Joseph Smith's tritheism : the prophet's theology in context, critiqued from a Nicene perspective
Hartman, Keith Dayton
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Joseph Smith is one of the most enigmatic figures in American religious history. From the details of his life story to the eventual formation of his own church, much has been written on the legacy of Joseph Smith. However, there are still numerous areas of Smith’s life and thought that demand further engagement, especially from a Nicene perspective. The purpose of the present research is to substantively add to scholarly knowledge regarding Joseph Smith. In contradistinction to other Nicene treatments of Joseph Smith and his theology, the present project will integrate multiple disciplines for the purpose of producing a robust, Nicene assessment of Smith’s life and tritheism. The aim of this project is to establish the historical context and potential religious influences upon Joseph Smith’s theological evolution. The process by which this information is ascertained requires a thorough and exegetical evaluation of the scriptural basis for Nicene orthodoxy. This data represents a theological foundation that must be built upon by recounting the development of Trinitarianism among the early Christians. Based upon this scriptural and historical background for Nicene orthodoxy, the historical focus then must turn to theological trends just prior to and during the life of Joseph Smith. The result of this process then leads to an assessment of Smith’s life and tritheism, from a Nicene perspective that integrates multiple lines of data. The findings of this research demonstrate, rather conclusively, that Nicene orthodoxy is rooted in the text of Christian Scripture. Further, Trinitarianism developed creedally, over time, among the early Christians but existed, in nascent form, from the close of the New Testament. Additionally, Nicene orthodoxy held sway among the colonies in America prior to the revolutionary era. The ideas and events leading up to the American Revolution gave occasion and platform to anti-Nicene ideologies that greatly influenced Joseph Smith’s family. Moreover, Joseph Smith’s own historical and religious context was littered with anti-Nicene and unorthodox teachers, movements and visionaries. These details lead to the conclusion that Joseph Smith was not a unique prophet but just one of many anti-Nicene religious leaders that arose to prominence during this period. It is therefore argued that Smith’s theology originated from his own theological musings. The resultant system is replete with doctrinal contradictions and philosophical absurdities. Thus, from the perspective of Nicene Christianity, Smith’s tritheism must be deemed as a distinct and rival system intended to replace historic orthodoxy.
- Theology