James Talmage: Almost Charged With Apostasy for Writing That The Holy Ghost was a Person

Excerpted from James P. Harris’ foreword to The Articles of Faith (First Edition):

AOFAnother theme that occupied Talmage’s attention was related to the Holy Ghost. Talmage wrote:

Met with Theological Class Committee and [First] Presidency in lecture work. The subject of “The Holy Ghost” formed the topic. Pres. [George Q.] Cannon in commenting on the ambiguity existing in our printed works concerning the nature or character of the Holy Ghost expressed his opinion that the Holy Ghost was in reality a person, in the image of the other members of the Godhead,—a man in form and figure: and that what we often speak of as the Holy Ghost is in reality but the power or influence of the Spirit. However the Presidency deemed it wise to say as little as possible on this or other disputed subjects.20

Talmage mentioned the issue again on 13 January 1899:

One of the questions referred to the First Presidency by the Committee was as to the advisability of reprinting the lecture entitled “The Holy Ghost” which appeared in the “Juvenile Instructor” soon after its delivery in the theology class of the Church University. I remember that considerable discussion attended the reading of the lecture before the former committee prior to its delivery … The question hung upon the expediency and wisdom of expressing views as definite as those presented in the lecture regarding the personality of the Holy Ghost when marked ambiguity and differences of opinion appeared in the published writings of our Church authorities on the subject. The lecture was approved as it appeared in the “Instructor.” I have incorporated it in the prospective book in practically an unaltered form. President [Lorenzo] Snow took the article under advisement today. In conversation Pres. Geo. Q. Cannon supported the view of the distinct personality of the Holy Ghost and stated that he had [here the word “actually” is crossed out] heard the voice of the third member of the Godhead, actually talking to him.

Finally, on 16 January 1899, Talmage recorded that “President [Lorenzo] Snow announced his unqualified approval of the lecture on the ‘Holy Ghost’; and directed its insertion.”

Not recorded in Talmage’s journal is the level of anxiety this issue aroused. When he was subpoenaed in 1905 to testify before the U. S. Senate committee investigating Utah senator Reed Smoot’s position as an apostle in the LDS church, Talmage was asked whether a charge of apostasy had been levied against him during the writing of The Articles of Faith. He replied, “No charge was actually made, though I was notified I would be so charged. But as one of the church officials had already expressed as holding the views set forth by myself in that work, and he being very much larger game, he was singled out first, and as the proceedings against him ended in a disappointing way, I was never brought to trial.”22 It was never clarified who the “very much larger game” was or what the exact charges were. However, judging from Talmage’s remarks on 13 January 1899, the Holy Ghost lecture may have been what elicited the charge of apostasy against him.

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14 Responses to James Talmage: Almost Charged With Apostasy for Writing That The Holy Ghost was a Person

  1. falcon says:

    Was there ever a more clear example of the blind leading the blind?
    The moment that Joseph Smith decided to head down the road of total depravity regarding the doctrine of the nature of God, he condemned those who followed him to a mess they never completely cleaned up. These guys were in complete speculative mode, stuck with this idea of Smith’s that God the Father was a Being who had a human body. This was all apart of (Smith’s) evolving theology on the nature of God that led the LDS/FLDS to conclude that there are millions if not billions of gods in the universe. These gods had once been men on another planet and who, by obeying the laws of the universe, morphed themselves into gods.
    So there they are, trying to figure out who the Holy Ghost is. He must have a body if he’s going to be a god. At least one Mormon leader taught that there is a Holy Ghost AND a Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a “force” much like electricity.
    It’s helpful to be reminded of the basics of Mormonism when discussing anything dealing with the nature of God. The LDS/FLDS sects of Mormonism teach that:
    God came from another planet
    God is a man with a body of flesh and bones
    There is a mother goddess
    God and his goddess wife are married
    You can become gods
    As to the Holy Ghost:
    “Mormonism distinguishes between the Holy Spirit (God’s presence via an essence) and the Holy Ghost (the third god in the Mormon doctrine of the trinity).
    “He [the Holy Ghost] is a being endowed with the attributes and powers of Deity, and not a mere force, or essence,” (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 144)

    So the Holy Spirit is a “presence” while the Holy Ghost has the attributes of Diety.
    Once Smith, on about his eighth attempt at his first vision tale, decided he had seen both the Father and the Son, Mormonism went into a total tailspin.
    Remember, Smith’s views on the nature of God “evolved” as did his views on a variety of topics including polygamy.

  2. falcon says:

    Instead of going into a free-flow of consciousness mode, perhaps the brain trust at the head of the Mormon church would have found valuable a study of the history in the Christian Church of the doctrine of the nature of God. Perhaps they did but I don’t see any real evidence of it.
    This doctrine was defined by the Church in the first 400 years after the death of Our Lord. The initial battle dealt with the nature of Jesus Christ. It’s an interesting study to see the various views that were making the rounds and how the Church Fathers battled the heretics. Who Jesus is, is no small matter because it effects the basic fundamental foundation on which the Church stands and effects directly the atonement and our salvation. Interestingly enough, once this was settled, the doctrine of the Spirit was articulated quite easily.
    There really haven’t been any new heresies since the first 400 years of the Church. They just keep making the rounds particularly with the LDS/FLDS sect Mormons and the Jehovah Witnesses today.

  3. Mike R says:

    I guess this should’nt surprise anyone . Mormon leaders despite their claim to offer correct,
    consistent guidance in their ” gospel preaching ” , have exhibited a unstable teach record .
    Joseph Smith , the officers that served under him who he mentored and who carried on
    after his death introduced confusion about God that sadly their flock received as wholesome
    spiritual food .

    Considering that Joseph Smith and many officers he mentored came from christian churches
    taught that the Holy Ghost was a personage of spirit and a member of the Trinity , that
    fact makes the early Mormon refusal to teach that the Holy Ghost was as a person all the
    more bizzare . Though Smith finally saw the truth and publically began to teach the Holy Ghost
    was a person , incredibly Mormon apostles were still in the dark about this for many years .
    So much for the Mormon ” inner witness ” as something we can take seriously when it comes
    to trusting their ” gospel preaching ” about God .

  4. falcon says:

    As I stated in a previous post, heries just seem to get recycled. In the first 400 years the Church had to meet in order to take up teachings that were seen as false. Mormons would be advised to look at the heresy of the LDS church and see that the Church Fathers dealt with it effectively early on.

    The Second Ecumenical Council was held in Constantinople in 381. It took up the heresy taught by Macedonius, somewhat like Arius, was misinterpreting Church’s teaching on the Holy Spirit. He taught that the Holy Spirit was not a person (“hypostasis”), but simply a power (“dynamic”) of God. Therefore the Spirit was inferior to the Father and the Son. The Council condemned Macedonius’ teaching and defined the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. The Council decreed that there was one God in three persons (“hypostases”): Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

    The holy fathers of the Council added five articles to the Creed. They read as follows:

    “And (We believe) in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father: who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified: who spoke by the prophets. In one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

    The LDS/FLDS sects have the added flavor of having millions perhaps billions of gods and a god who is a father and a mother who is a goddess. So in reality, the mother goddess is part of the LDS/FLDS godhead. Also, since the Mormon god is a polygamist, he has lots of goddess wives.

  5. Mike R says:

    Falcon, you’re right about the teaching track record of Mormon leaders and Watchtower leaders
    they both claim to offer the exclusive source for correct scriptural interpretation for mankind .
    Yet they both have exhibited a pattern , one of flip flops on important teachings numerous
    times ever since they appeared on the American landscape . They’re latter days prophets who
    are to late , people simply don’t need their type of guidance . Can’t trust them .

    As far as the mother goddess being a part of the Mormon Godhead goes , while Mormon leaders
    could certainly introduce that as ” new light ” , given their track record of doctrinal vacillation ,
    still as of right now that teaching is not what we have heard from the apostles of Mormonism.

    There’s a verse that aptly describes what the Mormon people have experienced from their
    leadership — Eph 4: 14

    May the Mormon people dismiss these men from their lives . They don’t deserve them .

  6. falcon says:

    Maybe you’re right. Since LDS women can’t hold the priesthood, I guess logically, they can’t be gods. What they are used for is procreating spirit children endlessly into eternity. The LDS woman has to depend on her husband to resurrect her. What if he isn’t all that nuts about her and the Mormon god has assigned him a couple new wives. Just some idle speculation which makes up a large part of Mormonism any way.
    I think the Community of Christ Mormons allow the women members to hold the priesthood but they don’t believe in humans becoming gods. Actually they aren’t that into the BoM either leaving it up to individual members to determine if it’s an actual history or a “spiritual” book. I read on one of their blogs that converts in some foreign countries wouldn’t even know what the BoM is.
    But they do appear to have a traditional view of the nature of God as did Joseph Smith before he lost his mind, so to speak!

  7. falcon says:

    I like to compare the different sects of Mormonism regarding their beliefs. I would think an active LDS member would ask some pertinent questions specifically how it came about that various Mormon sects have fundamental differences in what they believe. To simply pull out the “apostasy” charge is not acceptable. That’s a charge that can go against Joseph Smith also. The LDS/FLDS sects are not reflecting the beliefs of the founding Mormon church. This goes to such fundamental beliefs as the nature of God. Also, the original BoM as penned by Smith is no longer used by the LDS. Numerous changes have been made.

    Consider this:

    “The LDS Church teaches that there is a myriad of Gods on various worlds. The LDS Godhead is tri-theistic, or composed of three separate and distinct Gods, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. According to its official website, the CofC states, “We affirm the Trinity – God who is a community of three persons. All things that exist owe their being to God: mystery beyond understanding and love beyond imagination. This God alone is worthy of our worship.”

    Both the LDS and CofC claimed God ordained their organization as the true restoration of fallen Christianity. The LDS Church continues to insist that it alone represents “the only true church” and more closely emulates primitive Christianity. The CofC has come to abandon this notion: “A majority of committee members held that this vision of the nature of the church was inadequate for the church of the present day. It does not conform to our best present understanding of the nature of God as revealed in the gospel of Christ, nor does it allow us to account for the fact that we continually experience the reality of authentic Christian discipleship in people from other traditions. Moreover, our past understanding of earliest Christianity has proved to be historically deficient: there is simply no evidence that a church existed in the first century that looked like ours. Therefore, the belief that we are the restoration of the primitive form of Christianity can no longer be sustained.”


    I think that last line is very interesting. This Mormon group has figured a few things out; the restoration of primitive Christianity can’t be sustained? Wasn’t that Smith’s whole purpose of forming his religion? Once you start pulling sticks out of the pile that is Mormon belief, the whole thing eventually falls down. It certainly can’t be “sustained”.

  8. falcon says:

    As we can see, the CofC came to some conclusions, some very important conclusions. Did you notice the “A majority of committee members……..” qualifier? Obviously this Mormon group found it necessary to take a look at some critical issues regarding the claims of their founding prophet. They don’t come right out and say that Smith didn’t have a clue but that’s really the effect as far as I’m concerned.
    The whole basis for Smith’s religion was that after the death of the original apostles, apostasy set-in and the gospel was lost. He even threw in the priesthood for good measure as in need of restoration. The problem with Smith’s entire program is that there is absolutely no basis for his argument. It’s not even good speculation. What it is is an excuse to say, “Listen to me. I have the answers. It has been revealed to me.”
    But as we can see, following a guy like this is a recipe for disaster. He can’t even get his history right much less basic doctrine dealing with the nature of God. So there we have the Mormon/LDS church years later trying to figure out exactly who the Holy Ghost is. The Christian Church settled that question with the heretics by 381 AD. Notice that the CofC says that they believe in the doctrine of the Trinity. Would it surprise the faithful LDS member to learn that Smith did too. The CofC never went down the road of Utah Mormonism.
    I get a little exasperated with Mormons who will say something like, “The word ‘trinity’ isn’t in the Bible.” To which I say, “So what?” The Church Fathers needed a word to describe what the Bible teaches us about the nature of God. If you’re going to have a discussion about something, you have to have a vocabulary. Take the word “homoousios” which means “of the same substance as”. When applied to the Logos it proclaimed that the Logos was divine in the same way as God the Father was divine and not in an inferior, different or nominal sense. So the Logos, being homoousios with the Father, is God along side of the Father.
    Finally, the Church Fathers believed that they were the direct continuance of the first apostolic gathering at Jerusalem, when the Holy Spirit led all the apostles to the realization of the gospel truth.
    Sorry LDS folks; no apostasy. What your church teaches, practices and believes has nothing to do with the first century Church. Nothing was lost, including the history of the era which can be easily accessed.

  9. falcon says:

    Mike is always quick to point out the error of following after individuals who claim to be “prophets”. Unfortunately people get taken in by people like this. They do so for a variety of reasons most notably not checking out what’s being taught. The Mormons have this test for truth based on how they feel about something. If it makes them feel good it’s said to be true because God is communicating to them via their emotions. I’d call this a very bad move.
    Andy Watson told me that in dealing with the JWs he found the best strategy was to get them to begin to question the Watch Tower organization. He said that these folks will play Bible verse ping pong with you all day. It’s a waste of time he says. I believe it. Once LDS members start to get information that causes them to question who has/is leading them and what their track record is, their confidence is eroded. Unless someone is staying in these groups for reasons other than spiritual truth……………..well they’re lost all the same.

  10. Mike R says:

    Falcon , as we know Mormon leaders were’nt the only ones claiming to have restored the
    fundamental truths of the scriptures which had become corrupted or denied because of a
    alleged great apostasy . That is also a claim used by other prophets which have a following
    today ( Jw’s are one example ) . These latter days prophets are clever salesmen who use
    the tactic of claiming to offer to the public the truth about God , Jesus , salvation , by exposing
    the alleged misconceptions of these doctrines and the misinterpretations apostate
    ” Christendom ” have fed their flocks for centuries . In short , these prophets claim to be God’s
    channel of reliable spiritual truth to people the one place they can trust to provide stable ,
    reliable guidance . With the advent of Mormonism in 1830 it’s leadership wasted no time in
    castigating others .They accused non Mormons corrupting the true gospel by mixing in man
    made teachings to it , and of producing unstable teachings / confusion , to their flocks .
    However ,this same type behavior Mormon leaders were guilty of as well ! No where is this
    better seen than what Mormon leaders taught their followers about God .

    Concerning the Holy Ghost , what Aaron has posted above is one example .
    How could these men teach so inconsistent about the Holy Ghost for so long , all the time
    pointing their fingers at “apostate Christians ” accusing them for being wishy washy on
    important gospel teachings ?
    According to Joseph Fielding Smith one of the apostate doctrines prevailing at the time of
    Joseph Smith in 1820 was : ” that the Father , Son , and Holy Ghost are not three personages
    but were one ethereal, immaterial God , unknown and unknowable to man who fills the
    immensity of space ” [ Doctrines of Salvation , vol 3 p 284 ] .

    So Joseph Smith corrected this false view by teaching about God , he taught that there two
    personages in the Godhead — the Father and Son . That was his gospel preaching in 1835 .

    In 1855 Mormon apostle Parley Pratt taught LDS the Holy Ghost was not a person and apostle
    Orson Pratt could’nt say if the Holy Ghost was a person or not , this was not clear to him .

    Then , as Aaron pointed out , the confusion about the Holy Ghost was still a part of Mormon
    leadership behavior in 1899 , but then it was finally decided what to testify about Him to end
    the different views their recent predecessors had taught the flock .

    What do we learn from all this ?
    Mormon leaders claimed that apostate teachings had infected christianity so much that
    people were deceived by believing false views about God . It was spiritually lethal to believe
    false doctrine about God . Mormon leaders claimed to have the answer to this problem , and
    so taught their followers the unvarnished truth about God , and they took that far and wide .
    Yet what do we find in their preaching ? We find a pattern — vacillating . Eph 4:14

    After all the many years of being ambiguous about the Holy Ghost as a personage and member
    of the Trinity / Godhead , Mormon leadership settled on the view of this that so called
    apostate Christians had been teaching all this time — the Holy Ghost was a Divine person
    and the third member of the Godhead !!!

    Another example of why people need to be leery of the representatives of latter days prophets
    who knock on their doors . Jesus pre warned us about the coming of false prophets in the
    latter days .

    The Mormon people deserve to hear the truth . God loves them and so do we .

  11. falcon says:

    I’m wondering what he meant by this? It would be interesting to get the back story on the meanderings and ramblings of these nitwits. And then we get a certain segment of them sitting in judgement. This is what “revelation” and not actual study brings. Mormons are really wild about the mental meanderings of a bunch of guys who are totally clueless.
    The quote from the article.
    But as one of the church officials had already expressed as holding the views set forth by myself in that work, and he being very much larger game, he was singled out first, and as the proceedings against him ended in a disappointing way, I was never brought to trial.”

  12. falcon says:

    I was taking a look again today to see if there are any updates around concerning Shawn McCraney who had the TV show out of SLC called “The Heart of the Matter”. He had an interesting approach to Christian apologetics, having been a former member of the LDS church. Well Shawn was buzzing along pretty well when all of a sudden out of left field he started veering off of the orthodox view of the doctrine of the Trinity.
    One of the blogs I was reading, pointed out Shawn’s split with orthodoxy and added the comment: “If he had only sought the council of those who are knowledgeable in this matter.” I couldn’t agree more. The work has been done people. Besides that there are people out there who have studied these matters diligently and who can provide accurate information.
    This was the main problem with Mormonism from the beginning. It became a sales job and what was being sold was the idea of special revelation. God reveals things to me all the time but it isn’t “new” information. It’s just new to me. OK, I’m going to provide a list here but without the definitions. I figure if someone is led by the Lord to seek out the information, that’s a better way to operate.
    List of heresy in the early Church:
    Gnosticism, Quartodecimanism, Montanism, Monarchianism, Puritanism, Arianism, Monophysitism, Pelagianism, and Nestorianism.

  13. falcon says:

    When you do a research thesis for a graduate degree, the first thing you do is something called “a review of the literature”. To some extent, you go and read everything you can find on the chosen topic. Then you present your findings in the initial part of your paper. Another thing that you do is develop a “research question”. It’s the question that you will answer in your research. While developing the research question may seem an easy task, it isn’t. It often takes several attempts to get it defined just right.
    “So what?”, you might ask. I’m astounded, but I guess I shouldn’t be, at how people will take the word of someone who claims to have “new religious revelation”. The first thing I would do is some research on the person or persons who are claiming this. Let’s face it. When it comes to Joseph Smith, the guy was a great salesmen. Some would say an accomplished con man. He had the ability to sell people on his religious ideas. However he had a number of followers who weren’t going to go all the way in the direction the prophet was going. They knew something wasn’t quite right.

    The amount of information that is available about Smith, those who followed him in leadership, the waffling on basic doctrine just to name a few things, is readily available. The information is also easily accessed regarding the early church and the defining of what became orthodox doctrine in the Christian Church. But if people are just going to accept someone’s word and the feelings it produces in them, they are headed for trouble.

    I would say to any faithful LDS member, if your faith in Smith and the LDS church is strong enough, it should hold up to scrutiny, shouldn’t it? There’s a reason that the LDS church doesn’t want you prowling around looking into the history of Mormonism.

  14. Mike R says:

    The erratic behavior by Mormon apostles on a fundamental teaching of the scriptures is telling.
    While castigating non Mormon religious leaders for their confusion , evidenced by their
    unstable teaching record , Mormon leaders were simply the pot calling the kettle black in
    their attack on them . They even used Gal. 1:8 to bolster their accusations against them .
    Incredible .

    Mormon leaders were claiming to be the safe harbor where spiritual truth was anchored and
    thus people could be safe doctrinally . Jesus was supposedly supervising their preaching and
    therefore to honor Him people should join Mormonism . Brigham Young reminded his flock
    that his duty was to see that no incorrect teaching would be given to them , he would not
    teach / condone unsound doctrine .
    Brigham Young taught that Jehovah , who led Israel and spoke with Moses ( Ex 33: 22; Isa 65
    1-5 ) was the Father . Later Mormon leaders realized this error and taught that this was the
    pre- incarnate Jesus . Brigham also taught that one of the trinity who created this earth was
    Michael . He also sent some of those under him to teach that God was a polygamist and that
    He came down to earth and slept with Mary to produce a body for Jesus to be born on earth .
    There are more examples of his guidance but these are more than serious enough . Mormonism
    was not the answer then , it still is’nt today .

    There are religious organizations today who are led by a prophet and who make authoritative
    claims that capture people’s attention . Those who go door to door advertising the prophet and
    his ” revealed ” truth are good salespersons . People are impressed at the close community
    the prophet’s followers exhibit , the activities , the moral standards , etc . Rather than testing
    the teachings of the prophets with scripture , people are convinced by emotion or something
    else and sadly the detour begins — detoured into following a latter days false prophet and
    joining his religious organization . In the New Testament Jesus pre warned us about these
    type of prophets .

    Our hearts hurt for those who join latter days false prophet led organizations / church .

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