Junior Ganymede
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Mormons as Modalists

February 17th, 2010 by Bruce Nielson

My most recent post on M* is Mormons as Modalists. Here is a preview:

An interesting fact of Divine Investiture is that it makes Mormons “Modalists,” after a fashion.

Here I pause to the storm of disaffected Mormon and anti-Mormon protest. “No, Mormons aren’t Modalists! They are the opposite of Modalists! They are Freakin’ Tritheists!”

I also pause to let the Believing Mormons protest (assuming they’ve even heard of Modalism before). “No! I am not a Modalist! That’s… a heresy! It’s worse than… than… the Trinity Doctrine!

Comments (2)
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February 17th, 2010 10:20:33
2 comments

Vader
February 17, 2010

Very interesting discussion.

Is it all right if I give a lengthy response? I mean, this isn’t really my blog. I think of myself more as a permanent guest blogger here, or perhaps as the court jester.

Be it understood that I consider myself an orthodox (if somewhat unconventional) Mormon, and I am going to carefully distinguish what I believe from what I guess; but even the things I state I believe, as a self-identified orthodox Mormon, should not be mistaken for assertions of what all orthodox Mormons do or should believe.

I believe God is a community of Persons perfectly united in power and purpose. Of these Persons, the only ones we have anything to do with (in the sense of owing worship) are those Persons we call the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Of course, to worship any of the Persons of God is to worship God, and it is perhaps also true that to worship God is to worship any of the Persons of God; but I would not (for example) believe it appropriate for me to direct my worship towards Abraham, even though we are taught that he has entered into his exaltation, and is therefore quite possibly now one of the Persons of God. I acknowledge lack of clarity here, but I’m not done learning. It does seem clear to me that I would be out of line to worship anyone but the Father, Son, or Holy Ghost, and I am probably safest directing that worship to the Father in the name of the Son. If I ever meet the Son in Person, and do not immediately wither and perish in His Presence, then I may reconsider the question of which Person my worship should be directed towards. I also find myself not entirely unsympathetic towards the Catholic distinction between worship and veneration, though I feel duty-bound to reject the veneration of saints as practiced in Catholicism.

I believe the Father was embodied before this world was; that the Son became embodied in this world, taught among men, performed mighty miracles, and permitted Himself to be tortured to death under the Romans at the instigation of the Jewish leadership to bring about, in miraculous manner, that power of Restoration we see most clearly in the Redemption and the Resurrection. I believe the Holy Ghost is not presently embodied but is a Person of spirit.

I believe that men who are wrought upon by the power of Restoration can become part of the community of Persons we call God. I’ve already mentioned Abraham as a revealed example. There are several proof texts of this doctrine of apptheosis in D&C, Pearl of Great Price, and both Old and New Testament, though curiously not the Book of Mormon. The Catholic doctrine of partaking of the divine nature is no so dissimilar, the chief distinction being that Catholics do not appear to believe in a continuing creation. (I am willing to be corrected on that.)

My guess is that the Father was not the first divine Person, and that there was in fact no first Person in God; that is, my guess is that there is an infinite regress of divine Persons. However, I recognize that, as highly respected as the King Follett Sermon is, it has never been canonized and we must at least admit the possibility that Joseph Smith was mistaken or that we have misunderstood him. My faith and practice would not be substantially altered were it revealed that the Father is in fact the primal divine Person. This would, however, raise some interesting cosmic questions.

That’s a good start on my understanding of God, anyway.


Bruce Nielson
February 17, 2010

Wow, great thoughts. You believe almost exactly the same way I do too. Weird.

Would you mind posting this as a comment on M* too?

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