It is hardly news to this crowd that Mormons don’t accept the traditional understanding of the Godhead, the Trinity. To say that two members of the Godhead are embodied and the third will be is explicitly to reject the traditional understanding. Indeed, I think that, in context, Joseph Smith’s statements about God’s embodiment have as much to do with rejecting Nicean Trinitarianism as with explicating new doctrine, though of course they also do the latter. Since a great deal hangs on the doctrine of the Trinity for traditional Christianity, our rejection of that doctrine is fundamental to our difference from them. It is certainly fundamental to the common accusation that, in spite of our claims to the contrary, we are not Christians. Nevertheless, Latter-day Saint thinkers have done very little investigation of the doctrine of the Trinity or thinking about our alternative. David Paulsen and Blake Ostler have each done some work on the question and related issues, but to my knowledge no one has taken the time to understand the history of the tradition and the differing threads within that history, and, against that background, to explicate fully the LDS position and to argue carefully for it.
Of course, in an important sense doing so is unnecessary. My testimony stands without such a book. Missionary work will go forward in very much the same way and with the same success with or without it. The naive arguments we make against the traditional doctrine–for example, that it isn’t logical or that it is impossible to understand–will remain naive, as will our explanations of what it means to say that God has a body, but neither life in Christ nor missionary work require sophistication. They certainly don’t require much by way of theology. Salvation and exaltation require, instead, a particular kind of life with others. Nevertheless, I think that such a work would be important. Someone ought to do it.
It isn’t the kind of thing one can do in a short time. Just reading the source materials well enough to understand accurately the arguments made and the variations on those arguments could take years. And that would be only the beginning since someone doing that work would then need to follow up with careful reflection on Joseph Smith’s teaching.
Were you advising someone setting out on this task, what would you advise? What authors and works should she or he be sure to read? What pitfalls must be avoided? Can you suggest the outlines of arguments for our position?