Jesus Christ in Mormonism
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often misnamed the “Mormon Church”) has a history with other Christian sects. Other Christians often accuse Latter-day Saints of not being Christian. Latter-day Saint doctrine focuses entirely on the Savior of the world and recognizes Jesus Christ as that Savior. For a bit more understanding of why many Christians feel accusatory towards Latter-day Saints, it is important to understand some history.
In the spring of 1820, a fourteen-year-old boy in upstate New York went into the woods to pray. There had been an upswing in religious fervor in the area, part of the Second Awakening in the American northeast. Revival meetings were staged often by Christian sects vying for converts. Every sect claimed the truth and all relied on the Holy Bible for their doctrines. Yet, they disagreed on important doctrines. Some members of the boy’s family had joined the Methodist Church and some were attracted to the Presbyterian Church, but young Joseph couldn’t decide. Resorting to the Bible for guidance seemed fruitless, since all the churches used it to support opposing doctrines. But Joseph Smith had read the verses in James 1:5, 6 that said,
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
Joseph determined to ask God which church he should join. He hoped to get an answer, but he never expected a vision. Nearly destroyed by an evil spirit, that attacked him the second he attempted to pray vocally, Joseph called upon God for rescue, and the woods filled with light. In the light directly over his head, he saw two personages, indescribably glorious, but in the form of men. One motioned to the other and said, “This is my Beloved Son. Hear ye Him.”
The vision, called by Mormons the First Vision, would change Joseph’s life and the world. Jesus Christ told Joseph not to join any of the churches, for they had all gone astray, and that He was about to restore the truth upon the earth. Thus, the dispensation of the fullness of times, the restitution of all things, began in preparation for the Second Coming of Christ. Joseph explained his vision to a pastor who had been working with him.
Some few days after I had this vision, I happened to be in company with one of the Methodist preachers, who was very active in the before mentioned religious excitement; and, conversing with him on the subject of religion, I took occasion to give him an account of the vision which I had had. I was greatly surprised at his behavior; he treated my communication not only lightly, but with great contempt, saying it was all of the devil, that there were no such things as visions or revelations in these days; that all such things had ceased with the apostles, and that there would never be any more of them.
I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me.
It caused me serious reflection then, and often has since, how very strange it was that an obscure boy, of a little over fourteen years of age, and one, too, who was doomed to the necessity of obtaining a scanty maintenance by his daily labor, should be thought a character of sufficient importance to attract the attention of the great ones of the most popular sects of the day, and in a manner to create in them a spirit of the most bitter persecution and reviling. But strange or not, so it was, and it was often the cause of great sorrow to myself (Joseph Smith History 1:21-23).
This persecution never ceased, and Joseph was finally martyred by a mob in Illinois in 1844. Mormons and Mormonism have continued to face persecution and misunderstanding all the years since. What was it about Joseph’s vision that upset people so? Yes, perhaps that virtually all Christian sects believe that visions have ceased and God no longer speaks directly to His children, but mostly because Joseph saw God the Father and Jesus Christ, and they were two separate beings, both resurrected men.
Who is Jesus Christ?
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is just that, the Church of Christ that existed anciently and has been restored. As the ancient apostles called the original believers “saints,” these are the members of Christ’s Church in the latter days. Christ is the leader of the Church through revelation to modern prophets. The Church has been established because the bishops of early Christian orthodoxy lost their way, incorporating the philosophies of men into their doctrines after the death of the original apostles. The creeds of Christendom took hundreds of years to evolve, and even Protestant reformers kept the doctrine of the trinity, with the idea that God, Christ and the Holy Ghost are three manifestations of the same substance and that God is a spirit, without body parts, or passions.
God has revealed that all of us are eternal beings, existing first as “intelligences,” which were never created. God then begat us spiritually, and we dwelt with Him in a spiritual realm before the earth was created. Therefore, we are literally the spirit children of God, and we are all brothers and sisters. We are here on earth to develop compassion, be tested through our mortal bodies, to exert faith in Christ, to gain wisdom, and to establish families and eternal friendships. We will go on eternally, progressing all the while, as we have always done.
God said to Abraham:
These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all (Abraham 3:19).
Jesus Christ is more intelligent than all the rest of us put together. He was also God’s firstborn in the spirit. Through Him all that ever has been created was created:
God said to Moses:
And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten (Moses 1:33).
God’s Great Plan for Us
Revelation 12:7–9 speak of a war in heaven:
And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
This war took place among the spirits in heaven. Jesus Christ had offered to come to the earth to save us from our sins, to atone for the transgression of Adam, to guarantee our resurrection. Lucifer offered to do the same, but with a different plan, to save us all, that not one would be lost. He wanted the glory for himself. He and his followers were cast out, and he became Satan, the author of lies.
Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh. He came to earth to take upon Himself all of our sorrows and burdens and the wrath of God for our sins, if we would only repent. He wrought the great atonement, providing resurrection for all, and deliverance from sin. He was born in Bethlehem and crucified in Jerusalem. He rose the third day, after having preached to the spirits of the dead. As the resurrected Lord, He instructed His apostles. He also visited a branch of Israel separated and led to the Americas. He organized His church also among them, and then went to visit the Ten Lost Tribes. These were the “other sheep” He discussed with His apostles (John 10:16; Book of Mormon: 3 Nephi).
Jesus Christ rules from heaven as a resurrected being, separate from the Father. As it says in the Book of Mormon:
And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins (2 Nephi 25:26).
All of Christ’s sacrifice is centered upon God’s eternal plan for us, His plan of happiness, wherein we may eternally progress to become more like Him through the grace of Christ. The fruit of His labor will be eternal joy.