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The Christological Assertions

of

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,

with Exegetical Refutations

 INTRODUCTION

 

Stamped on every cover of the Book of Mormon (recent edition) is the phrase, “Another Testament of Jesus Christ.” Undoubtedly, this statement is quite accurate; the Jesus of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter LDS) is indeed, another Testament of Jesus Christ. Notwithstanding the polished Christian vocabulary in which young LDS missionaries employ, the LDS Church embraces a decidedly heterodox Christology. Because of a distorted view of the doctrine of the Trinity, the LDS’ chief Christological assertion is clear: Jesus Christ did not eternally exist as God. As will be demonstrated, the Jesus of Mormonism had to earn His salvation whereby becoming a God (in the fullest sense). Mormons are quick to point out that Jesus Christ is the “eternal” God (cf. Book of Mormon: preface) but what they mean is that His “matter” has always existed.1 Only in that sense, is He tagged as a “God.” As with all non-Christian cults, the Mormons pour a meaning into the term “Son of God,” which is far removed from the biblical definition. When Mormons are asked, “Who is Jesus?” they confidently respond by saying, “He is the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh.” Concerning this LDS motto is the last phrase “in the flesh.” This is very significant in LDS theology. LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie explains “Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers” (emphasis added).2

In LDS theology, Jesus was the actual biological Son of an exalted man (the Father) and a mortal woman (Mary). That Jesus was begotten, “in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers,” has been the official position of the LDS Church. In fact, never has there been any LDS General Authority3 who denied it. Since the Mormon Jesus was a start-up God, His life as a God had a beginning. Unconditionally, to err on the doctrine of Jesus Christ is a deadly error. LDS doctrine deifies man and dethrones Jesus Christ of His rightful position as the eternal God. Only by ignoring the grammar and context of particular biblical passages can Mormon Christology be achieved. Church history and biblical exegesis is no friend of LDS theology. The Christological conclusions of the LDS Church are patent eisegesis at its worst. It was the God and Savior Jesus Christ who clearly defined Christianity:

 

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am4 He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24; Note: All biblical citations hereafter are from the New American Standard Bible, unless indicated).

The full deity of Jesus Christ is the very foundation of orthodox Christianity. Only because Jesus Christ is the divine Mediator, is salvation a reality. Nevertheless, the LDS position stands firm: Jesus Christ the Son of God did not eternally exist as God. Rather, He became a God by obedience to law when He lived on earth.

 

A Distortion of the Trinity

   

Before examining the LDS Christological postulation, one must understand its distinctive doctrine of Exaltation. Exaltation is the heart of Mormon theology. Exaltation, in LDS vernacular, simply means: man progressing to Godhood, that is, salvation in its truest sense. Accordingly, exaltation to Godhood is the ultimate goal of nearly all devoted Mormon males. First president and founder of the LDS Church, Joseph Smith, explains:

 

I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show what kind of being God is. . . . God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens. . . . it is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how he came to be so; 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. These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that 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. . . .

Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one. . . . (Smith’s emphasis).5

 

Therefore, the LDS Jesus had to learn how to become a God “the same as all Gods have done before.” Hence, Mormons envisage Jesus as one of the three separate, but one in purpose, Gods for this world. The Mormons have replaced the biblical doctrine of the Trinity with a crude tritheistic concept. LDS Apostle and scholar, James E. Talmage, explains the LDS analysis of the Trinity:

 

The scriptures specify three personages in the Godhead; (1) God the Father, (2) His Son Jesus Christ, and (3) the Holy Ghost. These constitute the Holy Trinity, comprizing three physically separate and distinct individuals, who together constitute the presiding council of the heavens.6

 

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. To us, speaking in the proper finite sense, these three are the only Gods we worship (emphasis added).7

Clearly, the LDS Christological assertions are based primarily on their faulty view of the doctrine of the Trinity. To properly understand LDS Christology, a clear cognition of how they envisage the doctrine of the Trinity is key.

 

 The LDS main assertion: Jesus Became a God

  

As with many ancient heresies (e.g., adoptionism), the Mormons teach that Jesus Christ obtained His deity at a point in time. Thus, like Father like Son; He lived as a man learning and “growing in wisdom” on earth. Jesus, according to Mormon theology, had “worked out His own salvation.” He eventually, after His resurrection, was exalted to Godhood by His Father, who was exalted by His Father, et cetera. Presently, as Mormons maintain, He exists as one of the three separate Gods for this world. However, in LDS thinking, all who are Gods now were once mere men who became Gods. LDS Apostle Lorenzo Snow, who later became the fifth president of the 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.” Accordingly, in LDS theology, man and God are of the same species. Parley P. Pratt, who was one of the original LDS apostles, explains that men, angels (i.e., spirit children), and Jesus Christ have all originated8 from the same source:

 

Gods, angels, and men are all of one species, one race, one great family, widely diffused among the planetary systems, as colonies, kingdoms, nations, etc. . . . Each of these Gods, including Jesus Christ and His Father, being in possession of not merely an organized spirit, but a glorious immortal body of flesh and bones, is subject to the laws which govern, of necessity, even the most refined order of physical existence.9

 

In other words, according to this exclusively LDS idea, there is no quality difference between mortal man and Jesus. The only difference is, Jesus is exalted as a God presently, while man must live out his life here on earth; hoping for a future exaltation. This is why Mormons refer to Jesus as their “elder brother”—literally. Moreover, Mormons utilize the term “firstborn” to describe Jesus’ origin as the first literal spirit child born to God the Father.

In his definitive doctrinal glossary Mormon Doctrine, under the title “Firstborn,” LDS authority Bruce R. McConkie affirms that “Christ is the Firstborn, meaning that he was the first Spirit Child born to God the Father in pre-existence. (D. & C. 93:21; John 1:1-5; Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15).10 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.11

Christians must be familiar with Mormon vocabulary on this issue. Mormons claim that Jesus is Lord, Savior, and eternal God. As seen however, the phrase “eternal God” means simply that Jesus is God presently, but only His “intelligence” has eternally existed. Only when LDS terms are defined, is the full import of their Christology revealed. Additionally, what is extraordinarily problematic in LDS Christology is the explanation of how Jesus was a God in His preexistent life.

In Mormondom, one must go through a probationary time on earth as a mortal and earn his Godhood. This entire process: preexistence, to mortality,12 to Godhood (if worthy enough), in LDS doctrine is termed as Eternal Progression. The doctrine of Eternal Progression teaches of man’s journey from their “first estate” as spirit children, to their “second estate” on earth where they acquire mortality. Then, subsequent to their death and resurrection, they will proceed to their final abode in one of the three kingdoms, or heavens. In LDS theology, to progress to the highest level of heaven (i.e., the celestial kingdom), is ultimate Godhood. To reach this level, the Mormon male would have had to live a near perfect life on earth. Moreover, he must have possessed the Melchizedek priesthood; having been married and “sealed” in the LDS Temple.    This is what Mormons call “true” salvation or eternal life. However, the question remains: How did Jesus become a God whereby skipping His eternal progression? Not much literature has been written on the subject. However tenth president and prophet 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 and gain his knowledge line upon line. Luke says he “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.” [Luke 2:52]. 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.”13 Paul wrote, “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” [Heb. 5:8] (Smith’s emphasis).14

 

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, even the Son of God, with power and authority to create this earth and other earths, 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. Our bodies are essential to the fullness and the continuation of the seeds forever (Smith’s emphasis).15

 

By maintaining that Jesus was a God (in some sense) in His preexistence, before He eternally progressed, and before He was supposedly married, contradicts the LDS fundamental doctrine of Eternal Progression. To circumvent the doctrine of Eternal Progression, LDS General Authorities like Joseph Fielding Smith simply asserted that Jesus was lacking some things which he did not receive until after his resurrection.” Such is the common feature of every non-Christian cult: Jesus had a beginning. In His preexistence, the LDS Jesus was an incomplete God. Nothing unique, nothing special about this God, only that He is now one of the separate non-eternal Gods of, what Mormons call, the Trinity.

  

A BIBLICAL REFUTATION

  

To effectively refute LDS Christology, an adequate and exegetical description of the doctrine of the Trinity must be provided. Mormons, as well as many professing Christians, generally confound and misrepresent the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. Sound Christology can only be accomplished if the doctrine of the Trinity is correctly apprehended. What should be established first is that the very foundation of the Trinity is ontological monotheism:16 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deut. 6:4). As noted previously, the Mormons vandalize the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. They assert that the Trinity is three separate Gods, which is tritheism, not Trinitarianism. The biblical doctrine of the Trinity simply states that there exist three coequal, codistinct Persons or Selves, who share the nature of the one Being.

The biblical data for the Trinity is massive.17 Unequivocal monotheism is the foundation of the Trinity. However, the LDS denial of monotheism has been the theological starting point from which their distinctive Christology was first formed.

 

Jesus Christ: The Eternal Word

 

In sharp contrast to the teachings of the LDS Church, the Christian church has always taught that there is one true eternal God, Creator of all things. The early church markedly distinguished creation from the Creator. Scripture speaks clearly of God’s eternal status:

 

Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God (Ps. 90:2).

 

To communicate God’s eternal nature, the usual term utilized by the early church was agennētos (i.e., “uncreated”), which denoted His self-existence or unoriginateness (cf. Justin Martyr 1 Apol. 14.1). In his letter to the Ephesians, Ignatius of Antioch (c. A.D. 107) strictly applies agennētos to Jesus Christ:

 

There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit; both made and not made [agennētos]; God existing in flesh; true life in death; both of Mary and of God; first possible and then impossible, even Jesus Christ our Lord (chap. 7; emphasis added).

 

The plain exegesis of John 1:1, as treated below, presents Jesus Christ as eternally subsisting as the eternal Logos, God Himself. The passage presents Jesus Christ subsisting on the same plane of deity as that of the Father. Thus, Jesus Christ as God was “from everlasting to everlasting.” It is important to remember that the LDS assertion that Jesus became a God at a particular point in time comes exclusively from LDS sources.18 Hence, there is absolutely no biblical support for this LDS assertion.

Scripture clearly and straightforwardly demonstrates that Jesus is fully God.19 Justification of the sinner rests on the full deity of Christ. As man, He was the perfect representation; as God His atonement had infinite value. Much too frequently, Christians make the mistake of simply trying to prove the deity of Jesus Christ. This is not an efficacious witnessing approach with the Mormons because the Mormons believe that Jesus is a God, but what they mean is that He became one of the Gods for this world.

Therefore, to effectively refute the Mormon position is to show that Jesus Christ has eternally existed as God Himself. To adequately refute something is to provide the evidence that it is false. Scripture, on its own merit, will be the chief instrument of refutation. The texts that will be utilized are John 1:1-14; Philippians 2:5-11; and the absolute egō eimi, (“I AM”) claims of Jesus Christ. If the passages are allowed to speak for themselves, they plainly and distinctly demonstrate that Jesus Christ eternally existed as God.

 

John 1:1-4

 

In the beginning was [ēn] the Word, and the Word was with God [ēn pros ton theon] and the Word was God [ theos ēn ho logos]. He was in the beginning with God. All things [panta] came into being [egeneto] through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being [egeneto] that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men (emphasis added).

  

To defend against Christological heresy and clearly teach that Jesus Christ eternally existed as God, the early church has enjoyed the prologue of the Gospel of John. Clement of Alexandria (c. A.D. 195) writes that “the Son was always the Word is signified by saying, “In the beginning was the Word.”20 Brilliant theologian and polemicist, Tertullian of Carthage (c. A.D. 213), used John 1:1 to refute the Modalism of Praxeas:

 

Now the Word of life became flesh, and was heard, and was seen, and was handled, because He was flesh who, before He came in the flesh, was the “Word in the beginning with God” the Father, and not the Father with the Word. For although the Word was God, yet was He with God, because He is God of God; and being joined to the Father, is with the Father.21

 

The prologue of John’s Gospel thoroughly destroys every Christological heresy from first century Docetism to the present-day theology of every non-Christian construct. The LDS denial of the eternality of Jesus Christ as God is clearly refuted in light of the grammar of John’s prologue.

From the very first clause, John presents his first argument for the eternality of Christ:  Ēn archē ēn ho logos (“In [the] beginning was the Word”). The Greek verb ēn is the imperfect tense of eimi. The imperfect tense indicates a continuous action normally occurring in the past. Hence, the verb reveals that the Word did not originate at a point in time but rather in the beginning of time, the Word already existed. But then in verse 3, John utilizes the aorist egeneto.22 This verb, as opposed to imperfect ēn clearly refers to a point of time or origin, which, in this context, creation is in view: All things  egeneto (“came into being”) through Him (cf. vv. 6, 10, 14). Noticeably, John strongly contrasts the verb  ēn referring to the Word and egeneto referring to all created things, including John the Baptist: “There came [egeneto] a man sent from God, whose name was John” (v. 6; emphasis added).23 The same contrast is found in John 8:58. Here Jesus draws a clear distinction between His unoriginated existence as the eternal God, egō eimi (“I AM”) and the beginning of Abraham’s life (using the aorist genesthai, “to become”).

 

Moreover, the same contrast (created vs. eternal) is found in Psalm 90:2:

 

Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God (emphasis added).

 

Note the striking parallel between this passage above and John 8:58: Abraham “was born” (created) is contrasted with Jesus as the “I AM” (eternal). And the same in Psalm 90:2: the mountains that “were born” (created) is contrasted with God, “You are” (eternal).

In John’s prologue, egeneto is applied to “all things” created, whereas in verses 1-13 he applies the verb ēn exclusively to the Word alone. As an imperfect tense, this Greek verb destroys the LDS Jesus who became a God. It is not until verse 14 that John applies egeneto to the Word, pertaining to His incarnation: Kai ho logos sarx egeneto, “And the Word flesh became.” The always-existing Word, as John declares, “became flesh.”

Furthermore, John, in 1:1b, states: kai ho logos ēn pros ton theon, “and the Word was with the God.” John purposely uses the expressive Greek preposition  pros to clearly differentiate God the Father (ton theon) from the Word ( ho logos).24 As John concludes his definitive Christological presentation, he affirms the centrality of Scripture: theos ēn ho logos (“God was the Word).” Properly, theos occupies the first word in the clause drawing emphasis on the Word’s quality as theos. Commenting on the high Christology of John 1:1, preeminent biblical scholar Benjamin B. Warfield points out:

 

In three crisp sentences he declares at the outset His eternal subsistence, His eternal intercommunion with God, His eternal identity with God: “In the beginning the Word was; and the Word was with God; and the Word was God” (John i. 1). . . . He was nevertheless not a separate being from God: And the Word was”—still the eternal “was”—“God.” In some sense distinguishable from God, He was in an equally true sense identical with God. There is but one eternal God; this eternal God, the Word is; in whatever sense we may distinguish Him from the God whom He is “with,” He is yet not another than this God, but Himself is this God. . . John would have us realize that what the Word was in eternity was not merely God’s coeternal fellow, but the eternal God's self (emphasis added).25

 

Concluding, John 1:1 systematically debunks the Mormon view of Christ. In his prologue, John immediately asserts grammatically and contextually that (a) the Word has always (ēn) subsisted, (b) the Word existed distinct from His Father (pros ton theon), and (c) the eternal Word was Himself God (theos ēn ho logos). Where the LDS Jesus was a non-eternal insufficient God who was a mere instrument of creation; John 1:3 presents the eternal Logos as the Agent of creation:

 

All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being (cf. Col. 1:16-17).

 

 

Philippians 2:5-11

 

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God [hos en morphē theou huparchōn] did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant [morphēn doulou] being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord [kurios Iēsous Christos] to the glory of God the Father (NIV; emphasis added).

 

Philippians 2:5-11 was a very early Christian hymn, worshipping Christ as God. In seven short verses the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ is clearly expressed. Paul, as in all of his Epistles, was utterly consumed in proclaiming the two-natured Person, Jesus Christ (e.g., Rom. 1:3-4; 9:5). A full treatment of Philippians 2:5-11 will not be necessary here; however, there are some grammatical aspects that incontrovertibly demonstrate the eternal preexistence of Jesus Christ as God. First, instructing the Philippians on humility, Paul gives the ultimate example of humility—Jesus Christ. Then in verse 6, Paul declares: hos en morphē theou huparchōn (“Who in nature God being [or subsisting]).” The word translated “nature” or “form” as in the NASB, is from the Greek word morphē. The meaning of morphē denotes the specific qualities or essential attributes of that something. Concerning Paul’s usage of morphē in this passage, Warfield accurately notes:

 

Paul does not say simply, “He was God.” He says, “He was in the form of God,” employing a turn of speech which throws emphasis upon Our Lord’s possession of the specific quality of God. “Form” is a term which expresses the sum of those characterizing qualities which make a thing the precise thing that it is. . . . And “the form of God” is the sum of the characteristics which make the being we call “God,” specifically God, rather than some other being—an angel, say, or a man. When Our Lord is said to be in “the form of God,” therefore, He is declared, in the most express manner possible, to be all that God is, to possess the whole fullness of attributes which make God God.26

 

That one denies that Jesus was truly the morphē of God is to deny that Jesus was truly the morphē of man as in verse 7: “taking the very nature [morphēn] of a servant.” Again, it must be stressed: Mormons agree that Jesus was a God, but disagree that He eternally existed as God. Conversely, the Apostle Paul cannot resist in establishing that Jesus Christ eternally existed as God. Further, the word translated “being” is from the Greek participle huparchōn. As a present tense participle, huparchōn clearly indicates a continuous existence or continually subsisting. Hence, Jesus did not, as the LDS claim, become a God at a certain point in time. Scripture does not allow for such; He always existed as God just as Paul explicitly indicated.

 

 

Jesus Christ: The Eternal egō eimi

  

In his gospel and epistles, the Apostle John clearly and cogently presented the Person and finished work of Jesus the Christ. The Jesus that John passionately preached was God the eternal Word who became flesh. In the New Testament (primarily in John’s gospel), Jesus made seven (possibly eight) “absolute”27 egō eimi (“I AM”) declarations. These would be Mark 6:50;28 John 8:24; 8:28; 8:58; 13:19; 18:5; 18:6; and 18:8.

To understand the full theological significance of the phrase egō eimi the Old Testament background must first be considered. Most commentators and well meaning Christians seize John 8:58 and then hastily connect it with Exodus 3:14. There is, though, a solid connection between Jesus’ divine claim in John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14. However, to envisage the full theological impact of Jesus’ divine declarative,  egō eimi should be contextually juxtaposed with the Hebrew phrase ani hu (“I am He”). The import of the phrase  egō eimi is directly connected to the Hebrew phrase ani hu. This phrase was a frequent title for Yahweh (esp. in Isa.), in which the LXX renders as  egō eimi, “I AM” (e.g., Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4). Thus, the Jews understood clearly that egō eimi was a title reserved for Yahweh alone. I will expand on this point shortly.

As pointed out above, in John 8:58, egō eimi (“I AM”) is set in sharp contrast to genesthai (“was born”). Jesus drew a shining contrast between Abraham, who had a beginning (“was born”),29 and Himself, who eternally existed (“I AM”).30 Hence, Jesus distinguished Abraham’s origination with His unoriginate existence. The same contrast can be seen in the prologue of John (vv. 1-14; see above). The contrast supplied in John 8:58 (eimi vs. genesthai) clearly distinguishes Abraham’s origin and Jesus’ timeless existence.31

 

 

Egō eimi and the LXX

 

 

Unquestionably, I see Jesus’ statement of egō eimi as a pointed parallel to the LXX rendering. Consider also that the LXX was a practical corresponding translation of the Hebrew Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh. Hence, the Exodus 3:14 (LXX) to John 8:58 correlation is quite compelling. In John 8:58 Wallace positively sees Jesus drawing from the LXX:

 

if egw eimi is not a historical present, then Jesus is here claiming to be the one who spoke to Moses at the burning bush, the I AM, the eternally existing One, Yahweh (cf. Exod. 3:14 in the LXX, egw eimi o wn).32

 

 

Egō eimi: Eternal God

 

 As briefly discussed, the Old Testament background plays a most vital role in accurately determining the meaning of  egō eimi. The Hebrew phrase ani hu which was translated as egō eimi in the LXX was an exclusive and recurring title for Yahweh (cf. Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4). Again, Jesus claimed to be the egō eimi (“I AM”) in the absolute seven (or eight) times (cf. Mark 6:50; John 8:24; 8:28; 58; 13:19; 18:5; 6, 8). In fact, in John 13:19 Jesus’ words are identical (minus the extraneous words) with Isaiah 43:10 (LXX):

 

John 13:19: “that you may believe . . . that I am [hina pisteuēte . . . hoti egō eimi].”

 

Isaiah 43:10: “that you may . . . believe . . . that I am [pisteuēte . . . hoti egō eimi].”

In conclusion, when Jesus Christ claimed to be the  egō eimi He purposefully and appropriately applied the divine name to Himself. And the Jews unequivocally knew what He meant: “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him. . . .” (v. 59). If He were merely claiming that He preexisted Abraham, as the JWs assert, He certainly would not have been a candidate for stoning (cf. John 10:30-33).33

Jesus definitively claimed that He was the Yahweh of the Old Testament.34 Hence, at John 8:58 most meaningful translations render egō eimi correctly as “I AM.” “Undoubtedly,” says Robertson, “here [John 8:58] Jesus claims eternal existence with the absolute phrase [i.e.,  egō eimi] used of God”35

The Christian church has consistently used this wonderful passage to demonstrate that Jesus was and claimed to be the eternal God. However, Mormons still do not consider Jesus’ affirmation of being the eternal God,  egō eimi. In John 8:24, Jesus warned of rejecting His eternality as God:

 

“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am [egō eimi] He, you will die in your sins.”

 

Note above that the translators italicized “He” indicating that “He” was not in the Greek text.35 According to Jesus, believing that He was the  egō eimi that is, the eternal God, was a necessity for salvation; in which, as seen, was already substantiated back in Isaiah 43:10

 

for they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, “Take courage; it is I [egō eimi], do not be afraid” (Mark 6:50; emphasis added).36

 

He demonstrated His divine sovereignty over the winds, sea, and all creation. Creation itself is subject to its Creator. God is Creator whereby He creates all things that exists. Scripture presents Jesus Christ as the actual Agent of creation (cf. John. 1:3; Col. 1:16-17). Conversely, the Mormon Jesus was anything but Creator. In LDS doctrine, Elohim instructed His Son Jesus along with Michael the archangel (i.e., Adam)37 to organize (not create)38 the already existing “matter” into an earth.39 Consequently, the Mormons regard Jesus only as the leading “helper” in creation rather than the Creator. In sum, the Jews clearly understood that egō eimi was a title strictly reserved for Yahweh alone (cf. Exod. 3:14; Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4; cf. LXX). Hence, when Jesus affirmed Himself to be the absolute  egō eimi eight times in the New Testament,40 He unequivocally established Himself as being the eternal God; of the same essence as that of the Father.

 

Conclusion

     In the objective light of biblical exegesis, the LDS Christological assertions are decidedly unbiblical and utterly blasphemous. The Mormons have aggressively removed the Jesus of biblical revelation and present a repackaged non-eternal, non-Creator Christ. That Jesus was a start-up God flies directly in the face of Scripture: “Who, being in very nature God.” The eternal Word was (ēn) always with (pros) the Father, and eternally existed as God Himself (theos ēn ho logos). The Mormon Jesus, though, had to earn His own salvation by obedience to law. The LDS doctrine of Eternal Progression attacks the very Being of God Himself. The Mormons have no problem heralding their distinctive doctrinal position to the world: God the Father and Jesus Christ are merely two separate polygamous Gods in a pantheon of created Gods that were once mortal men working out their own salvation.

Joseph Smith deceived the world when he proclaimed: “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.”41 To be sure, LDS Christology is the obvious result of a distorted view of the biblical doctrine of the Trinity (i.e., a tritheistic view), as McConkie put it, “these three are the only Gods we worship.”42 When the Tri-Unity of God is misrepresented in any way, shape, or form, the second Person of the Trinity is de facto perverted. By denying the biblical Christ, the Mormons are disqualified from true salvation. “Whoever denies the Son,” the Apostle John teaches, “does not have the Father” (1 John 2:23). Sadly, LDS Christology hides salvation from its devotees. Notwithstanding the overuse of smooth “Christian lingo,” the LDS Church embraces a Jesus disconnected from Scripture. In this fashion, the Mormons enjoy announcing to potential proselytes that their Church “bears the name of Jesus Christ.” In the introduction to his voluminous book Jesus the Christ, LDS Apostle James E. Talmage stated:

 

The solemn testimonies of millions dead and of millions living unite in proclaiming Him as divine, the Son of the Living God, the Redeemer and Savior of the human race, the Eternal Judge of the souls of men, the Chosen and Anointed of the Father—in short, the Christ43.

 

At first glance, the above statement sounds very Christian. However, LDS leaders define these so-called Christian terms only in light of their own theology—hence, pouring LDS meanings into the terms. The sacred name of Jesus Christ does not mean anything unless it is the Jesus of biblical revelation. In anticipation of the “different” Christ, the Apostle Paul gave this sober warning:

 

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him. . . . For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works (2 Cor. 11:3-4, 13-15; KJV).

 

Paul said he was afraid that the church might be deceived by “another” (allon) Jesus. The Mormons can proclaim “Jesus Christ” in every LDS publication, scripture, and advertisement, while at the same time openly reject Him as eternal God, in the face of Scripture.

  

NOTES 

 


1 The Mormons propose a complex and awkward meaning to the term “eternal.” In LDS theology, “matter” or intelligence has always existed. Tenth LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith explains: “The intelligent part of man was never created but always existed” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation: Sermons and Writings of Joseph Fielding Smith, comp. Bruce McConkie, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954], 1:12). Hence, in that sense, Mormons can say that God and man are eternal. Thus, Mormons do not believe that God was always God, only that His “matter” or “intelligence” has eternally existed.

2 Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., rev. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 547.

3 LDS General Authorities include: The First Presidency (i.e., The LDS President and his two Counselors), Council of Twelve (i.e., the so-called Twelve Apostles), the Patriarch to the Church, Assistants to the Twelve, First Council of the Seventy, and Presiding Bishopric. Therefore, only the LDS General Authorities determine what and what is not LDS doctrine.

4 The full force of Jesus’ assertion is striking: ean gar mē pisteusēte hoti egō eimi, apothaneisthe en tais hamartiais humōn (“For if you shall believe not that I AM [egō eimi] you will die in the sins of you”). Hence, “I AM” (egō eimi) and not “I am He” is the literal rendering. Jesus clearly asserts here that salvation rests on believing that He is the eternal God.

5 Joseph Fielding Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 345-47.

6 James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ: A Study of the Messiah and His Mission According to the Holy Scriptures both Ancient and Modern, 33rd ed. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1973), 32.

7 McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 576-77.

8 “Originated” in the sense that “eternal intelligence” or “eternal matter” was merely “organized,” thus not actually created by God. In Smith’s mind: “God never had the power to create. . . . ” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 354).

9 Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, 10th ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1948), 33.

10 McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 281.

11 Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1978), 165. Note, Mormons use the terms “firstborn” and “begotten” to show that (a) Jesus was the first spirit child, and (b) that He was sexually procreated by His Father and the Virgin Mary (see pp. 2-3 above). However, unfamiliarity with biblical languages causes LDS teachers to misdefine and confuse the Greek word monogenēs, “begotten” (cf. John 1:18; 3:16) and prōtotokos, “firstborn” (cf. Col. 1:15). In that they conjured up the idea that Lucifer, being the “second born,” was Jesus’ literal spiritual brother. Of course, what quickly demolishes their argument is that Scripture teaches that Jesus created  ta panta, “all things” (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; 1 Cor. 8:6), whereas Satan was a created angel (cf. Ezek. 28:13).

12 “Mortality” in LDS vocabulary simply means possessing a physical body for this life and after.

13 This reference is not contained in the authentic writings of the Apostle John it is only found in the LDS standard work: Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1961), 93:6-16. Mormons are enamored with the practice of interpolating their own theology into the mouths of the biblical authors.

14 Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:32.

15 Ibid., 33.

16 Ontology is the study of “nature” or “being.” Thus, ontological monotheism, meaning that there is one true God by nature. Mormons believe that there are countless true Gods by nature, clashingly contradicting the words of the Apostle Paul: "However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods" (Gal. 4:8).

17 E.g., Matthew 28:19; Luke 1:35; 10:21; Romans 15:16; 2 Corinthians 13:14; Ephesians 2:18; 4:4-6; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; Titus 3:5-7; 1 Peter 1:2-3. Furthermore, the many passages which clearly reveal the Father and the Son having intimate loving fellowship before time strongly substantiates the doctrine of the Trinity (e.g., John. 1:1; 17:5).

18 E.g., Doctrine and of Covenants, official LDS publications, and statements from LDS General Authorities.

19 E.g., John 1:1; 18; 8:58; 20:28; Romans 9:5; Philippians 2:6-11; Colossians 2:9; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; Hebrews 1:3, 8, 10; and Revelation 1:8.

20 Clement of Alexandria Fragments of Clemens Alexandrinus, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson in The Ante-Nicene Fathers: Translations of the Writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325, vol. 2 (1885-1887, reprint, Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 574.

21 Tertullian Against Praxeas 15, in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 3:610.

22 Egeneto is the aorist indicative form of ginomai. The aorist tense indicates an undefined action normally occurring in the past. Reformed theologian James R. White comments on the aorist egeneto:

 The main emphasis of an aorist verb is undefined aspect, normally resulting in punctiliar action in the past. Such a verb points to a         particular point of origin when used in the context of creation (James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity, Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief [Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1998], 198).

23 Egeneto anthropos, apestalmenos para theou, onoma autō Iōannēs.

24 The Apostle John deliberately used the preposition  pros (“facing,” “toward”) with the accusative. It should be well noted that in the New Testament the predominate usage of  pros denotes an intimate relationship between distinct persons (e.g., 1 Cor. 13:12: “for we shall see face to [pros] face”). Further,  pros denotes the special relationship that Christians will experience with the Lord: “to be . . . at home with [pros] the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). In Romans 5:1, Paul teaches that since the believer has been justified (dikaiōthentes) by faith alone, they now presently have (echomen) peace “with the God” (pros ton theon).

25 Benjamin B. Warfield, Biblical Doctrines (Carlisle: The Banner of Truth, 1988), 191-92.

26 Warfield, Biblical Doctrines, 177.

27 “Absolute” meaning that the phrase egō eimi (“I AM”) comes at the end of the clause without supplying a predicate (cf. Archibald T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament [Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933], 5:146).

28 Some do not see Mark 6:50 (cf. John 6:20) as an absolute egō eimi statement (e.g., James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity, Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief [Minneapolis: Bethany, 1998], 209); D. A. Carson, “‘I AM’ Sayings” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984], 541). However others such as Protestant theologian Robert Reymond see it as a potential “I am usage” (although he cites the parallel passage in John 6:20; cf. Robert L. Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith [Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1998], 231).

29 The verb  genesthai is the aorist middle infinitive of ginomai. This verb clearly denotes origin (i.e., Abraham’s): “To come into being through the process of birth or natural production, be born, be produced” (Walter Bauer, A Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., rev. and ed. Frederick W. Danker [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], 197).

30 The verb eimi is a present active indicative denoting an ongoing action with no indication of origin.

31 Robertson sees the grammatical contrast in both John 1:1 and 8:58:

[John 1:1a] Was (ēn). Three times in this sentence John uses this imperfect of eimi to be which conveys no idea of origin for God or for the Logos, simply continuous existence. . . . See the distinction sharply drawn in 8:58 “before Abraham came (genesthai) I am” (eimi, timeless existence) (Robertson, Word Pictures, 5:3).

32 Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, with Scripture, Subject, and Greek Word Indexes (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 531.

33 According to Hebrew Law there were five reasons in which stoning would have been legal: familiar spirits (cf. Lev. 20:27); blasphemy (cf. Lev. 24:10-23); false prophets (Deut. 13:5-10; 18:20); a stubborn and rebellious adult son (cf. Deut. 21:18-22); and lastly, adultery and rape (cf. Deut. 22:21-24).

34 The NT authors clearly envisaged Jesus Christ as the Yahweh of the OT. Hence, they often cited OT passages referring to Yahweh and applied them to Christ (e.g., Ps. 45:6-7 with Heb. 1:8-9; Ps. 102:25-27 with Heb. 1:10-12; Isa. 6:1, 10 with John 12:40-41; Isa. 8:12-13 with 1 Pet. 3:14-15; Isa. 43:10 with John 8:24 and 13:19; Isa. 45:23 with Phil. 2:10; Joel 2:32 with Rom. 10:13).

35 Robertson, Word Pictures, 5:158-59.

35 Greek: ean gar mē pisteusēte hoti egō eimi apothaneisthe en tais hamartiais humōn, . Lit. “For if you should believe not that I am [egō eimi], you will die in the sins of you.” His audience did not miss the clear and cogent way Jesus communicated His eternality as God: “Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him. . . .” (John 8:59; cf. 10:31-33).

36 Greek: pantes gar auton eidan kai etarachthēsan ho de euthus elalēsen met’ autōn , kai legei autois tharseite egō eimi mē phobeisthe.

37 Cf. Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 157.

38 Cf. Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:74-75; McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 169.

39 In the three volume set, Doctrines of Salvation, tenth LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith explains Jesus’ role in creation:

CHRIST CREATED MANY WORLDS. Under the direction of his Father, Jesus Christ created this earth. No doubt others helped him. . . . It is true Adam helped to form this earth. He labored with our Savior Jesus Christ. I have a strong view or conviction that there were others also who assisted them. Perhaps Noah and

Enoch; and why not Joseph Smith, and those who were appointed to be rulers before the earth was formed? (1:74-75; Smith’s emphasis).

40 Cf. Mark; 6:50; John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8.

41 Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345.

42 McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 576-77.

43 James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ: A Study of the Messiah and His Mission According to the Holy Scriptures both Ancient and Modern. 33rd ed. (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1973).

 

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