Chapter 3: God the Eternal Father

“Chapter 3: God the Eternal Father,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual (2000), 6–8

“3: God the Father,” Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, 6–8

Chapter 3

God the Eternal Father


Central to our faith as Latter-day Saints is a correct understanding of God the Father. We seek to know what He has revealed of His nature throughout the ages. By learning of Him, we begin to develop the relationship with Him that Jesus described when He said, speaking of the disciples, “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:21).

Doctrinal Outline

The scriptures do not always specify which member of the Godhead is being referred to in a given passage. Since the Father and the Son are one in all things, the scripture references used in this chapter that speak of God are applied to the Father, though many may also apply to the Son. The perfections and attributes of one are also the perfections and attributes of the other.

  1. The existence of God is a reality.

    1. “All things denote there is a God” (Alma 30:44; see also v. 43; Moses 6:63; D&C 88:47).

    2. God’s voice has been heard from heaven (see Matthew 3:17; 17:5; 3 Nephi 11:3–7; Joseph Smith—History 1:17).

    3. Prophets have testified of God’s existence (see 1 Nephi 1:8; Acts 7:55–56; Joseph Smith—History 1:25; D&C 76:19–24).

  2. God is the father of all mankind.

    1. God is literally the father of the spirits of all mankind (see Hebrews 12:9; Acts 17:28–29; Numbers 16:22).

    2. Jesus declared that His god is our god and that His father is our father (see John 20:17).

    3. We are created in God’s own image (see Genesis 1:26–27; Alma 18:34; Ether 3:15; Abraham 4:26–27; Moses 2:26–27; Mosiah 7:27).

    4. God has love and concern for His children and His creations (see 1 John 4:7–10; Matthew 10:29–31; 1 Nephi 11:14–22; John 3:16).

    5. God’s work and glory is to bring about the immortality and eternal life of His children (see Moses 1:39).

  3. God is perfect in His person, character, and attributes.

    1. God is a holy, perfected personage with a body of flesh and bones (see Moses 6:57; 7:35; D&C 130:22; Matthew 5:48).

    2. God knows all things and has all power and might (see 1 Nephi 9:6; Mosiah 4:9; 2 Nephi 2:24; Moroni 7:22).

    3. God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable (see Mormon 9:9; D&C 20:12, 17; 109:77).

    4. God is just, true, and righteous in all things (see Revelation 15:3; Psalm 89:14; Ether 3:12).

    5. God is perfect in His love and mercy (see Psalm 103:17–18; 2 Nephi 9:8, 53; Exodus 34:6–7; 1 Chronicles 16:34).

    6. God is the source of light and law (see D&C 88:12–13).

  4. God is the Supreme Being in the universe.

    1. God the Father is greater than all (see Ephesians 4:6; John 10:29).

    2. As the Supreme Being, God the Father should be the object of our love and worship (see D&C 18:40; 20:29; Joshua 22:5; Mark 12:30; D&C 4:2; Luke 4:8).

    3. God created all things through His Son (see Hebrews 1:1–2; Moses 1:32–33; 2:1).

  5. The Father presides over the Godhead.

    1. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the members of the Godhead (see Articles of Faith 1:1; 1 John 5:7; Alma 11:44).

    2. Each member of the Godhead is physically separate and distinct from the others (see D&C 130:22; Matthew 3:16–17; Acts 7:55–56).

    3. The members of the Godhead are united in Their attributes, power, and purpose (see John 17:20–21; D&C 20:28; 35:2; 2 Nephi 31:21; 3 Nephi 11:27).

    4. The Father is the supreme member of the Godhead (see John 14:26, 28, 31; 2 Nephi 31:7, 12; 3 Nephi 28:11).

Joseph Smith at the First Vision

Supporting Statements

  1. The existence of God is a reality.

    • “The heavens declare the glory of a God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork; and a moment’s reflection is sufficient to teach every man of common intelligence, that all these are not the mere productions of chance, nor could they be supported by any power less than an Almighty hand” (Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 56).

    • “The existence of God, tested by all human powers, is the most firmly established fact in man’s possession.

      “The searcher for God may turn for evidence to the external universe, to his own inner self, and to human history for his answer.

      “… Every process of nature is orderly. Chance, disorder, chaos are ruled out of the physical universe. If every condition involved in a system is precisely the same, the result, anywhere, everywhere, today or at any other time, will be the same. The sun does not rise in the east today and in the west tomorrow. That means that the phenomena of nature are products of law. The infinitely large or the infinitely small move in obedience to law. In man’s earnest search for truth, no exception to this process has been found. …

      “… The universe, itself, declares that there is intelligent purpose in nature, and that there must be, therefore, a supreme intelligence directing the universe. This is God. …

      “The evidence for God which comes from the invisible world, the world as yet only feebly explored by science, is equally convincing. …

      “Such, for example, is the evidence of conscience. If one seeks to do right, he is warned whenever he is tempted to stray from the proper path. Similar is the evidence of prayer. The vast majority of mankind agree that prayer helps people meet or solve the problems of life. Or, note the results of obedience to the law of the Lord. They who obey law find a joy not otherwise to be secured. From such conformity, prayer, and heed to conscience has come to millions of people the revelation, the certain conviction, that God lives and guides His children on earth. The message is as real as the words issuing from the radio tuned to the broadcaster. Certain it is that man has within himself the power to find and to know God. …

      “As a supplementary evidence is the further historical fact that a number of men have declared that they have seen God, and even spoken with Him, or that they have received messages from Him for themselves and others. The historicity of their claims is in most cases well established. That which was done, for example, by Paul the Apostle and Joseph Smith the Prophet after their heavenly experiences helps confirm the truth of their claims” (John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, 19–21).

    Young woman praying at bedside
  2. God is the father of all mankind.

    • “God the Eternal Father, whom we designate by the exalted name-title ‘Elohim,’ is the literal Parent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and of the spirits of the human race” (“The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve,” in James E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, 466).

    • “I want to tell you, each and every one of you, that you are well acquainted with God our Heavenly Father, or the great Elohim. You are all well acquainted with him, for there is not a soul of you but what has lived in his house and dwelt with him year after year; and yet you are seeking to become acquainted with him, when the fact is, you have merely forgotten what you did know.

      “There is not a person here to-day but what is a son or a daughter of that Being. In the spirit world their spirits were first begotten and brought forth, and they lived there with their parents for ages before they came here” (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, 50).

    • “God is Father of the spirits of all flesh, not only of those that fear him, but of those who do not fear him, and who disobey His laws. He is the father of the spirits of all, and as is spoken of in the Scriptures, ‘We are His offspring and emanated from him.’” (John Taylor, in Journal of Discourses, 21:14).

    • “We are the children of God. That doctrine is not hidden away in an obscure verse. It is taught over and over again in scripture. These clear examples are from the Bible:

      “‘All of you are children of the most High’ (Psalm 82:6).

      “And: ‘We are the offspring of God’ (Acts 17:29).

      “Doctrinal truths are interrelated. There is an old saying that if you pick up one end of a stick, you pick up the other end as well.

      “If you concede that we are His children, you must allow that God is our Father” (Boyd K. Packer, in Conference Report, Oct. 1984, 82; or Ensign, Nov. 1984, 66–67).

    • “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man. … If the veil were rent today, … 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. …

      “… It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible” (Smith, Teachings, 345–46).

    • “God made man in his own image and certainly he made woman in the image of his wife-partner” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 25).

  3. God is perfect in His person, character, and attributes.

    • “What did Jesus do? Why; I do the things I saw my Father do when worlds came rolling into existence. My Father worked out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same; and when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to my Father, so that he may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt him in glory. He will then take a higher exaltation, and I will take his place, and thereby become exalted myself. So that Jesus treads in the tracks of his Father, and inherits what God did before; and God is thus glorified and exalted in the salvation and exaltation of all his children” (Smith, Teachings, 347–48).

  4. God is the Supreme Being in the universe.

    • “By definition, God (generally meaning the Father) is the one supreme and absolute Being; the ultimate source of the universe; the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good Creator, Ruler, and Preserver of all things” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 317).

    • “God is the only supreme governor and independent being in whom all fullness and perfection dwell; who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient; without beginning of days or end of life; and that in him every good gift and every good principle dwell; and that he is the Father of lights; in him the principle of faith dwells independently, and he is the object in whom the faith of all other rational and accountable beings center for life and salvation” (Joseph Smith, comp., Lectures on Faith, 10).

    • “Our relationship with the Father is supreme, paramount, and preeminent over all others. He is the God we worship. It is his gospel that saves and exalts. He ordained and established the plan of salvation. He is the one who was once as we are now. The life he lives is eternal life, and if we are to gain this greatest of all the gifts of God, it will be because we become like him” (Bruce R. McConkie, “Our Relationship with the Lord,” in Brigham Young University 1981–82 Fireside and Devotional Speeches, 101).

  5. The Father presides over the Godhead.

    • “Three glorified, exalted, and perfected personages comprise the Godhead or supreme presidency of the universe. … They are: God the Father; God the Son; God the Holy Ghost. …

      “Though each God in the Godhead is a personage, separate and distinct from each of the others, yet they are ‘one God’ … , meaning that they are united as one in the attributes of perfection. For instance, each has the fulness of truth, knowledge, charity, power, justice, judgment, mercy, and faith. Accordingly they all think, act, speak, and are alike in all things; and yet they are three separate and distinct entities. Each occupies space and is and can be in but one place at one time, but each has power and influence that is everywhere present” (McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 319).

    • “Everlasting covenant was made between three personages before the organization of this earth, and relates to their dispensation of things to men on the earth; these personages, according to Abraham’s record, are called God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the witness or Testator” (Smith, Teachings, 190).

    • “There is a oneness in the Godhead as well as a distinctness of personality. This oneness is emphasized in the sayings and writings of prophets and apostles in order to guard against the erroneous idea that these three may be distinct and independent deities and rivals for our worship” (Joseph F. Smith, “Answers to Questions,” Improvement Era, Jan. 1901, 228).

God the Father