Dr. Einar C. Erickson
Ancient Document Mormon Scholar
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Even more striking if possible is the fact that the term for overseer, inspector or superintendent is literally translated in the New Testament as Bishop and they were the sons of Aaron who the overseers, inspectors and superintendents


One of the main resources used in this study is the writings of Werner Foerster, Vol. 1, Gnosis 1., Patristic Evidence; a neglected field of religious studies;] in particular, the sects of the Naassenes and the Peratae. “The  Naassenes are mentioned  only by  Hippolytus [about 185 AD] in his Refutatatio V 6, 3-11, 1, which is repeated in summary form in X 9,  1-3…This section is known  to scholars as the Naassene Sermon. Before and after it, Hippolytus presents an account of the sect…the Peratae are another sect.” which he also discusses briefly. (Foerster  pp. 261, 2830). It was not our intent to discuss the sects that had distorted the               gospel during the first three centuries after Christ.  Mainly that the Godhead consisted of three men, a father and two sons. The study looked to find in their perverted form gems of the restored Gospel. 

We have  made a selection of sources explaining the Mormon understanding of the doctrines, most of them have an additional extensive development of the positions of each member of the Godhead which was not our task to discuss in detail, but to show that the ancients believed in the three men in the Godhead. “ We believe in God, the Eternal Father and in his son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost…These three Gods constitute the Godhead.” (Largey p. 2)

“Individuals need to know that they are themselves eternal beings, that they are dependent upon God for their earthly existence (Cf. Mosiah 2:121), and in that their future condition depends on how they relate to God and keep his commandments.” (Ludlow, EM, p. 547)

 “The Godhead consists of three personages, God the eternal Father, Jesus Christ the Redeemer, and the Holy Ghost. God The First, the Creator, God the Second the Redeemer; and God the third, the Witness  or Testator…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.” (Smith Jr. p. 42; D&C 130:22) “These three are separate and distinct personages and beings… The Godhead consists of three persons—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost…[the] Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are as distinct in their persons and individualities as are any three persons in mortality.” (Millet p. 263-264)

“Three glorious persons comprise the Godhead or supreme presidency  of the universe, They are the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.” (McCONKIE P. 36)

“The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three separate persons or individuals—three distinct centers of consciousness. And each is divine or God. Together they constitute the supreme governing and creating power on our earth and in its heavens…perfectly united in purpose and will.” (Roberts  p. ciii)

“Our Heavenly Father has a glorified body of Flesh and bone, inseparably connected with His Spirit (See D&C 93:33). …His beloved Son, Jesus Christ, is our Savior and the chief cornerstone of our religion (Ephesians 2:20)… Another personage is the Holy Ghost.” (Nelson p. 131)…”Jesus makes blasphemy against the Holy Ghost a greater sin than blasphemy against himself. This could not be unless in some way the Holy Ghost were Deity and in some peculiar way so related to man that makes this sin of blasphemy against him especially heinous.”  (see Matt. Xii:31; Roberts 1. p.45)  

“The Farther, the Son and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct personages, the first two with glorified tabernacles of flesh and bone, the third a personage of spirit.” (Ludlow p. 273)

Joseph Smith said: “I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit.; and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods.” (Smith Jr. p. 474)…”They created man after their own image…We believe God to be a person. We believe absolutely that we are made in the image of God….The  thing I want to impress you is that God is real, a person of flesh and bones, the same as you are and I am. Christ is the same, but the Holy ghost is a person of spirit…We believe in one God, one Mediator and one Holy Ghost.” (Ludlow p. 273-274) “The Godhead, we are assured in the D&C,  is composed of three separate and distinct male personages. They each know everything and possess all power.” (Challis p. 14)

“All men are spirit children of God The eternal Father. In the premortal life we all dwelt in his presence, saw his face, and heard his voice. We were as well acquainted with him in that day as we are with our earthly father in this.…There is only one true and living God. He is the Farther, the almighty Elohim, the Supreme being, the Creator and Ruler of the universe…The Farther  is God above all, and he is, in fact, the God of the Son, ..Christ said to Mary Magdalene: “I ascend unto my Farther, and your Father, and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17); “ I  go unto the Father;  for my Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28; McConkie p. 45-51) fullness and perfection dwells who is omnipotent, omnipresent, and “God is the only supreme governor and independent being in whom all omniscient…he is the Father of lights….The Father is a glorified, perfected,  resurrected, exalted man…[so is the Christ] “by him [the Christ] were all things created that are in the heaven and that are in earth, visible and invisible…(see Colossians 1:16-17)…He is the Messiah our redeemer, Savior, Mediator, Intercessor and Advocate.” (McConkie pp. 45-69) “It is true that the earth was organized by three distinct characters namely Elohim, Yahovah, and Michael, these three forming a quorum as in all heavenly bodies, and in organizing element, perfectly represented  in the Deity, [not the godhead] as Father, son and Holy Ghost.“ (Brigham Young,  JD 1:50; Brooks p. 155) “The Father, the Son, and the  Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct persons, and so far as personality  is concerned , are three Gods. Their “oneness’’ consists in being possessed of the same mind; they are one, too, in wisdom, in knowledge, in will and purpose; but as individuals they are three, each separate and distinct from the other, and three is plural.” (Roberts, DD,  p. 193)

“Both John and Jesus entered into the River Jordan, and Jesus was totally immersed in the water by John. After our Lord was baptized, he straightway came out of the water and the heavens were opened and the Spirit of God [the Holy Ghost’s spirit body] was seen descending like a dove. Then a voice from heaven was heard saying, “This is my   beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”(Matthew 3:13-17) Regarding this special scene Elder McConkie wrote  “Our Lord’s baptism is one  off the classical illustrations of the separate and distinct individualities who comprise  the  eternal Godhead.  Jesus is present in mortality; the personage of the Holy Ghost is seen [this is one of the rare times the    Holy Ghost is actually  seen] descending from heaven to be with him; the voice of the Father is heard introducing his son to the world.“ (Dana pp. 10-11)

“Christ is the Firstborn…the first Spirit Child born to God the Father in the pre-existence (see D&C 93:21), He is also the Firstborn from the Dead, which signified that he was the first person resurrected.” (McConkie MD, p. 281)


By the fourth century the Peratae had had suffered the Gnostic distortions that had modified most of Christianity. Doctrines of the true church were for nearly all of Christianity become hard to find and by the eight century were most difficult to identify. The last to go was the   doctrine of the ‘Prayer Circle.’ But they had preserved an impressive doctrine of the Godhead. “The first and most important division in their view is a trinity, and is called ‘perfect goodness, a ‘paternal’ power. [heavenly Father].” (Jonas p. 268; Foerster p. 284) “Some positive attributes …do apply to him: Light, life, Spirit, Father, the Good. … Creator, Ruler, Judge,” [are attributes for Jesus Christ],  “….in some systems, one of his secret names [of the Father] is ‘Man”.  (Jonas p. 268; Moses 6:57; 7:35)


“Hence They explicitly speak of three Gods, three words, three minds, THREE MEN! For in each…in virtue of their distinctions, they attribute both Gods and words and, minds; ” (Foerster p. 284) That is what we wanted to find in these ancient documents, three Men!!. ”(Foerster p. 284) [The three Gods in the Godhead are three men]. They are God the, FATHER,[Elohim], Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost]; three, a Father and two sons. One of those sons is the exalted Savior, Redeemer, and judge, with the Keys of Resurrection, exaltation and eternal Life, and the third, the Holy Ghost; without his approval, all covenants, if we don’t honor them, cease with death. (see D&C 132:7) Somewhere, someday, the Holy Ghost may receive his mortal body, for the present he is a spirit man.

 “Jesus said Where there are three Gods, they are Gods…The remark about the Gods may involve a criticism of Christian doctrine as tritheism, according to the Coptic text [of the Acts of Thomas], Christians may be worshiping three …Gods.” (Grant pp 148-149)


“And the Lord Said: Whom Shall I send?” Abraham 3:27

In all of the teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith there is nearly a complete absence of bizarre, perverted, distorted, or objectionable emendation material. His teachings stand out simply and clearly. The contamination of the original doctrines was accumulative, growing more pervasive year by year, and much of the great apostacy was in place by the end of the fourth century AD.  So, when a parallel is found, it is embedded in the Gnostic distortions in some documents exceedingly so. This Naassenes Psalm or sermon, contains a delicate and sympathetic recognition of the pre-existent background of Jesus Christ and the human condition and expands the scope of that long-ago episode when Jesus said: “Father Send me,” and all that that entails. Our main record is found in Abraham 3:23-28. Compare those verses in Abraham to the Psalm from nearly two thousand years ago! That Psalm is more exquisite than we have in the account today. It could well fit into any doctrinal discussion without any changes, but Moses (Moses 4:2-5) and Abraham more than 800 years apart historically, provide additional detail, but not the whole story. Part of the story of this significant event is also found in Moses 4:1-3.     

The Psalm: “First-born Nous [power, Jesus Christ] was the law that engendered all,


Next (masculine!) to the first born was the outpoured chaos, [Lucifer]

Thirdly the soul received a law [the gospel] as it worked [lived] …

Hence clad in the form of a stag (?) [animal skins]

He labours, captive, as a spoil for death, [nearly all will die]

Now with royal (honour) it sees the light,

But cast out into misery, it weeps

Now it is wept for, it rejoices,

Now it weeps, it is judged, Now it is judged it dies,

…and without escape the wretched (soul)  

Enters a labyrinth of evil in its wanderings.

But Jesus said. ‘Father, behold:

Pursued by evils here upon the earth

There roams the (work) of thy own breath;

[the breath of life from Father]

It seeks to escape the bitter chaos

But knows not how it shall win through

Therefore send me, Father (Abraham 3:24-27)

Bearing the seals [all the keys the  power and authority] I will descend,

I will pass through all the Aeons, [detainers]

I will disclose all the mysteries, [ordinances]

I will show the forms of the Gods

And the hidden things [all the ordinances] of the holy way

Awaking knowledge (Gnosis) [the gospel] l will impart.” (Foerster p. 282)

This is a story that needs to be completed. Some day perhaps it will.

The “Council in Heaven, sometimes called the Grand Council, refers to a meeting of God the Father with the spirit sons and daughters to discuss  the terms and conditions by which these spirits would come to earth as physical beings. The terms do not appear in scripture, but are used by the Prophet Joseph Smith in referring to these premortal activities. allusions to which are found in many scriptures.” (see Ludlow p. 328)

“One purpose of the heavenly council was to allow the spirits the opportunity to accept or reject the Father’s Plan of Salvation….life would serve as a probationary state to see if they [would] do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them.” (Abraham 3:25)… The Creation,  the Fall, Mortality, the Atonement, the Resurrection, and the Final Judgement were contemplated and explained in the council….[Joseph Smith said:] every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to this very purpose in the Grand Council of Heaven before this world was. I suppose I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council.” (Teachings of Joseph Smith p. 365;  Ludlow EM, p. 329)

“At a certain time in the council, the Father asked; Whom Shall I send [as the Redeemer?] Jesus Christ known then as the great I AM and as  Jehovah, answered, “Here am I, send me,“ and agreed  to  follow the Father’s plan.” (Moses 4:1-5; Abraham 3:27) Then followed the Rebellion in Heaven. (see Joseph Fielding Smith p. 401; also see John I. Lund,  in Ludlow EM, pp. 328-329) You are part of the rest of the story.                                                                                                                                                                                            


BROOKS, Melvin R., L.D.S. Reference Encyclopedia, Bookcraft, Inc., Salt Lake City, Utah, 19160

DANA, Bruce E. The Eternal Father and His Son, Cedar Fort, Utah, 2001

FOERSTER, Werner, Vol. 1, GNOSIS 1. PATRISTIC Evidence. Oxford. At the Clarendon Pres, 1972

JONAS, Hans, Philosophical Essays, Prentice Hall, Inc., New Jersey, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1974

LARGEY, Dennis L., Gen.  Ed. Pearl of Great Price Reference Companion Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 2017

LUDLOW, Daniel, H., Latter Day Prophets Speak, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, Utah 1951

LUDLOW, Daniel, H., EM, Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Macmillan Publishing Co., New York NY., 1992

NELSON, Russell M., Teachings of Russell M. Nelson, Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 2218

McCONKIE, Bruce R., A New Witness for the Articles of Faith., Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 1985

McCONKIE, Bruce E. MD,  Mormon Doctrine, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1965  

MILLET, Robert L., Precept Upon Precept, Joseph Smith and the Restoration of Doctrine., Deseret Book Co., Salt Lake City, Utah, 2016

ROBERTS, B. H., 1.  The Truth, the Way, the Life, Ed. John W. Welch, BYU Studies, Provo, Utah, 1994

ROBERTS, B. H., 2., Divine Immanence and the Holy Ghost, The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1912

ROBERTS, B. H., DD, The Seventy’s Course in Theology, Third Year, The Doctrine of Deity, The Caxton Press, Salt Lake City, Utah. 1910

SMITH, Joseph Fielding Smith & Richard C. Galbraith, Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Deseret Book Co, Salt Lake City, Utah, 1993   

SMITH, Joseph Jr., DHC  6:407 June 16, 1844


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