I have nothing new to add to the national Are-Mormons-Christians nonsense that has once more reared its ugly head. I said my peace here, and I addressed it even further here. In that second link, I address the idea that even though Mormons profess faith in Christ, we’re so far out of step in how we view the Savior that our Jesus isn’t the same Jesus that Christians revere, so the “Mormon Jesus” is an entirely different guy than the Christian Jesus, and we’re all doomed to eternal hellfire because we’re worshiping the wrong dude.
I think that’s a really, really, stupid idea, and I want to explain why.
Do Mormons believe Jesus is the Son of God? Yes. Do they believe He was born of a virgin, that He performed the miracles described in the New Testament, that He was crucified and died for our sins, and that He was resurrected on the third day after His death? Yes. Do Mormons try to emulate and live according to Christ’s moral teachings as found in the New Testament? Yes.
Do they believe there is any other way to heaven other than the atoning blood of Jesus Christ? No.
So far, then, the Mormon Jesus and the Christian Jesus look identical, don’t they? Where’s the problem?
Well, maybe you could start with the fact that we believe Jesus did other stuff, too. For example, we believe that after His resurrection, He appeared to the “other sheep” He mentioned in John 10:16, some of whom were scattered across the American continent. That visit is chronicled in the still-controversial Book of Mormon, and it stands as “proof” to many Mormon bashers that the Mormon Jesus is wildly out of kilter with the Christian Jesus.
That would make some sense, then, if the Mormon Jesus showed up in America and said ridiculous, contradictory things to what the Christian Jesus said.
“Hey, guys, I told the people over in Jerusalem to love their neighbors and stuff. But for you guys, I have a new law: finders keepers, losers weepers! Can I have an amen? Hallelujah!”
The problem, though, is that this so-called Mormon Jesus says nothing of the sort. He teaches nothing that subverts anything He did that is recorded in the New Testament. He repeats the Sermon on the Mount; He heals the sick and blesses the children, and He preaches the gospel, which sounds suspiciously like the gospel He taught in the Old World.
So maybe the problem, then, is that He does something that is not recorded in the Bible, because the Bible is supposed to constitute a complete record of everything Jesus did. But that’s really silly. Not even the Bible itself can support that claim. John ends his gospel by saying that “there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 21:25) So where does the idea come from that the Christian and/or Mormon Jesus should be confined solely to the pages of the Bible, never to speak again? That Jesus certainly isn’t the Jesus that John is describing.
If you dig deeper, then, you find out that the Mormon Jesus is the wrong guy because even though Mormons think he’s the Son of God, they get God wrong. Son of which God? Zeus? Thor? We Mormons apparently worship a different God, so saying Jesus is His son doesn’t really get us very far, does it?
Do Mormons really worship a different God?
The First Article of Faith in the LDS Church states the following: “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” We believe that all three of these beings are perfectly united in might, majesty, and authority, that all three can rightly be called God, and that their unity is absolute, perfect, and unshakable, which makes them one God in purpose and power.
Orthodox Christians have absolutely no problem with any of those ideas – except they add one more concept on top of it. When the Bible speaks of unity between the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, they aren’t thinking just of purpose but of “substance” or “body.” That is, the Father IS the Son IS the Holy Ghost. Mormons reject that idea, because, frankly, it makes no sense. How can God be three people and one person at the same time? The Trinitarian answer is that He can because He’s God, and how He does it is a mystery that is unknowable to the human mind. Again, I find this hard to square with John’s plain language that “life eternal” is to “know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) An incomprehensible God who is somehow His own father is a lot more difficult to know than the Mormon version, I would think.
I’m not alone in believing this – even in the orthodox Christian world. A pollster by the name of Gary Lawrence conducted some research to determine what Orthodox Christians believe. One of his questions to an entirely non-Mormon audience was the following:
“The New Testament says that God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are one. Do you believe that means they are one in purpose or one in body?”
By almost two to one, the answer favored the Mormon “one in purpose” version over the Trinitarianly Correct “one in body” answer – 58% purpose, 31% body. In other words, a majority of those who reject Mormonism and nominally embrace the “Christian Jesus” conceive of him largely in “Mormon Jesus” terms. Are they, too, worshiping the wrong God? If they don’t repent and embrace God’s mysterious incomprehensible one-in-three-three-in-oneness, are they not really Christians?
The greater question, however, is whether the Mormon Jesus or the Christian Jesus – or, to make things easier from here on out, the person to whom I will simply refer to as “Jesus” – is going to be giving a theological quiz at the Pearly Gates. Every time Jesus came into contact with legalistic nitpicking, He rejected it in the strongest possible terms. Those who accused the Savior of violating the Sabbath because he failed to obey Pharisaical edicts were rebuked harshly. The Samaritans were hated by the Jews for supposedly not being pure followers of the covenant, yet Christ used the Good Samaritan as the consummate example of human kindness and mercy. At one point, a man cast out devils in Jesus’ name and the disciples “forbad him, because he followeth not us.” Jesus’ response was to correct them and forbid him not, because “he that is not against us is on our part.” (Mark 9:38-40)
Does any of that sound like someone who is going to keep a fervent follower of Christ out of heaven because he doesn’t quite grasp how three people can be one person at the same time?
There are other issues, I suppose, but all of them boil down to theological dogma that has little or nothing to do with the broken heart and contrite spirit that Christ expects from all of us, regardless of what name we use to describe ourselves.
Those who are eager to judge another’s sincerity or authority to worship any Jesus would do well to remember that.