President Gordon B. Hinckley has observed: “To me it is a significant and marvelous thing that in establishing and opening this dispensation our Father did so with a revelation of himself and of his Son Jesus Christ, as if to say to all the world that he was weary of the attempts of men, earnest though these attempts might have been, to define and describe him. . . . The experience of Joseph Smith in a few moments in the grove on a spring day in 1820, brought more light and knowledge and understanding of the personality and reality and substance of God and his Beloved Son than men had arrived at during centuries of speculation.”
By revelation Joseph Smith came to know that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost constitute the Godhead. From the beginning the Prophet Joseph taught that the members of the Godhead are one in purpose, one in mind, one in glory, one in attributes and powers, but separate persons. — Robert Millet, “What We Believe,” BYU Devotional, February 3, 1998, p. 2-3
Our first and foremost article of faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” (Articles of Faith 1:1) We believe these three divine persons constituting a single Godhead are united in purpose, in manner, in testimony, in mission. We believe Them to be filled with the same godly sense of mercy and love, justice and grace, patience, forgiveness, and redemption. I think it is accurate to say we believe They are one in every significant and eternal aspect imaginable except believing Them to be three persons combined in one substance, a Trinitarian notion never set forth in the scriptures because it is not true.
Indeed no less a source than the stalwart Harper’s Bible Dictionary records that “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament].” (Paul F. Achtemeier, ed. (1985), 1099)
So any criticism that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not hold the contemporary Christian view of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost is not a comment about our commitment to Christ but rather a recognition (accurate, I might add) that our view of the Godhead breaks with post-New Testament Christian history and returns to the doctrine taught by Jesus Himself. — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” Ensign, October 2007
Now, to anyone within the sound of my voice who has wondered regarding our Christianity, I bear this witness. I testify that Jesus Christ is the literal, living Son of our literal, living God. This Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer who, under the guidance of the Father, was the Creator of heaven and earth and all things that in them are. I bear witness that He was born of a virgin mother, that in His lifetime He performed mighty miracles observed by legions of His disciples and by His enemies as well. I testify that He had power over death because He was divine but that He willingly subjected Himself to death for our sake because for a period of time He was also mortal. I declare that in His willing submission to death He took upon Himself the sins of the world, paying an infinite price for every sorrow and sickness, every heartache and unhappiness from Adam to the end of the world. In doing so He conquered both the grave physically and hell spiritually and set the human family free. I bear witness that He was literally resurrected from the tomb and, after ascending to His Father to complete the process of that Resurrection, He appeared, repeatedly, to hundreds of disciples in the Old World and in the New. I know He is the Holy One of Israel, the Messiah who will one day come again in final glory, to reign on earth as Lord of lords and King of kings. I know that there is no other name given under heaven whereby a man can be saved and that only by relying wholly upon His merits, mercy, and everlasting grace (See 1 Nephi 10:6; 2 Nephi 2:8; 31:19; Moroni 6:4; Joseph Smith Translation, Romans 3:24) can we gain eternal life. — Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” Ensign, October 2007
The Word Coming through Joseph Smith
We come now to our dispensation. We shall not deal in minutia. We are not concerned with small or insignificant things. We need to get under this head an overall concept of what is involved in giving the Word to the world through a particular prophet.
Joseph Smith gave three great truths to the world. These truths override all others; they take precedence over all things; they have more of an influence on the salvation of men than any others, and without the knowledge of them, men cannot be saved. The first great truth is that God, our Heavenly Father, is the Creator, Upholder, and Preserver of all things and that he ordained and established the plan of salvation. It is his gospel, “the gospel of God, . . concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh,” as Paul expressed it (Rom. 1:1, 3).
As we look for the word, both in the Doctrine and Covenants and elsewhere, the first thing we look for is the knowledge of God as it was revealed through Joseph Smith. Knowledge of God is the greatest truth in all eternity. But there must needs be an opposition in all things, and the opposite of the knowledge of God which has come through Joseph Smith is the greatest heresy in the sectarian world. That heresy is that God is a spirit nothingness which fills the immensity of space, and that creation came through evolutionary processes. In truth and in fact Joseph Smith came to reveal God, in a day of almost total spiritual darkness, in a day when men no longer knew the nature and kind of Being whom they should worship.
The second great truth is that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, that salvation comes through his atoning sacrifice, and that the atonement is the foundation whereon we can build so that by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the everlasting gospel we can be saved. That is the number-two truth in all eternity. There is nothing more important to us – having first discovered who God our Father is – than to know about Christ and the salvation that is in him. The heresy and perversion of this truth is the common sectarian concept that people are saved by grace alone, without works.
The third most important thing in all eternity is a knowledge of God the Testator, who is the Holy Ghost. The Holy Spirit of God is a Revealer who reveals truth; he is a Sanctifier who cleanses and perfects human souls; and it is through him that the gifts of the spirit are available to the faithful, so that they can have in their lives what apostles and prophets and great men of all ages have had in theirs. The heresy that exists in the sectarian world in this field is that the heavens are sealed, that there is no revelation, that there are no miracles, and that there are no gifts of the Spirit. These three great truths are what we look for with reference to the word coming through the Prophet Joseph Smith. — Elder Bruce R. McConkie, “This General Shall Have My Word Through You,” BYU Symposium, June 27, 1979