What’s The Big Deal About The Trinity?

I’ve had a couple of comments asking if I think some one is not saved just because they don’t buy into the doctrine of the Trinity. It’s an important distinction between Classical Christianity and Mormonism. So it’s worth talking about it as often as needed.

First off, I’m not the judge and I’m not pretending to be. Second, I do not think personal confusion over the doctrine of the Trinity is going to keep anyone out of heaven. No way. Not in the least. The only thing that has the power to save us is the grace of Christ. Nobody has to pass a theology exam to get in. All they have to do is repent from sin and believe in Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

I’m pretty sure that if I walked into any Evangelical church a large number of people would give a theologically inaccurate description of the Trinity. I would hear everything from modalism to tri-theism. I’m also sure that the more I separated those people by theological education, the better their description would become. And with greater theological training comes greater responsibility to understand and avoid heresy.

Whereas I don’t think confusion or misconception about the Trinity will separate anyone from God. I DO think that an outright rejection of the Trinity is a serious problem. Why? Because we have to repent from our sins. One of our chief sins against God is idolatry. Idolatry does not only involve holding on to false gods, it also is about holding on to false ideas about God. If someone understands the doctrine of the Trinity and understands why Christianity describes God as a Trinity but utterly rejects it, then I have some questions.

Do they reject the Trinity because:
1) they do not believe the Father is God and is worthy of our worship as God?
2) they do not believe Jesus is God and is worthy of our worship as God?
3) they do not believe the Holy Spirit is God and is worthy of our worship as God?
4) they do not believe that only one God can necessarily and logically exist?

A rejection of any of these 4 ideas based on an educated reading of the Old and New Testaments (heck I’ll even throw in the Book of Mormon) I believe will pose a problem for anyone facing Christ on Judgment Day. In some way rejecting each of these ideas is rejecting God. It’s hard for me to reconcile someone rejecting God and receiving a place with him.

My question for Mormons is why do you reject the Trinity? My understanding of Mormon doctrine is that the rejection of the Trinity is founded first and foremost based on the First Vision. Between The Book of Mormon and the First Vision account, which has undergone the most revisions outside of spelling and grammatical changes? Which can be trusted as the most authoritative? Which did Joseph Smith say was the most accurate of any book? Which did you receive a spiritual testimony about?

2 Nephi 31:21

“And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end.

3 Nephi 11:22-27, 36

And again the Lord called others, and said unto them likewise; and he gave unto them power to baptize. And he said unto them: On this wise shall ye baptize; and there shall be no disputations among you. Verily I say unto you, that whoso repenteth of his sins through your words and desireth to be baptized in my name, on this wise shall ye baptize them–Behold, ye shall go down and stand in the water, and in my name shall ye baptize them. And now behold, these are the words which ye shall say, calling them by name, saying: Having authority given me of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen. And then shall ye immerse them in the water, and come forth again out of the water. And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one…

And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.

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50 thoughts on “What’s The Big Deal About The Trinity?

  1. The LDS Church does believe that Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one. They are one in purpose. The way that Kullervo used to explain it was that, for example, Kullervo, our son, and I are a family. He’s still him, the baby’s still the baby, and I’m still me, but we are still family. It’s a collective noun.

    I don’t know if Kullervo still believes that or not.

    I guess I just don’t see why it’s necessary. I don’t understand the nature of God. Are Father, Son, and Holy Ghost one being or three separate? I don’t know. I don’t think it actually matters. I can accommodate either idea. I don’t think that anyone can understand the nature of God, actually, and I think that everything is just our best guess.

    If Jesus Christ is God the Father, then who was He talking to when He was on earth? Wasn’t there some kind of separation? Was He talking to Himself? (I really don’t know.)

  2. I don’t think that anyone can understand the nature of God, actually, and I think that everything is just our best guess.

    I agree that we can’t understand everything about the nature of God. But we should strive to understand what we can as best as we can.

    The doctrine of the Trinity states that there is One God made up of Three Persons. When Jesus was talking to the Father, he was talking to the separate and distinct person known as the Father. When Jesus said he would send the Comforter, he was talking about a separate and distinct person known as the Holy Spirit.

    These 3 persons make up 1 essence which is God. They each have always been and willing always be God. There are no other gods other than God.

    The family analogy is not bad, with a caveat that there can’t be any other families and that the family has always existed with each of the members.

  3. KatyJane’s response outlines what is USUALLY (though not always) the objection to the Trinity: “it’s not logical.”

    When you say “if Jesus Christ is God the Father, then who was He talking to when He was on earth?”, you are really saying “the concept of the Trinity doesn’t make sense in the traditional Christian form, therefore I don’t believe it.”

    We can’t fully COMPREHEND the nature of God, b/c it is above us. But we can APPREHEND the nature of God, and believe it.

  4. I would probably narrow it down further and say that the disagreement is whether the Father and the Son are of the same ‘essence’ or ’substance’, the ‘homousion’, to use the language of the Nicene Creed. The main reason why LDS do not accept the ‘homousion’ formulation is because, as you rightly observe, it contradicts the First Vision of Joseph Smith where Joseph sees two personages, the Father and the Son, and the Father points to the Son.

    The Book of Mormon does clearly state that they are One. So the disagreement isn’t whether they are One, but on how they are One.

    David Paulsen has recently authored a paper with Brett McDonald called “Reassessing Joseph Smith’s Theology in his Bicentennial: A Social Model of the Godhead.” It’s quite relevant to the post.

  5. Katyjane,

    I was just going to say the same thing, but looking at his above comment I am going to make a prediction about how he might answer you: They are different because, though Mormonism teaches that they are one God (we say one in purpose, you say 1 essence, which are essentially (pun partially intended) the same thing), it does not teach that Christ or the Holy Spirit have always existed as God, but instead were created by the Father.

    In saying this he might make a good point, but it is still not quite true. Christ indeed always existed, just as we all did, as intelligence. Was he always God though? That is actually a really good question, and one that I’m afraid is beyond the scope of my knowledge to answer. I know that he is, according to our belief, the God of the Old Testament. This means that the God that the Patriarchs, and the Israelites and Jews later on, associated with and dealt with was indeed Jehovah, or Jesus the Christ as he was known on the earth. There are a few exceptions, maybe, like Adam dealing with the Father, but as a general rule, when God is mentioned in the OT, it was JC. So He existed as God before the creation of the World, so for all intents and purposes, he has always existed as God. The argument can definitely be made for an interpretation of the Bible defending this claim, inasmuch as it is clear the Bible is not always meant to be taken literally.

    So when did any of these Beings attain there status as “God”? I don’t think you or I can really answer that with any certainty. And I appologize, Tim, for any presumption on my part on how you might answer. I in no way intended to put words in your mouth or assume to know your mind. I was merely trying my best to see the issue from the EC perspective as I understand it.

  6. Tim, I think a willful refusal to trust the Triune God influences both salvation and worship for anyone.

    Thinking specifically of an LDS context,

    Can a less experienced, progressing god save you to the uttermost?

    Secondly, should one pray and worship a lesser god to the extent that one reserves devotion for a higher progressed god?

  7. Todd,

    Where in LDS theology is it stated that we worship a “progressing god”, meaning one who is not and omnipotent, omniscient God? Or have I misunderstood?

  8. frofreak, I won’t put words in your mouth. What is your interpretation of Jesus’ relationship to the Father in John 5?

    It would be music . . . sweet music to my ears . . . if you said that Jesus is equal to the Father in an absolute, concurrent sense for omnipotence and omniscience. And that Jesus is not just progressing by imitating what the Father did in an earlier experience.

  9. “Can a less experienced, progressing god save you to the uttermost?”

    I won’t speak for the LDS Church here – just for myself.

    I would say yes.

    “Secondly, should one pray and worship a lesser god to the extent that one reserves devotion for a higher progressed god?”

    I don’t consider Christ to be presently “lesser” in any sense that is meaningful to me. He is a full partaker in his Father’s glory, majesty, and power. That is sufficient for me. Secondly, I pray to God the Father in the name of the Son. Not to the Son. That is nothing more or less than Jesus personally instructed us to do.

    If I were to see Christ personally today, would I hesitate to bow before Him?

    No. Nor would I view Him with any less reverence than I would the Father. At least, that’s how I feel today. Both are so divine, so mighty, and so glorious as to be beyond the grasp of my flawed mind. The question of “if Jehovah and Eloheim had a fight, who would win?” seems not only impertinent, but ultimately futile and meaningless.

    I do not view a “progressing God” as “limited” in any sense that matters for my worship and confidence in Him. He can do a fine job of providing for His children without me tacking on elaborate philosophical logic games to His resume. My concern is not spend the balance of my earthly tenure on futile attempts to deconstruct deity. My concern is to obey Him and busy myself about an ethical and moral life.

    This isn’t to say that theological inquiry is worthless, or a bad thing per se. But I am saying that theology is not true Christianity’s primary concern. Righteous living is.

  10. Tim (and Todd Wood),

    I’m going to take your questions as being sincere and not loaded. With that in mind, I think you are asking the wrong questions in trying to understand the Mormon view of God. Tim comes close to an important idea in the introductory post, but then rejects that point (and so misses the point). Namely, that Mormons approach all scripture dealing with God with a mindset that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate personages/persons/intelligences (pick your favorite term). Is that difficult to reconcile with the most straightforward, literal reading of certain scriptures, such as 3 Nephi 11? Sure, but no serious reading of scripture is ever completely literal. (And trinitarians have the same problem with other scripture passages, as katyjane points out.)

    I think you could move beyond the “why do you reject the Trinity”—because our reasons are pretty clear—and get into the “what are the implications of the LDS view”—as Todd Wood begins to do in #7.

  11. Todd Wood, #9: “…Jesus is equal to the Father in an absolute, concurrent sense for omnipotence…”

    I think that Seth makes some important points in #10 in this regard. I’ll just add that to me, discussions of omnipotence don’t mean much—what does “omnipotence” even mean? There are hundreds of debates about this: If God is omnipotent, then can he __________? (fill in the blank with lie, commit suicide, know the largest number, make a rock so heavy….)

    It’s all meaningless to me. My faith in God’s power/omnipotence and knowledge/omniscience is that when he makes a promise—any promise—he has the ability to fulfill that promise. (And my faith in God’s goodness is that he will fulfill his promises.)

  12. Seth, neither would I be very interesting in trying to delve into “philosophical logic”. I am completely deficient in philosophy courses, and I have been often accused of being contradictory. So feel safe about me trying to use either as a foundation in any of my discussions. 🙂

    But theology . . . that is another matter. My heart strives for accurate theology connected to the biblical revelation so that I might not fall so short of vibrant doxology – magnifying God’s glory in my heart.

    Yes, right living is vital. I agree with you on this Seth. But I strongly believe that right worship of God is the powerful energizer for right living that we all so desperately need. True worship goes hand in hand with heart obedience. I could give you a dozen illustrations of how this would revolutionize my friends’ minds, wills, and emotions in the neighborhood boundaries of my ward to more effectively fight sinful temptations or serve with their hearts in “callings”.

    And Seth, in my studies, I have found the titles of Elohim and Jehovah do not quite fit so nicely the strict LDS equation – Elohim = the Father and Jehovah = the Son. For me, these titles in their contexts do effectively provide the sign posts for what I now see powerfully fleshed out in John 5. It is incredible. Jesus never progressed in such fashion as we do. The Christ wears sandals (he is full flesh), but he is also making claims that establishes himself as a completely different kind than the Jews. He is declaring the gulf between himself and mankind. And the Jews are furious.

    brianj, the descriptor of “all power” is not meaningless to me. I know I don’t fill the shoes of this description. Never will. And of course, that brings me back around full swing.

    Here is just one of the endless theological descriptors that makes me want to drop to my knees right now and worship, Father, Son, and Spirit – the Triune God. To know God is what set me free. To experiential know God is real, everlasting life.

    Tim, thanks for letting me pop in on your blog. I don’t know if I have ever commented here in such a lengthy spurt. But with such a title to your post, it makes me come alive with joy.

  13. I have to second what Seth and Brian have both articulated. The issue of God’s omnipotence seems a silly place to start in comparing our respective views on his nature, since it is impossible to define what his being omnipotent really means.

    As far as he being a progressing God, to use that phrase is misleading. I realize that you are basing your question on our doctrine of eternal progression, which would follow logically into the idea that God himself is in a state of progression. But when you use the phrase “a progressing god”, you imply a view on the nature of God that we simply do not hold. And that is that God is somehow on the same moral/spiritual playing field that we find ourselves. That he is more “human” that he really is, closer in nature to man than to the traditional EC notion of God. Do we view Jesus Christ and the Father as both God? Yes, yes we do. The Holy Spirit as well? Yes. Are they equally omnipotent, omniscient? Yes. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a “chain of command” if you will.

    We can read in Christ’s own words (via the new testament) how he revered and honored the Father as greater even then himself. How he taught us also to pray to the Father, as Seth has pointed out, not to him, because it is the Father who has ultimate authority over his children. He served as a mediator, an advocate with the Father, paying the penalty for our sins so that the laws of justice might be fulfilled, and a price payed for our sins so that we wouldn’t have to bear the burden ourselves. If there were not laws of justice, some binding universal law, then God simply could have removed our sins with a declaration. And if Christ himself was God, equal in every way to the Father, then how did he serve as an advocate with essentially himself? But is digress.

    None of this is to diminish the fact that Christ is God, and as ominpotent and omniscient as the Father. Is he “progressing”? Technically, yes, and so is the Father. Do they sin? No, they do not progress in the sense that we do, falling short from perfection and learning from these shortcoming. They have already achieved perfection. But their progression continues through the continued acts and creations. Are we to assume instead that through all their acts of creation, teaching, intervening in the affairs of men, that they are somehow not affected, that they are so detatched from what they do that they do not progress? No. Everytime they create a world (and I assume you believe there to be more than one God created world in this vast universe) they add to themselves through their creations. Just as we, when we have children in this life, add to ourselves not just physically, but spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, you name it. This is what eternal progression is really about. We will not one day cease to be affected in a positive way by our pure, righteous thoughts, actions, interactions, etc. And niether will God, Jesus, or the Holy Ghost, notwithstanding that they are God–perfect, omnipotent, all-knowing, etc.

    Is there really any other way of looking at it? Do you believe that God has plateaued? That he has reached his limit of perfection or righteousness or glory? Can we understand the limits of his power? Do we have sufficient understanding to compare the power and glory of the Father to that of the Son? I am afraid I don’t, nor do I think anyone here does. It is clear to me from the Bible, though (John 17 is a great example), that Christ worships the Father as his Father and his God (implying his is a role of one who serves a master, not who is or equal to the master, hence He declares that he does the work of his Father, which He was sent by the Father to do), even while declaring they are one, and that we should be one with him in the same way. I have no problem accepting these words of Christ, and therefore choose to worship the Father in the name of the Son. But I still hold the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost as equally God, even one God. Their roles, however, as it pertains to our salvation, are very different.

  14. Todd Wood, #13: “brianj, the descriptor of “all power” is not meaningless to me. I know I don’t fill the shoes of this description. Never will. And of course, that brings me back around full swing.

    Here is just one of the endless theological descriptors that makes me want to drop to my knees right now and worship, Father, Son, and Spirit – the Triune God. To know God is what set me free. To experiential know God is real, everlasting life.”

    A careful reading of what I wrote (#12) will reveal that I completely agree (except, perhaps, with the “Triune” part). What I referred to as “meaningless” is the debate about what omnipotent means.

  15. Tim, interesting post, perhaps “why do you reject the homousion?” rather than “why do you reject the Trinity?” is a better way to approach that particular issue. It depends on what the ‘Trinity’ means, and as you point out, you could ask several Evangelicals and you could get responses which range from “God is three in One” to “the Father and the Son are ontologically and numerically one in essence and substance, uncreated, etc.” So, to that extent, I think LDS would agree that God is three in One, and even accept the formula that God is three persons in One God. Of course, what is a ‘person’? We might have to flesh that out a little bit more. Evangelicals do not mean ‘person’ in the everyday usage of the term, but in a special sense. Blomberg suggested the original term means “a center of personal consciousness.”

    While I stated previously that Joseph Smith’s vision contradicts the view that the Father and the Son are ontologically one, someone could always argue otherwise. In How Wide the Divide, Blomberg notes that “substance can designate either materiality or immateriality” (HWTD, 119). So, someone might argue that LDS could accept that God is one in substance in an immaterial sense, since that wouldn’t violate Joseph’s experience in the First Vision. After all, most Evangelicals hold the belief that Jesus continues to ‘possess’ a resurrected body at the present moment, yet that doesn’t prohibit him from being ontologically one with the Father, who is immaterial in the Evangelical view.

    It is true that often LDS are too quick to point out that the Father and the Son are distinct and separate. However, as Millet states the issue, they are infinitely more One than separate. “They are as One as two beings can be.” They are infinitely one in purpose, in love, in unity, in godliness.

  16. Katy said:
    Tim, I don’t really see how what you say is any different than what the LDS Church teaches.

    I don’t doubt that there may be some in the LDS church teaching the same thing. But my understanding of classic Mormon teaching is that there is more than one god (and in fact a multitude), that the Father was not always God but he progressed into it, and that Jesus was not always God but that he progressed into it. These things are a huge diversion from Trinitarianism.

    aquinas said:
    So, someone might argue that LDS could accept that God is one in substance in an immaterial sense, since that wouldn’t violate Joseph’s experience in the First Vision. After all, most Evangelicals hold the belief that Jesus continues to ‘possess’ a resurrected body at the present moment, yet that doesn’t prohibit him from being ontologically one with the Father, who is immaterial in the Evangelical view.

    True, but if the Father or the Holy Spirit had a material body as well it WOULD prevent him from being ontologically one with Jesus.

  17. Tim ever taken a crash course in quantum mechanics?

    Do you or I really know what is and isn’t ontologically possible with respect to physical matter?

  18. Tim, right it would make ontological oneness at the material level impossible, but at the immaterial level it would not. What I am trying to do here is further refine the question, “Why do you reject the homousion?” If the homousion can be understood in both a material and immaterial sense, then you need a further question. “”Why do you reject the homousion in only in the material sense, and not the immaterial sense?” This shows that the right question is everything. This question might offer the possibility that an LDS person could say, “Whereas we both accept the homousion at the immaterial level, I don’t accept it at the material level.” This is a much better answer than “I reject the Trinity” because that answer masks all the areas of agreement which do exist. Which of those questions reveal the most areas agreement? This is just an example of how asking the right question is critical.

  19. The traditional Trinity doctrine comes under close scrutiny in a book by Charles Freeman, “The Closing of the Western Mind”, where Freeman (thoroughly documented) explores (and the results of the ) Nicean Council. His claim is that the Nicean Council was basically a political compromise – brought about by an emporer (Constantine) who saw disputing religious factions as a hinderance to the unity of his empire.

    This book is not light reading – and I”m not sure I like how he treats Paul the Apostle (as opposed to how he feels about the Greeks), but it has an interesting point of view.

  20. That’s the problem with these debates Cindy. You sometimes find yourself mildly excited to have found an author that provides you with “ammunition” for attacking the opposing team’s arguments, but then, upon further reading, you find that same author attacking a few additional things that you yourself hold dear.

    I found this when reading a scholarly work that attacks the traditional Christian wisdom of who were the heretics and who were the saints in early Christian history. It provided lots of interesting stuff that I felt cast a lot of doubt on traditional Christianity’s reliance on the Nicean Creed and rejection of several doctrines resembling LDS thought.

    The problem was, he didn’t stop there, but went on to criticize the four Gospels, Christ’s divinity, and several other items that I happened to be rather fond of myself.

    Which is why I often note that these “LDS vs. Christianity” doctrinal debates often resemble a circular firing squad.

  21. Thanks, Seth – I just think that Freeman brings more thought to the table about the era of the Nicean Creed. How we can think that an eternal point of view can come from Constantine? True, his mother was a great influence on him, but he was, still, pagan. He just wanted everyone to get along.

    Freeman slams lots of things and people – Alexander the Great, along just about all of the pre-era Nicean gospel doctrinal giants, but I think he at least admires Christ – and calls him the “Man of peace”. He was trying to convey that the Man of peace would never have approved of all the Christian in-fighting that went on (still goes on…)

  22. “How we can think that an eternal point of view can come from Constantine?”

    Really? But one could come from the 1800s, during the era of slavery? From an old drunk who built a boat?

    To assume that a time period–or a person–was all bad and that nothing good or eternal could come out of it baffles me. Jesus wasn’t exactly born during a time of peace–heck, the king at the time killed all of the babies in the area! Certainly nothing eternal could come from that time period, right?

    And to assume that is to assume that nothing good or eternal could come from anybody besides Jesus. After all, we all screw up.

    “…he was, still, pagan.”
    So?

    There isn’t much of the Nicene creed that isn’t acceptable in Mormonism–actually, I had to have Kullervo explain to me what might be the problem, because I had no idea and it all sounded okay to me.

    I think you’re right though–Jesus wouldn’t have approved of Christian in-fighting… at the same time, He was pretty clear that He wasn’t around to just play peacemaker, and I imagine He would approve of working against the bad stuff that goes on in some (all) churches.

  23. Katyjane, thanks for your reply.

    By my saying that Constantine would not have had an eternal prospective on things I was not saying that he was a bad person, I just should have said that he was not a man of faith – faith in a Christian way. He stopped Christian persecution, and tried then to get all the Christians to unite in order for the kingdom to be more peaceful. He did try. He deserves a lot of kudos for doing those things.

    The point was that a pagan man could not have conceived a doctrine of a Christian God – it was not founded upon scripture or revelation. He wanted unity – he wanted the Churches to come to some sort of agreement. And he achieved it to some degree – but at the price of what?

  24. Cindy,

    Thanks for not taking what I said as offensive–sometimes I come off as a bit abrasive, and I didn’t mean to in this case.

    What’s wrong with the Nicene Creed? What problems do you see in it?

  25. Cindy I haven’t read the book. I don’t doubt that Constantine’s motives were political, but that doesn’t mean the council’s decisions were political. My understanding of the Nicean council is that most of the decisions were made with an overwhelming majority.

    Did Freeman give an indication that the Trinity itself was a product of compromise? How do you think Freeman would treat the LDS church and the Book of Mormon?

  26. My understanding was that it was a majority that decided to accommodate a highly vocal minority faction.

    I seriously doubt there was much of a democratic process back then in any case.

  27. Freeman did indicate that he thought that the Nicean was a political AND a religious compromise – which wasn’t even a fair one, because many Christian leaders didn’t show up to the Council – the Bishop of Rome, for one. Arius was completely blocked out of the decision. The deciding canon doctrine favored that of Constantine’s friend and influential church leader, Eusebius.

    Freeman states that he doesn’t know “from the surviving evidence how or why the word “homoousios” ‘of equal substance’ was introduced, although Eusebius later told his congregation that it was at the specific command of Constantine.” (p. 168 – “The Closing of the Western Mind”)

    I personally have trouble with the Creed because how I read the scriptural beginnings with the creation. If God did in fact create God in His own image (meaning, man), and we are all individual personalities and not of a “collective” nature (sorry, bad Star Trek humor), then it is easy for me to believe that God the Father, His Son Jesus (this world’s creator and Jehovah, God of the Old Testament – “Before Abraham was, I AM”) and the Holy Ghost (the Comforter and whom Christ said bears witness of the Father and Son) are three distinct personalities.

  28. Oh, and Freeman would have treated the Book of Mormon and LDS like he does any other religion.

  29. “What’s wrong with the Nicene Creed? What problems do you see in it?”

    According to Mormon writer Blake Ostler, the mere fact that there is such a thing as a creed, and that it is used as a tool of exclusion in the community of God’s followers is the “abomination” in question. Not any particular part of the content (which is largely unobjectionable for most Mormons – except for “homoousian”).

    You can read his entire blog post here:

    http://www.newcoolthang.com/index.php/2007/09/why-are-creeds-an-abomination/437/

  30. Meh, is that functionally different from garments, temple attendance, etc? Mormonism most certainly has all the tools of exclusion it needs. Shoot, the whole religion is an authoritarian in-versus-out tool of exclusion.

    The only difference is that Mormonism’s exclusionary functions are supposedly a result of revelation instead of human creation.

  31. I think Blake made the point that Mormonism’s exclusionary devices are based on ethical and moral behavior and not on ideology.

    For instance, you can have some batty old guy in High Priests Quorum in your local ward who loves to go off about UFO sightings, or the John Birch Society, or whatever else, and it’s not a big deal. The membership, and the bishop typically roll their eyes, let him have his say, and move on. But no one says he isn’t a member because of it. Doctrinally, Mormonism is actually a rather large tent in many ways.

    Ethically however, it can definitely be quite exclusive.

  32. I don’t know if all of the exclusionary devices in Mormonism reasonably fall under the category of “ethics” so much as they do “norms.”

    What’s ethical about not drinking tea? The question is not about ethics or morals nearly so much as it is about submission to authority. And in that, it’s basically the same.

    Alternatively, do you really think you can make the case that it’s okay to exclude for heteropraxy but not for heterodoxy? That’s a pretty fine line, and not even a clear and well-defined one.

  33. Don’t get me wrong. I think you have a good point. If you had time to read through all the comments, you might have noted that I have some problems with the exclusivity of the LDS Church as well.

    For example, what about those who actually are excommunicated over holding unorthodox views in the LDS Church? Like the famous “September Six” (or was it “Seven”?)

    Well, you can simply say they weren’t excommunicated for “preaching” Heavenly Mother, and stuff like that, not for “believing” it. But you’re probably right to say its a pretty fine distinction.

    I hold with Joseph Smith on this one.

    “…I never thought it was right to call up a man and try him because he erred in doctrine, it looks too much like methodism and not like Latter day Saintism. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be kicked out of their church. I want the liberty of believing as I please, it feels so good not to be tramelled. It dont prove that a man is not a good man, because he errs in doctrine.”

    (8 April 1843 Conference Report by William Clayton)

  34. Oh, Katyjane, sorry about the imcompletion of the answer –

    The problems I see with the Creed relate to the story of the creation – the Creed has Heavenly Father, His Son and the Holy Ghost all of one substance. My belief is that because God made all of us as individuals – God the Father, His Son, and the Holy Ghost are individuals, too – but they can have the same mission, the same will, the same goal in mind – helping us to recognize that they are, and know that they know who we are, even as individuals. Jesus’ intercessory prayer at the Last Supper recorded in John 17:3 through 11 is that his disciples might know the Father, even as Jesus knew Him. He prays that his disciples might be one, even as he and His Father were one (vs 11) – meaning, to me, that they were united in what they did.

    Does that answer your quesiton?

  35. My belief is that because God made all of us as individuals – God the Father, His Son, and the Holy Ghost are individuals, too

    The classic view of the Trinity is that each of them is a unique individual as well. Think of them as separate persons (or personalities), but the same non-material substance.

    So you agree with the Nicene Creed!

  36. Cindy, I think your response speaks to what I had raised earlier that the real point of difference is not the Trinity (in all the many and varied ways it is understood by Christians), but the homousion, or as you put it “one substance.” Both Evangelicals and Mormons agree that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are One. Both Evangelicals and Mormon agree that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are also separate persons. Evangelicals would not say they are all the same person, neither would LDS. Thus, the difference comes down to the manner they are One. One holds they are one ontologically, or at the level of being (i.e. substance, essence), and one holds they are one in unity, love, purpose, will, but not ontologically one. Whatever the reasons are that a person prefers one view over the other, the first step is identifying precisely the key issue.

    Now, from that point of departure, Evangelicals often say that if they are not ontologically one at the level of being, then you end up with three beings in which case this would amount to polytheism, in which case it would violate the monotheism of the Judeo-Christian religion. LDS, on the other hand, might agree that their belief would constitute polytheism if they held that there were three separate Godheads independent of each other with different purposes. However, LDS worship only one Godhead, which they often refer to as ‘God.’ The fine distinction of saying that worshiping three divine persons as persons isn’t a doctrinal violation, but that worshipping three divine persons as beings is a violation, seems to some LDS to be a distinction without significance. I would also add that it isn’t only LDS but other Christian thinkers have pondered this question of whether it makes sense to hold that the three persons have no being of their own, and whether we must hold that the persons can only exist as “non-material substance” but have no being. For example, William Sherlock, Dean of St. Paul’s, writes:

    It is plain that the Persons are perfectly distinct, for they are Three distinct and infinite Minds, and therefore Three distinct Persons; for a person is an intelligent being, and to say, they are Three Divine Persons, and not three distinct Minds, is both heresy and Nonsense: The Scripture, I’m sure, represents Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as three intelligent beings, not as three powers or faculties of the same being, which is downright Sabellianism; for faculties are not Persons, no more than memory, will and understanding (all used by Augustine in his explanations of how the Trinity worked) are Three Persons in one Man…We must allow the divine persons to be real substantial beings, if we allow each Person to be God, unless we will call anything a God, which has no real Being. (William Sherlock, The Vindication of the Most Blessed and Holy Trinity, 1694, p. 66-67 cited here).

    I’m not saying that Sherlock proves the LDS view is Christian or that Sherlock is right, although I feel he makes a compelling argument. I’m just pointing out that there is a larger conversation about the Trinity with more participants. Now, there are clearly other areas in regards to the broader issue of the nature of God where LDS and Evangelicals may differ, but if the topic is the Trinity (i.e. the relationship of the three persons to each other), then how they are One is the key issue in my view.

  37. Thanks, Aquinas, for the explanation – sorry if I got things off track.

    How the Godhead are One – would it help to look at how we, or I, might pray? Given that I pray to God the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ (our mediator with the Father), and I expect an answer through the Holy Ghost; do you think that helps define their oneness in purpose?

  38. No, I don’t think it does. That’s certainly not dispositive of the issue, and it also assumes the truth of Mormonism. In any case, all you’re doing is pointing out the different roles of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, which actually says absolutely nothing about their oneness.

  39. Aquinas, thanks for the detailed explanation. I think Mormonism is best described as henotheism rather than polytheism or monotheism.

    Cindy, no one is disputing that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one in purpose. In fact it’s our part to be one in purpose WITH them. Does that make us part of the Godhead too?

    Mainstream Christians are describing something more to their unity. We look at the scriptures outside of the “one in purpose” verses and see that there is another unique unity that they possess.

    I’m not saying you need to abandon your beliefs. Take what you have and add to it.

  40. Having attended several different Church services, I don’t think that prayer and belief in an confirmation of truth through the Holy Ghost as I have described is exclusive to the LDS experience. And I believe prayer is answered in many forms. God loves all of His children.

    As to the “substance” of God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost – their supreme spiritual relationship and communion IS their supernal and power THROUGH Their oneness, Their unity – that they WORK together, as Christ described in his prayer in John (and asked, that his disciples be one, like them.)

    When Christ told the Pharisee (in Mark) that he was not far from the Kingdom of God, I believe he was describing a state of being, not a place.

    The Godhead’s/Trinity’s state of being, Their spiritual power and glory that binds those Three together is, as Paul describes, NOT discernable except by and through the Holy Ghost – 1 Corinthians 2:9: “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” Paul does go on to say that God had revealed those things by the Spirit, for the Spirit searches all things, and in vs 13, that the Holy Ghost teaches those things.

    So, according to Paul, our personal knowledge of WHO/WHAT God is, largely depends upon our experience.

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