like God. Well, it's pretty hard to become like God if you have no idea what He is like. What are his characteristics? Does he have a body or is he a diffuse and nebulous force for good spread through the entire universe? By what principles does He rule? Is He merciful or punitive? Is He interested and engaged in the affairs of man or distantly taking casual notice? These ideas are crucial. One must know God's qualities, the nature of his personage, the principles of his governance, etc. Otherwise, how can we strive to become like Him? It is reminiscent of those who glibly say, "what would Jesus do?" without having studied Jesus enough to have any idea what He would do. How can we strive to become like God if we have no idea what God is like? We must understand God to worship him. The exercise of faith is more powerful to the man who knows what he is worshipping.
The truth is usually simple. Pseudo-intellectuals can't stand simplicity. How can you amaze others with your intellectual prowess if there is nothing complicated about the principle? So Satan, priests, and scholars made the idea and nature of God more complicated. As one modern theologian has it, "The Persons are not separate and distinct in exactly the same way that human persons are. They are united in a mysterious bond so that all three together comprise the fullness of Deity, and any one of the three is also the fullness of Deity." The mind-bending mystery is too much for some, "Because this... teaching is so mysterious and, thereby, beyond the capacity of human beings to grasp completely, some Bible students react by saying that it is confusing, illogical, and unbiblical." (http://www.sabbathfellowship.org/biblestudies/erwingane/biblestudy_gane_trinity.htm)
Athanasian Creed (circa 8th century)
"We worship one God in trinity, and trinity in unity, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance. For the person of the Father is one; of the Son, another; of the Holy Spirit, another. But the divinity of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is one, the glory equal, the majesty equal. Such as is the Father, such also is the Son, and such the Holy Spirit. The Father is uncreated, the Son is uncreated, the Holy Spirit is uncreated. The Father is infinite, the Son is infinite, the Holy Spirit is infinite. The Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, the Holy Spirit is eternal. And yet there are not three eternal Beings, but one eternal Being. So also there are not three uncreated Beings, nor three infinite Beings, but one uncreated and one infinite Being. In like manner, the Father is omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, and the Holy Spirit is omnipotent. And yet there are not three omnipotent Beings, but one omnipotent Being. Thus the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. And yet there are not three Gods, but one God only. The Father is Lord, the Son is Lord, and the Holy Spirit is Lord. And yet there are not three Lords, but one Lord only..." (http://home.earthlink.net/~ronrhodes/Creeds.html)
Westminster Confession of Faith (1646 AD)
"There is but one only living and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions... In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost..." (http://home.earthlink.net/~ronrhodes/Creeds.html)
Councils of religious experts defined the nature of God for all of Christianity. Their creeds tell us what to believe. They represent the combined work of great scholars and priests. We can imagine large halls filled with finely adorned men condescending to define the nature of God for the common man.
In the spring of 1820, a common boy, Joseph Smith had an experience in a Sacred Grove that taught him more about the true nature of God and Jesus Christ than thousands of scholars over thousands of years.
In an instant of real revelation, the creeds of Christianity crumble and blow away as the chaff in the wind. One eyewitness is worth more than Noah's ark full of scholars, priests, linguists, and experts! Joseph had actually seen God. He knew. He heard. He felt. He saw. In this ultimate epiphany, Joseph dispels the darkness of the ages. He is the one who can tell us the nature of the God we worship.
All I want is to get the simple, naked truth, and the whole truth.
Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God. I say that is a strange God anyhow-three in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization. "Father, I pray not for the world, but I pray for them which thou hast given me." "Holy Father, keep through Thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one as we are." All are to be crammed into one God, according to sectarianism. It would make the biggest God in all the world. He would be a wonderfully big God-he would be a giant or a monster. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 372)
Peter and Stephen testify that they saw the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. 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. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 312)
God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! . . . If you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form-like yourselves in all the person, image and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345)