The Provocation in the Wilderness and the Rejection of Grace
Thomas, M. Catherine, “The Provocation in the Wilderness and the Rejection of Grace” in Sperry Symposium Classics: The Old Testament, ed. Paul Y. Hoskisson (Provo and Salt Lake City: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, and Deseret Book 2005), 164–176.
M. Catherine Thomas is assistant professor emeritus of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University.
Camped in the hot, waterless wilderness of southern Palestine, the Israelites challenged Moses, saying, “Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?” (Exodus 17:3). This complaint might have been understandable had these people never seen the hand of God in their lives, but this incident occurred after the miraculous Passover, after their passage through the Red Sea dry shod, and after the outpouring of manna and quail from heaven. In response to the Israelites’ faithlessness, an exasperated Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do unto this people? they be almost ready to stone me” (Exodus 17:4). The Lord answered: “Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. And he called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah” (Exodus 17:6–7).
Psalm 95 provides the linguistic link that identifies this incident as the Provocation: “To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your heart, as in the provocation [Hebrew meribah], and as in the day of temptation [Hebrew massah] in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work. Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways: Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest” (Psalm 95:7–11; emphasis added; see also Hebrews 3:8–11, 15).
The event at Meribah is the Provocation mentioned throughout the Bible. In that incident, the Lord tested the faith of the children of Israel and their willingness to accept His love and grace. Grace is the Lord’s divine enabling power, given to humankind to help them with all the challenges of their lives; grace ultimately empowers them to lay hold on heaven itself. But the Israelites’ response to the Lord’s abundant generosity illustrates a religious paradox: God offers His children grace, but the children will not seek it; God offers His children heaven, but the children will not enter in.
We shall see that the Provocation refers not only to the specific incident at Meribah but to a persistent behavior of the children of Israel that greatly reduced their spiritual knowledge (see Psalm 95:10: “they have not known my ways”; emphasis added) and thus removed them from sublime privileges. After a succession of provocations, the Israelites in time rejected and lost the knowledge of the anthropomorphic nature of the Gods, the divine relationship of the Father and the Son, and the great plan of grace inherent in the doctrine of the Father and the Son.
The Israelites sought to be self-prospering and became angry when the God of Israel tested or tried them. The Provocation constitutes a recurring theme in the Old Testament, and indeed, in every extant scripture since. The pages of Exodus and Deuteronomy, which narrate the history of the Israelites in the wilderness, describe three additional incidents of provocation. First, at the foot of Sinai, where the Lord tried to sanctify His people and to cause them to come up the mountain, enter His presence, and behold His face, the Israelites refused to exercise sufficient faith to overcome their fear and enter into the fire, smoke, and earthquake that lay between them and the face of God. They said to Moses, “Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die” (Exodus 20:19; emphasis added). Moses responded, “Fear not” (Exodus 20:20). Nevertheless, “the people stood afar off, and Moses drew [alone] near unto the thick darkness where God was” (Exodus 20:21).
Second, when the Israelites were camped at Kadesh Barnea in the wilderness, the Lord tried to bring them into the promised land, but they were so frightened by the report of giants in the land that neither Moses nor Caleb and Joshua could get them to exercise enough faith to enter and conquer the land (see Deuteronomy 9:22–23). Again, as at Massah and Meribah, they refused the grace of the Lord.
Third, again at Sinai, when Moses went up to receive the fulness of the gospel from the Lord on the first set of plates, the Israelites made and set up the golden calf. Their rejection of the Lord in the very moment that Moses was receiving the fulness of the gospel for them was a most serious provocation. When he discovered what they had done, Moses broke the tables before the children of Israel. A second, lesser set of plates was made, but they were missing “the words of the everlasting covenant of the holy priesthood” (Joseph Smith Translation, Deuteronomy 10:2), meaning the higher, sanctifying ordinances of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Those were the very ordinances that gave access to the presence of the Lord (see Joseph Smith Translation, Exodus 34:1–2).
With their rejection of the higher priesthood, Israel began to lose the true doctrine of the Father and the Son. The Lord gives the reason: “This greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest. And without the ordinances thereof, and the authority of the priesthood, the power of godliness is not manifest unto men in the flesh; For without this no man can see the face of God, even the Father, and live. Now this Moses plainly taught to the children of Israel in the wilderness, and sought diligently to sanctify his people that they might behold the face of God; But they hardened their hearts and could not endure his presence; therefore, the Lord . . . swore that they should not enter into his rest while in the wilderness, which rest is the fulness of his glory. Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also” (D&C 84:19–25; emphasis added).
The Prophet Joseph Smith observed: “God cursed the children of Israel because they would not receive the last law from Moses. . . . When God offers a blessing or knowledge to a man and he refuses to receive it he will be damned. . . . The Israelites [prayed] that God would speak to Moses [and] not to them in consequence of which he cursed them with a carnal law. . . . [The] law revealed to Moses in Horeb . . . never was revealed to the [children] of Israel.” Thus, the children of Israel wandered an unnecessary forty years in the wilderness as God tried to teach them to rely on Him.
We really begin to appreciate the Old Testament when we realize that Israel’s experiences in the wilderness are both literal and allegorical of our own experiences. Moses, speaking of manna as a symbolic teaching device, said, “[God] humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger, and fed thee with manna . . . that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the Lord” (Deuteronomy 8:3; emphasis added).
The Apostle Paul spoke similarly of the manna and the water and the rock: “Brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat [manna]; And did all drink the same spiritual drink [water at Meribah]: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:1–4; emphasis added). The Savior called Himself manna, or the Bread of Life (see John 6:51, 54), indicating mankind’s persisting need for divine nourishment.
Exploring scriptural symbols further, in both the Old Testament and the Book of Mormon a wilderness symbolizes any place in which the people are tested, tried, proven, refined by trials, taught grace, and prepared to meet the Lord (see Alma 17:9; see also Christ’s preparations in the wilderness in Matthew 4:1–2). Scriptural journeys often symbolize man’s earthly walk from birth through the spiritual wildernesses of a fallen world (see Ether 6:4–7 for the ocean allegory of man’s journey; see also 1 Nephi 8 for the path leading to the tree of life). God seeks to teach that His children cannot be self-prospering and thereby fulfill the purposes of their earthly lives. They must learn to seek and accept His grace to reach their destinations, which are promised lands or places of deliverance and spiritual peace where Zion can be established. The Lord speaks to modern Israel: “Zion cannot be built up unless it is by the principles of the law of the celestial kingdom; otherwise I cannot receive her unto myself. And my people must needs be chastened until they learn obedience, if it must needs be, by the things which they suffer” (D&C 105:5–6). Therefore, the Lord provides in our lives wildernesses and waterlessness and overwhelming challenges to entice His children to involve Him as they struggle through life.
The Book of Mormon supplies further insight into what the Provocation actually refers to. Jacob referred to Psalm 95 (on the plates of brass) when he wrote: “Wherefore we labored diligently among our people, that we might persuade them to come unto Christ, and partake of the goodness of God, that they might enter into his rest, lest by any means he should swear in his wrath they should not enter in, as in the provocation in the days of temptation while the children of Israel were in the wilderness” (Jacob 1:7; emphasis added).
Alma enlarged the implications still further in speaking of the first provocation, or man’s first spiritual death at Adam’s fall, and the second provocation, or man’s continuing spiritual death that comes through rejecting the Lord: “If ye will harden your hearts ye shall not enter into the rest of the Lord . . . as in the first provocation, yea, according to his word in the last provocation. . . . Let us repent, and harden not our hearts, that we provoke not the Lord our God . . . but let us enter into the rest of God, which is prepared according to his word” (Alma 12:36–37; emphasis added).
The Provocation, then, seems to encompass a preference for spiritual death—a preference for a return to Egypt—rather than the demanding trek through repentance to sanctification. The Provocation, in all its manifestations, implies a refusal to come to Christ to exercise faith in the face of such a daunting call, a refusal to partake of the goodness of God, a refusal to accept the restoration to God’s presence or rest, a refusal to allow the Savior to work His mighty power in one’s life, a refusal to enter into the at-one-ment for which He suffered and died, a refusal to be “clasped in the arms of Jesus” (Mormon 5:11). The Provocation is anti-Atonement and anti-Christ. Abinadi laments over men and women who have “gone according to their own carnal wills and desires; having never called upon the Lord while the arms of mercy were extended towards them; for the arms of mercy were extended towards them, and they would not” (Mosiah 16:12).
But who, indeed, was the God who had stood before Moses upon the rock at Meribah? (see Exodus 17:6–7). That God had revealed Himself to our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as a glorified, exalted man, that is, as an anthropomorphic (in the form of man) God who had created male and female in the image of heavenly parents.  This God sought a constant interaction with and a response from His children. He spoke of Himself as father and Israel as His children (see Malachi 2:10). He spoke of the covenant people as bride and Himself as bridegroom (see Hosea 2:19–20). The scriptures ring with manlike descriptions of an interactive God: “The eyes of the Lord” (Psalm 34:15), the ears of the Lord, and the mouth of the Lord; the heavens as the works of His fingers (see Psalm 8:3); the tablets of the covenant “written by the finger of God” (Exodus 31:18). We read of “his countenance” (Numbers 6:26), which He causes to shine or which He hides. We read of His “right hand” (Psalm 118:16), His arm stretched out in mercy and invitation. In Genesis He walks about in the garden (see Genesis 3:8), He goes down to Sinai or to His temple (see Genesis 11:5; 18:21) to reveal Himself (see Exodus 19:18, 34:5) and to dwell in the midst of the children of Israel, and He goes up again (see Genesis 17:22; 35:13). He sits on a throne (see Isaiah 6:1) and causes His voice to be heard among the cherubim (see Numbers 7:89). Moses not only sees the Lord’s back (see Exodus 33:23) but speaks to Him face to face and mouth to mouth (see Numbers 12:8). Among several emotions, the Lord expresses tenderness, mercy, love, joy, delight, and pity, as well as sadness, frustration, and anger.
With the loss of the Melchizedek Priesthood, however, and the Jews’ resulting vulnerability to Greek and other cultural and philosophical influences, there arose among the Jews a resistance to the idea of an anthropomorphic God. At least by the intertestamental period (the period following Malachi, between the Old Testament and the New), the scribes and rabbis found the anthropomorphisms in the Hebrew Bible offensive and made small textual changes, which they described as “biblical modifications of expression”  (see Jacob 4:14 for Jacob’s acknowledgment of Israel’s deliberate mystification of God). For example, in place of “I [God] will dwell in your midst,” they substituted “I shall cause you to dwell,” avoiding the idea that God would dwell with men. The text of Exodus 34:24 was subtly altered from “to see the face of the Lord” (lir’ot ‘et-pene yhwh) to the phrase “to appear before the Lord” (lera’ot ‘et-pene yhwh). Again, the effect is to distance and dematerialize God.
It appears that the Jewish translators of the Septuagint Bible (from Hebrew to Greek; abbreviated LXX) also attempted to dematerialize God. An example is Exodus 29:45 (KJV): “I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will be their God.” Instead of “I will dwell,” the Septuagint reads, “And I shall be called upon [or named] among the children of Israel and will be their God” (Exodus 29:45). The effect of the change from to dwell to the phrase to be called upon is to distance God from His children.
This attempt to dematerialize God is also found among the Israelite apostates in the Book of Mormon. Ammon and Aaron had to teach that God, the Great Spirit, would not always be spirit, but would tabernacle Himself in the flesh (see Alma 18:34–35; 22:8–14; see also Mosiah 3:5). Abinadi, in fact, was martyred for his very declaration that this spirit God would take on the form of man in order to perform the great Atonement (see Mosiah 13:32–35). The apostate Zoramites’ belief that God is a spirit and never would be anything else really meant they believed there would be no Christ, no incarnation of God on earth, and thus, no Atonement (see Alma 31:15–16).
A Jewish scholar named Philo lived in the period just prior to Jesus’ advent. His writings, which influenced Judaism as well as Christianity, taught that the physical and emotional references in the scriptures to God were allegorical, not literal. He wrote that when Moses described God with human emotions, the reader needed to know that “neither the . . . passions of the soul, nor the parts and members of the body in general, have any relation to God.” Philo explained that Moses used these expressions as an elementary way to teach those who could not otherwise understand. Thus, when the Savior came to the Jews in the meridian of time, He found many of them obsessed with religion, with purity, and with scrupulous observance of law, but He found few who knew God.
Removing the body, parts, and passions from God also removes His ability to suffer and thus obscures the real meanings behind the Atonement. The Book of Mormon, however, teaches that one of the reasons the Savior came to earth was His desire to “take upon him [mankind’s] infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12). Alma quotes Zenos on the accessibility of the Father’s grace through the Atonement of the Son: “And thou didst hear me because of mine afflictions and my sincerity; and it is because of thy Son that thou hast been thus merciful unto me, therefore I will cry unto thee in all mine afflictions, for in thee is my joy; for thou has turned thy judgments away from me, because of thy Son” (Alma 33:11). Alma then quotes Zenock on the nature of Israel’s Provocation:
“Thou art angry, O Lord, with this people, because they will not understand thy mercies which thou hast bestowed upon them because of thy Son” (Alma 33:16).
Related to God’s nature is God’s name. The reluctance to offend God by anthropomorphic references grew stronger with time so that even the use of the name YHWH (Yahweh or Jehovah) was avoided. At least by the third century B.C., adonai, meaning “lord,” was substituted for the divine name and it ultimately became both illegal and blasphemous to speak the name aloud among the Jews, even in the temple or synagogue. One scholar notes: “The divine name, once the ‘distinguishing mark’ of divine presence and immanence, had become the essence of God’s unapproachable holiness so that in the Jewish tradition ‘the Name’ (ha shem) could be synonymous with ‘God.’” A moment’s reflection leads us to see that since God had ordained His name as a keyword by which a covenant person could gain access to Him (see Moses 5:8; 1 Kings 8:28–29; Mormon 9:21), to forbid the divine name was to forbid access, through holy ordinances, to God Himself.
With the dematerializing of God came the obscuring of the Father-Son relationship. Religious history reveals that one major apostate objective has been to merge the members of the Godhead into one nebulous being. That merging clouds several significant truths, among which I mention two in passing and a third for discussion:
- The doctrine of a divine Father and Son begins to reveal that there must be family relationships, parents, husbands, and wives, all of which continue in the eternities.
- Eternal families being possible, there is need for temple ordinances that seal these relationships for eternity.
- The Son models for humankind the relationship of grace by which one gains exaltation and which men and women must model in order to be like the Gods.
It is particularly that last truth that I would like to explore here, but first a word about merging the Gods into one amorphous being. That which set the Israelites apart from all others in the polytheistic Greco-Roman and Near Eastern cultures was their steadfast declaration of one omnipotent God, that is, their belief in monotheism. It was perhaps because they had interpreted Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord” to mean that there was only one God, that the later Jews rejected Christ (see John 8:41, 58–59). After all, Christ taught that He is the Son of God, and so, they said, He made Himself equal with God and seemed, in fact, to be multiplying Gods (see John 5:18). Nevertheless, although it is true that there is one omnipotent God, that truth is not the whole truth. When the Savior came to the earth in the meridian of time, one of His tasks was to restore the Melchizedek Priesthood and thus restore the knowledge of the Father. Jesus taught that He, the Son, is the only avenue to exaltation or reunion with the Father.
But one of the most important revelations from the divine Father-Son relationship is the model it provides of the nature of a saving relationship with God. The Savior showed us how to live in total submission; He drew continually on His Father’s grace. He says, “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son. . . . For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth” (John 5:19–20; emphasis added). And again, “As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me [reference to the sacrament], even he shall live by me” (John 6:57; emphasis added). And again, “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:28–29; emphasis added). Further, He said, “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works” (John 14:10; emphasis added). Ultimately, Christ will even deliver up the kingdom, for which He died, to His Father (see D&C 76:107). This relationship of the at-one-ment of the Father and the Son is the divine model for the Saints of God and was revealed that we might emulate it.
The Savior taught this at-one-ment relationship to His disciples and, indeed, to all who become His disciples. The means of at-one-ment with the Son and the Father is the Holy Ghost. It is through cultivating the Holy Ghost that we enter into at-one-ment with the Son and the Father. Jesus told His disciples: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth . . . for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you” (John 14:16–17; emphasis added; see also John 17:20–23).
The Apostle Paul experienced this relationship of oneness with the Savior; he wrote to the Galatians: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
In scenes recorded in 3 Nephi, the resurrected, perfected Christ gave abundant evidence of His continuing dependence on His Father. He makes frequent reference to the commandments and will of His Father. He seems very eager to return to the full presence of His Father (3 Nephi 17:4); we see Him kneel and bow Himself to the earth, pouring out both His troubled heart (3 Nephi 17:14) as well as His joy (3 Nephi 17:20–21), His thanks (3 Nephi 19:20, 28), and His needs (3 Nephi 19:21, 29). Perhaps this relationship of divine dependence and atonement continues far into the eternities. It is revealed to us in this life so we can learn to live in that relationship and thus gain admission to that community of grace-linked Gods.
The relationship of grace helps us understand more fully this passage in Doctrine and Covenants: “[Christ] received not of the fullness at the first, but received grace for grace; And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness. . . . I give unto you these sayings that you may understand and know how to worship, and know what you worship, that you may come unto the Father in my name, and in due time receive of his fulness. For if you keep my commandments you shall receive of his fulness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace” (D&C 93:12–13, 19–20; emphasis added).
By this scripture we understand that as Christ gave grace to those around Him, He received from His Father increasingly more grace to give. Thus, receiving grace for grace, Jesus grew from grace to grace: a model for us. “Freely ye have received, freely give,” the Savior told His disciples (Matthew 10:8). The Lord has blessed each of us individually many times over with many more forms of grace than we now know or could count. Perhaps all of the Lord’s grace to us—His many kindnesses to each of us, our talents, our gifts of spirit and personality, our bodies, our material resources—is given to us so that we will have something to give one another. As we give of this grace in countless ways to those around us, especially where it may not seem to be merited, the Lord increases His gifts of grace to us; in this process of our receiving grace for the grace we give, we grow from grace to grace, as Christ did, until we obtain a fulness.
Living in such a relationship as the Father and the Son’s, either on earth or in heaven, requires a total willingness to dethrone oneself as the regent in one’s own kingdom and to enthrone Christ as He enthroned the Father. President Ezra Taft Benson observed that “Christ removed self as the force in His perfect life. It was not my will, but thine be done.”
How privileged we are to know about the relationship of grace and to know of the divine possibilities for ourselves through connection with the Father and the Son, to experience the exquisitely loving and personal nature of the Gods in their great chains of light and grace.
In various forms, the Provocation continues with us today. We recognize in ourselves the rejection of grace as we keep trying to struggle through life on our own judgment and power, keeping our own personal agenda on the throne. Mormon described the philosophy of the anti-Christ Korihor as the belief that man prospers and conquers by his own strength and genius, not through dependence on a greater divine being (see Alma 30:17). Thus, struggling alone without calling on God reflects the doctrine of the anti-Christ. It is apparent that even the Son of God could not have prospered without His Father’s grace.
Moroni also emphasizes grace: “And now, I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written, that the grace of God the Father, and also the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost . . . abide in you forever” (Ether 12:41; emphasis added; see also Moroni 10:32).
We see in Israel’s provocations a key to understanding nearly every interaction between God and Israel recorded in the pages of the Bible. On the one hand, God’s whole efforts are bent toward helping the covenant people to prosper through His grace; on the other hand, Israel strives to be self-prospering. In the midst of abundant miracles and divine gifts, the persistent rejection of God’s grace is Israel’s Provocation.
 Of course, all the prophets had the Melchizedek Priesthood, but their right to confer it or teach its mysteries was restricted. See Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1938), 181.
 Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., The Words of Joseph Smith (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1980), 244, 247; emphasis added.
 Because God created man in His own image, it is more accurate to speak of man as theomorphic (in the form or image of God) than to speak of God as anthropomorphic.
 Cecil Roth and Geoffrey Wigoder, eds. Encyclopedia Judaica, (Jerusalem: Keter, 1982), 3:54, s.v. “anthropomorphism.”
 Perhaps it is helpful to note here, with respect to apostate movements, that in any apostasy there are the deliberate initiators and perpetrators of lies (see 1 Nephi 13:27; Jacob 4:14; Moses 1:41), but there is usually also a larger group of innocent and well-intentioned victims (see 1 Nephi 13:29; D&C 123:12). Not all promoters of false ideas have malignant intent; most are to some extent the victims of those who have gone before.
 Another example is found in Numbers 12:8. The Hebrew version reads: “With [Moses] will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the image [or form] of the Lord shall he behold.” The Greek version reads: “Mouth to mouth will I speak to him, in his sight and not in riddles, and he shall see the glory of the Lord.” The change from image to glory is from the specific to a more nebulous description of God.
 For a fuller discussion of the Apostasy of the doctrine of God during the intertestamental period, see the author’s chapter entitled “From Malachi to John the Baptist: The Dynamics of Apostasy,” Studies in Scripture, Vol. 4: 1 Kings to Malachi, ed. Kent P. Jackson (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1993), 471–83. See also an in-depth study of the dematerializing of God in the author’s “The Influence of Asceticism on the Rise of Christian Text, Doctrine, and Practice in the First Two Centuries,” (PhD diss., Brigham Young University, n.d.).
 Philo, “The Unchangeableness of God,” Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1930), 3:37.
 Roth and Wigoder, Encyclopedia Judaica, 7:680, s.v. “God, Name of.”
 Another scholar suggests that, with ascendancy of the law in Israel and the need to buffer the law against violations, any use of the divine name had to be denied. The prohibition was motivated by a desire to ensure that the name would not be used “in vain” (Exodus 20:7) either by Jews or non-Jews. The name used in the temple or the synagogue was eventually affected by this fear. In the Septuagint the name of Yahweh was rendered throughout with kyrios (“Lord”), following the Jewish preference for adonai. Martin Rose, “Names of God in the OT,” The Anchor Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 1010.
 An extension of this merging of Gods occurred in the early period of the Christian Church at the Council of Nicea (AD 325) when the decision to fabricate a trinity of three beings into one made it possible to make Christianity securely monotheistic, again in a threateningly pagan environment. Both of these beliefs, monotheism and trinitarianism, did violence to the full truth about the true nature of the Godhead and of godliness itself (see my article, “The Conspiracy Begins,” in From the Last Supper through the Resurrection: The Savior’s Final Hours, ed. Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and Thomas A. Wayment [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2003], 474–75).
 Joseph Smith, Lectures on Faith, comp. N. B. Lundwall (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, n.d.), Lecture 5, 48–49, explains how the Father and the Son are one through the medium of the Spirit and how all the Saints may in the same manner come into at-one-ment with them: “The Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth, and having overcome, received a fullness of the glory of the Father, possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is the Holy Spirit, that bears record of the Father and the Son, and these three are one; or, in other words, these three constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things . . . the Father and the Son possessing the same mind, the same wisdom, glory, power, and fullness—filling all in all; the Son being filled with the fullness of the mind, glory, and power; or, in other words, the spirit, glory, and power, of the Father . . . which Spirit is shed forth upon all who believe on his name and keep his commandments. . . . all those who keep his commandments shall grow up from grace to grace, and become heirs of the heavenly kingdom, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ; possessing the same mind, being transformed into the same image or likeness, even the express image of him who fills all in all; being filled with the fullness of his glory, and become one in him, even as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one” (emphasis added).
 Ezra Taft Benson, in Conference Report, April 1986, 6.