Topical Guide/Doctrinal issues/Deity/Jesus Christ

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The Atonement of Jesus Christ

Critics seriously understate the position of the Church of Jesus Christ with respect to the atonement. Many of the quotations used by critics regarding the LDS view of the atonement have been taken out of context, or the further comments of the speaker have been ignored. This is an implied a form of "bearing false witness," which is completely against the Gospel that the Savior taught during His earthly ministry. Critics, such as the authors of Mormonism 101, show very little evidence of having "studied the [Latter-day Saint] movement for the greater part of their lives" as they claim. In fact, if one takes up the authors' challenge to check their sources, one finds that in every case they are found wanting, often seriously so. In their "witnessing tip" regarding the Book of Mormon the authors conclude their imaginary dialogue by asking: "If Smith was misleading in this statement, how can I trust his other statements?"

LDS view of the atonement

Summary: Statements regarding the LDS view of the atonement

The importance of the atonement of Jesus Christ to the Latter-day Saints

Summary: Joseph Smith, the founding prophet, stated that "the fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." Those appendages include the gift of the Holy Ghost, power of faith, enjoyment of the spiritual gifts, restoration of the house of Israel, and the final triumph of truth. [1] The atonement of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is the central fact of all LDS theological teaching.

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Was Jesus actually crucified on a cross?

Summary: In the original Greek of the New Testament, accounts of Jesus' death only say he was put to death on "a pole." Is the belief of most of Christianity on "the cross" actually misguided?

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The garden and the cross

Summary: There is evidence that other mainstream Christians considered the atonement to have at least begun in the Garden, being consummated on the cross, which is what the Latter-day Saints have taught for more than 170 years.

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The Atonement as viewed by historical Christianity

Summary: Critics seem to assume that the LDS position is a "ransom" theory of atonement, and that the mainstream Christian interpretation is one of sacrificial death on the cross. They quote some statements from Latter-day Saint leaders emphasizing the Garden of Gethsemane as being the place of the atonement. They write, "Christians have long maintained that this glorious act of sacrifice took place on Golgotha Hill… It was here that God Himself was subject to the humiliating death of a common criminal,"[2] and note that "Christians realize that salvation is a result of what Jesus did for them on the cross… To even insinuate that this took place in the Garden of Gethsemane is a foreign concept to the Christian."[3]

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Comparing the LDS and evangelical Christian views of the atonement

Summary: Critics often make comparisons of what they claim are LDS views of the atonement against evangelical Christian views in an attempt to discredit the LDS perspective.

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Extent of the atonement

Summary: Critics seem to object that the atonement is applicable to all who have ever lived. They want to restrict it to only those who lived after the Savior ("only after Christ's death" and "for the believer").

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The atonement as portrayed in Latter-day Saint hymns

Summary: We note one hymn sung frequently by the members of the Church of Jesus Christ during their worship services. It has been in the LDS hymnals since 1896, and includes the following thoughts: "Reverently and meekly now, let thy head most humbly bow, think of me, thou ransomed one; think what I for thee have done, with my blood that dripped like rain, sweat in agony of pain, with my body on the tree I have ransomed even thee. In this bread now blest for thee, emblem of my body see; in this water or this wine, emblem of my blood divine. Oh, remember what was done that the sinner might be won. On the cross of Calvary I have suffered death for thee. Bid thine heart all strife to cease; with thy brethren be at peace. Oh, forgive as thou wouldst be even forgiven now by me. In the solemn faith of prayer cast upon me all thy care, and my Spirit's grace shall be like a fountain unto thee. At the throne I intercede; for thee ever do I plead. I have loved thee as thy friend, with a love that cannot end. Be obedient, I implore, prayerful, watchful evermore, and be constant unto me, that thy Savior I may be." This hymn, penned by a Latter-day Saint, is even more significant, given that when the new edition of the LDS hymnal was reviewed by a Professor of Music at the University of Toronto, the reviewer indicated that it "would enhance a communion service in any church."[4] It does so precisely because it emphasizes the atoning sacrifice of Christ for all people. He is the Savior, who shed His blood for us. This has been the position of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from the beginning, and continues to be so.


Latter-day Saint views of Jesus Christ

How do Mormons view our savior Jesus Christ?

Brother of Satan?

Summary: It is claimed that the LDS consider Jesus and Satan to be "brothers," thus lowering the stature of Christ, or elevating Satan. Some go so far as to imply that the LDS "really" worship or revere Satan, and are thus not true "Christians."

Conception

Summary: It is claimed that Latter-day Saints reject the "Evangelical belief" that "Christ was born of the virgin Mary, who, when the Holy Ghost came upon her, miraculously conceived the promised messiah."

Divine sonship

Summary: Though the Church does not embrace Nicene trinitarianism, they still believe that there is "One God," despite seeing the Father and Son as distinct personages. How do Latter-day Saints understand Jesus' divine Sonship?

Gordon B. Hinckley states that Latter-day Saints don't believe in the "traditional" Christ

Summary: President Gordon B. Hinckley, responding to a question regarding whether Latter-day Saints believe in the “traditional Christ,” stated: "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 fullness of times."

Worship a "different Jesus"?

Summary: It is claimed that members of the Church worship "a different Jesus" than the Jesus worshiped by Christians.

Latter-day Saints aren't Christians?

Summary: It is claimed that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not "Christian." A related claim is that the Church has only recently begun to portray itself as "Christian" in order to gain adherents.

Lord of the Universe

Summary: It is claimed that the LDS view of God is provincial or limited, with God simply being a ruler over "this planet."

Relationship to Quetzalcoatl

Summary: It is claimed that LDS scholars believe that Quetzalcoatl was Jesus Christ. However, since Quetzalcoatl's association with a "feathered serpent" constitutes "snake worship," some claim that this association is therefore inconsistent with worship of Jesus Christ.

Savior of other worlds?

Summary: It would appear that there is one savior — Jesus — and that his sacrifice was the ultimate sacrifice for all of the worlds created and populated by the Father. Some critics have used the idea of each world having its own Savior against us. Is there anything written or published on either concept?

The "Mormon" vs. the "Christian" Jesus

Summary: It is claimed that Latter-day Saints believe in a "different" Jesus that "mainstream" Christians.

Was Jesus married?

Summary: Do Latter-day Saints believe Jesus Christ was married?

One of many saviors?

Summary: It is claimed that the "Jesus of Mormonism is but one of many saviors."

Praying to

Summary: Latter-day Saints are criticized for not praying directly to Jesus Christ.

April 6th as the date of birth of Jesus Christ

Summary: Do Latter-day Saints believe Jesus was born 1830 years before the Church's organization on 6 April 1830?

Alpha and Omega

Summary: What does the term "Alpha and Omega" mean, beside the beginning and the end, when referring to the Savior? What does it mean to the restored church?


Are Mormons Christians?

Are Mormons Christians? Do they worship Jesus Christ? Critics use unnecessarily narrow definitions to deny that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worship and revere Jesus.

Evangelical arguments regarding Mormonism and Christianity

Summary: Some Christians claim that Latter-day Saints are not to be included in the family of "Christianity."

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Mormons worship Jesus Christ

Summary: It is claimed that members of the Church worship "a different Jesus" than the Jesus worshiped by Christians.

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Mormonism and the symbol of the cross

Summary: Some Christians claim that Latter-day Saints are not Christians, and point to the fact that the Church does not usually use the symbol or sign of the cross in decoration, personal jewelry, or architecture.

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Did Mormons only recently claim to be Christians?

Summary: From the Church's founding, both Church members and their opponents recognized that they were Christians.

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  • Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957). Volume 3 link The passage is quoted frequently: Richard R. Hopkins, Biblical Mormonism. Responding to Evangelical Criticism of LDS Theology (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon Publishers, 1994), 123; Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 121. off-site; Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q. Cannon, eds., Encyclopedia of Joseph Smith's Teachings (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1997), 55. ISBN 1570086729. ISBN 978-1570086724.; Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, Second Edition (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 60.; also in M. Gerald Bradford and Larry E. Dahl, "Doctrine: Meaning, Source, and History of Doctrine," in Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., edited by Daniel H. Ludlow, (New York, Macmillan Publishing, 1992), 1:393–397.; Tad Callister, The Infinite Atonement (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 2000), 3–4; Keith W. Perkins, "Insights into the Atonement from Latter-day Scriptures," Principles of the Gospel in Practice, Sperry Symposium 1985 (Salt Lake City, Utah;: Randall Book Company, 1985), 91; Bruce R. McConkie, Conference Report (April 1950), 130.; quoted in Richard G. Grant, Understanding these Other Christians. An LDS Introduction to Evangelical Christianity (self-published, 1998): 42; My Errand from the Lord. A personal study guide for Melchizedek Priesthood Quorums 1976-1977 (Salt Lake City: Corporation of the President, 1976), 92. The statement was first published in an early LDS publication, the Elder's Journal I (1832), 28-9. The frequency of appearance of this quotation in LDS literature makes one wonder why it is not to be found in Mormonism 101; indeed, the authors claim to have read the first six references cited here.
  • Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), 145. ( Index of claims )
  • McKeever and Johnson, Mormonism 101, 148.
  • Joseph L. Townsend, "Reverently and Meekly Now," hymn 185; first in 1896; also in 1906 edition, hymn 331. The reviewer was Hugh McKeller, in the journal, The Hymn (April 1996), quoted in Karen Lynn Davidson, Our Latter-day Hymns, 200.