Not the Christ of Whom I Speak

The Associated Press reported Tuesday on Mitt Romney’s visit to South Carolina, a “Bible Belt state” where “a few Republicans expressed deep reservations about backing a Mormon.” Mr. Romney isn’t really concerned about that, believing people recognize they will be electing a president, not a pastor.Nevertheless, South Carolina Republican State Representative Gloria Haskins said,

“I don’t think that I could see someone who is a member of a faith so contrary to my [Presbyterian] faith having my support,” said Haskins, a graduate of Bob Jones University, the Christian fundamentalist college. Haskins is backing Sen. John McCain of Arizona.

Another South Carolina Republican State Representative, Bob Leach, questioned Mr. Romney about his faith.

Romney attended a House Republican Caucus meeting that always begins with a Bible verse and prayer in Christ’s name, led by Republican state Rep. Bob Leach.Leach told caucus members he asked Romney who Jesus Christ was and Romney responded that Christ “was his personal savior.”

Leach said that was good enough to earn his vote.

Sigh.

Setting aside the implication that Rep. Leach only needs to know two things about a presidential candidate in order to grant his support (i.e., that the candidate is republican and that the candidate claims Jesus Christ is his personal savior), I’m very troubled by the lack of spiritual discernment here.

Bob Leach is a member of Taylors First Baptist Church, a member-church of the Southern Baptist Convention. According to the church’s web site, it subscribes to The Baptist Faith and Message as a statement of faith. That statement of faith says this in part:

The eternal triune God reveals Himself to us as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, with distinct personal attributes, but without division of nature, essence, or being…Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin. He honored the divine law by His personal obedience, and in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin. He was raised from the dead with a glorified body and appeared to His disciples as the person who was with them before His crucifixion. He ascended into heaven and is now exalted at the right hand of God where He is the One Mediator, fully God, fully man, in whose Person is effected the reconciliation between God and man. He will return in power and glory to judge the world and to consummate His redemptive mission. He now dwells in all believers as the living and ever present Lord. (Please see the complete statement for supporting Scriptures.)

This is an orthodox Christian statement of faith, describing Christ as He is revealed in the Bible. One might say this statement of faith represents belief in the traditional Jesus Christ. But this is not the Jesus Christ embraced and worshiped by Mormons who hold to the teachings of the LDS Church.

As was reported in the LDS Church News a few years ago,

In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President [Gordon B.] Hinckley spoke of those outside the [LDS] Church who say Latter-day Saints “do not believe in the traditional Christ. No, I don’t. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. He, together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the year 1820, and when Joseph left the grove that day, he knew more of the nature of God than all the learned ministers of the gospel of the ages.” (Church News, June 20, 1998, 7)

There is no doubt or disputing President Hinckley’s pronouncement that Latter-day Saints believe in a different Christ than the Being that is and has been worshipped by Christians throughout the history of Christianity. Some points on which the Christ “revealed in this dispensation” according to LDS prophets and apostles differs from the Baptist statement of faith quoted above are these:

  • Mormonism denies the doctrine of the Trinity, holding instead to a doctrine that divides the nature, essence, or being of Father, Son and Holy Spirit (i.e., three Gods).
  • Mormonism denies the eternality of Christ, claiming He is a created being.
  • Mormonism denies that the earthly body of Christ was conceived of the Holy Spirit, teaching instead that His body was conceived through a physical union between Mary and God the Father, a being of flesh and bone.
  • Mormonism denies the sufficiency of Christ’s atoning death in providing reconciliation between God and man, teaching that some sins are beyond the power of Christ’s blood to remit (e.g., murder).(For documentation on these items, or to learn more, please see “Who is the Living Christ of Mormonism?” by Bill McKeever.)

So Mitt Romney answered Bob Leach’s question about who Jesus Christ is, declaring that Christ is Mr. Romney’s personal savior. What did Mr. Leach actually learn? Which Jesus Christ is Mr. Romney’s “personal savior”? I’m guessing Mr. Leach believed Mr. Romney was talking about the “traditional Christ.” And what, exactly, did Mr. Romney mean when he used the phrase “personal savior”?

A tract published by the LDS Church in 1973 says this:

Christians speak often of the blood of Christ and its cleansing power. Much that is believed and taught on this subject, however, is such utter nonsense and so palpably false that to believe it is to lose one’s salvation. For instance, many believe or pretend to believe that if we confess Christ with our lips and avow that we accept Him as our personal Savior, we are thereby saved. They say that His blood, without any other act than mere belief, makes us clean. (What the Mormons Think of Christ, 22)

Well, this is what the Southern Baptist (and biblical) faith entails — salvation by grace through faith alone:

Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord. (The Baptist Faith and Message)

This is probably what Bob Leach believed Mitt Romney was talking about. Mr. Leach’s unfamiliarity with the doctrines and terminology of Mormonism put him at a disadvantage and left him with an assurance regarding Mr. Romney’s faith that is wholly unfounded.

To be fair, “Who is Jesus Christ?” is a question which requires a long and complicated answer in order to effectively communicate how one Christ differs from another. A much better question could have been asked, one that would not have allowed Mr. Romney — and Mormonism — so easily off the hook. Charleston County GOP chairwoman Cyndi Mosteller suggested,

“The question is: Does Governor Romney support Joseph Smith’s doctrines? We as evangelicals don’t believe we can go in and change Paul’s doctrine. I don’t see how you move around this.”

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.

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4 Responses to Not the Christ of Whom I Speak

  1. Andrew says:

    It will be interesting to see what the run of Romney does to LDS and the outside world’s preception.

    I moved from Michigan to Utah a few years ago. It sometimes shocks my mormon friends to learn how little people out East know of Mormonism. What I knew was nothing… really nothing. I had heard the term mormon, but had not one thought to connect to it. However, most Utahns seem to think that surely everyone is aware of what the “Church” is doing this week.

    Most Mormons seem pretty excited about his run, but I am wondering if this won’t be a negative for the LDS in the long run.

    From what I have learned, Mormons seem to prefer to introduce various aspects of their history and doctorine slowly (if at all).

    The further Romney goes, the more all of the less flattering parts of mormon history and doctrine will end up on the screen.

    So far, Romney seems to have done a fair job navigating his religious issues. I wonder tho if these are comparitively calm waters compared to what may be coming.

  2. bertha says:

    I do hope that Mr Romney is confronted with someone who is willing to debate him on not just the terms of his church, but also with the precise definitions of those terms.

  3. Brian says:

    I was discussing the “Romney” situation with my mother, we are both Christians.

    My mother being a child of the depression, is up in years, and she has some pretty strong feelings about things, and lives by her convictions. She expressed to me that she would in no way support Romney’s bid for the presidency.

    I was thinking about her statement, and wondered, “really, what’s so bad about a Mormon as president if he reflects our social and moral values … there have certainly been presidents who did not uphold my beliefs, wouldn’t Romney fit the bill a little closer that some of these others?”

    I then did the unthinkable, and replayed this internal dialog replacing the word “Mormon” with “cult member” — and my resulting feelings about Romney were cemented with a “no confidence” vote.

    There was a time, not too long ago, when the beliefs and practices of a presidential candidate DID matter. Ignore Kennedy’s Catholicism, what about David Duke — he was run out of town on a rail for having been in the KKK, and for good reason. I am not comparing Mormonism with the KKK, but recalling a case where the candidates present and past affiliations DID matter.

    Is Mormonism a cult? It’s the nasty “C word” to be sure, but let’s cut to the quick here. Would we want a Moonie in the office? What about a Scientologist or Jehovah’s Witness, or … fill in the blank. Okay, the “C word” is used to denote a non-mainstream cultural religious group that is judged by society as a whole as being “cultic.”

    So, for me it comes down to this. It is not whether or not Romney meets my criteria for social or fiduciary sensibilities, it is whether or not this guy is a member of a social/religious group who has a history of vowing alegence against the US government, and believes in a human god who lives near Kolob.

    Sorry to be so blunt, but that’s the way the Romney cookie crumbles for me.

  4. Hellmut says:

    We can always tell true Christians when they take care of the sick and the children. I am looking for the candidate who is willing to wash the feet, not the one who uses the name of the Lord in vain.

    Remember when Bush hit his opponents over the head with the name of Jesus? I am sure he won a lot of votes that day but he also used the name of the Lord in vain.

    I was not surprised when Bush burdened our children with a trillion dollar debt to give tax relief to the rich. It’s just the opposite of what Christ would have done. Christ would not have paid for his desires at the expense of our children.

    If we continue to elect people who use the name of the Lord in vain then it’s our own fault when we get suckered by selfish sinners who reduce religion to a con and Christ to a sales prop.

    Jesus hung out with the publicans, Samaritans, and the Romans. When he entered paradise he was in the company of a thief.

    I won’t be supporting Romney because he is all over the place on the social issues. But not voting him just because he disagrees about religion that is not a Christlike attitude when Christ himself celebrated the virtues of the gentile Samaritans.

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