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Come, Follow Me: John 1

This is one in a series of reviews of the weekly lessons found in the Come, Follow Me for Individuals and Families published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To link to all of the 2023 New Testament teachings, click here.

Bold face type in this article comes from the Church’s curriculum. (Note: Not every sentence is being reviewed.)

January 16-22, 2023 (John 1)

Have you ever wondered whether you would have recognized Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God if you had been alive during His mortal ministry? For years, faithful Israelites, including Andrew, Peter, Philip, and Nathanael, had waited and prayed for the coming of the promised Messiah. When they met Him, how did they know that He was the One they had been seeking? The same way all of us come to know the Savior—by accepting the invitation to “come and see” for ourselves (John 1:39). We read about Him in the scriptures. We hear His doctrine. We observe His way of living. We feel His Spirit. Along the way, we discover, as Nathanael did, that the Savior knows us and loves us and wants to prepare us to receive “greater things” (John 1:50).

The importance of knowing the authentic Jesus as described in the Bible is vital. Unfortunately, the leaders of the LDS Church have put forth a Jesus who is much different. Consider, for instance, the following point made by a variety of LDS leaders:

Jesus was contaminated with a fallen nature, as second President Brigham Young taught:

“We believe we have a correct idea of the character of the Son from the writings of the Apostles, so far as they learned it. But while he was tabernacling in the flesh, he was more or less contaminated with fallen nature.”

November 29, 1857, Journal of Discourses 6:95-96.

Jesus did not have a fullness of deity at first but apparently grew into His nature, as taught by 6th President Joseph F. Smith:

“Even Christ himself was not perfect at first; he received not a fulness at first, but he received grace for grace, and he continued to receive more and more until he received a fulness.”

Gospel Doctrine, 1986, 68. See also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 153. This was also taught a number of times by Bruce R. McConkie.

Jesus only received a “fullness” after His resurrection, as taught by 10th President Joseph Fielding Smith:

“CHRIST GAINED FULNESS AFTER RESURRECTION. The Savior did not have a fulness at first, but after he received his body and the resurrection all power was given unto him both in heaven and in earth. Although he was a God, even the Son of God, with power and authority to create this earth and other earths, yet there were some things lacking which he did not receive until after his resurrection.”

Doctrines of Salvation 1:33.

17th President Russell M. Nelson said,

“That Jesus attained eternal perfection following his resurrection is confirmed in the Book of Mormon.”

“Perfection Pending,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1995, 87.

Jesus was married and had children, according to Apostle Orson Hyde as taught in general conference messages:

Now there was actually a marriage; and if Jesus was not the bridegroom on that occasion, please tell who was. If any man can show this, and prove that it was not the Savior of the world, then I will acknowledge I am in error. We say it was Jesus Christ who was married, to be brought into the relation whereby he could see his seed, before he was crucified. . . I discover that some of the Eastern papers represent me as a great blasphemer, because I said, in my lecture on Marriage, at our last Conference, that Jesus Christ was married at Cana of Galilee, that Mary, Martha, and others were his wives, and that he begat children.”

Orson Hyde, October 6, 1854, Journal of Discourses 2:82, and March 18, 1855, Journal of Discourses 2:210. This concept was also taught by others, including Orson Pratt.

Jesus became a God through obedience, said Seventy Milton R. Hunter:

“Jesus became a God and reached His great state of understanding through consistent effort and continuous obedience to all the Gospel truths and universal laws.”

The Gospel Through the Ages, 51.

Jesus had to work out his own salvation, according to Apostle Bruce R. McConkie:

“Christ worked out his own salvation by worshipping the Father. After the Firstborn of the Father, while yet a spirit being, had gained power and intelligence that made him like unto God; after he had become, under the Father, the Creator of worlds without number; after he had reigned on the throne of eternal power as the Lord Omnipotent-after all this he yet had to gain a mortal and then an immortal body.”

Sermons and Writings of Bruce R. McConkie, 1966, 61. Italics in original.

The differences described here make it very certain that the Jesus of these religious leaders is not the Jesus of biblical Christianity. A Latter-day Saint might argue that these were leaders of the past and that things have somehow changed in today’s church. The fact is that they were teaching as authoritative leaders in authoritative settings. As far as a different Jesus, even 15th President Gordon B. Hinckley insisted that the Jesus of Mormonism is not the same. He said:

“In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints ‘do not believe in the traditional Christ.’ ‘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 Fulness 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.’”

Gordon B. Hinckley, “Crown of Gospel is Upon Our Heads,” Church News, June 20, 1998, 7.

He also said,

“As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say.”

Gordon Hinckley, “We look to Christ,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2002, 90.

Consider this article to show more differences (click here).

Ideas for Personal Scripture Study

John 1:1–5

Jesus Christ was “in the beginning with God.”

John began his Gospel by describing the work that Christ performed before He was born: “In the beginning … the Word [Jesus Christ] was with God.” What do you learn from verses 1–5 about the Savior and His work? You can find helpful clarifications in Joseph Smith Translation, John 1:1–5 (in the Bible appendix). As you begin your study of the Savior’s life, why is it important to know about His premortal work?

To even trot out the Joseph Smith Translation as done here by the LDS authors is a tragic mistake. John 1:1 in the KJV says,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

But look at how Joseph Smith’s “translation” reads:

In the beginning was the gospel preached through the Son. And the gospel was the word, and the word was with the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was of God.

Where did all of these additional words come from? By doing this, Smith completely mangled John 1:1 to make it meaningless compared to what the original said. According to the King James Version (and all reputable modern translations), Jesus as the Logos (Word) was not only “in the beginning” but He was/is God as well! The word “Logos” does not mean “gospel.” And by saying that Jesus is “of God” basically destroys its meaning.

Theologian Wayne Grudem explains,

“Here Christ is referred to as ‘the Word,’ and John says both that he was ‘with God’ and that he ‘was God.’ The Greek text echoes the opening words of Genesis 1:1 (‘In the beginning. . . ‘) and reminds us that John is talking about something that was true before the world was made. God the Son was always God.”

Systematic Theology, 234.

Merrill C. Tenney writes,

“The ‘Word’ was deity, one with God rather than ‘a god’ or another being of the same class. This is the real meaning of the phrase. Unity of nature rather than similarity or likeness is implied. The external coexistence and unity of the Word with God is unmistakably asserted.”

The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, John/Acts volume 9, 28.

In Mormonism, Jesus is merely one of three gods, as James Faust, a member of the First Presidency, explained:

“The First Vision confirms the fact there are three separate Gods: God the Father—Elohim, to whom we address our prayers; Jesus the Christ—Jehovah; and the Holy Ghost—the Comforter, through whose spirit we may know the truth of all things.”

“The Magnificent Vision Near Palmyra,” Ensign (Conference Report), May 1984, 68).

When properly translated and interpreted, John 1:1 does not give a reader the option to turn Jesus into nothing more than “a” god.

John 1:1–18

It might be interesting to make a list of truths that John included in his opening testimony of Christ (verses 1–18; see also Joseph Smith Translation, John 1:1–19 [in the Bible appendix]). Why do you think that John began his Gospel with these truths? Consider writing your witness of Jesus Christ—what would you want to share? What experiences have helped you come to know and follow the Savior? Who might be blessed by hearing your testimony?

I think it’s pretty clear why John wrote what he did. It was to set the pace for his Gospel and explain how Jesus was fully and completely God in the flesh.

Again, the writers need to justify the Joseph Smith Translation’s accounting of these verses. It should be pointed out that Smith was no scholar in Koine Greek and his many changes in these verses have no ancient manuscript evidence that can be provided in support. Here are two articles to describe more about this:

The Joseph Smith Translation: An improvement over the original? Or ‘Much Ado About Nothing’?

The Joseph Smith Translation: Inspired by Whom?

John 1:11–13

Jesus Christ gives us “power to become” the sons and daughters of God.

Although we are all spirit daughters and sons of God the Father, when we sin we become estranged, or separated, from Him. Jesus Christ offers us a way back through His atoning sacrifice. Ponder what John 1:11–13 teaches about becoming daughters and sons of God. Consider also what these scriptures teach about how we receive this gift: Romans 8:14–18; Mosiah 5:7–9; Doctrine and Covenants 25:1. What does it mean to you to have “power to become” a daughter or son of God?

The writers make a crucial mistake here. These verses says nothing about people already being “spirit daughters and sons of God the Father.” Such an idea is insinuated based on the LDS teaching of the preexistence. In fact, John 1:12 says that it is only through faith that a person becomes a child of God:

But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.

The verse eliminates the idea that all humans are born as “children of God” originating from a previous life. The verses in Romans cited by the LDS writers are additional deterrents to such an interpretation. Romans 8:14-18 state:

14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.

15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.

18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

The context in this passage is that only those who are led by the Spirit can be considered God’s children. In verse 16, Paul is only talking about Christians and not about all people.

Yet how many Latter-day Saints who read this Come, Follow Me lesson will see that John 1:1 and Romans 8 teach contrary to the idea that being a child of God is something we already are rather than something we become when we have faith in Him?

John 1:18

The Father bears record of His Son.

John 1:18 states that no one has seen God. However, the Joseph Smith Translation of this verse clarifies that “no man hath seen God at any time, except he hath borne record of the Son” (see John 1:18, footnote c).

When it is convenient, the writers rush over to the JST for support. But, as I have said, which ancient manuscript can be found that supports Smith’s changes to the text? There are none. This leads me to ask the following question: If the JST is so much more reliable than the KJV, then why doesn’t the LDS Church put the KJV to the side and turn the JST into its official version? This would be the simple way to deal with an issue of gross mistranslation being made against the KJV.

Consider reviewing the following instances in which God the Father was heard bearing record of the Son: Matthew 3:17; 17:5; 3 Nephi 11:6–7; Joseph Smith—History 1:17.

This is a fancy way of neglecting the issue at hand, i.e., how do we know the KJV is the version that has recorded John wrong compared to the JST?

Why is it a blessing to have these accounts? What do they teach you about Jesus Christ’s relationship with His Father?

The accounts in the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of Great Price (JS-H 1) are not blessings. They are fictional accounts and cannot be trusted. This is why Bible-believing Christians reject these records.

Ideas for Family Scripture Study and Home Evening

John 1:35–36.

Why might John the Baptist have called Jesus “the Lamb of God”?

Of course, because it was Jesus who was presented as the sacrifice that would provide the forgiveness of sins, once and for all. Hebrews chapters 9 and 10 say:

  • Jesus secured eternal redemption through His blood (9:12)
  • Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant whose shed blood brings forgiveness of sins (9:15)
  • The new covenant can only take place upon the death of the sacrificial individual (v. 9:16)
  • Without the shedding of blood of the sacrificial victim, there is no forgiveness of sins (9:22)
  • Jesus’s sacrifice was only made once (9:25)
  • Sacrifices in the temple were no longer needed after Jesus because it was enough (10:1-2)
  • It is impossible for the blood of animals to take away sins forever (10:4)
  • Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is no longer any offering for sin (10:18)

This Jesus, then, fulfilled all the sacrifices done at the temple. it’s the main reason why Christians are not a temple-building people.

Conclusion

The leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints describe a Jesus that is so much different than the Jesus of biblical Christianity. This gives Bible-believing Christians a reason to pause. The Jesus of the Bible was in the beginning, He was with God the Father, and He is God. He is not merely “a” God who, in nature, is subordinate to the Father, but He is 100% compltely and fully God. And according to verse 14, this Word became flesh and even lived among us!

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