Lesson 26 of the Gospel Doctrine curriculum covers Alma 24-29 in the Book of Mormon. These chapters consist mainly of the supposed story of the converted Lamanites and do not contain much doctrine. Because of that I am going to use one comment made by the teacher’s manual as a springboard to explain biblical Christianity’s view of Jesus especially as it differs from Mormonism’s view of him. I am doing that not only because that is a question many Mormons ask, but one that has been asked here. The comment in the teacher’s manual that got me thinking about that was: Why is it essential that Jesus Christ be at the center of our conversion?”
In its bare wording, I can wholeheartedly agree with that. But the key, of course, is what does that mean. I usually focus on showing the difference ways Mormonism and the Bible describe the effects or consequences of what Jesus did for us. In this post, however, I will list a few ways that Mormonism and biblical Christianity differ in describing who Jesus is.
Biblical Christianity has always placed Jesus, as the Son of God, on the very same level as the Father. Even though it is logical to assume that the Father is older than the Son and deserves greater honor; that is not biblical. I say that fully aware that, during his time on earth, Jesus himself says that the Father is greater than he. (I will return to that shortly.) I say that because the Bible itself gives them equal honor. Think, for example, of the command to baptize in the name (interesting that it is singular and not plural – but that is a topic for another time) of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Or consider what Jesus said in John 5:23. “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father.” The word “even” in that passage has the force of “equal” as is seen in many translations that translate “just as”.
The Bible also talks about the eternity of the Son in the sense of having no beginning or end. John 1:1 simply states. “In the beginning was the Word”. In other words, the Word was already there in the beginning. The Bible also calls him “the mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6) and, according to the Bible, God didn’t become God. He was always God.
These are just a couple of many different ways that we see the Bible placing the Son on the same level as the Father. But what about those passages, especially in the gospel of John, that indicate that Jesus is under the Father? The key to understanding those passages is Philippians 2:5-11. “ Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Verse 6 admittedly is difficult to translate from the Greek even though the Greek is quite clear. The difficulty is not a matter of wondering what the Greek says. The difficulty is not having the words in English to express those thoughts. What Paul says in verse 6 is that even though Christ was in “very nature” (some translations) God, he didn’t want to publicly display his equality with God – he didn’t want to make a big deal of it. Instead he did the complete opposite – he took the very nature of a slave, even to the point of being obedient to dying on the cross.
Those are the facts. Paul, in 2 Corinthians 8:9 tells us the reason Jesus did that. “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich.” Jesus did this to give us the riches of forgiveness, eternal life, and the blessedness of living with Heavenly Father for all eternity. In other words, he humbled himself and became his Father’s slave to save us. That wasn’t his true nature – his true nature was God– but that was the nature he took upon himself for his mission of saving us. And that is why, while on that mission, speaking as a slave, he could say that his Father was greater than he.
Compare that to the teachings of Mormonism. It states that Jesus is a spirit child of Heavenly Father and Mother as supposedly not only all humans are, but also the devil and all the demons. It states that Jesus was our brother, not just when he became flesh (John 1:14) but already before his birth in Bethlehem. It states that Jesus was not always true God but like all –even his Father, he had to attain to godhood. It tells its members to pray to the Father through Jesus, but it never tells its members to pray directly to Jesus as Stephen did in Acts 7. In these and in many other ways, Mormonism does not give the Son equal honor with the Father.
Over the years I have asked Mormons one simple question to illustrate this fact. Who is the one God that the Bible talks about? Keeping to its teachings, it can’t give both the Father and the Son that honor – something that Christians don’t hesitate to do. That is just one of many differences between Mormonism’s and Christianity’s views of Jesus.
And that is important because as Jesus himself said: “That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him.” (John 5:23)