Singing Lies About Your Jesus

guest Anti-Mormon, Bible, christianity, Mormon, music 50 Comments

Today’s post is by guest Nikki.  If you say something true about Jesus, but your Jesus is a different Jesus, is what you said about the first Jesus still true?

What if you’re singing it?

<!–[if gte mso 9]> Normal 0 MicrosoftInternetExplorer4 <![endif]–>Earlier this month, I had an audition to be a keyboardist & vocalist for a band. They advertised themselves as doing songs “on the Christian side. More Christian than Creed, less worshippy than Mercy Me….” I knew by listening to them on MySpace that they were a bit too heavy-metal for my tastes, but I thought I would give it a try anyway.

I went over there with the guitarist/songwriter (let’s call him “Steve”) and the vocalist (“Ann”).  They also had a bass guy (“Adam”) auditioning that night too. We played through one of their songs. They were impressed with both of us musically. Next we sat down to chat. Steve asked questions like:  “Why do you want to be in a Christian band?” and “What does it mean to you to be a Christian?” I explained that I am very conservative, but lately have been leaning more liberal and realizing the importance of tolerance for other people. I felt like I was becoming more like Christ in loving people and being accepting of a variety of people. Adam’s answer was very similar to mine. He had been raised Baptist – very strict, conservative, and judgmental, in his words – but the past few years had taken a path similar to the one that I described. He now reminds himself:  “Who am I to judge?” Adam and I seemed to be in much agreement about what it means to be a Christian. Steve & Ann had a few clarifying questions. Ann wanted to make sure that we didn’t believe “once saved, always saved” – they wanted to make sure that we were going to ACT like Christians (as opposed to one member of the group Creed, who they informed us would “go home and beat his wife”). Steve wanted to make sure that we were really Christian and not following our own wacky made-up religion.

Up to this point, I had retained the info that I’m a <gasp> Mormon. But Steve’s statement made me think that I should tell them, since some Christians do consider us a bit wacky. So, in a lull in the conversation, I told them: “in the interest of full disclosure – I’m Mormon.” I looked around to see their reactions. In particular, I glanced at Adam, since I equate Baptists with being anti-Mormon. But, he was totally cool with it. Relieved, I figured that all was fine. Steve & Ann were silent for a bit.  After a deep breath, Steve asked me, “Have you ever really sat down and talked to any Christians about the differences before?”  I wasn’t sure exactly what he was asking. I wasn’t raised LDS. I investigated the church for 18 months, and yes, I had talked to lots of different kinds of people about the church. Just over a year later, I had served a mission. I had talked to LOTS of Christians there about the differences.

To help me understand, he pulled out his Bible. Now, I used to Bible-bash with the best of them, but I have become much more tolerant and less argumentative. I basically just listened to their arguments, smiling & nodding (yes, smiling! I didn’t even cry!) His main complaint was the difference in how we view the Godhead because “real Christians” believe in the Trinity: Father + Son + Holy Ghost = all one person. We Mormons believe they are three separate persons, but one in purpose, one in unity… one Godhead. He referenced John 8:57-59, where Christ says “Before Abraham was, I am” and told me that this proved that Christ is God. Well, I didn’t disagree. I DO believe that Christ is God -God the Son. And I thought about going into how Jesus Christ, Jehovah, is the God of the Old Testament, but I decided to hold my peace. He talked about the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost all forming the Godhead. Well, using that terminology, I agree completely. Of course, he believed that they were one single person, and I disagree. But I didn’t even need to tell him what I believed. He already knew it (which, he informed me, he knew firsthand because he had sat down and talked with Mormons before. He had LDS friends as well as having been visited numerous times by the missionaries before. And, he remarked: “Well, you can say whatever you want, but you’re still not Christian.” What a relief for me to not have to worry about explaining my point of view, since he clearly understood exactly what I believe, right?) I tried to point out that some scriptures of the Bible can be interpreted in different ways by different people. Well, Steve insisted that even though it was confusing, and he couldn’t exactly explain the Trinity to me, the Bible was very clear about it. According to Steve, the God and Jesus that I believe in are not the God and Jesus that he believes in, and not the ones that the Bible teaches us about.

Poor Adam was just sitting there, strumming on his bass while Steve tried to decide what to do with me. At one point, Steve asked Adam’s opinion. Steve’s concern was that because I’m not a “real Christian,” could I really sing about Christ and have it ring true to people? Adam responded with his mantra: “Who am I to judge?” He thought it would be fine for me to be in the band.  He pointed out that we probably wouldn’t be singing music that was doctrinally controversial for me. The group was not aiming to be an outreach group. They mostly wanted to play for entertainment purposes, with a Christian background. Adam doubted we’d be singing any songs with lyrics such as “God and Jesus are literally the same person… la la la…” I finally told them that for me, it wasn’t a deal-breaker, but that if it was for them, I understood. They said that no, it wasn’t… but that they’d have to talk about it & think about it some more.

In the end, it was a productive and entertaining night. They clearly have some reservations about my religion, but I also have some reservations about their style of music. In a follow-up email, Steve said that our audition helped him & Ann realize that they really do want to be outreach-oriented. So some good did come out of our visit. He asked me a few more follow-up questions about music and about my beliefs. In my reply, I informed him that I was going to just keep searching for a band that would be a better fit. In a few months, if we’re both still looking, then we might revisit the topic again.

In honor of this audition, I have written a little song. Technically, I borrowed the tune from a hymn you might be familiar with. I changed the lyrics to fit my situation and did a poor-quality recording of it for your enjoyment (by the way, that’s not me on the keyboards). Is anybody in the Midwest looking for a Mormon girl to join your band?

We Both Believe in Christ

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Lyrics:

I believe in Christ, He is my King.
But that’s not enough for me to sing
Or to play keyboard with Mormon hands
In your quote “Christian” hard rock band.
I believe in Christ, He is God’s son.
On the other hand, the three are One –
In purpose, but not physically –
HF plus Christ plus the HG.

You believe in Christ as one of the three –
Three persons comprising just one Being.
From where came this Trinity idea?
Some men defined it in Nicaea
They believed in God; that’s person one.
And person two is Christ, the Son.
The Holy Spirit is person three.
One form, one essence physically.

Let me review: I think we’re agreeing
On the sum of persons, but not beings.
Despite our differences, there’s so much
we have in common, let’s do lunch.
You worship Christ, adore His name –
But can you see I do the same?
Now that you know our mutual view,
Next time, please let me sing with you!

Comments

comments

Comments 50

  1. “In purpose, but not physically… One form, one essence physically.”

    Do you really think Trinitarians believe that the Trinity comprises of three persons of the same physicality? Please look more into this, I don’t think you understand what has been historically understood as “essence” and “substance” in this area.

    “You worship Christ, adore His name – But can you see I do the same?

    Per McConkie’s talk on “Our Relationship with the Lord”, wouldn’t it be accurate to say that Mormons only worship Jesus in a reverential way, whereas traditional Christians worship and interact with Jesus as they do with the Father? From what I understand, traditional Mormonism teaches that Jesus is not to be directly interacted with in prayer, and is not to be worshiped as the “only true God”.

    Thanks for listening.

  2. Did the band really explain that “Father + Son + Holy Ghost = all one person”? If so, and that’s what he actually, believes, then it’s a Christian heresy called modalism. Modalism has but one personage who manifests himself in three different ways.

    The unity or oneness of classical trinitarianism is ontological (but posits three personages). It’s not something that can really by argued from the Bible, any more than a thermometer can tell you whether something is radioactive or not.

    EV, I wouldn’t use McConkie as your baseline for Mormonism. His interpretations were often idiosyncratic. Filtered through an EV worldview, he becomes even less useful for understanding Mormons.

  3. So, Nitsav, would you say McConkie was particularly wrong on the issue of our relationship with Jesus? Most Mormons I talk to concur with him: we ought not to pray to Jesus, nor are we to worship him equally with the Father.

    You worship Christ, adore His name – But can you see I do the same?

    If this is the case, why are my Mormon friends uncomfortable with singing praise songs directly to Jesus at my local church?

  4. Evangelical –
    Thanks for the comment. You’re right, I got a little careless with the lyrics of the song. I’m an amateur songwriter, and it was late, and I was trying to get stuff to fit the tune, and… and…

    I don’t think that using the word “physically” was the best choice there. My understanding is that technically, they don’t believe they have ANY physical form, except for when Jesus came to Earth in the flesh. What I meant to emphasize in the song was that Steve & I both believe that there are three persons in the Godhead, but he believes that those three persons only make up one Being, and I believe that they are three separate Beings. But even that difference is questionable to me. When I read of there only being one Being, that ties in very well to what I imagine the Godhead as being. Like, one unit. So, it almost seems like it’s just semantics… except that there is a very real difference in the fact that I believe that God the Father has a body, and Steve doesn’t believe that.

    Anyway, I apologize for the song not being perfect. It was mostly just for fun.

    Regarding your second question … “whereas traditional Christians worship and interact with Jesus as they do with the Father?” Well, technically, I get the impression that “traditional” Christians don’t differentiate much between the two in interactions. When I’ve heard non-LDS friends pray, I often hear them speak to Jesus. “Dear Jesus ….. in your name, amen.” So, that doesn’t really sound like their interacting with Jesus as they do with the Father, but rather that they are interacting with Jesus in PLACE of the Father. Is my impression wrong? Please clarify, if so.

    Thanks for the comment!

  5. Evangelical,
    Maybe because they don’t know (or dig) the tune?

    I’ll second Nitsav: McConkie was undoubtedly a good man, and held very strong opinions, and there is certainly a strain of the LDS church that sees his views as authoritative. But most (or at least many) of us don’t; I’d say he’s a pretty poor jumping-off point in determining what Mormons believe. He’s a great jumping-off point, however, as an example of how seriously we should engage with the gospel.

  6. Latter-day Saint do sing praise directly to Jesus. And some of those hymns are really a form of prayer.

    From the LDS Hymnal, see

    Jesus, lover of my soul 102

    Jesus, mighty King in Zion 234

    Jesus, my Savior true 101

    Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King 181

    Jesus, Savior, pilot me 104

    Jesus, the very thought of thee 141
    (Women)

  7. I’m going to state my own opinion here, but I personally feel that, along with unpaid clergy and general absence of religious symbols like the cross, the Mormon view of not praying or addressing Jesus directly is far more historically and culturally based than it is doctrinal. I suspect that most other Christian denominations of the early nineteenth century also prayed and addressed God rather than Jesus and that in the intervening centuries the Mormons had held to their ancestral practices. I also think that some Mormons have retroactively applied doctrinal reasonings to explain it.

    Now, I’m not arguing that God might not appreciate an unpaid clergy, the absence of the cross, or the lack of direct prayers to Jesus: I am just arguing that such views are not based in doctrine, only culture. However, praying to only God the Father is something I have been raised with and feel personally uncomfortable doing otherwise, but I don’t think praying to Jesus is wrong in any way.

  8. Do you really think Trinitarians believe that the Trinity comprises of three persons of the same physicality? Please look more into this, I don’t think you understand what has been historically understood as “essence” and “substance” in this area.

    Actually, I’ve known a number who do, which made for some interesting thoughts of Monists vs. Trinitarians.

  9. BTW, I think a fair question to ask people who claim we worship a different Jesus is whether they accept Monists and Modalists as Christians?

    Next, for those who have “essence” and “substance” discussions, they need to read D&C 88: 7-13.

    Until we get better discussions of meanings and context for scriptures such as that, I’m not sure we have people with enough background to have an advanced Gospel Doctrine class 😉

  10. It’s much easier to justify praying to the Father in the name of the Son from the Bible than it is to justify praying to Jesus directly. Just saying.

  11. As Jesus came up out of the water, John saw the heavens open and the spirit of God descending upon Jesus (see Dove, Sign of), and the voice of God the Father declared to John, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).
    Was God talking to John about himself? 🙂

  12. OK AE HandOfGod: no bashing allowed!

    I’m going to agree with NoCoolName_Tom when he said “I personally feel that, along with unpaid clergy and general absence of religious symbols like the cross, the Mormon view of not praying or addressing Jesus directly is far more historically and culturally based than it is doctrinal.” Culturally, most Mormons just haven’t been brought up to say things like “Lord have mercy!”, “Lord help us!”, and “Sweet Jesus!”. Not having heard these phrases used in the context of our own worship, those phrases, and others, ring a bit off in our ears, perhaps (especially when used flippantly, ironically, sarcastically, etc.) I don’t think there’s any doctrinally prohibition from calling upon the Lord in earnest in any of the above examples; we just don’t have a tradition of doing so. Does that make us less Christian? Hardly. Mainline Protestants and Southern Baptists and Catholic monks and AME churches all have different patterns of expression of religous devotion and no one doubts their Christianity; why should Mormons be different?

    I suspect its not the expressions (or lack thereof) themselves that are the issue, but an assumption about the underlying doctrines. And because we view Jesus Christ slightly differently than do other creedal Christians do, somehow our manner of worship becomes evidence of our deviance. Oh well.

  13. “Did the band really explain that “Father + Son + Holy Ghost = all one person”? If so, and that’s what he actually, believes, then it’s a Christian heresy called modalism. Modalism has but one personage who manifests himself in three different ways.” Nitsav – I believe that they used an analogy to compare the Godhead to ice/water/vapor. So, it has three different states of being, but it’s all the same matter.

    “If this is the case, why are my Mormon friends uncomfortable with singing praise songs directly to Jesus at my local church?” As Sam pointed out, it could totally be that they just don’t know the songs, if you’re talking about a one-time visit or something. One the other hand, though, I can definitely relate to being uncomfortable with the lyrics that some worship songs use – even the lyrics that I grew up with (in the RLDS church).

    There’s one that sticks out in my mind. I wish I could explain the tune to you. To me, it’s a football chant, but I can’t recall if it’s familiar to everybody or if it’s just local… Anyway, the lyrics are:
    J-E-S-U-S
    My God is
    J-E-S-U-S
    My God is
    J-E-S-U-S
    Oh yes!
    Da da, da da, da da, da
    J-E-S-U-S-J-E-S-U-S (and at that first “U”, you throw up your arms in a “U” shape and shout it out loud!)
    J-E-S-U-S-J-E-S-U-S (same)
    J-E-S-U-S-J-E-S-U-S (same)
    Da da, da da, da da, da.
    (repeat)

    That one, besides feeling completely irreverent, rubs me the wrong way since becoming LDS. Generally speaking, when I talk about God, I’m referring to the Father, so I don’t think of Jesus as “my God.” I would prefer to call him “my Savior.” So that could be the type of thing that your LDS friends are experiencing too. The problem is not being uncomfortable with worshipful references to Jesus, but rather references that (to us) are doctrinally incorrect… or at least that use verbiage that is unfamiliar enough to cause discomfort. 😉

    By the way, also since becoming LDS, I have for a long time been uncomfortable with most mainstream Christian music. Growing up, I owned CD’s from Jars of Clay, Audio Adrenaline, etc – but my perspective changed when I converted. When my husband started listening to it within the past year, I mocked him (yeah, real Christian of me, I know!) and always changed the station when alone. But, I finally opened my heart again and started listening, and I really enjoy it now!

  14. Nikki, I agree that there are some really . . . odd “popular” Christian songs – and that there are some amazing and uplifting popular Christian songs. It’s pretty much like any other genre – but the oddity of some of the songs does bother me more than other genres, I’m sure because of my desires and higher expectations.

    As for doctrinal oddities in song, my wife laughs at me, but I always cringe when I hear the following two lines (especially) from songs we sing regularly in church:

    “The cattle are lowing; the poor baby wakes, but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.” HUH?! Don’t see it – not at all – and hate the message it sends on multiple levels.

    “He never got vexed when the game went wrong, and he always told the truth.” – This is about Jesus as a **little child** – not as an adult. Even as an adult, we have recorded instances where he “got vexed”, and we impute no “sin” to little children telling fibs before they realize they shouldn’t.

    End of rant. I’m just saying that even in our own songs, there are technical difficulties occasionally.

  15. Since we are sharing hymns and songs, would the band consider this one non-Christian:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_Great_Thou_Art_(hymn)

    O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder,
    Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made;
    I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
    Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

    Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
    How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
    Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
    How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

    When through the woods, and forest glades I wander,
    And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees.
    When I look down, from lofty mountain grandeur
    And see the brook, and feel the gentle breeze.

    Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
    How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
    Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
    How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

    And when I think, that God, His Son not sparing;
    Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in;
    That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing,
    He bled and died to take away my sin.

    Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
    How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
    Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
    How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

    When Christ shall come, with shout of acclamation,
    And take me home, what joy shall fill my heart.
    Then I shall bow, in humble adoration,
    And then proclaim: “My God, how great Thou art!”

    Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
    How great Thou art, How great Thou art.
    Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee,
    How great Thou art, How great Thou art!

  16. I don’t know why so many LDS concern themselves with whether or not we are seen as Christian. I know I have a personal relationship with Christ, I accept Him as my Savior, and I feel unending gratitude for His sacrifice. I don’t need anyone else to tell me whether or not that is acceptable.

    Besides, it is rather prideful for anyone to assume they have the right to decide an entire group’s status with God. To say “You don’t believe in Christ as I do, therefore you don’t believe in Christ at all,” is ridiculous to the point of arguing over the sky’s color. A person’s salvation is for God alone to determine and reveal to those who speak directly with Him, should He wish. I don’t think He would ever use such tactics against any of His children.

    In the New Testament, there was a group who concerned themselves with nitpicking others’ salvation, and there was a group who met individuals on their level of understanding and lifted them higher. There is no need to pay any sort of attention to the former.

  17. SilverRain says: “I don’t know why so many LDS concern themselves with whether or not we are seen as Christian”

    SilverRain, I tend to think we confuse the concept of whether we should be concerned if our Christian neighbors agree with us (which is what I think you are saying) and if we should stand up against misrepresentation of our beliefs. I’m not at all concerned over being “included” by other Christians. I’m altogether concerned over over Mormons not doing the morally required thing of standing up to lies or misrepresentations. Please consider that this is what the real concern is over for many LDS people, regardless if they’ve bothered to think it through well enough to put it into words like I did.

    Evangelical,

    Please consider reading my article here about McConkie’s talk and then tell me what you think. A literal interpretation of McConkie isn’t what you seem to think it is. There is still room for disagreement here between us (not saying otherwise) but it’s not really your place to determine “what Mormon’s believe.”

    You, as a non-Mormon, have certain biases about how you wish to peg Mormons and the first thing you need to admit is that these biases exist and that they affect your ability to interpet someone like McConkie or even other Mormons you talk to.

    I would hope that the responses you found here are enough to cause you to reconsider your previous interpretation of Mormon beliefs and want to get some of your own false views of us clarified.

    Please understand, I am not claiming we are the same as Evangelicals on this point. Far from it. But we aren’t what Evangelical’s say we are either.

    Evangelical said: “whereas traditional Christians worship and interact with Jesus as they do with the Father”

    Is this actually true? I know many many Evagelicals that do not address their prayers directly to Jesus because the Bible has Jesus teaching that it should be addressed to the Father. And, as I’m sure you know, Evangelical’s do believe they are separate “persons” (as you yourself hint at).

    Would you please clarify this further for me? It is my understanding that you do not (or at least many Evangelical’s do not) interact with Jesus in precisely the same way as they do the Father. So I’m wondering if this statement wasn’t a bit (unintentionally) misleading if you are using it to represent all of Evangelicalism.

    Of course it might be representative of your own personal beliefs. Perhaps you do address your prayers directly to Jesus. I do know many Evangelicals that do that as well, though they’ve tended to be the more modalistic variety of Christians in my experience, so far. I’d be very curious if you are a straight Trinitarian that really does believe in interacting with and worshiping Jesus in exactly the same way you interact with the Father.

  18. There seems to be a tension in Mormonism:

    Mormons don’t want to render Jesus too much worship in a way that makes it look polytheistic (the worship of multiple beings).

    Yet, they don’t want to undervalue Jesus, or say they don’t worship him at all (or in some cases, apparently, that they don’t pray to him at all). That would just make Mormonism seem less than fully Christian.

    Given this tension, can Mormons really accurately say they worship Jesus “just the same” as trinitarians? For trinitarians, unadulterated prayer and worship to Jesus isn’t a theological hazard or awkwardness, since Father, Son, and Spirit are one God-being, and all three persons of the Godhead equally deserve worship.

    Thanks for listening.

  19. #20: Evangelical, my comment to you on this went into moderation and hasn’t shown up yet due to it including links.

    At this point, let me just say that your comment in #20 says more about Evangelicals than Mormons. You are pigeon holing Mormons into a safe category for your own sake. You are not expressing anything meaningful about Mormon beliefs.

    Here is a question I asked in my missing comment that I sincerely want an answer on:

    Evangelical said: “whereas traditional Christians worship and interact with Jesus as they do with the Father”

    Is this actually true? I know many many Evagelicals that do not address their prayers directly to Jesus because the Bible has Jesus teaching that it should be addressed to the Father. And, as I’m sure you know, Evangelical’s do believe they are separate “persons” (as you yourself hint at).

    Would you please clarify this further for me? It is my understanding that you do not (or at least many Evangelical’s do not) interact with Jesus in precisely the same way as they do the Father. So I’m wondering if this statement wasn’t a bit (unintentionally) misleading if you are using it to represent all of Evangelicalism.

    Of course it might be representative of your own personal beliefs. Perhaps you do address your prayers directly to Jesus. I do know many Evangelicals that do that as well, though they’ve tended to be the more modalistic variety of Christians in my experience, so far. I’d be very curious if you are a straight Trinitarian that really does believe in interacting with and worshiping Jesus in exactly the same way you interact with the Father.

  20. One of the most profound lessons I learned in the MTC — something I knew before but that has stuck with me quite forcefully since — was conveyed by a wonderful teacher during a somewhat impromptu instructional moment.

    Holding a picture of Jesus, he asked, “Who is this?” I don’t recall if he allowed us to respond, but his answer was “Jesus Christ is God.” He went on to explain that, yes, Jesus is our “older brother,” as sometimes we are fond of saying, but that we should never forget — as missionaries and as members of the Church — that Christ is Lord; he is God.

    This should in no way diminish our worship of God the Father. For as much as we “know” about the relationship between the three members of the Godhead, we (or at least I) still don’t really know how it works exactly, but I’ve come to be convinced that when I am praying to God the Father, I am, for all intents and purposes, also praying to God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. As I understand things, we approach God the Father in our prayers through Christ because it is only through Christ and his atoning gift that we can attain the level of the Father and obtain all that the Father has. It is God the Holy Ghost that communicates God’s will (that is, the will of the Godhead) to us through direct revelation.

    My point is, we do indeed worship Jesus Christ. Or at least I hope we do.

  21. I am vehemently against modalism because at the heart of the Trinity is three persons who have always been in full, loving relationship. I pray to each of the three divine persons. The same could be said for many of my fellow Christians. That said, our prayers would be normatively but not exclusively to the Father. You could say that we interact with each of the Three differently because of their different roles, but not because any is more or less fully God to and over us. By “interacting with Jesus as we do with the Father” I mean that each is fully God over us. The Father is our God, the Son is our God, and the Spirit is our God.

    Perhaps it would be helpful to point out the content of our worship. When we worship the Trinity, we worship each person as fully and eternally and possessing all divine attributes. In other words, God is worshiped for, among other reasons, uniquely being God. No other being or person has these attributes. That they are ontologically distinct from all creation is at the heart of what makes them worthy of worship. Of course, as humans we only know who God is through what he has said and done through redemptive history, but the basis for what God does will always be who he uniquely is.

    In Mormonism it seems the flavor of worship and reason for worship is very different, because the Father, Son, and Spirit are not necessarily worshiped for any of these absolute uniquenesses. As I understand traditional Mormonism, there may be potentially trillions of beings who have achieved the same status or level in development. The Godhead is not worshiped for being uniquely omnipotent or omniscient. There may be any number of beings in reality who have achieved the same level of power and knowledge, but, to Mormons, that does not necessarily warrant our worship of them. They must additionally be, in the scheme of things involving eternal progression, of a direct spiritual familial relation.

    I draw that out to make a distinction. The worldview is so radically different that worship takes on a very different tone. We trinitarians worship Jesus because, among other reasons, he is God, and that means, among other things, he is all-powerful and all-knowing and all-wise. That alone warrants our worship (but is not the only reason for our worship). If Mormons followed this same vein, they would be willing to worship all omnipotent persons they meet in the afterlife.

    I’m sorry if I have not explained this well. A simple way to put it would be that we worship the Father, Son, and Spirit because each is God. We celebrate God being God. But the second you introduce the potential for other beings in reality that are equally all-powerful, all-knowing, and eternal, it breaks down. It strikes at the heart of what means for the one God to be God. If there were somehow another being equally all-powerful or all-knowing, our God would, as it were, cease to be God.

    One may not agree with the Trinitarian view of God, but as long as Mormons believe they worship Jesus “just the same”, we will probably assume that Mormons don’t understand the disparity between the two worldviews.

    Thanks for listening.

  22. Evangelical said: “I pray to each of the three divine persons.”

    Do you mean you pray to them as a single unit (as do Mormons according to McConkie’s talk) or do you mean you sometimes address your prayers to the Father, and sometimes to Jesus, and sometimes to the Holy Ghost, etc. (Which Mormons believe is incorrect.)

    Evangelical said: “I mean that each is fully God over us”

    Evangelical, the problem with you saying this is that I, as a Mormon, also believe that each and every one of them is “fully God over us.” While it’s possible that we parse those words differently in some way, I do need you to accept that this is what I really believe as you are currently wording it.

    Mormons do not have a concept of Jesus being a “sub god” like, say, Jehovah’s Witnesses do. So if this boils down to me being able to state that Mormons believe all three members of the Godhead are all fully God over us, then I’m afraid we are as Christian as you are by the standard you just set up.

    “we worship each person as fully and eternally and possessing all divine attributes”

    I believe the same.

    “In other words, God is worshiped for, among other reasons, uniquely being God. No other being or person has these attributes”

    I need some clarification. You just stated Jesus and the Father are separate persons (as the Trinity doctrine teaches) but now you are stating that no other “person” has these attributes. If I take you literally here, you are contradicting yourself. Please explain further. Was this worded poorly maybe?

    “That they are ontologically distinct from all creation is at the heart of what makes them worthy of worship”

    I disagree with this. Can you please show me in the bible where it says that God has to be ontologically distinct from all creation now and forever or else He isn’t worthy of worship? Would such an assertion even make good logical sense?

    “As I understand traditional Mormonism, there may be potentially trillions of beings who have achieved the same status or level in development”

    Okay, this is where I get stuck in every conversation I have with traditional Trinitarians. Don’t get me wrong, you are doing a good job of explaining yourself, minus the one question I just asked about a possible contradiction. (Which may just be a wording issue. I’ll wait for you to clarify.)

    But here is the thing, Evangelical, please explain to me why the fact “one God” can be “three persons” (as you state you believe) would have any issue *at all* with “one God” being “one trillion persons”?

    To me it seems you’re sawing off the limb you are sitting on. Why would one view strike at the heart of one God being one God and the other not? Can you please explain a difference here that I am not seeing?

    Let me explain this to you logically: Mormons believe in “God” in more than one sense of that word. So do Evangelical’s, actually, so this should be a fairly easy concept. When Jesus prays to God, but is himself God, but there is one God, we are dealing with slightly differing definitions of God. (I.e. In the beginning was the Word and the Word was WITH God and the Word WAS God.)

    “God” can be thought of as the whole Godhead, or it can be thought of as any member of the Godhead. This is what Evangelicals and Mormons believe, as far as I understand it.

    So who do Mormons worship? They worship “God.” That would be the whole Godhead, Evangelical. Who do they “pray to”? Now that is a different question because it seems to imply a “person” so naturally we want to state clearly that we do not address prayers to Jesus directly. Only to the Father.

    Why? Because Jesus said to do it that way. It’s scriptural. I’m not sure there is much other reason (or better reason) than Jesus commanding it to be this way. We even make exceptions to that rule as our scriptures allow for. Specifically, the Book of Mormon states that if Jesus is bodily present, you can address prayers directly to Him. All of this is explained in detail in the link I gave you that is still lost in moderation, btw.

    This all makes such good sense to me. We pray to the Father and address Him directly as a person, because that’s what He is — a person. But the Father is “one” with Jesus and the Holy Ghost. In fact, He is “one” with any and all other future or current exalted beings. Thus that prayer is effectively to both “the Father” (a person) and “the one God”. There is no contradiction here. And it effectively answers every question you posed.

    Is this radically different from what you believe? Yes, I think it is. But it doesn’t seem to be radically different in the ways you are posing. For if Mormons are wrong to believe that the Trinity can be expanded to include others without God lacking for anything, then Evagelical’s are just as wrong for believing a Son and a Holy Ghost should be included in the definition of “God” in the first place. I cannot accept that you are making a logically sound argument here. If you are right about Mormons, you should logically be a Jew or Muslim.

    That is exactly why when you say something like “We Trinitarians worship Jesus because, among other reasons, he is God, and that means, among other things, he is all-powerful and all-knowing and all-wise.” I struggle to understand what your point is. I also believe Jesus “is God” and I also believe he is “all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-wise.” I am left with the feeling that you simply do not understand how seriously I, as a Mormon, take the “full divinity and Godhood” and the “oneness” of all members of the Godhead.

    In short, I must conclude that your argument against Mormon beliefs is founded on a false view of what Mormons believe.

  23. Evangelical: I was composing a response, but Bruce made my major points for me. Strip away the philosophical outer shell, and three-in-one (where all three really are distinct beings) is NO different than three-trillion-in-one. Sometimes, if it takes a doctorate degree to understand and construct it, it is FAR from the teachings of Jesus that can be understood and accepted by fishermen.

    That is my central point – that if Peter, James and John had heard your comment they would have walked away scratching their heads and wondering what you meant. It simply isn’t what Jesus taught.

    At least, that’s my perspective.

  24. Mormons don’t think that to worship Jesus the way EV’s do would constitute polytheism. Rather, we avoid it because the authoritative interpreters in our tradition (ie. prophets and apostles) have taught that we have been commanded to pray to the Father in the name of the Son.

  25. “Mormons don’t think that to worship Jesus the way EV’s do would constitute polytheism. Rather, we avoid it because the authoritative interpreters in our tradition (ie. prophets and apostles) have taught that we have been commanded to pray to the Father in the name of the Son.”

    What I do find interesting, is that Evangelical says he simultaneously believes the following (correct me if I’m wrong, Evangelical):
    * You sometimes pray to Jesus or the Holy Ghost, but mostly to the Father.
    * You consider the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost all separate persons.
    * Each of these persons are all fully God, including all three being “all all-powerful”
    * Each of these persons are uniquely God

    For there to not be a blatant contradiction in that set of assertions, I have to assume that “fully God” is not a statement of identity of person while “uniquely God” is a statement of identify, but only of the full Godhead.

    That is to say, I can only logically resolve your position if I assume you are using the word “God” in two different senses. (As I am proposing from a Mormon viewpoint.)

    Also, since there are three “persons” you consider to be “fully God” (identity?) and you pray to all of them, please explain to me in what sense you aren’t legitimately polytheistic from, say, a Jewish or Muslims… or for that matter Mormon… point of view.

    The problem is that you’ve put yourself into a logical trap here. Using deductive logic, I can now prove you wrong no matter what you say unless you are willing to (logically speaking) ease up on the word “God” to accept that “God” has two different senses. (FWIIW, I have come across at least one Evangelical writer that was willing to do this.)

    But if you do that, you can’t logically have any argument with the Mormon view of Godhead/Trinity (social Trinity) any more because you now have to allow for the fact that any number of persons can logically be contained within a single Godhead/God. You’re stuck either way with having to concede the point.

    I’m very interested in seeing if you have someway to resolve this logical conundrum that your fellow Evangelicals that I’ve talked to haven’t been able to.

  26. “while “uniquely God” is a statement of identify, but only of the full Godhead”

    Should have read:

    “while “uniquely God” is a statement of identity, but only of the full Godhead”

  27. Bruce has constructed a good logical argument. The truth remains that there is a significant difference between traditional Christian and Mormon belief. (Bruce fairly acknowledged this.) Trinitarian doctrine sets the biblical statements about God’s nature as the paramount expression of God’s authority. In sum they compose a paradoxical testament for the believer, a contradictory one to the disbeliever.

    Three-in-one is completely different than 3-trillion-in-one because the Bible only affirms three persons as God and fully God. The case doesn’t rest on logic. The issue lies in whether we accept the Bible as the most trustworthy expression of God’s authority, and trust in the dominant, rigorous tradition that formulized foundational theological interpretations of it. It was primarily their agreement in Jesus’ authority that won over fishers of men, not logic.

    Cultural Christian tradition also informs disagreement between trad. Christian doctrine and Mormonism. The Mormon belief is that of God the Father being an exalted, anthropoid, embodied being of the same species as mankind. The differing Christian appeal is to the Bible and the dominant tradition behind its interpretation. Where Mormons may appeal to non-traditional interpretations of the Bible text to make this case and fail to persuade, the ultimate expression of God’s authority becomes Joseph Smith’s testimony and the new tradition he started.

    A point I raised in another thread is that the failure to have a mutually agreed upon authoritative source to which we can hold each other accountable is what makes it so hard to bridge the doctrinal, cultural, faithful and tribal chasm that separates us. Logic often is attempted to be that bridge — and I don’t deny it can be helpful.

    Perhaps the only authority we have to appeal to is kindness, humanity and good manners. To that end perhaps our best endeavor is not to persuade others, but to understand others accurately, and to refine our own positions in the exchange.

    Therefore back to the subject of the thread: Is “Christian” the best label to encompass the art of a band of this type? I wonder if “Christian” isn’t better description of an individual’s conformity of faith, as a description of God’s Art He creates in the hearts of His own. While I have strong disagreements with LDS theology about how Christian it is, I also admit is is possible for God to create Christians among Mormons. Where there is mutual outreach, perhaps “seekers of Christ” is a better adjective to express Our Work to submit to lives of faith, hope and charity inspired by Him.

  28. “Perhaps the only authority we have to appeal to is kindness, humanity and good manners. To that end perhaps our best endeavor is not to persuade others, but to understand others accurately, and to refine our own positions in the exchange.”

    I like this, JFQ.

    I do want to point out, JFQ, that your argument (which was very logical, by the way 😛 ) relyed on admitting that you place certain traditions as authoratative.

    You cast these traditions in a certain positive light when you say “and trust in the dominant, rigorous tradition that formulized foundational theological interpretations of [the Bible]” but there is no mistaking that the authority accepted is “tradition” not soley the Bible itself.

    As such, this is the “assumption” your logic is built on that I disagree with. I do not feel that the Protestant tradition is “dominant” nor “rigorous” nor “formulized” in the same way you seem to be using these words. And even if I did, I still wouldn’t think of these characteristics as good arguments for them being the basis for authority to interpret the Bible. (Again, as per our other thread, how long would the NT authors survive such a test? Yet we all agree they are still authoratative.)

    In other words, I accept your logic, but deny your assumptions.

    However, Evangelical, if he holds to the same assumptions you are holding (presumably he does) is right to reject Mormonism interpretation of the Trinity on the grounds that we don’t accept the traditional Proestant (and in this case, Catholic) way of interpreting the Bible. This is the real basis for our disagreement.

    However, we can now cut through all the discussion and get right down to the real disagreement: we do not agree upon which tradition is authoratative and thus the one by which we should interpret the bible. All else we’ve said was meaningless up to this point and all else we say past this point is meaningless since we have not agreed upon a basis for determining which tradition to use.

    So there was never a logical argument to be made in the first place.

    This is actually the point that I’ve tried to make, indirectly, with every Protestant I’ve discussed the Trinity with. (JFQ is the first to acknowledge it, ever.) We aren’t having a logic discussion after all, we are simply quoting traditions at each other and measuring each other in light of our own traditions. We could have saved our breath and simply agreed to disagree up front rather than resorting to the pretense of logical arguments.

  29. “To that end perhaps our best endeavor is not to persuade others, but to understand others accurately, and to refine our own positions in the exchange.”

    Well said, JfQ.

    Personally, I like the Biblical term “disciples (followers) of Christ”. I just think doing beats saying every time.

  30. “Trinitarian doctrine sets the biblical statements about God’s nature as the paramount expression of God’s authority. In sum they compose a paradoxical testament for the believer, a contradictory one to the disbeliever.”

    I already responded to this, indirectly, on the other thread. But here it is again:

    Okay, one other point, JFQ: You make a good point that a contradiction can teach something worthwhile. I just can’t argue with that point. So the fact that many Christians, say, interpret a contradictory Trinity doctrine out of the Bible isn’t necessarily a problem.

    However, I’ve never had a concern with the fact that most modern Christians interpret a contradictory doctrine out of the Bible and actually learn something useful from it. My concern is only when they try to hold others accountable to that intrepretation (by say determining if one is “a true believer” or not based on it.)

    Now we have to resort to logic here: would a loving God require his children to find and deduce a contradictory doctrine out of his authoritative revelations? It’s impossible that he would expect this, because there are any number of possible contradictions we could have “deduced” from said authorative revelations! (In fact, you can’t strictly speaking “deduce” anything contradictory ever! Techincally all you can do is “fail to deduce” the Trinity doctrine from the Bible.)

    So we’d never actually be able to know if we deduced the one possible contradiction that God wanted us to deduce. He’s either have to a) tell us directly what contradiction he wants us to believe in (in creedal like fashion), or b) not hold us accountable for it, even if it’s true.

    Either way, I can be 100% certain that no matter how true the traditional Trinity doctrine turns out to be, God won’t hold me accountable for not believing in it.

    But can the reverse be said to be true? Will God not hold those that use the doctrine of Trinity as a basis for judgment accountable, even if they are right? Well, we know the answer to this question too, because he says so in the Bible: he *will* hold them accountable (judge not… for what measure you mete, etc…)

    All in all, this doesn’t strike me as a small problem for Protestant Christian beliefs.

  31. “Three-in-one is completely different than 3-trillion-in-one because the Bible only affirms three persons as God and fully God. The case doesn’t rest on logic.”

    One last point, sorry.

    JFQ, it *is* true that *your* case does not rest on logic.

    It is *not* true that *Evangelicals* didn’t. He is making assumptions about what he thinks Mormons do or don’t believe based on certain logical arguments he’s made that equally undermine his own position.

    If we want to discuss if the Bible allows for more than 3 or not in the Godhead, that’s a different story. But logically, all of Evangelical’s arguments fail up to this point because his own tradition suffers from the same problems he is leveling at the Mormons or Mormons are in complete agreement.

    To restate Evangelicals arguments briefly:

    1. If Mormons worship Jesus and the Father then they are polytheist because they are worshiping two persons both fully God. (Obviously equally true or even more true for Evangelical.)
    2. Mormons don’t see Jesus and the Father as both uniquely God in person, so they can’t be God in the same sense that Evangelical’s think of it because part of being God is being unique. (Evangelical also doesn’t see them as uniquely God in “person” either, or at least is contradictory on this point.)
    3. Evangelicals see Jesus as fully divine (so do Mormons)
    4. Evangelicals see Jesus as all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise (so do Mormons)
    5. God, to be worthy of worship, must be ontologically separate from His creations forever. (Just an assertion. No argument actually being made. So my response is “I disagree.”)

    Did I miss anything from his arguments that should have been included? I’ll be happy to resumarize and address.

    So while I accept what you are saying as true, JFQ, it doesn’t help Evangelical’s arguments at all.

    I’ll be happy to discuss the real differences between Mormon and Evangelical doctrines of deity, but I think we need to first come to agreement that the points made thus far weren’t representative of Mormon beliefs. If we can’t at least agree upon that much, there isn’t anything else to be said.

  32. I’d also note that one can affirm both the three-ness and one-ness of God in ways other than traditional Christianity has. The Bible does the first, but it has nothing to say about ousia (whether homo or homoio), ontology, etc.

  33. Do you mean you pray to them as a single unit

    I sometimes pray to each person individually, and sometimes I pray to them all at the same time. Often in a prayer you will hear me merely address the Father. Other times you will hear me say things to the Father, then to the Son, and then to the Spirit.

    I have never had a Mormon friend or acquintance say, nor have I ever seen it written in Mormon literature, that Mormons pray to the whole Godhead. I have always seen prayer by Mormons addressed in this life to the Father, with tribute given to the Son for his necessary work to make the larger relationship possible.

    To clarify, I think God as a being is unique. I of course would not say that Jesus is the only person to be fully God, etc.

    Attempting to restate my position, Bruce said,

    “If Mormons worship Jesus and the Father then they are polytheist because they are worshiping two persons both fully God.”

    This is incorrect. I would instead say: “If Mormons worship Jesus and the Father then they are polytheists because they are worshiping two beings both fully God.”

    Nistav said,

    “Mormons don’t think that to worship Jesus the way EV’s do would constitute polytheism”

    What would constitute polytheism? I have always heard Mormons say that polytheism is the worship of multiple gods (usually in the context of arguing that the belief in the existence of potentially trillions of equally all-powerful and all-knowing gods is not polytheism).

    Bruce said “I believe the same” to “we worship each person as fully and eternally possessing all divine attributes.” Yet I wonder if you really do, because by “eternal” I do not merely mean they will always have these attributes. I mean that there has never been a time then they have not fully had these attributes. They never had to progress unto the fulness of these attributes. Perhaps you have a more non-traditional Mormon belief that God never had to progress unto the fulness of deity, but I would find it frustrating and counter-productive to posture this kind of belief as representing mainstream or traditional Mormonism.

    As a sidenote, I would say that, according to my understanding of God as “all-powerful”, Mormons do not share this view, because part of being “all-powerful” means having absolute, superior power over all other beings. If a being does not have power over another being, that being does not have all power. The idea in Mormonism of potentially trillions of gods who are equally “all-powerful” negates this. The idea of “equally all-powerful beings” is self-contradictory in our worldview.

    Evangelical, please explain to me why the fact “one God” can be “three persons” (as you state you believe) would have any issue *at all* with “one God” being “one trillion persons”?

    Because we believe the Trinity has and always will be essentially what it is. There is nothing about the Trinity that is “accidental”, or optional, or expandable. Created beings can enter into interpersonal relationship with the intrapersonal Trinity, but the Trinity is an essential being. If the Father wasn’t in full, divine relationship with the Son, both would, as it were, cease to exist. The same thing can be said for the Father and the Spirit, and the Son and the Spirit. If you add another person to the Godhead, then that person was not an essential person of the Godhead to begin with.

    The same goes for God’s attributes. They are, to the Trinitarian, all essential to God. If God progresses in an attribute toward the fullness of deity, then what he achieves or attains was not essential to his very existence to begin with. That being the case, the Mormon God, as I understand him, is not essentially all that he is. He is essentially a spirit (or an intelligence; I know there is some debate about that), but he is not essentially all-knowing or all-powerful.

    Given the big disparity in our worldviews, can we really say Mormons worship the Father or Jesus or the Spirit “just the same”? I’m not using these comments as a way to substantiate the trinitarian view of God (but I wouldn’t mind doing that in another context), but I do write them to promote understanding. As long as Mormons believe they are worshiping the Father or Son just the same I don’t believe a sufficient understanding has been reached.

  34. evangelical, I will add only one thing:

    You said, according to your understanding of Mormonism that God “is essentially a spirit (or an intelligence).” That is SO far from correct that it isn’t even in the same universe. You appear to be telling us what we believe while not understanding what we believe at even the most basic level.

    I am totally comfortable at this point simply agreeing to disagree with you as to what we believe. I also am confident that my 40+ years within Mormonism gives me a better understanding of what I believe than you have, so I have no need for you to clarify my beliefs for me.

    Thanks for your participation. You simply are very, very wrong.

  35. #20 “Given this tension, can Mormons really accurately say they worship Jesus “just the same” as trinitarians?”
    #23 “One may not agree with the Trinitarian view of God, but as long as Mormons believe they worship Jesus “just the same”, we will probably assume that Mormons don’t understand the disparity between the two worldviews.”
    #36 “Given the big disparity in our worldviews, can we really say Mormons worship the Father or Jesus or the Spirit “just the same”?”

    Evangelical – I notice that you use this phrase “just the same” in three different posts. I want to clarify one thing. I was not trying to claim that we worship Jesus “just the same” as Steve or any other mainstream Christian. What I said, in the lyrics of my song was:
    “You worship Christ, adore His name –
    But can you see I do the same?”
    With that, I mean to say that:
    -Steve worships Christ and considers himself a Christian.
    -I worship Christ, and in my opinion, that is what defines me as a Christian as well.

    I do not intend to imply that I worship Christ in exactly the same way as Steve. I simply mean to imply that if he is concerned about me being a Christian and being able to testify through song of Christ as my Savior, I certainly consider myself qualified to do so.

  36. Nikki, Evangelical knows that; he doesn’t care. “Exactly the same” means everything to him; it doesn’t to us. He thinks we want to be “exactly the same” as him; he can’t fathom that we don’t – that we simply don’t like being so badly misrepresented. His theology says we are damned; ours grants he may be saved.

    He thinks he understands us enough to teach us what we believe; he doesn’t. We disagree; we probably will disagree until we die. It really is that simple – and there’s nothing we can do to change that.

  37. I really do want to take this further, but I just don’t see how. You are insisting that it’s okay for you to be logically incoherent but insisting Mormons must be logically coherent. How do I even talk to someone like that? So this will probaby be my last post unless you change your approach dramatically.

    You are also now putting words into our mouths and not letting us state our own beliefs, apparently for the sake of creating a straw man.

    Evangelical, for all your much writing (I am guilty here too) you still haven’t addressed the fundamental question I am posing to you.

    I understand that the Trinity doctrine makes a distinction between “persons” and “being.” According to the Trinity doctrine, Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are all distinct “persons” but are one “being.”

    But can you define the difference between those terms? Have you ever even tried? Or are they just nonsense words like “abracadabra” and are accepted on faith alone with no comprehension?

    The problem is that “person” and “being” are generally (always?) considered synonyms in any other context.

    The only people in the world that do not (or could not) understand those terms to be synonyms would be someone that is trained in Catholic/Protestant Trinity tradition and that accepts that tradition as fully authoritative. Everyone else in the world lacks any basis for separating those two words like you are doing.

    For us to even comprehend what you are saying, we literally have to accept your tradition as authoritative first. In other words, every argument you make is circular. You are starting with the assumption you are correct and then argue with that as your basis. (Please don’t make the mistake of appealing to the Bible here. The Bible does not use the words “being” and “person” as if they are different things.)

    If you can explain why a “person” is different than a “being” by defining both, then we are in business. If you can’t, then you *owe* it to Mormons to not assume they worship “three beings.” Any other case you make is meaningless until you define your terms.

    Let me state this clearly: You worship multiple “person” but only “one being.” You are *assuming* Mormons worship multiple “beings.” Your arguments are founded on the assumption that you have the ability to define Mormons as worshiping “multiple beings” instead of “multiple persons.” But you don’t define those terms. Thus the argument is meaningless. It’s literally logically incoherent.

    That being the case, why not just assume Mormons do in fact worship multiple “persons” and not multiple “beings” and then we have no argument? This would be “just as logical” for you to do.

    Without a working definition of what you mean by “being” vs. “person” you might as well being saying “God is abracadabra! And if you don’t believe that, you are damned!”

    Since I have no idea what “abracadabra” means, I have no basis for claiming I do or don’t agree.

    No, that’s not quite true. Let me explain further. If you are saying “God is abracadabra. You must believe that or you are damned” Mormons are saying “The Bible doesn’t say God is abracadabra (homoousia/being/person/etc.) and we don’t know if we do or don’t believe it, so we aren’t going to bother to discuss it any further. It obviously has no importance at all.”

    So we *are* different: Mormons simply don’t know what you mean and we see no reason to even give it another thought and we think you are off basis for even bring it up.

    But you aren’t in the same situation. To exclude us, you must make both the case that we HAVE TO believe God is abracadabra AND you have to prove Mormons DON’T believe he is abracadabra.

    Simply having a Mormon say “I don’t believe God is abracadabra” is not enough, since likely all they meant was “I have no idea what you mean.” The burden of proof is on you to take your own beliefs, define them, and then demonstrate (to everyone’s agreement) that Mormons do in fact disagree that God is “abracadabra.” (one being/homoousia/etc)

    But that’s the one thing you can’t ever do because you can’t define your terms. So logically you can’t ever rule out the possibility that Mormons do in fact agree with you. (Even while Mormons can in fact rule out that you don’t agree with them. This is the problem with having undefined and logical incoherent theology like the Trinity doctrine.)

    Other points worth pondering:

    What would constitute polytheism? I have always heard Mormons say that polytheism is the worship of multiple gods (usually in the context of arguing that the belief in the existence of potentially trillions of equally all-powerful and all-knowing gods is not polytheism).

    Here is my answer.

    Also, Evangelical, you are being unfair. You need to answer this question for yourself before you start casting stones in your glass house. You haven’t explained why anyone should take your person/being distinction seriously. To anyone that doesn’t accept Catholic/Protestant tradition as effectively authoritative above scripture, there is no difference between those two words. So you are also a “polytheist” by any fair evaluation unless you wish to make a serious attempt at defining what you mean by “polytheism” like I just did in my link above.

    Bruce said “I believe the same” to “we worship each person as fully and eternally possessing all divine attributes.” Yet I wonder if you really do, because by “eternal” I do not merely mean they will always have these attributes. I mean that there has never been a time then they have not fully had these attributes.

    Why are you assuming your “definition” of “eternal” is the correct one? What does the word “eternal” in the Hebrew bible mean in its original Hebrew? What does it mean in the original Greek for the NT? Do you even know?

    In the Hebrew it means literally “time out of mind.” In the Greek it means “an era.” You are ignoring what God actually taught in the Bible here and all possible interpretations of it.

    Nevertheless, I have never claimed that Mormons don’t believe “God” doesn’t eternally (even in the non-biblical sense you are using it) have all these attributes.

    To put this into Protestant terms, what I believe is that the “one God-being” (what Mormons call the Godhead or Divine Nature) has always eternally contained all attributes of divinity. It’s only the “persons” in the Godhead that we aren’t sure if they always did or not. (With an emphasis on “not sure” because we don’t have a definitive doctrine either way on this topic. Mormons are free to believe whatever they want here.)

    I would say that, according to my understanding of God as “all-powerful”, Mormons do not share this view, because part of being “all-powerful” means having absolute, superior power over all other beings. If a being does not have power over another being, that being does not have all power. The idea in Mormonism of potentially trillions of gods who are equally “all-powerful” negates this.

    This is another example of your logical incoherency. Replace the word “being” with “person” and it’s obvious: “If a person does not have power over another person, that person does not have all power.” Glass house.

    More to the point, I now assert that Mormons see the Divine Nature or Godhead as the “one-being” (to put it into Protestant terms) and the individuals that make it up as “the persons” and thus you argument is now invalid for Mormons too.

    Even under the Protestant view, we are not claiming there are multiple God-beings out there. We are claiming only multiple “God-persons.” The burden of proof is on you to demonstrate otherwise. Every argument you’ve made so far is based on the assumption that Mormons believe in multiple “beings” as God. But you have given no reason to believe this other than it’s what you want to believe about Mormons.

    Created beings can enter into interpersonal relationship with the intrapersonal Trinity, but the Trinity is an essential being. If the Father wasn’t in full, divine relationship with the Son, both would, as it were, cease to exist. The same thing can be said for the Father and the Spirit, and the Son and the Spirit. If you add another person to the Godhead, then that person was not an essential person of the Godhead to begin with.

    This isn’t an argument, just an assertion. So my response is “I disagree.”

    Given the big disparity in our worldviews, can we really say Mormons worship the Father or Jesus or the Spirit “just the same”?

    Evangelical, you are being unjust here. Who was the person to originally say Mormons believe they worship Jesus “just the same?” It’s was *you* back at #20. You even put it in quotes as if you were quoting someone else. But you were only quoting yourself. I denied this at both #18 and #21, by the way, and you chose to ignore that.

    So can we really say you are saying this to “promote understanding?” I don’t think so. If you were, you wouldn’t be arguing a straw man like are doing. If understanding were what you were promosting, you’d ask us if we believe we worship the same as you or not and ask us how we think we differ. I see no attempt on your part to promote understanding, for yourself or us.

    There’s the real rub, Evangelical. Everyone here knows you aren’t here to promote understanding. People promoting understanding don’t act like you are acting. You are here to sell. (Nothing wrong with that, by the way, but don’t pretend to be something you are not. Incidently, I have not claimed that I am promoting understanding, so you can avoid the argument that “you aren’t either.” If you were to really look at the logical argument I’ve made –- and they are deductive reasoning — you would understand and that would thrill me. But really I’m doing this for the lurkers here. That and then need to capture my own thoughts for my own sake.)

  38. Well, I’ve spent too much time on the internet again (it’s so dang addicting) so I’m going to sign-off for the rest of the day (and if I’m smart, tomorrow too.)

    I do want to bring this discussion back to the original point that caused all of this. Nikki said: “because “real Christians” believe in the Trinity: Father + Son + Holy Ghost = all one person”

    Evangelical took issue with this because the Trinity doctrine is actually they are three persons and one being.

    There are two possibilities here. The first is these Christians Nikki was talking to didn’t understand the Trinity doctrine (because it’s incomprehensible) and ended up on a slippery slope to modalism. This is VERY common in my experience. We’ve all heard other Christians speak of God sometimes being water, sometimes ice, sometimes steam. This is modalism. I would estimate that some huge portion of “Trinitarians” are actually modalists and don’t know it. I find this very ironic since these same people often tell me I’m going to hell for believing a heresy.

    The other possibility is Nikki misunderstood them. This is the point I made in #40. It is not possible for someone that doesn’t already believe that the Catholic/Protestant tradition is authoritative to understand what a Trinitarian is saying. “Person” and “Being” are synonyms to Nikki (and all non-Creedal Christians for that matter) so Nikki lacked the ability to comprehend the difference and may have fallen into interpreting what they were saying in the only why she could have. This is not Nikki’s fault, it’s the fault of the Trinity doctrine itself for being built on two terms that mean the same thing to everyone.

    This is like saying:

    “I am not hungry, but I am starving”

    “I have sinned, but I have not transgressed.”

    “I will go to hell eternally, but not forever.”

    Each of these statements, on the surface, seems like contradictions. In fact, according to their most obvious meaning, they are contradictions.

    But each could be turned into a paradox by defining the terms. For example, perhaps a person has something wrong with them so they don’t feel hunger pains, so they are going to die of malnutrition (i.e. starve to death.) Now the statement is no longer a contradiction, it’s a paradox, because we’re no longer defining “starving” and “hungry” in the same way, as we normally would.

    The problem with the conversation I’m having with Evangelical (and all Trinitarians I’ve had this conversation with) is that they want to call it a paradox, but they don’t want to define their terms in such a way that it actually *is* a paradox. The way it sounds is a contradiction and in fact they treat it like it’s a contradiction. (Witness, for example, how Evangelical tried to make a logical argument that you can’t have more than one all-powerful being but didn’t even other to explain how you can have more than one all-powerful “person” and why that argument, if it’s logically valid, wouldn’t apply equally to himself.)

    I understand why that is. Because every attempt to define “person” vs. “being” or “one of substance” results in one of the heresies of Christianity. Thus defining them is counter productive to Trinitarians.

    What I have asserted in my past posts is that Mormons are in fact Trinitarians, though not traditional ones. We are, roughly speaking, social Trinitarians. I believe that if we do a serious attempt to translate Mormon doctrine of deity into Protestant terms we could honestly say that Mormons believe that God is “three” (and later more) “persons” but “one moral will” or Godhead. I believe “one moral will” equates to the Protestant concept of “one being” very nicely, but minus the lack of conherency.

    More to the point, I believe any argument you make with about “three persons, one being” can be equally made with “multiple persons, one moral will/Godhead.” So far, Evangelical has all but proven that this is true. His best arguments are easily dispatched based on his own assertions.

    I would truly love to, some day, find a Trinitarian that was willing to really sit down with me and talk through their beliefs with me without feeling threatened. I would love to find a traditional Trinitarian that could assess my real beliefs without putting words in my mouth and assess my concerns with the traditional doctrine of Trinity and really seriously look at if I’m just misunderstanding something, if there is a miscommunication, or if the doctrine of Trinity really is built on the circular argument that you have to accept creeds as authoritative to ever be able to deduce it out of the Bible in the first place.

    Anyhow, I have come to doubt that I will ever have such a conversation. I have come to doubt it’s even possible to have that conversation.

    Thank you, all for allow me to get this thought out of my head and into writing. Back to your regularly schedule thread.

  39. I recognize that in our day we have been fairly explicitly counseled not to pray or speak directly to Jesus. I also agree that I think this is a culturally/time bound counsel, similar to the discouragement of crosses or encouragement to use “thee” and “thou”, (But see hymn 270 I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go [should be “I’ll Go Where Thou Wantest Me To Go”])

    The Book of Mormon, however, contains several examples of individuals praying/speaking directly to Jesus:

    Alma 19:29 And it came to pass that she went and took the queen by the hand, that perhaps she might raise her from the ground; and as soon as she touched her hand she arose and stood upon her feet, and cried with a loud voice, saying: O blessed Jesus, who has saved me from an awful hell! O blessed God, have mercy on this people!

    Alma 36:18 Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of edeath

    Alma 38:8 And it came to pass that I was three days and three nights in the most bitter pain and anguish of soul; and never, until I did cry out unto the Lord Jesus Christ for mercy, did I receive a remission of my sins. But behold, I did cry unto him and I did find peace to my soul.

    3 Ne 19:18 And behold, they began to pray; and they did pray unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God.

    Apparently the Lord to whom the brother of Jared was praying was Jesus Christ. Ether chapter 3. Note: The prayer of Enos was apparently to the Father, or at least that is who purported to speak to him. Enos 1:8.

  40. David, excellent point, but it is easy to forget that each of those instances you mention is from before the birth of Jesus or (in the case of 3 Nephi) when he was there with them. The distinction in the book of Mormon is not made explicit in many cases, but the instances prior to His birth and during His direct ministry certainly could constitute a different situation than we have now – and what Jesus taught his disciples to do when he was gone from them.

  41. Interesting thoughts, Ray.

    The teaching to pray to the Father in the name of the Son appears to have existed in the Americas before Jesus’ coming.

    E.g., 2 Ne 32:9 But behold, I say unto you that ye must pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul.

    There is at least one instance of Joseph Smith’s praying to Jehovah/Jesus:

    D&C 109:34 O Jehovah, have mercy upon this people, and as all men sin forgive the transgressions of thy people, and let them be blotted out forever.

    I listed in my earlier post (post #6) several hymns in which the congregation speaks/prays musically directly to Jesus. See D&C 25:12 (“song of the righteous is a prayer unto me”). To those could be added hymn 270, I’ll Go Where You Want Me To Go.

    *************************

    It may be, however, along the lines of Blake Ostler’s expansion theory, that Joseph embellished some of the accounts in the BofM to reflect terminology used in the camp revivals he attended, in which people may well have called directly upon Jesus. And similarly, in offering the prayer in section 109, Joseph may not yet have understood what would become the Church’s standard teaching that Jehovah is the Son, not the Father. And finally, if members of the correlation committee are reading these posts, I expects those hymns directly to Jesus will be gone in the next hymnal.

    ****************************

    Bonus Question: Why does the sample prayer which Jesus taught His people in the Americas not include an “in the name of”?

  42. #41 Bruce says: “I do want to bring this discussion back to the original point that caused all of this. Nikki said: “because “real Christians” believe in the Trinity: Father + Son + Holy Ghost = all one person””

    Woah – I thought you were misquoting me for a second, but I really did say that!!! I first wrote the blog. Then, later, while trying to write the song, I researched more about what defines “the Trinity” and learned for myself that it is “three persons, one being.” So, in the song, I was trying to focus on my newfound knowledge, but I had forgotten that I had said they were all one person in the original post! Yes, I think you’re right that I misunderstood what Steve was saying. I don’t actually recall which word he used (being or person). As you pointed out, they’ve previously meant the same thing to me. I think that I did assume he meant they were the same “person” in different “states” – much like the ice/water/steam example he provided to me. So perhaps you’re right that they slipped into modalism.

    Interesting stuff! I’m amazed at how much discussion this simple story has brought about!!

  43. Pingback: Worshipping Jesus « i love mormons

  44. Just a quick response to Nikki, that “song” you wrote was awesome, thanks for that! I live in the bible belt of Canada and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that I’m not a Christian because I’m a mormon. Seriously, The Church of JESUS Christ of Latter Day Saints. Like, it’s not The Church of Latter Day Saints, if we didn’t believe in Jesus Christ, why would we even put it into our title?

    And with the whole Trinity thing…who was talking to Jesus when he was being baptized, was he telling himself & saying that was his own son? So if we’re made in God’s image, then are we made of three beings in one also? …anyways, I could go on. But thanks again!

  45. Hiya. I’m the author of this blog post, and something just reminded me of it today so I read back through some things. Just wanted to provide an update: Since the writing of this post, I have officially left the LDS church. I now consider myself atheist Also, I have joined a real band – alternative rock, my favorite. I’m playing keyboards and lead vocals. Take that, pseudo-Christian hard-rock band! 😀

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