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Up until now, I saw Christianity as a whole to be monotheistic (there is only one god that created the world, is all-powerful and intervenes in the world).

Whilst looking at monotheism and henotheism (belief in a single god while not denying the existence or possible existence of other deities and any other deities are viewed to be of a unitary, equivalent divine essence), Wikipedia's article on henotheism states that

Some scholars have written that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) can be characterized as henotheistic, but others have rejected this stance.

Eugene England, a professor at Brigham Young University, asserted that LDS Presidents Brigham Young and Joseph Fielding Smith along with LDS scholar B. H. Roberts used the LDS interpretation of 1 Corinthians 8:5–6 as "a brief explanation of how it is possible to be both a Christian polytheist (technically a henotheist) and a monotheist".

1 Corinthians 8:5-6 reads (NIV)

5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

What does the LDS church say about it? Are Latter Day Saints monotheistic or henotheistic?

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    All Christian religions are in a sense henotheistic. For instance, 2Cor 4:4 refers to Satan as a god. -- "In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them." – Ray Butterworth Mar 13 at 14:05
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    @Ray Butterworth I'm pretty confident he means god in the 'deity' sense, not the 'I have made you god unto Pharaoh' or 'Satan is the god of this world' sense. – Sola Gratia Mar 13 at 17:12
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    see my answer point #2 – depperm Mar 19 at 18:46
  • @RayButterworth you bring up an interesting point. Here are 2 additional scriptures: 1. John 10:34 - "Jesus answered ... Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods" 2. Psalm 82:6 - I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High. It is important to note that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints worship God. – Hans Vonn Apr 27 at 19:05
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An article provided by FairMormon (a Latter-day Saint volunteer apologetics group not connected with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) provides what I think is a good answer. The full article, which addresses a broader array of questions than just the one here posed, can be found at this link.

The substance of the answer provided by FairMormon is:

There really is not a single word that adequately captures LDS thought on the nature of God. ... Instead of using a single-word label, one must actually articulate the belief (using fully-developed sentences or paragraphs). The single-word label that will adequately describe the full breadth of LDS thought on the nature of God has yet to be coined.

As a life-long Latter-day Saint, I concur with the quoted statement. No single-word "-ism" has a definition that quite matches my church's teachings, and the differences between the definitions and the teachings are sufficiently important to merit not using any of those words as a full description of our beliefs.

The article, however, is not an official statement from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or its leaders, which is what you are asking for. So far I haven't been able to find any official statement, and it seems likely there is none. A search at ChurchofJesusChrist.org (which is replacing lds.org) for "henotheist" returns no results, and a search for "henotheism" returns one result to an Old Testament lesson manual, though I cannot find where in the manual the word appears. If someone can find an official statement, please share.

  • What are those differences between your church's teachings and henotheism? – 4castle Mar 19 at 23:27
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    @4castle, for one, we believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct individuals, unified in purpose and cause into one Godhead. This does not match henotheism as I understand it. Also, the other gods we acknowledge (including the possibility of deification of men and women) cannot be God to us, as they are not the God and Father who created us and leads us. Henotheism seems to have an aspect of acknowledging other gods that actually have the possibility of a god-like impact on one's life, which is not the case for Latter-day Saints. – NeutronStar Mar 19 at 23:53
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    @4castle, kutschkem's answer below spells out more what I was trying to summarize in my comment – NeutronStar Mar 19 at 23:56
  • @4castle, the difference is that in LDS theology, any other gods would be completely irrelevant to this earth/existence. That differs from Zoroastrianism, ancient Greeks, Hinduism, or the other examples of henotheism. Whether this difference is significant enough to not qualify it for henotheism is debatable, but that is the essance of the issue. – Paul Draper May 31 at 0:38
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Normally, you would expect that polytheism or henotheism implies not only the existence of other Gods, but that these Gods also influence things on earth, or can be prayed to. Something like that. Seen in this light, I'd argue LDS theology is not poly- or henotheistic.

LDS theology sees God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Ghost as three distinct beings. Does this mean polytheism? I'd argue no, because being one in their goals etc. means that, for example, praying to the Son you will not get any different outcome than praying to the Father. Functionally, this is the same as having a trinity, just without the mystical union stuff. Having patron saints for different stuff like catholics do is much more polytheistic in my eyes, even if they are not called "Gods".

LDS theology says we can become like God, and in extension it is believed (though I am not sure how much this counts as doctrine) that God was once like us. This creates an infinite chain of Gods both in the past and into the future, and we are somewhere in the middle. Is this poly- or henotheistic? I'd argue no, because even if there exist other Gods, none of them have any bearing on our life on Earth. This is more akin to saying that there is stuff outside of our observable universe. Most likely true, but none of that stuff will or can influence us. Trying to pray to whatever other God there might be would be the same as praying to an Idol.

You could say that in some sense out theology follows the principle of mediocrity, in that unless revealed otherwise, we have to assume that what we go through here on earth is normal, happens everywhere, has happened forever somewhere, and will happen forever somewhere.

  • "even if there exist other Gods, none of them have any bearing on our life on Earth." if they are Gods, then surely they have the ability to influence things on Earth? – Chris Rogers Mar 15 at 11:28
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    @ChrisRogers Ability does not mean actually doing. – kutschkem Mar 15 at 12:18
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' official website explains how their Church may have both monotheistic and henotheistic aspects. It states,

"For some observers, the doctrine that humans should strive for godliness may evoke images of ancient pantheons with competing deities. Such images are incompatible with Latter-day Saint doctrine...Latter-day Saints also believe strongly in the fundamental unity of the divine. They believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Ghost, though distinct beings, are unified in purpose and doctrine."

The entire article is a few pages long and may be accessed here: https://www.lds.org/topics/becoming-like-god?lang=eng

  • "categorized as both monotheistic and henotheistic", indeed, some mixture of both but not quite completely either. – NeutronStar Mar 19 at 23:54
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No, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is not Henotheistic. This will be clear by comparing what members believe with what Henotheism means (see below). We don't choose a god to worship. We worship God. We clarify who we mean by saying "the Eternal Father" or "Heavenly Father".

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints - Godhead

We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. - Articles of Faith 1:1

This topic goes into more depth about what we believe about the nature of God:

They acknowledge the Father as the ultimate object of their worship, the Son as Lord and Redeemer, and the Holy Spirit as the messenger and revealer of the Father and the Son. But where Latter-day Saints differ from other Christian religions is in their belief that God and Jesus Christ are glorified, physical beings and that each member of the Godhead is a separate being. - Topics: Godhead

Henotheism

A henotheist may worship a single god from a pantheon of deities at a given time, depending on his or her choice, while accepting other deities and concepts of god. - Wikipedia: Henotheism

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I think this article answers your questions and little more depth into Mormonism / LDS.

https://www.talkjesus.com/threads/mormonism-church-of-jesus-christ-of-latter-day-saints.43331/ (this is my website)

Sample:

There are many gods, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 163); There is a mother goddess, (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 443); God used to be a man on another planet, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 321); After you become a good Mormon, you have the potential of becoming a god, (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pages 345-347, 354); God resides near a star called Kolob, ( Pearl of Great Price, pages 34-35; Mormon Doctrine, p. 428.)

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    Hi Chad. Thanks for you answer, but on this site we don't pass judgement on whether a group's beliefs are right or wrong, because it would result in endless argument. If you wish to remove the last paragraph your answer might stand as acceptable. Also if you link to a site that you are associated with, please declare you association in the answer, otherwise you might be accused of spamming. – DJClayworth Mar 14 at 16:59
  • No problem, updated my post. @DJClayworth – Chad Abizeid Mar 14 at 18:50

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