The Godhead vs the Trinity Part I - Definition of "Godhead" and "Trinity"
During my process of becoming Catholic, and even now, I have a very strong struggle getting my mind around the concept of the Trinity. Three beings in one - this literally blows my mind away. The "egg" analogy and the "Shamrock" analogy and things like that are just not quite enough for me to get my mind around. I accept the doctrine behind the Nicene Creed, but I don't quite understand it. I don't expect to fully understand it in this lifetime. On occasion, I will have a thread of thought that at the end makes me go, "Ok, it's possible", and that puts my mind at ease on a fairly regular basis.
While perusing my RFM boards a few weeks back, I ran across the transcript of an interesting speech given by Bruce R. McConkie in 1982. You might remember him as the author of "Mormon Doctrine", an encyclopedia of basic beliefs of Mormonism. At the time the speech was given, Bruce R. McConkie was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS church. The speech was given to students of BYU and entitled "Our Relationship with the Lord". Reading this, I realized why I struggled so hard to understand the concept of the Trinity. The Trinity and the "Godhead", as Mormons call it, are quite distinctly different concepts.
I'd like to share with you a few choice quotes from this speech by McConkie (emphasis added), and compare and contrast them to concepts taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church . With this particular post, I hope to show you the difference between the Mormon concept of the "Godhead" verses the Catholic/ Christian concept of the Trinity. Mostly I'm going to furnish quotes from the primary sources, because I think they really speak for themselves. But I will interject from time to time.
McConkie starts with a brief introduction to his words that contains this statement:
Please do not put too much stock in some of the current views and vagaries that are afloat, but rather, turn to the revealed word, get a sound understanding of the doctrines, and keep yourselves in the mainstream of the Church.
from "Our Relationship with the Lord"
When a member of the "Brethren" brings up the topic of the "revealed word", what they mean specifically is that revelations from the current leaders of the church trumps the teachings of previous leaders if they contradict them. Joseph Fielding Smith once said "Now, brethren, I think there is one thing which we should have exceedingly clear in our minds. Neither the President of the Church, nor the First Presidency, nor the united voice of the First Presidency and the Twelve will ever lead the Saints astray or send forth counsel to the world that is contrary to the mind and will of the Lord." When the Brethren speak, it is considered to be the voice of God. This is especially true when the remarks are prefaced with one like McConkie makes in this speech.
McConkie then begins discussing some of what he sees as errors in teaching of other Christian religions:
True and saving worship is found only among those who know the truth about God and the Godhead and who understand the true relationship men should have with each member of that Eternal Presidency.
It follows that the devil would rather spread false doctrine about God and the Godhead, and induce false feelings with reference to any one of them, than almost any other thing he could do. The creeds of Christendom illustrate perfectly what Lucifer wants so-called Christian people to believe about Deity in order to be damned.
These creeds codify what Jeremiah calls the lies about God (see Jeremiah 16:19; 23: 14–32). They say he is unknown, uncreated, and incomprehensible. They say he is a spirit, without body, parts, or passions. They say he is everywhere and nowhere in particular present, that he fills the immensity of space and yet dwells in the hearts of men, and that he is an immaterial, incorporeal nothingness. They say he is one-god-in-three, and three-gods-in-one who neither hears, nor sees, nor speaks. Some even say he is dead, which he might as well be if their descriptions identify his being.
These concepts summarize the chief and greatest heresy of Christendom. Truly the most grievous and evil heresy ever imposed on an erring and wayward Christianity is their creedal concept about God and the Godhead! But none of this troubles us very much. God has revealed himself to us in this day even as he did to the prophets of old.
from "Our Relationship with the Lord"
(Sidenote: Mormons often ask, "Why must you persecute us? We simply wish to have the right to believe as we feel dictated to in our hearts?" But very high leaders of the Mormon church say very negative things about other Christian churches (or at least they did when I was growing up). This is evidence of one of those times where the Mormon church says some very negative things about the rest of the Christian family.)
Here is the teaching of the Trinity according to the Nicene Creed, said during the Catholic Mass and used as a basis for much of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in Being with the Father. Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered died and was buried.
On the third day he rose again in fulfillment of the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.
McConkie then goes to basically create a Credo of the beliefs of the LDS church in relationship to God, which shows the contrast between the Apostle's Creed/Nicene Creed and teachings of modern-day Mormonism:
We know thereby that he [God] is a personal Being in whose image man was made. We know that he has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's; that he is a resurrected, glorified, and perfected Being; and that he lives in the family unit. We know that we are his spirit children; that he endowed us with the divine gift of agency; and that he ordained the laws whereby we might advance and progress and become like him.
We know that God is the only supreme and independent Being in whom all fullness and perfection dwell and that he is omnipotent, omniscient, and, by the power of his Spirit, omnipresent.
We know "the Almighty God gave his Only Begotten Son" (D&C 20:21), as the scriptures attest, to ransom man from the temporal and spiritual death brought into the world by the fall of Adam and to put into operation all of the terms and conditions of the Father's plan.
We know that the Holy Ghost, as a "personage of Spirit," is both a Revelator and a Sanctifier and that his chief mission is to bear record of the Father and the Son.
Thus there are, in the Eternal Godhead, three persons--God the first, the Creator; God the second, the Redeemer; and God the third, the Testator. These three are one--one God if you will--in purposes, in powers, and in perfections. But each has his own severable work to perform, and mankind has a defined and known and specific relationship to each one of them. It is of these relationships that we shall now speak.
from "Our Relationship with the Lord
The CCC says this about the Godhead:
To believe in God alone
150 Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed. As personal adherence to God and assent to his truth, Christian faith differs from our faith in any human person. It is right and just to entrust oneself wholly to God and to believe absolutely what he says. It would be futile and false to place such faith in a creature.
To believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God
151 For a Christian, believing in God cannot be separated from believing in the One he sent, his "beloved Son", in whom the Father is "well pleased"; God tells us to listen to him. The Lord himself said to his disciples: "Believe in God, believe also in me." We can believe in Jesus Christ because he is himself God, the Word made flesh: "No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known." Because he "has seen the Father", Jesus Christ is the only one who knows him and can reveal him.
To believe in the Holy Spirit
152 One cannot believe in Jesus Christ without sharing in his Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit who reveals to men who Jesus is. For "no one can say "Jesus is Lord", except by the Holy Spirit", who "searches everything, even the depths of God. . No one comprehends the thoughts of God, except the Spirit of God." Only God knows God completely: we believe in the Holy Spirit because he is God.
The Church never ceases to proclaim her faith in one only God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It's quite easy to get one's mind around the concept of two resurrected, glorified beings. The Holy Ghost is a little more difficult. But God is much easier to understand as three separate and distinct beings (two of which are very similar to myself) than as a glorified essence of sorts. Reading this speech, I was reminded why the Trinitarian concept was not only foreign, but also was so hard for me to believe. My whole life I had been taught of the "heresy" of the concept of God as not being a resurrected being, and now here I was trying to believe that heresy. Of all of the concepts that I've struggled with since becoming Catholic, this one has been the hardest to deal with, and I have no doubt it was because of years of indoctrination from the leaders of the Mormon church about the Godhead.
More on this speech in my next post.