Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Do Christians Believe in Three Gods/Relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

FairMormon Answers Wiki Table of Contents

The Relationship Between Father, Son and Holy Spirit

A FairMormon Analysis of: Do Christians Believe in Three Gods?, a work by author: RBC Ministries

How should we reconcile Biblical claims?

The RBC pamphlet notes:

Both Testaments...give us reason to believe that one can be more than one. That this is beyond our ability to fully understand is not reason to reject it, but to try to understand as much as we can of what God has revealed. (p. 5)

The author is correct that the Bible does portray the "one God" as more than one person. The author has decided that Nicene Trinitarianism is the proper solution, and so must fall back on the fact that this view of the Trinity is a "mystery": it cannot be fully understood with human reason.

The Christians at RBC Ministries are entitled to take such an approach. However, the Latter-day Saints take a different approach, while readily admitting that there are ways in which "one can be more than one."

How did Jesus define the unity between Himself and the Father?

We have already seen (see here) that appeals to John 10:30 cannot be used to prove a Nicene Trinitarianism. In fact, John 10:30 implies a oneness of purpose in the original Greek, not a oneness of essence or being.

This perspective is reinforced by Jesus' great intercessory prayer:

Neither pray I for these [his apostles] alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 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. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 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 17:20-23, emphasis added)

Jesus here provides the solution to the dilemma which has gripped much of Christianity. The oneness of which Jesus speaks between the Father and the Son is the same oneness into which He invites the apostles and all believers. Christian doctrine does not teach that all believers will be absorbed into God as part of the same being or essence. Thus, God and Jesus do not share the same "essence" (a non-biblical term and claim derived from Greek philosophy), but instead share the same purposes, goals, will, and indwelling love (as demonstrated by John 10:30).

Latter-day Saints would agree with the RBC pamphlet when it says that

Each [of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit] lives with the other two in an I-You relationship. Each Person is self-conscious and self-directing. Yet one Person never acts independently of the others or in opposition to them. The mind, will, and emotions of each Person is in perfect unity with the mind, will, and emotions of the other two. (p. 21)

This is, in fact, an excellent description of how Latter-day Saints understand God's oneness. They simply decline to go a step further and introduce non-biblical categories of "essense" to the discussion, because they are not scriptural.

LDS doctrine on the Godhead/Trinity

An apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ, Elder Jefffrey R. Holland, recently spoke on the LDS view of the Godhead:

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.” (A+of+F 1:1) 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....
We declare it is self-evident from the scriptures that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate persons, three divine beings, noting such unequivocal illustrations as the Savior’s great Intercessory Prayer just mentioned, His baptism at the hands of John, the experience on the Mount of Transfiguration, and the martyrdom of Stephen—to name just four....
To whom was Jesus pleading so fervently all those years, including in such anguished cries as “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39) and “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me”?(Matthew 27:46) To acknowledge the scriptural evidence that otherwise perfectly united members of the Godhead are nevertheless separate and distinct beings is not to be guilty of polytheism; it is, rather, part of the great revelation Jesus came to deliver concerning the nature of divine beings. Perhaps the Apostle Paul said it best: “Christ Jesus … being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.”(Philippians 2:5-6) [1]

Elder Holland continued:

We agree with our critics...that [the Nicene] formulation for divinity is truly incomprehensible. With such a confusing definition of God being imposed upon the church, little wonder that a fourth-century monk cried out, “Woe is me! They have taken my God away from me, … and I know not whom to adore or to address.” How are we to trust, love, worship, to say nothing of strive to be like, One who is incomprehensible and unknowable? What of Jesus’s prayer to His Father in Heaven that “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”? [2]

We see again both the post-biblical nature of the Nicene solution, and the fact that it was new: the monk quoted was distressed because a small group within Christianity had imposed its new views on the majority. [3]


  1. Jeffrey R. Holland, "The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent," Ensign (November 2007), 40–42. off-site
  2. Ibid.; citing Owen Chadwick, Western Asceticism (1958), 235 and John 17:3, italics added.
  3. For a history of the conflict, debates, intimidation, violence, and manipulation which attended the establishment of the later creeds based on verbatim stenographic records, see Ramsay MacMullen, Voting About God in Early Church Councils (Yale University Press, 2006). ISBN 978-0300115963.

Jump to...

Other Protestant attacks on the Church of Jesus Christ:

Do You Have Questions?
If you have questions about anything you read on this page, we encourage you to ask. FairMormon is a volunteer organization, and our members are glad to answer questions. You can ask by using our handy contact page. You will get one or more answers, via e-mail, usually within a short time after asking.

Click here to receive our free monthly e-mail newsletter for defenders of the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. You can unsubscribe at any time.