What Have Mormon Leaders Said About The Trinity?

Posted: July 3, 2022 in Fred Anson, Mormon Studies, The Trinity

compiled by Eric Johnson
Joseph Smith
“Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God! I say that is a strange God anyhow—three in one, and one in three! It is a curious organization. All are to be crammed into one God, according to sectarianism. It would make the biggest God in all the world. He would be a wonderfully big God —he would be a giant or a monster”
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 372).

First Presidency
“In our Articles of Faith we declare our belief in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost–in other words, the Trinity. We accept the scriptural doctrine that they are separate and distinct personages”
(Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life, p. 312).

Mormon Apostles
“The Bible, if read fully and intelligently, teaches that the Holy Trinity is composed of individual Gods”
(John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, p. 58).

“If Christians are people (and this is the standard definition of the clergy of the day) who believe in the holy trinity as defined and set forth in the Nicene, Athanasian, and Apostles creeds, meaning that God is a three-in-one nothingness, a spirit essence filling immensity, an incorporeal and uncreated being incapable of definition or mortal comprehension — then Mormons, by a clergy chosen definition, are ruled out of the fold of Christ”
(Bruce R.McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary 2:113).

“May I divorce myself for the moment from the mainstream of present-day evangelical Christianity, swim upstream as it were, and give forth some rather plain and pointed expressions on this supposedly marvelous means of being saved with very slight effort. But before zeroing in on this religious mania that has now taken possession of millions of devout but deluded people, and as a means of keeping all things in perspective, let me first identify the original heresy that did more than anything else to destroy primitive Christianity. This first and chief heresy of a now fallen and decadent Christianity — and truly it is the father of all heresies — swept through all of the congregations of true believers in the early centuries of the Christian Era; it pertained then and pertains now to the nature and kind of being that God is. It was the doctrine, adapted from Gnosticism, that changed Christianity from the religion in which men worshipped a personal God, in whose image man is made, into the religion in which men worshipped a spirit essence called the Trinity. This new God, no longer a personal Father, no longer a personage of tabernacle, became an incomprehensible three-in-one spirit essence that filled the immensity of space. The adoption of this false doctrine about God effectively destroyed true worship among men and ushered in the age of universal apostasy”
(Bruce R. McConkie, “What Think Ye of Salvation By Grace?” BYU Devotional Address given January 10, 1984; Transcribed from original speech. See also Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, pp. 69-70).

“In common with the rest of Christianity, we believe in a Godhead of Father, Son and Holy Ghost. However, we testify that these three members of the Godhead are three separate and distinct beings. We also testify that God the Father is not just a spirit but is a glorified person with a tangible body, as is his resurrected Son, Jesus Christ”
(Dallin Oaks, “Apostasy and Restoration,” Ensign (Conference Edition, May 1995, p. 84).

“We maintain that the concepts identified by such nonscriptural terms as ‘the incomprehensible mystery of God’ and ‘the mystery of the Holy Trinity’ are attributable to the ideas of Greek philosophy. These philosophical concepts transformed Christianity in the first few centuries following the deaths of the Apostles”
(Dallin Oaks, “Apostasy and Restoration,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1995, p. 84).

“Our first and foremost article of faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is ‘We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.’ We believe these three divine persons constituting a single Godhead are united in purpose, in manner, in testimony, in mission. We believe Them to be filled with the same godly sense of mercy and love, justice and grace, patience, forgiveness, and redemption. I think it is accurate to say we believe They are one in every significant and eternal aspect imaginable except believing Them to be three persons combined in one substance, a Trinitarian notion never set forth in the scriptures because it is not true”
(Jeffrey R. Holland, “The One True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2007, p. 40).

“Indeed no less a source than the stalwart Harper’s Bible Dictionary records that ‘the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament].’ So any criticism that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not hold the contemporary Christian view of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost is not a comment about our commitment to Christ but rather a recognition (accurate, I might add) that our view of the Godhead breaks with post-New Testament Christian history and returns to the doctrine taught by Jesus Himself” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2007, p. 40).

Mormon Seventies
“The ancient prophets knew that the Godhead consisted of three separate and distinct personages, each of whom had a definite work to perform, and yet they all worked in perfect unity as one. The three Gods constituted the Holy Trinity”
(Milton R. Hunter, Pearl of Great Price Commentary, p. 52).

Other Sources
“THE TRINITY CREATION. They believe in the trinity creation. The trinity was voted on in the Council of Nicene hundreds of years after Christ’s death. A bunch of church leaders and government officials got together and voted on ‘who God was?’, and it wasn’t even a unanimous vote. There were about four different versions of God that they voted on. The version that is used by Catholics and Protestants today only won by about a 40 percent margin. Their view of God, as you may know, is that He is like a formless mass of spirit that fills the whole universe and when He comes to earth, part of it breaks off and forms itself into Jesus”
(Scott Marshall, Tracting and Member Missionary Work, p. 73).

“If an acceptance of the doctrine of the Trinity makes one a Christian, then of course Latter-day Saints are not Christians, for they believe the doctrine of the Trinity as expressed in modern Protestant and Catholic theology is the product of the reconciliation of Christian theology with Greek philosophy”
(BYU Professor Emeritus Robert L. Millet, A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints, p. 171).

“Mormonism is simultaneously monotheistic, tri-theistic, and polytheistic. There is but one God, yet there is a Godhead of three, and beyond them, ‘gods many, and lords many’ (1 Cor.8:5)”
(BYU Professor Rodney Turner, “The Doctrine of the Firstborn and Only Begotten,” The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations From God, H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate, eds., p. 102).

(source for this article = https://www.mrm.org/trinity-in-their-own-words)

 

 

Appendix: Hacking Through the Jungle of Mormon Trinity Obfuscation

by Fred W. Anson
A common Mormon tactic in Mormon argumentation regarding the Trinity is either what we see in this Hugh B. Brown’s quote from Eric Johnson’s above compilation…

“In our Articles of Faith we declare our belief in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost–in other words, the Trinity. We accept the scriptural doctrine that they are separate and distinct personages”
(Hugh B. Brown, The Abundant Life, p. 312).

… or, this one from BYU Professor Rodney Turner:

“Mormonism is simultaneously monotheistic, tri-theistic, and polytheistic. There is but one God, yet there is a Godhead of three, and beyond them, ‘gods many, and lords many’ (1 Cor.8:5)”
(BYU Professor Rodney Turner, “The Doctrine of the Firstborn and Only Begotten,” The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations From God, H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate, eds., p. 102).

In both cases, an obfuscating Semantic Fallacy is used whereby the Mormon source changes the definition of the term “Trinity” so that it no longer fits the existing, common, generally accepted definition, which is:

“There are three persons within the Godhead. These persons are understood in theology as distinct characters. The differences among the three, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are real differences but not essential differences. In other words, there is only one essence to the Godhead, not three. In our experience as human beings, each person we meet is a separate being. One person means one being, and vice versa. But in the Godhead, there is one being with three persons.”
(R.C. Sproul, “Who is the Holy Spirit?” (Crucial Questions Series Book 13) (pp. 5-6). Reformation Trust Publishing. Kindle Edition).

Again, and even more directly, succinctly, and a bit more expansively:

“Within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and co-eternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
(James R. White, “The Forgotten Trinity” (p. 26). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition).

That one being, three persons may seem like theological hairsplitting but it’s vital, as Mr. Sproul goes on to explain:

“We must maintain this distinction lest we slip into a form of polytheism, seeing the three persons of the Godhead as three beings who are three separate gods.”
(Op. Cit., Sproul).

Can you see how Mormon Leaders simply ignore the “one being” part of the definition in order to create a Law of Contradictions Fallacy like the one that Rodney Turner has engaged in? Stated plainly, one simply cannot be simultaneously monotheistic, tri-theistic, and polytheistic, can they? This claim is self-defeating and irrational, isn’t it?

Thankfully, the current LdS Church has attempted to damage control these past missteps by issuing this clearer statement on their official and correlated website:

“…where Latter-day Saints differ from other Christian religions is in their belief that God and Jesus Christ are glorified, physical beings and that each member of the Godhead is a separate being… The Father and the Son have tangible bodies of flesh and bones, and the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit (see D&C 130:22).
(“Godhead”; retrieved December 15, 2016).

And while that’s a good thing, they immediately attempt to engage in the same old-school muddying of the water with this “gem”:

“Although the members of the Godhead are distinct beings with distinct roles, they are one in purpose and doctrine. They are perfectly united in bringing to pass Heavenly Father’s divine plan of salvation.”
(Ibid)

A Screenshot of the Gospel Topic “Godhead” article on the official LdS Church website as of the date of this article.

Unfortunately, that closing, “Oh by the way… one in purpose and doctrine!” obfuscation has emboldened some Latter-day Saints to claim, “See we’re monotheists!” which relative to the actual definition of the Trinity is analogous to saying, “See the Los Angeles Rams are united in their purpose and game plan doctrine, therefore they are one football player!” Friends, eleven (11) distinct persons with distinct roles playing in Sofi Stadium are still also eleven (11) distinct beings, not just one, aren’t they? That means that there are, therefore, eleven (11) football players on the fields, not just one (1), correct? It’s as I said in an article on this very issue:

“Many Mormons claim incorrectly that the Mormon Godhead is Three Persons and Three Beings which equals One God.

That is three Beings and three Persons = One God. Monotheism.

Again, this is simply NOT possible. It is a logical contradiction because it is both internally contradictory and self-contradictory given the definition and nature of “being” and/or “person”.”
(Fred W. Anson, “Trinitarian Godhead v. Mormon Godhead Logic Exercise”).

Of course, the double bind that the LdS Church has put itself in here is due to its uber-dogmatism that God is an exalted man whose ontology is corporeal rather than spiritual despite the Bible’s repeated insistence that God is not only not an exalted man but is ontologically a spirit, not a corporeal being as we humans are. Please compare and contrast the following unique LdS scripture…

“The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.”
(D&C 130:22).

… to God’s revelation of Himself in the Bible:

“God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent…”
(Numbers 23:19a KJV)

“I am God, and not a man — the Holy One among you.”
(Hosea 11:9 NIV)

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”
(John 4:24 KJV)

“You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully.”
(Deuteronomy 4:15 KJV)

Further, the Bible is clear that changing the spiritual, invisible God into the physical image of a man is a sign of a foolish and darkened heart in addition to being a knowing denial of the only true and living God the Creator, isn’t it?

“Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God INTO AN IMAGE MADE LIKE TO CORRUPTIBLE MAN…”
(Romans 1:21-23b KJV caps added for emphasis)

In addition, they will point to Jesus Christ and say, “Oh yeah, well what about Jesus Christ, are you going to tell us that He isn’t an exalted man? And the simple answer is, ‘Why yes, Christ’s human nature most certainly is! However, Christ’s divine nature never has been a man, it is spirit just as the Bible says. Thus, Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man just as the Apostle Paul said:

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
(Philippians 2:5-8 KJV)’

Thus, the quick and easy response to this particular Latter-day Saint argument is simple: Simply ask them to show you from the Bible where it says the same of Heavenly Father. That is, where does it say that He ever condescended from His divinity, made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men? I can save you some time, it doesn’t. Anywhere.

So can you now see the gas lighting obfuscation that the LdS Church and its Apologists engage in here? They start with the conclusion that God, “has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” and then try bending the facts to fit it (hoping that no one will scrutinize, let alone notice it, of course) rather than simply letting the evidence lead them to the conclusion.  That, my friends, is Mormon Apologetics in a nutshell.

But stated plainly, as soon as you brush away the Mormon Apologetic smokes and mirrors, current Brighamite Latter-day Saint theology is neither Trinitarian nor monotheistic, no matter how much, “See we’re monotheists, just like you, just in a different kind of way!” sleight of hand and pontificating that they may do. Logically, and rationally, it is simply not possible, is it? 

You have the word of Mormon Leaders on it.

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