Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Book of Mormon 12/18

Modalists believe the father, son, and holy spirit are the same person. Trinitarians believe the father, son, and holy spirit are the same God, but they are distinct persons. Mormons believe the father, son, and holy spirit are distinct beings. It seems like these views differ in their degree of distinction between the father, son, and holy spirit. Modalists make no distinctions between them. Trinitarians believe there is a distinction in personhood, but no distinction in being. Mormons believe there is a distinction both in personhood and in being.

But the BOM seems decidedly modalistic.
Alma 11:38-39 "Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last."

Alma 11:44 "Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil."

Mosiah 15:1-4 "And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son--The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son--And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth."

Ether 3:14 "Behold, I am he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son. In me shall all mankind have life, and that eternally, even they who shall believe on my name; and they shall become my sons and my daughters."
Since Alma 11:44 could also be interpreted in a trinitarian fashion, I posted a question about these scriptures on Yahoo Answers, asking how Mormons understood the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and whether they were modalists, trinitarians, or what. They all told me they believed they were distinct beings.

I've noticed that Mormons typically will use the word "personage" when talking about the father and the son. That caused me a little confusion in the beginning. I remember the Bishop told me toward the end of our conversation that the father and son are distinct personages. At the time, I thought he meant the same thing we trinitarians mean when we say "persons," so I didn't understand what all the fuss was about.

To get around these specific verses that call Jesus the eternal Father, the Mormons on Yahoo Answers told me that Jesus is our Father in a different sense than God the Father is. Jesus is our father in two senses--(1) in the sense that we are reborn through baptism, becoming his sons and daughters, and (2) in the sense that Jesus created our physical bodies.

I went back and read those verses with that in mind, to see if it meshed. I doubt that was the intention of the author of the BOM since Jesus is called "the very Eternal Father" in Alma 11:38-39. If Jesus is the very Eternal Father, then who is that other guy? Mosiah 15:1-4 says explicitly why Jesus is called the father. It says he was called "the Father, because he was conceived by the power of God."

The Mormons on Yahoo Answers also told me that the father, son, and holy spirit are one in unity and purpose--the same sense in which believers are to be one with each other and in which husbands and wives are one with each other. But Alma 11:44 explicitly says they are "one Eternal God," which tells us the sense in which they are one. They are one God; one being.

Since I posted that question, I've seen a lot of Mormons refer to a "godhead," when talking about the father, son, and holy spirit, rather than simply saying "God," like Alma 11:44 does. By "godhead," they seem to mean a council of gods that includes the father, son, and holy spirit.

Some time after Kay gave me her testimony, and I began to read about Mormonism, she warned me that not everybody claiming to be Mormon was part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. There were heretical off-shoots. If the Book of Mormon really is the word of God, then I'd probably be enclined to think the LDS Church was the heretical group, and I'd search out some of these other branches to see if they adhered more closely to the BOM than the LDS Church does. It would be interesting to find out if there are any modalists among them and whether this issue had anything to do with why they split.

In the comment section of Part 1 of this series, Tracy gave me a link to an article by Barry R. Bickmore called "Of Simplicity, Oversimplification, and Monotheism." It's a long article, but I encourage everybody to read the first section--The Unity and Plurality of God. I have never seen a better example of how Mormons redefine words. If you read that section carefully, it sheds a lot of light on why some Mormons will insist that they believe there is only one God, and that we misrepresent them when we say otherwise. It turns out that what they mean by "one God" and by "monotheism" is "more than one God, unified in mind, will, love, and covenant."

I remember having a discussion with Kay several months before I found out she was a Mormon. She asked me what I thought about Mormons, and I brought up the issue of the eternal law of progression and how God was once a man, and how men can become gods. She insisted that I was misrepresenting Mormonism, and that Mormons believe there is only one God. When I told her about how some Mormons qualify that by saying one God for this universe, she still insisted that I was wrong and that there was only one God in all of reality. Now I understand where the confusion came from.

Part 13


At 8/04/2009 4:35 AM , Blogger Carl said...

It is unfortunate that the neither the Bible not the Book of Mormon just come out and clearly explain the nature and relationship between God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost. Fortunately latter day prophets have done just that.

It's interesting to note that prior to the Council at Nicene there were hundreds of different theological differences to be found in Christianity. One of the major sticking points was the relationship of the Godhead.

Most often, LDS refer to God as Heavenly Father, not necessarily to avoid confusion about who they are referring to. (it's also a issue of respect)

I read the section you linked to there, and couldn't see where any words were redefined beyond the way everyone thinks they know what a word means.

The Father has given Jesus complete authority of the earth and mankind, so when Jesus says something, it is as good as the Father saying it. Similar to a business that has a President and a COO, to the guy working on the assembly line, policy comes from 'the company'.

So because Jesus acts in God's name, in the most literal sense of the phrase, there is no conflict between scripture and LDS teachings. Just clarification.

At 8/10/2009 3:49 PM , Blogger Sam said...

I read the section you linked to there, and couldn't see where any words were redefined beyond the way everyone thinks they know what a word means.

The word “monotheism” was redefined to mean more than one god united in certain ways. The article completely turned monotheism on its head.


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