Monotheists or Polytheists?

Posted on September 16, 2012 at 12:01 am

God

Follow Gramps:

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Print Friendly

I was recently asked if Latter-day Saints are monotheists or polytheists. Which if either are correct and why?

Ben

___________

Ben,

An interesting question, but depending upon who’s asking, it could also be a quite loaded one. Let me explain. The vast majority of current Christianity holds a veiw of monotheism, or belief in only one God. Imagine their trouble then, when they read John 17. In this most beautiful of biblical chapters, we read the words of Jesus as he implores a being he calls Father for the last necessary elements in order to accomplish the Atonement.

From the perspective of the Old Testament, the true Gospel was a monotheistic belief. That changed when Jehovah came to earth to be born, live among men, then suffer and die for men’s sins. While Jesus taught, he taught of one he called his Father. In other words, Jesus began the process of polytheism….but only to a degree. This is where it gets tricky.

In true polythesim, all known deities are worshipped according to need per what the given deity is responsible for. For example, Mars was the Roman god of war, and so on. However in Christianity, this would never apply. At first, the plain and simple nature of the Godhead was accepted. it was a new idea to the Jews especially that the God of all creation (Jesus or Jehovah) would have a father we needed to know about. So, while Jesus was introducing polytheism to a degree, he was quite clear that prayers needed to be addressed to Heavenly Father, and not himself. So on that part, polytheism reaches its limit for now.

Godhead MormonEarly on, say the first two and a half centuries after Christ’s birth or so, it was an accepted doctrine that Christ and the Father were two separate beings. It was an expansion upon the Jewish doctrines of the Old Testament. However there was great resistance to the doctrines Christ taught within Israel, so the Gospel was to be taken to the rest of the world. This introduced an opposing problem. While the Jewish reaction was one of holding to the monotheistic base they had used for centuries, much of the rest of the world was very polytheistic. This made the doctrines Christ introduced more palatable regarding the Godhead, however it also made room for additional ideas of men to get a foothold. As a result, some philisophical elements of the Greek Hellenistic thought crept into Christianity. This began the foundation for the trinitarian ideas that were first committed to writing at the council of Nicea, or the Nicene Creed. This statement explains that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one single being with three aspects or elements. Without going into too much more detail this was, more or less, the accepted truth continued up until this very day in protestant Christianity and Catholocism.

What changed things was Joseph Smith’s first vision. In it he beheld two personages. Two separate beings quite similar to each other. One called Joseph by name and said, pointing to the other “This is my beloved son, hear him.” So in this event the truth was restored from ancient times that the Father and Son were indeed two different beings.

Where does that leave us today? I suppose polytheism could be accurate, except there are some pretty specific connotations attached to polythesim that aren’t part of LDS doctrine. For instance, we don’t pray to Jesus for some things and to the Father for others, and to the Holy Ghost for yet others. Instead, we rely upon the order Heavenly Father established through Jesus Christ; that we pray to the Father for all needs in the name of Jesus Christ, relying upon the Holy Ghost to learn the will of Heavenly Father and recieve answers to our questions. Each member of the Godhead has their role in guiding us through our lives in righteousness.

The only other term that I see could apply would be Henotheism. This indicates a religious belief that allows for, and accepts the existence of, many gods, but only worhsips one directly. In this I think we fit more accurately in that we believe all three members of the Godhead are themselves fully gods, yet as stated before, we only ever pray to the Father. I don’t know if three gods equals ‘many’ but at the basic level it works nicely.

I hope this answer helps you, and thank you for a great question.

-Gramps

 

 

Summary
Article Name
Monotheists or Polytheists? - Ask Gramps - Q and A about Mormon Doctrine
Author
Description
I was recently asked if Latter-day Saints are monotheists or polytheists. Which if either are correct and why?

Follow Gramps:

Why were the deaths of the early Apostles so brutal?

October 24, 2014 6:00 am

Question Gramps, I was interested in the life of the remaining Apostles after the death of the Savior.  As I researched their lives I was stunned and shocked (more)

If a man is of a certain tribe, are they automatically called to be a Bishop?

October 22, 2014 9:00 pm

Question Gramps, I heard that it has been stated that some people have been told by their patriarch that they are not of Ephraim or Manasseh but of (more)

Is Mormon underwear magic?

October 22, 2014 5:00 am

Question Gramps, I am not a Mormon, but a Born Again Christian faithfully attending a Protestant church.  I have recently been involved in a study in which we (more)

Why was the purchase of slaves allowed during Biblical times?

October 21, 2014 6:00 am

Question Gramps, I have been discussing matters of misinterpretation with Bible versus with friends and was wondering, why are there parts of the Bible that allow the purchase (more)

If my father is the Branch President, can I repent to someone else?

October 20, 2014 5:00 am

Question Gramps, Hello.  I have broken the Law of Chastity and the Word of Wisdom. I’ve been doing better and reading my scriptures and praying for forgiveness but (more)

How many Priesthoods are there?

October 19, 2014 6:00 am

Question Gramps, How many priesthoods are there?  I know there is the Aaronic and Melchezidek, but someone mentioned there was also the Patriarchal Priesthood? Don   Answer Don, (more)

Will the church rescind the ban on coffee due to Alzheimers studies?

October 18, 2014 6:00 am

Question Gramps, I am a member and wonder why the church does not rescind the ban on coffee when scientific studies over the past 20 years have shown (more)

Can physical intimacy and spirituality be compatible?

October 17, 2014 11:37 am

Question Dear Gramps, When I am reading my scriptures or saying my prayers, I have no interest in physical intimacy with my spouse.  And when we do come (more)

Is God a respecter of persons sometimes?

October 16, 2014 12:47 am

Question Gramps, Why does the Lord seem to bless some of the faithful with prosperity? It seems that others who are faithful and also pay their tithes and (more)

In the Princess Bride, should Wesley have pursued a married woman?

October 15, 2014 10:28 am

Question Dear Gramps, Was it appropriate for Wesley from the Princess Bride to pursue a married woman? Fezzik   Answer Fezzik, The question is not whether Westley was (more)

How can I learn about the church as a teenager?

October 13, 2014 12:04 am

Question Gramps, Hello. I am 16 and I have zero affiliation with the church. I was interested in learning about the Mormons, so I got a copy of (more)

Was Joseph Smith just a con man?

October 12, 2014 8:18 am

Question Gramps, In 1971 Joseph Smith was arrested and brought before a Justice of the Peace for that practice of a “glass looker”. Before this he was in (more)