Criticism of Mormonism/Books/Mormonism Unmasked/Chapter 5

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Response to claims made in "Chapter 5: Confronting the Mormon Jesus"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Mormonism Unmasked, a work by author: R. Philip Roberts

Response to claims made in Mormonism Unmasked, "Chapter 5: Confronting the Mormon Jesus"

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Response to claim: the "most important single error" of Mormonism is to have "reduced Jesus from his deserved status as the infinite and eternal Son of God"

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that the "most important single error" of Mormonism is to have "reduced Jesus from his deserved status as the infinite and eternal Son of God, meaning the Second Person of the Trinity, to that of just another preexistent, finite and procreated child of the heavenly Father."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

This claim is absurd: Mormons do not "reduce" that status of Jesus in any way. We accept Him as our Savior by virtue of His Atonement.



Response to claim: 69-70 - The author claims that "LDS theology teaches that Jesus was no different essentially than any other human child of God"

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that "LDS theology teaches that Jesus was no different essentially than any other human child of God."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

This claim is nonsense. Only Jesus Christ had the power to perform the Atonement. This alone makes Him "different essentially than any other human child of God.



Response to claim: 70 - "Jesus was conceived, not by the Holy Spirit, but by a special physical visitation of God the heavenly father to earth"

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author states that Mormons teach that "Jesus was conceived, not by the Holy Spirit, but by a special physical visitation of God the heavenly father to earth."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

The claim is false.



Question: Do Mormons believe that Mary was still a virgin when Jesus was born?

Latter-day Saints believe in the virgin birth

It is claimed that Latter-day Saints believe Jesus was conceived through sexual intercourse between God the Father and Mary, and that Mary therefore was not a virgin when Jesus was born. It is also claimed that Latter-day Saints reject the "Evangelical belief" that "Christ was born of the virgin Mary, who, when the Holy Ghost came upon her, miraculously conceived the promised messiah."

Often used as evidence are a handful statements from early LDS leaders, such as Brigham Young, that directly or indirectly support this idea. However, such statements do not represent the official doctrine of the Church. The key, official doctrine of the Church is that Jesus is literally the son of God (i.e., this is not a symbolic or figurative expression), and Mary was a virgin before and after Christ's conception.

At the annunciation, Mary questioned the angel about how she could bear a child: "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (Luke 1:34; the expression "know" in the Greek text is a euphemism for sexual relations). Nephi likewise described Mary as a virgin (1 Nephi 11:13-20), as did Alma1 (Alma 7:10).

Latter-day Saints believe Jesus was the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh

Latter-day Saints do believe that Jesus Christ was literally the Son of God, not the son of Joseph or even the son of the Holy Ghost. (see 2 Ne 25:12 and DC 93:11) As Ezra Taft Benson stated,

[T]he testimonies of appointed witnesses leave no question as to the paternity of Jesus Christ. God was the Father of His fleshly tabernacle, and Mary, a mortal woman, was His mother. He is therefore the only person born who rightfully deserves the title “the Only Begotten Son of God.”[1]

What the Church has not taken a position on is how the conception took place, despite speculations by various early Church leaders

The canonized scriptures are silent on how the conception took place—even Nephi's detailed vision of then-future Messiah is veiled during the part where Mary conceives (1 Nephi 11:19).

Some early leaders of the Church felt free to express their beliefs on the literal nature of God's Fatherhood of Jesus' physical body

For example, Brigham Young said the following in a discourse given 8 July 1860:

"...[T]here is no act, no principle, no power belonging to the Deity that is not purely philosophical. 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." [2]

Jesus shared God's genetic inheritance without necessarily requiring a sexual act to combine that inheritance with Mary's mortal contribution

But are these types of statements official Church doctrine, required for all believing Latter-day Saints to accept? No—they were never submitted to the Church for ratification or canonization. (See General authorities' statements as scripture.)

Critics have noted that this statement, and others like it, can be read to indicate there was sexual intercourse involved in the conception of Jesus. Regardless of this speculation--which goes beyond the textual data--Brigham Young's view may be seen by some contemporary Latter-day Saints as correct in that Jesus was literally physically the Son of God, just as much as any children are "of our fathers." Modern science has discovered alternative methods of conceiving children--e.g., in vitro "test tube" babies--that don't involve sexual intercourse. Thus, though processes such as artificial insemination were unknown to Brigham and thus likely not referenced by his statements, it does not necessarily follow from a modern perspective that the conception had to come about as the result of a literal sexual union. It is certainly not outside of God's power to conceive Christ by other means, while remaining his literal father. (Put another way, Jesus shared God's genetic inheritance, if you will, without necessarily requiring a sexual act to combine that inheritance with Mary's mortal contribution).

Ezra Taft Benson taught:

He was the Only Begotten Son of our Heavenly Father in the flesh—the only child whose mortal body was begotten by our Heavenly Father. His mortal mother, Mary, was called a virgin, both before and after she gave birth. (See 1 Nephi 11:20.) [3]

Benson's emphasis is on both the literalness of Jesus' divine birth, and the fact that Mary's virginal status persisted even immediately after conceiving and bearing Jesus.

Church leaders' statements on the literal paternity of Christ were often a reaction to various ideas which are false

  • they disagreed with the tendency of conventional Christianity to deny the corporeality of God. They thus insisted that God the Father had a "natural," physical form. There was no need, in LDS theology, for a non-physical, wholly spirit God to resort to a mysterious process to conceive a Son.
  • they disagreed with efforts to "allegorize" or "spiritualize" the virgin birth; they wished it understood that Christ is the literal Son of God in a physical, "natural" sense of sharing both human and divine traits in His makeup. This can be seen to be a reaction against more "liberal" strains in Christianity that saw Jesus as the literal son of Mary and Joseph, but someone endowed with God's power at some point in His life.
  • they did not accept that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were of one "essence," but rather believed that they are distinct Personages. Thus, it is key to LDS theology that Jesus is the Son of the Father, not the Holy Ghost. To a creedal, trinitarian Christian, this might be a distinction without a difference; for an LDS Christian it is crucial.

Bruce R. McConkie said this about the birth of Christ:

God the Father is a perfected, glorified, holy Man, an immortal Personage. 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. [4]

In the same volume, Elder McConkie explained his reason for his emphasis:

"Our Lord is the only mortal person ever born to a virgin, because he is the only person who ever had an immortal Father. Mary, his mother, "was carried away in the Spirit" (1 Ne. 11:13-21), was "overshadowed" by the Holy Ghost, and the conception which took place "by the power of the Holy Ghost" resulted in the bringing forth of the literal and personal Son of God the Father. (Alma 7:10; 2 Ne. 17:14; Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38.) Christ is not the Son of the Holy Ghost, but of the Father. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 18-20.) Modernistic teachings denying the virgin birth are utterly and completely apostate and false. [5]

Note that McConkie emphasized the literal nature of Christ's divinity, his direct descent from the Father, and the fact that the Holy Ghost was a tool, but not the source of Jesus' divine Parenthood.

Harold B. Lee was clear that the method of Jesus' conception had not been revealed, and discouraged speculation on the matter

Harold B. Lee said,

We are very much concerned that some of our Church teachers seem to be obsessed of the idea of teaching doctrine which cannot be substantiated and making comments beyond what the Lord has actually said.

You asked about the birth of the Savior. Never have I talked about sexual intercourse between Deity and the mother of the Savior. If teachers were wise in speaking of this matter about which the Lord has said but very little, they would rest their discussion on this subject with merely the words which are recorded on this subject in Luke 1:34-35: "Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."

Remember that the being who was brought about by [Mary's] conception was a divine personage. We need not question His method to accomplish His purposes. Perhaps we would do well to remember the words of Isaiah 55:8-9: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Let the Lord rest His case with this declaration and wait until He sees fit to tell us more. [6]


Response to claim: 70 - The author claims that Mormons do not worship the "Real Jesus"

The author(s) of Mormonism Unmasked make(s) the following claim:

The author claims that Mormons do not worship the "Real Jesus."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader





Question: Do Latter-day Saints believe in a "different" Jesus than "mainstream" Christians?

"Mormon Beliefs About Jesus" versus "Christian Beliefs About Jesus": Mormons worship the Jesus Christ of the Bible

It would be enlightening for any Latter-day Saint to read this description of the "Mormon Jesus" in the left column and see just how much of this is recognizable as church doctrine. The list is taken from page One Nation Under Gods, p. 378 (PB). This claim is repeated in the author's later work Becoming Gods—The "Mormon Jesus" versus the "Traditional Jesus".

The "mainstream Christian" author's misrepresentation of "Mormon Beliefs About Jesus" Jesus Christ, as He is actually viewed by Latter-day Saints For more information...
A literal son (spirit-child) of a god (Elohim) and his wife.
  • Latter-day Saints believe that everyone is a spirit child of Heavenly Father, including Jesus. What is a spirit child? We don't have the details.
  • Our eternal nature was organized into a spirit person, whatever that is. We don't know the details. We don't know the process by which we became a spirit person.
  • The difference between us is that Jesus is divine, while the rest of us are not.
  • Why the emphasis on the word "literal"? Apparently, to once again call attention to the subject of "Celestial Sex."
The elder brother of all spirits born in the pre-existence to Heavenly Father.
  • Latter-day Saints do not claim to know by what method a spirit is "born."
  • Christ is the "eldest," but what this means is also not clear. Is it a question of temporality? (i.e., He came first in time) Is it a rank? Does it describe His relationship to us? We simply don't claim to know, since time is only measured unto man.
  • Latter-day Saints do believe that Christ was not created ex nihilo at some moment; He is eternally self-existent.
A polygamous Jewish male.
  • This is not a belief among Latter-day Saints, and is based entirely upon non-doctrinal statements made by Orson Hyde and Orson Pratt.
  • It is surprising that this claim is still in the paperback edition of One Nation Under Gods. It was, however, removed from Becoming Gods.
One of three gods overseeing this planet.
  • There is only one God. Christ is one of three divine beings in the Godhead. They are one in purpose, not one in person. John 17:3, John 17:20-22
  • Regardless of this, a creedal Christian ought not to have a problem with one God consisting of more than one Person.
Atoned only for Adam's transgression by sweating blood in Gethsemane.
  • This statement is completely false.
  • The Book of Mormon teaches that Christ's sacrifice was "infinite and eternal." (2 Nephi) It could not be exceeded in any sense. Christ suffered for the sins, griefs, and pains of all humanity (Alma 7), whether or not they repent.
  • The benefits of that atonement are restricted if we refuse to do that which He asks of us to accept it (i.e. have faith, repent, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end.)
  • Note that this statement was changed in Becoming Gods—The "Mormon Jesus" versus the "Traditional Jesus" to "Atoned only for Adam's transgression, thereby providing the opportunity for us to obtain "eternal life" by our own efforts. The change, however, didn't really do anything to correct this falsehood.
The literal spirit brother of Lucifer.
  • Again, note the emphasis on the word "literal." Latter-day Saints do not consider Jesus in any way to be Satan's "peer."
Jesus' sacrificial death is not able to cleanse some people of all their sins.
  • Latter-day Saints believe that only those who reject the atonement cannot be cleansed from all their sins. If one doesn't accept the atonement, then the atonement can't save him or her. But, that is a reflection on the sinner, and does not imply that Christ's atonement was "not able" to cleanse our sins.
  • This is probably alluding to blood atonement.
  • Jesus Christ Himself taught that blasphemy against the Holy Ghost was an "unforgivable sin." Matthew 12:31-32
There is no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith as a prophet of God.
  • Latter-day Saints believe that there is no salvation without accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer. Salvation is obtained by receiving Jesus and his atoning sacrifice. The statement presented in the book is nonsense. All save the sons of perdition are saved. All will be resurrected.
  • A fullness of salvation requires accepting the words of ALL the prophets--including those who wrote the Bible, and including Joseph Smith.
  • If one believes that you have to accept the Bible witness to be saved, then how can one fault Latter-day Saints for believing that another prophet's witness must also be accepted? LDS doctrine saves infidels and non-Christians in a resurrection of glory, and provides for their evangelization after death.


Notes

  1. Ezra Taft Benson, "Five Marks of the Divinity of Jesus Christ," From a fireside address given at the University of Utah Special Events Center on 9 December 1979.
  2. Brigham Young, "Character of God and Christ, etc.," (8 July 1860) Journal of Discourses 8:115. (See also Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 1:238.; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:218.; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:268..
  3. Ezra Taft Benson, "Joy in Christ," Ensign (March 1986), 3–4. (emphasis added) off-site
  4. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 742. GL direct link
  5. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 822. GL direct link
  6. Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 14. GospeLink (requires subscrip.)