The Trinity in the Book of Mormon
by Pat Goltz
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, or Mormon church, has two sets of doctrines. One set, which is somewhat similar to Christianity, though not orthodox Christianity by any means, is presented to the outside world. The other set, which consists of insider doctrines, including ceremonies and signs, such as the temple marriage ceremony, includes doctrines that are very different from Christianity. This doctrine is concealed from the world, and even unknown to some Mormons. This is why it is called an "insider doctrine," because it is revealed only to insiders. The insider doctrine we consider in this essay is that there are actually many gods. Mormonism is polytheistic. According to this doctrine, God the Father is the god of this world. He has a physical body, and he produced Jesus, who is God the Son, by impregnating Mary in an ordinary sex act. If men live righteous lives, someday they will become gods and have worlds of their own. Their wives, sealed to them in temple weddings, will rule by their sides. The woman's fate in Mormonism depends on her husband's behavior, but she is not to dominate him in the marriage, but be submissive to him. (This is an impossible task, and it causes many mental health problems in Mormon women.) According to this insider doctrine, God the Father and God the Son are just two of many gods, all with physical bodies. Each of them became gods by righteous behavior. Each of them was born at one time. For the purpose of this essay, I am assuming that the reader is familiar with this Mormon insider doctrine. Evidence concerning this doctrine is left for another occasion.
Let us compare this insider Mormon doctrine to what the Book of Mormon has to say on the subject.
According to orthodox Christian doctrine, there is only one God. All other attempts at creating gods are manmade or the result of demon activity. These are imposters, and do not exist as gods. The one God Who does exist created the universe and everything in it. He is only one God, but He consists of three Persons: the Father; the Son, also known as Jesus Christ or the Son of Man; and the Holy Spirit.
The doctrine of the Trinity is a mystery and a paradox. It is not understood by people who do not receive the help of the Holy Spirit, though it is not beyond the imagination of others. For further elaboration on this doctrine, see my essay Thoughts on the Trinity.
Mormons argue that when Jesus was on the cross, and cried out, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" that He was talking to God the Father. This is correct. However, they also argue that if there is only one God, Jesus was talking to Himself, and there are not three persons. So the only way it makes sense for Jesus to be talking to God the Father is that they have to be separate gods. However, one way to look at that is to consider the analogy of the human person. It is a fact that some people will talk to a body part. A person will say something like, "stomach, why won't you quit hurting?" The fact that we talk to our stomachs in this way does not mean that our stomach is a separate being!
The best way to refute the polytheism of Mormonism's insider doctrines is to consider passages from the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon does not teach polytheism. Let us see what it does teach. We will take a number of passages and then discuss each briefly.
Start with 2 Nephi 2:13-14. It reads, "And if ye shall say there is no law, ye shall also say there is no sin. If ye shall say there is no sin, ye shall also say there is no righteousness. And if there be no righteousness there be no happiness. And if there be no righteousness nor happiness there be no punishment nor misery. And if these things are not there is no God. And if there is no God we are not, neither the earth; for there could have been no creation of things, neither to act nor to be acted upon; wherefore, all things must have vanished away. And now, my sons, I speak unto you these things for your profit and learning; for there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are, both things to act and things to be acted upon." Notice here that God created the universe. Only one God is mentioned.
Turn to 2 Nephi 9:20. "O how great the holiness of our God! For he knoweth all things, and there is not anything save he knows it." According to this passage, God knows everything; He is omniscient. No god in a physical body can know everything.
Now examine 2 Nephi 10:7. "But, behold, thus saith the Lord God: When the day cometh that they shall believe in me, that I am Christ, then have I covenanted with their fathers that they shall be restored in the flesh, upon the earth, unto the lands of their inheritance." From this passage we learn that Christ is God. Eventually everyone will be restored to the flesh on this planet, not each on a planet of his own.
Next, turn to 2 Nephi 11:6-7. "And my soul delighteth in proving unto my people that save Christ should come all men must perish. For if there be no Christ there be no God; and if there be no God we are not, for there could have been no creation. But there is a God, and he is Christ, and he cometh in the fulness of his own time." This passage again demonstrates that Christ is God. Furthermore, we learn that Christ must come, or we cannot be saved. Finally, we learn that without the existence of Christ, Who is God, there can be no creation, and we wouldn't even be here to read the Book of Mormon!
Next, examine 2 Nephi 19:6. "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." The Book of Mormon is riddled with plagiarisms from the King James translation of the Bible. This passage from Isaiah is one example of some of the material taken. Notice from this passage something very interesting: it is describing God the Son, yet it says that He shall be called The Everlasting Father! Here is a real contradiction of standard Mormon insider doctrine, because it maintains that the Son and the Father are two separate beings with human bodies. Here we learn that They are one and the same Being.
So far, it looks a great deal like orthodox Christianity, doesn't it? It would appear that the Book of Mormon supports orthodox Christianity much better than it does Mormon insider doctrine!
Turn next to 2 Nephi 26:12. "And as I spake concerning the convincing of the Jews, that Jesus is the very Christ, it must needs be that the Gentiles be convinced also that Jesus is the Christ, the Eternal God;" Here we have yet another passage that indicates that Jesus is God, and that He is eternal. This is a direct contradiction of Mormon doctrine that states that God the Father had sexual relations with Mary, and as a result, Christ was born. Mormon doctrine indicates that a god has a human body, and we know that human bodies have an origin. They are not in existence since the beginning of eternity.
Now look at 2 Nephi 30:2. "For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel." Jesus is the Holy One of Israel. The Book of Mormon is full of references to the Holy One of Israel.
Next, turn to Mosiah 3:8. "And he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary." Here we learn once more that Jesus created the universe, and is identical with the Father. It could be argued that Jesus is the father of this world; however, the passage says that He is the Father of heaven and earth.
Let us next examine Mosiah 7:19. "Therefore, lift up your hearts, and rejoice, and put your trust in God, in that God who was the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob; and also, that God who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt, and caused that they should walk through the Red Sea on dry ground, and fed them with manna that they might not perish in the wilderness; and many more things did he do for them." This passage clearly links the God of the Book of Mormon to the God of the Bible. For this reason, we can also examine what the Bible has to say about that God, which I have done in my essay, Thoughts on the Trinity, already mentioned.
Now, we want to examine Mosiah 15:1-5, which reads, "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 the Son--And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth. And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God, suffereth temptation, and yieldeth not to the temptation, but suffereth himself to be mocked, and scourged, and cast out, and disowned by his people." This passage is confusing and nonsensical, yet it does clearly state that the Father and Son are one God.
Turning to the book of Alma, let us examine Alma 6:8. "And Alma went and began to declare the word of God unto the church which was established in the valley of Gideon, according to the revelation of the truth of the word which had been spoken by his fathers, and according to the spirit of prophecy which was in him, according to the testimony of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who should come to redeem his people from their sins, and the holy order by which he was called. And thus it is written. Amen." We learn from this that Jesus is the Son of God, and that He came to redeem us. This is the Christian message. It is not what Mormonism teaches.
We look next at Alma 18:26-30. "And then Ammon said: Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit? And he said, Yea. And Ammon said: This is God. And Ammon said unto him again: Believest thou that this Great Spirit, who is God, created all things which are in the heaven and in the earth? And he said: Yea, I believe that he created all things which are in the earth; but I do not know the heavens. And Ammon said unto him: The heavens is a place where God dwells and all his holy angels." The term "Great Spirit" is a common Native American (American Indian) term for God. In the Book of Mormon, Ammon says that the Great Spirit is God. In the Christian faith, we learn that God the Son has a body, but that God the Father and God the Holy Spirit both do not. Both the Father and the Holy Spirit are said to be spirit. However, Mormonism teaches that God the Father has a body, so according to Mormonism, this leaves only God the Holy Spirit to equate to the Great Spirit. For this reason, this passage implies that God the Holy Spirit is God, and that He also created the universe.
In the final passage from Alma, examine chapter 30, verses 37-40. "And then Alma said unto him: Believest thou that there is a God? And he answered, Nay. Now Alma said unto him: Will ye deny again that there is a God, and also deny the Christ? For behold I say unto you, I know there is a God, and also that Christ shall come. And now what evidence have ye that there is no God, or that Christ cometh not? I say unto you that ye have none, save it be your word only." This passage implies that God and the Christ are separate. In Christianity, the term "God" is often used as a synonym for God the Father, if the context permits it without confusion. The usage is the same here. This passage is implying that God the Father and Jesus Christ are separate somehow.
We consider just one passage from Helaman. Turn to Helaman 8:22-23. "Our father Lehi was driven out of Jerusalem because he testified of these things. Nephi also testified of these things, and also almost all of our fathers, even down to this time; yea, they have testified of the coming of Christ, and have looked forward, and have rejoiced in his day which is to come. And behold, he is God, and he is with them, and he did manifest himself unto them, that they were redeemed by him; and they gave unto him glory, because of that which is to come." Again, we learn that Christ is to redeem us: the Christian message. Every good Mormon knows that "we save ourselves by our righteous behavior." That is to say our eternal destiny as gods is determined by our behavior, not by the sacrifice of Jesus.
Back into the books of Nephi. From 3 Nephi, consider chapter 5, verses 13 and 20: "Behold, I am a disciple of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I have been called of him to declare his word among his people, that they might have everlasting life...I am Mormon, and a pure descendant of Lehi. I have reason to bless my God and my Savior Jesus Christ, that he brought our fathers out of the land of Jerusalem, and no one knew it save it were himself and those whom he brought out of that land; and that, he hath given me and my people so much knowledge unto the salvation of our souls." This passage tells us that Jesus is the Son of God, and that He is God, and our Savior, so that we may receive the salvation of our souls. This is the Christian message, again.
Consider now Moroni 8:18. "For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity." We are beginning to really pick up on the nature of God now. God existed from all eternity, and will exist to all eternity, He is completely God in every way, and He is unchangeable. This sounds like the Christian God, not the Mormon gods.
We finish off the consideration of the Book of Mormon with a few remaining passages from the books of Nephi.
Turn to 3 Nephi 9:15. "Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name." Fascinating! Jesus existed from eternity, along with the Father, and they are in each other!
Consider next 3 Nephi 11:22-27, and verse 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." This is a clear statement of the Christian Trinity. The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one!
We finish with 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. Amen."
And so here we have it: the Christian Trinity, consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is one God. Not three, not three of many, but one and only.
I rest my case.
It has since come to my attention that it is possible that people will misinterpret what I have said. In writing the above, I do not mean to say that God is merely one in purpose and spirit, but instead I mean to say that God is one in essence, in substance. Thus, the current Mormon doctrine that God the Father and Jesus are two separate beings who are human in form is NOT what I mean to say. Rather, what I mean to say is that at one time, Joseph Smith believed in the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, that God is one in substance and essence, not merely that God is one in purpose (which is a meaningless thing to say in any case). At some point, Mormon doctrine deviated from this understanding (whether it was Joseph Smith himself or a successor who lured Mormon doctrine away from orthodox Christian doctrine on this point, I do not know). Thus, it is my position that current Mormon doctrine is repudiated by the Book of Mormon itself.
The fact is that Mormons do not currently worship the God Who created the universe. Instead, they posit that God is simply an exalted human who rules this earth alone. One cannot reconcile this idea with the idea that God created the universe; never would He confine Himself to ruling only one world.
Finally, I do not mean to say that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I mean to say that the doctrine which is taught to Mormons contradicts the Book of Mormon. My sole purpose is to show this contradiction. Joseph Smith once believed the orthodox Christian understanding of the nature of God, but he changed his mind, and so did LDS, and the result is that what is currently taught is not the same as what the Book of Mormon teaches. It is not that suddenly, if you accept what the Book of Mormon says, you will become orthodox Christian. It is that I find repeated contradictions between LDS doctrine as it has been explained to me, and what the Book of Mormon actually says.
I said that Joseph Smith changed his mind. This is evident in later writings that are accepted as Scripture by the Mormons, and I hope to get into that in the future. But Mormons will claim that the Book of Mormon is very old, and was written by a number of different people. They cite evidence of difference in style and vocabulary from one book to the next. However, the Book of Mormon is heavily plagiarized from the King James version of the Bible, and because of this, and because the plagiarisms were taken from different books of the Bible, the difference in style and vocabulary in the Book of Mormon is merely due to the fact that the plagiarism used different books of the Bible, and thus it is NOT evidence that many people wrote the Book of Mormon. In my own opinion, the Book of Mormon was probably written by several different people, INCLUDING Joseph Smith (or his mother), but all of them were contemporaries of the 19th century. The Book of Mormon is NOT ancient. God has made it clear that He expects us to examine the EVIDENCE that supports His word in the Bible. So why didn't God leave the Golden Plates? To me, it's obvious. They never existed in the first place.
Please do not use this essay to attempt to prove that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. This is NOT my intent. My intent is solely to show that LDS doctrine and the Book of Mormon do not agree; they are contradictory.
I have seen that Mormons will often explain to outsiders that they believe that God is one, but this is misleading because the official doctrine is that the Godhead is made up of two (or three) separate beings who are merely one in purpose. Orthodox Christianity, on the other hand, teaches that God is one SUBSTANCE, or ESSENCE, which is to say that the THREE Persons are totally integrated into ONE GOD. My essay on the Trinity in the Bible goes into the grammatical proof of this assertion in the Bible. If Mormons fail to explain that they believe that there are several gods, and that they are merely one in purpose, they're being misleading. They are letting orthodox Christians jump to the conclusion that Mormon doctrine agrees with Christian doctrine, when it does not.
One of the things I have noticed is that when Mormons talk to Christians, they often want the Christians to explain their own faith FIRST, and then the Mormons will couch their explanations of their faith in the terms the Christian used. The problem is, these terms have been redefined, and even though it MAY be innocent on the part of the Mormons to use these same terms, but with different definitions, it leads the Christian to jump to the conclusion that Mormons embrace Christian orthodoxy when they do not. (In fact, it is entirely possible that Mormons are doing the very same thing to themselves: misleading themselves about what orthodox Christianity teaches.) So watch for this technique.
I would like to respectfully suggest that part of the problem is widespread acceptance of the theory of evolution by Mormons. I have information about the theory of evolution elsewhere on this site. The theory of evolution is not compatible with the Bible.
I also intend to put up an essay on the differences between the Mormon definition of Christianity, and the orthodox Christian definition.