Thank You Mr. President
by R. Philip Roberts
That’s right, a special thanks to the president. No, not the one in the White House, but the one based at Church Headquarters in Salt Lake City – Gordon B. Hinckley, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Recently Mr. Hinckley did both the cause of the true biblical Gospel as well as that of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints much good. Interestingly, both causes were served well, through a speech Mr. Hinckley gave recently in Paris, France. There, on June 4, 1998, in addressing LDS church members and others, Gordon B. Hinckley stated that those outside the Church, who say Latter-day Saints “do not believe in the traditional Christ,” were correct.
In fact, Hinckley commented, “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 Fullness 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, p. 7).
In making these comments, Hinckley went on record that mainstream Christianity and the Mormons really do believe in two different Jesus’s. One, the Jesus of Christianity, is Eternal God – God of the Word – the Jesus of the Bible. The other is God’s offspring, who was born to him and his heavenly consort. This Jesus of Mormonism is also the spiritual elder brother of Lucifer and of us, as well. Traditional Mormonism teaches that their Jesus was married to Mary and Martha, and that the sacrifice for sin was principally paid for in the Garden of Gethsemane.
With his comment, Hinckley placed himself in alignment with previous Mormon leaders, including Bernard P. Brockbank who wrote: “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.”
“For example, from the Church of England’s Articles of Religion, article one, I quote, ‘There is but one living god, everlasting, without body, parts or passions.’ The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worships a God and a Jesus Christ with bodies, with parts, and with passions.” (The Ensign, May 1977, p. 26).
President Hinckley, first of all, has done the Mormon church an enormous good in clarifying the issue of which Jesus Mormon’s believe in. Mormons have often been thought of as dissembling the issue of Jesus Christ and actually masquerading the differences between their Jesus and the one of the Bible.
This approach is thought by some to be utilized by Mormons in order to enhance their proselyting efforts. In leading Christians to believe that there is one Jesus who fits both beliefs, they can more easily proselyte members of Protestant and Catholic Churches. This perceived lack of candor has led to mistrust and even animosity between Latter-day Saints, their missionaries, and followers of the Christian faith. Without genuine candor and honesty, meaningful interfaith dialogue is impossible. President Hinckley has stepped in the right direction of making clear communication possible on this critical issue.
Regrettably, however, it appears that once again the Latter-day Saints want to have their cake and eat it too. In responding to a letter from Southern Baptist Convention President, Dr. Paige Patterson, in a letter to Gordon B. Hinckley, commending him for his openness, LDS spokesman Mike Otterson commented: “We believe that we have more information on the life of Christ than the Christian community already has. That doesn’t mean that we don’t embrace the New Testament account of Christ.” (Baptist Press, September 25, 1998).
But you have missed the point Mr. Otterson. Your president is right. The Jesus of the Latter-day Saints is altogether different than that of biblical revelation. The two cannot be reconciled. Hence President Hinckley has done service to the biblical and Christian Gospel to have pointed out these obvious and glaring differences between these two Jesus’s. It is on our notion of who Christ is that the Gospel stands or falls. Either He is Eternal God, God the Word, who is able to atone for all sin, or He is not. Either He was and is uncreated, CO-existent and CO-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, or He is not.
As Jesus Himself so dramatically portrayed it, there will come a day when many self-confessed followers of His will appear before His judgment seat, but instead of being invited to reside with Him eternally, will be rebuked instead for having gotten it wrong (Matthew 7:21-23). The concept of knowing the right Jesus is a crucial and eternally important one in evangelizing Latter-day Saints and members of all cult groups.
During the Southern Baptist Convention this past June, 1998, I shared a tract and a word about how the Jesus of the Bible had changed my life, with a young man whom I thought to be a young LDS adherent. I was right, he was a Mormon. He immediately shared with me that he believed in Jesus too! I asked him to tell me more about the Jesus he was trusting. With a slight sense of hesitation, he voiced that he believed Jesus was the Son of God, that he suffered the atonement and was raised from the dead. That all sounded so positive and without reflection that it could have passed for being biblical.
The conversation was continued when I asked, “Tell me, the Jesus you believe in, is it the same Jesus who told Joseph Smith that all churches were wrong, that all Christians confessions were an abomination and that all Christians (‘professors’) were corrupt?” When he hesitated to respond, I reminded him of the source of those words – Joseph Smith Religious History 1:19 in The Pearl of Great Price.
“Yes,” he reluctantly admitted, “it is the same Jesus who said that to Joseph Smith.” Then I told him it is impossible that you and I believe in the same Jesus, because the Jesus you believe in (the Jesus of Mormonism) is the enemy of Christianity. The Jesus of Mormonism has declared everything that the Bible teaches, and hence the Church believes, about Christ to be an abomination. “It is very critical that we know which Jesus we believe in,” I told him. “The Christ of the LDS Church and the one of the Christian faith are not the same.”
So, kudos to President Hinckley for agreeing with us about the cavernous difference between the Jesus of Mormon faith and that of Christian revelation and belief.
Simultaneously, we appeal to President Hinckley, his well-meaning advisors, and every thoughtful member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to visit again the Jesus of the Bible. Not only is He eternal God, and therefore an altogether different species than the Jesus of Mormon revelation, but He is also Savior – a Savior, who, as God, was able to suffer and pay the price for all sin. As the Eternal One, crucified and risen, His grace as Redeemer is sufficient for all who recognize Him and will bow the knee to Him as Lord.
“Then if any man shall say unto you, ‘Lo, here is Christ,’ or ‘There;’ believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Matthew 24:23-24.)
And again, from the Gospel of Mark: “And then if any man shall say to you, Lo, here is Christ;’ or, ‘Lo, he is there;’ believe him not. For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall show signs and wonders, to seduce, if it were possible, even the elect. But take ye heed; behold, I have foretold you all things. (Mark 13:21-23.)
Paul, in speaking to the Corinthians, said, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, 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.(2 Corinthians 11:3-4.)
And Paul continues in verses 13-15, “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.”
Consider again which Christ you are following and what “prophet” brought you this “other” Gospel.
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Phil Roberts is director of the Interfaith Witness Evangelism Section
of The North American Mission Board
of the Southern Baptist Convention.