Modalism (Oneness Theology) in the Book of Mormon:


As a matter of historical recoded, Leader and Founder, and first so-called Prophet and President of the Mormon Church Joseph Smith could not keep consistent in his theology. For example on the nature of God, he went from ‘one God’ (Book of Mormon [cf. Alma 11:44; 2 Nephi 31:21, Testimony of the (so-called) Three Witnesses, early sections of D&C, Book of Abraham], to Modalism (sections in the Book of Mormon [cf. Mosiah 15:1-5; Ether 3:14; Alma 11:38-39], to flat out polytheism (cf. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 345-347), which the LDS Church embraces today. See Early Teachings of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon, which Contradict Present- day LDS Theology




In terms of Modalism, Joseph Smith did not understand the difference between the doctrine of the Trinity and the teachings of Modalism. Modalism (also referred to as Oneness theology) was the second century heresy that asserted that God is unitarian (unipersonal), that is, God existing as one person that reveals himself in different modes, manifestations or dimensions, rejecting the Trinity.

In other words, in Oneness thinking, since God is one, and Jesus is called God, Jesus then is the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit—not three persons, rather three manifestations or modes. Oneness doctrine teaches then that the unipersonal God (named Jesus) has two natures, divine being the Father and human being the Son. Thus, in this doctrine, Jesus acts sometimes as the Son (human) and sometimes as the Father (God) and yet other times the Holy Spirit.- –  For more details on Oneness see: Oneness Theology. 

So, what does Modalism have to do with Joseph Smith? Answer: the Book of Mormon teaches both Trinitarian and Modalism. However, I find that the Book of Mormon is more modalistic than Trinitarian, though. First, observe these decidedly modalistic passages in the Book of Mormon.


Mosiah 15. The introduction of Mosiah chapter 15 reads: How Christ is both the Father and the Son–He shall make intercession and bear the transgression of his people. . . .” Then, starting at verse 1 through verse 5, note the heighted areas:

And now Abinadi said unto them: I would that ye should understand that God himself [the Father] shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people. And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son. The Father because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son. And they are one God, yea, the very Eternal Father of heaven and earth. And thus the flesh becoming subject to the Spirit, or the Son to the Father, being one God. . . . (Mosiah 15:1-5).


That Jesus is the Father, is a teaching that is clearly taught in Smith’s, Book of Mormon


Ether 3:14: “Behold, I am the he who was prepared from the foundation of the world to redeem my people. Behold, I am the Father and the Son. . . .”

Alma 11:38-39: “Now Zeezrom saith again unto him: Is the Son of God the very Eternal Father? And Amulek said unto him: Yea, he is the very Eternal Father of heaven and of earth, and all things which in them are; he is the beginning and the end, the first and the last.”

Amazingly, a mere five verses later (11:44), we find a contradictive implication of what resembles the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity:

but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit , which is one Eternal God. . . .”

 2 Nephi 31:21: “And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen.”

Further, the “Testimony of the three Witnesses” do not agree with the present-day LDS teaching (three separate Gods). Rather, the converse is stated: “And honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God” (Book of Mormon, Introduction). The nature of God is not the only doctrine that Joseph Smith changed in his lifetime. However, the true God of biblical revelation is the triune God and thus, a denial of the nature of God is a denial of Christ and His gospel (cf. Isa. 43:10; Hosea 6:6; John 8:24, 58; 5:24; 17:3; 1 John 5:20).

2 thoughts on “Modalism and the Book of Mormon (LDS)

  1. Marcial Dacanay Taguic says:

    Modalism is not the second century heresy, but the majority of Christians during that time were Modalist. In fact there is no yet so-called orthodox Trinitarian in 2nd century!

    • Edward Dalcour says:

      I find many Oneness advocates are a-historical in that they do not understand how to accurately read and handle church history, like yourself.
      You got that idea from only snippet from Tertullian in his, ironically, polemic and refutation against the Oneness doctrine of Praxeas. However, you did not cite the actual source, nor did you interact with the entire context of what he said in Against Praxeas, 3. Mostly likely, you merely citied what you read on Oneness advocates’ websites. Typically, Oneness people who make this assertion only appeal to *secondary* sources, not primary ones – or no source at all, just an assertion (like you did), which reveals how unread they are.
      I assume you never read any pre-325 patristic primary sources—which writings were from a vast geography. Whereas, the reference point of Tertullian’s statement was within his own small regional section in North Africa and does not represent the entire ecclesiastical body.
      If you actually desire to know what the early church believed on the concept of God – you need to go the actual documents.

      But I suspect, that you, as a Oneness-unitarian, may not want to find out that the early church held to the concept of the Triune God and rejected Modalism in all forms. As noted and most recognized patristic authority, JND Kelly observes: “The reader should notice how deeply the conception of a plurality of divine Persons was imprinted in the apostolic tradition and the popular faith” (Early Christian Doctrines, 88).

      But in terms of primary sources, note just a few of the vast writings of pre-Nicene fathers affirming the Trinity:

      Ignatius (ad. 107): “Jesus Christ, who was WITH [para] the Father before the beginning [arche] of time and in the end was revealed. . . . He, being begotten by the Father before the ages [beginning of time], was God the Word, the only-begotten Son, and remains the same for ever. . . .” (Letter to the Magnesians 6). Note, he stated that “Jesus Christ, who pro aiwnwn [‘before the ages’] was para patri [‘with the Father’] and appeared at the end of time.” Almost exact syntax and using the same Greek verbs, nouns, and prepositional phrase (para + dative) as John does in John 17:5—expressing the preexistence and deity of the person of the Son, – Jesus, who was WITH the Father.

      Justin Martyr (ad 150) in Trypho, Chap. LXII, cites Gen. 1:26- “Let Us make” which he refers to the Son’s eternality and as being “even ariqmw eJteron [“numerically distinct”] from the Father.”: “‘Let Us make,’—I shall quote again the words narrated by Moses himself, from which we can indisputably learn that [God] conversed with some one who was numerically distinct from Himself, and also a rational Being.”

      Clement of Alexandria (c. ad. 190) in Stromata, 5.14: “I understand nothing else than the Holy Trinity to be meant; for the third is the Holy Spirit, and the Son is the second, by whom all things were made according to the will of the Father.”

      Many many more can be shown. The fact is fact is, the early church has always branded Oneness theology as heretical since the days of Noetus at the end of the second century. Victor, the bishop of Rome around A.D. 190 excommunicated Theodotus (the first known dynamic monarchianist). Tertullian marked Praxeas as a heretic (Kelly, 121-22). Paul of Samosata was condemned at the Third Council in Antioch in A.D. 268. Dionysius of Alexandria and Dionysius bishop of Rome along with many important church fathers condemned Sabellius and regarded his teachings as Christological heresy (cf. Kelly, 133-35). Further, the seven important ecumenical councils (Nicaea [A.D. 325]; Constantinople [A.D. 381]; Ephesus [A.D. 431]; Chalcedon [A.D. 451] et al.).

      I would recommend for you to do an “objective” research and study on both biblical doctrine and patristics – if you goal is to arrive at truth. And not be controlled and limited by internet Oneness articles and Oneness-unitarianism.

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