The Mormon Denial Of The Christian Doctrine Of The Trinity

Latter-day Saints also believe strongly in the fundamental unity of the divine. They believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Ghost, though distinct beings, are unified in purpose and doctrine. It is in this light that Latter-day Saints understand Jesus’s prayer for His disciples through the ages: “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us.”

—”Becoming Like God

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  1. I know it well having grown up among Mormons. I think the same discussion must have taken place between Arians and the Orthodox a long time ago. The problem is that Mormons have no problem with polytheism but won’t admit that openly. The father, son, and spirit truly are in complete agreement in purpose and doctrine, but if they are not one essence/person all we are left with is three separate gods which is nothing but polytheism, and our faith is not polytheistic, but monotheistic.

    • Keith,

      Exactly. Contrast their doctrine of God with the Christian doctrine in the Athanasian Creed:

      1. Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith;

      2. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

      3. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity;

      4. Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.

      5. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Spirit.

      6. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is all one, the glory equal, the majesty coeternal.

      7. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Spirit.

      8. The Father uncreated, the Son uncreated, and the Holy Spirit uncreated.

      9. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Spirit incomprehensible.

      10. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Spirit eternal.

      11. And yet they are not three eternals but one eternal.

      12. As also there are not three uncreated nor three incomprehensible, but one uncreated and one incomprehensible.

      13. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Spirit almighty.

      14. And yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty.

      15. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God;

      16. And yet they are not three Gods, but one God.

      17. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Spirit Lord;

      18. And yet they are not three Lords but one Lord.

      19. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord;

      20. So are we forbidden by the catholic religion to say; There are three Gods or three Lords.

      21. The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten.

      22. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten.

      23. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

      24. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

      25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.

      26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.

      27. So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

      28. He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

      29. Furthermore it is necessary to everlasting salvation that he also believe rightly the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

      30. For the right faith is that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and man.

      31. God of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and man of substance of His mother, born in the world.

      32. Perfect God and perfect man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting.

      33. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.

      34. Who, although He is God and man, yet He is not two, but one Christ.

      35. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by taking of that manhood into God.

      36. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person.

      37. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ;

      38. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into hell, rose again the third day from the dead;

      39. He ascended into heaven, He sits on the right hand of the Father, God, Almighty;

      40. From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.

      41. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies;

      42. and shall give account of their own works.

      43. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting and they that have done evil into everlasting fire.

      44. This is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully he cannot be saved.

  2. Sometimes it seems like we evangelicals seem to make points of doctrine like those in the old testament who “kept all of the laws and commandments” required to attain the kingdom of God.

    Let us make sure we are basing the deity of Christ on faith in God’s word…and not putting our faith in simply “reasoning through the scripture” or “bullet points required for salvation” as if it can be known, apart from the gift of the Holy Spirit..

    The point is that God Commands it, and His words ARE worthy.

    1 Tim. 1:15 “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.”

    1 Cor. 14:37-38 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.

    • Josh,

      The Athanasian Creed is a witness to the universal (ecumenical, catholic) faith of all Christians. The doctrine of the Trinity is not esoterica or a second blessing. It is basic Christianity and essential for the Christian to believe.

      Yes, a Christian must believe in the true humanity and deity of Christ but he must also believe the doctrine of the Trinity.

      To be clear, the Mormons deny the catholic, ecumenical, Christian faith.

  3. No, you are correct, the Trinity is not “esoterica”, but I don’t understand how laying down points of doctrine is a solution to the Mormon in any way, but rather to preach faith in Jesus Christ as the command of God worthy of acceptance…the points of doctrine will come with the overflow and regeneration of the Holy Spirit.

    How can we expect that by preaching doctrine, this will lead into faith? We are not seeking to preach obedience because of the justice in the command, but rather the obedience of faith.

    • Josh,

      It’s both/and not either/or.

      We need to be crystal clear about what we understand God’s Word to teach both for the sake of those Mormons who really do believe that it is just a semantic issue and for those Christians who are tempted to paper over the differences. The Mormon religion is not Christian. Yet there are leading evangelicals who, in different ways, are seeking to erase the boundary lines between Christianity and Mormonism. There are cultural-political leaders who are seeking to do the same. We saw this during the Romney campaign. Repeatedly people said, “Well, the Mormons really aren’t so different from us after all.” This is one reason why it’s important to distinguish between the two spheres of God’s kingdom.

      Yes, we need to preach Christ but we need to clarify which Christ. Mormons will tell you that they believe in Jesus but it is not the Jesus of the Scriptures nor the Jesus confessed by the church ecumenical.

  4. Thank you for being gentle and for that education. I understand better.

    I am stirred to, like Christ preach words that are Spirit and Life, words of God that cut to the quick, dividing bone and marrow… of this type of preaching, Peter confessed “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”

    • Indeed a Mormon or Unitarian may have a deeply held faith in Jesus, except if by “Jesus” they mean someone other than the one revealed from Genesis to Revelation, it might as well be deeply held belief in Peyton Manning. If we believe in any Jesus but the one who has eternally lived as the One, uncreated God who is three persons, then we place faith in an imaginary figure, and truly have no salvation.

  5. Dr. Clark,

    The article says that “Latter-day Saint beliefs would have sounded more familiar” to the early church quoting Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Basil the Great approvingly. It would be a service to have a post documenting theological and historical context that the Church Fathers were writing for and how these quotes in context really don’t sound all that Mormon.

    You may be aware that the Becoming Like God article on is part of a series of new “Gospel Topics” essays. Subjects included in the series will be Multiple Accounts of the First Vision, The Church’s relationship with the larger Christian world, Race and priesthood restriction, Plural marriage, including Joseph Smith’s involvement, Book of Mormon translation, Women’s roles in the Church, Allegations of violence in the 19th-century Church, DNA studies and the Book of Mormon, Deification in Church teachings, Egyptology and the Book of Abraham.

  6. Whew. A couple of posts ago, I thought Dr. Clark was going Mormon on us!

    Glad to see the Athanasian Creed, too. The first time I read it, I thought it made eminent sense, biblically speaking–although the guy who got my much younger self to see the importance of Trinitarian doctrine was John Stott, when he preached on Gal. 4. Hearing that sermon pretty much hardened me against any idea that the Trinity is just “some ancient creed”, “Greek speculation”, “alien to living faith”, or all those other cliches someone brought up in the Unitarian-Modernist 20th century was bombarded with.

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