During 2014, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith. 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 Joseph Fielding Smith
Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God and the Savior of the world.
It is very certain that the terminology used in Mormonism is almost idential with Christianity. Thus, words such as “God,” “Jesus,” “grace,” and “scriptures” are used in Mormon circles, yet it is important to understand that there are important differences in the meanings of these terms when compared to historical (biblical) Christianity. This is something to keep in mind when reading this review.
With that as a background, we must ask, what exactly does Joseph Fielding Smith mean when he says that “Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God”?
Since the beginning, Christ’s followers have believed that He was born as a result of a miraculous conception, as attested in Matthew 1:18. Mormon leaders have insisted in a virgin birth, yet they have provided a description far removed from the teaching held by Christians throughout the centuries. An instructor’s edition of an LDS 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 Guide Religion 211-212, 14.)
What exactly does the leadership mean when it refers to a “mortal mother and a divine Father”? We’ll let the LDS leaders and church manuals 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.” (Joseph F. Smith, Family Home Evening Manual (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1972), 125–26. Ellipsis mine.)
“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, 7. This was quoted in the Ensign (April 1997): 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 (Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2000), 22. See also Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah 1:314 as well as McConkie and Millet, Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon 1:78.)
“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.” (Church News, 18 December 18 2004, 16. See also Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 7.)
“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, 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, 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, 7. Brackets and ellipses in original.)
Since Mormonism teaches that Mary did not have sexual relations with a mortal man but instead was impregnated by an immortal man (Elohim, who has a physical body with parts and passion), many Latter-day Saints have no qualms about using this phrase. BYU professor Charles H. 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”: The Development of Mormon Theology, 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 physical (yes, 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!
As simply put as the Joseph Fielding Smith manual puts it—Jesus is the “Only Begotten Son of God”—the between-the-lines information seems to be conveniently left out. You either have to be in the “know” or have done study in other church resources to fully grasp just what the virgin birth means in Mormonism.
May I say, as plainly and as forcefully as I can, that we believe in Christ. We accept him without reservation as the Son of God and the Savior of the world. “All things are concentrated in and around the Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world.” We know that salvation is in Christ; that he was the Firstborn Son of the Eternal Father; that he was chosen and foreordained in the councils of heaven to work out the infinite and eternal atonement; that he was born into the world as the Son of God; and that he has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. We believe with perfect surety that Christ came to ransom men from the temporal and spiritual death brought into the world by the fall of Adam and that he took upon himself the sins of all men on condition of repentance. …
“Savior of the World.” “The Redeemer of the world.” Jesus “took upon himself the sins of all men…” These phrases are thrown about with little meaning provided. If you are not familiar with Mormonism, don’t think that Mormonism and Christianity are alike when it comes to the Person of Jesus Christ. In Christianity, to say Jesus is the “Savior” or “Redeemer” of the world means that those believers who have faith (Acts 17:11; Rom. 10:9-10) will go to heaven and be with God and Jesus forever. In Mormonism, all human beings—because of their valiance in the premortal existence—will receive one of three kingdoms. In a general way, Mormonism teaches that Jesus is the Savior of all humanity because His atonement provides a general salvation for everyone, regardless of belief. This means, for the most part, that everyone goes to one of three levels of “heaven”—the celestial kingdom (for the righteous Mormons who have fully kept their covenants), the terrestrial kingdom (“good” people, including those blinded by Satan), and the telestial kingdom (wicked people).
How does this idea contradict with Christianity? According to Mormonism, consider the role Jesus had before being incarnated. “Elder Brother,” as Smith refers to Jesus later in this cahpter, was the first-born son of God the Father in the First Estate, also called premortality or the preexistence. Lucifer was another son who wanted to become the savior of the world. In esssence, Jesus and Lucifer (and all humankind, for that matter) are spirit brothers. Seventy Milton R. Hunter wrote,
“The appointment of Jesus to be the Savior of the world was contested by one of the other sons of God. He was called Lucifer, son of the morning. Haughty, ambitious, and covetous of power and glory, this spirit-brother of Jesus desperately tried to become the Savior of mankind.” (The Gospel through the Ages, 15. This was a Melchizedek Priesthood manual when it came out in the mid-20th century, printed officially by the church.)
Mormon educator Jess L. Christensen said:
On first hearing, the doctrine that Lucifer and our Lord, Jesus Christ, are brothers may seem surprising to some, especially to those unacquainted with latter-day revelations. But both the scriptures and the prophets affirm that Jesus Christ and Lucifer are indeed offspring of our Heavenly Father and, therefore, spirit brothers. . . . Both Jesus and Lucifer were strong leaders with great knowledge and influence. But as the First-born of the Father, Jesus was Lucifer’s older brother. (A Sure Foundation: Answers to Difficult Gospel Questions, 223–24. Ellipsis ours.)
Ironically, the same passages of the Bible that expound on Christ’s eternal deity also show that Lucifer could not be the brother of Christ. John 1:1–3 says that all things (including Lucifer) were made by Jesus, who was, is, and always will be God. Colossians 1:15, the one biblical verse used by Christensen, says, “He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature.” However, this has nothing to do with Jesus and Satan being brothers. In fact, it proclaims Christ’s deity (“image of the invisible God”). Verses 16–17 show that Christ created all things and that He is before all things, holding them together. Just as a person can look into the mirror to see a reflection, so too is Jesus the exact image of God.
Charles R. Harrell refutes the commonly held LDS notion, saying, “Paul is not referring to premortal spirit birth, but to Christ becoming the firstborn in attaining God’s glory, a status which would subsequently be attained by ‘many brethren’ (i.e., disciples).” (Harrell, “This is My Doctrine”: The Development of Mormon Theology, 168.) Lest there be confusion over the term firstborn, it should be pointed out that the Greek word used is not protoktistos (meaning first created) but rather prototokos (meaning firstborn). Both Hebrews 1:3 and 2 Corinthians 4:4 point out that Christ is the exact representation of God. Referring to Colossians 1, Harrell writes on page 171 that this is “an unmistakable reference to his [Jesus’s] preeminence in the resurrection from the dead.” He adds that “in the New Testament Christ is the firstborn in the sense of (1) being prior to and the source of all creation; (2) being the first to receive exaltation and glory, and (3) being the first to rise from the dead, ‘that in all things he might have the preeminence’ (Col. 1:18).” The Bible adamantly declares Lucifer to be a creation of Jesus, not in any way the brother of Jesus. Besides, Jesus and Satan are as opposite as light and darkness. Satan merely tries to imitate an angel of light in order to fool as many people as possible (2 Cor. 11:14).
Referring to humanity’s premortal existence in heaven, Apostle Robert D. Hales taught that, while we can’t remember this time,
“we probably sat in meetings much like this, where the Father’s plan for us was explained. We cannot remember that Lucifer, a son of God the Father, a brother of Jesus Christ, rebelled against God’s plan and, in his rebellion, promised he would bring us all back home. But Lucifer would have denied us our free agency, the freedom to make decisions. We cannot remember that his plan was not accepted by us because, without choice, there would not have been a purpose for coming to this mortal probation. We would not have had opposition or repentance. We would not have learned obedience.” (Ensign (May 1990): 39.)
Gospel Principles says, “After hearing both sons speak, Heavenly Father said, ‘I will send the first’ (Abraham 3:27).” (Gospel Principles, 15.) Unfortunately, a third of the spirits chose Lucifer’s plan that denied free choice; everyone who would end up receiving bodies by being born on the earth apparently chose Jesus. Thus,
“In this great rebellion, Satan and all the spirits who followed him were sent away from the presence of God and cast down from heaven. A third part of the hosts of heaven were punished for following Satan (see D&C 29:36). They were denied the right to receive mortal bodies. Because we are here on earth and have mortal bodies, we know that we chose to follow Jesus Christ and our Heavenly Father. . . . In our premortal life, we chose to follow Jesus Christ and accept God’s plan.” (Gospel Principles, 16, 17. Ellipsis ours.)
Again, very little is said to let the readers know what is meant–some very well may not know. While this manual is for LDS believers, it is still confusing unless more information is given to explain just what these terms mean.
We believe it is by grace that we are saved after all that we can do [see 2 Nephi 25:23], and that building upon the foundation of the atonement of Christ, all men must work out their salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord [see Philippians 2:12; Mormon 9:27].
So much is entailed in these few words. But let’s be sure we understand that “grace” in Mormonism is much different than what it means in Christianity.
Salvation by grace in Mormonism is synonymous with mere resurrection from the dead. In a church manual, President Harold B. Lee said grace is given to every person on the earth
“whether they are good or bad, rich or poor, when they have lived—it makes no difference. All have the blessings of the Atonement and the blessings of the resurrection given to them as a free gift because of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 22.)
Apostle Russell M. Nelson told a general conference audience,
“To be saved—or to gain salvation—means to be saved from physical and spiritual death. Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected and saved from physical death.” Ensign (May 2008): 8.
On the other hand, individual salvation, otherwise known as exaltation or godhood, goes far beyond a mere resurrection from the dead. Stephen L. Richards, a member of the First Presidency, explained the difference to a general conference audience:
“They [Mormon missionaries] made clear distinction between general salvation or resurrection from the grave and individual salvation or exaltation earned by a man through his compliance with the laws of God. They taught that there are preferential places in heaven as there are on earth and that the highest place or Celestial Kingdom could be attained only by those who faithfully subscribe to and keep all the laws and ordinances of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and thereby entitle themselves to come into the presence of our God and Jesus Christ, His Son.” (Conference Reports (April 1941): 102-3. Brackets mine.)
Unlike resurrection from the dead, exaltation requires a concerted effort on the part of the individual to live according to all of the commandments. In the end, the Mormon will not be able to resort to excuses for justification. In a 2012 general conference talk titled “What Shall a Man Give in Exchange for His Soul?” Seventy Robert C. Gay gave answered his title this way:
“This is the exchange the Savior is asking of us: we are to give up all our sins, big or small, for the Father’s reward of eternal life. We are to forget self-justifying stories, excuses, rationalizations, defense mechanisms, procrastinations, appearances, personal pride, judgmental thoughts, and doing things our way. We are to separate ourselves from all worldliness and take upon us the image of God in our countenances.” (Ensign (November 2012): 35.)
So, when 2 Nephi 25:23—quoted as a reference here—says that we’re “saved by grace after all we can do,” don’t miss the meaning. Works—many works—are required to enter Mormonism’s celestial kingdom. Since “lukewarm” Mormons are destined for nothing more than the terrestrial kingdom, could it be that the majority of Latter-day Saints are headed for this state? We have spoken to many Mormons who realize that they don’t follow 2 Nephi 25:23. They know they don’t do everything they can do. While the terrestrial kingdom is a place of comfort with the presence of Jesus Christ, the presence of Heavenly Father will be missing. In essence, Heavenly Father has no desire to see these spirit children ever again. This glory, which “differs from the celestial glory as the light of the moon differs from the light of the sun,” will be inherited by those
“who are honorable men of the earth, who were blinded by the craftiness of men . . . (and) who are not valiant in the testimony of Jesus, therefore they obtain not the crown over the kingdom of God.” (B. H. Roberts, New Witnesses for God (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1911, 1950–51), 1:385. Ellipsis mine. Also see D&C 76:79.)
When it comes to 2 Nephi 25:23, the question that every Latter-day Saint ought to answer is, “How much ‘can you do’?” If it is possible to devote ten minutes in prayer, couldn’t a person dedicate just five more minutes? Or wouldn’t it have been possible to not only mow a neighbor’s yard but also vacuum the house and paint the shed? (For more information on this topic, see chapter 19 (“Doesn’t the Book of James say that ‘faith without works is dead’?”) in our book Answering Mormons’ Questions (Kregel, 2013).
The difference between our Savior and the rest of us is that we have had fathers who were mortal and therefore subject to death. Our Savior did not have a mortal Father and therefore death was subject to him. He had power to lay down his life and to take it again [see John 10:17–18], but we do not have power to lay down our lives and to take them again. It is through the atonement of Jesus Christ that we receive eternal life, through the resurrection of the dead and obedience to the principles of the gospel.
With our meanings established, we can better understand just what this paragraph means. I’ll sum it up this way and provide the nuances of what Smith said above:
As the first-born spirit child of the immortal God the Father, Jesus is different from the rest of humanity. Because he had the power to atone for everyone’s sin through his bleeding in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, everyone born on earth receives a resurrection to one of three kingdoms. True eternal life, though, is godhood or exaltation. This not only requires Jesus’s atonement but “obedience” to God’s principles. Those who are successful with this mandate can now have a chance to attain the celestial kingdom.
He is indeed the only begotten Son of God, and through His grace, and the grace of His Father, hath redeemed us from sin on condition of our repentance.
Notice the words “condition of our repentance.” In Mormonism, the list of requirements are many, including tithing. President Kimball gave a First Presidency message in October 1982 where he said,
“If one neglects his tithing, misses his meetings, breaks the Sabbath, or fails in his prayers and other responsibilities, he is not completely repentant. The Lord knows, as do we, the degree of full and sufficient compliance we make with these fundamental aspects of the law of repentance, which is really God’s law of progress and fulfillment.” (Ensign, October 1982, 5).
Referring to Kimball’s final point in his “five essential elements of repentence” given in The Miracle of Forgiveness, Apostle Richard G. Scott told a general conference audience,
“Full obedience brings the complete power of the gospel into your life with strength to focus on the abandonment of specific sins. It includes things you might not initially consider part of repentance, such as attending meetings, paying tithing, giving service, and forgiving others. The Lord said: ‘He that repents and does the commands of the Lord shall be forgiven.’” (Ensign, May 1995, 76).
Since tithing appears to be one of the essential ingredients for forgiveness, one must wonder what the Mormon should do with the following words from Mormon 8:32: “Yea, it shall come in a day when there shall be churches built up that shall say: Come unto me, and for your money you shall be forgiven of your sins.”
Another Book of Mormon passage, 1 Nephi 3:7, affirms that God gives no commandments to the “children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.” If this is true, then we must assume that those Mormons who fail to repent of all of their sins are guilty of squandering their mortal opportunity and indeed have procrastinated their repentance. This is a perilous situation since, as Kimball stated, “Incomplete repentance never brought complete forgiveness.”(The Miracle of Forgiveness, 212).
In an article written to Mormon youth, Jay E. Jensen, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, said,
“Another prerequisite or condition to repentance is to know that no unclean thing can dwell with God (see 1 Ne. 10:21; 1 Ne. 15:34; Alma 7:21; Alma 40:26; and Hel. 8:25). You can hide sins from your bishop, you can hide them from your parents and friends, but if you continue and die with unresolved sins, you are unclean and no unclean thing can dwell with God. There are no exceptions.”(New Era, November 1999, 7.)
If true repentance requires the person to practice full obedience, then repentance is nothing more than admitting you didn’t do what you were supposed to. While repentance is important in Christianity, Mormonism requires success in the forsaking of sins.
We know that He has risen from the dead, that He has ascended on high, taking captivity captive [see Psalm 68:18], and has become the author of salvation unto all who will believe, who will repent of their sins and accept Him as the Redeemer of the world [see Hebrews 5:9]. Latter-day Saints are not left in doubt regarding these things.
Again, this sounds very orthodox until we understand that “accepting Him as the Redeemer of the world” requires joining the “one true church” and abiding by its leaders’ precepts. Of course, no Latter-day Saint who reads the manuals (including the Teachings of Presidents of the Church series, such as Joseph Fielding Smith) and listens to the general conference addresses will be “left in doubt” because church leaders are very clear what its membership is to due. This is not something the average potential convert will understand when the missionaries knock on the door and explain the LDS gospel.
While men may formulate plans, adopt theories, introduce strange works, and gather and teach many peculiar doctrines, one teaching is fundamental, and from it we cannot depart: all things are concentrated in and around the Lord Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of the world. We accept him as the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh, the only one who has dwelt in the flesh who had a Father who was immortal. Because of his birthright and the conditions surrounding his coming to the earth, he became the Redeemer of men; and through the shedding of his blood we are privileged to return into the presence of our Father, on conditions of our repentance and acceptance of the great plan of redemption of which he is the author.
Taken from an April 1921 general conference talk, this is very reminiscent of what was said earlier regarding Mormonism’s virgin birth (i.e. “Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh,” “the only one who has dwelt in the flesh who had a Father who was immortal”). Although not found in this manual, Smith taught that the Mormon teaching supersedes the plain meaning of Matthew 1:23. Smith said,
“CHRIST NOT BEGOTTEN OF HOLY GHOST… Christ was begotten of God. He was not born without the aid of Man, and that Man was God!” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 1:18. Italics in original. Ellipses mine). For more on the Virgin Birth, see here.
Notice how qualifying for true salvation (again, “eternal life” or “exaltation” in Mormon terms) is based on one’s works (i.e. “on conditions of our repentance and acceptance of the great plan of redemption”). Just to make sure the reader is clear about the origin of this “great plan of redemption,” the teachings as defined by the LDS authorities are apparently authored by God Himself!
We testify that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the plan of salvation; and that through our Lord’s atoning sacrifice all men shall be raised in immortality, to be judged by him according to the deeds done in the flesh; and that those who believe and obey the fullness of gospel law shall be raised also unto eternal life in our Father’s kingdom.
So while general salvation allows all people a resurrection, only “those who believe and obey the fullness of gospel law” will receive eternal life (exaltation).
We become the sons and daughters of Jesus Christ through His Atonement and through our covenants of obedience to Him.
In essence, all people on earth are already the “sons and daughters” of God the Father. Now, Smith says, you can also become the “sons and daughters of Jesus Christ” as well through obedience to His laws.
Our Father in heaven is the Father of Jesus Christ, both in the spirit and in the flesh. Our Savior is the Firstborn in the spirit, the Only Begotten in the flesh.
More language referring to the Virgin Birth. Once an outsider understands what “Only Begotten in the flesh” means, it no longer sounds very biblical, does it?
He [Jesus Christ] is our Elder Brother and was honored by the Father with the fulness of authority and power as a member of the grand Presidency, of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Our scriptures teach that Jesus Christ is both the Father and the Son. The simple truth is that he is the Son of God by birth, both in the spirit and in the flesh. He is the Father because of the work that he has performed.
Now this is confusing language. A general reader looks at this and says, “The Father is the Son. How can this be?” In fact, Mormons often criticize the Trinity because they say it is impossible for the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to comprise one God. Yet here we see that Jesus is the Father. Certainly, I understand what they mean, but why criticize the Trinity based on questions like, “If Jesus was praying to the Father in Gethsemane, and yet He was God, to whom was He speaking?” Why is this language appropriate and the Trinity maligned, with false stereotypes created. See here for an explanation of false views of the Trinity. Meanwhile, the Trinity is biblical and not a creation of later creeds. See here.
“We become the children, sons and daughters of Jesus Christ, through our covenants of obedience to him.”
In the Bible, we see that “obedience” has nothing to do with becoming a child of God. Rather, it is through belief (faith alone) that allows a person to become a child of God. For example:
John 1:12: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
Romans 5:8: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Galatians 3:26: “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”
1 John 2:28-3:10: “And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”
Like the Nephites in King Benjamin’s day, we Latter-day Saints have likewise taken upon ourselves the name of Christ [see Mosiah 5:1–9; 6:1–2]. Each week at the sacrament service, as we are commanded to do, we take upon us his name always to remember him and that is what the Nephites covenanted to do.
Just as they did at baptism, all Mormons must once more make a covenant at each sacrament service promising to keep all of the commandments. Since no Mormon can consistently keep all of the commandments, it appears that all of them are covenant breakers to some extent.
The Savior has revealed Himself in this dispensation, and each of us can have an abiding testimony of Him.
We accept Jesus as the Redeemer of the world. We know … that He revealed Himself in this dispensation. We are not dependent upon the testimonies of … ancient worthies, who lived in His day and conversed with Him in His ministry, and to whom He appeared after His resurrection. We have witnesses who have lived in our own day, who have seen Him, who knew that He lives and have testified to us and to the world of this fact. We know their testimonies are true. Joseph Smith was not left alone to bear witness in this dispensation of the mission of Jesus Christ, for the Lord raised up other witnesses who, with the Prophet Joseph Smith, saw the Redeemer, received instruction from Him and beheld Him in the heavens sitting on the right hand side of the Father surrounded by holy angels. They have given us their testimony which shall stand against the world to condemn all those who heed it not.
Whether or not a Mormon wants to admit it, so much of this religion’s authenticity depends on the character of Joseph Smith. Did he really see God the Father and Jesus? Did he receive instruction from the heavenlies? Is he someone worthy to base our eternal life on? For more information, see here.
But neither are we dependent as members of the Church upon the testimonies of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon or any others now dead, who in this dispensation received wonderful revelations and visions from the Lord by which they knew that Jesus lives and is the Redeemer of the world. We have an individual testimony given through the Spirit of the Lord to all who have lived in accordance with the Gospel. If we have been in harmony with the truth after having been baptized for the remission of our sins, and confirmed by the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord has revealed unto us individually that these things are true. We are not dependent upon the testimony of anyone else for this knowledge for we know through the Spirit that Jesus is the Christ, the Redeemer of the world.
The personal testimony of a Latter-day Saint is of utmost importance. The first Sunday of each month is called Fast and Testimony Sunday, a day when Mormons walk up to the pulpits of their individual wards and branches to testify how they ”know” Joseph Smith is a true prophet of God, how they “know” Thomas S. Monson is the current prophet representing God’s church, and how they “know” the Mormon story is true. Even when confronted with information that is contrary to their belief system, many Mormons remain firm in their faith by clinging to their subjective feelings. Tad R. Callister, a member of the Presidency of the Seventy, told this story at the end of a general conference address:
Some years ago I attended one of our worship services in Toronto, Canada. A 14-year-old girl was the speaker. She said that she had been discussing religion with one of her friends at school. Her friend said to her, “What religion do you belong to?” She replied, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons.” Her friend replied, “I know that church, and I know it’s not true.” “How do you know?” came the reply. “Because,” said her friend, “I have researched it.” “Have you read the Book of Mormon?” “No,” came the answer. “I haven’t.” Then this sweet young girl responded, “Then you haven’t researched my church, because I have read every page of the Book of Mormon and I know it’s true.” (Ensign, November 2011, 76)
Notice how the Mormon girl’s subjective feeling outweighed her friend’s research. Did the Mormon girl in this story ask her friend to see what she found? Callister doesn’t say. The conclusion is that it is somehow heroic to allow feelings to take precedence over investigation.
There is a psychological edge that the Mormon missionaries have when someone agrees to their challenge to read the Book of Mormon and pray about it. After all, the investigator may eventually get the “right” answer in an attempt to please the missionaries, close family members, or friends who have come to the same conclusion. In the end, one’s good feelings may win the day, even if the object of the prayer is false. It should be noted that Joseph Smith disregarded the immediate context of James 1:5, which speaks of gaining wisdom, not knowledge. Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge. In this verse James tells his Christian audience to ask God for wisdom when they are undergoing trials and temptations, not for testing various truth claims. First John 4:1 tells believers to “try [test] the spirits.” Why? Because many false prophets have gone out into the world. The Bereans in Acts 17:11 were considered noble because they “searched the scriptures daily” and tested Paul’s words against what God had already revealed. In other words, Christians are to test all truth claims with the Bible, not with subjective experiences, even if that experience involves a supernatural “vision.”
If there is any one thing that brings joy and peace and satisfaction to the heart of man, beyond anything else that I know of, it is the abiding testimony which I have, and which you have, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. That is a truth that cannot be changed. Men may attack it; they may ridicule it; they may declare that he is not the Redeemer of the world, that his mission was not true, or that its purpose, through the shedding of his blood, was not to grant unto all men the remission of sins on condition of their repentance. They may refuse to believe in the resurrection from the dead, or even that Christ himself came forth, as the Scriptures declare, after he had been put to death by his enemies; nevertheless the truth remains. He did die for the sins of the world, he did bring to pass redemption from death, he did grant unto men the opportunity of repentance, and remission of sins through their belief and acceptance of the principles of the gospel, and of his mission. These truths are fundamental, they shall endure; they cannot be destroyed no matter what men may say or think.
The question we have to ask is, which gospel is presented in the Mormon Church? Is this Jesus Christ the same Son of God as explained in the pages of the Bible. See, I’m not merely attempting to “attack” the LDS gospel for no reason. But if we are MRM are correct and the gospel according to Mormonism is wrong, then it is our duty to explain why, on our website and our radio show/podcast and in everything we say and do. I do believe in the redemption of my sins through the price paid by Jesus my Savior. I do believe in the resurrection of the dead. I do believe Jesus resurrected from the dead. I believe in the remission of sins for those who accept this gift by faith. I merely disagree with the way the Mormon Church leaders have interpreted these very important doctrines. If Mormonism is true, then I am wrong. If we’re both wrong, then something else out there is right. We both cannot be right. Thus, if I am correct in my views and Mormonism is wrong, there’s no second chances in the resurrection. The Bible is clear that there is a resurrection to eternal life and another to damnation. My whole purpose in dedicating my life to letting people know the truth about God is not a game. I don’t want anyone headed to hell who crosses my path to not be told the true gospel according to the Bible.
Let it be uppermost in your minds, now and at all times, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God who came into the world to lay down his life that we might live. That is the truth, and is fundamental. Upon that our faith is built.
In a respectful manner, may I say, Latter-day Saint, that your faith is not built upon the Jesus of the Bible. Your Jesus is not the one revealed in the pages of the Bible. Consider the possibility that you are wrong and do the research. Don’t just believe in Mormonism merely because it’s convenient (you live in an LDS community, your family is LDS, or you’ve never known anything else). Only follow Mormonism if it is true. Is it?
We must believe in Christ and pattern our lives after him. We must be baptized as he was baptized. We must worship the Father as he did. We must do the will of the Father as he did. We must seek to do good and work righteousness as he did. He is our Exemplar, the great Prototype of salvation.
I believe in Jesus Christ. Of course I believe in following Him and His ways. But, as 2 Corinthians 11:4 says, following a false Christ is worse than not following Him at all.
When you have a problem and need to make a choice, make it by asking yourself, “What would Jesus do?” Then do as he would.
Perhaps Joseph Fielding Smith is the originator of “WWJD”! While this may be a popular slogan, let’s be honest: What I do is much different than what Jesus “would do.” As Paul explained in Romans 7, we naturally do what is wrong (we may even hate what we do because we’re convicted) because we are sinful people with a sin nature. We should strive to do what’s right, but please understand, it’s impossible to be successful in doing what Jesus did. Eternal life only comes as a free gift given by Jesus Himself. He did the work. It’s not something you can receive because you’ve been successful in keeping all the commandments. When we understand that we bring nothing to the table, then we’re on the way to understanding what true salvation is all about.
You can feel the joy of his presence and have his inspiration to guide you each day of your lives if you will seek it and live worthy of it. Jesus’ love and the comforting strength of his Holy Spirit can be just as real to you as they were to the children he drew close to him when he lived on the earth.
Once more, hear the words spoken by Mormonism’s 10th president: you must “seek it” and “live worthily of it.” So many times I fall short of God’s best. In Mormonism, you need to do better. We are to conquer our sins so we can draw close to God.
I love David’s prayer in Psalm 51 after he was found in sin with Bathsheba. Listen to his heartfelt words:
Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Smith says the Mormon must “conquer your sin.” The result of not doing this, according to Mormonism, is the possibility you will receive something less than the celestial kingdom. The Bible says that forgiveness of our sins is available for the asking. It’s the only way to receive true forgiveness.
May I say that those who follow his example will become like him and be glorified with him in his Father’s kingdom; to gain honor, power, and authority. To certain Nephite disciples who had followed him with full purpose of heart he said: “… ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one.” [3 Nephi 28:10.] …
The purpose in my life is not “to gain honor, power, and authority” for myself. Instead, it is to lay my crowns before the throne of Jesus and give Him all the “honor, power, and authority.” Mormonism emphasizes lifting oneself up onto the throne; Christianity is all about lifting Jesus higher and higher on the throne He rightly deserves.
I pray that we may all walk in his footsteps and keep his commandments so that we may be like him. This is my desire. I hope it is yours.
My desire is to serve Jesus with all I have. I certainly want to keep God’s commandments. Yet it’s not about what I do but what Christ has done in me. This, my friend, is the true understanding of eternal life. I pray that you will seek after truth, because Jesus said those who seek after truth will find it.
For more reviews on this manual featuring Joseph Fielding Smith quotes, go here.
For articles related to Jesus, click here.