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Review of “Finding Jesus Christ in the Old Testament” (Marissa Widdison, January 2022 Liahona)

By Mike Rabus

Posted 4/28/22

The January 2022 issue of the Liahona magazine contains an article titled “Finding Jesus Christ in the Old Testament” written by Marisssa Widdison of Church Magazines. A quick Internet search shows that Widdison is currently the assistant managing editor of the Gospel Living App and has a history of working as an assistant managing editor on various LDS magazines.

The article provides five truths that “can help us come to know our Savior in our scripture study this year.” The LDS Church is spending the year studying the Old Testament, so it’s fitting that this article provides assistance in understanding the role of Jesus Christ in the entirety of the Bible. Hopefully the truths shared in this article will make the Old Testament more understandable to LDS members, but I think we are only going to find more confusion.

Here is the question that I kept asking myself as I read through this article:

Which god is worthy of worship according to Mormonism?

Ask this question to any faithful Latter-day Saint and the answer will overwhelmingly be Heavenly Father. In this article, Widdison is going to teach us something about Jesus Christ that should leave some Mormons questioning the object of their worship. Here is the first truth offered by Widdison:

Truth 1: Jesus Christ is Jehovah

In the New Testament, we read about a time when Jesus Christ identified Himself as Jehovah (see John 8:58, footnote b). The people were outraged and tried to stone Him for blasphemy (see John 8:59). They didn’t realize a previous truth that continues to be misunderstood by many today: that Jesus Christ is Jehovah, God of the Old Testament. [1]

Perhaps part of the reason the Savior’s identity in the Old Testament is often misunderstood is because the name “Jesus Christ” isn’t used in the book. Instead, authors used a number of titles to refer to Him, such as “God,” “I Am,” or “the Lord.”[2]

In Mormonism, Heavenly Father is the first of three separate gods. He goes by the name “Elohim” who is literally humanity’s father because he had relations with Heavenly Mother in the preexistence to produce billions of spirit offspring. Each human who has ever lived on earth is one of these offspring. Heavenly Father is himself a man with a body who once went through his own mortal probation, just like we are going through now. The ultimate goal of every Mormon man is to do well enough during his mortal probation to earn the right to become God just like Heavenly Father, and the goal of every woman is to be married to one of those men and therefore become a Heavenly Mother.

Jesus Christ, on the other hand, is a completely separate God in Mormonism. He goes by the name “Jehovah” and is the firstborn spirit child of Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ is our oldest spirit-sibling who came up with a plan in the preexistence to give each one of us a chance of having a body to prove that we are worthy enough to be reunited with Heavenly Father and Mother.

The first truth that Widdison reveals in this article is that Jesus Christ is Jehovah and that Jehovah is the God of the Old Testament. Widdison isn’t making up anything new here, as this has been a part of Mormon doctrine for a long time. But do you see any confusion in Mormonism by saying that Jesus Christ is the God of the Old Testament?

If Jesus Christ is the God of the Old Testament, isn’t Jesus Christ the true object of worship in Old Testament times? And if that’s the case, shouldn’t Jesus Christ be the true object of worship today? Why should our Old Testament spirit siblings worship a different God than us?

To show that Jesus Christ was worshiped in the Old Testament, let’s look at footnote [2] from the article.

  1. In English translations, references to Jesus Christ are often written in capital letters, like this: LORD. 1 Samuel 1:15 gives two examples of the word: “lord,” referring to a person, and “LORD,” referring to Jesus Christ. See also James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ (1916), 36.

The reference to Jesus the Christ is extremely informative, but Widdison gives us a great summary in saying that any time the word “LORD” is used in the Old Testament, with all capital letters, it should be considered Jesus Christ. If that’s the case, then Psalm 95:1-7 must be about Jesus:

O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also. The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land. O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture.

If Old Testament believers were worshiping and bowing down before Jesus Christ, shouldn’t Mormons worship and bow down before Jesus Christ now? And what should Mormons think about Isaiah 44:6?

Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.

Here Jehovah, or Jesus Christ according to Mormonism, is saying that in the Old Testament there are no other Gods beside him. But he’s also telling us that none have ever existed in the past, and none will come into existence in the future. Doesn’t he know about Heavenly Father? Wouldn’t Heavenly Father be another God that exists? And what about the Holy Ghost? He’s a God in Mormonism too, and yet Jesus Christ doesn’t know about him? And what about our Heavenly Grandfather, or the God of Heavenly Father? Shouldn’t Jesus Christ know about Him?

The Book of Mormon even teaches that there is only one God. In Alma 11:26-29, dated approximately 82 B.C., “Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God? And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God. Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God? And he answered, No.”

Is the one true God and “Supreme Being” (v. 22) referred to by Amulek the same one true God of the Old Testament? If so, then Amulek must be referring to Jesus Christ. The problem is that I don’t think any faithful Mormon is going to think that Amulek was referring to Jesus Christ in this exchange with Zeezrom, and therefore will have to admit there is more than one true God. But in admitting there is more than one true God, they are in disagreement with Amulek, and it doesn’t sound right for a Mormon to be in disagreement with Amulek.

Do you see why the doctrine of God according to Mormonism can create confusion?

Church leaders admit that there has been confusion on this topic, just like Widdison when she says this “precious truth…continues to be misunderstood by many today.” Within the pages of a church manual, we can find attempts at clarifying the confusion:

Many people today are just as ignorant of the God of the Old Testament as the pharaoh was…Could this be the same God as the being of love in the New Testament revealed through the mortal ministry of Jesus Christ? Others contend that the Jehovah of Old Testament times was the same as God the Father in the New Testament. Why all this confusion? Who, really, was the God of Adam, of Enoch and Abraham, of Israel and Moses? Although for many it seems a paradox, Jehovah of the Old Testament was none other than the Son of God, Jesus Christ. He created the world under the authority and direction of God the Father… It is vital to remember the place of God the Father: He is the Father of our spirits (see Hebrews 12:9) and is our God. The existence of other Gods cannot alter that fact…It is equally essential to note, however, that the agent by whom He administers His affairs on this earth is His Firstborn Son, known as Jehovah in the Old Testament. He gave Jesus the full “Fatherly” authority to organize and govern the earth, then through the Atonement Jesus became the Father of the faithful. The Saviour thus became the chief advocate of the Father’s plan…Jesus Christ is the God of the Old Testament just as He is the God of the earth today. Keeping this important fact constantly in mind is one of the keys to understanding both the Old Testament and the nature of God. (Old Testament Student Manual: Genesis-2 Samuel, Religion 301, 2003, Enrichment Section A)

It seems that Heavenly Father is supposed to receive the worship from Mormons. But if Jesus Christ has “full Fatherly authority” and is the “Father of the faithful,” shouldn’t he be the object of our worship? If Jesus is the God of the Old Testament and the God of the “earth today,” and since the Old Testament believers clearly worshiped Jesus, shouldn’t we worship Jesus Christ today?

These are all great questions to ask your Mormon friends and missionaries. The only answer that I’ve been given to these questions is that “Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are one in purpose but separate Gods.” That doesn’t even come close to answering the question of which object should be worshiped, because we don’t worship the purpose of God. We should worship the one, true God!

What is the object of worship in Deuteronomy 6:4-5?

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.

According to Widdison in this article, Jesus Christ is LORD, and therefore these verses in Deuteronomy are telling us that we should love Jesus Christ with all our heart, soul and might because he is our one God.

And what about prayer? I have never met a Mormon who prays to Jesus Christ or to the Holy Ghost, which leads me to believe that most Mormons will only direct their worship and prayer to Heavenly Father. But if Jesus Christ is actually the God who’s doing all the work on earth, regardless of who gave him the “Fatherly authority,” shouldn’t we be directing our prayer and worship to him?

I would argue that the Jesus of Mormonism is more qualified to receive our worship than Heavenly Father. Not only is he the God doing all the work for us, but he was actually sinless in his mortality. I’ve found that most Mormons say that it’s very possible that Heavenly Father could have once been a sinner during his mortal probation, just like each one of us has sinned during our mortal probation. If we can sin and still have the possibility of becoming God like Heavenly Father, it would make sense that Heavenly Father was a sinner too. Yet Jesus Christ never sinned during his mortality. Shouldn’t that be worthy of worship?

Questions for Mormons

Here are a few questions that I like asking Mormons when they eventually become gods, assuming they’ve proven themselves worthy during their mortal probation. Most of these questions come from Aaron Shafovaloff and are great ways of getting a Mormon to think about the concept of becoming God:

  • When you become a Heavenly Father, are you going to set up the same plan of salvation as the current Heavenly Father?
  • Are you going to delegate all “Fatherly Authority” to your firstborn spiritual son, while accepting all the worship for yourself? Will you let him create the world for the rest of your spirit children?
  • Are you going to share the worship from your spirit children with your firstborn spiritual son?
  • If your spiritual son ends up being sinless during his mortality, does that make him more worthy of worship than you, since you are currently a sinner in your mortality?
  • Are you going to be alright with letting all your spirit children refer to your firstborn son as God? Since all the Old and New Testament spirit children currently call Jesus Christ God.

Summary

Understanding the true nature of God and Jesus Christ is extremely important. Many of the differences between Mormonism and Christianity stem from their doctrine on these two subjects. As can be seen, the LDS concept of God and worship can quickly become confusing.

Concerning Jesus Christ, Widdison tells us that understanding “His nature, His mission, and His relationship with His Father and each of us” is required “to receive the gift of eternal life.” In calling Jesus Christ the God of the Old Testament, I believe most Mormons become confused in understanding his nature, and therefore never fully believe they will have “the gift of eternal life.”

Please help our Mormon friends understand that there is really one, true God who exists in tri-unity and worthy of our worship.


For a series of articles on the Trinity, please click here.

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