I’ve found myself drawn into a conversation elsewhere about the Articles of Faith written by Joseph Smith. In my conversations, I’ve attempted to provide a Christian perspective to the Articles of Faith of the Mormon church. In a series of posts here, I intend to provide “side by side comparisons” of the Morman Articles of Faith and Lutheran teaching from our historical documents (primarily the Augsburg Confession of 1530). Commentary will follow.
(I find it interesting that there is such parallelism between the Mormon Articles of Faith and the Augsburg Confession Articles of Faith. This will become apparent as we move through this exercise.)
Mormon Article of Faith #1
We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
Augsburg Confession Chief Article of Faith #1 – God
The churches among us teach with complete unanimity that the decree of the Council of Nicea concerning the unity of the divine essence and concerning the three persons is true and is to be believed without any doubt. That is to say, there is one divine essence which is called God and is God: eternal, incorporeal, indivisible, of immeasurable power, wisdom, and goodness, the creator and preserver of all things, visible and invisible. Yet, there are three persons, coeternal and of the same essence and power: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And the term “person” is used for that meaning which the church’s authors used in this case: to signify not a part or a quality in another but that which subsists in itself. They condemn all heresies that have arisen against this article, such as that of the Manichaeans, who posited two principles, one good and the other evil; likewise, those of the Valentinians, Arians, Eunomians, Mohammedans, and all others like them. They also condemn the Samosatenians, old and new, who contend that there is only one person and cleverly and impiously argue that the Word and the Holy Spirit are not distinct persons but that “Word” signifies a spoken word and “Spirit” a created movement in things.
At first glance, it appears as though these two positions agree and that Lutherans are a whole lot wordier! The differences between classic Christian teaching (evidenced in the Augsburg Confession) and the Mormon teaching is only revealed as Mormons begin “unpacking” what they mean by their Article of Faith. The Mormon position identifies God the Father as “flesh and bone” where Lutherans confess God as eternal and incorporeal (that is not flesh and bone). There are three “persons” in both articles of faith, but for Mormons, there is no unity … except in unity of purpose. Lutherans confess the classic Holy Trinity, whereas the Mormons teach a variation of the heresies “condemned” by the Augsburg Confession. In fact, Mormon teaching most resembles Arianism, a heresy rejected by the church in the 5th century.