If I could ask them one question about
the Church’s Book of Mormon, Come Follow Me, Lesson 18
For May 4-10, 2020
If I wanted to encourage thought and try to understand devout believers better, I might ask:
“Doesn’t the Book of Mormon seem Trinitarian?”
Things to consider:
- By Trinitarian, I mean traditional Christian belief in the Trinity. Speaking of the Godhead of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; one Christian described the Trinity this way:
“The three persons indwell each other in the one being of God” (Justin Taylor, “Essence” in the Doctrine of the Trinity?).
- The LDS apostle, Elder Holland, explained traditional Christian Trinitarianism saying,
“all three members [of the Trinity] are separate persons, but they are a single being” (“The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent”).
- Elder Holland went on to explain the LDS belief in the godhead, saying, “we believe They are one in every significant and eternal aspect imaginable except believing Them to be three persons combined in one substance, a Trinitarian notion never set forth in the scriptures because it is not true” (“The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent”).
- How does Elder Holland’s explanation fit with Book of Mormon passages like the following? One passage says that pre-Christian prophets taught “that God himself should come down among the children of men, and take upon him the form of man” (Mosiah 13:34). Or, “Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord, who is the very Eternal Father” (Mosiah 16:15). And, others just from this coming weeks reading for Come Follow Me: Mosiah 15:1-5, Mosiah 17:8.
- But that’s not all. There are two verses that were edited from the original Book of Mormon, and some think it’s because they seemed so much like traditional Christian Trinitarianism. For example, 1 Ne 11:18 says, “Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God.” It was originally written as, “Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of God.” And, 1 Ne 11:21 currently says, “Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!” But, it was originally written, “Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father!” (1830 Edition of the Book of Mormon).
- But, there’s more. Though apologists argue that these verses are not and were not Trinitarian (see here for example), the “Lectures on Faith” seem to underscore a traditional Christian Trinitarianism in early Mormonism, and, at a minimum, confuse the matter.
- From the “Lectures on Faith” that used to be canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants until the 1921 edition:
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, is a personage of tabernacle … He is called the Son because of
the flesh … possessing the same mind with the Father, which mind is
the Holy Spirit that bears record of the Father and the Son …
Questions and Answers for Lecture 5 …
3. Q—How many personages are there in the Godhead?
A—Two: the Father and Son (Lecture 5: 1) …
13. Q—Do the Father and the Son possess the same mind?
A—They do …
14. Q—What is this mind?
A—The Holy Spirit
- Do these passages and teachings seem to come from a God who works after the manner of plainness (2 Ne 31:3)? Or, does it sound a little more like “the philosophy of men mingled with a few scriptures” (language borrowed from Apostle Ezra Taft Benson as indicated by BYU)?
- Points of clarification:
- A fight over whether God has a body, is one being or three, etc. seems kind of petty to me. When contrasted with the love, strength, comfort, redemption, and eternal life Mormons and other Christians say God offers, just how important is it to know whether or not Jesus and God the Father are one or separate beings? I mean, my faith, hope, and charity were never affected by the things that differentiate the Mormon godhead from traditional Christian Trinitarianism.
- I have defended the Christianity of Mormonism (here), so this post isn’t about that. It’s about an apparent contradiction of Mormonism with itself.
Some other problems I see in this lesson’s reading:
- Iron in this context is anachronistic (Mosiah 11:3, 8).
- Though it’s among my favorite Book of Mormon terms, “dumb ass” is an anachronism (Mosiah 12:5).
- These quotes from Isaiah were apparently written long after Lehi and family supposedly left Jerusalem (Mosiah 12:21-24, Mosiah 14, and Mosiah 15:29-31).
- It teaches that those who die in ignorance are redeemed by the Lord, but that could be seen as contrary to the practice of baptism for the dead (Mosiah 15:24).
- Alma is said to be a descendant of Nephi, about 450 years after the Lehites left Jerusalem, though no DNA evidence corroborates this (Mosiah 17:2).
If you could ask believers questions about the scriptures for this lesson, what would you ask?
Have fun studying!
If I could ask them one question, Lesson 18