Fundamental principle: Know for certainty the character of God
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At the heart of LDS missionaries' message is the doctrine concerning the Godhead, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland told 21 couples gathered for a three-day seminar in Provo and Salt Lake City Jan. 10-12.
Speaking at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building Jan. 12, Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve gave the closing presentation of the annual Seminar for New Missionary Training Center Presidents and Visitors' Center Directors. Other addresses from the seminar are covered on page 5 of this issue; addresses to the couples and to the MTC devotional in connection with the seminar by Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve were covered in the Jan. 14 Church News.
Elder Holland conducted an informal, classroom-type session with the departing couples, inviting members of the group to read selected passages of scripture and to respond to questions.
Citing the First Article of Faith and the "fundamental, great commandments from the Decalogue" and "the first and great commandment in the gospel," Elder Holland said, "I've wondered how many other problems we would solve for our missionaries and, therefore, how many other issues we would not have to discuss quite as much if we truly loved God, if we really, truly loved Him with all our might, mind and strength."
There is something tremendously powerful in that singular, consistent call. It is not half-hearted; it is not weak-willed. It is the real thing, our most basic Latter-day Saint duty."
He referred to the opening lines of the lesson in the missionary guide Preach My Gospel on the Restoration, which state that God, Heavenly Father, has a body of flesh and bone, that He is glorified and perfected, that He loves His children and wants them to learn and grow, that He has provided them a way to be successful in mortality and return to live in His presence through obedience.
"As a missionary, you could do a lot worse than to declare that much, then challenge the people to do whatever it is you're asking them to do," Elder Holland said. "The doctrine of the Godhead is powerful doctrine, and those half-dozen lines get right at the essence of our testimony."
Elder Holland suggested that part of the Church's challenge in being understood by much of the rest of the world relative to the doctrine about Deity "may have been our reluctance to speak about the unity of the Godhead."
"The longer I study, and the more I learn, I find that there is much more that unites Them than separates Them," he said.
He acknowledged that it must be unequivocally understood that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are separate and distinct individuals physically. "However, having said that, my testimony is that They are united — They are 'one' — in every other conceivable way."
He cited passages from John 17, the intercessory prayer by Christ to His Father. "The great theme of that prayer is unity," he said. "We are to be one with our Father in Heaven and with Christ as They are one. Theirs is the ideal and is supposed to be the object of our efforts."
Elder Holland spoke of the individual roles and pre-eminence of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, each in His unique function.
The Father is the author of the Plan of Salvation, he said, the "Father of our spirits," "the ultimate Creator of all things" and is "the only being we worship." Citing various scriptural passages, Elder Holland said, "We worship the Father and Him only, we serve the Father in the name of the Son" and "Christ came to do the will of the Father in all things."
As for Jesus Christ, he said Christ is the only name given under heaven whereby mankind can be saved and that the Church is named for Him and so is the priesthood. He noted that the first principle of the gospel, as stated in Article of Faith 1:4, is "faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." He cited Colossians 1:19, that "it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell."
Regarding the Holy Ghost, Elder Holland said that when the Father and the Son both have to be physically removed, "we have this great and powerful gift of the Holy Ghost that comes with baptism. No lesson can be more important for a missionary than to remember this personage of the Godhead with whom we can have a deeply personal relationship spiritually."