The “Jesus” of Mormonism

What do Mormons believe about Jesus Christ?

As is true of Christian churches, those parishioners of the Mormon Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints may not be aware of or able to articulate every foundational belief of the institution. Like many naïve Christian church attendees, some Mormon temple members might be unable to state (and fewer are likely able to explain) the doctrinal stance of the LDS (Latter-Day Saints) Church pertaining to the person and work of Jesus Christ. However, a church’s statement of belief concerning Christ (biblically orthodox or not) is essential to understanding what the church believes about almost everything else.

So foundational is the biblical description of Jesus Christ that maintaining an inaccurate or lacking view of His person and work in the face of truth is destructive to the soul. In other words, belief or trust in the true Jesus of the bible ensures the salvation of one’s soul, but a belief or trust in someone with different or missing attributes accompanied by the same name leaves one condemned. Of particular importance is the acknowledgment of Christ’s full divinity and actual humanity. This unique and biblical description of Jesus Christ is at the heart of Christian belief and the message of the Gospel itself. God’s plan to redeem sinful humanity is only accomplished through the person and work of this singularly capable God-man – Jesus Christ.

Mormonism maintains a view of Christ that is extremely dangerous to those who are not deeply planted in the soil of biblical truth. One could read the statements about Christ on the official Mormon or LDS websites without noticing much in the way of distinguishing marks from Christianity. However, Mormons may use the same terms as Christians when they speak of Christ, but they have attempted to redefine His person and work – the terms have new definitions.

Brigham Young, a major Mormon Prophet who directly followed Joseph Smith, said, “He [Jesus] was the Son of our Heavenly Father, as we are the sons of our earthly fathers. […]Jesus is our elder brother spirit clothed upon with an earthly body begotten by the Father of our spirits.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 2, September 28, 1862 [emphasis mine]).

An Apostle of Mormonism stated, “We are brethren and sisters of Satan as well as of Jesus. It may be startling doctrine to many to say this; but Satan is our brother. Jesus is our brother. We are the children of God. God begot us in the spirit in the eternal worlds.” (Apostle George Q. Cannon, March 11th, 1894, Collected Discourses, compiled by Brian Stuy, vol. 4, p. 23 [emphasis mine]).

Not only do Mormons believe that Jesus was the literal offspring of Mary and a physical Heavenly Father, but it also claims that Jesus had many wives himself. “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 almost think they were ‘Mormons.'” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 1:345-346 [emphasis mine]).

In conclusion, there could be many other citations and a more detailed description of the Mormon Jesus as he contrasts the biblical Jesus Christ. The words of authoritative Mormon Apostles and Prophets state it clearly as they proclaim, “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 Quorum of the Seventy member Bernard P. Brockbank, The Ensign, May 1977, p. 26 [emphasis mine]) In fact, Brigham Young makes it unambiguous when he says, “Brigham Young said that the “Christian God is the Mormon’s Devil…” (Journal of Discourses, Volume 5, page 331).

The Jesus of Christianity and of the bible is not the Jesus of Mormonism and, therefore, not the Jesus who saves.

The purpose of stating such a thing in dramatic contrast is not to personally ‘cast stones’ at those who willingly take upon themselves the label of “Mormon” or “LDS.”  Rather, my purpose is to present the real and present divergence of these two religious systems.  Christianity – the bible itself – offers salvation, the forgiveness of sins, through the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.  This gift is to be received by faith, apart from any work, effort or will of man.  Mormonism offers a version of salvation through one’s diligent effort and overwhelming obedience.  This system is like many others with respect to its “path towards salvation.”  According to the bible, the path is really no path at all – the path is a man, and only He can save sinners from God’s imminent wrath (John 14:6).

Jesus Christ is the focal point of all true Worship in both the Old and New Testaments

Both the New and Old Testaments are acutely focused upon the basis and Object of worship.

Misconception #1:  The New Testament cares more about the heart of the worshiper than the Old Testament.

1) The OT is deeply concerned with the heart of the worshipers and the Object that they worshiped.  The list could be much longer, but these verses will do well to support the point.  Pay careful attention to the last citation here, for it has a direct reference to the issue at hand – namely the heart of worship is emphasized strongly in the OT.

  • God commands, “love and serve Me with all your heart and soul.” (Dt. 10:12)
  • “Circumcise the foreskin of your heart.” (Dt. 10:16)
  • Again, “love the LORD you God, and serve Him with all your heart…” (Dt. 11:13)
  • “Put away foreign gods and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.” (Joshua 24:23)
  • God rebukes His people for they, “said in [their] heart, ‘I am, and there is no one besides me.’” (Is. 47:10)
  • God rejects the outward displays of worship, because the heart of the worshipers is wicked… “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? …I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts… When you came to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts?… When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen.”  (Is 1:11-15)

Misconception #2: The Old Testament cares more about the practice of worship than the New Testament.

2) The NT is just as concerned with the manner of worshipers’ approach to God as the OT.  This list also could go on further, but it is likely that my point will not require much more than a few examples here.

  • Humans are still required to approach God through propitiating sacrifice and after their sin has been covered. (Romans 3:21-26)
  • The person and work of Christ justifies and only through Him does any human have access to the Father. (Romans 5:1-2)
  • Christians possess a righteousness, i.e. the ability to approach God, that has come from Christ (Phil. 3:9)

Misconception #3:  The worshipers’ approach to God in the Old Testament is different from or separate from the approach that New Testament worshippers must take.

3) The overwhelming point of the OT worship practices is to provide a type, shadow, or example of who and what Christ will be (from our future perspective – who and what Christ is).  Therefore, the OT does and should concentrate heavily on numerous specific practices and methods for approaching the one and only Holy God of all creation.  The NT also concentrates heavily on the single person and work, which has been displayed as the substance of these shadows, the antitype of these types, the real form of all these examples.

Both testaments point to the methods, modes and practices

Both testaments point to the heart of the worshipers. 

Both view each of these issues with great emphasis.

The OT emphasizes the shadows and the heart of the worshipers in relation to their trust in the promise…  The NT emphasizes the substance of the shadows and the heart of the worshipers in relation to their trust in the promise.

The promise in both testaments is that God will glorify, is now sanctifying, and has redeemed and justified sinful people through His own initiative and action.

Therefore, it is critical to lift up the continuity of the testaments concerning the basis (God-initiated mediation – ultimately Christ in both testaments) and Object (the one true God) of worship, while recognizing there is diversity in the outward practices of worship.