Who is the "Living Christ" of Mormonism?

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  1. Mike McK

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    Who is the "Living Christ" of Mormonism?
    By Bill McKeever

    "In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints 'do not believe in the traditional Christ.' 'No, I don't. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak'" (LDS Church News, week ending June 20, 1998, p.7).

    "It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" (LDS Seventy Bernard P. Brockbank, The Ensign, May 1977, p.26 ).

    Following one of our outreaches at the LDS "Jesus the Christ" pageant in Mesa, Arizona, I overheard a young Mormon girl complain to her friend how one of the Christians tracting the event had said that the Jesus of Mormonism was not the Jesus of the Bible. She was overtaken by such a statement, incredulous that such a comment could be made. "How can that be?" she said. "There is only one Jesus!" It would seem reasonable that if the one to whom Mormons call "the Savior" is in fact the Savior of Scripture, it should be easy to take what the Bible has to say about Jesus and then compare this with what Mormons leaders have said. Logic would demand that the two descriptions should parallel. However, this is where the problem lies.

    Mormon leaders have described their Jesus as a literal offspring of the one they call Elohim. "The First Presidency of the Church has written, 'God the Eternal Father, whom we designate by the exalted name-title Elohim,' is the literal Parent of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and of the spirits of the human race" (Messages from the First Presidency 5:26).

    According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism (Vol.4, Appendix 4), "Jesus Christ is not the Father of the spirits who have taken or yet shall take bodies upon this earth, for He is one of them. He is The Son, as they are sons and daughters of Elohim." Page 11 of the LDS Church manual Gospel Principles (pg. 11) states, "All men and women are...literally sons and daughters of Deity." This includes the Mormon Jesus.

    Mormon theology makes a distinction between Elohim and Jehovah. LDS leaders have claimed that these are the names of two separate Gods. Sixth LDS President Joseph F. Smith stated, "Among the spirit children of Elohim, the first-born was and is Jehovah, or Jesus Christ, to whom all others are juniors" (Gospel Doctrine, p.70).

    Before going further, it should be noted that the English form "Jehovah" was developed from four consonants (YHWH) known as the tetragrammaton. Since this was considered to be the personal name of God, the pious Jew felt it was too holy to pronounce and therefore did not include vowels. From these four letters, we get the word "Yahweh," translated "LORD" in many passages of the Bible. On literally hundreds of occasions, the words "Yahweh" and "Elohim" are used together to demonstrate that Jehovah is Elohim. (See Genesis 2:4-22; Deut. 4:1; Judges 5:3; 1 Samuel 2:30.) These words are also used together as "LORD our God," "LORD my God," "LORD his God," "LORD your God," and "LORD thy God." Even Joseph Smith in his Inspired Version of the Bible (also known as the Joseph Smith Translation) "translated" 1 Kings 8:60 as "The Lord is God" or "Jehovah is Elohim." (See also Exodus 34:14 in the JST.)

    LDS theology tells us that all mortals lived prior to this life in what is called the pre-existence. Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie stated that it was in the pre-existence that Jesus attained the status of a God. Wrote McConkie, "He is the Firstborn of the Father. By obedience and devotion to the truth he attained that pinnacle of intelligence which ranked him as a God, as the Lord Omnipotent, while yet in his pre-existent state" (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, pg. 129). In essence, the Mormon Jesus did something his own "father" could not accomplish, that is, become a God before going through a mortal probation.

    Christians have longed maintained that Christ was, and is, the eternal God. Unlike the teachings of LDS prophets, there was not a point in time when he was not God.

    One of the more offensive attributes designated to the Jesus of Mormonism is the claim that Jesus is the spirit-brother of Lucifer. Twelfth President Spencer W. Kimball wrote, "Long before you were born a program was developed by your creators ... The principal personalities in this great drama were a Father Elohim, perfect in wisdom, judgment, and person, and two sons, Lucifer and Jehovah." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 32-33). Ironically, the same passages of Scripture that expound on Christ's eternal Godhood also show that Lucifer could not be the brother of Christ. John 1:1-3 tells us that all things (including Lucifer) were made by the Christ who was in the beginning, God. Colossians 1:16 tells us that all things, including things visible and invisible, principalities or powers, were created by the preeminent Jesus Christ, the eternal God. The Bible forcefully declares Lucifer to be a creation of Jesus, not in any way the brother of Jesus.

    Another major difference separating the LDS Jesus from the historical Jesus of Christianity is the incarnation. Christians have adhered to the fact that Christ's birth was the result of a miraculous conception, that Mary was a virgin yet still conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18). Though Mormons often say they believe in the virgin birth of Christ, they certainly describe this event in a different manner than Christians. Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie wrote, "For our present purposes, suffice it to say that our Lord was born of a virgin, which is fitting and proper, and also natural, since the Father of the Child was an immortal Being ... He is the Son of God in the same sense and way that we are the sons of mortal fathers. It is just that simple" (The Promised Messiah, pp. 466, 468).

    Sixth LDS President Joseph F. Smith stated, "Now, we are told in scriptures that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God in the flesh. Well, now for the benefit of the older ones, how are children begotten? I answer just as Jesus Christ was begotten of his father ... Jesus is the only person who had our Heavenly Father as the father of his body" (Family Home Evening Manual, 1972, pp.125,126). This thought was echoed by Bruce McConkie when he wrote, "Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers" (Mormon Doctrine, pg. 547).

    Disconcerting also is the fact that the Jesus of Mormonism is but one of many "saviors." Said Brigham Young, "Sin is upon every earth that ever was created ... Consequently every earth has its redeemer, and every earth has its tempter; and the people thereof, in their turn and time, receive all that we receive, and pass through all the ordeals that we are passing through" (Journal of Discourses 14:71-72). Consider also the fact that Young taught, "How many Gods there are, I do not know, But there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds, and when men were not passing through the same ordeals that we are passing through. That course has been from all eternity, and it is and will be so to all eternity" (Journal of Discourses 7:333). If such comments were true, we can assume that there are literally millions of saviors on millions of worlds!

    As one means of justifying the practice of plural marriage, Mormon leaders of the 19th century declared that Jesus was also a polygamist. Mormon Apostle Orson Hyde claimed, "It will be borne in mind that once on a time, there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and on a careful reading of that transaction, it will be discovered that no less a person than Jesus Christ was married on that occasion. If he was never married, his intimacy with Mary and Martha, and the other Mary also whom Jesus loved, must have been highly unbecoming and improper to say the best of it." (Journal of Discourses, Vol.4, p.259). Hyde's conclusion fails for the simple reason that Jesus was invited to the wedding in Cana (John 2:2). If He were indeed the groom, such an invitation would not have been necessary.

    Another inconsistent aspect of LDS Christology is the idea that Jesus had to "work out" his salvation. Bruce McConkie claimed, "Jesus kept the commandments of his Father and thereby worked out his own salvation, and also set an example as to the way and the means whereby all men may be saved" (The Mortal Messiah, Vol.4, p.434). It is difficult to understand this concept given the fact that McConkie had already stated Jesus had become a God in the preexistence. Why does a God have to be saved? To say Christ had to do anything towards a "salvation" should rightfully be considered blasphemous by anyone who holds the Bible dear.

    Equally blasphemous is Brigham Young's teaching that Christ had a nature similar to that found in mankind. In 1857 he taught that while Christ was "tabernacling in the flesh, he was more or less contaminated with fallen nature. While he was here, in a body that his mother Mary bore him, he was more or less connected with and influenced by this nature that we have received. According to the flesh, he was the seed of Adam and Eve, and suffered the weaknesses and temptations of his fellow mortals" (Journal of Discourses 6:95-96). Christians (and Mormons) should rightfully be horrified by such a comment. The fact that Christ was very much human should not cause us to assume that He had a fallen nature. Adam was also fully human and without a sinful nature prior to his eventual fall. Satan did all he could do to get Christ to sin; however, his efforts were met with utter failure. Hebrews 4:15 tells us that the impeccable Jesus "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin." Being God it was impossible that Christ could succumb to evil or its many devices.

    One of the pillars of the Christian faith is there is no sin that Christ's blood cannot cleanse. First John 1:7 states, "But if we walk in the light, as He is in the Light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin." If the Mormons are in fact serving the same Christ, why is this not true of his blood? In the LDS tract entitled, What the Mormons Think of Christ (1973, pg. 22), it reads, "Christians speak often of the blood of Christ and its cleansing power. Much that is believed and taught on this subject, however, is such utter nonsense and so palpably false that to believe it is to lose one's salvation. Many go so far, for instance, as to pretend, at least, to believe that if we confess Christ with our lips and avow that we accept Him as our personal Savior, we are thereby saved. His blood, without other act than mere belief, they say, makes us clean." On page 92 of McConkie's Mormon Doctrine, he wrote, "But under certain circumstances there are serious sins for which the cleansing of Christ does not operate, and the law of God is that men must then have their own blood shed to atone for their sins."

    Like the young girl mentioned above, many Mormons do not realize that some of their leaders know full well that the LDS Jesus is not the Jesus who Bible-believing Christians trust in for their salvation. Why else would McConkie also accuse Christians of abasing "themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ" if he really thought we served the same Jesus? (Mormon Doctrine, pg.269).

    In light of the above, we must ask which Jesus has the power to save? The spirit-brother of Lucifer who had to work out his own salvation? Or the unique Jesus of the Bible who was and is eternally God, the one who can rightfully declare, "I am the way, the truth and the life"? Unfortunately, it is possible to believe in the wrong Jesus. Paul made this clear to the Christian church in Corinth. (2 Corinthians 11:4).

    The question is, which one are you trusting in?

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