Looking at the April 2015 Mormon General Conference

The LDS Church’s most recent General Conference was held April 4-5, 2015. A couple of interesting graphics have been produced as a result.

Over at MormonChannel.org’s Facebook page visitors were asked to fill in the blank: “Because of #ldsconf I will __________________.” A few days later Mormon Channel posted this word cloud created with the answers they received.

April15GCWordCloud

This, then, focuses the Mormon’s take-away from General Conference, anchored with “be better,” “try harder,” and “do my best.” It’s interesting that the essence of President Uchtdorf’s widely acclaimed talk, “The Gift of Grace,” didn’t garner an honorable mention.

Another interesting General Conference graphic comes in the form of a chart. This graph displays the number of times the name of Joseph Smith was mentioned in General Conference. It includes data from 10 years: October 2005 – April 2015.

The exceptionally high number of references to Joseph Smith in the October 2005 conference was due to that year’s celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Prophet’s birth. Apart from that, Joseph Smith has been mentioned regularly during general conferences over the past decade at an average frequency of 29.6 times per conference. Until April 2015, that is, when Joseph Smith was mentioned only 4 times.

A year ago MRM’s Eric Johnson posted an April Fools Day blog titled, “New church essay distances LDS Church from Joseph Smith.” In his spoof Eric wrote,

“[A new Church essay] Titled ‘Distancing the Church from Joseph Smith,’ church authorities indicate that the LDS Church wants nothing more to do with the legacy of Joseph Smith… Among other issues, the [Salt Lake Tribune] article cited Smith’s polygamous ways with 34 women as ‘irresponsible, especially when it is considered that a third of his wives were teenagers and another third married to other men’s wives.’”

Was Eric’s joke prophetic? Is the LDS Church purposefully beginning to distance itself from Joseph Smith and his controversial history? While nobody seems to know what has caused this startling drop in the use of the Prophet’s name at General Conference, theories abound. What’s your theory?

Posted in General Conference, Joseph Smith, LDS Church, Mormon Culture | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A Mormon “Detective Story”

[The following is a guest post written by a friend of Mormonism Research Ministry – a former Mormon who wishes to remain anonymous to keep family peace.]

I’m submitting for your consideration a “detective story” from my family history that raises more serious questions about Joseph Smith and polygamy.

SHolmesIt starts with my uncles – devout Mormons – doing their Church-mandated genealogy and discovering that one of our ancestors was Joseph Ellis Johnson, a close friend of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and brother to two of Joseph Smith’s polygamous wives, Delcena and Almera Johnson.  The Johnson family was considered Mormon royalty in the 1800s and still is today.  My family proudly announced the fact, although discreetly because up until last year Joseph Smith’s polygamy was still being denied by Church leaders.  Nevertheless, members of their ward spread the word of our lineage in hushed tones and more than a little envy.  We were proud.

After a couple years, our family history quickly descended from pride to one shocking discovery after another.  First, one of the uncles discovered that Joseph Ellis Johnson admitted to a church court presided over by Brigham Young that he had committed adultery with one of the wives of future church prophet Lorenzo Snow and fathered her child.  Surprisingly, both Lorenzo Snow and Brigham Young forgave him, and Snow released his wife from her vows so that she could marry Johnson.  It’s something of a “Camelot” story, with Snow as King Arthur, Johnson as Lancelot, Hannah Goddard as Queen Guinevere, and Brigham Young as Merlin the Great.  It was interesting, even poetic, but for us it was humiliating, too. [1] Those of us who knew about it kept it to ourselves.

This was shocking enough for my family, but their next discovery threatened to unravel not only the family but also the LDS Church itself.  The family has tried – successfully, so far – to keep it somewhat confidential, or, as they say, sacred.

Johnson stated during his church court hearing that he had witnessed Joseph Smith having sex with his mother-in-law Mary Heron Snider.  At first, my uncles assumed this to be just another of Joseph Smith’s plural brides, shocking enough at the time, but then they discovered that there is no LDS Church record whatsoever of Joseph Smith having ever married Mary Snider.  That terrible word, adultery, almost paralyzed them with fear.  Worse, they read that [during the hearing] neither Brigham Young, Lorenzo Snow, nor Ezra T. Benson registered any surprise or indignation, nor did they deny it or strike it from the record.  They simply forgave Johnson his adultery and ordered his re-baptism.   My uncles could see the high moral ground claimed by Joseph Smith disintegrating before them, possibly damaging the Church’s truth claims, and all because of our esteemed ancestor – a Johnson.

This changed everything.  Our genealogy became a “DaVinci Code” cluster of conspiratorial secrets; we all waited with bated breath to see if our discovery would become widely known; and worse, we wondered if the Church would be damaged by the disclosure that Joseph Smith was having sex not just with his plural wives but with other women, too.

Nothing for several years. Just a few obscure references.  So far so good.  Then it happened.  Wikitree published the story of Joseph Ellis Johnson committing adultery with Lorenzo Snow’s wife, with Brigham Young forgiving him and ordering his re-baptism.  Wikipedia published the story of Joseph Smith secretly committing adultery with Mary Heron Snider, who was not one of his plural wives. [2]   

Our terrible secrets were out.  Most of the family kept silent.  No longer did anyone boast about our royal Mormon heritage.  A few no longer bore their testimony about the divine mission of Joseph Smith. A few started reading non-Mormon blogs to see if the word would spread.  And none of us did any more genealogy.

Footnotes:

1. “O. Hyde [speaking] there is a matter of bro: Johnson to be laid before the Council—this matter was brot before Council in Kanesville  his Priesthood was required to be laid down until he came here – a Miss Goddard wife of Lorenzo Snow became in a family way by Bro Johnson – she was living in his house – we deemed it improper for her to be there –  he sent her away to a retired place – she was delivered of a child – she is again living at his house in Kanesville – he wishes to retain his fellowship in the Church.  He says he has   bro: Snow & he was satisfied.

“Joseph E. Johnson [speaking] – I am come purposely if possible to get the matter settled & atone for the wrong I av done – I av neglected to lay it before you before this – bro Hydes statements r all correct – true – all I can do is beg for mercy – I became acquainted with the girl, & the consequences r as the r – I saw bro. Snow at Kanesville & he was satisfied – I am come here to atone for the wrong I av done.”

According to Johnson, he met with Apostle Snow to discuss the matter and says the Apostle (and future Prophet) “was satisfied.”  It goes beyond that, though, suggesting that this may have been a true Mormon pioneer love story that ended well.  Reports state that Lorenzo Snow relinquished his earthly claim on the pregnant Hannah Goddard and allowed her to marry her true love Joseph Johnson.   Joseph Ellis Johnson died on 17 December 1882 after an illness. He left behind three wives — Harriet Snider, Eliza Saunders, and his beloved Hannah Goddard.  He was the father of twenty-eight children.   At the time of the events in 1845, Hannah Goddard was 17; Joseph Ellis Johnson was 28; Lorenzo Snow was 31; and Brigham Young was 44.

Inventory of the Joseph Ellis Johnson papers, 1831-1964.

Misc Minutes, Brigham Young Collection, d 1234, CHL, Sept. 2, 1850, restricted; excerpts transcribed by D. Michael Quinn, bx 3 fd 2, Quinn Collection, Yale Library. This document is available on Richard E. Turley, Jr., Selected Collections from the Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Provo, Utah: BYU Press, vol. 1, DVD #18.

Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power.  Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997, p. 701.

2. From Wikipedia:

Johnson was a colorful figure in the early Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In response to a presentation on plural marriage given by Brian Hales at a FAIR Conference in 2012, D. Michael Quinn wrote:

“Using a slang vulgarity for sexual intercourse, her [Mary Heron Snider’s] son-in-law Joseph E. Johnson privately told a group of devout Mormons in 1850: ‘He was familiar with the first frigging that was done in his house with his mother in law by Joseph.’ Johnson said this during a council meeting that was deciding whether to excommunicate him for impregnating one of Apostle Lorenzo Snow’s plural wives whom Johnson now wanted to marry. She loved him, not the apostle. A Church court in Kanesville, Iowa, had already decided that ‘his priesthood was required to be laid down [i.e., he was disfellowshipped] until he came here’ to Salt Lake City. I cannot take seriously the suggestion by Hales that this Church court’s official minutes misquoted Johnson’s words. First, by any reasonable logic, who would assume that any LDS clerk introduced a crudely sexual term into a non-sexual remark or into a remark that only implied sex? Second, by 1850, the LDS Church’s clerks routinely used stenographic shorthand to accurately record such meetings, especially when Brigham Young participated (as he did in this one).” [Read Quinn’s full response (pdf) here.]

Hales stated that he believes the Johnson account:

“I think he’s telling the truth. I believe it. I’m willing to make this assumption. But, the next assumptions you are willing to make are very important. Because if you assume there was no plural sealing, that Joseph is just involved with Mary Heron, without any kind of a marriage, then it’s adultery. If you want to assume there was a plural sealing and that she was also having conjugal relations with her legal husband, then it’s sexual polyandry and this is what Michael Quinn is promoting and believes happened.”

Posted in Early Mormonism, Joseph Smith, Mormon History, Polygamy | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

“Utter Nonsense” Presented at the April 2015 Mormon General Conference

Dieter UchtdorfIt’s like an April Fools joke, but nobody’s laughing. Instead, people are scratching their heads.

During the April 2015 Sunday morning General Conference session, Mormon Apostle Dieter F. Uchtdorf (of the First Presidency) gave a talk that just a few decades ago would have been described by LDS Church leaders as one of “such utter nonsense and so palpably false that to believe it is to lose one’s salvation” (“What the Mormons Think of Christ,” pamphlet published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982, 19).

In the talk titled, “The Gift of Grace,” Mr. Uchtdorf presented what sounded for all the world like a Christian gospel message. As one blogger noted, “It’s like someone snuck an Evangelical pastor into General Conference.”

“…Jesus the Christ brought salvation to all those who shall believe in His name… We cannot earn our way into heaven. The demands of justice stand as a barrier which we are powerless to overcome on our own. But all is not lost. The grace of God is our great and everlasting hope.” (2:46-5:44)

He continued,

“Salvation cannot be bought with the currency of obedience; it is purchased with the blood of the Son of God…If grace is a gift of God, why then is obedience to God’s commandments so important?…We obey the commandments of God out of love for Him…our obedience to God’s commandments comes as a natural outgrowth of our endless love and gratitude for the goodness of God.” (12:20-14:24)

Mr. Uchtdorf appeared to be teaching salvation by grace, though faith, not of works (see Ephesians 2:8-10) – a doctrine labeled by at least three LDS Church leaders (9th Mormon President David O. McKay, 10th Mormon President Joseph Fielding Smith, and Mormon Apostle James Talmage) as “pernicious.”

“FAITH, GRACE, AND WORKS. The fallacy that Jesus has done all for us, and live as we may, if on our deathbed, we only believe, we shall be saved in his glorious presence, is most pernicious. Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, has given us the means whereby man may obtain eternal happiness and peace in the kingdom of our Father, but man must work out his own salvation through obedience to the eternal principles and ordinances of the gospel. For centuries men have been blinded by the false teaching of ‘belief alone sufficient’; and today there is manifest on every hand the sorry plight into which this and other perverse doctrines have thrown the pseudo-Christian sects. The world is in sore need at the present time of the gospel of individual effort—the gospel of faith and works. He who will not grasp this means provided him, will sink beneath the waves of sin and falsehood.” (David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals, 8)

“One of the most pernicious doctrines ever advocated by man, is the doctrine of ‘justification by faith alone,’ which has entered into, the hearts of millions since the days of the so-called ‘reformation..’” (Joseph Fielding Smith, The Restoration of All Things, 1964, 192)

“The Sectarian Dogma of Justification by Faith Alone has exercised an influence for evil. The idea upon which this pernicious doctrine was founded was at first associated with that of an absolute predestination, by which man was foredoomed to destruction, or to an undeserved salvation.” (James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, 1984, 432).

ThumbsDownAnother Mormon leader insisted,

“One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, 206. See also The Book of Mormon Student Manual Religion 121 and 122, 1989, 36).

And another did not mince words when he said salvation by grace alone is a “false doctrine” and “the second greatest heresy in Christendom.” (Mormon apostle Bruce McConkie, respectively, The Joseph Smith Translation, 13; The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man, 77)

Mr. Uchtdorf went on in his talk to explain,

“ ‘…for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.’ However, I wonder if sometimes we misinterpret the phrase ‘after all we can do.’ We must understand that ‘after’ does not equal ‘because.’ We are not saved ‘because’ of all that we can do. Have any of us done all that we can do? Does God wait until we have expended every effort before he will intervene in our lives with His saving grace?… Nephi labored so diligently to persuade his children and brethren ‘to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God.’ After all, that is what we can do. And that is our task in mortality.” (15:55-17:36)

Here, again, this current Mormon apostle’s General Conference teaching was at odds with the teachings of other Church leaders. Consider the words of the 11th President of the Mormon Church, Harold B. Lee:

“The Lord will bless us to the degree to which we keep His commandments. Nephi put this principle in a tremendous orbit when he said: ‘For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.’ (2 Nephi 25:23.) The Savior’s blood, His atonement, will save us, but only after we have done all we can to save ourselves by keeping His commandments.” (Harold B. Lee, Stand Ye in the Holy Places, 246. See also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 24).

Or 13th Mormon President Ezra Taft Benson:

“What is meant by ‘after all we can do’? ‘After all we can do’ includes extending our best effort. ‘After all we can do’ includes living His commandments. ‘After all we can do’ includes loving our fellowmen and praying for those who regard us as their adversary. ‘After all we can do’ means clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick and giving ‘succor [to] those who stand in need of [our] succor’ (Mosiah 4:15)-remembering that what we do unto one of the least of God’s children, we do unto Him (see Matthew 25:34-40; D&C 42:38). ‘After all we can do’ means leading chaste, clean, pure lives, being scrupulously honest in all our dealings and treating others the way we would want to be treated.” (“After All We Can Do,” Christmas Devotional, Salt Lake City, Utah, 9 December 1982. Quoted in The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 354)

Or previous member of the LDS First Presidency Marion G. Romney:

“The truth is that we are saved by grace only after all we ourselves can do. (See 2 Ne. 25:23.) There will be no government dole which can get us through the pearly gates. Nor will anybody go into the celestial kingdom who wants to go there on the works of someone else. Every man must go through on his own merits. We might just as well learn this here and now.” (“In Mine Own Way,” Ensign, November 1976, 123)

Or current Mormon apostle Dallin Oaks:

“Because of what He accomplished by His atoning sacrifice, Jesus Christ has the power to prescribe the conditions we must fulfill to qualify for the blessings of His Atonement. That is why we have commandments and ordinances. That is why we make covenants. That is how we qualify for the promised blessings. They all come through the mercy and grace of the Holy One of Israel, ‘after all we can do’ (2 Nephi 25:23).” (“Two Lines of Communication,” Ensign, November 2010, 84)

Mormons will need to determine whether Mr. Uchtdorf’s teaching signals an about-face in Mormon doctrine, or is merely customary Mormon Church double-speak. While I want with all my heart to believe that LDS leaders have come to recognize the biblical truth of God’s grace and are now engaged in pouring this truth out and over parched and exhausted Mormons who thirst desperately for this Living Water, I fear that Mr. Uchtdorf has just repackaged and rephrased Mormonism’s grace-plus-works gospel.

As I listened to his talk, keeping in mind the different ways Mormonism defines biblical words (e.g., six different definitions for the words “saved” and “salvation”; three different “heavens”; six steps leading to “true repentance”; etc.), I became convinced that nothing has changed in Mormonism. The canonized Articles of Faith remain the same, teaching that “mankind may be saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel” (Article of Faith 3). The Book of Mormon still says, “…if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you…” (Moroni 10:32). And the living prophet of the Mormon Church has not recanted his teaching, “It is the celestial glory which we seek. It is in the presence of God we desire to dwell. It is a forever family in which we want membership. Such blessings must be earned” (“An Invitation to Exaltation,” Ensign, May 1988, 53).

In the end, it should be noted that Mr. Uchtdorf defined “grace” in keeping with the standard Mormon definition of “an enabling power” (LDS Bible Dictionary, “Grace”). He said God’s grace is “the divine assistance and endowment of strength by which we grow from the flawed and limited beings we are now, into exalted beings of truth and light.” (3:30). He explained that our gratitude resulting in obedience will “merge our works with God’s grace” (14:16). And perhaps most significantly, Mr. Uchtdorf said, “Jesus Christ has cleared the way for us to ascend to heights incomprehensible to mortal minds” (18:20).

one-way-jesus-2Friends, Jesus hasn’t cleared the way, He is the way – the only way (John 14:6). Until this truth – this Savior — is fully embraced and proclaimed by the LDS Church, all the Church’s messengers have to offer is “smooth” speech by which “they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” (Romans 16:18 NASB).


If you are interested in additional analyses related to Dieter Uchtdorf’s talk, check out “Sunday Morning Talk on Grace Review” by Bobby Gilpin and/or “The Ticket or The Airline: Salvation vs Exaltation in Mormon Soteriology” by Thinker of Thoughts.

Posted in General Conference, Grace, Salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Mormonism’s “different Jesus”

On Monday I blogged about my disagreement with Mormon bishop Nate Sharp’s implication that because there is “one and only one Jesus Christ” the idea that Mormons believe in a “different Jesus” is a myth. Today I want to look again at his blog article and very briefly examine a few of the attributes Dr. Sharp attributed to the Jesus he said Mormons believe in. In his recent article titled “Dispelling 5 More Myths About Mormons,” Dr. Sharp stated,

Christus Statue“Myth #1: Mormons believe in a ‘different Jesus.’

“One myth about Mormons is the notion that we believe in a ‘different Jesus.’ In reality, of course, there is one and only one Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth, whose life, ministry, Atonement, death, and resurrection are recounted in the New Testament, is the center of our faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons worship and accept Jesus Christ as King of kings, Lord of lords, Creator of the universe, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, and the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. Jesus is the ‘author and finisher of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:2) and ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6). We believe His is the only name under heaven whereby mankind can be saved.”

Dr. Sharp’s description of Mormonism’s view of Jesus Christ is filled with biblical words and quotes, giving the impression that Mormonism’s “different Jesus” is the same Jesus that is revealed in the New Testament. But in fact, such a conclusion would be a myth. Consider the following.

Dr. Sharp wrote, “Mormons worship and accept Jesus Christ as King of kings, Lord of lords.” Yet an article in Ensign magazine said that, “what we can hope for regarding the consummation of the latter-day work that the Lord began through Joseph Smith…[is that] Jesus Christ will become the King of Kings…” (Gerald N. Lund, “A Prophet for the Fulness of Times,” January 1997, 54. Emphasis added). The biblical Jesus is not becoming the King of kings; He is the King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15).

Dr. Sharp wrote, “Mormons worship and accept Jesus Christ as…the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind.” I have to believe that this Jesus offers a limited or partial redemption, because in LDS General Conferences it has been taught that the redemption of all mankind also requires human redeemers: Mormons do temple work “for a purpose, which is to redeem our dead ancestors,” President James Faust said (Ensign, November 2003, 54); and, as quoted by President Thomas Monson, “It is by this [Mormon] priesthood that…[men’s] sins are forgiven, and that they are redeemed” (President Wilford Woodruff, Ensign, November 2000, 47). This is a “different Jesus” because the biblical Jesus Himself provides redemption and forgiveness through His blood (Ephesians 1:7) — not through proxy temple work or the Mormon priesthood.

LDS Christ Pass Along CardDr. Sharp wrote, “Jesus is…‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6).” Yet a Mormon apostle taught in General Conference that “This Church…is the way, the truth, and the life” (Marion G. Romney, 1961, quoted in Book of Mormon Student Manual, 1989, 26. Emphasis added). LDS President Thomas Monson wrote, “Jesus Christ taught… ‘the way, the truth, and the life’” (Ensign, April 2006, 3). And a Mormon Seventy said Jesus “will forever light our way, our truth, and our life (see John 14:6)” (Donald Hallstrom, Ensign, May 2010, 80. Emphasis added). When the biblical apostle Thomas said, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” The biblical Jesus did not say, “The church is the way” or “I will teach you the way” or “I will illuminate your way.” The biblical Jesus said, “I am the way” – the only way — because “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:3-7). Unlike the “different Jesus” of Mormonism, the biblical Jesus is the only way, the only truth, and the only life.

In reality, nearly every word and phrase used by Dr. Sharp to describe the biblical-sounding attributes of Mormonism’s “different Jesus” represent an unbiblical Jesus Christ. His ministry, his atonement, his creatorship, his sonship (etc.) are all different from the ministry, Atonement, Creatorship and Sonship (etc.) of the biblical Jesus. And because this “different Jesus” of Mormonism is not the true Jesus Christ, Dr. Sharp’s assertion regarding the Mormon belief in his sufficiency rings hollow.

Dr. Sharp wrote, “We believe His is the only name under heaven whereby mankind can be saved.” Yet in an article commemorating the death of Joseph Smith in the LDS Church News, the author wrote,

“In the final analysis – when this dispensation is completed – the salvation and happiness of men and women will be determined on how each of us has responded to the name and the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith.” (William O. Nelson, “Joseph’s prophetic mission,” Church News, July 16, 1994, 5)

Years later Church News quoted Mormon Seventy Theodore Tuttle who said during a 1971 General Conference,

“Every Man who has lived since the days of Joseph Smith is subject to accepting him as a prophet of God in order to enter into our Heavenly Father’s presence.” (“No greater prophet,” Church News, March 17, 2001, 14)

joseph-smithMormon President Brigham Young taught,

“From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, 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 7:289)

And Mormon President Joseph F. Smith explained,

“The day will come—and it is not far distant, either—when the name of the Prophet Joseph Smith will be coupled with the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Son of God, as his representative, as his agent whom he chose, ordained and set apart to lay anew the foundations of the Church of God in the world, which is indeed the Church of Jesus Christ, possessing all the powers of the gospel, all the rites and privileges, the authority of the Holy Priesthood, and every principle necessary to fit and qualify both the living and the dead to inherit eternal life, and to attain to exaltation in the kingdom of God.” (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. [1939], 134; quoted in “Joseph Smith: Restorer of Truth,” Ensign, December 2003, 17)

The biblical Jesus does not couple His name with the name of Joseph Smith to bring salvation to His people. The name of the biblical Jesus is the only name whereby we can be saved. Christian theologian John Piper explains,

“The point of saying, ‘There is no other NAME,’ is that we are saved by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus. His name is our entrance into fellowship with God. The way of salvation by faith is a way that brings glory to the name of Jesus. Peter says in Acts 10:43, ‘Every one who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.’ The name of Jesus is the focus of faith and repentance. In order to believe on Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, you must believe on his name. That is, you must have heard of him and know who he is as a particular man who did a particular saving work and rose from the dead.

“Paul put it this way in Romans 10:13–15: ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. …’ There is salvation in no one else—… Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, apart from him no one comes to the Father (John 14:6).”

Nineteenth century Christian pastor Charles Spurgeon said,

“You must understand that there is only one door to salvation, and that is Christ; there is one way, and that is Christ; one truth, and that is Christ; one life, and that is Christ. Salvation lies in Jesus only…” (read more).

enoughNot Jesus plus. Jesus plus Joseph. Jesus plus the temple. Jesus plus the priesthood. This “different Jesus” of Mormonism is only part of the way and part of the truth. Another way to say this is that this Jesus is insufficient. But the biblical Jesus, the true Jesus Christ, is all sufficient. As John MacArthur notes in his sermon on the sufficiency of Christ, Colossians 2:10 (NKJV) says, “You are complete in Him.”

Mormonism’s “different Jesus” is lacking in many ways. But the biblical Jesus — He is all anyone will ever need.

Posted in Bible, Christianity, Jesus Christ, LDS Church, Misconceptions, Mormon Leaders, Salvation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments

46 – Gospel Principles – The Final Judgment

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45 – Gospel Principles – The Millennium

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44 – Gospel Principles – The Second Coming

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Is it wrong say Mormonism embraces a “different Jesus”?

Mormon bishop Nate Sharp wrote a blog article aimed at “Dispelling 5 More Myths About Mormons.” I want to take a look at the first ”myth” he tackled:

Christus Statue“Myth #1: Mormons believe in a ‘different Jesus.’

“One myth about Mormons is the notion that we believe in a ‘different Jesus.’ In reality, of course, there is one and only one Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth, whose life, ministry, Atonement, death, and resurrection are recounted in the New Testament, is the center of our faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons worship and accept Jesus Christ as King of kings, Lord of lords, Creator of the universe, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, and the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. Jesus is the ‘author and finisher of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:2) and ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6). We believe His is the only name under heaven whereby mankind can be saved.”

The assertion that there is no such thing as a “different Jesus” has been around for as long as I’ve been investigating Mormonism. Dr. Sharp is correct, of course, that “there is one and only one [true] Jesus Christ”; that is, one being named Jesus who is in fact God’s promised Messiah. But this does not eliminate the possibility that people may invent what is in reality a “different Jesus.” Dr. Sharp’s list of similarities between Mormonism’s Jesus and the biblical Jesus does not validate his assertion that they are one and the same.

BoxingGlovesBy way of analogy, retired heavyweight boxer George Foreman has five sons – all of them are named George Foreman. Though there are some differences between these five sons (not all have the same mother, for instance), there are many similarities between them. They share a common name, a common father, and common siblings. At least three of them grew up in the same home, went to the same schools, and ate dinner at the same table each night. Yet these are not one George Foreman, but five George Foremans. In spite of them having the same name, and many shared life experiences and attributes, they are different George Foremans.

So, too, with the biblical Jesus and the “different Jesus” of Mormonism. They share many things: they have a common name, are called by common titles, are said to be from the same birthplace, etc. But they have many more differences than similarities. And these significant differences account for the so-called “myth” of Mormonism’s “different Jesus.”

The apostle Paul wrote about “another Jesus” as he shared his concern that the Corinthian church could be led astray from “a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” He chastised them as they seemed to lack discernment:

“For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.” (2 Corinthians 11:3-4)

So while there is one true Jesus, one true spirit, and one true gospel, God tells us to watch out for “different” (false) saviors, spirits and gospels. Jesus Himself provides a strong warning:

“For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (Matthew 24:24)

According to the Bible, there certainly is such a thing as a “different Jesus.” The question, then, is whether “Mormons believe in a ‘different Jesus’” or whether this “notion” is a myth.

A Mormon prophet, a Mormon apostle, and a Mormon Seventy all taught that Mormons believe in a different Jesus Christ than Christians do:

“As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say.” (Gordon Hinckley, “We look to Christ,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2002, 90)

“And virtually all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ whom they vainly suppose to be a spirit essence who is incorporeal uncreated, immaterial and three-in-one with the Father and Holy Spirit.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, 269)

“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.” (Bernard P. Brockbank, “The Living Christ,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1977, 26).

So the “different Jesus” of Mormonism is not a myth. But what about Dr. Sharp’s description of Mormonism’s Jesus? It sounds biblical. It sounds like the Jesus Christ Mormons follow is the same Jesus that is revealed in the New Testament. Yet if we examine Mormonism a bit more closely we find that this is not so. I want to look at just a few of the attributes Dr. Sharp highlighted in his article. I’ll do that in a follow-up blog on Thursday.

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43 – Gospel Principles – Signs Of The Second Coming

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He Is!

Posted in Christianity, Jesus Christ | Tagged , , | 2 Comments