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The Mormon (LDS) view of Jesus Christ

 

A Distortion of the Trinity

 

Before examining the Christological teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (i.e., Mormons, hereafter LDS), the LDS doctrine of Exaltation must be defined. Basically, it teaches the idea of man becoming a God. According to the LDS, it is salvation in its “truest sense”—“eternal life.” It is ultimate goal of every “devoted” Mormon male. Exaltation is the very heart of LDS theology. First President and founder of the LDS Church, Joseph Smith Jr., explains that

 

 

God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens. . . . for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see. . . .  he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible. . . . you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves . . . the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another. . . .[1]

 

 

Consequently, the Mormon Jesus (and the Father) had to learn also how to become a God “the same as all Gods have done before.” Hence, the LDS envisage Jesus as one of the three separate Gods (but “one” in purpose) for this world. Further, LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, who was honored for his scholarship by former LDS President, Ezra Taft Benson, comments on the LDS version of the Godhead:

 

Three separate personages—Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost—comprise the Godhead. As each of these persons is a God, it is evident, from this standpoint alone, that a plurality of Gods exists. . . . these three are the only Gods we worship (emphasis added).[2]

 

 

The LDS faulty view of Christ[3] starts with their faulty view of the Trinity (“Godhead” in LDS vernacular)—as thee separate Gods.

 

 

The LDS Main Assertion: Jesus became a God

 

As with many ancient and current heresies (e.g., Adoptionism), the LDS teaches that Jesus obtained His “full deity” at a point in time. Though they assert He was a God in a sense before coming to earth, as discussed below. Just like His Father, He lived as a mortal man learning and “growing in wisdom” on earth. We are told that He had “worked out His own salvation” and eventually, after His resurrection, was exalted to full Godhood. Presently, as the LDS maintains, Jesus exists as one of the three separate Gods for this world. In LDS thinking, all who are Gods now (as with the Father) were once mere men who became Gods.

 

 

LDS Apostle Lorenzo Snow (who became the fifth President of the LDS Church), sums up the LDS man-to-God doctrine in a short, but most quoted, couplet: “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may become.” So, in LDS theology, man and God are of the “same species.”[4] In other words, according to the LDS, there is no quality difference between mortal man and Jesus. The only difference: Jesus at present is exalted as a God, while all men here are still mortal only hoping for a future exaltation after death—if deemed worthy enough.

 

 

The LDS teaches that Jesus was the “firstborn” (cf. Col. 1:15), that is, the first “spirit child” (while Lucifer being second spirit child born) of God the Father and the Mother God (one of His wives) in heaven—by sexual relations. In his definitive doctrinal glossary (i.e., Mormon Doctrine) under the title “Firstborn,” McConkie affirms that “Christ is the Firstborn, meaning that he was the first Spirit Child born to God the Father in pre-existence.”[5] In his book The Promised Messiah, McConkie goes on to say:

 

 

Implicit in his spirit birth as the Firstborn is the fact that, as with all the spirit children of the Father, he had a beginning; there was a day when he came into being as a conscious identity, as a spirit entity, as an organized intelligence.[6]

 

 

What is extraordinarily problematic in LDS Christology is the question: How did Jesus become a God in a sense in His pre-existent life before going through a “probationary time” on earth as a mere mortal man? This is a prerequisite and vital part of becoming a God (Exaltation) in LDS theology. This entire process: pre-existence,[7] to mortality (on earth), to the Spirit world, then, Godhood (if worthy enough) is what the LDS call Eternal Progression. It explains man’s “progression” from their “first estate” as spirit children in heaven, to their “second estate” on earth where they acquire mortality, then, after their death and resurrection (from the so-called “Spirit world”), they will proceed to their final abode: one of the three kingdoms or heavens.[8]

 

 

However, the question remains: Since according to the LDS, Jesus was a God in some sense before coming to earth, how then did He become a God without going through the so-called eternal progression? Not much literature has been written on the subject. Yet, tenth President of the LDS Church, Joseph Fielding Smith, gave an explanation in his Doctrines of Salvation, under the title: “CHRIST WORKED OUT HIS OWN SALVATION”:

 

CHRIST BEGAN MORTALITY AS MEN DO. Our Savior was God before he was born into this world, and he brought with him that same status when he came here. . . . But as far as this life is concerned it appears that he had to start just as all other children do. . . . John records that “he received not of the fullness at the first,” but had to progress “from grace to grace, until he received a fullness.” Paul wrote, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” [Heb. 5:8].[9]

 

 

A page later, Smith explains that even though Jesus was “God before he was born into this world,” He was not God in the fullest sense until after His resurrection:

 

CHRIST GAINED FULLNESS AFTER RESURRECTION.

The Savior did not have fullness at first, but after he received his body and the resurrection, all power was given unto him both in heaven and in earth. Although he was a God . . . yet there were some things lacking which he did not receive until after his resurrection. In other words he had not received the fullness until he got a resurrected body, and the same is true with those who through faithfulness become sons of God.[10]

 

 

 

By maintaining that Jesus in His pre-existence was a God, in some sense, before going through His probationary state as mortal man and before He was supposedly married contradicts the LDS fundamental doctrine of Eternal Progression. To circumvent this doctrine, LDS General Authorities like Fielding Smith simply assert that Jesus was “lacking some things which he did not receive until after his resurrection.” The denial of the full deity of the Son, Jesus Christ, is a common feature of every non-Christian cult. The LDS Jesus was an incomplete God—nothing unique, nothing special about this God only that He is now one of the separate Gods for this world.

 

 

 

A BIBLICAL REFUTATION:

 

To effectively refute LDS Christology, an adequate understanding of the Trinity must be first apprehended.

 

The Trinity teaches that there is ONE eternal God[11] who has revealed Himself in three co-equal, co-eternal, and co-existent distinct Persons—not separate Gods. Note: the very foundation of the Trinity is ontological monotheism.[12] The biblical data for the Trinity is massive.[13] That Jesus did not eternally exist as God and was the “literal brother” of the created angel Lucifer, as the LDS teach, is easily and clearly refuted by a few biblical points:

 

1. Jesus is presented in Scripture as eternally existing as God (e.g., John 1:1, 18; Phil. 2:6-11[14]; Heb. 1:3).

 

2. Jesus created “all things” including all the angels as with Lucifer (e.g., John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:8-10).

 

3. Only God is to be worshipped (cf. Exod. 20:5), yet Jesus was worshipped: e.g., by wise men (Matt. 2:11); by a leper (8:2); by His disciples (14:33; 28:17); by a blind man (John 9:38); by all the angels (Heb. 1:6); by all of creation (Rev. 5:13-14).

 

The Mormons claim (along with other non-Christian cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Oneness Pentecostals) that “Jesus Christ is Lord,” but, to be sure, they are speaking of a different Christ and thus, a different God than that which has been revealed in Holy Scripture (cf. John 8:24; 17:3).

 

 

 

SEE ALSO: The Christological Assertions of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with Exegetical Refutations

 


 

NOTES

 

[1] Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345-47.

[2] Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 576-77.

[3] The LDS also believes that in the OT, Jehovah (“LORD”) is Jesus and Elohim (“God”) is the Father. However, the compound phrase, Jehovah-Elohim (or more properly, Yahweh-Elohim) refers to the one true God (e.g., Deut. 6:4)—occurring over 500 times. Further, Jesus is called Elohim at places such as Isa. 9:6; 40:3; Ps. 45:6-7 and the Father is called Jehovah (Yahweh, “LORD”) at Isa. 53:6. Even more, false gods are called Elohim (e.g., Ps. 96:5; Jer. 10:11).

[4] Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, 33

[5] McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 281.

[6] McConkie, The Promised Messiah, 165. The LDS also uses the term “firstborn” and well as “begotten in the flesh” to show that (a) Jesus was the first spirit child born in heaven and (b) as to His physical body on earth, He was sexually procreated by God the Father and the Virgin Mary (see McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 546-47, 742). However, an unfamiliarity with biblical languages causes LDS teachers to misdefine and confuse the Greek words prōtotokos, “firstborn” (meaning, “supremacy/preeminence,” cf. Ps. 89:27; Col. 1:15-17) and monogenēs, “begotten” (meaning, “unique one,” “one and only,” not “created one,” cf. John 1:18; Heb. 11:17). As pointed out below, what quickly demolishes their argument is that Scripture presents Jesus as the Creator of “all things” (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:8-10), whereas Satan, who the LDS claim was Jesus’ “literal” spirit brother, was a created angel (cf. Ezek. 28:13).

[7] The LDS doctrine of Pre-existence is the so-called “prior state” of humans as “spirit children” before coming to earth.

[8] The supposed three levels of heavens are called the Telestial being the lowest, the Terrestrial, and the Celestial kingdom being the highest where Mormons who made it to Godhood dwell. Hell, on the other hand, is a temporary holding place where all the wicked will be tormented, then, after their resurrection, they will go on to the Telestial heaven. Thus, Hell will have an end. But the Devil, his angels, and the sons of perdition (e.g., folks that speak-out against the LDS) will be tormented in “outer darkness” forever (cf. Mormon Doctrine, 349-50, 746).

[9] Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:32.

[10] Ibid., 1:33

[11] Cf. Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10; 44:6, 8; Jer. 10:10-11; 1 Tim. 2:5.

[12] Ontology is the study of “nature” or “being.” Thus, ontological monotheism means that there is only one true God by nature. Mormons believe that there are countless “true Gods” that exist on other worlds, thus they worship only the God for this world. However, opposing this polytheistic view, the Apostle Paul states that “when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods” (Gal. 4:8).

[13] E.g., Matt. 28:19; Luke 10:21; 2 Cor. 13:14; Titus 3:5-7; etc.

[14] Phil. 2:6 reads: “who being [huparchōn] in very nature [morphē] God.” The term translated “being” is huparchōn, which is a present tense participle indicating a “continuous existence,” “continually subsisting.” (cf. Thayer). Thus, the Son always (continually) existed in the nature (morphē) of God (cf. Heb. 1:3).

 

DCD (c) 2013