This is a serialization of “A Faithful Reply to the CES Letter from a Former CES Employee.” You can download the whole PDF here, and you can also participate in the Latter-day Saint Survey Project by joining or creating one of the Canonizer camps in the links at the bottom of this post.
This is a line-by-line response to Jeremy Runnells’s October 2017 iteration of the CES Letter. Jeremy’s original text appears in green, the color of life. My response text appears in black, the color of darkness.
11. The Book of Mormon taught and still teaches a Trinitarian view of the Godhead. Joseph Smith’s early theology also held this view.
Not so. By definition, the Trinitarian view is incomprehensible and requires extra-scriptural creeds to make any sense of it at all. Most people, in and out of the Church, view God in Latter-day Saint terms, and the Church’s theology has been consistent over time.
People have been trying to explain the Trinity for over a thousand years, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I need more than two sentences to do likewise.
As part of the over 100,000 changes to the Book of Mormon, there were major changes made to reflect Joseph’s evolved view of the Godhead.
100,000 is a pretty big number, but most of those “changes” aren’t changes at all. The Book of Mormon was submitted to the printer without any punctuation whatsoever, along with heaven knows how many spelling errors. (Oliver, why couldn’t you have been an infallible speller?)
E.B. Grandin, the Book of Mormon printer who was not a member of the Church and made no claims to inerrancy, went through and added punctuation where he saw fit. So every single item of punctuation added can rightly be considered a change in the original manuscript, and in a document of 265,000 words with no punctuation, those “changes” add up quickly.
Yet you seem to be conflating the procedural process of punctuation additions and spelling corrections with “major changes.” That’s silly. Out of an estimated 100,000 changes, you identify precisely four that could be termed “major.” Yes, those four are “part” of the 100,000 changes, but on the face of it, a .00004% error rate is pretty good.
Let’s take a look at the four that are giving you Trinitarian heartburn.
|Original 1830 Edition Text
|Current, Altered Text
|1 Nephi 3 (p.25):
And he said unto me, Behold, the virgin whom thou seest, is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.
|1 Nephi 11:18:
And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.
|1 Nephi 3 (p.25):
And the angel said unto me, behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Eternal Father!
|1 Nephi 11:21:
And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!
|1 Nephi 3 (p.26):
And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Everlasting God, was judged of the world;
|1 Nephi 11:32:
And I looked and beheld the Lamb of God, that he was taken by the people; yea, the Son of the everlasting God was judged of the world;
|1 Nephi 3 (p.32):
These last records…shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Eternal Father and the Savior of the world;
|1 Nephi 13:40:
These last records…shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world;
Your problem seems to be that the text was originally Trinitarian, while the changes are not. But that demonstrates a misunderstanding of doctrine of the Trinity, because even with the changes, these verses remain perfectly consistent with Trinitarian creeds.
No Trinitarian would object to calling Jesus Christ the Son of God, or the Son of the Eternal Father. They fully believe that Jesus is the Son of God. They also believe that Jesus is his own father, as well as a separate individual from his Father, but that he is also not separate from his Father. They believe there are definitely three Gods, but more importantly, there is definitely only one God.
And if that makes no sense, it’s because, by definition, it’s not supposed to.
The following explanation comes from that great theological treatise, Eric Idle’s movie Nuns of the Run:
Eric Idle: Let me try and summarize this: God is his son. And his son is God. But his son moonlights as a holy ghost, a holy spirit, and a dove. And they all send each other, even though they’re all one and the same thing.
Robbie Coltrane: You’ve got it. You really could be a nun!
Eric Idle: Thanks! Wait – what I said – does that make any sense to you?
Robbie Coltrane: Well, no. And it makes no sense to anybody. That’s why you have to believe it.
You can watch the scene below:
If you want a more authoritative definition, here’s the doctrine of the Trinity, as described by the Athanasian Creed:
We worship one God in trinity, and trinity in unity; neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, is all one; the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate, and the Holy Ghost uncreate. The Father incomprehensible, the Son incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. The Father eternal, the Son eternal, and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet there are not three eternals, but one eternal. As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three uncreated; but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible. So likewise the Father is almighty, the Son almighty, and the Holy Ghost almighty, and yet there are not three Almighties, but one Almighty. So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God, and yet there are not three Gods, but one God.
To quote Elder James E. Talmage, “It would be difficult to conceive of a greater number of inconsistencies and contradictions, expressed in words as few.”
More trinitarianism next time. In the meantime, take a look at the Canonizer camps below. If you think I’m completely wrong, you can join a camp that says so – or create one of your own!