Mormonism and the nature of God/Early beliefs

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Early Mormon beliefs regarding the nature of God

Summary: Some evangelical Christians attempt to show that the LDS idea of deification is unbiblical, unchristian and untrue. They seem to think that this doctrine is the main reason why the LDS reject the Psychological Trinity.

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Question: What is the historic church's concept of the Trinity and why do Mormons reject it?

It is important to remember that something like "the historic church's concept of the Trinity" does not exist

The following claim is made:

Why does the LDS Church reject the historic church's concept of the Trinity? Because not only does the Trinity remove any hope of a Mormon ever achieving godhood, but it also undermines Smith's first vision and subsequent teachings regarding a multiplicity of deities. If it can be demonstrated that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost/Spirit are God, and at the same time be shown that there exists only one God, it would definitely place the integrity of the first Mormon prophet on the line. [1]

It is important to remember that something like "the historic church's concept of the Trinity" does not exist. The doctrine of the Trinity as taught by Catholics and mainstream Protestants is rejected by Eastern Orthodoxy, and vice versa. The Trinity doctrine of the second century A.D. differs from that of the third, and the fourth century developed even newer ideas. Aquinas' doctrine is different from that of Augustine, and Barth again developed a new doctrine of the Trinity. Modern understanding of key terms like homoousios, person, nature, substance and essence don't have much to do with what they meant in the fourth century A.D.

Mormons since Joseph Smith have stated that Father, Son and Holy Ghost cannot be numerically one, if Joseph saw two personages

Having said so much let me ask what the First Vision has to do with the Trinity? That's quite simple: Joseph Smith saw two personages, of which one was identified as the Father and the second as the Son. Mormons since Joseph Smith have stated that Father, Son and Holy Ghost cannot be numerically one, if Joseph saw two personages. The authors believe that if the Trinity were right, then it would be impossible that Joseph Smith saw two personages, the Father and the Son. Here they clearly prove that they believe the Trinity teaches that Father, Son and Holy Ghost are numerically one, without any reservations. But, as hard as it is, that is not the doctrine of the Trinity. Just hear the words of Origen:

Now there are many who are sincerely concerned about religion, and who fall here into great perplexity. They are afraid that they may be proclaiming two Gods, and their fear drives them into doctrines which are false and wicked. Either they deny that the Son has a distinct nature of His own besides that of the Father, and make Him whom they call the Son to be God all but the name, or they deny the divinity of the Son, giving Him a separate existence of His own, and making His sphere of essence fall outside that of the Father, so that they are separable from each other.[2]

In trying to fight "Mormon heresy," they themselves promote the heresy of modalism, namely:

The Monarchians properly so-called (Modalists) exaggerated the oneness of the Father and the Son so as to make them but one Person; thus the distinctions in the Holy Trinity are energies or modes, not Persons: God the Father appears on earth as Son; hence it seemed to their opponents that Monarchians made the Father suffer and die. In the West they were called Patripassians, whereas in the East they are usually called Sabellians. The first to visit Rome was probably Praxeas, who went on to Carthage some time before 206-208; but he was apparently not in reality a heresiarch, and the arguments refuted by Tertullian somewhat later in his book "Adversus Praxean" are doubtless those of the Roman Monarchians (see PRAXEAS).[3]

If the Father and the Son were numerically one, where would Jesus go?

Let's refute this from the Bible:

Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and [to] my God, and your God. John 20:17

If the Father and the Son were numerically one, where would Jesus go?

Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. Acts 2:33

If Father and Son and Holy Ghost were numerically one, how could Jesus be at the right hand of God? How would He be exalted? And why would He need to have received a promise of the Holy Ghost? Let's look at Jesus' own words:

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Matthew 27:46

If the Father is the Son, then how could he have forsaken himself?

And last but not least, let me quote Augustine of Hippo, final framer of the Latin doctrine of the Trinity:

But under the oak at Mamre he saw three men, whom he invited, and hospitably received, and ministered to them as they feasted. Yet Scripture at the beginning of that narrative does not say, three men appeared to him, but, "The Lord appeared to him." And then, setting forth in due order after what manner the Lord appeared to him, it has added the account of the three men, whom Abraham invites to his hospitality in the plural number, and afterwards speaks to them in the singular number as one; and as one He promises him a son by Sara, viz. the one whom the Scripture calls Lord, as in the beginning of the same narrative, "The Lord," it says, "appeared to Abraham." He invites them then, and washes their feet, and leads them forth at their departure, as though they were men; but he speaks as with the Lord God, whether when a son is promised to him, or when the destruction is shown to him that was impending over Sodom.[4]

So even he, who like no other changed how a majority of Christians thinks of God, who, like none before him, elevated the oneness of God to a level where Orthodoxy felt it was only a semi-Sabellianistic distortion of the truth, he himself did not have a problem to conclude that God is numerically three persons, who can be seen in a vision or can visit a human being in the outer form of three male human beings simultaneously. So, if critics think the First Vision is crucial in showing Joseph's "error," we have to conclude that they are, in fact, even more modalistic than Augustine of Hippo. And more modalistic than "semi-modalistic" can only be fully modalistic.

What Does Deification (Theosis) Have To Do With It?

What does the doctrine of eternal progress, or deification have to do with the Trinity? It's quite easy to understand critic's false reasoning in that case, too: If the Trinity does not consist of multiple personages, which deserve to be called God, then how could we ever hope to become gods ourselves?

First of all, as we have shown so far, the premise is false: The Trinity, even the semi-Sabellianistic Psychological Trinity affirms three personages. And second, critics fail to understand that deification, or theosis, was the main doctrine of Christianity during the first centuries, it is still firmly taught in Orthodoxy, and even Catholicism has retained some belief in deification.

Let's see what the Bible has to say about the concept of deification:

Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. 1 John 3:2

What does the Protestant commentator Matthew Henry, quoted for his expertise on 2 Corinthians by critics, have to say about this verse?

The sons of God will be known and be made manifest by their likeness to their head: They shall be like him-like him in honour, and power, and glory. Their vile bodies shall be made like his glorious body; they shall be filled with life, light, and bliss from him.[5]

To be like God in honour, power and glory is a wonderful thing. That means to be placed above the angels. To be above anything, besides God, who will still be the "God of Gods." But it is not only Henry who teaches thus, and others have been far more blunt about our eternal destiny. Read the following quotes:

God on the one hand is Very God (Autotheos, God of Himself); and so the Saviour says in His prayer to the Father, "That they may know Thee the only true God; "but that all beyond the Very God is made God by participation in His divinity, and is not to be called simply God (with the article), but rather God (without article). And thus the first-born of all creation, who is the first to be with God, and to attract to Himself divinity, is a being of more exalted rank than the other gods beside Him, of whom God is the God, as it is written, "The God of gods, the Lord, hath spoken and called the earth." It was by the offices of the first-born that they became gods, for He drew from God in generous measure that they should be made gods, and He communicated it to them according to His own bounty. The true God, then, is "The God," and those who are formed after Him are gods, images, as it were, of Him the prototype. But the archetypal image, again, of all these images is the Word of God, who was in the beginning, and who by being with God is at all times God, not possessing that of Himself, but by His being with the Father, and not continuing to be God, if we should think of this, except by remaining always in uninterrupted contemplation of the depths of the Father.[6]

And Origen is not alone in this solemn claim.[7] Jordan Vajda, OP, a Dominican Catholic priest ("OP" stands for Ordo Praedicatorum-Order of Preachers-the official title of the Dominican order) even writes:

It seems that if one's soteriology cannot accommodate a doctrine of human divinization, then it has at least implicitly, if not explicitly, rejected the heritage of the early Christian church and departed from the faith of first millennium Christianity. However, if that is the case, those who would espouse such a soteriology also believe, in fact, that Christianity, from about the second century on, has apostatized and "gotten it wrong" on this core issue of human salvation. Thus, ironically, those who would excoriate Mormons for believing in the doctrine of exaltation actually agree with them that the early church experienced a "great apostasy" on fundamental doctrinal questions. And the supreme irony is that such persons should probably investigate the claims of the LDS Church, which proclaims that within itself is to be found the "restoration of all things.[8]

Gospel Topics on, "Becoming Like God"

Gospel Topics on, (February 25, 2014)
Latter-day Saint beliefs would have sounded more familiar to the earliest generations of Christians than they do to many modern Christians. Many church fathers (influential theologians and teachers in early Christianity) spoke approvingly of the idea that humans can become divine. One modern scholar refers to the “ubiquity of the doctrine of deification”—the teaching that humans could become God—in the first centuries after Christ’s death. The church father Irenaeus, who died about A.D. 202, asserted that Jesus Christ “did, through His transcendent love, become what we are, that He might bring us to be what He is Himself.” Clement of Alexandria (ca. A.D. 150–215) wrote that “the Word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become God.” Basil the Great (A.D. 330–379) also celebrated this prospect—not just “being made like to God,” but “highest of all, the being made God.”

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Question: Did Joseph Smith begin his prophetic career with a "trinitarian" idea of God?

Joseph and the early Saints were not trinitarian, and understood God's embodiment and the identity of the Father and Son as separate beings very early on

This doctrine is apparent in the Book of Mormon, and in the earliest friendly and non-friendly accounts of such matters from the Saints.

Such texts demonstrate that the supposed 'evidence' for Joseph altering his story later is only in the eyes of critical beholders. For example, Joseph's 1832 First Vision account focuses on the remission of his sins. However, critics who wish to claim that in 1832 Joseph had only a vaguely "trinitarian" idea of God (and so would see the Father and the Son as only one being) have missed vital evidence which must be considered.[9]

Martin Harris remembered rejecting the ideas of creedal Trinitarianism prior to meeting Joseph

Martin dictated an account of his early spiritual search:

"52 years ago I was Inspired of the Lord & Tought of the Spirit that I should not Join Eny Church although I Was anxiousley Sought for by meny of the Secatirans[.] I Was taught I could not Walk togther unless agreed[.] What can you not be agreed in [is] in the Trinity because I can not find it in my Bible[.] find it for me & I am Ready to Receive it. 3 Persons in one god[.] one Personage I can not concede for this is Antichrist for Where is the Father & Son[?] I have more proof to Prove 9 Persons in the Trinity then you have 3[.]...other sects the Epicopalians also tired me[.] they say 3 Persons in one god Without Body Parts or Passions[.] I Told them such A god I would not be afraid of: I could not Please or offend him[.] [I] Would not be afraid to fight A Duel With such A god.[10]

It would be very strange for Martin to feel so strongly on this point, only to embrace Joseph's teachings if Joseph taught creedal trinitarianism.

1829 - The Book of Mormon

Christ Descends from Heavens

The Book of Mormon also begins (1 Nephi 1:8-10) with Lehi's vision of God on his throne. One [Christ] followed by twelve others descends from God to speak with Lehi--thus, Jesus and the Father are here both separate, and the role of Christ in giving instructions to the prophet while the Father looks on and approves is followed, just as it was in Joseph's First Vision. Here too, Lehi is described as praying to "the Lord," and yet has a vision of both God the Father and Christ.

Resurrection is Permanent Through Christ

Alma 11:45 makes clear that the resurrection is permanent and Mosiah 15:20 (along with several others) makes clear that the resurrection is brought about through Christ.

I and the Father are One to Three Nephites

In 3 Nephi 28:10 the Savior is speaking to the 3 Nephites. After declaring that they would never endure the pains of death he states:

“10 And for this cause ye shall have fullness of joy; and he shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fullness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one;”

Since the verse is juxtaposed closely with not tasting death and the Savior stating that they would be even as he and the Father are, this verse may be used to argue for an embodied Christ and God (and likely an early conceptualization of deification) in the Book of Mormon. Furthermore, the phrase “fullness of joy” is used in D&C 93:33 (a revelation dated to 1833) to describe element (or man’s tabernacle as v. 35 expresses) and spirit inseparably connected.

1830 - Book of Moses: "And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten"

Between June and October 1830, Joseph had dictated his revision (the "Joseph Smith Translation") to Genesis.[11] The first chapter of Moses was dictated in June 1830 (about a month after the Church's reorganization), and began:

2 And [Moses] saw God face to face, and he talked with him, and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence.

3 And God spake unto Moses, saying: Behold, I am the Lord God Almighty, and Endless is my name; for I am without beginning of days or end of years; and is not this endless?

4 And, behold, thou art my son; wherefore look, and I will show thee the workmanship of mine hands; but not all, for my works are without end, and also my words, for they never cease.

5 Wherefore, no man can behold all my works, except he behold all my glory; and no man can behold all my glory, and afterwards remain in the flesh on the earth.

6 And I have a work for thee, Moses, my son; and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten; and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all (Moses 1:2-6)

Here already, God distinguishes himself from the Only Begotten, Moses sees and speaks with God face to face, and says that Moses was created "in the similitude of mine Only Begotten."

Joseph's rendered Genesis 1:26 as:

And I, God, said unto mine Only Begotten, which was with me from the beginning, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and it was so....And I, God, created man in mine own image, in the image of mine Only Begotten created I him; male and female created I them. (Moses 2:26-27.)

There can be no doubt that Joseph understood "in mine own image" to refer to a physical likeness, rather than merely a moral or intellectual one. The JST of Genesis 5:1-2 reads

In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; in the image of his own body, male and female, created he them (Moses 6:8-9, emphasis added)

Thus, by 1830 Joseph was clearly teaching a separation of the Father and Son, and insisting that both had some type of physical form which could be copied in the creation of humanity.

Joseph's mother, Lucy Mack Smith, also noted that other Christian denominations took issue with the new Church because of its teachings about God, noting that in 1830:

the different denominations are very much opposed to us.... The Methodists also come, and they rage, for they worship a God without body or parts, and they know that our faith comes in contact with this principle.[12]

1831 - Joseph "saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father"; D&C 50:43

Anti-Mormon writers in 1831 noted that Joseph claimed to have received "a commission from God"; and the Mormons claimed that Joseph "had seen God frequently and personally."[13] That Joseph's enemies knew he claimed to have "seen God," indicates that the doctrine of an embodied God that could be seen was well-known early on.

John Whitmer would also write in 1831 of a vision enjoyed by Joseph in which Joseph saw Christ as separate from the Father, for he "saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Father making intercession for his brethren, the Saints." (emphasis added) [14] Of this same experience, Levi Hancock wrote:

Joseph Smith then stepped out onto the floor and said, 'I now see God, and Jesus Christ at his right hand, let them kill me, I should not feel death as I am now.' (emphasis added) [15]

Doctrine and Covenants 50, a revelation given to Joseph Smith in May 1831, states in the 43rd verse that:

And the Father and I are one, I am in the Father and the Father in me; and inasmuch as ye have received me, ye are in me and I in you.

"This is interesting as, notwithstanding the verse being one that teaches the 'oneness' of the Father and the Son, it is not that of Modalism [nor the forms of Trinitarianism referred to by critics when making this argument against Joseph Smith]; instead, it is the same as John 17:22-23—one of indwelling unity, not being the same person."[16]

1832 - In the 1832 account of the First Vision, Jesus announces to Joseph that he will come "clothed in the glory of my Father"

One should first note that in the 1832 account of the First Vision, Jesus announces to Joseph that he will come "clothed in the glory of my Father." The Book of Mormon (translated three years earlier in 1829) also contains numerous passages which teach a physical separation and embodiment (even if only in spirit bodies, which are clearly not immaterial, but have shape, position, and form) of the members of the Godhead. (See: 3 Nephi 11:, 1 Nephi 11:1-11, Ether 3:14-18.)

Furthermore, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon were to receive a revelation of the three degrees of glory in the same year as Joseph's 1832 account was written; it clearly teaches a physical separation of the Father and Son, bearing witness of seeing both. (See D&C 76:14,20–24.)[17]

1832–1833 - "Joseph answered that this was Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother"

Two of Joseph's close associates reported their own visions of God in the winter of 1832–1833. Both are decidedly not in the trinitarian mold.

Zebedee Coltrin:

Joseph having given instructions, and while engaged in silent prayer, kneeling...a personage walked through the room from East to west, and Joseph asked if we saw him. I saw him and suppose the others did, and Joseph answered that this was Jesus, the Son of God, our elder brother. Afterward Joseph told us to resume our former position in prayer, which we did. Another person came through; He was surrounded as with a flame of fire. [I] experienced a sensation that it might destroy the tabernacle as it was of consuming fire of great brightness. The Prophet Joseph said this was the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. I saw him....

He was surrounded as with a flame of fire, which was so brilliant that I could not discover anything else but his person. I saw his hands, his legs, his feet, his eyes, nose, mouth, head and body in the shape and form of a perfect man. He sat in a chair as a man would sit in a chair, but This appearance was so grand and overwhelming that it seemed that I should melt down in His presence, and the sensation was so powerful that it thrilled through my whole system and I felt it in the marrow of my bones. The Prophet Joseph said: "Brethren, now you are prepared to be the apostles of Jesus Christ, for you have seen both the Father and the Son and know that They exist and that They are two separate personages.[18]

John Murdock:

During the winter that I boarded with[Bro[ther] Joseph... we had a number of prayer meetings, in the Prophet’s chamber.... In one of those meetings the Prophet told us if we could humble ourselves before God, and exersise [sic] strong faith, we should see the face of the Lord. And about midday the visions of my mind were opened, and the eyes of my understanding were enlightened, and I saw the form of a man, most lovely, the visage of his face was sound and fair as the sun. His hair a bright silver grey, curled in a most majestic form, His eyes a keen penetrating blue, and the skin of his neck a most beautiful white and he was covered from the neck to the feet with a loose garment, pure white, whiter than any garment I had ever before seen. His countenance was the most penetrating, and yet most lovely. And while I was endeavoring to comprehend the whole personage from head to feet it slipped from me, and the vision was closed up. But it left on my mind the impression of love, for months, that I never felt before to that degree.[19]

1834–1835 - Lectures on Faith: "There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things"

In the School of the Prophets, the brethren were taught that

"There are two personages who constitute the great, matchless, governing, and supreme power over all things, by whom all things were created and made, that are created and made. . . . They are the Father and the Son--the Father being a personage of spirit, glory, and power, possessing all perfection and fulness, the Son, who was in the bosom of the Father, a personage of tabernacle. (Lecture 5:1–2)

Here, the separateness of the Father and Son continues to be made clear.

1836 - "They believe that the true God is a material being, composed of body and parts"

A skeptical news article noted:

They believe that the true God is a material being, composed of body and parts; and that when the Creator formed Adam in his own image, he made him about the size and shape of God himself....[20]

Evidence that is absent

In addition to all the non-trinitarian evidence above, as Milton Backman has noted, there is a great deal of evidence that we should find, but don't. For example, no one has "located a publication (such as an article appearing in a church periodical or statement from a missionary pamphlet) written by an active Latter-day Saint prior to the martyrdom of the Prophet that defends the traditional or popular creedal concept of the Trinity. . . ." Moreover, there are no references in critical writings of the 1830s (including statements by apostates) that Joseph Smith introduced in the mid-thirties the doctrine of separateness of the Father and Son.[21]

Question: Does the Book of Mormon teach that Christ and the Father are a single individual expressing himself in different modes?

The Book of Mormon teaches that the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three persons, and is not consistent with either modalism/Sabellianism or standard Nicene trinitarianism

It is claimed that the Book of Mormon teaches Sabellianism, also called modalism, i.e., the belief that Christ and the Father are a single individual expressing himself in different modes.[22]

The Book of Mormon teaches that the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three persons, and is not consistent with either modalism/Sabellianism or standard Nicene trinitarianism.

How are the Father and the Son one?

  • "And now Father, I pray unto thee for them, and also for all those who shall believe on their words, that they may believe in me, that I may be in them as thou, Father, art in me, that we may be one."(3 Nephi 19:23)

3 Nephi clearly teaches that Jesus Christ and the Father are two persons:

  • "Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. I was with the Father from the beginning. I am in the Father, and the Father in me; and in me hath the Father glorified his name." (3 Nephi 9:15)
  • Ironically, Nicene trinitarians use a similar scripture in the Bible (John 1:1), in favor of the doctrine of the Nicene trinity (God in three persons). Thus, such language cannot be used as clear evidence of modalism.

Other examples in scripture

  • "And for this cause ye shall have fulness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one." (3 Nephi 28:10)

Jesus and the Spirit are two separate persons:

  • "But he [Jesus] truly gave unto them bread to eat, and also wine to drink. And he said unto them: He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled. But he truly gave unto them bread to eat, and also wine to drink. And he said unto them: He that eateth this bread eateth of my body to his soul; and he that drinketh of this wine drinketh of my blood to his soul; and his soul shall never hunger nor thirst, but shall be filled.Now, when the multitude had all eaten and drunk, behold, they were filled with the Spirit; and they did cry out with one voice, and gave glory to Jesus, whom they both saw and heard." (3 Nephi 20:7-9)
  • This scripture demonstrates that Mormon 7:7 and 2 Nephi 31:21 are not saying that Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are the same person.

Jesus Christ sits on the right hand of the Father:

  • "And may the grace of God the Father, whose throne is high in the heavens, and our Lord Jesus Christ, who sitteth on the right hand of his power, until all things shall become subject unto him, be, and abide with you forever. Amen."(Moroni 9:26)

Christ the Eternal Father is not the same as God the Father:

  • Christ is sometimes denominated "the Father because he was conceived by the power of God" (Mosiah 5:3)

Christ is the Father of our salvation:

  • "And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him and have become his sons and his daughters. "(Mosiah 5:7)

Christ is often discussed as a clearly distinct individual from the Father

  • The Nephites who witnesses the risen Christ were first spoken to by God: "6 And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them: 7 Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name—hear ye him." (3 Nephi 11:6-7) This was followed by Jesus' appearance, where he makes his own role and the Father's quite distinct: "I am Jesus Christ, whom the prophets testified shall come into the world. 11 And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning" (3 Nephi 11:10-11).
  • Jesus later also demonstrated their separate nature:
    • "...this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me" (3 Nephi 11:32).
    • "...not at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell it unto your brethren at Jerusalem" (3 Nephi 15:14).
    • "Neither at any time hath the Father given me commandment that I should tell unto them concerning the other tribes of the house of Israel, whom the Father hath led away out of the land. 16 This much did the Father command me, that I should tell unto them...." (3 Nephi 15:15-16).
    • "I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd; therefore I go to show myself unto them" (3 Nephi 16:3).
    • "...thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you...." (3 Nephi 16:10).
    • " I go unto the Father, and also to show myself unto the lost tribes of Israel, for they are not lost unto the Father, for he knoweth whither he hath taken them" (3 Nephi 17:4).
    • "... I give unto you another commandment, and then I must go unto my Father that I may fulfil other commandments which he hath given me" (3 Nephi 18:27).
    • "And now I go unto the Father, because it is expedient that I should go unto the Father for your sakes" (3 Nephi 18:35).

Jesus' constant distinction between himself and the Father in both space (Jesus must leave the Nephites and go to the Father) and in giving instructions/commands (Jesus is commanded or not commanded by the Father repeatedly, and he obeys) are inconsistent with either Sabellianism or standard Nicene trinitarianism. Jesus and the Father are here clearly two distinct beings, though united in will and intent through divine love and obedience of the Son to the Father's will.

Other Book of Mormon examples

  • "I am mindful of you always in my prayers, continually praying unto God the Father in the name of his Holy Child, Jesus, that he, through his infinite goodness and grace, will keep you through the endurance of faith on his name to the end." (Moroni 8:3)
  • "Behold, they believed in Christ and worshiped the Father in his name, and also we worship the Father in his name. And for this intent we keep the law of Moses, it pointing our souls to him; and for this cause it is sanctified unto us for righteousness, even as it was accounted unto Abraham in the wilderness to be obedient unto the commands of God in offering up his son Isaac, which is a similitude of God and his Only Begotten Son." (Jacob 4:5)

It is a stretch to interpret the scriptures above in favor of Sabellianism. Therefore, verses in the Book of Mormon that might imply Sabellianism should likely be interpreted in a different sense, if this is plausible in the text. This is not difficult.


  1. Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), 54. ( Index of claims )
  2. Origen, "Commentary on the Gospel of John," A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Church, Book II, 2.
  3. "Modalism," Catholic Encyclopedia, [citation needed]
  4. Augustine of Hippo, "On The Trinity, Book II, Chapter 9" A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Church, Vol. VI.
  5. "1 John," Matthew Henry's Commentary On The Whole Bible, Vol. VI, (Chester, 1721).
  6. Origen, "Commentary on the Gospel of John, Book II, Chapter I," The Ante-Nicene Church Fathers.
  7. St. Irenaeus, "Adv Haer III IV:38:4," The Ante-Nicene Church Fathers: "We are not made gods from the beginning; first we are mere humans, then we become gods." St. Maximus the Confessor : "Let us become the image of the one whole God, bearing nothing earthly in ourselves, so that we may consort with God and become gods, receiving from God our existence as gods." St. Athanasius, De inc.: "For the Son of God became man, that we might become God." St. Augustine: "He has called men gods that are deified of His Grace, not born of His Substance." St. Irenaeus, Adv Haer III: "The Word became flesh and the Son of God became the Son of Man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God." St. Augustine of Hippo: "Let us applaud and give thanks that we have become not only Christians but Christ himself. Do you understand, my brothers, the grace that God our head has given us? Be filled with wonder and joy--we have become veritable Christs!" St. Thomas Aquinas: "The Only-begotten Son of God, wanting us to be partakers of his divinity, assumed our human nature so that, having become man, he might make men gods." St Basil the Great: "The highest of all things desired is to become God."
  8. Jordan Vajda, "'Partakers of the Divine Nature': A Comparative Analysis of Patristic and Mormon Doctrines of Divinization" (master's thesis, Graduate Theological Union, 1998), 14. Vajda would go on later to join the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  9. David L. Paulsen, "The Doctrine of Divine Embodiment: Restoration, Judeo-Christian, and Philosophical Perspectives," Brigham Young University Studies 35 no. 4 (1995–96), 6–94. (Key source)
  10. "Testimony of Martin Harris Written by my hand from teh Moth of Martin Harris," dictated to Edward Stevenson 4 September 1870, Edward Stevenson Collection, Miscellaneous Papers, LDS Church Archives; cited by Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 2:331.
  11. Kent P. Jackson, Robert J. Matthews, and Scott H. Faulring (editors), Joseph Smith's New Translation Of The Bible: Original Manuscripts (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 2004), 82.
  12. Lucy Mack Smith, The History of Joseph Smith By His Mother Lucy Mack Smith, ed. Preston Nibley, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1956), 161.
  13. The Reflector (Palmyra, New York) (14 February 1832): 102.
  14. F. Mark McKiernan, An Early Latter-day Saint History: The Book of John Whitmer (Independence, MO.: Herald Publishing House 1980), 67, punctuation corrected; cited in Robert L. Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism: Orthodoxy, Neoorthodoxy, Tension, and Tradition," Brigham Young University Studies 29 no. 3 (Summer 1989), 49–68.
  15. As cited in Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism," footnote 12.
  16. Robert S. Boylan, "D&C 50:43 and the 'Oneness' of the Father, Son, and Believers vs. the claim early Latter-day Saint Theology was a Form of Modalism," <> (7 July 2020).
  17. The current D&C 76 vision was first published in Evening and Morning Star, Independence, Missouri, July 1832.
  18. 3 October 1883, Salt Lake School of the Prophets Minute Book 1883 (Palm Desert, California: ULC Press, 1981), 39; cited in Paulsen, 34.
  19. "An Abridged Record of the Life of John Murdock Taken From His Journal by Himself," (typescript) Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, 13; cited in Paulsen, 35.
  20. Truman Coe, “Mormonism,” Cincinnati Journal and Western Luminary (25 August 1836). Reprinted from Ohio Observer, circa August 1836. off-site See Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Truman Coe’s 1836 Description of Mormonism," Brigham Young University Studies 17 no. 3 (Spring 1977), 347-55. See also Vogel, Early Mormon Documents 1:47.
  21. Milton V. Backman, Jr., "Joseph Smith's First Vision: Cornerstone of a Latter-day Faith," in To Be Learned is Good, If ..., ed. Robert L. Millet (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1987).; cited in Millet, "Joseph Smith and Modern Mormonism," 59.
  22. Origen Bachelor, Mormonism Exposed Internally and Externally (New York: Privately Published, 1838), 24. off-site