A Jewish Rabbi Defines Monotheism

Another reprint from Mormon Matters.

Only months into my mission we stopped to meet a man that had grown up Mormon but had left the Church and was now attending a Method Church with his wife and family. He was very interested in his forgotten Mormon heritage and enjoyed having us stop by to talk religion.

On one of our visits he showed us a book called Who Needs God by Harold Kushner, a Jewish Rabbi. He lent me the book to peruse. Mission life does not leave a lot of time for reading books, but for the sake of having discussions with him I read through parts of the book, picking out topics that sounded interesting. To this day I still haven’t read the whole book, but enjoyed the parts I did read very much. Kushner is a very insightful man.

One passage that I read blew me away because it gave such a comprehensive definition of monotheism:

The affirmation of monotheism – that there is only one God – is a moral statement, not a mathematical deduction. If there is only one God and He demands moral behavior, then there can be such a thing as good and evil. (Technically speaking, right and wrong are matters of fact: Who stole the money? Good and bad are matters of morality: Should I take the money?) When there are many gods, as in pagan legends, the issue is not: What is good? The issue is: Which God shall I serve? Which one has the power to protect and reward me? Think, for example, of the conflicts of Homer’s Illiad, where the gods take sides. What pleases one displease another. A person offends one of the gods but is under the protection of another, stronger one. The issue is not what is right but who has the might.

The assertion that there is only one God is the assertion that issues of moral behavior are not matters of personal taste. We cannot decide by majority vote that it is all right to steal and lie, any more than we can decide that winters should be mild or cookies more nourishing than vegetables.

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Mosiah 15 and D&C 93: Divine Investiture or Swedenborgian?

In my post on Book of Mormon Doctrine of Deity, Divine Investiture, Representational Modalism, I mentioned the idea that some people hold up Mosiah 15:1-5 as proof that Joseph Smith (as supposed author of the Book of Mormon) originally wrote the Book of Mormon to support a Swedenborgian view of God (aka Serial Modalism) where The Father is a spirit that took on a body called Jesus.

In my opinion, this point of view ignores a lot of facts or at least force fits them. For example, the Book of Mormon also presents both the Spirit of the Lord as being a person as well as the premortal Jesus. It also presents the premortal Jesus as talking from Heaven as a personality separate from the Father.

But there is a bigger problem I have with the assumption that Mosiah 15:1–5 can only be historically read as Swedenborgian and thus (we are told) we must assume Joseph Smith meant it that way.

It’s D&C 93.

Do Joseph Smith’s own writings count as counter evidence if he explicitly tells us what he means? Continue reading

Mormons as Modalists

Divine Investiture and Modalism

In my last post, I discussed how Divine Investiture is the lynchpin of all Mormon Doctrine of Deity and probably of all Mormon Doctrines period.  Even non-Mormon theology, if it lacks Divine Investiture, is often logically inconsistent.

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!Continue reading