Wednesday, December 07, 2005

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.

Mark Hansen


  1. Nicely done. Very succinct and well said.

    The LDS concept of the Godhead vs. the concept of the Trinity (as advocated by most other Christian religions) often times seems to be a bone of contention between LDS and other churches. Often times the claim is made that we are polytheists, which to them is a great heresy.

    However, I recently found a discussion at another blog called All Things Beautiful where the question is raised of whether or not the doctrine of the Trinity is truly montheistic. You might want to take a look.

    Its an interesting discussion to see the various points of view, even among non-LDS Christians.

    This posting on the nature of the Trinity has generated several trackbacks, and perhaps hundreds of comments. The discussion is still going full-force, 10 days after the original posting.

  2. As a Christian I find it interesting that one can derive anything other than a Trinity from the Bible. Many cite the baptism of Christ (John 3:16-17) as an example of separate beings, but neglect the verses following where in John 5:37 where the folks had "neither heard his voice at any time nor seen his shape". Some think Jesus was merely in one place at a time, but ignore verses where he says he is with two or more gathered together in his name (referring to the disciples he is sending out that day) or the verse in John 3:13 where Jesus is saying He is simultaneously in heaven as he is speaking to some folks. By thinking of God as a limited manlike being, it is no wonder the Trinity is lost on so many. In any case, the Trinity is shown in the Bible in many places. For example: Each is ETERNAL (Rom 16.26, Re 22:13, Heb 9:14) HOLY (Re 4:8, 15:4, Ac 3:14, 1 John 2:20) OMNIPRESENT (Jer 23:24,Eph 1:23, Ps 139:7) OMNIPOTENT(Ge 17:1, Rev 1:8, Ro 15:19, Jer 32:17, Heb 1:3, Lu 1:35) ONMISCIENT (Ac 15:18, Joh 21:17, 1 Cor 2:10,11) CREATOR (Gen 1:1, Col 1:16,Job 33:4, Ps 148:5, John 1:3,Job 26:13) SANCTIFIER (Jude 1:1, Heb 2:11, 1 Pe 1:2) RESURRECTED CHRIST (1 Co 6:14, Joh 2:19, 1 Pe 3:8) and numerous other refs concerning: 1)author of all spiritual operations, teacher, inspiring the prophets, supplying ministers to the church, the work of salvation, etc. Ironically, the Book of Mormon in more than one place illustrates the Trinity, but especially in it's extract from Isaiah 9:6 found in 2 Nep 19:6: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller (like "Comforter" when Jesus says He will send a Comforter), The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Clearly all in one, Son is Father is Holy
    So, I don't know why the Mormons disbelieve the Trinity. In Isaiah 43:10 God says: "Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me."

  3. I have read all your comments and thoughts and they are all very well presented. If i was to take them at face value and not have any knowledge of different religious belief's i would be totally on board with you all.

    BUT, I believe that the Bible makes it very clear that the Godhead is NOT three different forms of God, but in fact ONE God. We are finite beings who serve and infinite God and as such His "ways are higher than ours, and His thoughts higher than ours." I believe may of the confusing and difficult questions concerning the doctrine of the trinity stem from religious views that bring anything other than the Bible into the discussion.
    I have had many Mormon friends and have enjoyed their company growing up, but when it comes to theological and doctrinal consistency it is IMPOSSIBLE to reconcile the obvious differences between the message of the Bible and the message of the Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrine of the Covenants.

    Many Mormons (as well as evangelical Christians) have no idea what their books say the believe. What they are taught in church and at home is not always what is in their writings. Some of these examples are given at this link:

    If you look at some of the other documented information that site has on it you will begin to see that the type of Mormonism that is presented to the public is not always what the church officially believes. I would be blind to not add that this same thing is happens within evangelical christianity as well so i am not pointing the finger as one who does not recognize the realities of life.

    I would urge you to truly seek the truth. God's Word has stood the test of time (longer than any of the other LDS books) and will ALWAYS stand because it is the very words of God. Being sincere and praying will not give you eternal life. Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ (the second person of the trinity who is 100% God) in which you believe that He died on the cross to pay the penalty of death for our sins and YET rose from the dead on the 3rd day and now sits at the right hand of the Father (who is also 100% God). When someone accepts Christ they are given the gift of the Holy Spirit (who is 100% God) as a seal of their salvation and revealer of Scripture (not revealer of new doctrine or theology from another source). Anything more than this or anything less than this is not the Gospel. You can not take part of the Biblical message of salvation and leave the other parts.

    Thank you for being patient with me as I tried to communicate the truth of the Scripture. I do not by any means think I have full knowledge or wisdom but I do know for a fact that when two things contradict each other they both can not be right. Either the Bible is wrong and the other LDS books are correct or the Bible is correct and the LDS books are incorrect and misleading.

    I pray that God will direct your mind as you openly and honestly seek after the truth. I am confident that if you openly seek after God you will see the truth of His Word, and only His Word, not someones else's.
    Have a great day!

    Dan S.



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