Do Mormons Believe in the Trinity?
The Bible tells of a vision received by Stephen. In this vision, he saw Jesus Christ standing on the right hand of God. For sharing this vision with others, he was murdered. The vision demonstrates that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, and that He is not God, but God’s son. Jesus is a God, but He is a distinctly different being than His Father. It also demonstrates that God could be seen. These are all truths the Biblical world once knew, but has forgotten.
55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. (Acts 7)
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are sometimes referred to as Mormons, do not believe in the trinity, a term which is not found in the Bible. The teaching of the trinity and the definition given today are also not found in the Bible, but was added later through post-biblical councils and are borrowed from philosophy, not the Bible.
As stated in the first of thirteen Articles of Faith, Mormons “believe in God, the eternal Father, in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” However, they believe each is entirely individual, unified in every way except for being a single being. Their oneness is unity.
This is explained by Jesus Christ in the Bible. Although He did state that He and His Father are one, He later clarifies what this means during His Great Intercessory Prayer:
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me (John 17).
Through this prayer, Jesus asks God to make the apostles one in the same way God and Jesus are one. He is not, naturally, asking them to become a single being, but to be unified in testimony, purpose, and doctrine. This is the oneness to which the Bible refers.
Our first and foremost article of faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” We believe these three divine persons constituting a single Godhead are united in purpose, in manner, in testimony, in mission. We believe Them to be filled with the same godly sense of mercy and love, justice and grace, patience, forgiveness, and redemption. I think it is accurate to say 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.
Indeed no less a source than the stalwart Harper’s Bible Dictionary records that “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament].”
So any criticism that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not hold the contemporary Christian view of God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost is not a comment about our commitment to Christ but rather a recognition (accurate, I might add) that our view of the Godhead breaks with post–New Testament Christian history and returns to the doctrine taught by Jesus Himself. —
Jeffrey R. Holland, “The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent,” Ensign, Nov 2007, 40–42
The Bible tells us that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. What does begotten mean? It is the past participle of beget. According to the Concise Oxford American Dictionary, the word beget means:
1 (typically of a man, sometimes of a man and a woman) bring (a child) into existence by the process of reproduction
2 Give rise to; bring about
Dictionaries place definitions in order of their most common usage, so the first definition would be the one most commonly used. The word beget tells us Jesus is not God; He is God’s Son, and the only one of God’s children to come into the world in the manner in which He did.
Mormons believe that God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost form a Godhead and work together in complete unity to fulfill God’s purposes. Jesus Christ is the God of the Old Testament. In fact, throughout the Bible, it is always Jesus who visited or spoke directly to mankind except when He was introducing His Son, as He did when Jesus was baptized. It seems unlikely to Mormons that at Jesus’ baptism, Jesus would praise Himself in the way God did. Mormons also note that Jesus prayed to His Father—not to Himself—and that He often told His followers he came not to do His own will, but only those things His Father had told Him to do. The Bible makes the lack of a trinity exceedingly clear, as shown in some of the following scriptures:
9 As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.
10 If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. (John 15)
19 Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.
20 For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. (John 5).
Jesus volunteered to come to earth to redeem us from certain eternal death. He voluntarily took on our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane and did so under extraordinary pain. He also died on the cross, something man could do to Him, but only with His permission. After three days, He rose from the dead, breaking the bonds of death. As a result of these great sacrifices, we are able to be saved.
The Holy Ghost, unlike God and Jesus Christ, does not have a body. His role is to testify to us of truth and to protect us. Mormons believe one of our responsibilities during mortality is to find God and to gain a testimony of Him. It is through the Holy Ghost that this can happen. No person can really convert us. A person can share his beliefs and his testimony, but the listener will be converted through the power of the Holy Ghost. In addition to testifying to us, those who are baptized and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost can receive His guidance and protection at all times, as long as they are living worthy of His companionship.
Although the Bible makes clear the individuality of the Godhead, for Mormons, the greatest proof is that Joseph Smith, the first Mormon prophet, saw God and Jesus Christ standing together, even as Stephen did, demonstrating they were not part of a trinity.
Mormons do not believe in the trinity, but they do believe that all three members of the Godhead are present and are actively and lovingly involved in our lives. This belief in the Godhead being made up of separate individuals is taken directly from the Bible, rather than from post-Biblical alterations or philosophy.