God and the Trinity in Mormonism

Mormon leaders have long taught that God the Father was once a mortal man who continually progressed to become a god (an exalted man). Mormon general authority Milton R. Hunter said that “God the Eternal Father was once a mortal man who passed through a school of earth life similar to that through which we are now passing. He became God—an exalted being—through obedience to the same eternal Gospel truths that we are given opportunity today to obey.”[1] God, as he exists today, “is an exalted, perfected, and glorified Personage having a tangible body of flesh and bones.”[2]

Mormons frequently cite Bible verses to support their belief that God possesses a physical form. They argue that since Adam was created in the “image of God” (Genesis 1:26-27) and Adam himself was a physical being, it follows that God also has a physical body. This notion gains support from the account in Exodus 33:11, where Moses is described as speaking to God “face to face,” suggesting a tangible presence. Additionally, the words of Jesus in John 14:9—“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father”—are often interpreted by Mormons as implying that the Father has a physical body just as Jesus does.

God Is Not an Exalted Man

Contrary to Mormonism, Scripture is clear that God is not an exalted man but rather an eternal spirit being. Numerous passages affirm that God is distinct from humanity. In Hosea 11:9, God Himself declares, “For I am God, and not man.” Numbers 23:19 unequivocally states, “God is not a man…” Romans 1:22-23 highlights the folly of idolatry, explaining how some have exchanged the incorruptible God for an image resembling mortal man. Isaiah 45:12 underscores the Creator’s distinction from His creation, stating, “I have made the earth, and created man upon it.”

Moreover, Scripture emphasizes God’s invisibility, contrasting Him with humanity’s tangible, visible form. First Timothy 1:17 describes God as “the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God.” Colossians 1:15 refers to “the invisible God,” while John 1:18 clarifies that while no one has seen God the Father, God the Son has revealed Him. This invisibility aligns with the understanding that God lacks a physical body.

Even the Book of Mormon, which contains multiple doctrinal errors on a number of issues, affirms that God is not a glorified man but a spirit being:

• Alma 22:10—“And Aaron said unto him: Yea, he is that Great Spirit, and he created all things both in heaven and in earth. Believest thou this?”

• Alma 31:15—“Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and that thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever.”

God Is an Eternal Being

Contrary to Mormonism, God did not come into existence at a point in time. He exists beyond the confines of time itself. Described as “the eternal King” (Jeremiah 10:10) and the “King eternal, immortal” (1 Timothy 1:17), God transcends time, existing “from all eternity” (Psalm 93:2), perpetually “from everlasting” (Habakkuk 1:12), and as “the one who lives forever” (Isaiah 57:15).

In the Bible, God is consistently depicted as “the Eternal God” (Genesis 21:33; Deuteronomy 33:27; Romans 16:26), “the everlasting God” (Isaiah 40:28), and “the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:4). From “everlasting to everlasting” (1 Chronicles 16:36; Nehemiah 9:5), His existence endures without cessation, and His years “will never end” (Psalm 102:25-27). Identified as the first and the last (Isaiah 44:6), God’s sovereignty surpasses the bounds of time.

The psalmist affirms God’s eternal nature, stating, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2). God reigns as King eternally (Psalm 29:10) with a throne that endures “forever and ever” (Psalm 45:6), persisting “from generation to generation” (Lamentations 5:19). The assurance is given that “God is our God forever and ever” (Psalm 48:14), and His ways are described as eternal (Habakkuk 3:6).

Being eternal, God remains unchanging in His being, nature, and attributes, a concept theologians refer to as God’s “immutability.” God Himself confirms, “I the LORD do not change” (Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). The psalmist echoes this truth, declaring, “You [God] remain the same, and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:27).

Mormons sometimes rebut that certain Bible verses—Genesis 1:26-27, Exodus 33:11, and John 14:9 among them—support their belief that God is a physical being. Let’s briefly examine these verses.

Genesis 1:26-27—Man in God’s Image

Mormons argue that since man was created with a flesh and bone body, God the Father must also possess a physical body since man was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27).[3]

In response, a fundamental interpretive principle is that Scripture interprets Scripture. When examining other Scriptures concerning God’s nature, the Mormon interpretation of Genesis 1:26-27 becomes untenable. For instance, John 4:24 states that God is Spirit, and Luke 24:39 affirms that a spirit does not have flesh and bones. Therefore, we must conclude that God, as a spirit being, does not possess a flesh-and-bones physical body. Additionally, as previously mentioned, God is not a man (refer to Hosea 11:9; Numbers 23:19; Romans 1:22-23; Isaiah 45:12). 

The Mormon view is predicated on a flawed understanding of what it means to be created “in the image of God.” Other Scripture verses help us to see that man reflects God’s image in his rational nature (Colossians 3:10), his moral nature (Ephesians 4:24), and his dominion over creation (Genesis 1:27-28). Like the moon reflects the sun’s light, finite man, created in God’s image, mirrors God in these respects.

Exodus 33:11—Face to Face

Exodus 33:11 reads, “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend.” Mormons interpret this to mean that since Moses spoke to God “face to face,” God must possess a physical face and, therefore, a physical body.[4]

As noted previously, however, Scripture emphasizes that God is spirit (Exodus 20:4; Isaiah 31:3; John 4:24), and a spirit does not possess flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). Therefore, it is incorrect to conceive of God as a physical being with a physical face.

In the Hebrew mindset, the phrase “face to face” metaphorically means “directly” or “intimately.” Moses did not see any physical aspect of God, such as a physical face, but rather entered God’s direct presence and intimately conversed with Him—“just as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11). 

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words brings clarity in affirming that the word “face,” when used of God, is used anthropomorphically. Anthropomorphic language metaphorically attributes human characteristics to God—such as a face, hands, eyes, arms, and so forth. Such language is not to be taken literally. Although the Bible speaks of God as if He had a “face,” it clearly teaches that God is a spirit being and should not be depicted by any likeness whatsoever (Exodus 20:4).[5]

There are other instances of metaphorical language used to describe God in the Bible. For example, Psalm 91:4 states: “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge.” We are obviously not to interpret this literally, imagining God as some kind of giant bird with wings and feathers. Scripture frequently employs metaphorical language to convey spiritual truths about God. 

John 14:9—Seeing Jesus Is Seeing the Father

Jesus affirmed in John 14:9, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” Mormons interpret this to mean that the Father possesses a physical body, just like Jesus.[6]

I hate to be redundant, but I must again appeal to John 4:24, where we are told that God is spirit, and Luke 24:39, where we are told that a spirit does not have flesh and bones. Contextually, John 14:9 simply indicates that Jesus perfectly represents God. Earlier in the same gospel, Jesus stated that He became a human specifically to reveal the Father: “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only [Jesus], who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:18). This clarifies why Jesus could assert, “When [a person] looks at me, he sees the one who sent me” (John 12:45). Likewise, Jesus affirmed, “Whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me” (13:20).

How Jesus Reveals the Father

• Jesus conveyed the Father’s message to humanity: “For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it” (John 12:49).

• Jesus’ actions revealed the Father: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does” (John 5:19).

• God’s power was evident in Jesus (John 3:2).

• God’s wisdom was displayed in Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:24).

• God’s love was revealed and demonstrated by Jesus (1 John 3:16).

• God’s grace was manifested in Jesus (2 Thessalonians 1:12).

• The glory of God was made known through Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:6; Isaiah 40:5).

• Jesus has the same divine nature as the Father (John 10:30). 

In view of facts such as these, Jesus could appropriately say to the Jews, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). There is thus no support in this context for the Mormon belief that God the Father possesses a physical body.

Mormon View of the Trinity

Mormonism diverges from historic Christian doctrine by teaching that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are not three persons in one God but rather three separate Gods. They interpret passages such as Matthew 3:16-17 and Acts 7:55-56 to support this view (more on these passages later in the article). According to Mormon belief, the Father, Son, and Spirit are “one” only in their common purpose and attributes of perfection. Additionally, Mormons acknowledge the existence of other gods.

Former Mormon church president Spencer W. Kimball expressed in a priesthood meeting: “Brethren, 225,000 of you are here tonight. I suppose 225,000 of you may become gods. There seems to be plenty of space out there in the universe. And the Lord has proved that he knows how to do it. I think he could make, or probably have us help make, worlds for all of us, for every one of us 225,000.”[7]

It is fascinating to observe that in Mormon theology, just as Jesus has a Father, so the Father allegedly has a Father, and the Father of the Father has a Father, and so on. This endless succession of Fathers goes on and on, up the hierarchy of exalted beings in the universe. Hence, there is a Father of the Father of the Father of the Father, ad infinitum.

Not only are there numerous Father-gods, but there is also a heavenly wife (or wives) for each. In 1853, Mormon apostle Orson Pratt explained:

Each God, through his wife or wives, raises up a numerous family of sons and daughters;… As soon as each God has begotten many millions of male and female spirits,… he, in connection with his sons, organizes a new world, after a similar order to the one which we now inhabit, where he sends both the male and female spirits to inhabit tabernacles of flesh and bones.… The inhabitants of each world are required to reverence, adore, and worship their own personal father who dwells in the Heaven which they formerly inhabited.[8]

All of this is part and parcel of the polytheistic world of Mormonism. Mormons believe in numerous gods. Even though they believe the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the principal gods with whom they have to do, they believe there are innumerable gods besides these. And they believe that they, too, will one day become gods.

The Bible Refutes Polytheism

Contrary to the Mormon perspective, the Bible refutes the polytheistic belief in multiple gods. In Isaiah 44:8, God asks, “Is there a God beside me? Yea, there is no God; I know not any.” This verse dismisses the notion of God having a Father and Grandfather who were gods themselves, as Mormons teach. 

Isaiah 43:10 presents God declaring, “Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me” (italics added). This implies that before the God of the Bible, there were no gods, ruling out the existence of Father-gods or Grandfather-gods preceding Him. Moreover, since no gods will come after God, it negates the possibility of His children becoming gods. Such verses render the Mormon viewpoint untenable. 

God reiterates:

• “I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6).

• “I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5).

• “Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:9).

Scripture consistently teaches the existence of only one God (2 Samuel 7:22; Psalm 86:10; Isaiah 44:6; James 2:19; John 5:44; 17:3; Romans 3:29-30; 16:27; Galatians 3:20; Ephesians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 Timothy 1:17; 2:5; 1 John 5:20-21; Jude 25). Deuteronomy 6:4 emphatically declares: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” Paul firmly states: “We know that… there is no God but one” (1 Corinthians 8:4). In view of such verses, to align with the Mormon viewpoint would require disregarding this pervasive emphasis in Scripture.

Mormons may attempt to counter that they are not polytheists because polytheism typically involves reverence, devotion, and worship given to a number of pagan deities. Alternatively, they may claim they are not polytheists because they worship only one God (the Father), despite acknowledging the existence of many gods. However, this semantic argumentation is misleading and unconvincing. “Polytheism” originates from two Greek words—poly (meaning “many”) and theos (meaning “God”). Polytheism denotes “belief in many gods.” Given the Mormon belief in multiple gods, they are—by definition—polytheists.

EVIDENCE FOR THE TRINITY

Plank #1—There Is One God

The foundational plank of the doctrine of the Trinity is that there is one God. From Genesis to Revelation, the singular existence of the one true God remains a consistent testimony, much like an unbroken thread weaving through every page of the Bible.  I won’t repeat all the verses cited above, but you would do well to review Isaiah 44:6; 46:9; 1 Corinthians 8:4; James 2:19; John 5:44; 17:3; Romans 3:29-30; 16:27; Galatians 3:20; Ephesians 4:6; and 1 Timothy 2:5.

Plank #2—Three Persons Are Called “God”

While Scripture is clear that there is only one God, in the unfolding of God’s revelation to humankind, it also becomes clear that there are three distinct persons who are called God in Scripture.

The Father Is God: Peter addresses the saints as those “chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” (1 Peter 1:2).

Jesus Is God: Following Jesus’ resurrection, when Thomas encountered him, he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Additionally, the Father proclaims of the Son, “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom” (Hebrews 1:8).

The Holy Spirit Is God: Acts 5:3-4 emphasizes that lying to the Holy Spirit is tantamount to lying to God.

We also witness in Scripture that all three persons possess the attributes of deity: 

• All three are described as omnipresent (everywhere-present): the Father (Matthew 19:26), the Son (Matthew 28:18), and the Holy Spirit (Psalm 139:7).

• All three are recognized as omniscient (all-knowing): the Father (Romans 11:33), the Son (Matthew 9:4), and the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10).

• All three are acknowledged as omnipotent (all-powerful): the Father (1 Peter 1:5), the Son (Matthew 28:18), and the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:19).

• Holiness is attributed to each person: the Father (Revelation 15:4), the Son (Acts 3:14), and the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-14).

• Eternity is attributed to each person: the Father (Psalm 90:2), the Son (Micah 5:2; John 1:2; Revelation 1:8,17), and the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 9:14).

• Each of the three is individually described as the truth: the Father (John 7:28), the Son (Revelation 3:7), and the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:6).

• Each of the three is referred to as Lord (Romans 10:12; Luke 2:11; 2 Corinthians 3:17), everlasting (Romans 16:26; Revelation 22:13; Hebrews 9:14), almighty (Genesis 17:1; Revelation 1:8; Romans 15:19), and powerful (Jeremiah 32:17; Hebrews 1:3; Luke 1:35).[9]

Plank #3—There Is Three-In-Oneness in the Godhead

In the New American Standard Bible, Matthew 28:19 reads: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (italics added). It’s significant that the word “name” is singular in the Greek, indicating one God but three distinct persons within the Godhead—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Theologian Benjamin B. Warfield emphasizes the importance of this verse for the doctrine of the Trinity:

Jesus doesn’t say, (1) “into the names [plural] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” or its virtual equivalent, (2) “into the name of the Father, and into the name of the Son, and into the name of the Holy Spirit,” as if we’re dealing with three separate Beings. Nor does He say, (3) “into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” omitting the three recurring articles, as if “the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” might be merely three designations of a single person. What He says is this: (4) “into the name [singular] of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” first asserting the unity of the three by combining them all within the bounds of the single Name, and then emphasizing the distinctness of each by introducing them in turn with the repeated article.[10]

We might summarize reasons for believing in the Trinity this way: 

IF:

1. Scripture says there is only one God; AND:

2. Scripture calls the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit “God”; AND:

3. Scripture points to three-in-oneness within the Godhead; THEN:

4. The one true God eternally manifests Himself in three persons. (This is the doctrine of the Trinity.)

Now, having provided the biblical evidence for the Trinity, let’s delve into the two crucial passages commonly cited by Mormons to support their belief that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate gods: Matthew 3:16-17 and Acts 7:55-56. These passages demand our brief examination.

Matthew 3:16-17—“Three Personages?”

In Matthew 3:16-17 we read, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” Mormon leader James Talmage notes that the “three personages of the Godhead were present, manifesting themselves each in a different way, and each distinct from the others.”[11] Hence, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit cannot be “one person,” as Trinitarians believe.

While Trinitarians believe this verse supports the doctrine of the Trinity, Mormons see three separate gods. To disprove the evangelical viewpoint, they typically redefine the Trinity as “three in one person.” Hence, Mormon missionaries often think that if they can simply show you that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct in this passage, they have proven the Trinitarian “three-in-one-person” doctrine wrong. Of course, Trinitarians do not believe the Trinity involves “three in one person.” Trinitarians believe there is one God, but within the unity of the Godhead, there are three co-equal and co-eternal persons. (That is, there is one WHAT and three WHOS.) So, the Trinity is not “three in one person” but “three persons in one Godhead.” (You might need to read this paragraph a few times.) 

It’s crucial to grasp that while Trinitarians consider Matthew 3:16-17 supportive of the doctrine of the Trinity, the passage alone—by itself—does not establish the doctrine. Trinitarians derive their understanding of the nature of God from the collective evidence of the entire Scripture. Certain Bible verses unequivocally demonstrate that there is one God. Other Bible verses prove undeniably that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each called “God.” Still other verses indicate three-in-oneness in the Godhead. The composite presentation of God in the Bible is that He is a Trinity.  

Acts 7:55-56—Jesus at the Right Hand

In Acts 7:55-56, we encounter Stephen, described as “full of the Holy Spirit,” who gazes heavenward and beholds the glory of God, with Jesus standing at the right hand of God. He exclaims, “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Mormons interpret this as evidence of two separate gods, reasoning that distinct personages are implied by one being at the “right hand” of the other.[12]

Biblical Christians counter that the text doesn’t say Stephen saw a physical, material form of God the Father. Instead, he witnessed the “glory of God” and observed Jesus positioned at the “right hand” of God. Getting the details correct is essential to rightly dividing the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).

That Stephen beheld the “glory of God” simply means that during his vision, he beheld the brilliant luminosity that often accompanies divine manifestations. This parallels Isaiah’s experience in Isaiah 6:1-5, where he encounters the dazzling glory of “the LORD of hosts.” This glory, we later learn in John 12:41, is attributed to Jesus Christ, equating the glory of God with that of Jesus. Hence, Stephen witnessing the “glory of God” doesn’t mean he saw a physical body of the Father, but rather the radiant presence indicative of both the Father and Jesus as divine.

As for the term “right hand,” in Jewish thought it symbolized a position of honor rather than a literal physical place. Bible commentator Ray C. Stedman clarifies this as symbolic language denoting the exalted status of the risen Lord.[13] As mentioned previously in connection with John 4:24 and Luke 24:39, God is spirit and He lacks physical form. So Jesus was not literally “to the right” of a physically-embodied Father.

It is helpful to recall what other verses say about the Father:

• John 1:18 says: “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”

• 1 Timothy 1:17 tells us that the Father is the “King eternal, immortal, invisible.”

• Colossians 1:15 refers to the Father as “the invisible God.”

• Colossians 6:16 tells us that God is the One “whom no one has ever seen or can see.”

• Hebrews 11:27 affirms that God is “him who is invisible.”

Clearly, Stephen couldn’t have seen the Father in heaven, as God is not a physical entity and He is invisible. Therefore the Mormon view is incorrect. 

Let’s sum up: 

• God is not a human.

• God is a spirit, not bound by physical form.

• The Bible refutes polytheism.

• The biblical concept of the Trinity involves one God eternally manifest in three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

There is so much more to say about all this. If you’re seeking a comprehensive treatment on this subject, I invite you to dive into my rather large book, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Mormons (published by Harvest House). It will not only explain the Mormon view with clarity, but it will also give you the scriptural answers you need to intelligently dialog with a Mormon.

  1. Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel Through the Ages (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1958), p. 104.
  2. Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1977), p. 278.
  3. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1975), 1:3.
  4. LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1958), p. 16.
  5. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words, eds. W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, and William White, eds. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1985), p. 75.
  6. James E. Talmage, A Study of the Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982), p. 41.
  7. Spencer W. Kimball, The Ensign, Salt Lake City, Nov. 1975, p. 80. 
  8. Orson Pratt, The Seer (Washington, D.C.: n.p., 1853-54), pp. 37-38.
  9. The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, ed. Jerome Smith (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), pp. 1095-96.
  10. Benjamin B. Warfield, The Person and Work of Christ (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1950), p. 66.
  11.  James Talmage, The Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982), pp. 39-40.
  12. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, p. 40.
  13. Ray C. Stedman, Hebrews (Downers Grove. IL: InterVarsity Press, 1992), p. 24.

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