Different Jesus?: Part 2
Does the Mormon belief that men and women can gain divine attributes deny the power of God?
Plan of Salvation is a great plan of progression, and that the end desire of the plan is for all men and women to develop divine attributes, with Christ as our example. That man can attain divinity, called theosis, was understood by the leaders of early Christians who were students of the apostles, and many of them expounded on it, including St. Irenaeus (a direct disciple of John the Revelator), Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and Justin Martyr. According to Christian scholar G.L. Prestige, the ancient Christians “taught that the destiny of man was to become like God, and even to become deified” (G.L. Prestige, God in Patristic Thought, London Press, 1956, 73). Mormons exclaim again, that the Mormon Church is a restoration of ancient, even biblical truth and organization.
This does not mean that Mormons are polytheists:
“The Father is the one true God. This thing is certain: no one will ever ascend above Him; no one will ever replace Him. Nor will anything ever change the relationship that we, His literal offspring, have with Him. He is Elohim, the Father. He is God. Of Him there is only one. We revere our Father and our God; we worship Him” (Boyd K. Packer, “The Pattern of Our Parentage,” Ensign, November 1984, 69).
“A belief in human deification does not mean that the LDS believe their worship is or will be properly directed at anyone but God the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. We believe that the apostle Peter’s biblical reference to partaking of the divine nature and the apostle Paul’s reference to being ‘joint heirs with Christ’ reflect the intent that children of God should strive to emulate their Heavenly Father in every way. Throughout the eternities, Mormons believe, they will reverence and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. The goal is not to equal them or to achieve parity with them but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes” (Fox News, “21 Questions Answered About Mormon Faith,” 18 December 2007).
When Paul said that we can become “joint heirs with Christ,” what is it that we should inherit? Earthly inheritances usually are comprised of property or wealth. Is it heavenly mansions we look forward to? Streets paved with gold and mansions constructed of precious stones? What is it that the resurrected Christ has to offer us? He offers us all that He has, and all Christians agree on this. It doesn’t take much thought to define, at least generally, what it is that Christ has. He has knowledge, power, glory, wisdom, perfect judgment, perfect love, and the ability to create. As joint-heirs, shouldn’t we expect to share in these glorious attributes? Paul said, “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” (Romans 8: 17).
Do Mormons have a different view of Jesus Christ’s mortal birth?
Evangelical Christians claim that various Mormon Prophets have said that Christ was of “divine sireship.” This is true. His Father is God, no matter how he was conceived. The Book of Mormon refers to His conception the same way that the Bible does, that Mary conceived when she “was overshadowed by the power of the Holy Ghost.” Mormons believe in the Virgin birth, and that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (For a discussion of claims made by Bruce R. McConkie, in his book Mormon Doctrine, click here.)
Why Don’t Mormons Wear the Cross?
Pearl of Great Price, a Mormon book of scripture, it says, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). Christ established His Church and His authority in ancient times. The “falling away” or “Great Apostasy” prophesied by Paul, began even during Paul’s ministry, but he also prophesied that Christ would come again to reclaim His kingdom and reestablish His truth. The Book of Mormon prophets foresaw the fall of their own descendants. The Book of Mormon is an account of a fallen, destroyed people. The scriptures they wrote were meant to reclaim even more future generations. This is an ongoing work, and the Lord never loses interest in it. The Lord has been working with men since the beginning, has done so throughout the history of the world, and will continue. The Church of Christ is the ultimate success. He is saving every single soul who is willing to come unto Him, and even works with people after they pass from this life.
Where did the Atonement take Place?
Mormons share the belief with friends of other faiths, that the atonement was wrought on the cross, where Jesus Christ died. Mormons also often discuss Christ’s suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane. They believe that Christ really did bleed from every pore, and that this experience surely weakened Him as He was led off to further torture and finally, crucifixion. In the Garden, Christ took upon Himself the sins and sorrows of all mankind. However, His death on the cross was absolutely necessary for the atonement to take effect. Christ died for us. His death provides resurrection for all living things, which is salvation and triumph over death.
Hymns in the Mormon hymn book impart the Mormon belief that Christ died on the Cross for our sins─
“How Great Thou Art” ─ “…that on the cross, my burden gladly bearing, He bled and died to take away my sin.”
“In Humility, Our Savior” ─ ”Let me not forget, O Savior, thou didst bleed and die for me; When thy heart was stilled an broken, on the cross at Calvary.”
“In Memory of the Crucified”─ “Our Savior in Gethsemane, Shrank not to drink the bitter cup, And then, for us, on Calvary, Upon the cross was lifted up.”
“We are all Enlisted” ─ “Rally ‘round the standard of the cross.”
“While of These Emblems We Partake” ─ “For us the blood of Christ was shed; For us on Calvary’s cross he bled, And thus dispelled the awful gloom That else were this creation’s doom. The law was broken; Jesus died That justice might be satisfied, That man might not remain a slave Of death, of hell, or of the grave.”
Do Mormons believe that the work of Jesus Christ ended in total failure?
The website that made this challenge states that Mormons believe that Christ’s kingdom utterly failed both in biblical and Book of Mormon times. This is completely untrue. Only Mormonism teaches that the work of Christ has been ongoing for an eternity before our earthly existence and that it will continue for eternity after our mortal existence. In the
Do Mormons deny the Christ by claiming that they share in His priesthood, the Melchizedek Priesthood?
There have been two priesthood levels established by the Lord. The Aaronic, or lesser priesthood, and the Melchizedek, or higher priesthood. The Aaronic Priesthood is an appendage of the Melchizedek, and the Melchizedek encompasses both priesthoods.
We have a good record of Aaronic Priesthood patterns and duties in the Old Testament. (Baptism and sacrifice are Aaronic ordinances.) The stated challenge is as follows: In the Bible, there is an extremely brief account of Melchizedek. In Genesis 14:18-24, Melchizedek blessed Abraham as the latter returned from battle. There is no record in the Bible of Melchizedek transferring the Priesthood to anyone else. Paul says that Christ was the sinless High Priest who could be the perfect offering to redeem us. Only Christ has ever held the Melchizedek Priesthood, and that since Mormons claim to have it, that makes Mormons anti-Christ. Mormons also claim to have Aaronic Priesthood power, therefore doubling their error, since the Aaronic Priesthood is passed down from father to son.
The response: Why then, did Peter, after the crucifixion of Christ, talk about building up the priesthood of God?─” Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5). “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9)…
“Likewise John in Revelation speaks of the saints as ‘priests to his [Christ’s] God and Father’ (Revelation 1:6), and ‘priests to our God’ (Revelation 5:10); in the resurrection there ‘shall be priests of God and of Christ’ (Revelation 20:6). What odd statements for an infallible book to make if [the critics’] understanding of priesthood is correct.”  The author of the Didache, (one of the earliest post-New Testament Christian documents, late first to early second century), states explicitly that “the prophets … are your high priests” ─ indicating that prophets are high priests and that there are more than one. Eusebius (ca. 300 A.D.) clearly distinguished between those holding the priesthood (i.e. bishops, presbyters or elders, priests, deacons, etc.) and the lay members both men and women (Eusebius, History of the Church, 6:19, 23, 43; 7:30; 10:3, 4). Other early Christian leaders refer to the Aaronic Priesthood as still being practiced among Christian congregations. Other times, holders of the Priesthood are referred to in the Bible and early Christian texts as pastors, evangelists, presbyteries, and seventies. The Mormon Church is organized the same as Christ’s Church in Peter’s day, with both the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, high priests, elders, priests, deacons, teachers, seventies, apostles, and prophets.
Mormon scriptures also contain more information about Melchizedek and about the holy priesthood, including, of course, an account of its restoration upon the earth. In the Book of Mormon, Alma, a prophet who taught around 90 B.C., said,
“Yea, humble yourselves even as the people in the days of Melchizedek, who was also a high priest after this same order which I have spoken, who also took upon him the high priesthood forever. And it was this same Melchizedek to whom Abraham paid tithes; yea, even our father Abraham paid tithes of one-tenth part of all he possessed.
“Now this Melchizedek was a king over the land of Salem [possibly, ancient Jerusalem]; and his people had waxed strong in iniquity and abomination; yea, they had all gone astray; they were full of all manner of wickedness; But Melchizedek having exercised mighty faith, and received the office of the high priesthood according to the holy order of God, did preach repentance unto his people. And behold, they did repent; and Melchizedek did establish peace in the land in his days; therefore he was called the prince of peace, for he was the king of Salem; and he did reign under his father” (Alma 13:14-15, 17-18).
The Melchizedek Priesthood is actually called “the holy priesthood after the order of the Son of God.” It is called the Melchizedek Priesthood to avoid using the name of Christ too often. All prophets beginning with Adam have held this priesthood. Section 84 in the Doctrine and Covenants is a revelation on the priesthood. It says, “Which Abraham received the priesthood from Melchizedek, who received it through the lineage of his fathers, even till Noah; And from Noah till Enoch, through the lineage of their fathers; And from Enoch to Abel, who was slain by the conspiracy of his brother, who received the priesthood by the commandments of God, by the hand of his father Adam, who was the first man—Which priesthood continueth in the church of God in all generations, and is without beginning of days or end of years. And the Lord confirmed a priesthood also upon Aaron and his seed, throughout all their generations, which priesthood also continueth and abideth forever with the priesthood which is after the holiest order of God. And this greater priesthood administereth the gospel and holdeth the key of the mysteries of the kingdom, even the key of the knowledge of God. Therefore, in the ordinances thereof, the power of godliness is manifest” (vs. 15-20).
The Mormon Church honors the Aaronic lineage, also. If a descendant of Aaron steps forward and desires the office of Bishop, he may claim it. “But as a high priest of the Melchizedek Priesthood has authority to officiate in all the lesser offices, he may officiate in the office of bishop when no literal descendant of Aaron can be found, provided he is called and set apart and ordained unto this power by the hands of the Presidency of the Melchizedek Priesthood. Wherefore, the office of a bishop is not equal unto it; for the office of a bishop is in administering all temporal things; Nevertheless a bishop must be chosen from the High Priesthood, unless he is a literal descendant of Aaron” (Doctrine and Covenants 107:17, 68, 69). In Doctrine and Covenants Section 68, it says, regarding the office of Bishop: “Wherefore they shall be high priests who are worthy, and they shall be appointed by the First Presidency of the Melchizedek Priesthood, except they be literal descendants of Aaron. And if they be literal descendants of Aaron they have a legal right to the bishopric, if they are the firstborn among the sons of Aaron. For the firstborn holds the right of the presidency over this priesthood and the keys or authority of the same” (vs. 15-17).
“Priesthood” is a description of power and authority. Of course, Jesus Christ is the Perfect High Priest and holds all priesthood power, but He has assigned a measure of it to His servants since Adam. This priesthood power is what enables all the charismatic gifts to be manifest in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including revelation (both personal and for the Church), tongues, healings, etc.). It is also the power to seal in heaven what has been sealed on earth. The fact that this power is alive in God’s earthly kingdom magnifies Christ; it does not diminish Him in any way.