Christ as Father in the Book of Mormon
In the original (1830) edition of the Book of Mormon, some portions of Nephi’s vision indicate that Christ was considered to be the Father, not a separate individual. The words “the son of” were added in later editions, making it appear that Joseph Smith modified the text as his view of the Godhead changed. Thus, 1 Nephi 11:18speaks of Mary as “the mother of [the son of] God,” where the words in brackets were later added. The same is true of 1 Nephi 11:21(“behold the lamb of God yea, even the [son of the] Eternal Father”), 1 Nephi 11:32(“The [son of the] Everlasting God”), and 1 Nephi 13:40(“the Lamb of God is [the son of] the Eternal Father”).
From a number of Book of Mormon passages, it is clear that the Nephites knew that Christ and his Father were separate individuals. The Savior told the Nephites that his Father had sent him (3 Nephi 20:26; 27:13-14). He made it clear that the doctrines he taught them had been given him by his Father (3 Nephi 11:32, 35; 12:19; 17:2; 18:14). He mentioned specific commandments he had received from the Father (3 Nephi 15:14-16, 18-19; 16:3, 10; 17:2; 18:14; 20:10, 14, 46; 26:2). He spoke of going or ascending to his Father (3 Nephi 15:1; 17:4; 18:27, 35; 26:15; 27:28; 28:1). Finally, he prayed to his Father in the presence of the Nephite multitude (3 Nephi 17:21; 19:19-24, 27-29, 31-35). Nevertheless, Christ proclaimed his own divinity by telling the Nephites that both he and the Father were “perfect” (3 Nephi 12:48) and that it was he who had given the law to Moses (3 Nephi 15:4-5). When the people prayed directly to him, “calling him their Lord and their God,” he told the Father “they pray unto me; and they pray unto me because I am with them” (3 Nephi 19:18, 22, 24-25).
It is true that Christ told the Nephites that he and the Father (he sometimes included the Holy Ghost) “are one” (3 Nephi 11:27, 36; 20:35; 28:10). This concept is found elsewhere in the Book of Mormon, where we read that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are “one (Eternal) God” (2 Nephi 31:21; Mosiah 15:3-5; Alma 11:44; Mormon 7:7). This unity, not of person or body, but of purpose and power, constitutes the Godhead, of which Christ is a member.
In a number of Book of Mormon passages, Christ himself is identified as “the Eternal God.” Nephi declared that his purpose in writing was to convince the Jews and the Gentiles “that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God” (2 Nephi 26:12). This theme was picked up by Moroni, who wrote in the preface (now the title page) to the Book of Mormon that the purpose of the record was “to the convincing of the Jew and Gentile that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD, manifesting himself unto all nations.” Compare this with Mormon’s declaration statement of purpose for his abridgement, that “the Jews . . . may be persuaded that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mormon 5:14). He evidently borrowed the thought from 2 Nephi 25:16, where Nephi sought to persuade people “to believe in Christ, the Son of God.” Both passages read the same in the 1830 and later editions of the Book of Mormon.
Because of Christ’s divinity, the prophet Abinadi was able to declare that “God himself” would descend to the earth and atone for the sins of mankind (Mosiah 13:28, 34; 15:1; 17:8). Indeed, it is because of his divine nature, being the Son of God in both the spirit and the flesh, that Christ was able to bring about the “infinite atonement,” of which Jacob, Nephi, and Amulek spoke (2 Nephi 9:7; 25:16; Alma 34:10-14). Divine because of his paternity and mortal through his mother, Christ was able to serve as proxy for us in dying and as proxy for his Father in living again.
Amulek declared that “the Son of God . . . is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are” (Alma 11:38-39), by which we understand that he is the creator (cf. John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:13-17; Hebrews 1:2). Isaiah prophetically called him both “the Mighty God” and “the Everlasting Father” (Isaiah 9:6, quoted in 2 Nephi 19:6). Consequently, the original titles of Christ in the 1830 Book of Mormon version of 1 Nephi 11:21, 32; 13:40 are correct and, since he is divine, Mary can correctly be called “the mother of God.” The changes were made as points of clarification, not as changes in doctrine, for both the Book of Mormon and the Latter-day Saints accept all three members of the Godhead as separate divine beings, with the Father being the one we worship in the name of Christ.
Interestingly, the alternation between the titles “Christ,” “Father,” and “God” are also found in various Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. For example, different manuscripts use either “Lord,” “Christ,” or “God” in 1 Corinthians 10:9. “Lord,” “Jesus,” “God Christ,” and “God” are variants found in Jude 1:5. Even more variants are found for John 6:69: “Christ,” “Christ, the Holy One of God,” “Christ the Son of God,” “Christ the Son of the living God,” “The Son of God,” and “the Holy One of God.” But it is the variants in Colossians 2:22 that show how much variety different scribal traditions can read into the text; its variants include “God Christ,” “God who is Christ,” “God who is in Christ,” “God the Father of Christ,” “God and Father of Christ,” “God and Father and Christ,” as well as simply “God” or “Christ.” Another interesting manuscript variant is in John 1:18, where we read, in different manuscripts, either “the only-begotten God” or “the only begotten Son.”
It is clear that the Book of Mormon shares this feature with the Bible and it is further clear, when one examines all of the evidence, that both volumes of scripture consider Jesus to be divine and the second member of a Godhead whose members are separate individuals.