Do Biblical Texts Leave Room for the Mormon View of God?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Mormon scholars and apologists argue that there is significant ambiguity in the biblical texts when it comes to the nature of God. Because of this ambiguity, Mormon views on the nature of God are at least as likely to be true as non-Mormon views. After all, the Bible, according to Mormon scholars, leaves room for many interpretations of God’s nature.

Is this true? Is there a lot of confusion among biblical scholars about what the Bible says about God? After a detailed analysis of the Mormon interpretation of numerous biblical texts that touch on the nature of God, Jim W. Adams, in the New Mormon Challenge, draws some interesting conclusions:

At the beginning of this chapter it was observed that Jews, Christians, and Latter-day Saints claim that their most basic understandings of God, creation, and humanity are rooted in the texts of the Old Testament. Yet curiously, the traditional LDS view is radically different than the view held in common by Jews and Christians. What is to explain this discrepancy?

Jews and Christians debate among themselves and with each other about many doctrines and over the proper interpretation of many biblical passages, yet there is little dissent when it comes to most of the fundamental issues about the nature of God and the created status of the cosmos and humanity. The great majority of Jews and Christians find themselves in basic agreement about what the Hebrew Bible says on these issues. It would be absurd, then, to attribute the discrepancy to ambiguity in the biblical texts.

Adams makes an important point. For thousand of years, there was great unanimity on the doctrine of God among Jews and Christians. Then, in the early 1800’s, Mormons turned much of this biblical interpretation upside-down. What happened?

Stephen E. Robinson states, on behalf of the Latter-day Saints: “We accept the Bible (the LDS use the King James Version) as the inspired word of God—every book, every chapter, every verse of it—as revealed to the apostles and prophets who wrote it.” So far so good.

But then Robinson adds: “We also hold the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price to be the word of God.” Therein, I believe, lies the source of the discrepancy.

These other books that the LDS consider as the word of God, along with their interpretations and midrashic expansions of the biblical texts, at many points contradict the view of God, creation, and humanity found in the Old Testament. Even more contradictory are the later teachings of Mormonism’s founding prophet, Joseph Smith.

Adams concludes:

In some significant ways the traditional LDS positions hark back to the pagan views of ancient Israel’s Near Eastern neighbors—views that the Old Testament patriarchs, prophets, and psalmists intentionally rejected in light of the revelation they received from the one true and living God. This is an unfortunate conclusion to reach, and one that Latter-day Saints will surely be uncomfortable with. However, it seems unavoidable in light of the evidence. It is hoped that LDS theology will develop further in the direction of the biblical revelation and that one day such a conclusion will not have to be drawn.

  • AdaminLC

    Intriguing title, but an answer to the question might have been nice. I read the post three times and I can’t find the argument or point of the post. I guess that the answer to the question posed in the title of the post is, “no because I said so.”

  • Maybe read it a fourth time. The answer to the question is stated pretty clearly as “no.” The blog post makes no effort to provide a detailed argument (it’s a blog post, not a chapter in a book), but instead summarizes the scholarly work done by Jim Adams, and points curious readers to his work in The New Mormon Challenge. That’s where you’ll find the detailed arguments.

  • ShaneM

    Mr. Pratt, all you have accomplished in this post is to quote another person who holds your same point of view. One Christian writer with a disparaging view of Mormon-ism quoting another Christian writer with the same disparaging view does nothing to expand the understanding of the reader. I understand that you don’t have the time or space to write a lengthy article on your blog but do you have even one or two examples of how the Christian apologetic view differs from the Mormon point of view?

    It’s a bit lazy to say that all of Christianity and the Jews believes the same thing about the nature of God (and only the Mormons are different). While I concede that there are strong differences between those that believe in the Trinity and the Mormon view of the Godhead. There are many, strong and even glaring differences between those that believe in the Trinity.

    Does God the Father have a physical body, did He ever? Does Jesus have a body? He had His Apostles touch His body. He ate with them and showed them that His resurrection was to a physical, tangible body. However, not every Christian believes that the physical body is a good thing and to believe that Christ is perfect they strip away His physical body thinking they have done Him a favor.

    The New Testament teaches that Christ has a glorified, perfected physical body. Mormon’s believe that very doctrine. We believe what the New Testament teaches.

    I’ve had many conversations with people of differing Christian faiths. They all disagreed about the nature of God. Why have so many churches, denominations, congregations within Christianity if there is so much agreement. How did all the splintering occur? Many it happened over two very important issues. The nature of God and the manner of baptism.

    When confusion is introduced into the pure doctrines taught by the Savior and his Apostles the people suffer and splinter. Hence the need for a living fountain of water. You can find that living fountain of water in the Prophet Thomas S. Monson, President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormons.

  • AdaminLC

    Again, it is clear that the answer is, “no, because I said so.” Apparently the idea that Jews and Christians agree about the nature of God in some fundamental way (that you didn’t feel the need to summarize or even mention) at is different from what Mormons believe and the fact that Mormons have more than one book (that apparently must inherently disagree with the Bible) are enough for some. All I get from your summary is that if you don’t already agree wIth Mr Adams you mind not find much here to work with.

  • I would recommend you read The New Mormon Challenge where you will find substantial, scholarly writing on the differences between Mormon views on the nature of God and Judeo-Christian views on the nature of God.

    Also, I wrote another blog post (published last Friday) that illuminates the very fundamental differences you asked me to list.

    This blog post would only speak to Mormons who take the Bible very seriously and who hold it as the primary sacred document above all the others produced by Joseph Smith, and above the words of the various prophets of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Obviously you’re not one of those Mormons. I pray some day you will be.

  • SoundOn

    I’m assuming that these scholars reject Mormonism because they believe in the mainstream, unbiblical definition of the Trinity. Not only is the Trinity complicated to explain because the definition contradicts itself it is also not found anywhere in the scriptures. How can God be defined as both 3 separate persons and also one being? There is no difference between a being and a person. If there is someone can simply explain it. And where is the scripture that states that these three seperate persons are one being? If mainstream Christian scholars can’t even explain their own beliefs of God then how can we expect them to accurately understand and explain the beliefs of Mormons?

  • SoundOn

    So the answer “no” because Mr. Adams says so. Thanks for sharing his biased, unbiblical opinion

  • SoundOn

    Mr. Adams seems to struggle with scriptures in addition to the bible, but where in the bible does it teach that God could not reveal additional scripture? If Mr. Adams believes in the Old Testament and the New Testament then why not another Testament such as the Book of Mormon?

  • If you’d really like to learn about the Trinity – what it means, where the doctrine comes from – please go to this web page on the blog:

    http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/category/trinity/

  • If you want to know why the Book of Mormon cannot be additional Scripture revealed by God, please read this blog post:

    http://www.toughquestionsanswered.org/2012/08/15/is-the-biblical-canon-closed-part-1/

  • SoundOn

    So your answer is that Biblical Cannon is closed because Norman Geisler and William Nix say so, but not because the Bible says so. That is a pretty weak argument. They cite several facts from the bible that Mormons agree with and then they make a random conclusion that has no biblical basis. So again why is the cannon of scripture closed? Because people like Geisler and Nix say so, but certainly not because biblical prophets said so.

  • SoundOn

    I looked

  • SoundOn

    Because the Trinity is so complicated to explain it is no surprise that you include a link to 5 articles to attempt to explain the Trinity. I chose to look at the link that asked if the Trinity is biblical? Of course the argument that it is biblical is very weak and shallow. Sure there are scriptures that state that the three separate persons of God are one. We both believe this simple statement, but the bible only speaks of them being one in unity and purpose as taught in John chapter 17. There is no scripture that teaches that they are the same literal being anywhere. And we certainly agree that they are also each called God. So the only thing established in the bible is that there are three separate persons, each called God, that are one in purpose, but this is hardly an argument to confirm the Trinity since we both believe these simple statements. Try answering these difficult questions: where are the scriptures that explain that all three persons of God are also the same literal being? And where are the scriptures that explain that there is a difference between a being and a person?

  • Ah, you want to play the “where does scripture explicitly say ‘x’?” game. This should be fun.

    Where does the Bible explicitly say that Joseph Smith would be a prophet in the 1800’s?

    Where does the Bible say that each of us are gods who can earn our own worlds to rule?

    Where does the Bible say that matter has eternally existed?

    Where does the Bible say that all human beings have existed eternally?

    Where does the Bible say that Satan is our spirit-brother?

    I could go on and on and on.

    Hopefully you see the point. It’s ridiculous to think that every teaching or doctrine that you or I believe is explicitly spelled out, word for word, in the Bible. Everything Christians believe is rooted in Scripture.

    Some doctrines are revealed only by Scripture, but some doctrines require additional reasoning that synthesizes all the evidence from Scripture and from natural reason. That’s what systematic theology is. Systematic theology takes the knowledge we get from Scripture and the knowledge we gain from natural reason, and puts it all together to reach conclusions about God and the world he created.

    Mormons can’t possibly point to every single doctrine they believe as coming directly, word for word, from Scripture. So it is kind of strange that you would apply that standard to Christians.

  • SoundOn

    1) So you admit that the Bible does not specifically state that God is the same being as his Son and yet you feel it is critically necessary to believe if you want to be saved. It is strange that you would feel your unbiblical beliefs to be so superior that without such salvation is not possible.

    2) The bible provides plenty of content to answer your questions. For example:
    Where does the Bible explicitly say that Joseph Smith would be a prophet in the 1800’s?
    I agree that while the bible specifically prophesies of an apostasy and restoration it does not provide a specific date nor specifically name of the prophet that would establish Christ’s church. The symbolic language used by Isaiah is interesting when he said, “Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work” (Isa. 54:16). Joseph was surely the smith who forged the instrument by which the Lord’s church was restored and we know this when we look at the fruits of what was accomplished through him. We know from the Bible that the true Church of Jesus Christ must bear the name of Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:23), have a foundation of Apostles and Prophets (Ephesians 2:19-20), and claim divine authority (Hebrews 4:4-10) having direct revelation from God (Amos 3:7). The true church will be a restored church (Acts 3:19-20) with no paid ministry (Acts 20:33-34; John 10:11-13). It will be a missionary church (Matthew 28:19-20) teaching truths that were lost during the apostasy including that God and Jesus are separate and distinct individuals (John 17:11; 20:17). This church must perform baptism by immersion (Matthew 3:13-16), bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-17), and even practice baptisms for the dead (1 Corinthians 15:16&29). By the fruits ye shall know them (Matt 7:20). In your opinion which restored church am I describing? Is it not the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? Is it not the same church that was restored through Joseph Smith in the 1800s?

    Where does the Bible say that each of us are gods who can earn our own worlds to rule?
    Since we are not gods I would not expect that Bible to teach that we are, but certainly the Bible teaches that we have the potential to become like God, who is our Father. The bible clearly teaches that “if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:17). More specifically Christ taught that “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21).

    Where does the Bible say that matter has eternally existed?
    The bible does not provide a statement either way about the existence of matter. This truth is revealed in the scriptures that you reject without biblical reason. Still, the Bible is consistent with this truth which has been revealed through both prophets and science. When speaking of the creation, In Genesis 1, the word create came from the word baurau, which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize. Later day revelation teaches that God already had materials to organize the world. Plus this revealed truth is consistent with the scientific evidence that elements can’t be created or destroyed because they have no beginning and have no end. It was once thought that you could take some coal and burn it and that was the end of it, but scientists have found that the elements of that coal cannot be destroyed. You can take a silver coin, drop it into a certain acid, and it will dissolve and disappear. And yet it is still there. You can take other ingredients and get that identical silver out again and mold it to another shape.

    Where does the Bible say that all human beings have existed eternally?
    It doesn’t, but neither does Mormonism teach that human beings existed eternally. We both agree that human beings with mortal bodies only exist on the earth during mortality. I don’t think we refer to them as human beings before or after the resurrection, but it is true that eternal beings may also have physical bodies. You also believe that Jesus Christ is God who has a resurrected body of flesh and bone, do you not?

    Where does the Bible say that Satan is our spirit-brother?
    The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the son of God and also teaches that Lucifer was a Son who fell from the Heavens (Isaiah 14:12). So, who’s son could he have been, but God’s?

  • Donny

    Personally, I don’t care what the Mormons, or any other devoted follower of any organized religion. I’ve been to the main LDS church in Salt Lake City, and no one tried to convert me or tell me that Mormonism is the way to God.
    I found that the people i met were genuine, loving people who appeared to live graciously.
    Frankly, as long as the people who believe in any religion are kind and do good things, I don’t care what their holy book says.
    That said, and with all due respect, I think the bible has some wonderful passages, but has many awful ones…but all written by human beings. Just my opinion