Monthly Archives: July 2007

The Other "One True Churches" in Christianity / Richard Mouw, Fuller

This consists of extracts from a post by Richard Mouw, President of Fuller Theological Seminary, on his Blog “Mouw’s Musing” in July, 2007. See the complete post at this link.
Dr. Mouw did not mean this post to apply to the Latter-day Saints’ claim to be the “One True Church”. It does introduce and explain the fact that, among Christian bodies, at least four continue to claim to the the “One True Church”: The Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Christian Reformed Church with other Presbyterians, and the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. Together they constitute much more than half of Christianity. We might be in pretty good company.
Seriously, my sense is that the time will soon arrive when we may want to have dialogs with other churches on this subject, so we can mutually conclude to allow each other to be “One True Churches” without casting aspersions on other Christian groups.
Thanks much,
Steve St.Clair
July 25, 2007
The “One True Church(es)”

This past week’s “On Faith” web panel offers a variety of perspectives on the Pope’s recent declaration that the Catholic Church is the “fullest” embodiment of the true church. One of the persons who wrote in to comment on my contribution to that panel quoted Mark Twain’s great line: “Man is the only animal that has the one, true religion. Several of them.”

That reminded me of the time when I was serving on the Faith and Order Commission of the National Council of Churches. The Council had created spots on the commission for churches that were not members of the NCC, and I represented the Christian Reformed Church. It just so happened that one day the delegates of non-member churches were all sitting in the same row. I had come in to the meeting a little late, and sat down next to the Greek Orthodox representative. Beyond him in that row were the delegates from the Missouri Synod Lutherans and the Roman Catholic Church. My Orthodox friend whispered to me: “I’m glad you made it. Now we have all the representatives of the one true church in the same row. Now, if only we could figure out which one of us deserves the title!”

It’s healthy to joke about it, but we also have to recognize that this is a tough topic to talk about ecumenically. The “one true church” motif runs deep, and is explicitly encoded in several confessional tradtions.

My theological hero, Abraham Kuyper–himself no wuss when it came to fights about the “purity” of the church–firmly rejected the “one true church” approach. He argued for a legitimate “multiformity,” or “pluriformity,” of the church, recognizing “differences of climate and of nation, of historical past, and of disposition of mind”–thus acknowledging a reality that “annihilates the absolute character of every visible church, and places them all side by side, as differing in degrees of purity, but always remaining in some way or other a manifestation of one holy and catholic Church of Christ in Heaven.” The providential development of church life has led, he said, to “national differences of morals, differences of disposition and of emotions, [and] different degrees in depth of life and insight, [which] necessarily resulted in emphasizing first one, and then another side of the same truth” (Principles of Sacred Theology, 63-64).

Now that I am a Presbyterian, I take special encouragement from Kuyper’s observation that the Westminster Confession is less restrictive in its ecclesiology than his own Dutch tradition’s Belgic Confession, with its “true church” versus “false church” delineations. He liked to quote Westminster on the “invisible church”: “The Catholic or Universal Church which is invisible, consists of the whole number of the elect that have been, are or shall be, gathered into one, under Christ the Head, thereof; and is the spouse, the body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all” (Westminster Confession, ch. 25, art. 1). This article, he says, “beautifully sets forth [the] heavenly all-embracing nature of the church.”

Maybe this is a good time to look to the past–even to the ecclesiastically divisive days of the Reformation era–for some help in our present debates about where to find the “fulness” of “the one true Church”!

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2007: Presentation & Future Book by Bob Millet and Gerald McDermott

I have located a website containing the audio of a public discussion between Dr. Robert Millet and Dr. Gerald Mcdermott at Roanoak College in Virginia on the subject of the differences between Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints, which provides insightful and even stunning answers from both perspectives. It took place in 2005, shortly after the publication of Dr. Millet’s book “A Diffferent Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints”, and consists of questions arising out of the book. It lasts for about an hour, so I suggest listening to it when you have that much time to dedicate to it.

Bob and Jerry are the co-writers of the article in Christianity today about how Evangelicals will hopefully react to the candidacy of LDS candidate Mitt Romney for the Presidency of the United States.

I have also learned from the Christianity Today the interesting news that Bob and Jerry are working on a book together that will cover the same subject.

Robert Millet, professor of ancient Christian Scriptures at Brigham Young University, and Gerald McDermott, professor of religion at Roanoke College, are co-authors of Claiming Christ: A Mormon-Evangelical Debate, to be published in September by Brazos Press. The book discusses a wide range of topics, including how to understand the biblical canon, the Book of Mormon, the Trinity, faith and works, and other theological subjects.

Dr. McDermott was also one of the Christian participants in the scholarly symposium in May 2005 at the Library of Congress entitled “The worlds of Joseph Smith.” His presentation there was entitled “Testing Stark’s Thesis: Is Mormonism the First New World Religion since Islam?”, during which he suggested that we can be a future world religion if we wishe, although several other examples show that we are not the first since Islam.

The final section and conclusion are so insightful that I am placing substantial excerpts from them in this article, so that you get the full effect.

Steve St.Clair


Presentation & Future Book by Bob Millet and Gerald McDermott

The question then becomes whether, or to what degree, Mormon­ism is translatable. There are some positive indications that it has several comparative advantages in its translatability. First, as Douglas Davies has contended repeatedly, Mormonism promises the transcen­dence of death.” Indeed, Mormonism’s transcendence comes “value-added.” It goes beyond mainstream Christianity by not only offering some sort of salvation to nearly everyone—even non-Mormons­ but also providing detailed descriptions of the afterlife. There are a variety of heavens available and the assurance of being reunited with family and other loved ones. On top of all that, it promises godhood to faithful Mormons. This is attractive to people in some cultures, particularly those in religions such as Theravada or Zen Buddhism that have little or no hope of conscious life after death.

Also, Latter-day Saints are able to tell residents of Latin America and the South Pacific that God did not neglect them. Recent inter­pretations of the Book of Mormon assert that Jesus’s “other sheep” (John 10:16) were people in “ancient America,” which is now said to include Central and South America and perhaps Pacific islands.” Stark has shown that many Latin American Saints believe they are direct descendants of Abraham through Lehi and that the Book of Mormon is “the authentic history of pre-Columbian times:” Hence Christie Davies confidently predicts, “Mormonism is set to become a new world religion because it reaches parts other reli­gions cannot reach.’

Moreover, as Armand Mauss has pointed out, Mormonism has an enormous capacity for change. When the Latter-day Saints received poor reception in various times and climes, it changed its doctrine about blacks, Jews, and the identity of the Lamanites. In the process, “a provincial—even tribal—movement was gradually trans­formed into a universal religion in which lineage of all kinds became essentially irrelevant.’ As Mormons adopted a greater Christo­centric focus in the twentieth century and emphasized the apostle Paul’s universalism, they dropped their nineteenth-century belief that Anglo-Saxon and German Mormons had an “inborn propensity, in their very blood, to recognize the teachings of Christ as delivered by Latter-day Saint missionaries.’ This change bore “some apparent relationship to the results of church programs for proselyting and retention in various parts of the world.’

Similar pressures preceded the elimination of the ban on the priesthood for blacks. When the Nigerian government in the early 196os refused Mormon missionaries because of the church’s ban on black priests, and growth in the Brazilian church necessitated a new temple (which would have been closed to black converts), “Presi­dent [Spencer W.] Kimball, in an inspiring combination of spiritual and political astuteness, brought his colleagues in the leadership to an acceptance of his own understanding of God’s will in the mat­ter.”‘ The result was the 1978 elimination of the ban on blacks in the priesthood.

Emphasis on Jewish conversion has diminished as Jews have shown themselves “impervious” to the same, and the identity of Lamanites gradually shifted from North to South America “as church growth has bogged down among the Indians of North America and (by contrast) mushroomed in Latin America.”

Since Mormon theology is still in process (Lawrence Young laments “its limited formal theology”), one wonders what would happen if it would continue some recent trends toward mainstream Christian theology. There is some precedent here. In 1997, the World­wide Church of God dropped both its objections to the doctrine of the Trinity and certain Pelagian tendencies and was accepted as a member of the National Association of Evangelicals. Now, Mormon-Evangelical differences are greater than WCOG-Evangelical differ­ences. Nevertheless, one guesses that if Mormonism were to affirm the incommensurability of the human and divine natures,” and the eternal deity of the godhead, Mormonism would be more translat­able in regions (such as Africa and China) where there is increasing familiarity with historic Christian thought.

Despite these positive possibilities, Mormonism faces a number of obstacles as it seeks to become a world religion. Perhaps the most formidable is its close association with American history and culture. Mormons believe that God’s new prophet was from New York and that the Millennium will begin in Missouri. When America had a better public image internationally, this may have been a drawing card for Mormon missionaries working abroad. But in recent years, it has become a liability. Growing anti-Americanism will hinder the promotion of a religion that is American not only culturally but theologically. Therefore the question is whether, as Douglas Davies poses it, Mormonism will be able to transcend indigenous culture or remain essentially North American.’

As we have already discussed, new understandings of Lamanites have helped Mormon missions in Latin America. But even here, resentment toward the northern superpower may hamper mission­ary efforts. In Asia and Africa, it will be more difficult. Lamin Sanneh has argued that mainstream Christian translatability has enabled African Christians to feel more African. Will Mormon theology enable them to do the same, when they learn that Christ came to North and South America but not Africa?

This theological and cultural connection to America may help explain the second obstacle, which is what seems to be a low reten­tion rate outside of the United States. In 1994, Lawrence Young observed that outside of the South Pacific, Mormonism was numeri­cally marginal. In all countries except Chile (2.5 percent of the popu­lation), the Mormon population was usually significantly under 1 percent. Weekly attendance rates in Latin America and Asia were half of the rates in the United States. Young predicted that most new members outside the States would not be integrated successfully and that Mormonism would remain marginal in those societies. Mauss was similarly pessimistic, noting in 1991 that retention rates for the second generation outside North America ranged “from modest to abysmal.’ It is not clear that these problems have been resolved.

Ironically, one of Mormonism’s strengths is now a weakness: its lack of a formal theology.’ Without a clearly identified set of core beliefs, it is harder for Mormonism to compete in areas with reli­gions that have clear doctrine—mainstream Christianity and Islam, for example. In other words, if Mormonism’s doctrinal fluidity were to work itself out of a job by clarifying its theological core, and par become more competitive. But without those sorts of changes, it may be difficult to overcome its cultural embeddedness.

In summary, Mormonism is indeed a new religious tradition, with significant differences from mainstream Christianity. But it is not the first major faith to have arisen since Islam,” and it has not grown faster than any other new American religion. True Pure Land Buddhism, Sokka Gakkai, Baha’i, and Sufism are all religious movements that are of comparable or greater size and have also arisen since the seventh century. Each is an important departure from its religious parent. The Jehovah’s Witness tradition, another new American religion, has grown even faster than Mormonism and boasts larger worldwide membership in many more coun­tries. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Jehovah’s Witnesses are comparable in their fulfillment of ten criteria that Stark proposes are necessary for religious growth.

Hence Mormonism is not among the great world religions (of course, Stark only claimed it is on its way), but it is one of a num­ber of religious communities that are growing. Its potential to rank among the five or six largest religions depends on its translatabil­ity, that is, its ability to transcend its American provenance and theological character. It has the advantages of (i) teaching a near-universal salvation with an attractively detailed afterlife, (2) a proven capacity for adaptation, and (3) theological appeal to those who live in the Americas.

But precisely because of this American history and theological structure, its recent growth may start to level off, as its poor retention rates outside the United States suggest is possible. This trend may continue in parts of the world where anti-Americanism is growing and global Christianity’s increasing prominence in the Third World is heightening sensitivity to differences with historic Christian beliefs. Unless it can transcend these cultural barriers, and reduce theological dissonance between its doctrines and mainstream Christian under­standings of creation and ontology, it may prove difficult to sustain its growth outside the Americas.

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2000: Latter-day Saints and the Cultural Wars / Gordon B Hinckley

Latter-day Saints and the Cultural Wars

President Gordon B. Hinckley spelled out the strong position of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the current cultural wars, and spelled out in the introduction to his book “Standing for Something” how crucial it is that we attack the problems of secularism, lack of faith, and immorality that are plaguing our society. He clearly points out that we need to work with people of other faiths to recover what is being lost.

Thanks, Steve St.Clair

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The Secularization of America
Gordon B. Hinckley, Standing for Something, Introduction

The Constitution and Bill of Rights form the keystone of our nation.

It is my conviction that they came not alone of the brain and purpose of humans, but of the inspiration of the Almighty—that God Himself directed the founding of this nation. The document wrought by the men of 1787 in the miracle of Philadelphia provided for orderly changes of govern­ment, and the wonder of it is that, through two centuries, order has been preserved and observed.

Today, we stand on the shoulders of those who preceded us, men and women of courage and conviction who, in the midst of adversity, put their trust in the Almighty and worked endlessly to make their dreams come true; men and women who had nothing to sustain them but hope and faith, but who nonethe­less brought to pass the nation that now graces this land.

I am not one to believe that all was good in the long ago and that all is bad today. For many reasons, I proclaim that this is the greatest age the world has known. But there is trouble in the land.

Today, we face challenges the Founding Fathers could not have possibly imagined or conceived; our societal challenges would have horrified them. We have come through wars, both civil and international, with victory, and have found peace. Yet now we are a people of contention. Strident and accusa­tory voices are heard in argument across the nation. We rose from scratch to become the greatest industrial power in the history of the earth, but we have lost some of our competitive edge, and have seen other nations move ahead of us in various fields, in both research and production. We spend billions of our resources in litigation one against another. Our spiritual power is sapped by a floodtide of pornography, by a debilitating epidemic of the use of narcotics and drugs that destroy both body and mind, and by a declining moral standard that is alarming and devastating to relationships, families, and the integrity of our nation as a whole.

We are forgetting God, whose commandments we have neglected and in some cases forgotten, and which we seem re­luctant—or too undisciplined—to obey. In too many ways, we have substituted human sophistry for the wisdom of the Almighty.

America is still strong, but destructive forces have been and are at work. There is a serious unsteadiness in our coun­try’s stance in terms of morality, ethics, principles, and be­havior. We as a people and a nation have increasingly neglected and abandoned time-honored virtues that have been proven through the centuries to keep human beings in­dividually, and therefore collectively, strong.

These problems are only symptomatic of many other prob­lems we have as a people. During recent years, polls and cir­cumstances have suggested that an unprecedented majority of Americans believe that the private lives of public officials need not be considered as a factor in their eligibility for public office, and that private morality has no connection with public behav­ior and credibility. I am more deeply concerned about the grow­ing moral deficit than I am about the monetary deficit.

For a good while, there has been going on in this nation a process that I have termed the secularization of America. The single most substantial factor in the degeneration of the values and morals of our society is that we as a nation are forsaking the Almighty, and I fear that He will begin to forsake us. We are shutting the door against the God whose sons and daugh­ters we are.

I have heard Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of Great Britain, say on more than one occasion, “You use the name of Deity in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution of the United States, and yet you cannot use it in the schoolroom.” Her words are a rebuke and an indictment of America. Reverence for the Almighty, gratitude for His beneficent blessings, pleadings for His guidance, and a willing­ness to acknowledge His omniscience and omnipotence are increasingly being dropped from our public discourse.

Oaths of office and sworn promises to tell the truth in other legal procedures have traditionally concluded with the phrase, “So help me God.” Several years ago, the state of New Jersey passed a law banishing the mention of God from state courtroom oaths. Following this action by the New Jersey legislature, a county judge decided to ban Bibles for such oaths “because you-know-Who is mentioned inside.” And in recent years, the Boy Scouts of America have been attacked because of the language in the Scout Oath: “On my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country.”

Contrast such attitudes with that of George Washington, expressed more than two hundred years ago in his First Inau­gural Address:

It would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first offi­cial act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being, who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes.

People who carry in their hearts a strong conviction con­cerning the living reality of the Almighty and their accounta­bility to Him for what they do with their lives are far less likely to become enmeshed in problems that inevitably weaken soci­ety. The loss of this conviction, the almost total secularizing of our public attitudes, has been largely responsible for the terri­ble social illnesses now running rampant among us.

In short, we are turning our hearts away from the God of the universe. Divine law has become a meaningless phrase. What was once so commonly spoken of as sin is now referred to as nothing more than poor judgment. Blatant dishonesty is openly referred to and excused as “misleading others.” Virtue is too often neglected, if not scorned or ridiculed as old-fashioned, confining, unenlightened. What was once considered transgression has now been labeled merely misbe­havior, which we have come to not only tolerate but, in too many cases, rationalize, accept, and even embrace.

In earlier days, children and families were regarded as gifts from God, and a great majority of parents both acknowledged and accepted their responsibility to nurture their children and bring them up in understanding, light, and truth. Work was a virtue to be enthroned as the enhancement of human dignity.

Marriage was once generally regarded as a sacred sacrament, but, for the populace as a whole, it is becoming an increasingly secular ceremony. Now, the epidemic of divorce rages on as an alarming number of adults choose to set aside the binding con­tracts they have made rather than subject themselves to the ef­fort, the struggle of righting wrongs and repairing relationships. While parents quarrel, children suffer. The very foundation of their lives—a secure and happy home—is pulled from under them. We are losing something that speaks of accountability, not only to one another but to God who is our Father and who will stand in judgment upon us.

We need to be acutely aware of and concerned about our children, speaking of them as a whole. I worry about the mil­lions who come into the world with handicaps, seemingly im­possible to overcome—children whose lives are blighted by neglect and abuse, children who have limitless capacity but al­most no opportunity. In the long term, this may well be the most serious problem facing our nation because its conse­quences multiply and reach forward through generations.

Lack of self-discipline and of a sense of responsibility is one of the fruits of the increasing secularization of our soci­ety. I was appalled to read not long ago that, in one commu­nity, a proposal was made that young women be paid a dollar a day for not becoming pregnant. How pathetic! Where is our sense of values?

Between 1972 and 1990, there were twenty-seven million abortion procedures performed in the United States. Think of it. What is happening to our concept of the sanctity of life?

The terrible blight of gangs affects our cities and our youth. These young men and women—many of whom are enticed into gangs in an attempt to imitate the feelings of belonging that should be supplied in the home—scheme, roam, destroy property, and fight. They murder one another as well as inno­cent victims who happen to get in their_way. They are an ill-begotten lot of young people who drift in a mire of terror and whose lives—if they survive—lead only to incarceration.

We try to gamble our way into prosperity, and, in the pro­cess, we further impoverish ourselves. In 1994 alone, Ameri­cans spent 482 billion dollars on gambling—more than they spent that year on movies, sports, music, cruise ships, and theme parks combined. Not long ago, lotteries were forbidden by law. Now, in many of our states, they are commonly viewed as a painless and politically expedient way to tax people with­out really taxing them, and to help balance budgets that are often out of line because of the unrestrained, undisciplined spending of public officials who have squandered their con­stituents’ resources.

Too many of our youth, at alarmingly young ages, have ac­cess to and use drugs. And we see account after horrifying ac­count of school massacres—children killing children, parents, and teachers.

We have in this nation more than a million people in prison, and we cannot build facilities fast enough to accommo­date the accelerating need.

Can there be any doubt that a great sickness has invaded our land, and that healing is desperately needed in our hearts and in our homes? Our value system is deteriorating and crumbling before our eyes. Secular self-sufficiency has re­placed worship in the lives of many.

That is the bad news. As we enumerate all our ills, the situa­tion may appear hopeless. But there is great reason to have hope, for there is a remedy. Our sickness is not difficult to nor is the remedy complicated to prescribe. Healing in our hearts and in our homes, and subsequently throughout society, will begin to occur when we individually and collectively return to the code of ethics and the canons of divine truth that our honored forefathers lived by.

We can treat and even cure the sickness that afflicts us by reenthroning the moral and spiritual elements that have disap­peared in recent decades. The time has come to look back on the virtues and values that made America great, not only in terms of its unmatched prosperity and affluence, or its mili­tary might, but in the breadth and depth of its moral leader­ship. To do so, we must instill fundamental virtues and values in the lives of the men and women, boys and girls of this land.

It was said of old, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17). And the Psalmist wrote, “The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:11-12).

We would do well to emphasize the kinds of virtues cele­brated by the apostle Paul: “Whatsoever things are true, what­soever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9; emphasis added).

Values such as these, which form the roots of civility, flour­ish in homes where fathers and mothers, husbands and wives and children live together with love and appreciation and re­spect for one another. This is the way it was at Plymouth. This is the way it can and must be again, to keep America strong and robust, and to make its people happy as they look to the future. We as a people are at a time when we must openly embrace and celebrate the virtues for which we stand.

Even with the litany of problems that face us, there is still much strength in America. I am an optimist! I love this na­tion for its inherent greatness. I believe there is tremendous residual goodness in its people. For the most part, they appre­ciate that which is good and beautiful and uplifting. They ac­knowledge and appreciate values that lead to peace, goodwill, and behavior based on personal integrity. There has been a resurgent interest in things of a spiritual nature—another evi­dence of the inherently good instincts and longings of many people.

Men and women of all denominations have helped settle this land—Catholics and Protestants, Jews and Greeks, Mus­lims and Hindus. With few exceptions, those who helped es­tablish this great country believed in and worshiped God, although their interpretations of Him may have varied.

They built for us a tremendous inheritance because they were men and women of faith and conviction. They had no government largesse to fall back on, but they looked to God in every extremity and thanked Him for every blessing.

Our great concern, our great interest, must be to preserve for the generations to come those wondrous elements of our society and manner of living that will bequeath to them the strengths and the goodness of which we have been the beneficiaries. To do so, we must retard and then halt the decay we observe about us, which comes of forsaking the God whom our forefathers knew, loved, worshiped, and looked to for strength.

Since the founding of this Republic, the roots of our na­tion have drawn nurture from the waters of faith in God. As we enter the twenty-first century, it is imperative that we renew our spiritual anchors. “God Bless America,” we sing with reverence, pleading, and conviction. Future blessings will come only as we deserve them. Can we expect peace and pros­perity, harmony and goodwill, when we turn our backs on the Source of our strength?

If we are to continue to have the freedoms that evolved within the structure that was the inspiration of the Almighty to our Founding Fathers, we must return to the God who is their true Author. We need to worship Him in spirit and in truth. We need to acknowledge His all-powerful hand. We need to humble ourselves before Him and seek His guidance. If we would individually and collectively resolve to stand for something, to lift our voices for truth and goodness and offer our supplications to our Eternal Father, those supplications would be heard, and the result would be remarkable.

Does this compromise the separation of church and state? Of course not. Such a provision does not preclude a constant petition to the Almighty for wisdom and guidance as we walk through perilous times.

Is it too much to expect that prayer, public and private, might once again be established in our national and private lives? Then, with a general acknowledgment of the God in whom we put our trust, we may expect a diminution in our social problems, an increase in public and private morality, and a renewed sense of freedom and liberty. I would hope that all of us, within our hearts, would then resolve to live nearer to God and the commandments He has given us as a guide in our lives; to walk with gratitude before Him for His generous mercies; to incorporate virtue in its many forms into our lives; to recognize that someday we all must give an accounting of our lives to Him; to strengthen and defend the home; and to seek His strength, His wisdom, His inspiration, and His love as we serve in the great society of which each of us is a part.

There is something reassuring about standing for some­thing, and knowing what we stand for. For men or women who are true to themselves and to the virtues and standards they have personally adopted, it is not difficult to be true to others. Those who are committed to, and have patterned their lives after, a Higher Power need not rely on public opinion, which is often blatantly skewed.

Here is the answer to the conflicts that beset us. Here is the answer to the evils of pornography, abortion, drugs, and the squandering of our resources on evil pursuits. Here is the answer to the great epidemic of litigation that consumes time, saps our financial strength, and shackles our entrepreneurial spirit. Here is the answer to tawdry politics that place selfish interests and pursuits above the common good.

Let all houses of worship ring with righteousness. Let peo­ple everywhere bow in reverence before the Almighty who is our one true source of strength. Let us look inward and adjust our priorities and standards, recommitting ourselves to time-honored virtues that embrace right and shun wrong. Let us look outward in the spirit of the Golden Rule. Let us work tire­lessly to defend and strengthen the family, which is the funda­mental unit of society.

Notwithstanding the trouble, notwithstanding the argu­ment, notwithstanding the increasingly heavy hand of govern­ment, notwithstanding the spirit of arrogance we so often display, notwithstanding the growing tide of pornography and permissiveness, notwithstanding corruption in public office and betrayal of sacred trust—I marvel at the miracle of Amer­ica, the land which the God of Heaven long ago declared to be a choice land above all other lands, and at the people He has designated to inhabit this nation.

This is a good land, a great land with a glorious past and a bright future—if we treat and cure the sickness spreading throughout our society.

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What "The Only True Church" Does Not Mean / Robert Millet

This article consists of excerpts from Robert L. Millet’s book “A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints”, Chapter 2, Why A Restoration? I find that other Christians have heard from LDS teachers and members that that our claim to be the only true church means more than it really does to us now. I provide them with this as an explanation, and find that the section about what we do NOT mean to have the greatest impact.

I showed this to many other Christians at the time they attended tours of the Newport Beach Temple.

Love & Thanks,
Steve St. Clair

The “Only True Church”

Several years ago my colleague Brent Top and I sat with two Protestant ministers for a few hours in what proved to be a delightful and ex­tremely enlightening conversation. Absent was any sense of defensive­ness or any effort to argue and debate; we were earnestly trying to un­derstand one another better. Toward the end of the discussion, one of the ministers turned to me and said: “Bob, it bothers you a great deal, doesn’t it, when people suggest that Latter-day Saints are not Chris­tian?” I responded: “It doesn’t just bother me. It hurts me, for I know how deeply as a Latter-day Saint I love the Lord and how completely I trust in him.”

My Protestant friend then made a rather simple observation, one that should have been obvious to me long before that particular mo­ment. He said: “How do you think it makes us feel when we know of your belief in what you call the great apostasy, of the fact that Christ presumably said to the young Joseph Smith that the churches on earth at that time ‘were all wrong,’ that ‘all their creeds [are] an abomination in my sight,’ that ‘those professors were all corrupt’ (Joseph Smith-History 1:19), and that in your Doctrine and Covenants your church is identified as ‘the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth’ (D&C 1:30)?” I can still remember the collage of feelings that washed over me at that moment: it was a quiet epiphany, coupled with feelings of empathy, sudden realization, and a deep sense of love for my friends. For a brief time I found myself, mentally speaking, walking in their moccasins, seeing things through their eyes. It was so­bering, and it has affected the way I seek to reach out to men and women of other faiths.

In the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants, a revelation given to Joseph Smith in November 1831, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in fact referred to as “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth” (D&C 1:3o). Admittedly, this is strong language; it is hard doctrine, words that are offensive to per­sons of other faiths. It may be helpful to consider briefly what the phrase “the only true and living church” means and what it does not mean. In what follows, I offer my own views, my own perspective. First, let’s deal with what the phrase does not mean.

1. It does not mean that men and women of other Christian faiths are not sincere believers in truth and genuine followers of the Christ. Latter-day Saints have no difficulty whatsoever accepting one’s per­sonal affirmation that they are Christian, that they acknowledge Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God, their Savior, the Lord and Master of their life. Nor are Latter-day Saints the only ones entitled to personal il­lumination and divine guidance for their lives.

2. It does not mean that they are worshipping “a different Jesus,” as many in the Christian world often say of the Latter-day Saints. Rather, true Christians worship Jesus of Nazareth, the Promised Messiah.

3. It does not mean we believe that most of the doctrines in Catholic or Protestant Christianity are false or that the leaders of the various branches of Christianity have improper motives. Joseph Smith stated: “The inquiry is frequently made of me, ‘Wherein do you differ from oth­ers in your religious views?’ In reality and essence we do not differ so far in our religious views, but that we could all drink into one principle of love. One of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to re ceive truth, let it come from whence it may.”8 “Have the Presbyterians any truth?” he asked on another occasion. “Yes. Have the Baptists, Method­ists, etc., any truth? Yes. . . . We should gather all the good and true princi­ples in the world and treasure them up, or we shall not come out true ‘Mormons.'”9 In what must have been a tongue-in-cheek effort at toying with various languages to discover meaning, Joseph Smith pointed out that “mormon” means “literally, ‘more good.'”1° President George Albert Smith thus declared to those of other faiths: “We have come not to take away from you the truth and virtue you possess. We have come not to find fault with you nor criticize you. We have not come here to berate you. . . . Keep all the good that you have, and let us bring to you more good.””

4. It does not mean that the Bible has been so corrupted that it can­not be relied upon to teach us sound doctrine and provide an example of how to live. “When I lived in England a few years ago,” said Mark E. Petersen, “I went to the British Museum in London and studied the his­tory of the King James Version of the Bible. I learned that its translators fasted and prayed for inspiration in their work. I am convinced that they received it.”12 Then what of the LDS belief that plain and precious truths and many covenants of the Lord were removed from the Bible be­fore its compilation (1 Nephi 13:20-40; Moses 1:40-41)?13 While we do not subscribe to a doctrine of scriptural inerrancy, we do believe that the hand of God has been over the preservation of the biblical materials such that what we have now is what the Almighty would have us pos­sess. In the words of Bruce R. McConkie, “we cannot avoid the conclu­sion that a divine providence is directing all things as they should be. This means that the Bible, as it now is, contains that portion of the Lord’s word” that the present world is prepared to receive.14

Indeed, although Latter-day Saints do not believe that the Bible now contains all that it once contained, the Bible is a remarkable book of scripture, one that inspires, motivates, reproves, corrects, and in­structs (2 Timothy 3:16). It is the word of God. Our task, according to George Q. Cannon, is to engender faith in the Bible. “As our duty is to create faith in the word of God in the mind of the young student, we scarcely think that object is best attained by making the mistakes of translators [or transmitters] the more prominent part of our teachings. Even children have their doubts, but it is not our business to encourage those doubts. Doubts never convert; negations seldom convince. . . . The clause in the Articles of Faith regarding mistakes in the translation of the Bible was never inserted to encourage us to spend our time in searching out and studying those errors, but to emphasize the idea that it is the truth and the truth only that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints accepts, no matter where it is found.”15

The introductory statement published as a part of the 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon includes these words: “The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and con­tains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel” (emphasis added). In a revelation received in February 1831 that embraces “the law of the Church,” the early Saints were instructed: “And again, the elders, priests and teachers of this church shall teach the principles of my gospel, which are in the Bible and the Book of Mormon, in the which is the fulness of the gospel” (D&C 42:12, emphasis added). In 1982 Elder Bruce R. McConkie explained to church leaders that “Before we can write the gospel in our own book of life we must learn the gospel as it is written in the books of scripture. The Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price — each of them individually and all of them collectively — contain the fulness of the everlasting gospel.”16

While Latter-day Saints do not believe that one can derive divine authority to perform the saving ordinances from the scriptures, we do say that the Bible contains the fulness of the gospel in the sense that (1) it teaches of groups of people in the past who enjoyed the full bless­ings of the everlasting gospel; and (2) it teaches (especially the New Tes­tament) the good news or glad tidings of redemption in Christ through the Atonement (3 Nephi 27:13-21; D&C 76:40-42).

5. It does not mean that God disapproves of or rejects all that de­voted Christians are teaching or doing, where their heart is, and what they hope to accomplish in the religious world. In April 1843 a Brother Pelatiah Brown sought to silence certain critics of the church by stretching and twisting the meaning of passages from the Book of Rev­elation to make his point. Brother Brown was disciplined for doing so. Joseph said: “I did not like the old man being called up for erring in doctrine. It looks too much like the Methodists, and not like the Latter-day Saints. Methodists have creeds which a man must believe or be asked out of their church. I want the liberty of thinking and believing as I please. It feels so good not to be trammeled. It does not prove that a man is not a good man because he errs in doctrine.”17

“God, the Father of us all,” Ezra Taft Benson said, “uses the men of the earth, especially good men, to accomplish his purposes. It has been true in the past, it is true today, it will be true in the future.” Elder Benson then quoted the following from a conference address delivered by Orson F. Whitney in 1928: “Perhaps the Lord needs such men on the outside of His Church to help it along. They are among its auxiliaries, and can do more good for the cause where the Lord has placed them, than anywhere else.” Now note this particularly poignant message:

God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of His great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too ar­duous for any one people.” Elder Whitney then pointed out that we have no warfare with other churches. “They are our partners in a cer­tain sense.”18

In June 1829 Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer were instructed to “Contend against no church, save it be the church of the devil” (D&C 18:20). B. H. Roberts offered this insightful commentary upon this passage: “I understand the injunction to Oliver Cowdery to ‘con­tend against no church, save it be the church of the devil’ (D&C 18:20), to mean that he shall contend against evil, against untruth, against all combinations of wicked men. They constitute the church of the devil, the kingdom of evil, a federation of unrighteousness; and the servants of God have a right to contend against that which is evil, let it appear where it will. . . . But, let it be understood, we are not brought necessarily into antagonism with the various sects of Christianity as such. So far as they have re­tained fragments of Christian truth — and each of them has some measure of truth — that far they are acceptable unto the Lord; and it would be poor policy for us to contend against them without discrimination. . . . [O]ur relationship to the religious world is not one that calls for the denunciation of sectarian churches as composing the church of the devil.”

The following remarks by Elder Roberts demonstrate the kind of breadth necessary in reaching out and understanding our brothers and sisters of other faiths: “All that makes for truth, for righteousness, is of God; it constitutes the kingdom of righteousness — the empire of Jehovah; and, in a cer­tain sense at least, constitutes the Church of Christ. All that makes for un­truth, for unrighteousness constitutes the kingdom of evil — the church of the devil. With the kingdom of righteousness we have no warfare. On the contrary, both the spirit of the Lord’s commandments to his servants and the dictates of right reason would suggest that we seek to enlarge this kingdom of righteousness both by recognizing such truths as it possesses and seeking the friendship and cooperation of the righteous men and women who constitute its membership. “19

6. It does not mean that God-fearing Christians who are not Latter-day Saints will not go to heaven. Mormons do not in any way minimize or deny the reality of another person’s experience with the Spirit of God, nor should we question the legitimacy of another’s com­mitment to Jesus Christ. To say that another way, we do not doubt that many who claim to have had a mighty change of heart have in fact been “born again.”2° Christians who are somewhat acquainted with LDS be­liefs might well respond at this point: “Yes, but do you believe that per­sons of other faiths will inherit the celestial kingdom?” Latter-day Saints do believe that baptism by proper authority is necessary for en­trance into the highest heaven; the baptismal ordinance is an outward expression of one’s personal inward covenant with Christ and accep­tance of his gospel. At the same time, LDS doctrine affirms that each man or woman will receive all of the light, knowledge, divine attributes, powers, and heavenly rewards they desire to receive, either in this life or the next. One who seeks with all their soul to come unto Christ will be welcomed eventually into his presence. One who earnestly yearns to qualify for the highest of glories hereafter will have that opportunity. That means that a man or woman who is true to the light they have here will open themselves to greater light.

7. Our belief that we are “the only true and living church” does not mean that Latter-day Saints desire to “do their own thing” or face so­cial challenges on their own. To be sure, we strive earnestly to work to­gether with men and women of other faiths to stand up and speak out against the rising tide of immorality and ethical relativism that are spreading in our world. With most Christian groups, we are persuaded that the changes to be made in our society can only come about “from the inside out” — through the transforming powers of Jesus Christ.21 Indeed, I am convinced that if we allow doctrinal differences, stereotyp­ing, and demonizing of those who are different to prevent us from join­ing hands in halting the erosion of time-honored moral and family val­ues, Lucifer will win a major victory.

What, then, does the revelation mean when it states that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth”?

I. “The word only,” Elder Neal A. Maxwell has written, “asserts a uniqueness and singularity” about the church “as the exclusive ecclesi­astical, authority-bearing agent for our Father in heaven in this dispen­sation.”22

The word true is derived from the Old English word treowe, mean­ing honest, upright, virtuous, straightforward, loyal, faithful, steady and steadfast, constant, fitting, proper, consistent with fact, conform­ing with reality, conforming to a standard or pattern, accurately posi­tioned, germane, correctly balanced or aligned, precise, and secure. It is related closely to such words as trust, truce, and betrothed.23 Thus to refer to the restored church as “the only true church” is to speak of it as being the most steady, sure, and solid institution on earth, the closest to the pattern of the primitive Christian church, in terms of dispensing the mind and will and enjoying the complete approbation of God. It does not suggest that other churches are mostly false or that their teachings are completely corrupt.

“When the Lord used the designation ‘true,”‘ Elder Maxwell pointed out, he implied that the doctrines of the Church and its authority are not just partially true, but true as Measured by divine standards. The Church is not, therefore, conceptually compromised by having been made up from doctrinal debris left over from another age, nor is it comprised of mere fragments of the true faith. It is based upon the fulness of the gospel of him whose name it bears, thus passing the two tests for proving his church that were given by Jesus during his visit to the Nephites (3 Nephi 27:8).

When the word living is used, it carries a divinely deliberate con­notation. The Church is neither dead nor dying. Nor is it even wounded. The Church, like the living God who established it, is alive, aware, and functioning. It is not a museum that houses a fossil­ized faith; rather, it is a kinetic kingdom characterized by living faith in living disciples.24

2. It means that doctrinal finality rests with apostles and prophets, not theologians or scholars. One professor of religion at a Christian in­stitution remarked to me: “You know, Bob, one of the things I love about my way of life as a religious academician is that no one is looking over my shoulder to check my doctrine and analyze the truthfulness of my teachings. Because there is no organizational hierarchy to which I am required to answer, I am free to write and declare whatever I choose.” I nodded kindly and chose not to respond at the time. I have thought since then, however, that what my friend perceives to be a mar­velous academic freedom can become license to interpret, intuit, or exe­gete a scriptural passage in a myriad of ways, resulting in interpreta­tions as diverse as the backgrounds, training, and proclivities of the persons involved. There are simply too many ambiguous sections of scripture to “let the Bible speak for itself.” This was, in fact, young Jo­seph Smith’s dilemma: “The teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling [his religious questions] by an appeal to the Bible” (Joseph Smith-History 1:12). In many cases, neither linguistic training nor historical background will automatically produce the (di­vinely) intended meaning or clarification of such matters as those mentioned earlier.

“Some things in scripture are not perfectly clear,” evangelical pas­tor and teacher John MacArthur has written. “Sometimes we cannot re­construct the historical context to understand a given passage. One no­table example is the mention of ‘baptism for the dead’ in z Corinthians 15:29. There are at least forty different views about what that verse means. We cannot be dogmatic about such things.”25 Earlier in the same work, MacArthur stated that if you were to attend a typical Bible study you would “probably be invited to share your opinion about `what this verse means to me,’ as if the message of Scripture were unique to every individual. Rare is the teacher who is concerned with what Scripture means to God.”26 What is the standard by which we judge and interpret? Who has the right to offer inspired commentary on words delivered by holy men of God who spoke or wrote anciently as they were moved upon by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21)? While each reader of holy writ should seek to be in tune with the Spirit enough to understand what is intended by the scripture, Latter-day Saints believe the final word on prophetic interpretation rests with prophets. As C. S. Lewis wisely remarked, “Unless the measuring rod is independent of the things measured, we can do no measuring.”27

In writing of Sola scriptura as a tenet of the Reformation, Randall Balmer observed that “Luther’s sentiments created a demand for Scrip­tures in the vernacular, and Protestants ever since have insisted on in­terpreting the Bible for themselves, forgetting most of the time that they come to the text with their own set of cultural biases and personal agendas.” Balmer continues,

Underlying this insistence on individual interpretation is the as­sumption .
. . that the plainest, most evident reading of the text is the proper one.
Everyone becomes his or her own theologian. There is no longer any need to
consult Augustine or Thomas Aquinas or Martin Luther about their understanding
of various passages when you yourself are the final arbiter of what is the
correct reading. This ten­dency, together with the absence of any authority
structure within Protestantism, has created a kind of theological free-for-all,
as vari­ous individuals or groups insist that their reading of the Bible is
the only possible interpretation.28

Finally, I have had a number of friends and colleagues from either Protestant or Catholic faiths ask how Latter-day Saints can reconcile the idea of an apostasy of the primitive church with Jesus’ commendation of Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi (“thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God”). We recall that the Savior said: “Blessed art thou, Si­mon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:16-18, emphasis added). Did the Lord not clearly state in this passage that Satan would not prevail over the Christian church? Well, one thing is sure: the church was not to be built upon Peter or any one individual but rather upon the revealed word, the revelation that came to Peter and affirmed the divine Sonship of the Master.29 It was as though Christ were saying: “Peter, you have gained the witness of who I am by revelation from God, and it is by revelation, by the immediate direc­tion from heaven to and through my anointed servants, that I will build my church. And as long as my people live in such a manner as to enjoy that spirit of revelation — individually and institutionally — the power and do­minion of the devil will never be allowed to prevail over my kingdom.” 3. It means that while God will bless and strengthen and lead any person who follows the divine light within him or her (John 1:9), each man or woman is responsible to be true to that light which leads unto all truth, to seek and search and weigh and prove all things. A modern revelation attests that “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24), meaning, presumably, the day of resurrection and glorification. A later revelation states that one who is true to the light of conscience, true to what we would know as the Judeo-Christian ethic, will be led to the higher light of the fulness of the gospel, either in this life or the next. “And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit. And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father. And the Fa­ther teacheth him of the [gospel] covenant which he has renewed and confirmed upon you” (D&C 84:46-48)• There is a vital balance to be struck here. The Book of Mormon clearly points out that “the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil”; “wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to be­lieve in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God” (Moroni 7:16). At the same time, the Father of Lights does not desire his children to coast spiritually, to rest content with the light and truth they have, but rather he expects all to grow in perspective and understanding. As C. S. Lewis observed, that God who “will, in the long run, be satisfied with nothing less than absolute perfection, will also be delighted with the first feeble, stumbling effort you make tomorrow to do the simplest duty.” Then, quoting his mentor, George MacDonald, Lewis noted that “God is easy to please, but hard to satisfy.”3° Thus the highest good that men and women can do is to seek tenaciously for the greatest amount of light and knowledge that God will bestow (see D&C 35:10-12; 84:49-50).

_uacct = “UA-2396761-1”;



Filed under LDS Conservative Christian Dialog

2007:LDS "Gods" as Monarchic Monotheism: Blake Ostler

LDS “Gods” as Monarchic Monotheism
Blake Oster’s writings explain that what some theologians take for multiple “Gods” in LDS thought are Monotheistic, in a form which he calls “Monarchic Monotheism”. It is made up of a “council of the gods”, all of whom are clearly completely subordinate to the Most-High God.

He began teaching this in Volume one of his “Exploring Mormon Thought”, which has been used in graduate philosophy courses at BYU for some years.

Love and Thanks,
Steve St. Clair

Here is the section on this subject:


Subordinate “Gods”
The very term “God” has seemed to include in it the notions of supremacy and perfection. Nevertheless, “God” or “Gods” is found in the Hebrew scriptures referring to beings that are not supreme. For example, there are divinities who are inferior or subordinate or divinities only by per­mission of the head God. Such divinities were felt to have religious power and authority, but only by participation or permission from the higher God. In the Hebrew scripture, a member of El’s court, angels and possibly gods of foreign nations are called gods in this sense. The various mediat­ing principles and half-personified divine attributes found in the Hebrew writings such as debar or the divine word or Wisdom, would belong to this class. In the New Testament, “the Word,” and “the Mediator,” are also used in this sense in the Epistles of Paul and the Gospel of John. In such passages, Christ is viewed as a subordinate being even though he is consid­ered as divine and meriting worship.However, Mormons refer to subordinate “gods” in two senses pri­marily. First, Mormons speak of the gods in the “council of the gods before the world was.” Thus, the Father is referred to as ruling in “the council of Eternal God of all other gods” (D&C 121:32); and the book of Abraham states that “the gods organized and formed the heaven and the earth” (Abraham 4:1). This use of the word “gods” is essentially equiva­lent to the Old Testament usage that refers to Yahweh or to Yahweh Elohim planning with and ruling over a council of gods who are subordinate to him. As Hans-Joachim Kraus observed:

In the heavenly world Yahweh, enthroned as God and king, is sur- rounded by powers who honor, praise and serve him. Israel borrowed from the Canaanite-Syrian world the well-attested concept of a pan- theon of gods and godlike beings who surround the supreme God, the ruler and monarch. In Psalm 29:1-2 the bene elohim (“sons of God”) give honor to Yahweh. They are subordinate heavenly beings stripped of theirpower, who are totally dependent on Yahweh and no longer possess any independent divine nature. In Job and the Psalter, powers of this sort are called bene elohim, elim, or qedushim (“sons of God,” “gods,” and “holy •ones,” Job I:6ff; Ps. 58:1; • 8:5; 86:8). But Yahweh alone is the highest God CElyon) and king. . . . In Psalm 82 we have a clear example of the idea of a “council of gods.”. . . “God has taken his place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods he holdsjudgment:’ The “high- est god” is the judge. The gods (elohim) are his attendants. They are wit- nesses in the forum which Yahweh rules alone, and in which he possesses judicial authority. We might term the cheduth-el “Yahweh’s heavenly court.” All of the gods and powers of the people are in his service.

In later volumes of his multi-volume work, Blake Ostler will demonstrate conclusively that the beliefs of First-Temple Judaism (the Old Testament period), Second-Temple Judaism, the New Testament period, and early Christianity continue to clearly describe God or the Godhead in identical terms.

Here is an excerpt from his chapter on Second Temple Judaism:


Monotheism and the Hierarchy of Divine Beings in Second Temple Judaism
The view that there was a hierarchy of divine beings, with the one God as the Most High accompanied by a principal divine agent second only in authority to God surrounded by a court of divine beings who serve in the Holy of Holies in the highest heaven was universal in Second Temple Judaism – the Judaism that gave rise to Christianity. The council of gods continued in this form throughout the period that gave rise to Christianity. Monotheism was not threatened by the view that there are numerous divine beings and even those who are called “gods” because it was understood that the Most High was the one God. Moreover, it was commonly believed that the divine glory could be shared by exalted humans. Indeed, it was a very common belief that humans could ascend to the throne of God and be transformed glory for glory into the same divine status as the heavenly beings by participating in the rites of washing, anointing and investiture preparatory to officiating as a priest and king in the heavenly Temple where God resides.

15.1 Jewish Views of the Hierarchy of Divine Beings. Was Second Temple Judaism characterized by the same view of God that was prominent in pre-exilic texts of a head God presiding in the council of the sons of God? On the one hand, there are those who maintain that Second Temple Judaism is characterized by the same view of God(s) that prevailed in the pre-exilic Israel and that I have argued continued even in Second Isaiah and the exile. Notwithstanding language that poetically exaggerates the difference between the gods and Yahweh by asserting that they are nothing and that Yahweh will not even recognize their existence, the notion of the council of Yahweh continued throughout this period. The point at which we leave Israelite monarchical monotheism is thus the very place where we can start to elucidate the beliefs of Second Temple Jews. Larry Hurtado summarizes the evidence regarding Second Temple “Jewish monotheism” as follows:

I propose that Jewish monotheism can be taken as constituting a distinctive version of the commonly-attested belief structure described by Nilsson as involving a “high god” who presides over other deities. The God of Israel presides over a court of heavenly beings who are likened to him (as is reflected in, e.g., the OT term for them “sons of God”). In pagan versions, too, the high god can be described as father and source of the other divine beings, and as utterly superior to them. In this sense, Jewish (and Christian) monotheism, whatever its distinctives, shows its historical links with the larger religious environment of the ancient world. There are distinctives of the Jewish version, however, both in beliefs and, even more emphatically in religious practice. As Nilsson has shown, in pagan versions often the high god is posited but not really known. Indeed, in some cases (particularly in Greek philosophical traditions), it is emphasized that the high god cannot be known. Accordingly, often one does not expect to relate directly to the high god or address this deity directly in worship or petition. In Greco-Roman Jewish belief, however, the high god is known as the God of Israel, whose ways and nature are revealed in the Scriptures of Israel.

John Collins observed: “By nearly all accounts, at the end of the first century C.E. strict monotheism had long been one of the pillars of Judaism.” However, he quickly corrects this mis-perception: “Jewish monotheism, which gave birth to the Christian movement, was not as clear-cut and simple as is generally believed. Several kinds of quasi-divine figures appear in Jewish texts from the Hellenistic period that seem to call for some qualifications of the idea of monotheism.”2 Peter Hayman reached a similar conclusion: “It is hardly ever appropriate to use the term monotheism to describe the Jewish idea of God. From the book of Daniel on, nearly every variety of Judaism maintained the pattern of the supreme God plus his vice­regent/vizier…. Needless to say, this situation left many Jews confused, especially about the identity of the number two in the hierarchy.” A similar view, which I propose to defend here, is elucidated by Adela Yarbro Collins. Collins maintains that there may have been some who in fact had a “strict” view of monotheism in Second Temple Judaism, but there was a good deal of diversity in thought. The view that there was only one God who had a fulness of divinity, but that there were also other beings who possessed divinity on a continuum of divinity, with some divine beings have a greater fulness of divinity and others less, was prominent in Second Temple Judaism. Adela Collins stated:

An abstract and strictly monotheistic theology was not, however, shared by all Jewish groups in the first century C.E.. Philo and the Wisdom of Solomon solved the philosophical problem, raised by Greek philosophy, of how a transcendent god could create and interact with the material world by positing an intermediary being, Wisdom or the Logos, whom Philo could describe as “a second god.” The Community of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a Palestinian Jewish ultra-observant group which favored the Hebrew language, could speak of a plurality of ‘gods’ (V X – ’elim). Not only that, but the biblical divine name ‘Elohim’, which is equivalent to the generic Hebrew word for ‘god’ (‘th – El), is attributed to an angel in the fragmentary Melchizedek scroll. The evidence implies that the strict monotheism of the Deuteronomic literature had already been ‘stretched’ or even ignored in much of the literature of Second Temple Judaism. Many Jews of that period evidently did not conceive of God as absolutely unique in a metaphysical sense. Instead, they seem to have placed the deity at the top of a pyramid, so to speak, of divine beings who were the agents of God in creating, sustaining and interacting with all things.
Here is an excerpt his chapter on the New Testament, in which he demonstrates that the relationship between the Father and the Son were seen as a continuation of the “Monarchic Monotheistic” approach:

The Relation of Father and the Son:Christological Monarchic Monotheism in the New Testament
The titles and roles attributed to Christ are given content and function within the culture of honor and shame. Although Christ is divine he is not identical to the one God, the Father. He is given a status of honor by God as the sole mediator through whom all must approach God as patron and king because he completed his mission of redemption that had been assigned to him by the Father. Jesus Christ is thus honored with the highest honor that God as patron and king of the universe can bestow upon him – status at his own right hand as God’s Son and heir to all that God has and is, including receiving the Name that is above all other names. He is recognized as God’s chief agent whose will is one with God’s will and Christ’s acts are honored as the acts of God Himself. God shares his glory and honor with Christ so that Christ is the sole means of salvation as the mediator/broker of relationship with God. Because Christ is the heir to the throne, God actually honors Christ by sharing the kingship and rule of the universe with Christ. Because Christ is the mediator/broker of the covenant relationship that Israel had been elected to in prior times, the only way to approach God is through Christ. Thus, early Christians honored the Father by honoring Christ. Such honor is shown by worshiping the Father through adoration of Christ, and praying to the Father and performing saving rituals such as baptism in the name of Christ. Because Christ is the only mediator/broker of the covenant relationship with the Father, it is necessary to recognize Christ as “the Lord” acclaimed by the one God.

Perhaps the most prominent feature of Christian scriptural interpretation of the relation of the Father to the Son is the practice of identifying Old Testament scriptures that refer to two divine beings – and even two distinct heavenly figures who are both referred to as “God” in Hebrews and the gospel of John. It is a practice that is present throughout the New Testament and became prominent even in later Christian scriptural arguments as demonstrated by Justin Martyr.

16.1 Acts 2:30-36: Christ as Lord at God’s Right Hand. The imagery and language of monarchy and enthronement were the focus of the earliest Christian declarations of Christ’s relation to the one God. We see this intense belief in the exaltation and enthronement of Jesus in the Christian reliance on the declaration of Psalm 110:1-2 that Christ had been exalted and honored to sit enthroned at the right hand of God as “Lord”:

30.But since [King David] was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn an oath to him, that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne;
31. He foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that neither was he abandoned to the netherworld, nor did his flesh see corruption.
32. God raised this Jesus; of this we are all witnesses.
33. Exalted at the right hand of God, he received the promise of the holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth, as you [both] see and hear.
34. For David did not go up into heaven: but he himself said:
Ps. 110 ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35. until I make your enemies your footstool.”’
36. Therefore let the whole house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus Christ whom you crucified.. (Acts. 2:30-36 NAB)

In this remarkable passage we have an echo of the belief of the earliest Christians stated and summarized publicly for the first time after the resurrection. Jesus is the Messiah as the descendant of David. God the Father has vindicated Jesus’s claim to be king through the resurrection which culminated in the Father’s exalting him and placing him on a throne at His own right hand. It is of the utmost importance to note that in exalting Christ as his co-regent and newly coronated king of Israel, the Father has also given Jesus Christ an honorific title that alluded to God’s own name – the name “Lord.” Whenever the word YHWH appeared in the Old Testament Hebrew texts, the text was read aloud by substituting “Adonai,” the Hebrew honorific title meaning “Lord.” The Greek translation known as the Septuagint or LXX translated both YHWH and Adonai as Kyrios (Aramaic Merah), meaning “Lord.” For those in the audience listening to this claim, they could only have understood that Jesus was coronated at his resurrection with the greatest honor that can be bestowed on a person – the honor of being made an heir and given the name of the benefactor and king. “Lord” functions in the dual capacity having connotations both as a title of honor and also as sharing the divine name because Christ has been declared to be God’s heir and son. In the context of the covenant with David, those present heard a claim that Jesus is the heir to the throne of David and can be called “Lord” because of this inheritance. However, they also would have heard more – Christ shares the divine glory because he shares the divine name behind the title “Lord,” Adonai (Aramaic merah). Christ is recognized as a king and “Lord” second only to God because he is enthroned on his right hand – the place of the co-regent or vizier to the king.1 To be placed at the right hand of the patron king was the highest honor that could be bestowed upon a member of the kingdom. However, Christ is not merely the vizier or co-regent; he is the heir to the throne and recipient of the divine name “Lord” – the one who now reigns with God. The Father is not abdicating the throne of heaven to his son as a successor heir; rather, he is sharing the co-rule of heavens and earth with Jesus Christ.

This allusion to Psalm 110 is all the more remarkable because its use appears to be utterly unique in the literature of Second Temple Judaism. However, Psalm 110 is the Old Testament text most often cited throughout the New Testament and which was used by virtually all early Christian writers in the first 100 years to explain the status of Jesus and his relation to the Father.3 The interest that Psalm 110 held for the earliest disciples of Christ was that it declared Christ at once to be an heir to the throne of David and also raises him to the right hand of the throne of God. However, it also served the Christian message because it referred to two “Lords” whereby the Lord God honored another as “Lord” by bestowing on Christ the very honorific title by which God referred to himself. The notion suggested by Bauckham that allusions to Psalm 110 envision Christ on the very throne of God misrepresents Christ’s status. Christ is not seated on the throne of God; rather, Christ is divine vizier exalted by God to sit at his right hand.4 Bauckham misses the fact that Psalm 110 was used by Christians precisely because Yahweh, “the Lord,” exalts another as “my Lord.” It is the very fact that two distinct figures are referred to that made it amenable to Christian exegesis.

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2007: Social Model of the Godhead: Paulsen and McDonald

Social Trinitarianism
It appears to me that Latter-day Saints have been uncomfortable with the distant and untouchable understanding of the Trinity that they found prevalent among their Christian neighbors. This was because the Catholic and Protestant Christians among whom the early Saints lived and in the midst of which the restoration unfolded were very substantially believers in what would be called the “Western”, “Latin” , or “Augustinian” model of the Trinity.

In ancient eastern Christianity, especially among the Cappadocian Fathers, there were thinkers who viewed things differently, and saw the Trinity as best described as similar to the relationship that family members had with each other. This model is known as the “Eastern” or “Social” model, and is held by many scholars of the Eastern Orthodox Church today.

In our time, the Social Trinitarian model is supported by Catholic and Evangelical Philosophers who set the trends in current philosophical thought: Richard Swinburne (Oxford University, emeritus), Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. (Notre Dame University), and William Lane Craig (Talbot School of Theology at Biola).

A number of Latter-day Saint Philosophers consider it to be a description of the relationship among the members of the Godhead that is very close to Latter-day Saint beliefs. They include David Paulsen, Brett McDonald (see their paper below), Blake Ostler, and Stephen Robinson.

This brief description below is from the website of
Purdue University:


The Social Analogy

Throughout the gospels, the first two Persons of the Trinity are referred to as ‘Father’ and ‘Son’. This suggests the analogy of a family, or, more generally, a society. Thus, the Persons of the Trinity might be thought of as one in precisely the way that, say, Abraham, Sara, and Isaac are one: just as these three human beings are one family, so too the Persons are one God. But, since there’s no contradiction in thinking of a family as three and one, this analogy removes the contradiction in saying that God is three and one.

Those who attempt to understand the Trinity primarily in terms of this analogy are typically called Social Trinitarians. Historically, this approach is associated with Greek (or Eastern) Trinitarianism, a tradition of reflection that traces its roots to the three great Fathers of the Eastern Church—Basil of Caesarea, his brother Gregory of Nazianzen, and their friend Gregory of Nyssa. (These three are often referred to as the ‘Cappadocian’ Fathers, after the province in Asia Minor where they were from.) Prominent contemporary proponents of Social Trinitarianism include Richard Swinburne (Oxford University, emeritus), Cornelius Plantinga, Jr. (Calvin Theological Seminary), and William Lane Craig (Talbot School of Theology).

Initially, the social analogy might appear to be no better off than the egg analogy. No member of a family is itself a family; thus, we seem to be faced again with the suggestion that no member of the Trinity is God. But there is an important difference. The members of a family are also full and complete instances of a single nature, humanity. So, unlike the parts of an egg, there are really two ways in which the members of a family “are one”. They are one family; but they are also “of one nature” or “of one substance”. By analogy, then, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are one in two senses: (a) they are members of the single Godhead, and (b) they each fully possess the divine nature. Thus, when we say there is exactly one God, we can take the word ‘God’ to refer to the Godhead, that is, the society of which the Persons are members. But when we say that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, we can take the words ‘is God’ to express the property or characteristic of being divine, which is had by each of the Persons. So, since each of the Persons is both divine and part of the Godhead, we can say truly that each is God, despite the fact that they are distinct.

To some, it might seem that the social analogy still pushes us in the direction of polytheism. We think that there is something to this criticism. But friends of the social analogy rightly respond that defending the criticism requires, among other things, a serious analysis of what exactly it means to be a polytheist—a task that, as it turns out, is far from simple.

This paper by BYU’s most eminent Philosopher David Paulsen and a recent Philosophy graduate there, Brett McDonald, is available on the BYU website at this link, and has been accepted for publication in the journal “Faith and Philosophy“. Brett McDonald was leader of the group of BYU Philosophy students who came to Biola for the two-day series of meetings with philosophy students from Biola in 2006. He is now pursuing his law degree at UCLA as he continues to write on religious subjects.

In this paper, Dr. Paulsen and Brett make a very strong case for the idea that Joseph Smith’s concept of the Godhead overlapped considerably with a current popular approach among Christian philosophers known as “Social Trinitarianism”. Many scholars at Biola are defenders of this position.

In his note to publishers of Christian journals, Dr. Richard Muow, President of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, described this work as among the most important written by LDS scholars, and that it demonstrates that discussions are leaving the stages of “apologetics” and moving into serious theological conversations.

Thanks very much,
Steve St. Clair

Reassessing Joseph Smith’s Theology in his Bicentennial: A Social Model of the Godhead
David Paulsen and Brett McDonald

Harold Bloom, the self proclaimed “unbelieving Jew”
[1] and distinguished scholar, characterized Joseph Smith as “a religious genius,” stating that the religion he founded “is truly a biblical religion.”[2] Carl Mosser expresses a differing opinion upon the doctrine of the religion Joseph founded writing: “Mormonism’s heresies are legion;”[3] Biblical or heretical? Perhaps it’s an understatement to say that since Joseph walked out of a grove of trees announcing that God had spoken to him, the doctrines he espoused have received mixed reactions. But the charge of “heresy” has been far more common—especially from conservative Christian critics who consistently draw a circle that leaves Joseph’s Mormonism[4] out. Excluding his claim to the resumption of public revelation and its, corollary, the re-opening of the canon, perhaps no other Mormon doctrine has received as much criticism as the conception and formulation of the trinity by Joseph Smith and his successors. Ever since Joseph declared that God the Father and Jesus Christ had appeared to him as two distinct personages in the spring of 1820, the cry of tritheism from Mormonism’s detractors has been both loud and persistent.[5] One contemporary commentator finds the Mormon model of the trinity so heretical that he asks, “If we are prepared to accept as inspired something that is so divergent from all other religions, what would ever disqualify an idea from being a true revelation from God?”[6] Nevertheless, whether such disparagement is deserved warrants a closer look. In the following, we argue that Joseph’s model of the New Testament Godhead is a clear instance of social trinitarianism (ST).[7] As such, many contemporary Christian theologians are asserting views exactly similar, or nearly so, to what Joseph asserted. Furthermore, we argue that Joseph’s ideas offer valuable insights into some of the current issues surrounding ST. Lastly, as proponents of ST we will offer a defense of the model against attacks made against it by Brian Leftow at the Trinity Summit held in New York (12-15 April 1998).[8]

(A) Joseph’s views: Three Distinct Divine Persons or “Three Gods.”
In 1842, as part of a response to a Chicago newspaperman’s inquiry as to what Mormons believed, Joseph Smith penned thirteen basic beliefs, which have come to be known as “The Articles of Faith.”[9] Though not intended as such, they remain the closest Mormon analog to a creed. The first of these articles affirms Mormon belief in the New Testament Godhead. It states simply: “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” What the Article of Faith does not declare is how these three beings relate to one another. However, other revelations,[10] writings and speeches provide plenty of data concerning this trinitarian question. We address this issue in the next section. Here we set out Joseph’s understanding of the distinctness of the three divine persons.

In his last public sermon prior to his death, Joseph declared,

I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of the Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods…I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods.[11]

Joseph didn’t believe that the Godhead was like three persons, he taught that it actually consists of three persons. Each possesses his own mind. Thus one revelation contains eschatological dialogue between the Son and Father:
Listen to him who is the Advocate with the Father, who is pleading your case before him: Saying Father behold the suffering and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified: wherefore Father spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.[12]

“Him,” “thou,” “thy” “thyself,” “my,” “me,” such language is abundant in Joseph’s revelations. He clearly taught that the Son’s mind, speech and actions were distinct from the Father’s. Furthermore, according to Joseph, each possesses his own will. For example, according to the Doctrine and Covenants, “These words are not of man nor of men, but of me, even Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, by the will of the Father,” and “I having accomplished and finished the will of him whose I am, even the Father.”[13]

Each is profoundly passible. In form, each is like the manifestation of Jesus incarnate. Jesus remains embodied everlastingly in his resurrected and glorified body.[14] There are for Joseph, three Gods in a very real sense. Thus, for Joseph, the proposition that there are three distinct persons in the Godhead expresses a non-negotiable fact with which any acceptable account of the unity of the Godhead will have to cohere.

(B) Joseph’s views: One God
Notwithstanding his explicit declaration that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are “three distinct personages and three Gods,” Joseph’s revelations also repeatedly affirm that “the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, are one God.”[15] At face value, these two affirmations appear to be flatly contradictory.[16] Closer inspection discloses that the apparent contradiction is apparent only, resting as it does in Joseph’s equivocation in his use of the word, “God.” When Joseph says there are “three Gods,” he means merely that there are three separate and distinct divine persons; when he says there is one God, he typically means that is only one perfectly united divine community.

As one critic of ST has written, “The Trinity is an illogical paradox if the three-in-oneness it refers to is conceived in the terms of mathematical logic, that is, if the concept of the oneness of the Trinity is understood primarily as a strictly mathematical number 1.”[17] Joseph did not understand biblical oneness scriptures as asserting numerical unity.[18] Instead he interpreted these biblical passages as asserting what Leftow labels “functional monotheism,” wherein “’God is one’ states not the quantity but the quality of divine things. It asserts that the Persons exhibit unity, i.e. that they always function ad extra as one.”[19] It is this functional monotheism that Joseph asserts both experientially and biblically: “I want to read the text to you myself [John 17:21]—‘I am agreed with the Father and the Father is agreed with me, and we are agreed as one.’ The Greek shows that it should be agreed.”[20]

Starting from the premise that three distinct personages make up the Godhead, Joseph understood their oneness or unity to consist of something other than ontological or psychical identity.[21] However, in saying that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost do not share identical ontological properties, Joseph persistently asserted the similarity of their ontological nature. Thus, in their being, Father, Son and Holy Ghost are each metaphysically necessary[22] and therefore uncreate and self-existent. Rather than identity of being, Joseph saw the oneness of the Godhead as a unity of heart, mind, purpose and inherited nature. Rather than a logical necessity, Joseph understood the oneness of God to be a result of the willing and free choice of both Father and Son to align their distinct wills. Thus, a Book of Mormon prophet declares of Jesus Christ, “Yea, even so he shall be led, crucified, and slain, the flesh becoming subject even unto death, the will of the Son being swallowed up in the will of the Father.”[23] He emphasized their oneness with words like one “doctrine,”[24] “judgment,”[25] “baptism”[26] and “record.”[27]

Joseph viewed the biblical designation of Jesus as “the Son of the living God”[28] as no mere analogy of the relationship that exists between the two persons. In accordance with Joseph’s teachings the leadership of the LDS Church issued a doctrinal exposition that states in part, “[God] is literally the Father of the spirit of Jesus Christ and also of the body in which Jesus Christ performed His mission in the flesh.”[29] Joseph viewed the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost as familial wherein God the Father’s uniquely personal properties were fused with both the Son and the Holy Ghost’s uncreate natures. Alongside this begetting Joseph taught, “everlasting covenant was made between three personages [Father, Son and Holy Ghost] before the organization of this earth.”[30] Furthermore, Joseph asserted that the Father and the Son possess “the same mind, the same wisdom, glory, power, and fulness; filling all in all. The Son being filled with the fulness of the mind, glory, and power; or, in other words, the spirit, glory, and power of the Father.”[31]

In short, the persons of the trinity are bound by genetics, by “everlasting covenant,” and by “the same fullness” or set of divine attributes. Moreover, Joseph taught that a synergetic bond obtained between the Father, Son and Holy Ghost which is altogether peculiar to them. This bond was forged not only out of their oneness of minds, hearts, natures, and attributes, but also out of their interdependent missions. In sermonizing, Joseph asked, “What did Jesus do?” and answered, “Why, I do the things I saw my Father do…when I get my kingdom, I shall present it to My Father, so that He may obtain kingdom upon kingdom, and it will exalt Him in glory.”[32] A revelation received through Joseph declares, “And I, bear record that he [Christ] received a fulness of the glory of the Father. And he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him.”[33] Furthermore, in Joseph’s theology the Holy Ghost’s special calling is to be a witness or testator. It is His mission to bear witness of the Father and the Son and to lead worthy recipients into all “Light” and “Truth.” Thus, as the Father needed the Son to accomplish his purposes, so did the Son need and look to the Father for direction, power, and exaltation. By their acts of mutual service, each fulfilled, and was fulfilled, in the other. Hence, the Book of Mormon introduction of the Son by the Father:

And it came to pass that again they heard the voice…and it saith unto them, Behold, my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name, hear ye him. And it came to pass as they understood, they cast their eyes up again towards Heaven, and behold, they saw a man descending out of Heaven; and he was clothed in a white robe, and he came down and stood in the midst of them…

And it came to pass that he stretched forth his hand, and spake unto the people saying: Behold I am Jesus Christ, of which the prophets testified that should come into the world; and behold I am the light and the life of the world, and I have drank out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things, from the beginning.”[34]

In Joseph’s revelations, the word “God” is used to designate the divine community as well as to designate each individual divine person.[35] Therefore, in order to avoid misunderstanding while reading Mormon texts, it is imperative to keep this dual use of the word “God” in mind. Consistent with his revelations, when Joseph declares there are “three Gods,” he means that there are three distinct personages, each of whom is divine. When he affirms that there is “one God,” he means that there is one perfectly united divine community.[36] The late Latter-day Saint apostle Elder James Talmage, provides a clear explanation of Joseph’s understanding of the Godhead.
This unity is a type of completeness; the mind of any one member of the Trinity is the mind of the others; seeing as each of them does with the eye of perfection, they see and understand alike. Under any given conditions each would act in the same way, guided by the same principles of unerring justice and equity. The one-ness of the Godhead, to which the scriptures so abundantly testify, implies no mystical union of substance, nor any unnatural and therefore impossible blending of personality. Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are as distinct in their persons and individualities as are any three personages in mortality. Yet their unity of purpose and operation is such as to make their edicts one, and their will the will of God.

Perhaps what is most striking about Joseph’s writings on the Trinity, is the lack of technical terms so abundant in modern trinitarian discussions. Words such as ousia, homoousios and hypostasis find no place in his writings. Furthermore, Joseph says nothing of a differentiation between how God exists in his essential being (immanent trinity) and how he reveals himself in the work of salvation (economic trinity).[38] Thus, Joseph’s ideas were firmly in accordance with Rahner’s rule ___ years before it was coined. Instead, Joseph’s theology mimics what for David Tracy is the crux of Christian God-talk, namely, that “God is the One who revealed Godself in the ministry and message, the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ.” Therefore, according to Tracy, “a Christian theological understanding of God cannot ultimately be divorced from this revelation of God in Jesus Christ.”[39] As shall be discussed below, this reliance upon the revelation of God in Jesus Christ is a strength of ST.

(B) Towards a Uniform Definition
John Hicks describes the revival of social trinitarianism as “one of the most significant developments in contemporary theology.”[40] Along with this revival has come a certain amount of confusion concerning what exactly qualifies as a social model of the trinity. In his lucid treatment of the issue, Cornelius Plantinga sets out the three conditions necessary for a theory to qualify as social and they bear repeating:

(1) The theory must have Father, Son, and Spirit as distinct centers of knowledge, will, love, and action. Since each of these capacities requires consciousness, it follows that, on this sort of theory, Father, Son, and Spirit would be viewed as distinct centers of consciousness or, in short, as persons in some full sense of that term. (2) Any accompanying sub-theory of divine simplicity must be modest enough to be consistent with condition (1), that is, with the real distinctness of trinitarian persons. And (3) Father, Son, and Spirit must be regarded as tightly enough related to each other so as to render plausible the judgment that they constitute a particular social unit.[41]

These stipulations preclude certain theories described by Leftow from being social, including the approaches he calls ‘Trinity monotheism’ and ‘Group Mind monotheism.’[42] Trinity monotheism asserts that while Father, Son, and Spirit are divine, only the Trinity is most appropriately God.[43] Thus, only one thing is most appropriately God. While this approach saves the numerical unity of the three, it clearly violates what for ST and Christianity is fundamental, namely, that each person of the trinity is fully God. As a result, this approach does not qualify as a social model. ‘Group Mind’ monotheism asserts that the three divine Persons have but one mind between them, which is God or the mind of the one God, or that they comprise a fourth divine mind.[44] This approach quite clearly violates (1) and is therefore not a version of ST.[45] While the above models fail to qualify as social, there are many modern proponents of valid ST. These proponents include Plantinga,[46] Richard Swinburne,[47] Joseph A. Bracken,[48] Jürgen Moltmann,[49] Leonardo Boff,[50] Clark Pinnock,[51] Thomas V. Morris,[52] John Richardson Illingworth,[53] Timothy Bartell,[54] William Hasker,[55] Wolfhart Pannenberg,[56] William Lane Craig,[57] and Stephen Davis.[58] The ST that these thinkers defend as both biblical and creedal parallels the model presented by Joseph Smith.

Social Trinitarianism
For Pannenberg the divine persons are not three modes of being in the one divine subject. They are rather three separate and dynamic centers of action. They can be considered three separate centers of consciousness and thus can be distinctively described as persons on the basis of their unique self-relations that are mediated through their relationships with each other.[59] ST methodology is explained by Moltmann,

We are beginning with the trinity of the Persons and shall then go on to ask about the unity. What then emerges is a concept of the divine unity as the union of the tri-unity, a concept which is differentiated and is therefore capable of being thought first of all.[60]

Clark Pinnock articulates ST in this manner,

In this understanding, the Trinity is a ‘transcendent society or community of three personal entities. Father, Son and Spirit are members of a divine community, unified by common divinity and singleness of purpose. The Trinity portrays God as a community of love and mutuality’[61]

Social Trinitarians argue that God is one in three specific ways. There is “only one font of divinity, only one Father, only one God in that sense of God,” there is “only one divine essence or set of excellent properties severally necessary and jointly sufficient for their possessor to be divine,” and there is “only one divine family or monarchy or community, namely, the Holy Trinity itself.”[62] ST holds that the relation of the three divine beings is short of personal identity, but much closer than mere common membership in a class. For it includes a divine kinship relation as well.”[63] Thus, in regards to biblical “one-ness” scriptures, Boff’s explication exactly mirrors Joseph’s,

The basic reason for this choice is to be found in John 10:30: “The Father and I are one” (hen). Note that Jesus is not saying, “The Father and I are numerically one” (heis), but uses a term meaning “we are together” (Greek hen, as used again in v.38: “The Father is in me and I am in the Father”). The union of the Father and Son does not blot out the differences and individuality of each.[64]

In a similar vein, Moltmann argues,

If we search for a concept of unity corresponding to the biblical testimony of the triune God, the God who unites others with himself, then we must dispense with both the concept of the one substance and the concept of the identical subject. All that remains is: the unitedness, the at-oneness of the triune God. For only the concept of unitedness is the concept of a unity that can be communicated and is open.[65]

However related and unified these Persons are, for ST they remain numerically distinct. Thus, Swinburne concludes, “I believe that there is overriding reason for a first God to create a second God and with him to create a third God…”[66]
A comparison of the conception and explication of the trinity by Joseph Smith with the model outlined above yields the conclusion that the Mormon doctrine is a strong form of ST. Having investigated the parallelism between ST and the Mormon Godhead, we now turn to a defense of ST and end with an appeal to its salient advantages.

(C) Tritheism and Arianism
John Gresham has outlined the four major criticisms leveled against ST as (1) The Terminological Criticism, (2) The Monotheistic Criticism, (3) The Christological Criticism and (4) The Feminist Criticism.[67] Gresham’s examination of criticisms (1) and (4) as well as their relevant responses make further comment unnecessary. However, criticisms (2) and (3) deserve further attention in light of Leftow’s arguments.

Leftow provides a succinct statement of the argument of tritheism leveled against ST through what he calls the hard tasks for ST.[68] According to Leftow, “one hard task for ST is to explain why its three Persons are ‘not three Gods, but one God’ and do so without transparently misreading the Creed.”[69] To answer Leftow we may turn to the pre-creedal Origen who asserts, “we are not afraid to speak in one sense of two Gods, in another sense of one God.”[70] ST contends with Origen that the error of modalism, lies in treating the Three as numerically indistinguishable and separable only in thought. As seen above, ST has no problem using the word God in different ways. Leftow’s pre-occupation with numerals is further illustrated by his comment, “A second hard task for ST is providing an account of what monotheism is which both is intuitively acceptable and lets ST count as monotheist.”[71] This task is accomplished not only through a strict definition of monotheism, but also by defining tritheism in a manner consistent with tradition. It is often asserted that tritheism is simply the idea of three gods.[72] This however, is both biblically and historically imprecise, for as Plantinga points out, “if it is tritheistic to believe that Father, Son and Spirit designate distinct persons, then Paul and the author of the Fourth Gospel must be regarded as tritheists. And they are good company for tritheists to keep.”[73] Furthermore, in historic trinitarian debates, it is the belief in three ontologically graded distinct persons that was condemned as heretical.[74] The pole of the tritheistic heresy was Arius who affirmed that there is one God (the Father) who is unique, transcendent and indivisible, and whose being or essence cannot be shared or communicated.[75] Thus, the Son is a creature formed ex nihilo who cannot have any communion or direct knowledge of the Father. It will simply not do then for critics of ST to maintain, with Leftow, that belief in three distinct beings amounts to the historical heresy of tritheism.

As a result of this brief historical inquiry it is evident that the monotheistic criticism is in fact an issue of Arianism which in turn is the Christological criticism. If ST is to avoid this criticism it must affirm, which it does affirm (1) that the Son is uncreate and eternal and (2) that the Son is fully God. It is upon these issues that Joseph’s thought provides an answer to those who charge (with Leftow) that ST cannot get away from understanding the Son as created ex-nihilo. Dale Tuggy pushes the issue beyond ex-nihilo creation and asserts that the relational concepts of ‘generation,’ ‘procession,’ or ‘begetting’ “seem to be asymmetric ontological dependence relations, implying some sort of ontological inequality.”[76] Joseph denies ex-nihilo creation and replaces it with a pluralism of first principles. One of those self-existent principles was the intelligence or fundamental part of the Son. Through a process the biblical writers described as begetting, Jesus’s eternal, uncreate intelligence was fused with the god-nature of God the Father. There are two things to notice about Joseph’s formulation. First, it places Jesus on equal ontological footing with God the Father. It is true that this formulation entails a type of subordinationism. However, Catherine La Cugna points out that all forms of subordinationism are not to be rejected offhand:

R.P.C. Hanson expresses the wide consensus that until 355, everyone accepted subordinationism. And, as W. Marcus has also shown, orthodox subordinationism in the pre-Arian period is sharply to be distinguished from Arianism. Marcus argues that the orthodox subordinationism of Christ to God, which has a strong basis in Scripture and which belongs to a salvation history-cosmological background, does not entail an ontological subordinationism but processional or economic subordination of Son to Father, Arianism, on the other hand, is a form of ontological-theological speculation that construes the salvation history subordination of Son to Father to be a difference in nature (ousia) between God and Christ.[77]

The second advantage of Joseph’s formulation is that it safeguards both the Father’s unique role as font of the Trinity as well as the Son’s unique role of being begotten by the Father. Because of creation ex-nihilo, trinitarians have yet to provide an adequate account of the biblical begetting of the Son. The idea of “eternal generation” remains unintelligible. Joseph’s model asserts a high Christology while remaining biblical and coherent.

(D) A Reply to “Some Oddities”
In attacking ST, Leftow points out what he sees as “some oddities” in the consequences of adopting a social model.[78] The first oddity derives from prayer to “God,” for as Leftow asserts, “if it is true [ST], those who use ‘God” to address a prayer to its hearer err as one would who addressed the holders of a joint Presidency as ‘Mr. President.’”[79] Joseph seems to answer this supposed oddity in practice that conforms to Jesus’ instructions on prayer in the New Testament. As instructed by Jesus, Joseph directed his prayers to God the Father while asking for all things through the name of Jesus Christ.[80] Indeed, Joseph’s revelations reiterate the instructions in the Lord’s Prayer. Consider Christ’s command to Book of Mormon peoples, “Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name” and “They shall believe in me, that I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and shall pray unto the Father in my name.”[81] Perhaps a laxity of Christian conformity with biblical instructions accounts for this “oddity” rather than trinitarian confusion. Other oddities for Leftow center around what he takes to be the un-intuitive rendering of the creeds as well as certain Old Testament texts.[82] We must admit that the charge of un-intuitive coming from someone who affirms LT is at the least confusing if not humorous. Indeed, much effort and writing have been expended in attempts to prove that LT is internally consistent with less than convincing results.[83] We argue in contrast to Leftow that if intuitiveness is to play any role in the trinitarian debate it is ST that is to be preferred over LT.

(E) Advantages and Conclusion
One distinctive feature of ST is its reliance upon ordinary language. While Plantinga provides a defense of the model based upon the creeds, all proponents go beyond the creeds to gain clarity, a necessary step in light of traditional trinitarian discourse.

A Tradition of Silence
As mentioned above, for Joseph Smith there was no distinction between the economic and immanent trinity. God is in Himself what He has revealed in the history of salvation. However, this attitude contradicts what Frans Jozef van Beeck has deemed “The Great Tradition.”[84] Gregory of Nyssa typifies this tradition saying, “when reason touches on the things that are beyond reason, that is the ‘time to keep silence.’…Thus, in the understanding of God, when the inquiry is about God’s essence, then it is ‘time to keep silence’.[85] LaCugna credits the “defeat of the doctrine of the Trinity”[86] to this tradition of silence. According to her,

In the theoretical perspectives of both Eastern and Western traditions (though to a lesser extent in the East), the divine persons eventually were relegated to an intradivine realm locked up in itself, hidden from view, able to reach out toward the creature across a vast ontological chasm only through what the East came to call the mediating divine energies, and the West, a unisubstantial act. The diversity and uniqueness of the divine persons within the economy of redemption faded into the background, and the centrality of Christology, soteriology, and pneumatology in the theology of God was diminished.[87]

According to Beeck, at the center of the traditional Christian understanding of God “lies a profound (if often unstated) axiom. It can be put as follows. Even if it should be possible (or even necessary) to make distinctions when speaking of God, such distinctions remain part of the language of mystery- i.e. of participative knowledge and theōria.[88]

This brief discussion of “The Great Tradition” leads us to look critically at the technical terms of traditional trinitarian discourse. If scholarship has proved anything in relation to these terms, it is that they set the limits of orthodoxy too broadly.

In his comprehensive study, Christopher Stead comments,
Finally we have to consider the term homoousios as it occurs in the Nicene Creed; what were its immediate antecedents, and what was its meaning? These two questions have been repeatedly discussed, but without reaching assured conclusions.

There is, moreover, too little trustworthy evidence for the use of the term in the years immediately preceding Nicaea. Scholars have therefore had to rely, partly on certain broad historical projections, partly on the reports of the Council presented by Eusebius and Athanasius; of whom the former has come under suspicion as offering a tendentious account of the proceedings, designed to excuse his reluctant subscription, while the latter, whether or not he displays an opposing Tendenz, records his impressions of the Council after a lapse of twenty-five years.[89]

Stead then elucidates three possible ways in which homoousios (the same in substance) could be viewed.[90] Concluding that

Homoousios guarantees very little; it can be used of things which resemble one another merely in belonging to the created order, or to the category of substance; it can relate collaterals to each other, or derivatives with their source; it does not exclude inequality of status or power.[91]

William Alston concurs with Stead writing, “and because of this ambiguity the crucial statement of the Nicene creed that the Son is ‘homoousios with the Father/ is likewise ambiguous.”[92] The other technically critical words in trinitarian discourse, namely ousia and hypostasis suffer from the same historical ambiguity as homoousios.[93] Consider Joseph Lienhard’s hesitation to strictly define these terms, “I do not offer a uniform translation of ousia[94] and hypostasis.[95] Such a refusal arises not only from cowardice, but also from the recognition of a fact: fourth-century authors themselves were wary of explaining the meaning of the two words, and generally resorted to comparisons rather than definitions.”[96] In light of the difficulty in pinning down these supposedly “orthodox” terms, the reliance of ST upon ordinary language gives it a distinct advantage in making the trinity relevant to ordinary Christians. Nathaniel Lardner asserts that belief in vague and obscure doctrines cannot be made necessary for salvation,

I would observe, that obscure doctrines ought not to be made necessary to salvation. They who consider the general tenure, and great design of the preaching of Christ and his apostles, to all sorts of men, in order to bring them to repentance and holiness, and thereby to everlasting happiness, by the good will and appointment of God, will be easily led to think that there should not be any doctrines, necessary to be believed, which are of such a nature, that the most metaphysical and philosophical minds can scarcely know what they are, or reconcile them to reason. Therefore, the commonly received doctrine of the Trinity, if it be obscure, should not be made a necessary article of the Christian faith. And yet this is the introduction to the Athanasian creed: “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary, that he hold the Catholic faith. Which faith, except every one do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity:” And the more fully to enforce the necessity of this doctrine, it is repeated again at the end: “This is the catholic faith. Which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved.” [97]

ST is simple and easily understood. It is, we argue, the conclusion an uneducated Christian would arrive at after reading the New Testament with no additional instruction from “experts.”

In concluding our defense of ST, we wish to return to what we mentioned above to be one of the strongest advantages to the social model, namely its reliance upon the economic trinity in formulating a theory of the immanent trinity.

Is God a Person?
While the tradition has affirmed that each being of the trinity is in fact a person, the writings of some of the most prominent Trinitarians employ words and concepts that are less than personal. The Father, for example, is described as a relation, a name, [98] a mode or a manifestation of the one God. The definitions of those words are also vague. In fact, Augustine referred to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as three “somewhats.” Anselm called them “three I know not what.” In his critique of ST, Ralph Norman writes, “But God does not share the class of existence, or ‘thing-ness’ with creation. God, being non-existent, may only be defined negatively, as infinite…Number only applies to things that can be counted as greater or smaller than anything else. Clearly, number cannot be applied to God, who is nothing, being infinite.”[99] Descriptions such as “somewhat,” “I know not what,” “negatively infinite,” “mode,” “relation” and “non-existent” hardly seem applicable to the living God and Jesus of Nazareth portrayed in the Bible.[100]

ST on the other hand defends the real being-ness and personhood of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. It concurs with William Sherlock who wrote,
It is plain that the Persons are perfectly distinct, for they are Three distinct and infinite Minds, and therefore Three distinct Persons; for a person is an intelligent being,a nd to say, they are Three Divine Persons, and not three distinct Minds, is both heresy and Nonsense: The Scripture, I’m sure, represents Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as three intelligent beings, not as three powers or faculties of the same being, which is downright Sabellianism; for faculties are not Persons, no more than memory, will and understanding (all used by Augustine in his explanations of how the Trinity worked) are Three Persons in one Man…We must allow the divine persons to be real substantial beings, if we allow each Person to be God, unless we will call anything a God, which has no real Being.[101]

Joseph’s revelations bear repeated witness that the Son is still the Son and the Father still lives, “Hearken, O ye elders of my church who have assembled yourselves together, in my name, even Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, the Savior of the world.”[102]

It is in this area that Joseph’s ideas again provide insight. As a modern witness to the historically indispensable doctrine of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph’s witness presses this Christological issue into the trinitarian discussion.[103] The question revolves around what Leftow calls “brain hemispheres.”[104] As a resurrected being, Jesus has a distinct brain hemisphere. For the Christian the question becomes, “does the father possess a brain hemisphere?”[105] Indeed belief in an incorporeal God seems to prohibit any discussion of the Father possessing a brain hemisphere, yet how does this conclusion square with a resurrected Son? In the academic arena there seems to be a lack of integration between the doctrines of the bodily resurrection of Jesus and trinitarian models.[106] Thus, Alston says “The basic trouble is that it simply does not seem at all appropriate to think of incorporeal persons being constituted of any material or stuff.”[107]

Whether or not Christians want to entertain the idea of an embodied Father, it seems they must maintain a Son who possesses a distinct brain hemisphere. If the Father’s brain hemisphere is identical to that of the Son’s, has it always been so? To press the issue, during the incarnation was the Father’s brain hemisphere also contained with the mortal Christ? For ST, the idea of separate brain hemispheres does not pose a problem, however, for the LT who deplores counting more than one numerical God, the resurrected Christ is problematic.
Another advantage of the social model is its commonality with the earliest Christian thinkers. The apologists were the first to try to frame an intellectually satisfying explanation of the relation of Christ to God the Father.[108] What then, was their view of God? There can be no doubt that the Apologists’ thought was highly confused; they were very far from having worked the threefold pattern of the Church’s faith into a coherent scheme.[109] However, as Fortman writes in his comprehensive history of the Trinity, the apologists, “stress the unity of God as well as the trinity of persons. To the question, what kind of unity is there between these three who are really distinct and yet only one God, they answer: a unity of power, a unity of rule.”[110]

A Practical Doctrine
The way trinitarian faith seemed to have been rationally reduced to little more than a logical puzzle for the experts encouraged the situation in which Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) could state in Conflict of the Faculties: “The doctrine of the Trinity, taken literally, has no practical relevance at all, even if we think we understand it; and it is even more clearly irrelevant if we realize that it transcends all our concepts.”[111] This is because, as Karl Rahner pointed out, “Despite their orthodox confession of the Trinity, Christians are, in their practical life, almost mere ‘monotheists’.”[112] The danger of this functional monotheism is succinctly addressed by Moltmann,
Strict monotheism has to be theocratically conceived and implemented, as Islam proves. But once it is introduced into the doctrine and worship of the Christian church, faith in Christ is threatened: Christ must either recede into the series of the prophets, giving way to the One God, or he must disappear into the One God as one of his manifestations. The strict notion of the One God really makes theological Christology impossible, for the one can neither be parted nor imparted. It is ineffable. The Christian church was therefore right to see monotheism as the severest inner danger, even though it tried on the other hand to take over the monarchical notion of the divine lordship.

In separating the persons of the trinity and working through the unique unity of the Godhead, ST has the power to effect the lives of Christians. Indeed, much work has already been done in this area. For example, David Cunningham has sought to develop new trinitarian practices along the lines of hospitality and diversity in accordance with ST.[114] ST bids the Christian to emulate the relationships found in the trinity in his community and within his personal communion with God. As Mark Chapman writes “There is an implicit assumption that the picture of the relationships between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is able to function as something of a blueprint for human society.”[115] While Chapman argues that the “normal and proper” state of human society is one of “tension, conflict and debate rest at the heart of human society,”[116] Joseph reiterates the message of the great intercessory prayer that all true followers of Christ will oneday obtain the relationship (and oneness) that currently characterizes the trinity. Indeed, any talk of trinitarian unity must be tempered by Jesus’ prayer-promise “that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us…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;”[117] Joseph realized that an essential property of divinity is a relationship of sacred and intimate unity with the persons of the Godhead. As Joseph stated in an 1833 revelation:

[Christ] received a fullness of the glory of the Father; and he received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him, and it shall come to pass that if you are faithful…you shall receive of his fullness, and be glorified in me as I am in the Father; therefore, I say unto you, you shall receive grace for grace.[i]

According to Joseph Smith, a fundamental purpose of human life consists in the fact that humankind has been invited “into” this relationship through the atonement of Jesus. God wants to relate to us just as the divine persons relate to one another; God wants us to be one in the Father and the Son as they are one in each other.

Even critics of ST admit, “this interpretation of the doctrine of the Trinity is commendable to the extent that it depends upon the fundamental insight that God is love, and love is something that God wishes people to share without condition amongst themselves.”[118]

We have defended the thesis that commentators such as Stephen Parrish who asserts, “The LDS ‘Trinity’ is a form of tritheism, there are three gods—the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”[119] both misunderstand the historic heresy of tritheism as well as Joseph’s full model of tri-unity. For the ever-growing lds community, the doctrine of the Trinity remains both coherent and relevant. It is our belief that understanding the trinity with the help of a social model can help combat what many commentators see as “the current situation in which we find ourselves, namely, the virtually total irrelevance of the doctrine of the Trinity.”[120]

[1] Harold Bloom, The American Religion (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 30.
[2] Ibid., 80, 82, 96-97, 106.
[3] Carl Mosser, “And the Saints Go Marching On” in The New Mormon Challenge (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), 85. Mosser (and the other editors to The New Mormon Challenge) challenge Mormonism’s claim to be Christian based upon its model of the Trinity: “If the monotheistic view of God as the absolute creator of the universe is at the heart of biblical Christian faith, as the authors of this book contend, then Mormonism’s repudiation of that belief seriously calls into question its claim to be Christian.” (269). The piece in the NMC that directly deals with the Godhead (Paul Owen’s article) doesn’t explicitly denounce the Mormon model as heretical (although that conclusion is easily drawn).

[4] Officially, the Church Smith founded is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often referred to as the lds Church). However, for the sake of familiarity and length, I will employ the initially derisive nickname “Mormon” as a substitute for the LDS Church throughout this paper.
[5] For instance, early on, British theologian T.W.P. Taylder, asserted that Mormon doctrine was tri-theistic because it denies the “unity of the Godhead.” T.W.P. Taylder, The Materialism of the Mormons, Or Latter-Day Saints Examined and Exposed (Woolwich: E. Jones, 1849), 8 as cited in Craig L. Foster, Penny Tracts and Polemics: A Critical Analysis of Anti-Mormom Pamphleteering in Great Britain, 1837-1860 (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2002), 124-125. In recent times, Stephen Parrish has continued this charge of tritheism. See “A Tale of Two Theisms” in The New Mormon Challenge, ed. Francis J. Beckwith, Carl Mosser and Paul Owen (Grand Rapids, Mi: Zondervan, 2002), 203-204.

[6] So exclaims Craig Blomberg in Craig Blomberg & Stephen E. Robinson, How Wide the Divide, 121. Cyril Van der Donct makes a similar assertion: “if God so emphatically declares, both in the Old and in the New Testament, that there is but one God, has anyone the right to contradict him and to say that there are several or many Gods? But Mr. Roberts insists that the Bible contradicts the Bible; in other words, that God, the author of the Bible, contradicts himself. To say such a thing is down-right blasphemy.” B.H. Roberts, The Mormon Doctrine of Deity (Salt Lake City: Horizon, 1903), 60.
[7] In this essay we will use ST (social trinitarianism) contrasted from what Leftow calls Latin Trinitarianism (LT) which begins from the oneness (usually construed as numerical oneness) of God, and tries to explain how one God can be three divine Persons. While this distinction is useful for our purposes, Fred Sanders’ observation concerning oversimplification bears repeating, “the most irritating oversimplification is probably the rule of thumb, which somehow has become ubiquitous even at the popular level, that Eastern trinitarian thought begins with the three persons while Western trinitarian thought begins with the one essence. Anybody who has tried to engage a few of the church fathers closely has probably experienced the disjunction between that organizing schema and the kind of arguments and idioms actually found in the texts.” Fred Sanders, “Trinity Talk, Again,” Dialog: A Journal of Theology 44:3 (Fall 2005) 270.
[8] Others have responded to Leftow, including Tom McCall who points out problems with Leftow’s conception and reliance upon “Perfect Being” theology. See “Social Trinitarianism and Tritheism Again: A Response to Brian Leftow” Philosophia Christi 5.2 (2003) 405-430.
[9] The Pearl of Great Price, 60-61.
[10] The purpose of this paper is not to investigate the truthfulness or veridicality of Joseph’s visions and revelations; thus I will refer to them as he understood them rather repeatedly referring to them as Joseph’s purported revelations.
[11] Joseph Fielding Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976) 370.
[12] Doctrine and Covenants 45:3-5.
[13] D&C 31:13; 19:2; see also 19:3-4,24.
[14] While not the focus of this paper, Joseph also taught that God the Father possesses a glorified body and the Holy Ghost a body of refined matter or spirit.
[15] 2 Nephi 31:21; Mosiah 15:2-5; Alma 11:44; 3 Nephi 11:27, 36; Mormon 7:7.
[16] Some students of Mormon intellectual history make this very claim, hypothesizing that Joseph’s understanding of the Godhead developed from an initial modalism, through trinitarianism and tritheism before finally ending up as a form of henotheism, the two latter views flatly contradicting the earlier monotheisms. David Paulsen challenges this hypothesized trajectory in his article, “The Earliest Mormon Understanding of God: Modalism and Other Myths.” Finish citation.
[17] Ralph Norman “Problems for the ‘Social Trinity’ – Counting God” Modern Believing 41:3 (2000) 5.
[18] Scriptures which have been used historically to imply numerical oneness include, FINISH
[19] Brian Leftow “Anti-Social Trinitarianism” The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity ed. Stephen T. Davis, Daniel Kendall and Gerald O’Collins (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999) 228.
[20] Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (American Fork, Ut.: Covenant Communications, 2002), 386. Modern translations of the Bible corroborate Joseph’s rendering, see John 17:21 in The Message Bible and Worldwide English Bible.
[21] Christopher Stead writes, “Theologians have been rightly convinced that the ultimate effect of Nicaea has been to assert, not merely the equality, but also the essential unity, of the three Persons; and they have attempted, I think incautiously, to represent this as the original and express intention of the Nicene fathers. In support of this view, it has been argued that homoousios was adopted at Nicaea to express the form of trinitarian theology prevailing in the West.” Christopher Stead, Divine Substance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), 252.
[22] We, like Swinburne, take this to mean that each of their existences is at any time (t) an “ultimate brute fact about the universe” See Richard Swinburne “Could There Be More Than One God?” Faith and Philosophy 5:3 (July 1988) 226.
[23] Mosiah 15:7.
[24] “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.” 2 Nephi 31:21
[25] “and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil..” Alma 11:44
[26] “And after this manner shall ye baptize in my name; for behold, verily I say unto you, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one; and I am in the Father, and the Father in me, and the Father and I are one.” 3 Nephi 11:27
[27] “And thus will the Father bear record of me, and the Holy Ghost will bear record unto him of the Father and me; for the Father, and I, and the Holy Ghost are one.” 3 Nephi 11:36
[28] John 6:69
[29] The statement, entitled “A Doctrinal Exposition by the First Presidency and the Twelve,” dated June 30, 1916 reads in part:

Scriptures embodying the ordinary signification—literally that of Parent—are too numerous and specific to require citation. The purport of these scriptures is to the effect that God the Eternal Father, whom we designate by the exalted name-title “Elohim,” is the literal Parent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and of the spirits of the human race. Elohim is the Father in every sense in which Jesus Christ is so designated, and distinctively He is the Father of spirits. Thus we read in the Epistle to the Hebrews: “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?” (Heb. 12:9.) In view of this fact we are taught by Jesus Christ to pray: “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
. . . Jesus Christ is the Son of Elohim both as spiritual and bodily offspring; that is to say, Elohim is literally the Father of the spirit of Jesus Christ and also of the body in which Jesus Christ performed His mission in the flesh, and which body died on the cross and was afterward taken up by the process of resurrection, and is now the immortalized tabernacle of the eternal spirit of our Lord and Savior.
See, James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, vol. 5, (Salt Lake City, Ut: Bookcraft, FirstPrinting, 1970) 23-34. According to Dr. James E. Talmage, in the Tenth edition of his Articles of Faith (February, 1917), this Doctrinal Exposition appeared first in pamphlet form and then in the Improvement Era for August, 1916. Original pamphlet. Church Historian’s Library, Salt Lake City, Utah; Improvement Era 19:934-942, August, 1916; Liahona, the Elders’ Journal 21:380-384, March 25, 1924; Jesus the Christ, Twelfth edition, February 1, 1924, pp. 465-473.Yet, even prior to Christ’s being spiritually begotten by the Father, his eternal or uncreate nature is divine and partakes of the light and glory of the Father. A revelation states that Jesus was in the beginning with the Father as “Spirit, even the Spirit of truth” (D&C 93:23), thus making him essentially divine eternally. From aeons past he was one “like unto God” and was God in the creation of worlds without number.
[30] Larry E. Dahl and Donald W. Cannon, eds: Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1997) 345.
[31] Larry E. Dahl and Donald W. Cannon, eds: Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1997), 297-98.
[32] HC 6:305, 306
[33] D&C 93:16-17
[34] 3 Nephi 11:4, 6, 8, 9-11. See Rodney Turner “The Doctrine of the Firstborn and Only Begotten” in The Pearl of Great Price: Revelations from God H. Donl Peterson and Charles D. Tate, Jr., eds. (Provo, Utah, 1989).
[35] Joseph said, “The heavens declare the glory of a God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork; and a moment’s reflection is sufficient to teach every man of common intelligence, that all these are not the mere productions of chance, nor could they be supported by any power less than an Almighty hand” (HC 2:14; Encyclopedia, 291).
[36] See David Paulsen’s interview, “Are Mormons Trinitarian?” in Modern Reformation (November/December 2003), 40-43, wherein I answer common questions concerning the LDS understanding of the Godhead.
[37] James Talmage, A Study of the Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book Company, 1988), 37.
[38] Thus, Joseph adhered to Rahner’s Rule: “the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity and vice versa” See Fred Sanders, “Trinity Talk, Again,” 269.
[39] David Tracy, “Trinitarian Speculation” in The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity ed. Stephen T. Davis, Daniel Kendall and Gerald O’Collins (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999) 283.
[40] John Mark Hicks, An Introduction to the Doctrine of God, Harding University Graduate School of Religion, July 18, 1996. This paper was prepared for the “Theology in Service of the Church” seminar held on July 17-18 in conjunction with the 1996 Christian Scholars Conference, Nashville, Tennessee.
[41] Cornelius Plantinga, “Social Trinitarianism and Tritheism,” in Ronald J. Feesntra and Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Trinity, Incarnation and Atonement (Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1989) 22.
[42] Brian Leftow “Anti Social Trinitarianism” in The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity ed. Stephen T. Davis, Daniel Kendall and Gerald O’Collins (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999) 209.
[43] Proponents of this view include Stephen Layman, David Brown and Keith Yandell. See Layman, ‘Tritheism and the Trinity’, Faith and Philosophy, 5 (1988); Brown, The Divine Trinity (London/La Salle, Ill.: Duckworth/Open Court, 1985), 300-1; Yandell, ‘Trinity and Consistency’, Religious Studies, 30 (1994), 205-6, 216.
[44] Leftow sees John Champion, Charles Bartlett and perhaps Hodgson as proponents. Leftow, 221.
[45] This is also the approach effectively critiqued by Dale Tuggy. See “The unfinished business of Trinitarian theorizing” Religious Studies 39 (2003) 165-183. Tuggy does not recognize the equivocation of the word “God” and therefore does not recognize valid ST, as such, he commits a straw man fallacy.
[46] Cornelius Plantinga, “Social Trinity and Tritheism,” 21-47; and “The Threeness/Oneness Problem of the Trinity,” Calvin Theological Journal 23:1 (April 1998), 37-53.
[47] Richard Swinburne, “Could There be More Than One God,” Faith and Philosophy, 5:3 (July 1988, 225-41) and The Christian God (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1994), 170-92
[48] Bracken represents Process thought arguing, “they [Father, Son and Holy Spirit] represent three different subjective foci or centers of activity within the field. Thus, they are three separate “personalities,” exercising interrelated but still different functions within one and the same field of activity.” Joseph A Bracken, “Panentheism from a Process Perspective” in Trinity in Process: A Relational Theology of God, ed. Joseph A. Bracken, S.J. and Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, (New York: Continuum Publishing Comp., 1997) 101.
[49] Jürgen Moltmann was a professor of systematic theology at Tubingen for twenty-seven years and presently a professor emeritus. See The Trinity and the Kingdom of God (trans. M. Kohl London: SCM Press, 1981).
[50] Leonardo Boff, Trinity and Society, trans. Paul Burns (Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis, 1988), 118.
[51] Clark Pinnock, Flame of Love, 21-48.
[52] Thomas V. Morris, Our Idea of God (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1991), 174-84.
[53] Richard Hoskins, The Doctrine of the Trinity in the Works of John Richardson Illingworth and William Temple, and the Implications for Contemporary Trinitarian theology (London: Edwin Mellen Press, 2000).
[54] Timothy R. Bartell, “The Plight of the Relative Trinitarian,” Religious Studies 24 (1988), 129-55.
[55] See his essay in Searching for an Adequate God: A Dialogue between Process and Free Will Theists. John B. Cobb Jr. and Clark H. Pinnock (joint editors) (Grand Rapids, Michigan & Cambridge, U.K.: William B.Eerdmans Publishing, 2000).
[56] Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology (vol. 1; trans. G.W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991) 384 and Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Trinity and Religious Pluralism (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2004), 81.
[57] William Lane Craig and J.P. Moreland Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Intervarsity Press, 2003) 575-96.
[58] Davis is the Russel K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy at Claremont McKenna College. See his article in Melville Stewart (ed.), The Trinity: East/West Dialogue (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003).
[59] Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology (vol. 1; trans. G.W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991) 384. See also, William J. La Due, The Trinity Guide to the Trinity, (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2003) 134.
[60] Jürgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom of God, 19.
[61] Clark Pinnock, Flame of Love: A Theology of the Holy Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996). Those who affirm this doctrinal notion of deity base their perspective largely on the economic vision of the Trinity which describes the acts of the triune God with respect to the creation, history, salvation, and the daily lives of human beings. It refers to how the Trinity operates within redemptive history in regards to the roles or functions performed by each of the persons of the Trinity. The Economic is contrasted by the ontological Trinity, which speaks of the essence, nature or attributes of the Trinity. Simply –the ontological Trinity focuses on who God is, while the economic Trinity focuses on what God does.

[62] Plantinga, “Social Trinitarianism, and Tritheism,” 31. In accordance with Plantinga, Moltmann writes, “We have to talk about the unity of the triune God in three respects.
In respect of the constitution of the Trinity the Father is the ‘origin-without-origin’ of the Godhead. According to the doctrine of the two processions, the Son and the Spirit take their divine hypostases from him. So in the constitution of the Godhead, the Father forms the ‘monarchial’ unity of the Trinity.
But in respect of the Trinity’s inner life, the three Persons themselves form their unity, by virtue of their relation to one another and in the eternal perichoresis of their love.
Finally, the mutual transfiguration and illumination of the Trinity into the eternal glory of the divine life is bound up with this.” Jürgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom of God (London: SCM Press Limited, 1981) 177-178.
[63] Ibid., 29.
[64] Ibid., 5. While it is not the purpose of this paper to provide historical support for ST, it should be noted that Boff’s exegesis finds considerable support from pre-Nicene theologians. Novation stated that Jesus would never have used the plural word “are” rather than the singular “is” if the Father and the Son were not distinct from one another. See Novatian XXVII. Origen became very upset with anyone who suggested that the three could not be distinguished numerically. Harry Wolfson writes, “Like Justin Martyr, he [Origen] maintains that God and the Logos are real beings and argues against those who believe that the distinction between them is not in number but only according to certain thoughts. This criticism of those who deny that god and the logos were numerically distinct means, of course, that he himself believes that they are numerically distinct and many, so that each of them is numerically one.” The Philosophy of the Church Fathers Vol. 1. (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard U. Press, 1956) 317.
[65] Jürgen Moltman The Trinity and the Kingdom of God (London: SCM Press Limited, 1981) 150.
[66] Swinburne’s argument is not new, it was used by both Augustine in book 9 of De Trinitate, and Richard of St. Victor’s own De Trinitate. This argument bases itself on love, as Swinburne explaines, “Love must share and love must cooperate in sharing. The best love would share all that it had, if it could; it would share itself. A God would see that for him too a best kind of action would be to share and to cooperate in sharing. Now a first God is the almighty principle of being; but for his choice there would be none other with whom to share. So the divine love of a first God G1 would be manifested first in creating another God G2 with whom to share his life, and the divine love of G1 or G2 would be manifested in creating another god G3 with whom G1 and G2 cooperatively could share their lives. G2 and G3 would then cooperate in keeping G1 in being, for but for their refraining from destroying him, there would be no G1. They would then cooperate further in backing the activities of each other in their respective spheres of activity… I conclude (tentatively) that necessarily if there is at least one God, then there are three and only three Gods.” Richard Swinburne, “Could There Be More Than One God?” in Faith and Philosophy vol. 5 No. 3 (July 1988) 233-234.
[67] John L. Gresham, Jr., “The Social Model of the Trinity and Its Critics,” Scottish Journal of Theology 46 (1993): 325-43. The other common method for trying to disprove the coherence of ST is to select an attribute seen to be essential for divinity and arguing that this attribute is unsharable. Customary attributes proposed as “unsharable” include omnipotence and sovereignty. Adequate defenses against such charges have already offered. For sovereignty, see T.W. Bartel “Could There Be More Than One Lord?” Faith and Philosophy 11:3 (July 1994) 357-378. For almightiness/omnipotence see T.W. Bartel “Could There Be More Than One Almighty” Religious Studies 29 (1993) 465-495, Thomas Morris The Logic of God Incarnate (Ithaca: Cornell, 1986) 213-14 and Richard Swinburne, “Could There Be More Than One God?” Faith and Philosophy vol. 5 (1988) 230-31.
[68] Others have argued that ST cannot avoid tritheism including Ralph Norman who writes, “Neither the ‘Social Trinity,’ nor its ancient predecessor, is capable of avoiding the charge of tritheism.” “Problems for the ‘Social Trinity’- Counting God” Modern Believing 41:3 (2000) 7. Other attacks on ST are more obscure, for example, Mark Chapman criticizes the model for avoiding “the conflicts and tensions which characterize this world and the formulation of appropriate doctrines.” Mark D. Chapman, “The Social Doctrine of the Trinity: Some Problems” Anglican Theological Review LXXXIII: 2 239-254.
[69] Leftow, 206.
[70] Kial. Heracl. 2. As quoted in J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines rev. ed. (New York: HarperCollins, 1978) 129.
[71] 207-8.
[72] Leftow, add citation + others For example, LaCugna says, “..raised the specter of tritheism (three gods).” (69).
[73] Plantinga, Social Trinity and Tritheism, 32.
[74] Ibid., 34.
[75] Kelly, 227.
[76] Tuggy “The unfinished business of Trinitarian theorizing” 170.
[77] LaCugna, 24.
[78] Leftow, 230-232.
[79] Ibid., 230.
[80] See for example, Dahl and Cannon, eds: Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith’s Teachings, 13.
[81] 3 Nephi 18:19; 20:31.
[82] Leftow, 230.
[83] For a relatively recent attempt at proving the coherency of LT see John Macnamara, Marie La Palme Reyes, and Gonzalo E. Reyes, “Logic and the Trinity” Faith and Philosophy 11 (1994), 3-18. E. Feser effectively argues against Macnamara, Reyes and Reyes in “Has Trinitarianism Been Shown to Be Coherent?” Faith and Philosophy 14 (1997), 87-97.
[84] Frans Jozef van Beeck, “Trinitarian Theology as Participation” in The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity ed. Stephen T. Davis, Daniel Kendall and Gerald O’Collins (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999) 311.
[85] Frans Jozef van Beeck, “Trinitarian Theology as Participation” in The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity ed. Stephen T. Davis, Daniel Kendall and Gerald O’Collins (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999)

In Eccles. Hom. VII; PG 44, cols. 729-32; ed. Jaeger, vol. 5, pp. 412-15. Cf. ET [Gregory of Nyssa], From Glory to Glory: Texts from Gregory of Nyssa’s Mystical Writings, trans. H. Musurillo (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1961), 127-9. Cf. also De vita Moysis, II. 110-11 (PG 44, col. 359; ed. Jaeger, vol. 7/1, pp. 66-7; ET, pp. 79-80).
[86] LaCugna, 9.
[87] LaCugna, 9.
[88] Beeck, 313.
[89] Christopher Stead, Divine Substance (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977) 242-243.
[90] Possibility 1) The first possibility amounts to saying that the so-called two or more things are actually one and the same; the reference to ‘substance’ merely advises us that in calling them ‘two’ or ‘three’ or some other number, we are attending to distinctions which are not those of substance; for instance, we are recognizing different names, functions, or contexts of what is really one individual thing.
Possibility 2) Two or more beings could be called homoousios because there is one single ousia to which they belong, and of which they are aspects, parts, or expressions; and since ‘aspects’ and ‘expressions’, no less than ‘parts’, imply that other aspects, expressions, or parts are possible, there is a sense in which the ousia referred to contains more than any one of its aspects, expressions, or parts. Thus three divine Persons might be described by the term homoousios as belonging to a single complex ousia which needs the three distinct Persons for its full expression.
Possibility 3) The term homoousios could be applied to two or more beings because they severally have (and not ‘jointly constitute’ a single ousia; that is, if they have the same generic or specific characteristics, or the same material constitution. Most probably ancient writers do not draw the line between this third possibility and the second in the way which would seem natural to us; since to have the characters which identify a species is to belong to that species; and the ancients often refer to the members of a class, species, or genus as ‘parts’ of it.
Thus the term homoousios, used of angels, might suggest that they all belonged to the same glorious company; used of stones, it might rather suggest that they share those features which inseparably attach to stones, in being inanimate, heavy, and hard.[90]
[91] Ibid. 248.
[92] Alston continues, “Though it was undoubtedly intended to mean ‘of the same essence as the Father’, it could be, and was, understood as ‘being the same individual as the Father’, in which sense it would be denying the numerical distinctness of the persons of the Trinity.” (Alston, 185) The historical record proves the ambiguity of the wording as those who had signed the Nicene Creed could not even agree on what it meant. See Ramon D. Smullin The Father is not the Son (Salt Lake City, UT: Camden Court Publishers, 1998) 155-175.
[93] The Cappadocian settlement is often presented as one that was widely and readily employed, and accepted with relief and enthusiasm. But the exact formula is, in fact, more a piece of modern academic shorthand than a quotation from the writings of the Cappadocians. In the short form just quoted, the formula is rarely found in their writings. One also reads, sometimes, that the Council of Constantinople of ad 381 canonized the formula. But it is not found in the creed of that council.

[94] According to the doctrine of the Trinity worked out by the end of the fourth century, God who saves us through Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit exists from all eternity in triune personhood. The three divine persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, are equal both because of their equal role in our salvation, and because they share the same essence or nature (ousia). (LaCugna, 9).
[95] While other writers had spoken of the three, they had not answered the question, ‘Three what’? Origen answered it by saying they were ‘three hypostases’ (Jo. 2.6), and thus seems to have been the first to apply to the Trinity this word that Greek theology ultimately accepted as the technical description of what the Latins called the personae of God. He made it clear also that these three hypostases were not only ‘economically’ distinct, but essentially and eternally. (Fortman, 61.)

[96] Joseph T. Lienhard, “Ousia and Hypostasis: The Cappadocian Settlement and the Theology of ‘One Hypostasis’” in The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity ed. Stephen T. Davis, Daniel Kendall and Gerald O’Collins (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999) 103.
[97] Nathaniel Lardner The Works of Nathaniel Lardner, Vol. 9 (London: William Ball, 1838) 581. Millard Erickson’s agrees, “If God is infinite and we are finite, we will never be fully able to understand him. The fulness of what he is will exceed our powers to grasp. Thus, we cannot expect ever to resolve fully this great mystery.” Erickson goes on to acknowledge that while the Trinity is at the heart of most Christian theology, “This does not mean that complete and absolutely accurate understanding of the Trinity is essential for one to be a true Christian. We are saved by our trust in Jesus Christ and in the Triune God, not by our subscription to correct theology.” (Making Sense of the Trinity, Baker Books, 2000) 44, 46.

[98] Maurice Wiles (following St. Hilary) tells us “it is the names alone which tell us of the differences of persons.” The Making of Christian Doctrine (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1967) 128-9.
[99] Ralph Norman “Problems for the ‘Social Trinity’ – Counting God” 9.
[100] La Cugna concurs, writing,
Trinitarian doctrine after Augustine concerned itself with the relations internal to the Godhead, largely disjoined from what we know of God through Christ in the Spirit. Medieval Latin theology, following Augustine and reaching its high point in Thomas Aquinas, solidified the whole trend toward separating the theology of God from the economy of salvation by treating De Deo Uno and De Deo Trino as discrete treatises. Theology of the triune God appeared to be added on to consideration of the one God. (10).
[101] William Sherlock The Vindication of the Most Blessed and Holy Trinity (London: W Rogers, 1694) 66-67.
[102] D&C 42:1.
[103] Joseph’s revelations repeatedly declare the bodily resurrection of Jesus add references.
[104] Leftow, 225.
[105] It is well known that Joseph asserted the embodiment of the Father as well as the Son.

[106] N.T. Wright has provided a comprehensive examination of the bodily resurrection of Christ. See The Resurrection of the Son of God, Augsburg Fortress Publishers, April 1, 2003, Minneapolis, MN.

[107] Alston, 190.
[108] The Apostolic Fathers (clement, Ignatius of Antioch, Hermas, Didache, The Epistle of Barnabas) appear as witnesses to the traditional faith rather than interpreters striving to understand it. Fortman notes that except for Hermas and 2 Clement “there is solid evidence of a belief in three pre-existent beings, both from their actual words and more especially from the fact that they ascribed strict divinity to the Father, Christ, and the Holy Spirit. There is in them, of course, no trinitarian doctrine and no awareness of a trinitarian problem.” Edmund J. Fortman, The Triune God; a historical study of the doctrine of the Trinity (Philadelphia, Pa: Westminster Press, 1972) 44.
[109] Kelly, 103.
[110] Thus, Justin speaks of ‘the monarchy’ of God (Dial 1), Tatian about ‘the rule of one’ (Orat.14), Theophilus about the ‘monarchy of God’ (Autol. 2.35.38), while Athenagoras states that God, the Logos, and the Holy Spirit are ‘united in power’ (Supple. 24). Do they conceive any deeper unity than this? They seem vaguely aware of a unity based on the fact that both the Son and the Holy Spirit somehow have their origin from the Father and not by way of creation. (Fortman, 50-51).
[111] In I. Kant, Religion and Rational Theology, trans. A. W. Wood and G. di Giovanni, The Cambridge Edition of the Works of Immanuel Kant (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966) 264. This sentiment is shared by many including Rahner, “We must be willing to admit that, should the doctrine of the Trinity have to be dropped as false, the major part of religious literature could well remain virtually unchanged.” Further, “the Christian’s idea of the incarnation would not have to change at all if there were no trinity.” The Trinity (Crossway Publishing Company, 1970) 10-11.

[112] The Trinity, trans. J. Donceel and intr. C.M. LaCugna (New York: Crossroad, 1997) 10. Along these lines, La Cugna asserts,
Not until very recently has this fundamental area (the doctrine of the Trinity) of Christian theology begun to attract renewed interest. If a genuine revitalization of the Christian doctrine of God is to succeed, it is critical to understand the factors that contributed to the current situation: a doctrine of the Trinity that most consent to in theory but have little need for in the practice of Christian faith. Catherine LaCugna, God For Us (Chicago, IL: Claretian Publications, 1993) foreword.
[113] Jurgen Moltmann, The Trinity and the Kingdom: The Doctrine of God (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1981) 131.
[114] David S. Cunningham These Three Are One: The Practice of Trinitarian Theology (Oxford: Blackwell, 1998).
[115] Some Problems 248.
[116] Icit.
[117] John 17:21, 22-23.
[118] Ralph Norman “Problems for the ‘Social Trinity’ – Counting God” 5.
[119] Stephen E. Parrish, “A Tale of Two Theisms” in The New Mormon Challenge, ed. Francis J. Beckwith, Carl Mosser and Paul Owen (Grand Rapids, Mi: Zondervan, 2002), 203-204.
[120] Catherine LaCugna, God For Us (Chicago, IL: Claretian Publications, 1993), 7.

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Mormon in the White House? Intro Hugh Hewitt

This post includes extracts from the book “A Mormon in the White House? Ten Things Every American Should Know About Mitt Romney” by Law Professor / Evangelical thinker and political commentator Hugh Hewitt. Hugh attended the Millet/Johnson dialog at Mariners Church in Irvine in 2007. He met Pastor Greg Johnson and Brother Robert Millet, and was welcomed by many Evangelical and Latter-day Saint fans.

Love & Thanks,
Steve St. Clair



The first duty of American conservatives is to use their talents, time, and treasure to conserve America. And not just any sort of America, but one in which all men and women are understood to have been created equal and endowed by their Creator with “certain unalienable rights,” rights which are best protected through the institutions created by the Constitution and operated under that Constitution’s design of mediated majoritarianism.

Conservatives understand the value of life, including the life of the unborn; the deep and enduring benefits of freedom of religion and of the press; the absolute necessity of the right to hold property free of excessive governmental intrusion; the joy, efficiency, and breathtaking productivity of free markets and free minds; the necessity of an uncorrupt judiciary fairly dealing out justice under a rule of law and the dangers of unelected judges asserting for them­selves roles and claiming for themselves powers outside their consti­tutional duties.

Conservatives also understand clearly the war in which the West finds itself. Serious conservatives know as well that the war can be lost and the world engulfed in a barbaric darkness, one suddenly brought about through the release of the awful powers of nuclear weaponry or through contagions manufactured for the purpose of spreading disease and death.

Conservatives are deeply uneasy as the nation moves toward the end of the Bush presidency. We know that there is not a single seri­ous contender for the Democratic nomination who has evidenced anything resembling seriousness about the war. A Democratic Con­gress cannot lose the war although it will make victory much more difficult. But a Democratic president can indeed lose the war and unleash through weakness, incompetence, and blindness awful forces as Jimmy Carter did when he failed to prevent the installation of a revolutionary Islamic Republic in Iran, and as Bill Clinton did when he did not move decisively against the nuclear ambitions of North Korea or the menace of an al Qaeda nested in a barbaric, Taliban-led Afghanistan.

Many conservatives do not see a standard-bearer in the field, or at least one with a prayer of success.

Senator John McCain is a nationalist, and a man of unquestioned courage and resolve with regard to the war. He reminds many of Douglas MacArthur. But he is no conservative. Senator McCain allowed his fear of money to trump his faith in free speech, and sacrificed the latter in a-vain-redesign of the First Amendment via the McCain-Feingold campaign finance fiasco. Senator McCain later chose the rituals and privileges of the Sen­ate and his love for the spotlight over the Constitution’s clear design when it came to the nomination and confirmation of judges. His Gang of 14 backroom deal undercut the vast majority of his GOP colleagues, his president, and his party, and did not even in its second year of operation gain for judicial nominees the up-or-down floor votes promised them.

Senator McCain also chose to trust Senator Kennedy and not his own party on the issue of border security. Then, as the elections of 2006 approached, he engaged in a dramatic demand that the Supreme Court-mandated and Bush administration-designed law governing the trials and treatment of War on Terror detainees be redone accord­ing to his own vision of the good. It was a train wreck-causing public relations stunt that led to cosmetic changes in the law and the loss of crucial legislative weeks. With those lost weeks came the loss of cru­cial legislation and nominations, and quite likely many seats in both the House and Senate.

Conservatives do not trust Senator McCain. It is difficult to believe that even the best campaign by him will erase that distrust.

Conservatives admire Rudy Giuliani, the mayor who strode towards the Towers, and whose reputation for toughness and clear-­eyed understanding of the enemy is the equal of McCain’s. But Mayor Giuliani will not change his long-held views on abor­tion rights, including partial birth abortion-he believes in Roe v. Wade and its even more extreme progeny. Like Senator McCain, Mayor Giuliani is simply not upset by the assault on marriage by arro­gant judges. For many conservatives, Rudy Giuliani would make a superb Secretary of Defense. But president?

Florida’s Jeb Bush is sidelined by his name, even though in any other year he might be the one conservative who could rally the party. But not this year when everyone knows the GOP nominee must in many ways be the anti-Bush: not from Texas, not given to mala­propisms, not a late bloomer, not connected to the perceived mis­management of post-Saddam Iraq, and definitely not named Bush.

Enter Mitt Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, for­mer leader of the Salt Lake City Olympics, a billionaire venture cap­italist who blazed his way through Harvard’s Business and Law Schools and then built a reputation as one of the country’s most bril­liant and successful entrepreneurs. The eloquent, funny, self-depre­cating father of five sons and grandfather to eleven grandchildren has been married to Ann Romney for more than three and a half decades. He is pro-life, pro-marriage, and pro-Second Amendment. He understands economic growth and the world economy as only wildly successful international businessmen do.

Romney grew up in politics with a father who was a three-term governor of Michigan (and a one time front-runner for the 1968 GOP presidential nomination), and later a member of Richard Nixon’s cabinet.

And Romney knows the war. He has worked to learn its complex­ities and the nature of our diverse enemies, constantly reading the sorts of books that must be absorbed. He has made journeys to places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Beijing, Tokyo, and the border between the Koreas to gather the sorts of facts that cannot be found in books. When Iran’s former president-a terrorist himself complicit in a regime devoted to terrorism-was inexplicably granted a visa to the United States and extended an invitation to Harvard, Romney denounced both decisions and refused him the courtesies normally extended the former leaders of foreign countries.

The preceding suggests what has long been known to America’s political obsessives: Mitt Romney is unique. He has a talent for poli­tics and leadership that is extraordinary amongst the ranks of profes­sional politicians. What’s more, his record of accomplishment in both the private and public spheres is remarkable. If Mitt Romney’s per­sonal characteristics and record of achievement didn’t clearly qualify him for the presidency, there would be no discussion about his faith. But he is a serious candidate for president; a very serious candidate.

Indeed, it is no wonder that Romney had the best 2006 of all the Republicans. He was the best prepared. In a year that destroyed first the ambitions of George Allen and then those of Bill Frist, Romney soared in the speculations of the political class as he raised more money for the GOP than John McCain and Rudy Giuliani combined. When the James Baker-led Iraq Study Group issued its report urg­ing engagement with Iran and Syria, Romney-as did McCain ­rejected the idea as the absurd neo-appeasement it was. The Boston Globe attempted to discredit Romney for his strong stance on border security and the fencing mandated by Congress with a story breath­lessly reporting that the landscaping company that trimmed his Bel­mont, Massachusetts, home’s hedges had employed illegal aliens. Instead of having its desired effect, the story triggered laughter directed at the Globe-not criticism of the candidate.

A short while later, concerned opponents dug into the 1994 files of Romney’s unsuccessful run against Ted Kennedy and locked onto statements from that campaign to disingenuously charge that Romney was not really pro-life in 2007, only to discover that most Republicans are more impressed by his steadfast defense of marriage and his strong pro-life stands as governor than by accusations of what he believed or didn’t believe fourteen years earlier as a rookie candidate.

Even Romney’s long and strongly held beliefs on the necessity of treating gay and lesbian Americans with the dignity and respect that is owed all our fellow citizens-thought by his opponents to be a cer­tain momentum killer-turned out to mirror the feelings of most conservatives regarding the appropriate approach to take towards the private lives of all Americans. Romney’s long-standing and consistent record of acceptance for gay Americans made his vigorous fight to preserve the traditional definition of marriage all the more credible as a defense of constitutional majoritarianism rather than bigotry.

“Mitt Romney possesses a combination of intellect and warmth that is very rare in politics,” Congressman John Campbell told me in an assessment of Romney that echoed sentiments I have heard repeatedly from individuals who, like Campbell, have had success both in politics and business and who have only recently met Romney.

Campbell was elected to Congress in the fall of 2005 in a special election. He arrived in D.C. after five years in Sacramento as a state representative, a senator, a couple of turns as Arnold’s debate prep partner, and a shining career in business that made him not only wealthy, but also an admirer of financial and management talent.

“During my political career,” Campbell continued about Romney, “I have never seen anyone so equally gifted in an interview or debate, in a one-on-one conversation and speaking to a thousand people. He has all the raw materials to be a great candidate and a great president.”

Reviews like Campbell’s have accumulated, contributions have flowed, and Romney’s star has unquestionably risen. As Campaign 2008 got off to its unprecedented very early start, conservatives began to see in Romney what they needed: a national security con­servative who also brought along a set of shared values on other cru­cial issues and about whom there was no doubt as to incredible intelligence, energy, eloquence, and, crucially, integrity.

With the higher profile have come the inevitable and necessary questions-questions this book will answer: What role did his father’s political career and failed presidential campaign play in shaping Romney? What is the “Bain Way,” and what’s that got to do with Romney? Does leadership of the Olympic Games really matter in politics-and if so, why?

And what about his family-his wife and kids and grandkids? Was he a success as governor of Massachusetts? Is he really pro-life? Did he fight the good fight on marriage? What are his advantages as the campaign for the presidency begins? What are the handicaps?

Those are the first nine questions, and then there is the tenth question: ‘What about the Mormon problem?”

As the buzz on Romney has increased, so too has the murmuring about his religion. Many among the political elite began to say, “Rom­ney is a Mormon, and a Mormon cannot win the nomination, much less the presidency.”

Bret Stephens is the extremely talented member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board who was previously the editor-in-chief of the Jerusalem Post. Early in 2006, I asked him about Romney’s Latter-day Saints (LDS) beliefs. “It’s out there that it’s a l50-year-old version of Scientology,” Stephens said. A moment later he caught himself and asked if this was an on-the-record conversation, and I assured him it was.

“The Scientology comparison is a keeper,” I replied, but I also assured him that it would be accurately reported not as what he believed but what he has heard among the sippers in the reporters’ bar and the gluttons at the press room buffet. (When I quoted Stephens to Romney and asked for a response, the governor responded immedi­ately, emphatically, and with a look of genuine offense written across his face. “It’s not.” How would he explain the difference? “!’lll leave that to the Church authorities,” he prudently replied, avoiding any poten­tially controversial comments on either Scientology or the LDS theol­ogy, much in the manner that Catholic politicians beg off at having to defend this or that position of Rome, past or present.)

Though Stephens was careful to distance himself from an endorsement of the comparison, by the close of 2006, less responsi­ble journalists were ready to adopt the “150-year-old version of Scientology” charge as conventional wisdom.

Jacob Weisberg is the editor of Slate, the online magazine now owned by the Washington Post Company. Weisberg is a talented writer, a columnist for the Financial Times, an alum of The New Republic. He is a Yalie and a Rhodes Scholar. He is also, most surprisingly, a bigot, and an unashamed one.

In a December 20, 2006, column for Slate, “Romney’s Religion: A Mormon President? No Way,” Weisberg declared bluntly that if Romney “gets anywhere in the primaries, Romney’s religion will become an issue with moderate and secular voters-and rightly so.”

“Objecting to someone because of his religious beliefs is not the same thing as prejudice based on religious heritage, race, or gender,” Weisberg declared in a bold break with American political tradition.

“One need only recall the innumerable rants against a president who is born again, prays daily, thinks he has a hotline to God, and is bent upon replacing our constitutional order with a theocracy,” Neuhaus noted. “In the game book of unbridled partisanship, any stick will do for beating up on the opposition.”

Neuhaus had arrived exactly where 1 had journeyed after a year exploring the subject. On the evening of my first extensive interview with Governor Romney in his Massachusetts State House office, I had dinner in Harvard Square with an old classmate, Joe Downing, who asked me why 1 was writing this particular book. Although this is my eighth book, none of my earlier efforts had been biographical even in part, nor have I written extensively on the issues presented by a Mormon candidate for president.

I responded to Joe’s question of why I was writing on this topic by saying, “Because Mitt Romney ought not NOT be president because of his religious beliefs.”

“That’s a very American view,” Joe replied.

Joe was correct, but given the Weisberg column-and many oth­ers of similar tone and substance that preceded it and that will fol­low-I have to wonder if my belief in our “civic religion’s” commitment to abhorrence of religious bigotry remains steadfast. The civic religion is the accumulation of principles, traditions, and institutional practices that over time come to define a country. Only some of the civic religion makes it into law, but the most important aspects do find some expression in our founding documents. Our nation’s abhorrence of religious bigotry was embodied in Article VI of the Constitution, which prohibits “religious tests” for office.

“Not applying a religious test for public office,” Weisberg asserted without any evidence or argument, “means that people of all faiths are allowed to run, not that views about God, creation, and the moral order are inadmissible for political debate.”

When Weisberg declares, “I won’t vote for someone who truly believed in the founding whoppers of Mormonism,” he is imposing a personal religious test. It is true that Article VI no more prohibits Weisberg’s bigotry than the Fourteenth Amendment prohibits racial bigotry on the part of Klansmen. But Article VI embodies the civic religion’s ideal, and it is that ideal that Weisberg and others are trashing, and the danger is general to all people of faith, not just Mormons.

“Everyone has skin in this game,” Dean Barnett wrote me after reading this manuscript. Dean is my co-blogger at, a longtime friend of Romney’s, and a keen editor who worked on the final drafts of this book as long and as hard as I did.

“If it becomes permissible to question the tenets of Romney’s faith, all religious people will be vulnerable,” Dean argued. “All reli­gions require a faith in the fantastic and a belief in the unbelievable. If Romney’s belief in the Book of Mormon is used as evidence that he is a fool, a new kind of political attack will be legitimized. Chris­tians who believe in the Assumption of the Virgin Mary and the lit­eral truths of Communion will be dismissed out of hand.

“It almost goes without saying that certain secularists already hold such views. But if members of other religious communities support the attacks on Romney’s faith because of some animus towards Mor­monism, the weapon they legitimize will in short order be turned against them.”
If any significant number of voters disqualify Romney from their consideration because of his faith, it will be a disheartening breach of the Framers’ contract with themselves and their political heirs on the subject of religion’s place within the American Republic. The con­cern is more than academic. An astonishing 43 percent of 1,000 peo­ple polled by Rasmussen Reports in mid-November of 2006 told the pollsters that they would not even consider voting for a Mormon, a higher negative response than atheists or Muslims received, and dou­ble the number saying they would not vote for a Mormon in polls taken in the late ’90s. More than half of self-identified “evangelicals” told Rasmussen that voting for a Mormon was out of the question.

If this general objection becomes a concrete prejudice in the pres­idential campaign of 2008, it will prove a disastrous turning point for all people of faith in public life. If much of the campaign of 2007 and 2008 is spent exploring, evaluating, debating, and mocking the Mor­mon faith, expect the very arguments used to diminish Romney’s qualifications in this regard to return in the future against devout evangelicals or orthodox Catholics. Once a long-closed door to a reli­gious test is opened, it will not be easily closed again.

If Romney is attacked-openly or sub rosa- for the particu­lars of his faith, and those attacks, alone or in dominant combination with some other assault, keep him from the Oval Office and he was the man who ought to have been there, then the country will have walked out on one of our most vital founding principles. This prob­lem-a core problem, a fundamental problem-is what inspired this book, though my examination of Mitt Romney’s life and career has raised other questions unique in the history of presidential cam­paigns. Should we welcome or fear the role of the MBA class/venture capital/uber-business consultant on the national and international stage? Is the country really going to accept a billionaire as president?

“What Romney needs to do,” she concluded, “is just to say that his religion is a part of his life, it always has been, and he believes that America is a place that was founded on religious freedom, and he can quote from John Kennedy from that Houston speech.”

Will that in fact be enough?

This book is in essence an inquiry into Mitt Romney’s candidacy for the presidency. As such, it must necessarily tackle two main questions: 1) Does this still relatively obscure blue-state governor have the “right stuff’ to be president; and 2) If the answer to the first question is yes and most Republicans believe that answer is yes, will Mitt Romney’s faith nevertheless disqualify him from being the Republican nominee for president?

Now for some disclosures.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Mormon. No member of my family is or has been a Mormon. My wife had a first cousin who converted to the LDS faith. She died a few years ago and we never had the occasion to discuss her conversion with her.

That said, I love Mormons and count many among my friends. In 1996 I conceived and hosted a national series on religion in America for PBS, Searching for God in America, which took me into the history of the Saints and to Brigham Young’s Beehive House in Salt Lake City for many hours of interviews with Apostle Neal Maxwell, at that time one of the most senior leaders of the denomination that numbers ten million. I returned to Utah a few years later at Elder Maxwell’s request to conduct another lengthy bit of taped questioning for another PBS series, this one for Utah viewers only. Elder Maxwell became a friend, one with whom I had the chance to talk politics both in person and via the phone from that time until his death in 2005.

I also have a friend in Dr. Jim Davies, a brother-in-law to Mitt Romney, an accomplished eye surgeon, and a convert to the LDS faith, as is his sister, Ann Romney, Mitt Romney’s wife. Jim’s an extraordinary fellow, so giving that he has donated a part of his own lung to a young lady with cystic fibrosis. Jim is also passionate booster of his brother-in-law.

Many friends of mine in evangelical, Catholic, and Jewish circles of Massachusetts are admirers of Mitt Romney. I have been hearing great things about him from them since he gained the Commonwealth’s statehouse in 2002.

All of which goes to the issue of whether I can be fair in analyzing Mitt Romney’s candidacy and the impact on it of his faith.

I will leave that to the reader to decide, but note only that I wouldn’t promote my best friend’s candidacy if I thought his background-including his religious beliefs-would result in massive Republican-base defections because of some personal characteristic. I have no interest in winning arguments and losing elections. The times in which we live don’t allow for quixotic stands that end up with the nomination of a candidate who cannot win.

By the same token, though, if the best candidate who could undoubtedly win the general election is denied the nomination and as a result the White House is lost to a Democratic Party currently constituted as being against serious prosecution of the war against Islamist fascists, then a deep and potentially fatal error will have been made.

The war against Islamist fascism can be lost. Devastating blows far beyond even the horrors of 9/11 can be delivered. Mushroom clouds or rapidly spreading diseases can appear in America. We have been well protected and well led since 9/1 I-and lucky.

The Democrats do not believe this. They will return us to the 1990s, to the years that followed the first World Trade Center bombing, to the era of Khobar Towers, the African embassy bombings, the attack on the Cole. They will return us to a course of inaction, of fecklessness, to desperate attempts to maintain the appearance of peace while ignoring the reality of a growing menace.

If the nomination of Mitt Romney would lead to his election and continued COP stewardship of our national security, Republicans would have cause to cheer and the nation would benefit. But if, because of his faith, he lost in the Republican primaries to a less able candidate and that in turn led to the election of Hillary, the defeat of Romney on the grounds of his religious beliefs would be a national tragedy.

Thus this book.

In the book’s first part, I’ll try to help the reader get to know Mitt Romney as I’ve come to know him through many interviews with him, his family, friends, and associates that I conducted for the specific purpose of preparing this book. After Part I, hopefully you’ll share my conclusion that Mitt Romney is qualified to be president. Perhaps even over-qualified.

And then we’ll move on to Part II, a review of Romney’s political positions of special concern to conservatives. Part III is a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of the Romney candidacy at the start of the campaign, and concludes with an examination of Romney’s Mormon faith and what it should mean and, perhaps more importantly, should not mean to Romney’s fellow Republicans and fellow Americans.

Before introducing you to the Mitt Romney I’ve come to know, I think one more word regarding the preparation of this book is in order. While the governor cooperated with this endeavor, this is not an “authorized” biography. The conclusions I’ve reached are my own. Mitt Romney will only come to know them in the same way you will-by reading this book.

I have not endorsed Governor Romney and will not do so until a moment comes when I have to decide whom to vote for in California’s Republican primary. The next year will tell us many things about all the candidates, and no voter should be unwilling to absorb the twists and turns and revelations about the men and woman running to replace George W Bush.

But in fairness to the reader, I do have to disclose that if the California primary were held tomorrow, I would indeed vote for Mitt Romney. I have been around American politics for a long time, beginning with work on a congressional campaign in Massachusetts in 1974, the year of the post-Watergate deluge. I was a Ford man in the ’76 primaries, and led the “Youth for Ford” campaign in Massachusetts as a Harvard junior. Seven years later, after a ghost-writing career with Richard Nixon that began at America’s Elba, San Clemente, and continued after RN’s move to New York and three years at the University of Michigan Law School, I went to work for Ronald Reagan, first at the Department of Justice as a special assistant to William French Smith and then Ed Meese, and then in the White House Counsel’s office before moving to the agencies. Since beginning my teaching and broadcast career, I have studied and repeatedly interviewed the most senior officials of government and in politics during more than seventeen years behind microphones and in front of cameras.

I have never met a more intellectually gifted, curious, good humored, broadly read, and energetic official than Mitt Romney. Whether he can convey these gifts to the electorate and thereby earn their support is another question entirely. Like every other reporter and most other voters, I’ll be watching to see if that is the case.

But even at this early stage I am certain about one thing: bigotry about Romney’s faith ought not to be a legitimate part of this campaign, or any future campaign for the presidency.

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2007: Mormon in White House? Interview of Craig Hazen and John Mark Reynolds

This post is an interview by Hugh of two top scholars and experts on the Latter-day Saints at Biola University in La Mirada. They look at the possibility of a Latter-day Saint as President from every possible aspect, politically, socially, philosophically, theologically, and from the perspect of whether it would advance the goals of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Find it on at this link.

Thanks very much,
Steve St. Clair
A Mormon in the White House?
10 Things Every American Should Know About Mitt Romney
Excerpts from the Appendix
Interview with John Mark Reynolds and Craig Hazen, October 2006

Hugh Hewitt: John Mark Reynolds and Craig Hazen, welcome. Can you begin by telling us who you are and what you do, John Mark Reynolds?

John Mark Reynolds: I’m John Mark Reynolds. I’m a philosopher of religion. I have a PhD from the University of Rochester where I specialized in Plato and Plato’s view of the human soul. I’ve been at Biola University for over a decade now, where I am the founder and director of the Torrey Honors Institute, which is the flagship honors program for the university where we look at the world of classical ideas from a biblical and Christian perspective.

HH: And Professor Hazen?

Craig Hazen: I’ve been at Biola for almost ten years, and I did my doctorate work at UC Santa Barbara in religious studies. My specialty was new religious movements and comparative religion. I run the MA program in Christian Apologetics, which has about two hundred grad students and is probably the biggest program of its kind in the world.

HH: Now, let’s go in reverse order. What’s your experience with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Craig Hazen?

CH: Wow, you know, I seem to bump into them no matter where I go. I used to live right next door to a ward. Every time I moved to a new home, I’d live next door to a Mormon bishop, there were missionaries flowing in and out. I’ve always had a fascination with the Mormon people. I have a deep love for Mormon people. When I became a Christian as a senior in high school, I was fascinated with what the differences were between an evangelical Christian and a Mormon and that carried through. I studied Mormonism fairly in depth for a period of time, and then with my graduate work actually made Mormonism part of my doctoral research.

HH: And you published in the area?

CH: Yes, that’s right.

HH: The book is The New Mormon Challenge, of which you are a co-editor?

CH: Yes, that’s right.

HH: Have you written other books about or articles about Mormons?

CH: Yes. There’s a whole chapter on Mormonism in my book called The Village Enlightenment in America. It’s on an early apostle named Orson Pratt.

HH: John Mark Reynolds, your experience with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

JMR: Well, at the University of Rochester, you are in what’s known as “the burned-over district.” And, of course, I was near Hill Cumorah where Joseph Smith allegedly had his visions and where the Church holds a festival every year. I attended that at least two or three times, because I like to think of the burned-over district as involved in some school projects, thinking about why revivalism was so mighty. Things like Charles Finney, Mormonism, spiritualism, all having their foundation within, let’s say, fifteen miles of my PhD program at the University of Rochester I spent a lot of time with Mormons, thinking about them and interacting with them and also found Mormons to be friendly interlocutors when I would give a paper at a place like Cornell University. At one point I challenged Mormons to be more Mormon-not to retreat from some of their claims and to try to defend those apologetically, and got a lot of good reaction from scholars at BYU at that time. I’ve had a lot of friendly academic interactions.

HH: Would you explain for the benefit of the audience or people reading this what the “burned-over district” is?

JMR: Yes. Upstate New York was a center for revivalism in the nineteenth century. It was a strange mix of New England Puritans moving to the far west of New York State and loosening up their constraints a little bit. It became a democratic place for religion. Craig’s an expert on this area, but if you lived in upstate New York or studied there, you had to have thought about the fact that groups like the Death of God movement near Colgate Rochester Seminary, was a sister seminary to the University of Rochester where I was a grad student. Spiritualism, the Fox Sisters with their “spirit rapping,” were in, I believe, Hyde, New York, also close to Hill Cumorah, Joseph Smith, and Mormonism. All these revivalisms, including Adventism with William Miller, saw upstate New York as their center.

HH: I want to locate you two again for our readers at Biola. Biola is a unique institution. It’s a lighthouse institution for Christian studies on the West Coast. Craig Hazen, how would you describe Biola University to someone who is reading this for the first time?

CH: Biola is about to celebrate its one hundredth anniversary and it’s been an interesting place. It started in the midst of the fundamentalist-modernists controversy. Biola would have taken the conservative side, the fundamentalist side and that was in a day when that term actually meant something good-people who didn’t necessarily strap dynamite to their bodies and that type of thing. But Biola really stood for the faith once delivered to the Saints in all of its intellectual prowess. It wasn’t an anti-intellectual movement whatsoever, and Biola remains steady on that course. One of the few colleges founded in that era that has remained solidly in the biblical Christian camp.

HH: Before we actually talk about how a Christian ought to approach the issue-if it is an issue-of voting for a Mormon for president, can we get you both to tell a little of your own personal faith and what tradition you’re in so that a reader can get a plumb line? John Mark Reynolds?

JMB: Well, I am a member of the Antioch Orthodox Church, which is claimed to be the oldest church movement in the world. Our headquarters is in Antioch in Turkey. The patriarch is now in Damascus for political reasons, so I’m part of what most people would call Eastern Orthodoxy.

HH: And Craig?

CH: I’m kind of an evangelical ecumenical. I grew up in this southern California mix where you go to Calvary Chapel on Saturday night and then maybe to an evangelical Methodist church, if you can find one, on Sunday morning, and right now I attend an evangelical Friends Church and that’s just been my tradition. Southern California evangelicalism.

HH: Are you both familiar with anti-Mormon literature?

JMB: Yes. I went to Bible college. I view myself as an evangelical and very excited to be an evangelical and so went to an evangelical Bible college where I spent a lot of time thinking about apologetics, cults, and world religions and read a lot of anti-Mormon literature, some of which was absolutely dreadful, and spent some of my life apologizing for that early exposure. So, yeah. I’ve read a good bit, but not as much as Craig.

HH: Craig, obviously you’re part of the colloquy under way between evangelicals and Mormons. Can you describe what that is?

CH: This is a huge breakthrough. It’s never been done before, where a group of thoughtful evangelicals, most of whom have advanced degrees in theology or religious studies or history, get together with the senior faculty of religion at Brigham Young University and hash out theological issues. We do this a couple of times a year, and it’s just been marvelous. We’ve formed some tremendous friendships, and I believe there’s a lot of progress being made. Perhaps the most important piece of progress is we’ve learned that modern Mormons do not necessarily embrace all that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young taught. In other words, the Mormon Church of the mid-nineteenth century is a different kind of thing than the Mormon Church today.

HH: Alright. Now I want to get to the issue of politics and the intersection with faith. John Mark Reynolds, would you vote for a Mormon for president?

JMB: Yes, absolutely, and I think that having Mormonism be a disqualifier for office is inappropriate. I’ve blogged pretty extensively on this issue, and this isn’t because I don’t think theology is important. I think Mormon theology is severely defective. It’s not clear to me that one can be a good Mormon and a good Christian and I’ve talked to my Mormon friends about this pretty extensively. People can disagree theologically, very seriously disagree, but make common cause in politics. Obviously, my home church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, has had some serious historical differences with Roman Catholics, yet clearly in pro-life issues we’ve been able to work closely with Roman Catholics and make common cause.
We’re not electing a pope, I’m not electing the patriarch of Antioch-they don’t ask me for that anyway. But would I vote for a Mormon for patriarch of Antioch? No. Would I vote for a Mormon for a president of the United States? Yes. In a blog post recently I’ve tried to outline three reasons why I think the Mormon theology is severely defective. But It’s not a disqualifier for a serious person to consider their theology as appropriate for the White House.

HH: Can you give the URL of the blog?

JMB: Yes, my blog is at If you do a search for “Mormon” or “Romney,” I’ve written about this on at least three different occasions-multiple pages of why I think it’s appropriate to consider Romney as a candidate on his political merits and more or less dismiss the theological issues from consideration

HH: Craig Hazen, would you vote for a Mormon for president?

CH: I would. In the case of Romney, there’s something special going on here. If Romney were the governor of Utah or Idaho, I’m not sure that I’d leap forward and say, “Yes, no doubt about it. Here’s a guy that could be president.” I’d have to dig a lot more deeply, but Romney right up front is a faithful Mormon who’s governed Massachusetts for goodness’ sake. You don’t get elected in Massachusetts because you’re “Temple worthy.” That’s not the issue. A guy who can impress the voters of Massachusetts to vote for him has something going for him. The fact that he’s a Mormon actually can intrigue me at that point because his value system in terms of life and family and certain aspects of national security and political conservatism maybe those all come into play in a positive way. I might vote for a guy like that.

HH: I did not know your answers before we sat down. I’m going to ask you more generally, at Biola, among your colleagues on the faculty, and it’s a vast university with hundreds of colleagues, do you expect that there is a significant number who will say, “No. I could never vote for a Mormon for president”? John Mark Reynolds?

JMR: I think there are two answers to that question. The first is the initial answer and I can tell you from my own personal family, and my family is very well educated, very thoughtful. The first answer is “Oh! I’m not sure about that,” or “Maybe not.” But then, if they consider it for more than a minute and they have any kind of dialogue about it and they think about it for a few seconds, the answer is “Yeah, I guess I would be open to that. In fact, I’m tired of being taken for granted by Republican candidates, maybe somebody who is a Mormon and has been put down for his religious beliefs won’t be the kind of the person who mocks us from the White House or does things that some people in my family or some of my colleagues might be concerned about.”

So, there are two answers to that question. Initially, it’s probably 50/50. After a little bit of thought I’ve found that in my family and amongst my colleagues, it’s probably more like 90/10 that we would think about that.

HH: Craig Hazen, you do agree?

CH: Yes, I agree with that. I can only think of a very small handful of people who might step forward and just say, “You know, I just couldn’t in good conscience vote for a Mormon for president.”

HH: There are three objections which I’ve run into over and over again in the course of preparing this book. The first is “Salt Lake City will control the White House.” Does that concern you, Craig Hazen?

CH: I doubt they are controlling Massachusetts right now, so again I don’t think that’s going to happen. You know, we’ve seen this play out with George Bush, though there’s no controlling authority like the Vatican or the prophet in the Mormon Church. But nonetheless, George Bush, in order to govern effectively a national audience, cannot wear his evangelical Christianity on his sleeve. That’s just a requirement for the office if you have to govern all the people. Romney’s smart enough to know that. We know that for a fact because he’s governed Massachusetts.

HH: But are you concerned, John Mark Reynolds, that, of course, the Church is going to layoff if there’s not much to be gained if you have a governor taking orders from Salt Lake City, but the fact that the president could expect the prophet from Salt Lake to call up major issues of life and death and war and peace.?
JMR: I think there are two possible answers to that question. Let me say the controversial thing first. I hope Romney takes his Mormonism seriously when he’s in office and he uses his religion to guide him on major policy issues. The reason I don’t think a Mormon is disqualified from political office in the United States is that Mormonism has become a mainstream part of the small “r” republican movement in the United States. Utah isn’t governed as a banana republic …. Southern Idaho is dominantly Mormon yet the politics in those areas plays within the broad perimeters of republican values. So, I think to start with, I hope Romney takes his Mormonism seriously and uses it to guide culture of life issues when he makes a decision.

Secondly, I just think it’s absurd to believe that an adult human being in such a responsible position would take direct orders from a religious figure at this point in the twenty-first century on non-religious issues. The Mormon Church doesn’t have, to the best of my knowledge, a worked-out view on tax policy. So what in the world would the prophet call and tell Romney to do? Would the prophet call and have Romney impose Mormonism on the United States by dictate? That’s just such an absurd possibility that I don’t think it’s worth refuting.

HH: The second perennial objection is that, as you write in The New Mormon Challenge, Craig Hazen, there are 60,000 Mormon missionaries at work at this very moment, maybe even higher since the book came out in 2002, and that their zeal would be increased and their message made more legitimate by the presence in the presidency of their co-religionist. Your response?

CH: I was wondering if you were going to bring it up because that’s the thing that I’ve been thinking a lot about. As an evangelical Christian and a fellow who thinks that Mormonism, as it stands today, presents an errant view of Jesus and the saving Gospel … I don’t believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I believe he was mistaken and that he led a whole group of people into a mistaken notion about the identity of God and the nature of salvation. But given that-if you’re an evangelical with that on your plate-you need to wonder and I think take this question seriously: would a Mormon president, a candidate, a solid candidate, a guy who actually gets into the White House, would that further in some way the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? As an evangelical I don’t want the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be furthered. I think it actually leads many people away from God and not necessarily towards God.

It’s a mixed bag, and I’ll stick with some generalizations here. So here you’ve got: “If Romney is a candidate or he becomes the president, would that enhance the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Would they bring more people into their Church roles? Would their faithful be more encouraged to do missionary work? Would they see this as some sort of fulfillment of prophecy or some end-times event?”

Mormons are very millennial in that respect. They are looking for the end of the world and have been since their own beginning. Those are questions that Christians are going to have to think through.

In my best thinking at this point, I don’t think it’s an issue. I just don’t think that’s going to happen and, in fact, it’s going to be a mixed bag for Mormons in the exact same way it’s been a mixed bag for evangelicals having one of our own in the White House.

HH: John Mark Reynolds?

JMR: I think it isn’t a problem, and I think that one reason is that evangelicals are going to have to deal with the fact that Mormonism is no longer a tiny movement. It’s already dominant in one state politically. It’s going to be dominant in two or three states in terms of the Republican Party in any case. Mormonism is not a tiny group that’s going to go away. It has a first-rate university to defend its point of view, so is it possible that this will be a coming-out party for Mormonism as a mainstream group? Possibly, but it already is a mainstream group. It’s already part of
the American fabric and it has been for a hundred years. Mormonism isn’t going to go away.

Now, I don’t agree with Mormonism. I don’t think people should be Mormons, but we simply have to recognize that Mormonism is a player. We have to engage in dialogue. Just as my good friends who are Jewish don’t agree with me about the status of Jesus Christ, yet I am able to make common cause with them and not pretend that if I vote for a Jewish candidate for president, I’m making more people become Jewish …. I don’t think in the case of voting for a Mormon I’m doing anything other than recognizing the fact that Mormonism is here to stay as part of the fabric of the American nation.

HH: The third objection and perhaps the most pervasive, I have summed up under the heading “It’s Just Too Weird,” and by that I mean the objection that people of serious intellectual accomplishment cannot buy into the Mormon narrative. I heard this on a number of points and the governor does love and believes his faith and we have to take it at face value that he accepts the claims made by his denomination. Does it concern you that he would believe a story this outside of the mainstream of the Christian narrative? We’ll start with you, Professor Reynolds.

JMR: Well, I think traditional Christians-and I’m certainly a traditional evangelical Christian-should always be hesitant about using the “it’s too weird” argument. After all, my church believes that when we approach communion, it’s the very body and blood of Christ and that a mysterious thing happens. I have secular friends who think that’s “just too weird.” How can you be rational and believe in it? When I’ve written about this, I’ve suggested that the “it’s too weird” argument is only legitimate if the “it’s too weird” belief has political overtones, if the particular belief is going to cause me to have some strange notion that will have political ramifications.
For example, I think a Mormon would have been disqualified for running for president in the 1970s because of the church’s views about African Americans that have since changed. And that Romney is now on the record as saying that he was opposed to them and was very glad when they were changed.

I think the second thing is: Do Mormons defend their “weird beliefs” using standard rational arguments and traditional philosophical apologetics? And the answer is, whether they are successful or not, they try. They have a first-rate university. They run apologetics programs. They try and make rational arguments defending their point of view. Now I personally think those arguments fail, but then my atheist friends think that my arguments for the Christian faith fail. So, I think in the open public square, if you’re trying to play the game, if you’re trying to be rational and your beliefs have policy within the mainstream of, let’s say, the Republican and Democratic parties, your religion should cease to be “weird” and we give you a pass.

HH: Professor Hazen.

CH: I think it’s going to be a problem for a small group of evangelicals who study these things and think “how can anybody believe that?” I think by and large for Americans it’s not going to be a problem because, unfortunately, Americans in the big picture approach religion in a very different way. It’s all something internal, and the objectivity of a particular religious view just doesn’t come into play for them. They think everybody’s got a religious view and it’s their personal view and I think that’s how they are going to look at it at the end of the day with somebody like Romney.

So, in other words, they are not going to be] critiquing it- “How can you possibly believe that there were literal gold plates with some language called ‘Reformed Egyptian’ etched on them?” I’d actually like to see Romney answer that question, to see if he actually tackles those kinds of things. On the other hand, I’d like to see George Bush defend the resurrection too, and I’m not sure he could.

HH: You lead me very nicely into the ultimate of our subject matters which is what is appropriate to ask a political candidate about their practices. Governor Romney has been asked if he wears the sacred undergarments of the faith. I cringed at that. I cringe actually at the whole conversation. It strikes me as going against the civic religion of America to probe too deeply into somebody’s religious practices.

Mark Halperin of ABC News told me that he’s got to answer these questions. He’s a secularist, but they are fascinated. I think they’re fascinated because they want to embarrass religious believers about the particulars of faith. What is appropriate, Craig Hazen? That he ought to draw a line on and say, “Beyond this I shall not answer”?

CH: I agree about the sacred underwear issue. That ought to be off limits. But it seems to me that it is fair game. If you’re a faithful LDS man, and you’re going into the public square, there are a lot of curious people out there who want to know about this religion you’re drawing to their attention for the first time. All along they’ve put it in kind of the “offbeat religion of Utah” column, and you’re bringing it right into the center of the nation. So he’s going to have to be prepared to answer some fairly in-depth questions about Mormonism, and he’s probably going to have to do it on his own as best he can. So in other words, he can’t be turning to BYU because that actually digs him deeper in the LDS trough.

HH: This is fascinating. John Mark Reynolds, we did not ask Jack Kennedy-even at the height of the questions and scrutiny-to discuss with us the Vatican Council.

JMR: Or transubstantiation, or his belief about Our Lady of Fatima, or whether the Virgin of Guadalupe really appeared.
If we start down this road of probing-I think here if! were talking to reporters as a philosopher-I would argue that you have to make distinctions between what matters in the public square and what doesn’t. And what matters in the public square is what’s going to have public policy implications. What kind of underwear a man wears, so far as I can tell, has no public policy implications whatsoever. My own beliefs about the Mass or the Eucharist-where I do have views that aren’t in the mainstream of, let’s say, Christianity in the United States orthodoxy-is a minority movement inside of traditional Christianity. They are just not relevant because, as far as I can tell, they have no public policy implications.

Now, suppose Mormonism still believed in polygamy, which plainly the Church does not. That would have a public policy implication in an era when marriage is being defined, when the definition of marriage is under assault, and Romney would have to answer how his church’s views of marriage play out. But since the Church now has adopted-and has for a hundred years-a traditional view of marriage, I don’t think it or similar questions are relevant questions to ask a Mormon about their more unusual or esoteric religious beliefs, if they don’t have public policy implications.

HH: Do you think the MSM has a different agenda at work when they pursue Romney on issues related to his LDS practice and beliefs other than curiosity?

JMR: Yes. I think if I were Romney I wouldn’t do those. But what I would be tempted to do is ask a secularist in the MSM, “Are you asking these questions to embarrass a religious believer or do you really want to know the answer? In which case, here are a series of books you can go read. Why haven’t you read them to start with?”

And then the second thing I think he should say is, “Look, I know I’m running for public office, so my life’s a bit of fair game for everyone. But you also have a public microphone, so let me ask you as a secularist, do you believe in free will and if you don’t, how come you’re cashing your paycheck and taking credit for something that you didn’t really do?”
Now I know that Romney can’t do that because you can’t get into that kind of interaction with the media. But I do think there is a secularist agenda to pick on things in each religious group-whether it is Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism or evangelical Christianity-that the other groups will think that are odd about the Orthodox or odd about Roman Catholics or odd about Pentecostal Christians such as “Do you speak in tongues?”

I was once at a meeting where the head of one of the Gannett Newspapers-in Rochester, New York-told my Pentecostal high school students that she believed they were disqualified from office if they spoke in tongues because it was just too strange. I called the ACLU and the City of Rochester and said, “Gosh that seems like such an odd thing for this woman to be saying who’s writing editorials about Pentecostal candidates for office. What do you think of this?” (Of course the ACLU said, ‘Well, we don’t like it but we’re not going to touch it,” because it wasn’t the favored group that they like to defend.)

I think we want to be very careful with religious believers to not let secularists divide the united, while they themselves dislike each other, they have their own internal “atheists vs. agnostics” wars, and only unite when they are talking to religious people. So we have to be careful not to let them-like slicing baloney-slice off strange beliefs we have from everybody else’s point of view and make every religious believer look absurd in the pubic square. What they do to Romney today, they might do to a Pentecostal who prays in a prayer language tomorrow, to a Catholic on the Virgin of Guadalupe the next day, and to an Orthodox Christian about weeping icons the next week. So we want to stay out of that game.

HH: Craig Hazen?

CH: Just thinking politically, I don’t think Romney’s particular religious views or practices are going to cause him a lot of trouble except for a couple of big blocs. For example, the Southern Baptist Convention. I can image the SBC coming out and being fairly firm against having a Mormon in that office. It’s just been the way that they’ve approached the Mormons. When the SBC had their convention in Salt Lake City, they kind of stormed into some offices at BYU and made films and asked tough questions. It did not really warm the Mormons’ hearts with regard to the SBC’s outreach. They just have a particular stance. It’s not done well in bringing the Southern Baptists and the Mormons together for mutual evangelism or anything else.

Another group might be the Evangelical Free Churches of America and some of the reformed churches who have a tougher stand. Beyond that, by and large I think that Americans have a very favorable attitude towards Mormons. If you ask a guy on the street about the Mormons, they go, “I don’t know much about them. I know most of them are in Utah, but you know, the ones I’ve met are really good. They really take care of each other. They are good folks. If I was going to live next door to somebody, I’d like it to be a Mormon family.”

HH: Last question. Call on your theological training. You are both theologians, you’re both skilled apologists and you spend a lot of time training people in Christian apologetics, so this is a theological question. For a “mere Christian,” is it sinful to not vote for a Mormon because of their Mormon belief?

JMB: I believe it is sinful to not vote for a Mormon in the American political system solely on the grounds of their Mormon beliefs because it is irrational. If you began to examine why you wouldn’t vote for a Mormon, it’s very difficult to come up with non-bigoted or informed reasons for doing so. The only exception to that that I’ve ever been presented is your earlier argument that it might advance the Church of Latter-day Saints, but I don’t feel that that’s a probable account. I think that bigotry is always a sin, and that most of the people that I’ve talked to who won’t vote for a Mormon are simply basing their non-vote on a prejudice and a misunderstanding of the open public square in a republic and the function of civic religion
inside the United States.

HH: Craig Hazen?

CH: Given the complexities of what goes into a person’s voting
choice: who they are running against, what state they live in, and all these things, I don’t know that I could land on the “I know it would be sinful” side. But here is a scenario under which it could be sinful to vote for Romney: if the voter believed in their heart that by votng for Romney they were somehow going to push forward the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that preaches a false Jesus and a false Gospel-if they believed in their heart that that might be a result of voting for Romney, it could be a sin to vote for Romney.

HH: Interesting. Concluding thoughts for this roundtable. I just want to make sure that I give you an open opportunity.

CH: I would vote for Romney in a heartbeat and primarily because I’m looking for a candidate that has a set of values that resonates with me, and I think he’s the guy. Because he’s been governor of Massachusetts, that takes away all the angst that I might have if he were more politically inexperienced and from, say, a state like Utah.

HH: John Mark Reynolds?

JMB: I’m very close to the signing on to vote for Romney in the primary, though I haven’t made a decision yet. But I’m very close to deciding to vote for Romney, and this is for four reasons.
First of all, I think that in the post-Bush era we need an articulate defender of both the war in Iraq, and general republican values – small “r”-towards government and family values. Up to this point both Reagan and Bush have, in my opinion, been fantastic presidents, but they haven’t been skillful defenders of our perspective. They’ve been congenial and they’ve been supportive.
We need someone with the intellectual horsepower that can connect. I don’t think either Bush or Reagan were foolish, but none were connected to strong rhetorical skills as defenders of our perspectives, and I think Romney has had to be in a tough situation in Massachusetts with a tough religious perspective and has been a skillful defender of our values.

Secondly, I think that in the case of Romney we have a person who is also helping mainstream Mormonism. To the person with the concern that Craig Hazen so eloquently talked about, which I think is a legitimate concern, I would say this: my Mormon friends better be concerned that having someone such as this in the public eye will tend to mainstream their own beliefs. In other words, when you’re hiding, it’s easier to have strange, or what we would call “aberrant,” Christian beliefs. When they are out in the public square, when Romney’s out defending their point of view, when BYU is going to be called on to explain what’s going on, I think this will have a main-streaming effect on Mormonism far more than it will have an effect on Christian views about Mormonism. So actually, if I were Mormon, I would be more concerned about this than as an evangelical.

CH: I agree with that. I think it’s entirely possible that a successful Romney presidency could actually open the door for deeper talks and engagement with evangelical Christians. And any time that happens-if evangelicals go in with a loving spirit, presenting the true gospel of Jesus-I’ve discovered Mormons move in our direction. It could actually help to mainstream them in a very positive way from the standpoint of an evangelical Christian.

JMR: Yes, I think that’s right. I think that’s exactly right.

Third, I think evangelicals-and again I include myself in that traditional Roman Catholics, traditional Orthodox, and traditional evangelicals have often been accused of being intolerant, unable to separate theology from civil religion, believing in some sort of weird Constantinism or theocracy. This is an excellent opportunity for evangelicals to show their political maturity-just as evangelical maturity in supporting Lieberman in a race where Lieberman is the best of the choices offered to Connecticut voters has shown a maturity and puts a lie to those slanders – so an evangelical ability to consider Romney. I didn’t say support, that will have to be made on political grounds, but to consider Romney, will show critics the coming maturity of the “religious right.”

And then finally, I think, the final positive about a Romney candidacy is that we are all talking about religion and the public square and we’re not pretending that religion can be separated from the public square. People care about their religion. Romney cares. Bush cares. Barack Obama cares. Hillary Clinton cares about her religious beliefs. And the more we can dialogue about this in open ways-not in ways where we are playing “gotcha” about Mormon underwear, but trying to understand how people’s religion interplays with their reason-then that’s going to be a positive and Mitt Romney forces us to do that.

HH: John Mark Reynolds and Craig Hazen, fascinating. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

NOTE: I provided a copy of the transcript of this conversation to two members of the General Authorities of the LDS Church, as well as to its spokesman, Michael Otterson, along with the invitation to pro­vide one or two responses to any or all of the points discussed within it. Mr. Otterson declined the invitation on behalf of the Church.

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