Chapter 24: A Christ-Centered Life
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 296–306
During 2015, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.
Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson
The example and teachings of Jesus Christ provide the great standard for all mankind. Two thousand years ago a perfect man walked the earth: Jesus the Christ. He was the son of a heavenly father and an earthly mother.
Let’s stop here for just a moment. Many would skip right over the introductory two sentences without a second thought. Yet what exactly does Benson mean when he says that Jesus “was the son of a heavenly father and an earthly mother”? Traditional Mormonism teaches in a “Virgin Birth” while providing a description far removed from that held by Christians throughout the centuries. An instructor’s guide to a church manual explains how Mormonism disagrees with the traditional doctrine:
The teacher might wish to point out that many people in the Christian world want to believe in Jesus, but only as a great human being, only as a great man. They feel uncomfortable about the concept of the miraculous, virgin birth. Yet if this is denied, all of the Atonement must be rejected as well. It was the inheritance that came from a mortal mother and a divine Father that made the Atonement possible. (The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles Instructor’s Manual: Religion 211-212, p. 14)
What exactly does the leadership mean when it refers to a “mortal mother and a divine Father”? Let’s allow the LDS leaders and church resources to speak for themselves:
- “Now, we are told in scriptures that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God in the flesh. Well, now for the benefit of the older ones, how are children begotten? I answer just as Jesus Christ was begotten of his father. . . . Jesus is the only person who had our Heavenly Father as the father of his body” (Family Home Evening Manual, pp. 125-126). (Note: This publication was made to help Mormon parents communicate with their children on spiritual topics like this. The illustration to the rigth was included on these pages to help explain the doctrine. It’s pretty clear what the church leaders wanted their people to believe about the “Virgin Birth.” )
- “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost. He is the Son of the Eternal Father!”(Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 7. This was quoted in the Ensign (April 1997), p. 15).
- “To condescend is literally to go down among. The condescension of God lies in the fact that he, an exalted Being, steps down from his eternal throne to become the Father of a mortal Son, a Son born ‘after the manner of the flesh’”(Book of Mormon Seminary Student Study Guide, p. 22).
- “He is the Son of God, literally, actually, as men are the sons of mortal parents” (“What the Mormons Think of Christ,” a pamphlet published by the LDS Church, p. 44).
- “Thus, God the Father became the literal father of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only person on earth to be born of a mortal mother and an immortal father”(Gospel Principles, p. 53).
- “Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is called the Only Begotten Son because He is the only person on earth to be born of a mortal mother and an immortal Father. . . . Modern prophets have testified: [Jesus Christ] was . . . the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world”(“The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: The Only Begotten Son,” Ensign (December 2013), p. 7).
Since Mormonism teaches that Mary did not have sexual relations with a mortal man but instead was impregnated by an immortal man (Elohim), many Latter-day Saints have no qualms with this unique and nonhistorical teaching. BYU professor Charles Harrell describes the difficulties with this position when he writes:
Of course, for Latter-day Saints who hold the belief that Christ was literally conceived by God the Father, the idea of a virgin birth becomes a bit problematic as it would presumably change Mary’s status as a virgin. Bruce R. McConkie gives his resolution to this conundrum by redefining “virgin” to mean a woman who has not known a mortal man: “She conceived and brought forth her Firstborn Son while yet a virgin because the Father of that child was an immortal personage”(“This is My Doctrine,” p. 167).
When one considers how Mormonism teaches that every human born on earth is a literal child of God, the above quotes become even more disconcerting. Mormon leaders have maintained that all humans, Mary included, are literally God’s spirit children, born in the preexistence via a sexual relationship between Heavenly Father and one of his goddess wives. If LDS leaders are telling the truth when they say that God physically impregnated Mary, then we have no other recourse than to assume that the Jesus of Mormonism was created through an incestuous relationship. Such an interpretation is anathema to the biblical position. For more on this topic, click here.
He is the God of this world, under the Father. He taught men truth, that they might be free. His example and precepts provide the great standard, the only sure way, for all mankind.
No other single influence has had so great an impact on this earth as the life of Jesus the Christ. We cannot conceive of our lives without his teachings. Without him we would be lost in a mirage of beliefs and worships, born in fear and darkness where the sensual and materialistic hold sway. We are far short of the goal he set for us, but we must never lose sight of it; nor must we forget that our great climb toward the light, toward perfection, would not be possible except for his teachings, his life, his death, and his resurrection.
Notice how Benson says that “our great climb toward the light, toward perfection” would be impossible except with the help of Jesus. According to Mormonism, Jesus paved the way for humankind to reach for perfection. Yet Mormon leaders have taught that Jesus had to attain his own perfection and did not have the attributes of deity when he came to this earth. Jay E. Jensen, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, explained, “When the Lord came to earth, He had a veil of forgetfulness placed over His mind, as we do, but He, like us, progressed from grace to grace” (Ensign (January 2011), p. 42). One resource traces the teaching back to Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith:
As Joseph Smith taught, Jesus was born with a veil of forgetfulness common to all who are born to earth, but even as a child he had all the intelligence necessary to enable him to govern the kingdom of the Jews (see source under Basic Library), because he overcame the veil and came into communication with his Heavenly Father (The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles Instructor’s Manual, p. 13).
He even needed to be obedient to attain a status as “god.” Seventy Milton R. Hunter said it was “through consistent effort and continuous obedience to all the Gospel truths and universal laws” that allowed for this. That effort, Hunter continued, included Jesus’s own baptism:
Although John recognized Jesus as a perfect man, the Master made it clear that it was absolutely necessary for even the Son of God to be baptized. He—like the least of us—must obey every law of the Gospel if He was to receive all the blessings predicated on obedience. (The Gospel Through the Ages, p. 200).
This idea that Jesus was under obligation of the law has been taught by a number of leaders. Sixth President Joseph F. Smith said, “Even Christ himself was not perfect at first; he received not a fullness at first, but he received grace for grace, and he continued to receive more and more until he received a fulness.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 153). Apostle Bruce R. McConkie claimed, “Jesus kept the commandments of his Father and thereby worked out his own salvation, and also set an example as to the way and the means whereby all men may be saved” (The Mortal Messiah 4:434). McConkie’s use of Philippians 2:12 (“work out your salvation”) misses the meaning of the passage. Paul does not use this expression to mean “work for your salvation” as so many Mormons will insist. Rather, as the words literally read, it means that believers “should ‘conduct’ themselves in a manner worthy of their right standing before God at the day of Christ” (The NIV Application Commentary: Philippians, p. 138).
Apostle Russell M. Nelson said Jesus achieved His perfection only after His resurrection:
That Jesus attained perfection following his resurrection is confirmed in the Book of Mormon. It records the visit of the resurrected Lord to the people of ancient America. There he repeated the important injunction previously cited, but with one very significant addition. He said, “I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Nephi 12:48). This time he listed himself along with his Father as a perfected personage. Previously, he had not (See Matt. 5:48) (Ensign (November 1995), p. 87).
According to this, there was a time when Jesus had not “attained perfection.” Such a comment fails to take into account that only sinners need to be saved in the first place. To say Christ had to do anything to gain His own salvation should rightfully be considered blasphemous by anyone who holds the Bible dear. Think about it. If Jesus had to attain His own perfection, then what exactly caused Him to need to become perfect? It can’t be sin because Jesus is sinless. The very idea proposed by the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles saying how Jesus needed to progress ought to be alarming to anyone who reads the Bible and understands that Jesus is God.
In essence, Mormonism’s diminishes the very person of Jesus because it is absurd to think that the Savior somehow needed to have continual “obedience to gospel laws.” We are speaking, after all, about the Creator of the universe. As one creed puts it, he is “very God of very God.” By nature, Jesus is holy and perfect. He did take the form of a man. This is not to say that at any time His Godhood was diminished in any degree after His physical appearance on earth (His incarnation). Jesus was, and is, both divine and human: 100 percent God and 100 percent man. He was conceived through the agency of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18–25; Luke 1:35); He lived a sinless life while subjected to human temptations (John 5:19; Heb. 2:18; 4:15); He died a real death and rose again bodily from the dead to conquer sin (Rom. 5:6–10; 1 Cor. 15:3–4); He will return to judge all humanity (John 5:22); He sent the Holy Spirit to empower the believers (John 14–16; Acts 1:8); and He can be prayed to (Acts 7:59).28 Finally, He is deserving to receive honor, love, faith, and worship as the Father (Matt. 10:37; John 5:23; 14:1; Heb. 1:6). At the same time, He shares attributes with the Father because Jesus is also God.
We come unto Christ as we look unto Him in every thought and emulate His attributes. In Book of Mormon language, we need to “believe in Christ and deny him not.” (2 Ne. 25:28.) We need to trust in Christ and not in the arm of flesh. (See 2 Ne. 4:34.) We need to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.” (Moro. 10:32.) We need to come “with a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Ne. 12:19), hungering and thirsting after righteousness (see 3 Ne. 12:6). We need to come “feasting upon the word of Christ” (2 Ne. 31:20), as we receive it through His scriptures, His anointed, and His Holy Spirit. In short, we need to follow “the example of the Son of the living God” (2 Ne. 31:16).
Allow me to make a comment on one of the verses used here, which will be referenced at the end of this particular chapter. Moroni 10:32 says, in full:
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and 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, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
A church manual gives an explanation of the verse:
According to this verse, what must we do to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him?” (“Deny ourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all [our] might, mind and strength.”) Explain that “deny yourselves of all ungodliness” means “give up your sins.” We must strive to give up our sins and demonstrate that we love God with all our might, mind, and strength. If we do this throughout our lives, then Jesus Christ, through his Atonement, will help us become perfect (Preparing for Exaltation Teacher’s Manual: Religion 150, p. 22).
In Mormonism, Jesus merely paves the way for a person to attain perfection, nothing more. It is left up to the individual to “give up (his or her) sins,” which is supposed to be the proof “that we love God with all our might, mind, and strength.” It’s something that must be done “throughout our lives.” Then and only then can we be helped in this impossible pursuit to become perfect.
That’s not compatible to historical Christianity. Instead, the Bible teaches how the atonement is the act of bringing people together with God by means of a sacrifice. Since all men and women are inherently sinful by nature as well as action, Philippians 2:7 reports that Christ made Himself of no reputation by taking “the form of a servant.” He was made in human likeness and humbled Himself, becoming “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (v. 8). Hebrews 2:17 says this was done in order that He might make “reconciliation for the sins of the people.”
Matthew 1:21 says that Jesus would come to “save his people from their sins.” No other conclusion can be made except that only God’s personal intervention would be able to overcome humanity’s sinful condition. If our personal merit could satisfy the penalty of sin, then no atonement would have even been necessary. Galatians 2:21 says, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” In Old Testament times, redemption was demonstrated through the ceremonial sacrifice. God made it clear that forgiveness would be provided only through the death of an innocent substitute that represented the payment for the penalty of sin. Sacrifices were made in the Jerusalem temple on a regular basis for the sins of individuals; however, the people of Israel celebrated the Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, once a year. On this sacred day, the Jewish high priest would offer sacrifice for Israel as a nation, which sought reconciliation with the God whom they had offended.
Still, the mere act itself of killing an animal for one’s sins did not appease God. Through many examples, the Bible states that redemption was based on an individual’s faith in what the sacrifice represented. This faith would lead to the obvious act of repentance, thereby making the sacrifice satisfactory. God had no pleasure in sacrifice without these two important elements. This principle can be seen in the example of Cain and Abel. Genesis 4:3–5 says that both Cain and Abel offered sacrifices to the Lord, “but unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.” The writer of Hebrews explained that Abel’s sacrifice was accepted because, unlike Cain’s, it was offered in righteous faith (Heb. 11:4). Since the wages of sin is death (both physical and spiritual), the repentant sinner sees the sacrifice as a vicarious substitute. The animal was symbolically taking on itself the penalty due sinful people.
Christian theologian Leon Morris wrote:
Nobody who came thoughtfully to God by the way of sacrifice could be in any doubt but that sin was a serious matter. It could not be put aside by a lighthearted wave of the hand but required the shedding of blood. . . . No-one who came to God by the way of offering the best in his flock would put a low value on the privilege of such an approach. He would realize, as many of us today do not, that the service of God must cost us something (The Atonement: Its Meaning and Significance, pp. 50-51).
Unfortunately, as time went on, many Jews offered sacrifice out of mere protocol, not by faith. To many the significance of what the sacrifice represented was lost in legalistic attitudes. The New Testament book of Hebrews explains that the animal sacrificial system typified what Christ would do when He would voluntarily pay the price of sin through His own death. Morris adds:
The high priest could do no more than enter the Holy of Holies himself. He could not take anyone with him. And he could enter only on the one day in the year. The fullest exercise of his ministry with all the solemnity at his command obtained only a very limited access: access on one day for him only. The people must forever be content with access by proxy. But in Hebrews there is emphasis on two wonderful truths: Christ secured access into the very presence of God in heaven (as we have just seen, Heb. 9:11–12, 24) and access not for himself only but for all his people as well. . . . Because Christ’s blood was shed, all who believe in him have access into the very holiest of all. (Ibid., p. 84).
Another Christian theologian, A. W. Tozer, wrote,
The theme of bloodguiltiness is a recurring theme in the Bible and here we have two concepts. The Old Testament picture is that of the blood of murdered Abel crying out for justice; the New Testament picture is that of the blood of Jesus Christ the Savior and mediator crying from the throne of God for mercy! (Echoes from Eden: The Voices of God Calling Man, p. 41).
To be sure, Christians throughout the centuries have seen the atonement of Christ as God’s way of reconciling sinful humanity to Himself. Through the sacrifice of God’s Son, those who were once enemies of God can now know that the barrier that separated them from their Creator has been removed. So powerful is this sacrificial act that believers can be assured that all their sins—past, present, and future—are now forgiven.
Colossians 2:13–14 reads:
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. (ESV)
Although it takes a little time to explain, I think this Christian website does a thorough job:
The truth of the matter is that, on our own and by our own efforts, we can’t possibly be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. We don’t love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. We don’t love our neighbors as ourselves. We have a problem, and it’s called sin. We are born with it, and we cannot overcome the effects of it on our own. Sin radically affects us to our core. Sin affects what we do, say, and think. In other words, it taints everything about us. Therefore, no matter how good we try to be, we will never meet God’s standard of perfection. The Bible says that all of our righteous deeds are like a “polluted garment” (Isaiah 64:6). Our own righteousness is simply not good enough and never will be, no matter how hard we try.
That’s why Jesus lived a perfect life in full obedience to the law of God in thought, word, and deed. Jesus’ mission wasn’t simply to die on the cross for our sins but also to live a life of perfect righteousness. Theologians refer to this as the “active and passive obedience of Christ.” Active obedience refers to Christ’s life of sinless perfection. Everything He did was perfect. Passive obedience refers to Christ’s submission to the crucifixion. He went willingly to the cross and allowed Himself to be crucified without resisting (Isaiah 53:7). His passive obedience pays our sin debt before God, but it is the active obedience that gives us the perfection God requires.
The apostle Paul writes, “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Romans 3:21–22). Through our faith in Christ, the righteousness of God is given to us. This is called “imputed” righteousness. To impute something is to ascribe or attribute something to someone. When we place our faith in Christ, God ascribes the perfect righteousness of Christ to our account so that we become perfect in His sight. “For our sake he made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Not only is Christ’s righteousness imputed to us through faith, but our sin is imputed to Christ. That is how Christ paid our sin debt to God. He had no sin in Himself, but our sin is imputed to Him so, as He suffers on the cross, He is suffering the just penalty that our sin deserves. That is why Paul can say, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
By having the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, we can be seen as sinless, as Jesus is sinless. It is not, therefore, our perfection, but His. When God looks at the Christian, He sees the holiness, perfection, and righteousness of Christ. Therefore, we can say with confidence, “I am sinless, as Jesus is sinless.” Source
Well said. As the great High Priest, Jesus did much more than pave the way for believers to attain perfection. Indeed, He has made His people “perfect” through His shed blood on the cross.
Let our personal lives, our homes, and our work performance reflect our Christlike character. So live that others will say about you, “There is a true Christian!” Yes, we believe in Jesus Christ, but more—we look to Him, we trust Him and strive to emulate His attributes. Christ is our ideal. He is our exemplar. … The best measure of true greatness is how Christlike we are. To be like the Savior—what a challenge for any person! He is a member of the Godhead. He is the Savior and Redeemer. He was perfect in every aspect of His life. There was no flaw nor failing in Him. Is it possible for us … to be even as He is? The answer is yes. Not only can we, but that is our charge, our responsibility. He would not give us that commandment if He did not mean for us to do it [see Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 12:48].
As a Christian, I am all for “emulating” the attributes of Jesus. Believers have been commanded to put on Christ. Romans 13:14 states, “Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” At the same time, we must realize that it is what Christ did for us, not what we can perform through Christ’s power, that justifies a person. As the quote I gave above states, the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us. It’s not a cooperative effort. Jesus doesn’t give us marching order for us to perform and then expect us to attain His status. Rather, salvation is only a gift that we receive freely and then we do good works based on the regeneration that has taken place in our lives.
Of course, Matthew 5:48 has been taken out of context by too many Mormons—including Ezra Taft Benson. Jesus was not at all Jesus was not at all addressing the subject of personal or even sinless perfection. The context points to a consistency of behavior toward believers and unbelievers alike. While it is common for some to repay evil deeds done them in a vengeful manner, Jesus was saying that His disciples should take the high road and repay evil with good. As Jesus said, even Gentiles reciprocate good behavior (Matt. 5:44–47). Although it certainly is not easy, Christians should go beyond this expected response and treat favorably even those who treat them badly. For more on this issue, click here.
The Apostle Peter, here pictured with the resurrected Jesus Christ, taught about how we can emulate the Savior’s character. The Apostle Peter spoke of the process by which a person can be made a partaker “of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). This is important, for if we truly become partakers of the divine nature, we shall become like Him. Let us examine closely what Peter teaches us about this process. Here is what he said: “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; “And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; “And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (2 Peter 1:5–7). The virtues outlined by Peter are part of the divine nature, or the Savior’s character. These are the virtues we are to emulate if we would be more like Him.
To explain this passage, see an explanation of 2 Peter 1 here.
Let us discuss a few of these important traits. The first characteristic, to which all the others are added, is faith. Faith is the foundation upon which a godlike character is built. …
Faith…in the true God and Jesus as described in the Bible…is crucial!
The Savior declared that life eternal is to know the only true God and His Son Jesus Christ (see John 17:3). If this is true, and I bear you my solemn witness that it is true, then we must ask how we come to know God. The process of adding one godly attribute to another, as described by Peter, becomes the key to gaining this knowledge that leads to eternal life.
I agree with Benson. It is vital “to know the only true God and His Son Jesus Christ.” I contend, though, that the God and Jesus of Mormonism is distinct from the bibical version. And that concerns me. A person can be “honest,” “virtuous,” and so much more, but these will not qualify anyone for heaven. To find out more, here are three links that you ought to consider to see if you qualify for eternal life, as taught by the Bible.
The Savior will comfort us and lift us up in our efforts to stay on the path He has marked for us. To the extent that we stray from the path marked out for us by the Man of Galilee, to that extent we are failing in our individual battles. … But we are not without his help. Again and again he told his disciples, and all of us, “Let not your heart be troubled. …” “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” “I will not leave you comfortless. …” “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. …” (John 14:1, 14, 18, 27.)
There is peace in the Jesus as described in the Bible. But Mormonism teaches that peace only comes when we “stay on the path He has marked for us.” It is something no mortal can obtain. With such a philosophy, there can be no “peace.” This particular chapter–the last one in this particular manual– is being taught at LDS chapels all across the world on Sunday, December 21, 2015. This is the time of year when the greatest gift ever given is celebrated: the baby Jesus who came to save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). Instead of encouraging people to exalt in this gift and receive it freely, Benson’s main emphasis is staying on the path, which must be done in order to qualify for eternal life. What a contrast to the message of this most wonderful Season!
Let us turn again to the Book of Mormon … to learn some principles about coming unto Christ, being committed to Him, centered in Him, and consumed in Him. We will quote but a few of the numerous passages on the matter. First, we need to know that Christ invites us to come unto Him. “Behold, he sendeth an invitation unto all men, for the arms of mercy are extended towards them, … Yea, he saith: Come unto me and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life” (Alma 5:33–34). Come, for he stands “with open arms to receive you” (Mormon 6:17). Come, for “he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause” (Jacob 3:1). “Come unto him, and offer your whole souls as an offering unto him” (Omni 1:26). As Moroni closed the record of the Jaredite civilization, he wrote, “I would commend you to seek this Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written” (Ether 12:41).
I don’t believe the Book of Mormon is Scripture, but I don’t have a problem saying that there is a general call of invitation to all to “partake of the fruit of the tree of life.” However, Mormonism says this is only the beginning of the requirement for exaltation.
In Moroni’s closing words written toward the end of the Nephite civilization, he said, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, … and 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).
I already spoke about Moroni 10:32 above. To me, this verse contradicts Benson’s previous paragraphs. The Mormon Jesus is saying, “Come unto me AND DO EVERYTHING I COMMAND and ye shall partake of the fruit of the tree of life.” Jesus “stands with open arms to receive you IF YOU ARE COMPLETELY OBEDIENT IN EVERYTHING.” “He will console you in your afflictions and he will plead your cause IF YOU DO YOUR PART BY BECOMING CLEAN AND KEEPING THE COMMANDMENTS.” This, my friends, is not the Gopsel of the “Jesus of whom the prophets and apostles have written.” Rather, this gospel originates from a false version of Jesus. Indeed, it is possible to hold to a false gospel. As Galatians 1:8-9 says,
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
As far as worshipping a Jesus who is different from what is described in the Bible, 2 Corinthians 11:4 states,
For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.
If we want to partake of the authentic Jesus of the Bible, it’s important to follow His words and embrace His Gospel. The teachings of Mormonism contradict the biblical precepts, which is why we must express caution. Jesus Himself taught in Matthew 7:
15 Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
If you are a Latter-day Saint, do yourself a favor. Be willing to look at both sides of the issue. Questions you ought to ask include:
- Is the First Vision account true? Joseph Smith and the First Vision
- Is the Book of Mormon authentic scripture? Book of Mormon
If these two historical events are not true, then the entire religion of Mormonism goes with it. When it comes to testing out historical events, Paul says we need to determine if the resurrection of Jesus is true, as explained in 1 Corinthians 15:
12 But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.
I have studied the resurrection of Jesus from both Evangelical Chritian as well as atheist sources. Based on my study, I am convinced more than ever that this event really did take place and therefore Christians are not “to be pitied.” The resurrection is true! For more on this, click 10 reasons to support the story of the Resurrection
Peter Barnes, a former JW friend of mine who is now with the Lord, was fond of saying, “Truth will never run from error, but error will always run from truth.” If Mormonism is true, then faithful Latter-day Saint should have fear of researching the two questions above. If anything, a thorough study of these issues—even taking a close look at what the critics have to say—will only make your faith stronger than before. . . if they are true, historical events. And if they are not historical, why would you want to stay in such a religion anyway? Indeed, take a look at all sides and may the truth win in the end!