The Cincinnati Enquirer online recently published an article about various topics related to Mormonism. A sidebar to the article, titled “What they believe,” included this bullet point:
” There is no trinity. Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are separate entities.”
It struck me as odd that Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost were described as “entities” rather than as “Gods.” It looked to me like the information in this sidebar was supplied by the LDS Church. In fact, at the bottom of the box the newspaper had helpfully supplied a link to the official LDS web site intended for non-member investigators of the Mormon faith, mormon.org.
Following the link I went to the mormon.org glossary and looked up “Trinity.” The word wasn’t there, but why should it be? So I looked up “Godhead,” which said,
“Our Father in Heaven; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost.”
As I explored the mormon.org web site further, I couldn’t find any explanation that Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost were recognized within Mormonism as Gods; only Heavenly Father was identified as a God.
So I looked at the lds.org web site under the section titled “Core Beliefs: Why and How are Mormons Different?” Regarding the Godhead it says:
“Among the most important differences with other Christian churches are those concerning the nature of God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Together, these form what is commonly referred to as the Holy Trinity in many churches and as the Godhead by Latter-day Saints…
“The Trinity of traditional Christianity is referred to as the Godhead by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While the same terms are used by Latter-day Saints and other Christians for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost), Latter-day Saint understanding of the three members of the Godhead is significantly different from that of traditional Christianity.”
Following this paragraph on lds.org is a short definition of each member of the Godhead; again only the Father is identified as a God.
The Cincinnati Enquirer article, typical of many articles I’ve seen, suggested traditional Christianity rejects Mormonism because Mormons believe Jesus visited America and because Joseph Smith claims he was visited by an angel. I’m sure these concerns appear fairly minor to most people. Many never get a glimpse of the bedrock separator between Mormonism and Christianity: one true God vs. many true Gods.
The LDS Bible Dictionary states:
“The supreme Governor of the universe and the Father of mankind…
“When one speaks of God, it is generally the Father who is referred to; that is, Elohim. All mankind are his children. The personage known as Jehovah in Old Testament times…is the Son, known as Jesus Christ, and who is also a God….The Holy Ghost is also a God and is variously called the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, etc.”
We can argue till the cows come home about whether the Christian Trinity or the LDS Godhead is the true representation of God/the Gods as He/They really is/are, but what is really disturbing me about this is the avoidance of the LDS Church in publicly stating — clearly and candidly — what it really believes and teaches about the nature of its Gods.
When the LDS Church describes the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as “separate entities” it is not being overtly deceitful, but neither is it being entirely honest according to the Church’s own definition of honesty. In 1994 the official LDS magazine, Ensign, ran a series of articles about the Ten Commandments. The article dealing with the ninth commandment, bearing false witness, said,
“Thus, the ninth commandment is a strong declaration against covenant breaking, oath breaking, and all forms of untruth, including exaggeration, gross understatement, fabrication, or the willful giving of any explanation not supported by the facts. Even sharing the truth can have the effect of lying when we tell only half-truths that do not give a full picture. We can also be guilty of bearing false witness and lying if we say nothing, particularly if we allow another to reach a wrong conclusion while we hold back information that would have led to a more accurate perception. In this case it is as though an actual lie were uttered…
“Lying and misrepresentation in all of their forms are wrong, no matter how they may be rationalized, and those who silently let these evils pass unchallenged are also doing wrong…
“All that we know of our Heavenly Father and his kingdom teaches us that nothing false is acceptable to him—not lying, not withholding the truth, not manipulating facts in our favor. All such actions are unworthy of his children, and unworthy of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, who was our beacon of truth. We must be true witnesses at all times and in all things and in all places (see Mosiah 18:9) if we would be among those that our Lord and Savior will count as his own when he comes again.” (Robert J. Matthews, “‘Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness’,” Ensign 10/1994, 53)
Since a foundational and essential doctrine of traditional Christianity is the belief in and worship of one true God, the LDS doctrine of belief in three true Gods for this world and worship of at least two of them constitutes a very critical distinction. If this doctrinal divergence was more widely known, I think people would recognize and better understand why Christians resist identifying and accepting Mormonism as a Christian faith.
That increased foundational knowledge of this difference between Mormonism and traditional, orthodox Christianity would be good for the Christian church, a welcome change. But perhaps such widespread knowledge and understanding about the Mormon Godhead wouldn’t be as welcome within the LDS Church.