The Trinity, Part 1

I come from a background in which I frequently felt misrepresented. There are many LDS teachings that are not understood by the majority of Christians. But as much as Mormons cry out for fair representation of their beliefs, there is at least one Evangelical Christian belief that I see misrepresented by most Mormons who attempt to refute/explain it: the doctrine of the Trinity.

Many Mormons think they understand it, and some actually get close (I count my father and brother-in-law among them). Most have a stack of canned responses with chapter and verse to show that the Trinity is an absurd belief. What they do not realize is that many Evangelicals use the same verses to prove the Trinity.

I was reading a copy of Our Daily Bread yesterday (Feb. 4) at my mother-in-law’s house. I couldn’t help but notice the “insight” box1 under the daily Bible reading, Matthew 3:13-17.

The baptism of Jesus is one of the passages in the New Testament that validates the doctrine of the Trinity — the three-in-one personhood of God. The Father speaks from heaven, the Spirit descends as a dove, and the Son obeys, perfectly pleasing the Father (vv. 16-17). Even though the word trinity never appears in Scripture, there is ample evidence of this truth, including the Great Commision in Matthew 28:19-20 where Jesus’ followers are commanded to baptize new believers in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Can you find other places in the New Testament where the three persons of the Godhead are mentioned together?

I can’t tell you how many times on my LDS mission I used the story of Jesus’ baptism to refute the Trinity. Here we see an Evangelical writer using those very verses to show that Trinitarianism is consistent with scripture. How does this square with reality? I was hoping you’d ask that.

Over the next few weeks I hope to continue this series with a thorough and proper explanation of the Trinity. I hope it will help a few Mormons understand the doctrine a little more clearly so as to avoid misrepresenting others’ beliefs in the future.

Proceed to part 2 of “The Trinity” →

  1. For some reason, the insight box isn’t shown in the online version of Our Daily Bread. It only appears in the printed pamphlet version. []
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2 thoughts on “The Trinity, Part 1

  1. I am interested to read the future additions to this topic.

    I have already learned something from Joey’s first post: someone who literally believes, “There is only one God,” must also believe that the scriptures Joey is referring to clearly testify of a Trinity. I never thought of it that way.

    One might ask: Is there only one single God? Many scriptures seem to say so.

    For those who are unsure about what Mormons believe, and for those who cannot understand how Mormons believe as they do, please allow me to explain what I believe.

    THE WORD ONE

    The scriptures use the word “one” in several contexts. They command us to be one with our spouse1 and one with the believers2. In John 17:20-23, Christ prays to the Father that the apostles and those who believe on them “may be one, even as we are one.”

    THE GODHEAD

    Christ says Christians can be one as the Father and Son are one! How can we be one like the Father and the Son if they are a unique Trinity, never to be duplicated?

    Answer: They are not a unique Trinity. Instead, the Godhead (a triumvirate of Gods) is one in thought, in purpose, in intent, in judgment, and even–with the exception of the Holy Ghost–in experience and appearance. We can, and should, be one like they are!

    ONE GOD

    So, why do the scriptures say there is only “one god”?

    Answer: In most cases, the prophets and apostles of the Bible are testifying to heathens, idol worshippers, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans. These people believe that there are many Gods–at least one for every nation, household, or natural phenomenon–constantly warring against each other.

    In contrast, God’s servants testify that there is only one Word3, one Way, one Truth, and one Life4. God the Father gave His Son, Jesus Christ5, and Christ is the only God who can save us6.

    THE FATHER AND THE SON

    And so, while there is only one God who can save us, and that God is Jesus Christ, He has told us of His Father. When Christ calls God “My Father,” and when God calls Christ “My Son,” They mean it literally.

    Christ prays to His Father7. He honors His Father8. He serves His Father9. He obeys His Father10. He loves His Father, and His Father loves Him11. Because Christ, our Brother, shows unfailing devotion to our Father, He is truly one with the Father, just as He expects us to be one with each other and with Him.

    REVELATION IS CLEAR

    How do we know the Father and the Son are one in purpose but not in being?

    Answer: They appeared together to prophets in ancient and in modern times. In Acts, They appeared to Stephen, the ancient martyr12, and to Joseph Smith, the modern martyr. The prophet testifies, “When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”13.

    As a modern prophet who has seen God, Joseph Smith has made it clear, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit.”14.

    1 see Matt. 19:4-6

    2 see 1 Cor. 1:10 and Eph. 4:13

    3 see John 1:1-14

    4 see John 14:6

    5 see John 3:16

    6 see Mosiah 3:17, Alma 38:9

    7 see John 17

    8 see Matt. 6:13

    9 see Matt. 26:42, Moses 4:2

    10 see John 8:29

    11 see Mark 1:11

    12 see Acts 7:55-56

    13 see Joseph Smith—History 1:17

    14 see D&C 130:22

  2. Not one in being? A good bulk of Isaiah makes it pretty plain that there is only one omni-everything-good being. Consider 43:10:

    “You are my witnesses,� declares the Lord,
    “and my servant whom I have chosen,
    that you may know and believe me
    and understand that I am he.
    Before me no god was formed,
    nor shall there be any after me.

    Consider also the very idea of incommunicable attributes, attributes that by their very nature can only belong to one being.

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