Monday, September 20, 2010

Is the Mormon Godhead Biblical?

Murdock Wallis has three responses to my post on the Trinity from last week. Helpfully, he divides them up thematically, so I'll respond to them individually. Here's his first:
The Godhead

In the LDS handbook “True to the Faith”, which can be read online at www.lds.org for any readers who would like to see it, gives the following explanation:
The first article of faith states, “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” These three beings make up the Godhead. They preside over this world and all other creations of our Father in Heaven.

The true doctrine of the Godhead was lost in the apostasy that followed the Savior’s mortal ministry and the deaths of His Apostles. This doctrine began to be restored when 14-year-old Joseph Smith received his First Vision (see Joseph Smith—History 1:17). From the Prophet’s account of the First Vision and from his other teachings, we know that the members of the Godhead are three separate beings. 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).

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.
The late Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s book "Mormon Doctrine", which is not a publication of the Church, but has sold millions of copies over 52 years and is enormously influential, includes the following in its discussion of the Godhead:
"Though each God in the Godhead is a personage separate and distinct from each of the others, yet they are "one God" (Testimony of Three Witnesses in Book of Mormon), meaning that they are united as one in the attributes of perfection. For instance, each has the fulness of truth, knowledge, charity, power, justice, judgment, mercy, and faith. Accordingly they all think, act, speak, and are alike in all things; and yet they are three separate and distinct entities. Each occupies space and is and can be in but one place at one time, but each has power and influence that is everywhere present. The oneness of the Gods is the same unity that should exist among the saints. (John 17; 3 Ne. 28:10-11)"
I am asking only whether the Bible verses you have cited as supporting the doctrine of the Trinity are consistent with the Godhead as described by the Church and Elder McConkie. My question does not raise a dispute as to whether or not the Bible verses that you have cited support the doctrine of the Trinity. Thus, I am not asking whether the Bible verses you cite are consistent with the Godhead alone. I am not asking for the view of the Catholic magisterium as to what these verses actually mean. I am asking only whether, without reference to the Trinity, and understanding that reasonable people can differ, these verses can be read by reasonable people as referring to the Godhead.
Murdock's question was whether "reasonable people can differ" on the interpretation of these verses. That answer's easy: they can, and they do. If a mind as great as St. Augustine's could have been caught up for long in Manicheanism and skepticism, it's fair to say that even the most reasonable people can arrive at the wrong answers sometimes. All of this is why we need an infallible Church, and why we need to be able to easily identify that visible Church. More on that in a bit.

In any case, I think that the real question isn't whether the Mormon view of the Godhead is compatible with the Trinity. It's not, and True to the Faith concedes as much when it claims that “the true doctrine of the Godhead was lost in the apostasy,” and views the Mormon view as the restoration of an accurate understanding of the nature of God. The question then is whether either interpretation is sustainable in light of the Scriptural evidence. Here's why I don't think the Mormon view of the Godhead holds up to scrutiny.
(1) "the members of the Godhead are three separate beings."
If that's the case, Mormonism is polytheistic, period. It may have a gentle polytheism, where the major gods work in harmony, but it's still polytheism. And that creates some serious Biblical problems. For example, in Isaiah 45:18, we hear:

For this is what the LORD says— he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited— he says: "I am the LORD, and there is no other.

So God is identified in the singular, and He says at the end, "I am the LORD (in Hebrew, Jehovah), and there is no other." Now the He in question is the Trinity in the Catholic view. But in the Mormon view, it must be One of the three Beings speaking. In v. 5, He says plainly, "I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God." In the previous chapter, Isaiah 44:6, Jehovah says, "I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God."

Now, as I understand it, Mormonism today considers Jehovah to be Jesus Christ - True to the Faith says as much on page 87. If that's true, and it's true that Jesus Christ is a separate Being from the Father and the Holy Spirit, then Jesus is declaring in Isaiah 45 that the Father and Holy Spirit aren't God. Obviously, the same problem arises is you understand Jehovah to be exclusively God the Father or God the Holy Spirit.

This problem arises throughout the Old and New Testament: 2 Kings 19:19 declares, "you alone, O Jehovah, are God." 1 Timothy 2:5 declares that there is only One God, as does Romans 3:30. In Deuteronomy 5:9, Jehovah declares Himself a "jealous God" who won't tolerate the worship of any others. In Luke 4:8, Jesus declares, "You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only." And on and on it goes. In numerous verses, we hear the following:
  • There is only one God.
  • This God alone is God.
  • Worship of anything or anyone else as God is displeasing.
For a Catholic, these verses are a bedrock of support for us. We believe Jehovah is the One, Triune God. But these passages, and countless others, are emphatic that there is only One Divine Being, Jehovah. They do, I think, thoroughly discredit the view that there are Three Divine Beings. At the least, I can't think of a way that Jehovah could have been any clearer that He is the only God.

And finally, we arrive at 1 John 4:8, the famous proclamation that "God is Love." Love is necessarily selfless, and involves a Lover pouring Himself out for His Beloved. This is captured in the Trinity quite neatly. The Father loves the Son fully and selflessly; the Son loves the Father fully and selflessly; the bond of Love eternally proceeding from the One to the Other Person of the Trinity forms the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Thus, within God Himself, there are all of the necessary components to be, not just loving, but Love Incarnate. Now, in the Mormon Godhead, we run into serious difficulties. Since each God is a single Person, God cannot be Love. He can love, but He cannot be Love. For the action of loving to be complete, each God must go outside Himself to love -- to love Himself would be self-seeking, contrary to the very nature of Love (1 Corinthians 13:5). Only the Trinity offers God as Love in its complete form: Lover and Beloved, totally selfless.
(2) "The Father and the Son have tangible bodies of flesh and bones"
Obviously, we agree on the Son, Jesus Christ, having a tangible Body. But Christ is expressly declared in Colossians 1:15 to be "the image of the invisible God," because the Father does not have a tangible Body. It was Jesus’ unique calling which called for His being made Man, as Hebrews 2:14-18 explains. 1 Timothy 1:17 and Hebrews 11:27 also describe God the Father as invisible. John 4:24 says of Him, "God is Spirit." God is the maker of all things, including matter. While it isn't beyond the scope of God the Father's power to fashion Himself a Body (obviously), He hasn't done so.
(3) "distinct Beings ... One in purpose"
I've heard this argument before, based upon John 17:20-21, " I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you," and Elder McConkie cites the chapter in support of his similar claim. But this verse is being radically misunderstood regarding the nature of God because it is being misunderstood regarding the relationship of the Church.

Take the example of an engaged couple. They're the kind who get along perfectly, can complete each other's sentences, etc. - you know the type. They're "one in purpose." Then they get married. Genesis 2:24 says that in the marital union, the two become one flesh. Now they're something more than one in purpose, through the power of the sacraments. That's the distinction that you need to understand for John 17 to make sense. Romans 12:5, 1 Corinthians 12:27 and the rest describe the Church as "the Body of Christ." It's being much less metaphorical than it seems. Through Baptism we enter into union with Christ. Not a mere union of purpose, where we root for His team, but a genuine indelible unity that can never be undone. In Ephesians 5:25-32, Paul speaks of the Church as the Bride of Christ, and compares Her quite dramatically to the union of a married couple, calling it a "Profound Mystery." This Profound Mystery is something far beyond a simple unity in purpose. In Galatians 2:20, Paul declares:
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
So my first point is that the relationship between the Church and Christ isn't a mere unity of purpose. To no one was this more clear than to St. Paul. And he should know: Acts 9:1-5 says that when he set out to persecute the Christians of Damascus, he was stopped on the way by a voice asking:
"Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?"
When he asked, "Who are you, Lord?" Jesus responded: "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" - that is, Jesus identified Himself so completely with His Church that although already Ascended into Heaven, He still considered any persecution of the Church as a direct persecution of Himself.

Now, if the unity between Christ and the Church isn't a mere unity of purpose, then the unity within the Church isn't, either. We're organically connected in a way we don't fully understand, like spokes around the hub of Christ. That's why the Body of Christ image is so potent: we're connected and organized within a single organic Being... and that Being is Christ Himself. The early Christians understood this, and called themselves members of "The Way," a Divine title (John 14:6). And given this, the unity being spoken of in John 17 isn't a mere unity of purpose, either amongst members of the Church or between Members of the Trinity. Rather, it's a bond St. Paul describes as a Profound Mystery (which "unity of purpose" certainly isn't).
(4) "three separate and distinct entities. Each occupies space and is and can be in but one place at one time, "
God is the Creator of all space and time. Specifically, through Jesus Christ "all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him" (Colossians 1:16). To say that God, in His intrinsic Nature, occupies space is to render Him not the Creator. Obviously, this is also the issue with the notion that God the Father has always had a tangible Body. Beyond this, in Matthew 18:20, Jesus promises that "where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." How is this possible, given that His Body is locally present in Heaven - that is, how can Jesus be present between the Ascension and the Second Coming? The answer is that He can be present in other forms, precisely because He's not bound by the limits of humanity. So He's spiritually present at all gatherings in His name, as He says above, and He's really and sacramentally present in the Flesh in the Eucharist, but not in a way requiring His leaving Heaven, as He will at the Second Coming. Both of these forms directly refute the notion that, because He's Bodily Ascended, He cannot be present in other ways.

Likewise, Luke 12:6-7 tells us that God the Father knows the number of hairs on our heads, and has not forgotten a single sparrow in His Creation. Proverbs 15:3 says He sees everything. Both Psalm 90:4 and 2 Peter 3:8 inform us that the normal rules of time don't apply to God. All of this presupposes that God isn't bound by the laws of physics. He, after all, created those laws.
Conclusion
So those are the reasons that I think Scripture positively refutes the notion of the Mormon Godhead. Again, in saying this, I'm not suggesting that Mormons are either intentionally duping themselves or irrational. Simply that even well-meaning, reasonable people can go astray, particularly on a topic so foreign to human experience as the interior nature of God. But foreign though it may be, for a believer, there could hardly be more important questions than: how many Gods am I worshiping? Are they all of equal majesty and authority? Are these the ultimate Gods, or are there Gods higher yet? These questions are answered definitively, and with the weight of the Church, in the Trinity, in a way which accounts for all of the Scriptural evidence. In contrast to this, there are hole in all competing theories, including the Mormon Godhead, as viewed above.

21 comments:

  1. Correction - Mormon teaching is fully compatible with the idea of "Trinity."

    It's just not compatible with the notion of homoousios.

    Granted, most Nicene Christians equate "Trinity" with homoousios, but that's your problem, not ours. If you are trying to assert that you can't have a Trinity without homoousios, then that's an argument you'll have to affirmatively establish. I'm not going to give you any freebies on it.

    The bare notion of Trinity does not require homoousios, and it is this notion alone that Mormonism rejects. Not Trinity.

    We're actually fully compatible with the "Social Trinitarianism" movement that has emerged in some Protestant theological circles.

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  2. And of course, we reject creation ex nihilo as well - considering it to be a purely neo-Platonist, extra-biblical innovation of early Christian thinkers. The Bible doesn't demand it, modern revelation rejects it, we don't believe in it.

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  3. Seth,

    (1) The word "Trinity" refers to the belief that there are Three Persons in One Being, God. That's the historical sense of the term, and the term was apparently specially coined to describe this distinct reality by Theophilus of Antioch in 180 A.D. -- after Mormonism claims the Great Apostasy occurred.

    I realize that some 20th century thinkers attempted to create the concept of a "Social Trinity" in which Three Beings cooperate in loving harmony, but that's non-Trinitarian, despite the (intentionally) misleading title.

    Similarly, Catholics not infrequently refer to the Trinity as the Godhead. For example, the Catholic Encyclopedia says, "The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the Christian religion — the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there are Three truly distinct Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

    But just because Catholics sometimes refer to the Trinity as the Godhead, and Mormons refer (or could refer) to the Mormon Godhead as a kind of "Social Trinity,” so what? Mormonism’s view of the Godhead isn’t compatible with the term Trinity in its historic sense. It would be like talking about the merits of Coke v. Pepsi, only to be corrected that in the South they sometimes call all soda “Coke.” It’s true, but if we call start calling Pepsi “Coke,” the debate becomes significantly less coherent, and less accurate to the meaning of the word “Coke” (or, more to the point, “Trinity”). What positive purpose could come from muddying the waters in that way?

    (2) As for Creation ex nihilio, it's the only sense in which there can truly be Creation. Carl Sagan famously (and accurately) said, "If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." Anything short of that isn’t Creation in the truest sense of the term. Creation from the Biblical standpoint describes God as creating everything, not just rearranging pre-existing elements. In the face of this, to say that "modern revelation" from LDS leadership is incompatible with this is question-begging at best, and a refutation of Mormonism at worst.

    But in addition to being the clear meaning of verses like Colossians 1:16 (quoted above), Creation ex nihilo is also logically necessary. Thomas Aquinas proves this in his quinque viae better than I can, but the short answer is that you cannot have an infinite chain of cause and effect. There must be an uncaused Causer. This is for the same reasons I mentioned to Murdock earlier, about how if you start counting from negative infinity, you never arrive at 2010... or any other number. It doesn't just take an infinitely long time. It's logically impossible. So there must be a Cause to time, space, and motion, which is transcendent - specifically, transcendent by being Infinite (in that He exists outside of time, not is simply infinitely old), Immaterial, and Immovable. This Cause is God. All of this can be proven mathematically and logically without appeal to special revelation on either side. The error of thinking matter can be eternal is the same error made by the majority of atheists. The view doesn't hold up to any serious scrutiny.

    Does #2 make any sense? I'm not sure I'm doing a good job explaining.

    Joe.

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  4. Fraid I don't really see it that way.

    The word "Trinity" means three beings who are unified in some sense.

    It does not require homoousios. On these lights - Mormons are trinitarians. If you want to make an argument like "well, that's not what the Catholic tradition says" - then you are merely question-begging. If I don't get to appeal to modern revelation, I don't see why you should be allowed to appeal to some theological enshrining of the status quo.

    The Genesis account uses the Hebrew word "bara" for "create."

    The meaning of this word is more to divide or organize. It has no ex nihilo implication whatsoever. It is also a pretty common interpretation among modern biblical scholars to posit the God of Genesis dividing a place for the earth amongst the primeval pre-existing chaotic "waters."

    Col 1:16 is no help to you, because your reading simply begs the question that the only possible meaning of the word "create" is to conjure up from nothing. But this is not at all what the passage requires.

    Create can just as easily imply pre-existing materials.

    An artist creates a painting, Congress supposedly creates job opportunities, my wife and I pro-create children.

    But none of us did it from nothing. In fact the vast majority of the times the word "create" is used in the English language, it takes on an ex materia meaning. It is only in the freak-world of Nicene theology that the word takes on ex nihilo meaning.

    The use of the word invisible doesn't really mean anything either. Subatomic reactions are invisible to the naked eye as well - but nothing about that implies ex nihilo.

    This is a purely neo-Platonist innovation. And a highly unnecessary one at that.

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  5. Seth,

    Calling Nicene theology a "freak-world" is name-calling in place of argumentation. I've refrained from taking pot-shots at Mormonism, and would strongly prefer you do the same in reverse. I get that we disagree, and welcome the open discussion, but it needn't turn nasty. That said:

    (1) Besides this, "Trinity" means something more than "three beings unified in some sense." Theophilus of Antioch coins the term, and read how he describes God in Chapter 22 of Ad Autolycus, Book II.

    But my main point is this: even if some broad definition of "Trinity" could include the Mormon Godhead, why would calling both views "the Trinity" be helpful? Besides going against the historic sense of the term, it also obfuscates the difference which this post and the last in this series were exploring.

    As for a positive defense of the notion that God must be One in Being, I argued explicitly in this post, under (1), why God cannot be multiple Beings without contradicting Scripture plainly.

    (2) The very reason that there's not a word in English or Hebrew for Creation ex nihilo is because none of us do it, with the partial exception of pro-creation (see below). This is a power we consider distinctly Divine, to make something from nothing. Nevertheless, even the Mormon version of Hebrews 11:3 explicitly says that "through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." In other words, God didn't rearrange visible matter into different types of visible matter, the way that an artist rearranges paint into painting.

    2 Maccabees 7:27-29 is also explicit on this point. Although it's not part of your Scriptures, I think you'll at least concede that the Book is from the second century B.C., and as such, predates neo-Plaontism by half a millenium.

    As for the example of pro-creation, it's physical rearrangement of matter, but spiritual creation ex nihilio, through the power of God -- a person foreknown, but non-existent, until that moment (with the obvious exception of Christ, as Scripture makes clear).

    Finally, 1 Timothy 1:17 says, "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." This identifies God both as being invisible and as being eternal (not just immortal). God self-describes in Revelation 22:13: "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End." See also Revelation 1:8 and Revelation 21:6 for variations of this self-declaration. I don't see a way to make this claim of God's consistent with the idea that He is a created Being.

    Seth, more to the point of the original post, is there a way that Mormonism's view of three Gods doesn't contradict point (1) of this post?

    Joe.

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  6. Seth R

    Please be polite. We must always remember who we are.

    Murdock

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  7. "Freak world" was a derogatory term and probably not well-chosen.

    My main point was simply that only in Nicene theology does the word "create" take on the connotations you give it here.

    Everywhere else, it's ex materia.

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  8. Theophilus may have used the word "Trinity" or coined it, but I do not consider the definition to belong to him anymore.

    This also simply continues to beg the question of whether the traditional Catholic view is a valid arbiter of authority in theological matters. Besides, one has the feeling that you are only selecting certain portions of Christian tradition in setting these definitions, yet ignoring others.

    With the question of monotheism, it's important to ask what the primary draw of it is. I would describe its draw as the benefit of having one will in charge of the destiny of the universe. As long as you can posit this one will, you remain in harmony with the main monotheistic thrust of the Old and New Testaments.

    Mormonism does this by positing three distinct beings who are in such perfect harmony of thought, feeling, and intent, that to know the mind of one is to know the mind of the others. The term perichoresis can be fully applied to the Mormon Godhead. Each member indwells within the other in perfect love.

    This is a profound unity that fully harmonizes with the monotheistic passages of the Bible, yet does not need to resort to the innovations of neo-Platonism.

    There isn't a single monotheistic passage in the Bible a Mormon need feel uncomfortable with.

    We only have one show in the universe. Same as you.

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  9. As for the creation ex nihilo passages - the problem is that you are equating "invisible" with "non-existent."

    I see no reason to make such a reach.

    In Paul's world, plenty of things were invisible, which are nonetheless quite material.

    As for the attempt to segregate the meaning of the Hebrew "bara" when applied to God, and when applied to human beings - I've read rebuttals of this bifurcation before - but it's been a while, and I can't recall the sources. Perhaps I'll be able to locate something later.

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  10. Joe -- That is a very thorough analysis. The reference to St. Augustine is something unfamiliar to me (no surprise there) so I will look that up. We do read the Bible as in accord with the Godhead, which is why I was asking if you think that is reasonable. However, our view of God and the Godhead is based upon Joseph Smith's First Vision in which we find our hope and faith. Of course, many people say that we are polytheists. We do not see ourselves that way. We worship only God. We do not put any other god before Him.

    Murdock

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  11. Murdock,

    When you say "God," are you meaning One of the Three Persons, or the Three operating in unity? My understanding, which I was working off of for (1), is that you read Jehovah as referring specifically to Jesus. Is that accurate?

    Joe

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  12. Seth,

    (1) As for the Trinity discussion, I think we've both made our positions pretty clear -- I take the historic sense of the term, you take the colloquial, and both of us can probably find writers who would side with us. I'm left wondering why it matters: even if Mormonism is Trinitarian in the broader understanding of that term, how does that impact the underlying points of the original post? All I'm trying to do is to distinguish the Catholic/Orthodox/conservative Protestant view of the nature of God from the Mormon view of the nature of God, so that readers know which one I’m referring to at any given point. For the former, I use “Trinity” for the reasons I’ve explained: readers should have a pretty good idea of what I mean. Is there a better term which I should be using there?

    (2) Creation ex nihilo: Sorry if I wasn't clear. I'm not meaning to say that the invisible is non-existent. Quite the contrary: I think that the invisible includes all things angelic, demonic, as well as God in His innate state. All of the above may take on visible form, and Christ became eternally bonded to Mankind (including Flesh) in the Incarnation, but all are by nature pure spirit. What I meant before was that if God is Spirit, and Invisible, He's not by nature a regular-looking Guy made of meat like you or I.
    Also, Hebrews 11:3 describes Him creating the visible world, and says He isn't just forming it from the pre-existing visible parts. Admittedly, it doesn’t say whether He made it from nothing, or from invisible parts, but I think (and correct me if I’m wrong here) we’d both acknowledge that He didn’t make the visible from invisible parts, and that that interpretation doesn’t make sense.

    As regards grammar, I don't think you'll find a language which uses a different word for Creation ex nihilo and creation ex materia even amongst the Romance languages, which were heavily influenced by Nicene Christianity (Catholicism in particular) in their linguistic formation, so I don’t see the lack of a unique word in Hebrew as particularly telling. Context for these terms is controlling. To be clear, I’m not pushing for a total bifurcation that says God only creates ex nihilo. He formed Adam’s body from dust, and Eve’s body from Adam’s – both of which were clearly ex material. I’m just saying that since only God creates ex nihilo, it’s not exactly surprising to not have a separate word for these rarities.

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  13. As for the ‘monotheism of unity’: in the post, I noted that Jehovah declares “I am the LORD; apart from Me there is no Other” numerous times in the OT. Your response, such as is it, is that there’s a “profound unity” between the Persons of the Mormon Godhead, “that fully harmonizes with the monotheistic passages of the Bible, yet does not need to resort to the innovations of neo-Platonism.” Once again I’ll note that there was no such thing as neo-Platonism when 2 Maccabees 7:27-29, Hebrews 11:3, or Ad Autolycus were written. It would be like playing Acts 2 on Marxists: it’s anachronistic. More to the point, though, let’s consider this question of unity. Let’s say you’re married, no kids, and in total harmony with your wife. You’re one flesh, as Genesis 2:24 tells us, and let’s say you’ve never had a spat. Then someone with the Census Bureau comes to your door. Would you say to that person, “I am the sole resident; apart from me there is no other”? Because that response would strike me as utterly bizarre, since you lived there with your wife. Similarly, if the Son is Jehovah, and He’s a separate (but allied) God from God the Father, I think His declarations in Isaiah in particular would have to be read as bizarre and, quite frankly, utterly misleading. As I said before, if these passages don’t disprove the Mormon view of the Godhead, it would be hard to imagine anything which couldn’t just be rationalized away. Jehovah is going out of his way to repeatedly declare His unique Divinity. I don’t see that as being consistent either with the Mormon view of the Godhead as Three Beings or the view that God has gods above Him.

    Finally, I don’t know that I’ve taken the time to say this yet, but thank you – both you and Murdock – for your contributions on the blog. I mean that: even though we certainly disagree on much of this, these sorts of interactions are enriching and edifying. In Christ,

    Joe.

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  14. Mormon thought does not posit a Son who has any divinity independent of the Father. Both Son and Spirit have divinity that is derivative of the Father. To support this position, we appeal to Christ's own statements of deference to and reliance on the Father.

    We consider Jehovah of the Old Testament, and Jesus Christ to be identical. We use the name Elohiem for God the Father. Jehovah obviously speaks in the first person in the Old Testament monotheism passages.

    This is often explained in Mormon circles by the notion of "divine investiture of authority."

    This concept basically posits that those who are so-delegated can speak directly for God the Father as if it were the Father speaking. This occurs in several instances with Jehovah speaking for Elohiem, and on occasion even mere angels.

    It is important to keep in mind that Mormonism, unlike Nicene Christianity, does not experience a theological need for the sort of metaphysical unity described by homoousios. We don't posit God as a different species from the rest of us, because - lacking any need for ex nihilo creation - there is no real need to categorize him as a different species. This changes our entire outlook on the scriptures, and yields much different questions and solutions to be asked and solved.

    In fact, I would say the real difference between Mormonism and traditional Christianity is our disagreement over the notion of creation ex nihilo.

    All other distinctions between our faiths are either superficial, or a matter of degree.

    But creation ex nihilo is pretty-much non-negotiable and fundamentally critical.

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  15. I responded here on the idea of Creation ex nihilo.  I've gotten this question as well from atheists, who think that matter can just be eternal, so I tried to respond in one post to where both camps are coming from (since the alternative was to write virtually identical posts).  In retrospect, it's a bit clunky, and longer than I intended.  On the plus side: charts!

    Joe.

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  16. Joe -- I will resort to Elder McConkie again, although not from his book I quoted previously,to answer your question. "Thus there are, in the Eternal Godhead, three persons--God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the Testator. These three are one--one God if you will--in purposes, in powers, and in perfections. But each has his own severable work to perform, and mankind has a defined and known and specific relationship to each one of them. It is of these relationships that we shall now speak. . . . 1. We worship the Father and him only and no one else.
    We do not worship the Son, and we do not worship the Holy Ghost. I know perfectly well what the scriptures say about worshipping Christ and Jehovah, but they are speaking in an entirely different sense--the sense of standing in awe and being reverentially grateful to him who has redeemed us. Worship in the true and saving sense is reserved for God the first, the Creator.
    Our revelations say that the Father 'is infinite and eternal,' that he created 'man, male and female,'
    And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should worship. [D&C 20:17–19]
    Jesus said:
    True worshippers shall [note that this is mandatory] worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
    For unto such hath God promised his Spirit. And they who worship him, must worship in spirit and in truth. [JST John 4:25–26]
    There is no other way, no other approved system of worship."
    --Murdock

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  17. McConkie is simply following the Savior's own example - as he constantly deferred to the Father.

    That said, Christ is an object of worship in a derivative sense - as a full extension of the Father's own glory.

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  18. Joe and Seth

    Here is the URL to Elder McConkie's talk from which I quoted. It might be best to consider the quote in context, particularly as it might be read as supporting Seth's comment.

    http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6843

    Murdock

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  19. McConkie was responding to certain professors at Brigham Young University (the LDS-run college) who were advocating direct worship of the Son INSTEAD of the Father.

    My dad was actually at BYU when this happened and took a class from one of the professors that McConkie was rebutting. He was in the class when the professor made the remarks that McConkie found troubling.

    Basically, the professor was advocating that "when you pray", you "imagine Jesus to be physically in the room" and then you "pray to that part of the room."

    It was a cute enough little trick, but to McConkie, it seemed to violate the Biblical injunction to worship and pray to the Father in the name of the Son.

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  20. Seth and Murdock,

    I read McConkie's speech, and responded to the crux of his argument here:

    http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2010/09/are-we-to-worship-jesus-christ.html

    Joe

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  21. Metaphysics aside, the LDS canon is rather specific:

    "Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end" - D&C 20:28

    "And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end" - 2 Ne 31:21

    "And I, John, bear record that he received a fulness of the glory of the Father; And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him." - D&C 93:16-17

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