The Apostle Paul is quoted as the source of Christian doctrine all the time.
The Apostle Paul used the word Godhead to warn against idolatry (Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20–23; Colossians 2:8–9), specifying the idolatry of vain conceit, vain imaginings, and human philosophy as well as the idolatry of objects. He taught the hierarchy of God the Father, God the Son, and men and women (1 Corinthians 11:3).
Christ was always declaring the supremacy of His Father, saying He went around doing only the work of His Father. Nowhere in the New Testament is God described in such a way as to conform to Trinitarian doctrine, the belief that God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three beings of the same substance. After the ascension of Christ, the apostles described the individual members of the Godhead (1 Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 5:19–21; 1 Timothy 1:2; Hebrews 3:1–2; Ephesians 5:5; Romans 8:39; 2 Thessalonians 2:16; Colossians 1:2; 1 John 4:1–2; 2 John 1:9).
From an early age, Jesus recognized his role as the only begotten son of God. Jesus sought to do the Father’s will and found favor in the Father’s sight (Luke 2:49; 2:52). Throughout his public ministry, Jesus acknowledged the Father as his father and frequently reminded his disciples that he was sent by the Father (John 7:28–29; 5:37). Jesus made it clear that it was the will of the Father that he was fulfilling, not his own will (John 14:23; Matthew 16:27; 16:17; John 4:34). Jesus repeatedly confirmed that he was the “son of God” (Mark 14:61–62) and that his father bore witness of him as part of the testimony of two witnesses— Jesus Christ being one witness and his Heavenly Father being the other (John 8:17–18).
Peter (1 Peter 3:22), Paul (Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 10:10–12), Mark (Mark 16:19), and Luke (Acts 7:55–56) all testified of the Savior being on the “right hand” of God in the heavens.
Can three separate beings be considered “one God”? Jesus talked about a husband and wife being “one” in love, commitment, and covenant (Matthew 19:5). Christ also talks about us becoming one with Him as He is one with the Father (John 17:11; 17:21–23). John talked about dwelling within someone without being the same person (1 John 4:13). (See also 1 John 5:7.)
The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost
Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus told his apostles that the Holy Ghost (the Comforter) would take his place when he left (John 16:7). As long as Jesus was on the earth, there was little need for the Holy Ghost among the children of men (John 7:39). Christ always spoke with reverence and respect when He referred to the Holy Ghost, a separate personage from Himself.
All three members of the Godhead were present at the baptism of Jesus. When the Savior came out of the water, the Holy Ghost descended in the form of a dove and Heavenly Father spoke from heaven (Mark 1:10–11; Matthew 3:16–17). Jesus spoke of God the Father and the Holy Ghost together (John 14:26; 16:13–15), acknowledging both their divine individuality and their divine unity.
Jesus and His Father
During the events of the Atonement, Jesus was particularly close to his divine father—and then horribly separated from him. Chapter 17 of John details the great intercessory prayer, where Jesus poured out his heart to God the Father and pled on behalf of the apostles and all believers that they might come to know “the only true God” and Jesus Christ (John 17:3). This was not an internal dialogue. Jesus was imploring another being, not merely some aspect of his own personhood. He was imploring his Heavenly Father.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus pled with his Heavenly Father—calling him by the intimate “Abba,” meaning “father”— asking him if it might be according to the Father’s will to “take away this cup from me” (Mark 14:36). Jesus remained in this intimacy with the Father throughout the events leading up to his death on the cross. He pled with his father to forgive those who were crucifying him (Luke 23:24); he cried out in agony to his father when death was imminent (Matthew 27:46); and he commended his spirit into the hands of his father when the work was finished (Luke 23:46).
Jesus Christ Mediates Between God and Man
Jesus is described as the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4), who was made manifest of God in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16) to be the one and only mediator between God (the Father) and man (1 Timothy 2:5).
Jesus said during his public ministry that his father (God the Father) had greater power and dominion than he (John 10:29; John 13:16). (See also John 7:16; John 10:18; John 5:26–27; 17:22; John 5:19, 21; 5:30.)
The Father is God to the Son, and the Son prays to Him, supplicates Him, and defers to Him in all things.
The prophet Micah prophesied that Christ would be born “in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God” (Micah 5:4). Jesus referred to God the Father as God (Luke 18:19; Matthew 19:17; John 17:3), called upon God during his crucifixion (Mark 15:34; Matthew 27:46), and referred to God after his resurrection (John 20:17). Paul then confirms the doctrine of God the Father being the God of Jesus Christ in his letters to the Ephesians (Ephesians 1:17) and the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 11:3).
The following quote is from late Mormon prophet Gordon B. Hinckley:
They [the Godhead] are distinct beings, but they are one in purpose and effort. They are united as one in bringing to pass the grand, divine plan for the salvation and exaltation of the children of God. In His great, moving prayer in the garden before His betrayal, Christ pleaded with His Father concerning the Apostles, whom He loved, saying: “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us” (John 17:20–21). It is that perfect unity between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost that binds these three into the oneness of the divine Godhead.
The Trinitarian Creeds
The Roman Emperor Constantine I convened the Council of Nicaea in a.d. 325. This council was the first significant effort of the Christian church to arrive at a consensus on various points of doctrine.
At that time there was widespread dispute about the nature of the Godhead. Many Christians believed then—as Latter-day Saints do today—that the Godhead consisted of three separate personages united in purpose but not in being. For the majority of the council, however, this conception bore an uncomfortable resemblance to the pagan Greek and Roman conception of multiple gods.
The council majority came up with a compromise conception, declaring that there were indeed three “persons”—Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—but that these persons were not separate entities, not persons in the usual sense, but instead persons who were without substance, essence, or individual existence. These newly defined persons combined to form one essence, the “Triune God” (the Trinity).
The Council of Nicaea declared the Triune God in a.d. 325. This declaration became the essence of what is known as the Nicene Creed. By this declaration, the Council brought unity to the Christian world, protected monotheism from polytheistic encroachment, and gave to the Roman Emperor Constantine the political stability he was seeking. It brought peace on many fronts. The Nicene doctrine of the Trinity or the Triune God has endured. The vast majority of Christians today subscribe to this dogma.
Latter-day Saints do not.
This Mormon rejection of the Triune-God conception has led many Christians to deny the Christian label of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons could reach the reverse conclusion, but they have not—perhaps because of their Eleventh Article of Faith:
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according
to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same
privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
The three personages of the Godhead and their individual natures are clearly defined in the Bible: before Christ came to the earth, during Christ’s public ministry, through events surrounding the Atonement (the passion) of Christ, and after the Ascension of Christ to the Father.
The Bible is clear that there are differences in knowledge between God the Father and Jesus Christ, differences in power and dominion, differences in the consequences of blasphemy, and differences in the references made by these personages to one another. For example, Jesus refers to Heavenly Father as his “God” on many occasions documented in the Bible. Because of this abundance of unambiguous biblical evidence for the divine individuality of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, Latter-day Saints cannot accept the findings of the Council of Nicaea. This refusal has created a divide, but not one that warrants the conclusion that Mormons are not followers of Christ.
While the divine individuality of the three personages of the Godhead is biblically clear, so also is their divine unity. They are one in purpose. Their divine integration of reason, intention, drive, objective, and other qualities of character and action is beyond human comprehension. Thus, it is fair in the limited coinage of human language to refer to them collectively as one God, and this is done in the Bible, in the Book of Mormon, and other modern scripture. But fairness of reference does not alter the truth of the matter to which reference is made. The Council of Nicaea made a convenient decision, in part to end a distracting theological debate. Latter-day Saints simply believe itwas the wrong decision.
*This article was adapted from The Biblical Roots of Mormonism, by Eric Shuster and Charles Sale, published by Cedar Fort, Inc.