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Chapter 2 - Jesus


    By Ben Rast

    Contender Ministries

    August 7, 2004


In chapter two of Mormonism 201, Mr. Danderson continues his misleading analogy of the Cleveland, Ohio of 1971 being the same city as Cleveland, Ohio today, and changes made do not make it a different city.  I will continue my position that a better analogy is comparing Washington the city versus Washington the state.  They may have the same name, and share some things in common, but they are indeed very different.  Mr. Danderson wants to pretend that Mormons worship the Jesus of the Bible, but they simply have a different understanding of Jesus’ traits.  I suggest that this different understanding is so significant that the Jesus of Mormonism is mythical, and found nowhere in Scripture.  Mr. Danderson doesn’t include quotes from Mormons cited in Mormonism 101 that show Mormon leaders agree.  For instance, quoting from Mormonism 101, McKeever and Johnson write, “When speaking to a group of Latter-day Saints in Paris, France, in June 1998, President Hinckley responded to those who claimed that Ladder-day Saints do not believe in the traditional Christ.  Quite candidly, President Hinckley said, ‘No, I don’t.  The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak.1

 

Mr. Danderson then engages in a classic diversion, alleging that McKeever and Johnson should not quote Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie.  He states that LDS doctrine comes from the presidency, not from Elder McConkie.  He also argues that the first edition of McConkie’s book Mormon Doctrine was published years before McConkie became an apostle.  It is quite accurate that Elder McConkie does not promulgate LDS doctrine.  However, this does not disqualify him from speaking on it.  Nor does it disqualify him from writing books on the issue.  Elder McConkie is well respected in the LDS Church, and his books have neither been repudiated by the presidency, nor have they been pulled from the shelves of LDS bookstores.  Whether explicit or implicit, it is clear that Elder McConkie speaks with the imprimatur of the LDS Church.  Mr. Danderson does not argue that any statements of McConkie’s are false, or even exaggerated.  Rather, Danderson makes this argument as a diversion from the substance of what McConkie and other LDS officials have said.  McConkie’s quote, from which Mr. Danderson so desperately wants to draw our attention, is this: “And virtually all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ” (Apostle Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 269). Why is this important?  Because despite the claims of many Mormons that they worship the same Jesus we do, the statements of Elder McConkie and President Hinckley confirm that they do not.

 

After incorrectly alleging that Mormons worship the same Jesus, but simply have a different understanding of His traits, Danderson said, “Quite often, Latter-day Saints exhibit more patience with their critics than those critics afford Latter-day Saints. For example, Latter-day Saints are frequently accused of worshipping Satan, but no LDS literature claims this of non-LDS Christians.”  Following the claim that Mormons are accused of worshipping Satan, Mr. Danderson pointed to a footnote that simply referred the reader to the book The God Makers, by Ed Decker and Dave Hunt.  He lists no page number or chapter or specific reference, so I grabbed my copy of The God Makers to find the accusation to which Mr. Danderson refers.  All I could find was the authors’ references to the occult history behind many Mormon doctrines and temple ceremonies.  This is a vague support at best, but while there may be no claim in LDS literature that Christians worship Satan, the temple ceremony (prior to the early 1990’s) portrayed Christian ministers as greedy hirelings of Satan, paid by Satan to spread a false gospel.

 

Danderson continues, “After all, Latter-day Saints fully believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and God in the flesh, just as much as Evangelical Christians do.”  He fails to mention that Mormons believe Jesus to be a separate God than God the Father, that Jesus was a spirit child of God the Father and was the only man to attain godhood in His pre-existence, that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers to each other and to us, and that Jesus the man was born as a result of physical intercourse between God the Father and Mary.  This is not exactly biblical doctrine, nor is it espoused by Evangelical Christians.

 

At this point, Mr. Danderson addresses the Nicene Creed, as one of the creeds that Joseph Smith claimed to be an “abomination,” and where Mormon and Christian doctrines on Jesus diverge.  As you will see, Mr. Danderson is either woefully misinformed of the history of the creed and its relevance to Christianity, or he is being willfully deceptive.  He writes, “One must question, though, what the authors think about all the Christians who lived prior to the Council of Nicea. Are McKeever and Johnson willing to dismiss them as non-Christian? Or are they somehow ‘excused’ under an ex post facto rule? They do not say.  If pre-Nicene Christians are somehow ‘excused,’ these question remains unanswered: By what authority do the members of the Council of Nicea impose their ‘private interpretation’ as official Christian doctrine? And by what authority do they excuse pre-Nicene Christians?”  Mr. Danderson, Christians claim no salvation or redemption through any creeds, including the Nicene Creed.  We claim redemption through the shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Nicene Creed was not a creation of new doctrine.  Instead, it was an affirmation of biblical doctrine as understood by those at the Council of Nicea.  It affirmed the biblical belief in the deity of Jesus Christ, and in the triune nature of God.  The ante-Nicene Christians shared the beliefs written in the creed, as evidenced by the writings of many of the ante-Nicene fathers.  A heresy known as Arianism was developing in certain areas that denied what had been known and taught about our God and Savior.  The Nicene Creed affirmed orthodox belief as a stand against Arianism and other destructive heresies.

 

Next, Mr. Danderson quotes from Mormonism 101, where McKeever and Johnson quote Bruce McConkie when he talks of how Jesus attained Godhood while in His pre-existent state “by obedience and devotion to the truth.”  They then say, “In essence, the Mormon Jesus, by becoming a god without having to live a human life on a previous planet, did something that his own ‘father’ could not accomplish.”2 Danderson responds, “There is no statement by any LDS authority stating that God the Father could not have been God without having lived in mortality.”  Okay, fine.  I think Mr. Danderson is splitting hairs here, but the fact is that Mormonism teaches that Jesus attained Godhood prior to his mortal existence, whereas God the Father attained Godhood only after earning His way through mortality.  He then goes on to claim, “Further, they, like other anti-Mormons, arrogantly claim that only they can properly interpret and explain what Latter-day Saints believe.”  This is one of those statements where Mr. Danderson I’m sure assumes his readers do not possess a copy of Mormonism 101.  Nowhere do they make a claim remotely close to what Danderson states!  Either he is misinterpreting something to such an extreme that I’m unable to even find the basis for his claim, or he’s being deliberately deceptive. 

 

Danderson goes on, “McKeever and Johnson continue their arrogantly false ‘interpretation’ of LDS beliefs by asking: ‘How could Jesus obtain godhood in the preexistence when the whole purpose of the mortal probation is supposedly to test the individual's worthiness to become a god?’ They get the purpose of mortality wrong (the purpose of mortality is to test whether we would obey God), so their question is moot. Jesus is God and Satan is His adversary precisely because Jesus passed the obedience test from before His mortality, while Satan rebelled.”   Many of you are probably thinking the same thing I am at this point: Danderson’s statement in no way indicates that McKeever and Johnson are wrong.  It is well known that Mormons believe they will prove their worthiness through obedience.  When McKeever and Johnson stated that the purpose of the mortal probation is to “test the individual’s worthiness to become a god,” it is understood that the test of worthiness is found in obedience.  Danderson, McKeever, and Johnson are all correct in their description of Mormon doctrine, but Danderson is incorrect in his characterization of the others’ as being “false.” 

 

At this point, I was amazed and excited to find Mr. Danderson quoting some key verses from the Bible (or rather, according to his footnotes, quoting McKeever and Johnson quoting key verses):  “Paul certainly admonished the Corinthians for accepting a false version of Christ when he said in 2 Corinthians 11:4, ‘For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.’ He added:  ‘I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.’”  These are great verses to use when witnessing to Mormons, so I was amazed to find Danderson quoting their use!  Yet he tries to apply them to Christians by saying, “[McKeever and Johnson] ignore the fact that most of Christianity accepts the extra-biblical Nicene and other creeds to describe Jesus Christ. This substitution of ‘tradition’ for Biblical revelation has been the criticism made by LDS leaders since the days of the Prophet Joseph Smith.”  Without repeating everything I said before regarding the Nicene Creed, let me summarize for Mr. Danderson and any others who share his misconceptions: the Nicene creed introduces no new doctrine; it simply summarized key biblical doctrines known from the time of the Apostles. 

 

Mr. Danderson cites quotes from Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, wherein they refer to each Christian denomination as having “some truths,” as evidence that Mormons are accepting of orthodox Christianity.  He writes, “Yet, Joseph Smith and other Prophets accept the Christianity of other denominations…” Yet those quotes hardly establish that Mormonism is truly accepting of “our” Christianity.  For one, Mormons refer to the LDS Church as the one true Church.  Repeating an already cited quotation of Bruce McConkie, “And virtually all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 269).  Seventy Brigham H. Roberts wrote, “Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (Introduction of History of the Church, 1:XL).  Joseph Smith claimed God told him not to join any Christian denomination because, “all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”3  Any claim that Mormonism “accepts” the Christianity of Christian denominations is, to put it mildly, an overstatement.

 

Next we move on to the section dealing with the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.  Says Danderson, “Like other anti-Mormons, McKeever and Johnson falsely claim that it is official LDS doctrine that Jesus was born because God had sexual intercourse with Mary. Is this a requirement among anti-Mormons?  It is significant that while McKeever and Johnson quote several LDS Apostles and Prophets to the extent that Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus Christ is literally the Son of God (and Latter-day Saints do believe this), not once do they cite an official source that proclaims that Jesus was not virgin-born.”  I think it’s vitally important to quote part of what McKeever and Johnson said, “Mormon leaders have insisted in a belief of the virgin birth, yet they give a description far removed from that held by Christians throughout the centuries.”4  While it is true that none of the quotes specifically states that Jesus was not virgin-born (in those words), the descriptions are clearly of a biological conception.  Let me list a few of the quotes cited in Mormonism 101, p. 43-44:

“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!”5

 

“The birth of the Saviour was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action.  He partook of flesh and blood – was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers.”6

 

“Christ was Begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers….And Christ was born into the world as the literal Son of this Holy Being; he was born in the same personal, real, and literal sense that any mortal son is born to a mortal father.  There is nothing figurative about his paternity; he was begotten, conceived and born, in the normal and natural course of events, for he is the Son of God, and that designation means what it says.”7[emphasis added]

 

“[Jesus] was able to make payment because he lived a sinless life and because he was actually, literally, biologically the Son of God in the flesh.”8

 

“The official doctrine of the Church is that Jesus is the literal offspring of God.  He’s got 46 chromosomes; 23 came from Mary, 23 came from God the Eternal Father.”9

As amazing as these quotes are, Mr. Danderson still maintains that Mormons believe in a virgin birth, and wonders why Book of Mormon statements to that effect are not included in Mormonism 101.  In his footnote, he lists two verses from the Book of Mormon, neither of which he should rely upon, as we’ve shown in other articles how the Book of Mormon contradicts a great deal of LDS doctrine!  In fact, the second verse he cites in his footnote is Alma 7:10, which states in part that Jesus was “conceive[d] by the power of the Holy Ghost,” which stands in contrast to LDS President Ezra Taft Benson’s quote above, (“nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost”).  Trying to reconcile the quotes above and still maintain that Mormons believe in the virgin birth would be akin to saying, “I live in a log home constructed entirely out of brick” – the claim is simply contradicted by the descriptions. 

 

Moving on to the next topic, Mr. Danderson writes, “Of course, no attack on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or its members would be complete without claiming that the LDS believe Jesus Christ and Lucifer are brothers in the sense that both are in evil cahoots with each other…”  At this Mr. Danderson’s footnote refers to pages 46 – 48 of Mormonism 101.  Nowhere in those pages, or in all of chapter two do McKeever and Johnson allege that Mormons believe that Jesus and Lucifer are “in evil cahoots with each other.”  Nowhere!  This is a flat-out mischaracterization of what they wrote!  What they did do is list quotes from Mormons that demonstrate the Mormon doctrine that Jesus and Satan are brothers.  I don’t want to reproduce too much of Mormonism 101, as I encourage the reader to read that book for themselves.  However, one of the quotes they cite ends with, “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.”10 The other quotes provided are even plainer.  Danderson complained of difficulty understanding why Christians view this doctrine as being “unchristian” when an early Christian figure (Lactantius) held similar views.  He footnotes Lactantius’ De Opificio Dei (On the Workmanship of God), the 19th chapter.  First, let me say that it is generally accepted that Lactantius was well polished, but not very profound and quite ignorant in matters of Scripture.  De Opificio Dei was written early in the fourth century as an apologetic in terms that would be palatable to educated pagans.  In the 19th chapter, Lactantius talks about how physical bodies beget other physical bodies, but there is no similar “begetting” of the soul.  He claims that an immaterial soul cannot reproduce after its own kind, so each soul is a special creation by God.  He states that God is therefore figuratively Father to all souls.  This is still a far cry from LDS doctrine that each soul is produced by a natural union between God the Father and one of His spirit wives.  Lactantius’ description of God as Father is allegorical, where Mormons believe in God’s literal paternity of all souls, including Jesus and Satan. 

 

The last issue raised in chapter two of Mormonism 101 is the marriages of Jesus.  Says Mr. Danderson, “Finally, McKeever and Johnson take issue with the belief that some Latter-day Saints have that Jesus Christ was married. Why is that? What is it about Jesus being married that would make Him less of our Lord and Saviour? And why does the fact that some LDS believe that He was married condemn them all? …But again, why would they damn all Latter-day Saints because some Latter-day Saints believe something that is not official LDS doctrine?”  This is one of Danderson’s “dandies,” wherein he tries to imply that McKeever and Johnson impute the belief in Jesus’ marriage(s) to all Mormons.  This is simply not the case.  They list three quotes indicating some LDS church leaders taught that Jesus was married – to many wives, and they say, “According to the views of some early LDS leaders, Jesus was a polygamist and father…. It is doubtful that many modern Mormons would go out of their way to defend the above statements regarding Jesus’ polygamy11 [emphasis added].

 

For Mr. Danderson’s conclusion, I’ll list his words, and follow each thought with my own, in bold print:

 

“Why are there no ministries dedicated to winning lost souls of various liberal Christian denominations, where leaders deny the deity of the Saviour? Could it be that it is easier to attack small minority groups that are just a little different than it is to critique politically powerful liberal denominations?”

There ARE such ministries.  I know personally of some.  Apologetics ministries do not “attack” Mormonism; we expose its unbiblical doctrines in hopes of saving those who are deceived.  The LDS Church is growing at a phenomenal rate, so don’t play the “small minority group” card.  Calling Mormon beliefs “just a little different” is like saying that Islam takes a slightly differing view on the deity of Jesus.

 

It would seem logical that, if a person really wants to find out what people believe, that they would ask the people they want to understand. There are plenty of books by Latter-day Saints, both "lay" and General Authorities, that give an excellent introduction to the faith of Latter-day Saints.

First, many Mormons don’t know all the peculiar doctrines of their own religion.  Second, there is a reason that Mormon missionaries are instructed to cover the Book of Mormon in the missionary lessons, but avoid bringing up eternal progression, plurality of gods, etc., and that purpose is deception (on the part of Church hierarchy, not the missionaries).  Books sanctioned by the LDS Church will give one side, while glossing over or ignoring the other.  Asking one side does not constitute an “investigation” of the facts. 

 

Yet, McKeever and Johnson seem to attempt to "have their cake, and eat it, too," by their carefully selected and doctored quotes of obscure LDS documents, and their implication that they are better able to judge what Latter-day Saints really believe than the LDS themselves.

I think we’ve shown that Mr. Danderson is guilty of selected and doctored quotes, and McKeever and Johnson, while selecting quotes, did not change any meaning by taking things out of context.  Moreover, I would hardly call Mormon Doctrine or Journal of Discourses “obscure” LDS documents. 

 

Why must McKeever and Johnson omit quotes that either qualify or contradict their accusations against the Latter-day Saints?

They didn’t, that I can see.  I’ve read Mormonism 101 and Mr. Danderson’s response.  I’ve looked up the citations in his footnotes, and I simply do not see that this accusation holds any water whatsoever. 

 

Is it that another group that militantly proclaims Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is competition for the dollars that are donated to pay the salaries of the various ministers, and are thus a threat that must be destroyed?

This is a ridiculous argument that hearkens to the now-deleted portion of the LDS Temple ceremony describing Christian ministers as hirelings of Satan.  We’ve had some disgruntled Mormons who, when unable to reconcile the problems with LDS doctrine that we pointed out, accused us of having this ministry in order to line our pockets.  When we pointed out an utter lack of “donate here” links on our site, we never heard from them again.  This argument is the last bastion of someone without an intelligent and cogent point to make.  We could turn this argument around, and suggest that the reason Mormons are called on a mission is to increase the mandatory tithes coming into the LDS coffers, but that would be equally ridiculous.  Let me say this in plain terms:  Christian apologetics ministries seek to win souls for God, not money for themselves.  Donations can be a means to that end, but are not an end unto themselves.  That’s why churches and ministries usually organize as non-profit organizations.   

 

Mr. Danderson’s rebuttal to chapter two of Mormonism 101 is very similar to his rebuttal of chapter one.  It’s long on accusations and misquotations, but short on actual facts.  His only hope must be that his readers do not have a copy of Mormonism 101, or research his claims.  My hope is that Mormons will see through this ploy, and realize Mr. Danderson is insulting their intelligence.  My hope is that the wonderful people in the LDS Church will examine the claims of Mormonism, and contrast them with the teachings of Jesus and His apostles.  My prayer is that you will all be delivered from the false gospel of a false prophet, and come to the true Jesus who longs for you to invite Him into your lives.

 

 

NOTES:

1. Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2001), p 41.

2. ibid, p 42.

3. Joseph Smith – History, 1:19-20a in the Pearl of Great Price.

4. Mormonism 101, p 43.

5. Ezra Taft Benson, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988), p 7. 

6. Brigham Young in Watt, ed., Journal of Discourses, 8:115.

7. Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp 547, 742.

8. Messages for Exaltation: Eternal Insights from the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Sunday School Union, 1967), p 378-79.

9. BYU professor Stephen E. Robinson in The Mormon Puzzle video produced in 1997 by the Southern Baptist Convention.

10. Jess L. Christensen in A Sure Foundation: Answers to Difficult Gospel Questions (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1988), pp 223-24.

11. Mormonism 101, pp 48-49.

 

 

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