The Trinity is neither implicit nor explicit in the Bible. Triune, triunity, or similar words and concepts are never mentioned or referenced in the Bible. They’re not Hebrew concepts. They’re completely Greek in nature.
This Christian (not LDS) leader, Joel Hemphill, summarizes this way:
“Scripture, Plato, Aristotle played perhaps equal roles in developing Trinitarian views and Trinitarian doctrine.”
Mr. Hemphill was a pastor for decades before determining in 2005 that the Trinity was not true. Though we don’t agree on his concepts relative to Jesus (Joel feels Jesus isn’t divine), Joel does speak the truth about the Trinity and Greek philosophy.
He continues in the video below:
“It was from these (Greek) foreign sources, not Jesus himself, that the doctrine of the Trinity, the incarnation, and related conceptions grew.
We have also observed that the specific metaphysical vehicle used to express the classical doctrine of the Trinity was a Greek metaphysics that was viable in that time, but no longer makes a great deal of sense to most people today…”
The speaker and the attendees understood the implication: their concept of God was corrupted.
Like LDS people, Unitarians don’t believe in the Trinity. This Unitarian in the video below makes solid points.
In contrast to this speaker, however, LDS folks believe Jehovah was a pre-existent Jesus. Unitarians think God the Father was Jehovah and is/was the only God.
Though we disagree on many points, this person still makes valuable points about the Trinity.
This third video is another Christian (Unitarian) speaker. Again, not a Latter-day Saint. His talk is entitled, “The Five Major Problems With the Trinity.” He provides more detail than the 2nd video above.
Latter-day Saints don’t agree with everything a Unitarian does or we would join their faith. But we can relate and accept their position relative to the Trinity.
Jesus was a Jew who believed as other Jews. Jews didn’t believe in the Trinity. *** speaker quotes Deut 4:35, which LDS people interpret differently – not a declaration of absolutely no other God or deity, but one of greatness – similar to Isaiah 47:8: “besides me (Babylon) there is no other” (fall of Babylon predicted; other cities existed, but Babylon was being praised as great
The Trinity is never explained. A priori assumptions allow for some pulling together here and there, but the Trinity is never explained as a principle.
No Jew who converted to Christianity ever challenged the Trinity (lack of controversy).
God is always addressed using singular personal pronouns (you). God is always spoken of using singular personal pronouns (he). God almost always speaks using singular personal pronouns (except the four “us” texts when God is including others in an action; and when God speaks to angels and heavenly councils)
Jesus is not all-knowing. Jesus didn’t know “that day or hour” in Mark 13:32.
Elder Holland discusses the LDS doctrine of the Godhead here:
Wikipedia lists the many creeds and highlights the important historical ones here.
The creeds evolved over centuries. From the Apostles’ Creed (180 AD) to the Athanasian Creed (500 AD). Latter-day Saints can agree with the early creeds. The later creeds, however, are deeply influenced by the dominant (at the time) Greek philosophy.
The creed in 180 AD is simple and clear. The creed in 500 AD is not clear. Not simple.
Mormons believe in the revealed truth about the Godhead.
I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended into hell.
On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic Church, the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.
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; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.
Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting salvation; that he also believe faithfully the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess; that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man; God, of the Substance [Essence] of the Father; begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the Substance [Essence] of his Mother, born in the world. Perfect God; and perfect Man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father, as touching his Godhead; and inferior to the Father as touching his Manhood. Who although he is God and Man; yet he is not two, but one Christ. One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood into God. One altogether; not by confusion of Substance [Essence]; but by unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one man; so God and Man is one Christ; Who suffered for our salvation; descended into hell; rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into heaven, he sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from whence he will come to judge the living and the dead. At whose coming all men will rise again with their bodies; And shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting; and they that have done evil, into everlasting fire. This is the catholic faith; which except a man believe truly and firmly, he cannot be saved.
“This supplementary document discusses the history of Trinity theories. Although early Christian theologians speculated in many ways on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, no one clearly and fully asserted the doctrine of the Trinity as explained at the top of the main entry until around the end of the so-called Arian Controversy. (See 3.2 below and section 3.1 of the supplementary document on unitarianism.)
Nonetheless, proponents of such theories always claim them to be in some sense founded on, or at least illustrated by, biblical texts.”
David Paulsen focuses on the LDS understanding of God. He explains that Origin, Augustine (though reluctantly), early Christians, and Jews that God believed was corporeal. This is not a Trinitarian view.
Blake Ostler has written extensively on this topic. Fortunately, he created easy-to-listen-to podcasts on the topic here:
In 1835, the church published the Doctrine and Covenants, which contained significant additions to the 1833 Book of Commandments. At the beginning of the collection of revelations were seven theological lectures that had originally been delivered at the Kirtland School the preceding winter.
Details about the purpose and curriculum of the Kirtland School, later referred to as the “School for the Elders” or “School of the Prophets,” are uncertain. Most of what we know is taken from late reminiscences recorded nearly fifty years after its commencement. Lessons included at least an English grammar element and the seven theological lectures, which were part of a series to “unfold … the doctrine of Jesus Christ.” The classroom consisted of prospective missionaries and church leaders and, by all accounts, was presided over by Sidney Rigdon.
The lectures were removed from the Doctrine and Covenants in the 1921 edition, but they did not fade away. They have proven to be particularly buoyant as they have experienced resurgent popularity over the years and an ability to maintain a loyal following. But the history of the Lectures on Faith are a cautionary tale for members of the church that illustrates the dangers of historical forgetting.
It was common knowledge in the 19th century that the lectures were written by Sidney Rigdon, but by the mid-twentieth century it was thought that the Prophet Joseph Smith had penned them. Perhaps enamored with the arcane rhetorical style of the arguments, some members latched on to them as a source of deep theological thought. What they didn’t realize was that the style mimics that of the preachers of the 19th century and of the Campbellites in particular. Especially telling is the reference to a binary Godhead in the fifth lecture. Joseph Smith explicitly declared in Nauvoo that his concept of the Godhead had never changed, and he had always taught the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost were separate entities.
But all the historical evidence to discredit Joseph Smith and attribute Sidney Rigdon as author was circumstantial. It wasn’t until Noel Reynold’s discovered some new documents that he realized he had found the “smoking gun” and the confirmation that he needed to form a solid argument for Sidney Rigdon as the author.
Join Laura Harris Hales as she discusses with Noel Reynolds the mystery of the authorship of the Lectures on Faith and what we can learn from this episode in Mormon history.