Friday, June 13, 2008

The seven habits of highly unoriginal critics, number one

It is a well-worn tactic of the critics of the Church to try to use our own Book of Mormon against us, to suggest that its claims about the nature of God are different from what the Church now teaches.

They state that the Book teaches the Trinity, the uncreated status of God and His eternal, unchanging nature, things, they say, that Mormonism came to deny, along with ancient heresies such as Sabelianism, that Christ is the Father.

But this alleged discrepancy never seems to have troubled the Prophet Joseph Smith or the vast majority of Church members, then or now. Was he and are we all just blind and stupid?

The truth is, we DO teach the Trinity. The Father is God. Jesus Christ is God. The Holy Spirit is God. They are one.

We DO teach the uncreated status and eternal nature of God. More detail on that later.

We just differ in certain ways in HOW we believe these things, what they mean, where the line is drawn.

Let's take one example: In a sense, Christ certainly is our Father, as the Book of Mormon teaches. We are reborn spiritually because of His atonement and we take upon us His name. That does not mean that we confuse him with the person of our Heavenly Father, who created our spirits in the first place. The latter is Sabellianism.

Now, was that so difficult to understand?


Brother Zelph said...

This topic seems to be on people's minds recently. You can see why people can be very confused. If someone strictly reads the Book of Mormon and is given no study guides and lives in complete seclusion, the only conclusion they would come to is that there is only one God and that the father and Jesus are not separate beings. Nowhere in the Book of Mormon does it say that God the Father Jesus and the HG are separate beings.

Jesus commanded his disciples to pray to the father, then they prayed to Jesus, not to the Father.

3 Nephi 19:17-18
"And it came to pass that when they had all knelt down upon the earth, he commanded his disciples that they should pray. And behold, they began to pray; and they did pray unto Jesus, calling him their Lord and their God."

In fact, this was one of the most important doctrinal changes made to the Book of Mormon from the original 1830 publication. The original 1830 Book of Mormon said very clearly that Jesus was Heavenly Father.

The original 1830 Book of Mormon said in 1 Nephi 13:40 that Christ is the Father.

1 Nephi 13:40 Original Book of Mormon (equivalent- there were no verses):

"These last records ... shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior ..."

1 Nephi 13:40 current LDS version

"... These last records ... shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior ..."

Another example is

1 Nephi 11:18

Original version:

"... Behold, the virgin which thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.

Current LDS version:

"... Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh."

1 Nephi 11:21

Original version

"And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father!"

Current LDS version

"And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!"

1 Nephi 11:32

Original Version

"... the Everlasting God, was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record."

Current LDS version

"... the Son of the everlasting God, was judged of the world; and I saw and bear record."

It is abundantly clear that nowhere in the Book of Mormon does it say that the father, son or HG are in any way separate beings. That is the source of confusion.

Clifford said...

Brother Zelph:

Thank you for your comments.

If Joseph Smith,who emerged from a long Protestant heritage, had made up the Book of Mormon, he would not have put into "his" book the very non-Protestant notion that the Son is the Father, i.e., that Jesus is the Heavenly Father, Elohim.

Where would he have picked up such a notion, unless he were a reader of ancient eastern heretical texts?

As I mentioned in the original post, there is a sense in which Jesus, Jehovah, IS our Father, and that is explained in the Book of Mormon itself.

All those who believe in Him become his seed, fulfilling the words of Isaiah that the Suffering Servant shall see His seed.

Therefore, both the original and the current text of the Book of Mormon are doctrinally correct. Those changes of which you spoke help prevent readers from getting the identities of these two Beings confused.

We worship the Father and we worship the Son and the Holy Spirit and we pray to the Father, as did Jesus, in the name of Jesus, as the Bible teaches us to do.

What is prayer, after all? It is talking to the Being that you worship. Can I talk to Jesus? Certainly. But He always defers to His Father and gives glory to His Father and perhaps that is why we are told generally to address our prayers to that Father.

Now, may I ask you a question? I have been reading about the so-called Chalcedonian heresy, in which the monk Eutyches taught that in Jesus Christ, there is but "one nature after the union of his divinity and his humanity."

What exactly, according to Christian theology, is a "nature"?

Brother Zelph said...


I see where you are coming from. However, you are assuming that my argument is based on Joseph Smith making it up and injecting his world views at the time. This may be the case, but that is not my argument. I am simply pointing out why people that read the Book of Mormon can be confused, especially with the original 1830 Book of Mormon, on the topic of the Godhead.

Clifford said...

Well, we do our best not to leave people in complete seclusion with the Book! Hometeachers, missionaries, etc. are only too happy to call on anyone who asks. (o;

Perhaps the New Testament warning that no scripture is of any private interpretation is applicable here -- not just to the Bible but to the Book of Mormon as well.

We need to discuss these words of God with other members of the body of Christ, and to gain understanding from prophets as well, the very people to whom God reveals scriptures in the first place.

It has ever been a problem of humanity to cling to former scripture and reject new revelation and/or to wrest scripture to their own destruction.

Thus, the Jews rejected the New Testament, certain Jews rejected anything but the Torah; and some in the early Christian church struggled with the new revelations, such as those setting aside the principles of Kasruth.

The other side of the coin were those who introduced new but heretical doctrines/scriptures, such as the Gnostics.

Certainly, the membership of the LDS church is not immune to this problem; every new revelation in this dispensation chased a few members away, whether it was tithing or the restoration of the office of bishop.

And the FLDS people down in Texas reject the 1890 Manifesto.

During his mortal ministry, Jesus Himself sorrowed to see many of his followers fade away when he introduced his "hard doctrines."

"Wilt thou also go away?" he asked Peter, who had the sense to respond:

"To whom should we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life."