By Dave Moore
(This originally appeared in the September/October 1997 MCOI Journal)
The Church of Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon) emphasizes that they place the person of Jesus Christ first in importance, as their church name indicates. Recently, the LDS church updated their logo, enlarging the name Jesus Christ. LDS members are eager to testify they believe in Jesus, believe Jesus died for their sins, and believe Jesus saved them by grace. On the surface, this sounds very orthodox and biblical. But is it really? Does the LDS church believe in the same Jesus taught in the Bible – the same Bible they now are giving away in their latest TV commercials?
To understand who the LDS say Jesus really is, one must go to the LDS’ own documents and teachings. In the last Midwest Chris¬tian Outreach, Inc. Journal, we examined whether the LDS view of God is the same as the biblical view of God. What we found was that the LDS believe:
1. God once was a man, but became a god.
2. There are many gods who exist, all of whom were once men.
3. Before humans were born, they came into existence as ‘spirit children,’ or spirit beings, born by procreation of the gods.
The LDS worldview is polytheistic, the belief that more than one god exist. The LDS say the father God (Elohim) is the ONLY god for this particular world, and that he reproduced “spirit children” through his goddess wives to populate it. Elohim is the only god the LDS have anything to do with.
What are the ramifications of a polytheistic worldview? The polytheistic beliefs of the LDS church lead to a much different view of Jesus Christ than what the Bible describes. Let’s look at the teachings of the LDS church and their leaders to see if their view of Jesus is similar to the biblical view.
Ontology means the “nature of being.” Milton R. Hunter, one of the LDS general authorities, makes this statement about the nature of Jesus:
The appointment of Jesus to be the Savior of the world was contested by one of the other sons of God. He was called Lucifer, … this spirit-brother of Jesus deliberately tried to become the Savior of mankind” (The Gospel Through the Ages, 1945, p. 15)
According to LDS teaching, Jesus had a beginning and was born as a spirit being from the procreation of Elohim and one of his goddess wives. Another one of their spirit children was Lucifer. Thus, we find that the LDS Jesus has the same ontology as Lucifer, that is to say, Jesus and Lucifer are both of the same nature and Substance, and they both have a beginning. The LDS teach that Lucifer submitted a plan to be the savior of the world, which was rejected in favor of Jesus’ plan.
However, the biblical ontology of Jesus teaches that Jesus has ALWAYS existed as God and created all things, including Lucifer. Nowhere does the Bible indicate the existence of a “Heavenly Mother” or that Lucifer submitted a plan to become savior of the World. The Bible says of Jesus:
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether [they be] thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he it before all things, and by him all things consist And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all [things] he might have the preeminence (Colossians 1:15-18)
SON OF GOD, OR A ‘GOD’
In LDS polytheistic theology, the spirit being Jesus became a man, who then progressed to become a god, as did his father Elohim. LDS leaders say:
Jesus became a God and reached His great state of understanding through consistent effort and continuous obedience to all the Gospel truths and universal laws. (Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel Through the Ages, p. 51)
“… Father, Son, and Holy Ghost – comprise the Godhead … To us, speaking in the proper finite sense, these are the only Gods we worship” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 576, 577)
However, the Bible does not teach that Jesus progressed to become a god, but teaches Jesus was God from the very beginning of all creation and has always existed as God:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God (John 1:1-2)
LDS VIRGIN BIRTH
According to LDS teaching, “spirit children” receive their human bodies on earth when human beings reproduce. Because the LDS believe Jesus was also a spirit being, he too would receive a human body as well. However, the reproduction that gave Jesus his human body was, according to the LDS, different from usual human reproduction. The second president and living prophet to the LDS church, Brigham Young – the direct successor of LDS prophet Joseph Smith Jr. – taught the following:
The birth of the Savior was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of normal action. He partook of flesh and blood – was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers (Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, p. 115)
The man Joseph, the husband of Mary, did not, that we know of, have more than one wife, but Mary the wife of Joseph had another husband (Journal of Discourses, vol. 11, p. 268)
When the time came that His first-born, the Savior, should come into the world and take a tabernacle (body), the father came Himself and favored that spirit with a tabernacle instead of letting any other man do it (Journal of Discourses, vol 4, p. 218)
When the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus, the father had begotten him in his own likeness He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 50, emphasis in the original)
Other LDS apostles say:
The fleshly body of Jesus required a Mother as well as a Father. Therefore, the Father and Mother of Jesus, according to the flesh, must have been associated together in the capacity of Husband and Wife; hence the Virgin Mary must have been, for the time being, the lawful wife of God the Father… (Orson Pratt, The Seer, p. 158)
Christ was begotten by an immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers (Bruce R MeConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 546-547)
Thus, we see various LDS leaders teaching that Jesus was not conceived by the Holy Ghost, but through natural relations between Elohim and Mary who was, apparently, only a virgin until she was Elohim’s lawful wife. Some Mormons will deny this leaching, but in doing so they are in disagreement with the authorita¬tive teaching of their own leaders. The LDS leaders mentioned possess far greater authority than the average Mormon, and clearly teach something that has never been officially corrected by the LDS church. This verifies the acceptance of the teaching by the church, regardless of individual claims.
Compare this with the biblical teaching on Jesus’ virgin birth, which teaches that Jesus’ conception was a completely supernatural event and contradicts what LDS leaders say:
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 1:18, emphasis ours)
The LDS church officially ended the practice of polygamy in 1890, However, polygamy is still taught in LDS scriptures. The acceptance (if not practice) of polygamy has its roots in LDS theology, especially as it relates to God. LDS theology teaches that Elohim has many wives. Additionally, LDS leaders have continually taught over the years that Jesus was also a polygamist. For example, LDS apostle Orson Pratt said:
… the great Messiah who was the founder of the Christian religion, was a polygamist” (The Seer, p. 172)
Other LDS leaders say:
Jesus Christ was married at Cana of Galilee, that Mary, Martha, and others were his wives, and that he begat children (LDS Apostle Orson Hyde, Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 210)
The grand reason of the burst of public sentiment in anathemas upon Christ and his disciples, causing his crucifixion, was evidently based on polygamy … A belief in the doctrine of a plurality of wives caused the persecution of Jesus, and his followers. We might also think they were “Mormons” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 346)
Again, the LDS view of Jesus as a polygamist husband with children contradicts the Bible, where we find that God clearly condemns polygamy. Nowhere does the Bible indicate that Jesus was ever married. Jesus could not have been a polygamist without breaking the commandment of God and the example He gave to leaders in the Church:
Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away… (Deuteronomy 17:17a)
A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behavior, given to hospitality, apt to teach (1 Timothy 3:2)
JESUS IN THE BOOK OF MORMON
The Book of Mormon (BoM) tells us that, when Jesus was crucified, some terrible things occurred as a testimony to Jesus’ death on the cross. First, many major cities, allegedly located in the western hemisphere populated by descendants of Israel Nephites were supposedly destroyed. As documented in the BoM (3 Nephi 8-9), hundreds of thousands of people were estimated to have been killed by various terrible events, such as earthquakes, whirlwinds, lightning, tempests, etc. Additionally, the BoM indicates this destruction was worldwide. Who was responsible for this wholesale slaughter and destruction as a testimony to Jesus’ death on Calvary? Third Nephi 9:15 identifies the responsible one as none other than Jesus Himself.
Further, the BoM indicates that, after the crucifixion and the destruction Jesus wrought around the world, the entire Nephite lands, in addition to the entire world, were covered by a thick “vapor of darkness” that lasted for three days, preventing ANY light of ANY kind to be seen or made (3 Nephi 8:20). Finally, the BoM tells us that Jesus Himself appeared to the people left alive after the death, destruction, and total darkness. Jesus instructed the survivors to feel the wounds in His hands and feet, and to thrust their hands into His side as proof of His resurrection. After probably hundreds of thousands of people came forward to do as instructed, the vast multitudes acknowledged Jesus as the Lord (3 Nephi 11:8-17).
The aforementioned descriptions stand in stark contrast to how Jesus is described in the Bible and to the events documented therein that surrounded Jesus’ crucifixion. First, Jesus is described as the Lamb of God (John 1 ;29, 36) who was sacrificed for the sins of the world, the lamb who opened not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7). So we see that Jesus is said to be a lamb – NOT a lion that was sacrificed, taking hundreds of thousands of people to their deaths with Him.
Furthermore, Scriptures show that Jesus was non-combative and gentle – He did not answer those accusing Him at His trial, nor did He use his supernatural power against them. Rather, Jesus healed the ear of one of the soldiers who arrested Him and asked the Father to forgive those who executed Him. The Bible describes the events surrounding Calvary, telling us there was an earthquake and a period of darkness for three hours. However, no mention is made of loss of life or widespread destruction, only that the temple veil was torn in two. After His resurrection, Jesus showed Himself to certain select followers, but He did not compel anyone to touch Him to prove who He was. Even Thomas did not touch Him, though Jesus offered Himself to Thomas’ touch.
JESUS AND JOSEPH SMITH
LDS leaders make interesting comparisons between Jesus and Joseph Smith. Though the LDS church claims it is the “church of Jesus Christ,” Joseph Smith is held as a higher authority than Jesus, Joseph Smith himself said:
I have more to boast than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from him; but the Latter Day Saints never ran away from me yet… When they can get rid of me, the devil will also go (History of the Church, vol. 6, p.408, 409).
Additionally, the 10th prophet of the LDS Church, Joseph Fielding Smith, said:
No salvation Without Accepting Joseph Smith. If Joseph Smith was verily a prophet, and if he told the truth … No man can reject that testimony without incurring the most dreadful consequences, for he cannot enter the Kingdom of God” (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, p, 190)
LDS prophet Brigham Young said:
… no man or woman in this dispensation will ever enter into the celestial kingdom of God without the consent of Joseph Smith … every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are – I with you and you with me. I cannot go there without his consent” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 289)
The Bible indicates that our salvation is totally dependent on Jesus alone as the sole mediator between God and man, NOT Joseph Smith:
For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5)
SAVIOR AND SACRIFICE
The LDS Jesus is called the savior. However, the LDS savior is an insufficient one because the LDS teach that mankind is also involved in its own salvation. The LDS 3rd Article of Faith says:
We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
The BoM states:
… for we know that is by grace that we are saved after all we can do (2 Nephi 25:23)
This belief that man is involved in his own salvation makes Jesus’ sacrifice insufficient by default. According to the LDS, Jesus’ atonement simply makes it possible for mankind to obtain salvation through obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel. The LDS gospel is defined as a set of rules for the seeker to follow in order to obtain salvation. Additionally, the LDS say that Jesus’ blood is insufficient to save one from all sins. Rather, one’s own blood sacrifice is needed to cleanse one from certain sins. Joseph Fielding Smith said:
Joseph Smith taught that there were certain sins so grievous that man may commit, that they will place the transgressor beyond the power of the atonement of Christ. If these offenses are committed, then the blood of Christ will not cleanse them from their sins even though they repent. Therefore their only hope is to have their own blood shed to atone as far as possible, in their behalf (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, p. 135)
The implication of the aforementioned teachings is that, what Jesus’ shed blood can’t save us from, our own shed blood can; thus, we become our own savior by our own sacrifice. This teaching is completely unknown to the Scriptures. The biblical Jesus is the complete and only savior who saves us from all sins, who has already paid the complete sacrifice for our sins. We can do nothing. The Scriptures say:
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Epheians 2:8,9)
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ …(Romans 5:1)
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, ‘It is finished:’ and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost (John 19:30)
But is we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Chnst his Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7)
As we have seen from the mentioned comparisons, the LDS Jesus is completely different from the biblical Jesus. The LDS Jesus was a created being, who was the spirit brother of Lucifer. The LDS Jesus became a man by natural relations between the Father God and Mary, who became the polygamous father of many offspring, Jesus then became the savior by his sacrifice and death, which was testified to the world by the death and destruction of thousands which enabled him to become a god himself; a god among many gods. The LDS Jesus’ sacrifice enabled mankind to have the possibility of salvation in celestial glory, but salvation is not determined by Jesus’ sacrifice but rather by man’s own deeds and the approval of Joseph Smith Jr. Thus, the LDS Jesus cannot be equated, in any way, to the Jesus in the Bible or historical Christianity.
On the other hand, the biblical Jesus is the only Eternal God who has always existed and who will ever exist, who created all things, including Lucifer. The biblical Jesus is the one who became a man by the Holy Spirit, and lived the completely perfect life that we could not in order to make the one and only perfect sacrifice needed for mankind’s salvation. This sacrifice is one that mankind cannot contribute to in any way, due to our hopeless, sinful condition. In making this sacrifice, Jesus did not wreak havoc, death, and destruction on the unbelieving Jews, but gave Himself as the unblemished, sacrificial lamb of the Old Testament. The biblical Jesus is the ONLY one who can save us.
The biblical Jesus tells us of the importance of knowing exactly who He is and why knowing who He is has eternal consequences:
And he said unto them, “Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world. I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins.” (John 8:23-24.)
The Journal would like to thank our newest researcher, Dave Moore. Dave has been a friend of Midwest Christian not reach, Inc. for several years and is a regular member of the Monday night “defend the faith” group meetings. Dave is a manager with the US Postal Service, and has had a longtime interest in apologetics and cults. Dave lives in Carol Stream Illinois with his wife and two daughters.