What does "God" Mean?
So much arguing, so little understanding.
I was reading on a forum in MySpace about “The Trinity”. It said that, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I don’t believe in “The Trinity”.
And it reminded me once when someone actually asked me that. The question was posed just that way: “Do you believe in the Trinity?”
My first thought at the time was, “That depends on how you define ‘Trinity’…”
See, so much of what I’m discovering as I interact with those of other faiths is that we tend to associate different meanings to the same words. Then we argue with each other and accuse each other of blasphemy or heresy because our words mean different things.
There are a lot of words that carry different meanings. “Polytheism” and “Monotheism” are good examples. One could look at my beliefs and say that I’m a polytheist. Another could look at me and also say that I’m a monotheist. And using their own definitions, they’d both be right.
“God” is another word that a lot of people argue about. The way we use the word “God” as mormons confused me for a long time. Until I realized that, like a lot of words in English, “God” has many shades of meaning. I think I’ll go there first:
“God” to me, simply means a being that has achieved a certain awesome level of spiritual power. So much so that His/Her glory and existence is beyond what a mortal can fully comprehend. In that sense, I am a polytheist. There are, in fact, many “Gods”. There will yet be many more “Gods” to come.
“God” is also used in Mormonism (in English) to refer to a particular being that has achieved this level of spiritual power to such an extreme that He created all of us. We also refer to Him as “God the Father”, “Heavenly Father”, and “Elohim”. He is the God that I worship. He is the God that I pray to. I don’t pray to any other God. There are no other Gods that are “before Him” or that supercede Him. In that sense, I am a monotheist.
“God” is also the name we often use to refer to another being. This is Jesus Christ, or Jehovah. He is one of the many spirit children of God the Father, just like all of the rest of us. He, however, progressed in his spiritual power to achieve the title of “God” much earlier than the rest of us. He, under the direction of God the Father, created the earth. The people of the Old Testament referred to Him as God. Moses and Abraham walked and talked with Him face to face. He is referred to in the New Testament as “The Word made flesh”. When the verse says, “The Word was God”, it’s reaffirming Jesus’ title as “God”. When it says, “The Word was with God”, it’s explaining that Jesus was with God the Father in the very beginning.
God, the Son, by his own admission and instruction, does nothing that He didn’t receive by instruction from God, the Father. When I pray, I pray to God the Father, in the name of Jesus Christ.
It’s not as common, but there are also times when we refer to the third member of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost, as “God” also. He is “The Spirit of God”. He also has achieved the title of “God” and, like Jesus Christ, works under the direction of God the Father.
But there are verses in LDS scripture that directly refer to all three as “One God”. In 2 Ne. 31: 21, it says, “And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.”
How can that be? We believe them to be separate beings! And that verse lists them as separate entities! And then it tells us they are one!
Again it comes down to the meanings in words. As Mormons, we often refer to the three beings together as “God”. Sometimes we also call them “The Godhead”. How can three distinct individuals be called by the name “God”? It’s singular! But we often refer to groups of people by singular nouns. That’s nothing new. “The Presidency”, “Congress”, “The Choir”… If the three “Gods” are a council working together for the same aim (our eternal life), why can’t we call that council “God”?
So, the three individual “God” beings, known as the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, are a council that’s also called “God”. The three, individually, are themselves “Gods”. The three, together, are one “God”.
So, yes I believe in “The Trinity”. But not in the same meaning as others might think. I also believe that many Gods exist. I worship one God.
And, ultimately, the one “God” being that I worship as a member of the church is my Heavenly Father. And I thank him often that I have the support of God, the Holy Ghost, and the atonement and intercession of God, the Son, on my behalf.