It is claimed that Elohim, Jehovah, Adonai and other similar Old Testament Hebrew names for deity are simply different titles which emphasize different attributes of the “one true God.” In support of this criticism, they cite Old Testament scriptures that speak of “the LORD (Jehovah) thy God (Elohim) ‘e.g., Deuteronomy 4:2; 4:35; 6:4) as proof that these are different titles for the same God.
The conviction that Elohim was anciently the Almighty God and Father of us all, and Jehovah was and is Jesus the Christ, his Son is based on modern scripture (D&C 110:1–4) and not Biblical exegesis. The teachings of modern prophets and apostles has tended to reinforce this usage, such as when President Joseph F. Smith taught, “Among the spirit children of Elohim the firstborn was and is Jehovah or Jesus Christ to whom all others are juniors.”
The LDS use of the name titles Elohim and Jehovah to designate God Our Heavenly Father and His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ respectively is not meant to insist that this is how these titles were always used anciently, including in the Holy Bible. Rather, these titles are a naming convention used in the modern Church for clarity and precision. Since Christ may be spoken of as “the Father” in a great many senses, the modern Saints use these name-titles to avoid ambiguity, regardless of which ‘role’ of a divine Personage is being discussed.
Since this terminology was not standardized for convenience and clarity prior to the twentieth century, readers are cautioned not to expect the early writings of the Church to always reflect this practice, which arose only decades later. Likewise, attempting to read the Bible as if its writers followed the same modern practice is anachronistic, and may lead to confusion and misinterpretation.
Although Elohim is understood and used in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the name-title of God the Eternal Father and the name Jehovah is reserved for His Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ, this has not always been the case. Nineteenth-century Mormons, including Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and John Taylor, generally used Jehovah as the name of God the Father. Latter-day Saints also recognize that the Hebrew word Elohim was used anciently as a generic word for “god.”
Latter-day Saints also believe that Jesus often spoke for the Father by right of divine investiture. Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
“… since he [Jesus] is one with the Father in all of the attributes of perfection, and since he exercises the power and authority of the Father…the Father puts his own name on the Son and authorizes him to speak in the first person as though he were the Father.”
There are numerous examples of divine investiture in scripture. The clearest biblical examples involve angels speaking in behalf of God or Christ (Genesis 22:11-12; Exodus 3:2, 6; 23:20–21; Revelation 1:1; 19:9–13; 22:8–16), though Christ also spoke “as though he were the Father” on many occasions throughout the Old Testament (Genesis 17:1; 35:11; Exodus 6:3). Christ was also referred to as “the Almighty” (Revelation 1:8, 18; 4:8; 11:17). It is for this reason that many other Christians identify Elohim and Jehovah as the same person.
The LDS view
The concept of Christ as the Father is clearly set forth in a 1916 statement entitled, “The Father and the Son: A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve.”
Additional support for the LDS differentiation in the use of divine titles is found in New and Old Testament scriptures. Matthew and Mark reported that Jesus while on the cross cried out to his Father using the name Eli (Matthew 27:46) or Eloi (Mark 15:34). Both of these names are regarded by scholars as the Aramaic equivalents of El or Elohim.
Although references to Christ’s sonship are somewhat rare in the Old Testament, they nevertheless exist. Daniel 3:25 describes a fourth individual in Nebuchadnezzar’s furnace whose form was like a “Son of God [Elah].” Proverbs 30:4 speaks of the “son” of the creator and Daniel 7:13 refers to the glorious coming of the “Son of man” (compare John 3:13 and Moses 6:57). Hosea 11:1 was quoted by Matthew (2:15) as a prophecy that God’s “son” would be called out of Egypt and we should not forget that Isaiah’s famous messianic prophecy foretold the birth of a son who would also be known by the titles “everlasting Father” and “mighty God” (Isaiah 7:14; 9:16). All of these scriptures provide evidence that, as Nephi stated, many do now “stumble exceedingly” because of the “plain and precious thing which have been taken away” from the scriptures (1 Nephi 13:26–30, 34, 40).
(Photo of a 1940 Hebrew TANAKH)