Toward a Working Model of Mormon Polytheism

My oldest child has, for the last year, closed the majority of her spoken prayers with “and I love you all three.”
Works for me.


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Awesome. Aren’t kids wonderful?

  2. Steve Evans says:

    So long as she’s not playing favorites.

  3. But if we were to play favorites–and don’t we, really?–doesn’t Jesus have a huge advantage? And it’s not just because he’s the reason for the season. Let’s face it, compared to Jesus, we know so very little about the other 2/3 of the Godhead.

  4. I don’t understand why Heavenly Mother is getting such short shrift here . . .

  5. I don’t think it is accurate to claim that Mormons are polytheistic any more than it is accurate to claim that conventional Christians are polytheistic.

    “Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end” – D&C 20:28

  6. “I don’t understand why Heavenly Mother is getting such short shrift here . . .”

    Probably because the only mention she gets in the LDS canon is in a late verse of a hymn written by one of Joseph Smith’s wives. Short shrift seems to be something of a tradition.

  7. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 5
    Most ‘conventional’ Christians would likely disagree with that assertion.

  8. 7: They may indeed, but they don’t have a metaphysical leg to stand on. If we are polytheists, they are polytheists (tritheists to be specific) and vice versa.

  9. MikeInWeHo says:

    Personally, I wish Latter-day Saints would just embrace their univeralist and polytheist tendencies….but I’m hardly credible when it comes to matters of theology.

  10. What Mike said, on both counts. Protestant monotheism is anathema to Mormon theism, imo, and I wish we didn’t try so hard to make that particular issue seem more similar than it is. We can argue specifics of terminology all we want, but in the end those arguments don’t get to the heart of the issue – which is that we really do teach that we can become like our God.

    My working model of polytheism is that I literally am a child of God – with everything that such a claim implies. I will have only one literal Heavenly Father throughout the eternities, but I am a polytheist – no question about it.

    If anyone is interested, read the very first paragraph of Chapter 3 in Preach My Gospel. It’s interesting how the Brethren chose to introduce the Gospel to investigators.

  11. Let me note that the Athanasian creed, which is the core of this issue for most Christians, can embrace a wide range of positions regarding the relationship among God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost, but it would certainly see Sam’s daughter’s prayer as anathema. The problem is that the prayer violates the clearest injunction of the creed: don’t use the word “three” when describing God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost. The creed conceptualizes them as distinct persons, but also issues a linguistic imperative to call them one God. Much or most of the Mormon canon follows the creed reasonably closely in this, but contemporary Mormon folk belief and practice typically does not.

  12. Re: “God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost”

    I don’t think that is accurate terminology in any case. The canonical enumeration is “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost”. “God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost” implies that the latter two are not divine.

    I don’t think it is a “linguistic” imperative to call them “one God”, by the way. It is rather a theological imperative. No man can server two masters and so on.

  13. Bro. Jones says:

    #4 To which of the Heavenly Mothers are you referring?

    [runs and hides]

  14. Marjorie Conder says:

    #13–MY Heavenly Mother, of course!

  15. Marjorie Conder says:

    #14 (smiley, face, please.)

  16. Did Ray agree that Mike is “hardly credible when it comes to matters of theology”? That seems a bit harsh.

  17. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 16
    LOL, perhaps not.

  18. Good one, Nora. I meant to add a smiley face after “on both counts” and totally forgot.

    Luckily, Mike understands. Thanks, Mike.

  19. John Turner says:

    In his Very Short Introduction to Mormonism, Richard Bushman asserts: “Critics charge Mormons with believing in multiple gods, but the Mormon God is as unified as the trinity of Christian theology.” Unified definitely, not sure about the “as unified as.” Differently unified? Hard to be quite as unified as homoosious.

  20. 8: “7: They may indeed, but they don’t have a metaphysical leg to stand on. If we are polytheists, they are polytheists (tritheists to be specific) and vice versa.”

    This is what Muslims claim about all Christians. That whatever interpretation of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost you choose, you’re a polytheist and guilty of the greatest of all sins – “shirk” or “associating” something with the unassailably unique and unknowable divinity of the one and only God. Try taking it a step further and running some hardcore Mormon doctrine of exaltation by a Muslim and wooooooh, you’re likely in for a long and heated argument.

  21. 19: I don’t see any legitimate reason why the members of the Godhead cannot be properly considered “homoousious” (having the same essence) in the Mormon conception.

    “And I, John, bear record that he 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” (D&C 93:16-17)

    Receiving a “fulness of the glory of the Father” is another way of saying that one has received a fulness of what makes Him divine. There is only one “fulness” to be had, hence “homoousious” (same essence) not “homoiousious” (similar essences).

  22. Btw, Sam, I forgot to add that I think the actual post is priceless – theological discussions notwithstanding.

  23. 19, there’s a lot to choose from, and if you’re reading the Godhead from the perspective of the genealogized Chain of Being, then their coparticipation in the Chain could be seen as metaphysically identical to homoousios. That may be what he’s after. He’s probably also poking fun at the conceit that homoousios can contain three entire modes (or the equivalent), and he’s trying to explain Mormonism in familiar terms for Christians.

    But I would agree with you that, whatever homoousios means, it means more than a perfectly united family.

    22, yeah, at first I didn’t understand her. then it made perfect sense. she’s a great kid.

  24. Given that “homoousios” coexists with an injunction not to confound the persons of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, I’m pretty sure that there is such a thing as more unity than that claimed by other Christians — modalism and other Christian heresies that claim only one person of God achieve this higher level of unity. I think the major differences between a Mormon view of the persons of God and other views include (a) Mormon reluctance to speak in the language of Aristotelian and Platonic philosophies, and (b) our view of the Father as having a physical body. The other issues I think largely involve Mormon misunderstandings of traditional Christian modes of self-explanation.

  25. “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. If this is in accordance with the New Testament, lo and behold! we have three Gods anyhow, and they are plural: and who can contradict it!”
    Joseph Smith, History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 473.