20 thoughts on “Reader’s Comments

  1. Reply to Aletheia,

    Be rude if you like, I refuse to trade insults with you.

    It was Chistian theologian Tertullian of Carthage (160-225 AD) who first used the word “Trinity”, and came up with the concept of “three persons, one substance.” Whatever shadings this concept has undergone over the centuries it still remains the bedrock of Trinitarian belief to this day.

    (One could say that virtually any formulation of Trinitarian doctrine, which employs the term “one substance”, might be said to have “homoousian tendencies”.)

    The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, is fully homoousian and fully Sabellian in nature, for it repeatedly trumpets a theology of “one person, one substance”, and in my paper I produce at least sixteen direct quotations to prove it.

    With regard to your protest of my statement on p. 8 which reads:
    “Theologically speaking, the term “person” means a center of consciousness.” Here is my reply:

    In common parlance the word “person” implies “some-body”. The individual is identifiable by his discrete substantiality. When speaking of a spirit, the substantiality of which is undetermined, it is quite proper to identify that entity, (person), as a discrete, identifiable “consciousness”. Inasmuch as the Father and the Son are said to be “persons”, and are discrete by name, it is sometimes proper to speak of them as having discrete consciousnesses.( Why would Jesus be shown praying, and pleading, with the Father at the Garden of Gethsemane if it were not so?)

  2. Rating: Fair

    Ugh… I cannot believe the ignorance, but at least we are getting somewhere. Contrary to your statement, the Council of Nicaea in 325AD was very well documented. Athanasius, Eusebius, and Eustathius (among others) were there and wrote of the proceedings – and we have their writings. The Nicene Creed that we have IS from the Council of Nicaea in 325AD. They ADOPTED a form of “sabellianism” to combat Arius’ “subordinationism” and Origin’s (250AD) teaching of “two gods” (see Dialouge with Heraclides). That is WHY the statement “homoousios” as used in the Nicene Creed that the Son is “of one Being with the Father” was (and still is) so controversial.

    To reiterate, Sabellianism taught that they were a “homoousios” (one being) God with three “personae” (that is masks, faces, or roles). It’s similar to believing I am the same “person”, but have different “roles” as a “father”, “husband”, and “provider”. All Trinitariansm did, through the Nicene Creed (and the subsequent Councils), was change “personae” to “person” (or “hypostasis”), but they STILL retained Sabellius’ “homoousios” God (one being). Note that Orthodox Trinitarianism did NOT teach that there were three separate “centers of consciousnesses” each having separate desires and goals. A “person” as a “center of consciousness” was introduced by John Locke in 1694 (over one thousand years later). It was NEVER used that way previously by any of the Church Fathers. To them, God was ONE “center of consciousness” in three “persons”. (You would have been tried for heresy to teach otherwise). Now if that doesn’t make the Trinity clear as mud…

    I went through this background information for a reason. First, modern-day Trinitarianism differs from Orthodox teachings. Today’s Trinitarians understand the “separateness” of persons within God, even if differently. Second, Joseph Smith was raised in a “modern” Trinitarian home. He would have known they were “separate persons”; it was taught by all the religions he came in contact with. THAT WAS NOT THE ISSUE. Thus, it was not the intent of the Book of Mormon to show they were “separate” (everyone already believed that).

    The mission of Joseph Smith, and of the BoM, was to show that God was not without “body, parts, or passion” – that God had FORM and SUBSTANCE. The BoM succeeds and teaches that clearly. It was not written to prove that God and Jesus were separate beings. I don’t think Joseph even realized the implications of it until he ran into opposition and had to start clarifying his position. Even Joseph’s mother Lucy Mack Smith said, “the different denominations are very much opposed to us…. The Methodists also come, and they rage, for they worship a God without body or parts, and they know that our faith comes in contact with this principle.” It was NOT a fight over “separateness” at the time, but “form”. I don’t think it even entered Joseph’s mind that people thought otherwise.

    Today, 200 years later, it is a fight over “separateness”. The anti-Mormon claim of polytheism (many gods) has changed the debate arena. Most LDS members don’t even realize that Trinitarians believe in “separate persons”, and they certainly don’t understand it. Today’s Trinitarians have had to change their definitions and understanding to better counter Mormon claims, and their God has grown more “separate” than the original Orthodox (which is much closer to Sabellianism than you want to accept). In other words, your essay is seeing things that weren’t originally there. It stems from not understanding history and arguing the wrong issue (“separateness” instead of “form”). That is why I believe your essay was poorly researched and you are brainwashing a new generation with fallacies and misinformation.

  3. Reply to Aletheia,
    Because of the fact that no notes were taken of the original Council of Nicaea, and the fact that subsequent councils repeatedly revised the formulations that are labeled the “Nicene Creed” it is virtually impossible to say exactly what was agreed upon in 325. All this controversy over what happened at Nicaea is hardly at all related to the main argument of my paper. I wrote what I did there merely to give some historical context to the two main theological notions under discussion. Here is what I originally said:
    “Sabellianism was one of the theological systems which were in contention for supremacy at the council of Nicaea in 325 AD. Trinitarianism ultimately prevailed and Sabellianism was declared to be a Heresy.”
    (This contention is supported by some authorities; to wit: a statement in support of it may be found in Wikipedia by looking up the word “Sabellius” under the heading: “Modalism”.)
    Nevertheless, I concede that Aletheia has a point, and in hopes of putting an end to this pedantic squabble I have deleted the offending sentence and replaced it with the following:
    “Sabellius was a third century priest and theologian. It was he who first taught this concept of the nature of God. He was accused of heresy for promoting this theology, and in the year 220 AD he was excommunicated by then-pope Callixtus.” (This is the last sentence of P.8)
    (Again, See Wikipedia and “Sabellius”)
    If you have other criticisms I suggest we move on.

  4. Rating: Excellent

    Matthew 11:22 and Luke 10:22 All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.

    This scripture suggests to me that the Son is the only one capable of teaching this mystery.

    But consider this.
    Colassians 2:9-10
    9 For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
    10 And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:

    Elohim means “The Gods”, not a name of someone. The Hebrew scholars say it is singular because there is only one God.

    Keep studying and learning!

  5. Rating: Excellent

    Aletheia is taking on the appearance of a Troll rather than a serious academic responding to the essence and content of this paper.
    A plant from the church hierarchy maybe? Whine Whine Whine
    Smith was a fraud.
    Does Aletheia know this as well but just can’t escape it yet?

  6. Rating: Fair

    Wow man, just… wow. Where do I start? I guess a plea to please read the wiki’s on both the Athanasian Creed and the Nicene Creed. You will learn that the Athanasian Creed is “widely accepted by modern scholars that the creed was not authored by Athanasius.[4]” (i.e. – ATHANASIUS DIDN’T WRITE IT). “In fact, it was not originally called a creed at all,[5]” (i.e. – IT WAS NEVER APPROVED BY ANY COUNCIL). “nor was Athanasius’ name originally attached to it.[6]” (i.e. – A LIE USING AN AUTHORITY TO GAIN CREDIBILITY). Also, “The most likely time frame is in the late fifth or early sixth century AD – at least 100 years after Athanasius.” (i.e. – IT WASN’T DISCUSSED 200 YEARS EARLIER AT THE COUNCIL OF NICEA).

    Your version of Trinitariansm, while popular, evolved over a period of 200 years, it was never approved by any church council, is rejected by most Eastern Churches even now, and bears NO RESEMBLANCE to what was discussed at the Council of Nicea (it was neither “condemned” nor “rejected” there). In fact, Athanasius actually ENDORSED a form a Sabellianism at the Council of Nicea in order to REJECT subordination (Arius’ view). That’s why it was widely criticized as having “a Sabellian tendency. [18]”!

    Is this sinking in, yet? Like I said, when you start with incorrect assumptions, your conclusions will likewise be.

  7. Reply to Aletheia’s comment of Feb 20, 2014
    You bring up Athanasius. Let us look at the Athanasian Creed instituted at the Council of Nicaea. This statement encapsulates the essence of Trinitarian doctrine.
    “We worship God in trinity in unity, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance. For the person of the father is one; of the Son another; of the Holy Spirit another. But the divinity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit is one.” (I have alluded to this doctrine at the top of p.9 in my paper.)
    This statement would have been regarded at that time as not only an encapsulation of belief, it would have been at the very same time, an obvious and pointed rejection of Sabellian theology. If “condemnation” is too strong a word to use in connection with the council’s treatment of Sabellianism. surely it would be appropriate to say, at least, that the Council of Nicaea “rejected” the theological postulations of Sabellianism by accepting this creed.
    In my opinion the Wikipedia article under the heading of “Sabellius”, was well written and perfectly justified.
    Aletheia seems to suggest that there is little to distinguish Sabellianism from Trinitarianism. As I have been at pains to explain in my paper, there is in fact, a considerable of difference.

  8. Rating: Fair

    Again, this continues to be the problem with the author’s research as not being sufficient and not understanding the issue. The author still claims it was “condemned” by the Council of Nicea. First, don’t believe everything you read on Wikipedia. That quote in the wiki doesn’t even have a source listed for it (which is evidence it is only someone’s opinion), and it’s just plain wrong. Neither Sabellianism nor Modalism were “condemned” by the Ecumenical Council. It wasn’t even the topic of discussion. Sure, Athanaius tried to “distinguish” himself from it, but that is FAR from a “condemnation”. To “condemn” Sabellianism, he would have had to have “condemned” his own creed, because Sabellianism was the forerunner of his own Trinitarianism. I repeat and emphasize that! All the Nicene Creed did was change a “one being” god in three “personae” to three “persons”. (And since “persons” are “beings” it made it even more confusing).

    That being said, I’m not trying to be a jerk. I just believe you are looking at Joseph Smith and the BoM through the wrong color of glasses. Clearly, by 1831-32 Joseph was teaching a plurality of gods and that we could become like Him – gods (as taught in D&C 76). That is very far from Sabellianism (how did he move so far so fast?). So, if your assumptions are wrong, so will your conclusions be.

  9. Reply to Aletheia’s comment of Feb. 12
    The author has never claimed that Sabellianism was a central issue at the council of Nicaea, but only that it was condemned there. I apologize for suggesting the reader look up the word Sabellianism in Wikipedia. The word to look up is “Sabellius”.
    There, under the subhead: “Modalism” he will read that Sabellianism was condemned as heresy at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD.

  10. Rating: Fair

    In as much as the author still holds to the notion that Sabellianism was eschewed by the Council of Nicea, I would recommend the author research what Arius ACTUALLY believed and what the council was actually about (which was subordinationism, the opposite of Sabellianism). I did as you asked and looked up Sabellianism; there is no mention of the Council of Nicea. In addition, I wiki’d the Council of Nicea and there is no mention of Sabellianism there either. Clearly you are in error.

    From the wikipedia article on homoousion (found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homoousian)
    It has also been noted that this Greek term “homoousian”, which Athanasius of Alexandria favored, and was ratified in the Nicene Council and Creed, was actually a term reported to also be used and favored by the Sabellians in their Christology. And it was a term that many followers of Athanasius were actually uneasy about. And the “Semi-Arians”, in particular, objected to the word “homoousian”. Their objection to this term was that it was considered to be “un-Scriptural, suspicious, and of a Sabellian tendency.” This was because Sabellius also considered the Father and the Son to be “one substance,” meaning that, to Sabellius, the Father and Son were “one essential Person”, though operating as different faces.

    As it states, the Arians were opposed to “homoousion”, which was RATIFIED by the Nicene Creed. All the Nicene Creed did was replace “one homoousios (same being) god in three personae” with “one homoousios (same being) god in three persons”. Note that even today there is more than one major religion that uses the English translation of the Nicene Creed as, Christ is “of one Being with the Father” (although the RCC just changed theirs in 2011).

    Even Augustine’s quote, “we do not talk about two or three ‘principles’ any more than we are allowed to speak of two or three gods” shows that he didn’t think persons was a center of consciousness (a ‘principle’). In fact, if you would have claimed to Augustine they were three separate “consciousnesses”, you would have been hanged for heresy. I would dare say that Trinitarianism is much closer in thought to Sabellianism, but has grown closer to believing the Mormon interpretation of God (as separate entities) than anything else because of these issues.

    The fact that Joseph listed as seeing “Jesus on the right hand of God” in D&C 76, whether or not it was a “figure of speech” it still identifies them as separate entities. In addition, Joseph was also teaching the “plurality of gods”. “Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God— Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” (D&C 76:58-59) Now if we are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s, how can they be the same being? Remember, this is early 1832, teaching the beginnings of a PLURALITY of Gods.

    You are interpreting the BoM and Joseph’s teachings through colored glasses and do not represent anything resembling the way he believed and doesn’t stand up in light of these discrepancies.

  11. In reply to Aletheia’s comment of Dec. 26, 2013 10:38 pm

    Any theology which holds that “the Father is the Son” is so paradoxical and senseless that, although it may be espoused in theory, it cannot be sustained in practice ( pp.10-13). In order to speak sensibly about the Father and the Son, Joseph was often forced to speak of them as two separate persons. “Certain inconsistencies exist and cannot be explained except to say that Joseph was often inconsistent” (p. 11). “Not too long after founding his new church, Joseph’s Sabellian views began imperceptibly to change”(p.20). By 1833 he had pretty much left his Sabellian views behind. 1831 and 1832 were therefore transitional years characterized by inconsistency.

    If the vision depicted in D&C 76 does not appear to manifest Sabellian theology, neither does it corroborate Joseph’s final account of the First Vision either. Verse 14 expressly states that Smith and Rigdon saw the Son and conversed with him; only the Son is actually seen. The Father’s presence is nebulous. Had they actually seen both Father and Son, Smith would have explicitly said that they “saw the Father and the Son”; significantly, he did not. When they claim to have seen the Son “on the right hand of God”, that term can easily be seen as merely a figure of speech.

    If it resembles anything, D&C 76 corresponds more with the description of Father and Son as given in the Lectures on Faith of 1835 in which the Father is described as a spirit only. If Smith had meant to imply that the Father had appeared in human form, that would have stood in flat contradiction to the subsequent Lectures on Faith manifesto which asserted that God was a spirit; and only the Son was “fashioned like unto a man.” (see p. 19).

  12. Inasmuch as “Aletheia” has scornfully impugned my scholarship in general, and claimed that the council of Nicaea had nothing whatsoever to do with the issue of Sabellianism, I suggest he go to Wikipedia and place the word Sabellianism in the search bar. There he will read, under the heading of Modalism the following:
    “…..to Sabellius the Father and the Son were one essential person, though operating as different manifestations or faces. THIS NOTION WAS CONDEMNED AT THE COUNCIL OF NICAEA IN 325 AD in favor of the Father and Son being distinct persons though co-eternal, co-equal, and con-substantial.

  13. Rating: Fair

    There’s just one other really big wrench in your research that I wanted to point out. The revelation recorded in D&C 76 was received February 16, 1832. this is well within your “Sabellianism” timeframe you are claiming Joseph believed. However, both Joseph Smith AND Sidney Rigdon shared the vision in which they saw “we beheld the glory of the Son, on the right hand of the Father”. To confirm it, they adamantly declare, “this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father.”

    Both Joseph and Sidney saw two beings/personages/Gods or whatever you want to refer them as, one standing at the right hand of the other. This doesn’t fit in with what your premise about what you are trying to claim.

    I think the only way to reconcile the two is to understand that your definition of the Father, and the LDS interpretation of the Father are two separate concepts. Mormons believe that Jesus IS the Father and God in certain aspects. He is the Father and Creator/Builder of heaven and earth under direction of THE Father and Architect/Designer of universe. Jesus is the Father of our spiritual lives, and we are his spiritual children, but he is NOT the Father of Spirits, nor are we his spirit children. Jesus is our “God”. He the God of the Old Testament, and the God of the Book of Mormon because He is the only “God” we have to do with. But Jesus is not his own God as he testified to Mary, “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God”. There is still a higher being.

    If you are confused by this, it is because you do not understand the Mormon interpretation of God (even if you are Mormon).

  14. Rating: Poor

    I’m sorry, but your article has quite a few errors, especially concerning Sabellianism and carelessly throwing it around without seeming to understand it. First, Sabellianism was centered around the word “homoousios”. It is the Greek word that means “homo” = same / “ousia” = essence or being. Sabellius was excommunicated in 220 AD, but Paul of Samosata took up the Modalist torch. Paul, along with the term “homoousian”, was condemned in three separate Synods of Antioch between 264 and 269 AD.

    Arius was not a Modalist, he was a follower of Origen, who claimed that Jesus and the Father were two Gods and that Jesus was subordinate to the Father (see Dialogue with Heraclides). In so doing, Arius claimed that Jesus at one time did not exist before being begotten by the Father. The Arian controversy was entirety of what the Council of Nicea was about, not Sabellianism. And if anything, Sabellianism won out over Arianism because the Council reaffirmed “homoousian”. There are English versions of the Nicene Creed that translate it literally and say that the Son is “of one Being with the Father”.

    This is just a very brief overview of some of the problems with your research. It sounds good to those who do not understand these issues, but it leads them to incorrect conclusions. There are even more issues found in the Book of Mormon context, but I don’t have the time to point them all out, it really would take a while.

    To be fair, you DO have valid point/concern, but it’s so overshadowed by bad research it’s difficult to read and I have to rank it overall as poor.

  15. Rating: Excellent

    Bravo! Your paper was outstanding and well sourced. In my opinion, you have shown at the very least that Joseph Smith was very confused about his theology and left yet another enormous contradiction for the LDS members to sift through. I have always said the true to Mormonism can be found in the pages of their church’s history.

  16. Rating: Good

    I think the changes to the temple are pretty well known even though it’s supposed to be secret. We know about the oath of vengence, the lecture at the veil, etc. that have been removed later, but I’ve never heard that the 3 persons of Elohim, Jehovah, and Michael were ever different. That would be a pretty big change. The whole creation sequence of the endowment with those 3 personages is pretty substantial and wouldn’t go unnoticed or unmentioned if it had been changed. Apostates have always spilled secrets. I think you’re probably right that Joseph put forth a Jehovah the father of Jesus doctrine up until 1842 but the endowment was pretty late in Nauvoo theology and he probably came up with the Elohim thing toward the end. But members and leaders probably kept teaching from the old paradigms as well until it was correlated. Or am I off base?

  17. Rating: Excellent


    Very well written and documented discourse on an important subject. Contradictions between the Book of Mormon and First Vision accounts are fundamental in the examination of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Your explanation of the words for Elohim and Jehovah, as well as their application in the Bible were especially helpful. If you have other writings, I would be interested in reading them.

    Rating: Excellent

  18. Rating: Excellent

    From the author to Brian:
    Thank you for your kind remarks. With regard to the Endowment Ceremony
    It is impossible to answer this question. My guess is that if it were possible to compare authentic written texts of that ceremony as it existed before 1916 and after that year, one would find that certain subtle changes were introduced in order to make that rite conform to the newly revised theological concepts introduced in 1916. Since Temple ceremonies are more or less secret, I doubt if it would ever be possible to answer that question definitively.

  19. Rating: Good

    I found your argument very persuasive. However, I have a question about this statement from page 22:

    “Up through 1842, when the Book of Abraham was published, Joseph Smith believed that Jehovah was the highest God in the Universe. Never in his life did he think of Elohim as being a distinctly separate individual who was higher-yet than Jehovah.”

    Joseph Smith established the Endowment ceremony, which portray Jehovah and Elohim as separate individuals. How do you account for this?

  20. Rating: Excellent

    Very hard to dismiss this paper based on the excellent research and facts presented. The apologists of course will not only try to ignore this information but will distort it if they can. Reason is not often one of their strong attributes. Most still gravitating toward this religion don’t really want to know the truth about this con man as they have too much investment in the memeplex . The amount of contradiction in the Mormon religion is only surpassed by the other three deity based religions. Joseph knew well beforehand what crowd he was after when he conjured this all up. Nice job Mr. Pratt

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