Jesus Christ/Biblical

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Mormonism and the Biblical Jesus

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Question: Did Gordon B. Hinckley say that Latter-day Saints do not worship the biblical Jesus?

It is clear that Latter-day Saints believe in the biblical Christ—the Christ that is described in the New Testament

President Gordon B. Hinckley, responding to a question regarding whether Latter-day Saints believe in the “traditional Christ,” stated:

No I don't. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the dispensation of the fullness of times. [1]

President Hinckley is referring to the concept of Christ that has developed in the centuries since the Nicene Creed was formed

President Hinckley is referring to the concept of Christ that has developed in the centuries since the Nicene Creed was formed—He is saying that we do not believe in non-Biblical creeds. This statement is quite correct: Latter-day Saints do not have some of the same beliefs about Christ that other Christian churches do. He is not saying that we do not believe in the Biblical Christ. In fact, the reason that Latter-day Saints do not accept these creeds is because they are non-Biblical. President Hinckley continued (with words usually omitted by critics):

Am I Christian? Of course I am. I believe in Christ. I talk of Christ. I pray through Christ. I'm trying to follow Him and live His gospel in my life.

Hinckley: "Believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the greatest figure of time and eternity"

Consider the following words by President Hinckley:

Believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the greatest figure of time and eternity. Believe that His matchless life reached back before the world was formed. Believe that He was the Creator of the earth on which we live. Believe that He was Jehovah of the Old Testament, that He was the Messiah of the New Testament, that He died and was resurrected, that He visited the western continents and taught the people here, that He ushered in this final gospel dispensation, and that He lives, the living Son of the living God, our Savior and our Redeemer. [2]

In the statement above, there is no question that President Hinckley is professing belief in the Jesus Christ of the New Testament. Critics, however, ignore clear statements such as these, and instead look to justify their claims that Latter-day Saints are not Christian by mining the quotes of church leaders for phrases which seem to support their position.

In order to strengthen their claim, critics of the Church sometimes even modify these quotes

Consider the use of President Hinckley’s quote in the critical Search for the Truth DVD. The critics have actually added a phrase to the quote:

No I don't believe in the traditional Christ. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the dispensation of the Fullness of Times. [3]

President Hinckley understood how the critics would attempt to portray Latter-day Saints with regard to their belief in Christ:

As a Church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say. Our faith, our knowledge is not based on ancient tradition, the creeds which came of a finite understanding and out of the almost infinite discussions of men trying to arrive at a definition of the risen Christ. Our faith, our knowledge comes of the witness of a prophet in this dispensation who saw before him the great God of the universe and His Beloved Son, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. They spoke to him. He spoke with Them. He testified openly, unequivocally, and unabashedly of that great vision. It was a vision of the Almighty and of the Redeemer of the world, glorious beyond our understanding but certain and unequivocating in the knowledge which it brought. It is out of that knowledge, rooted deep in the soil of modern revelation, that we, in the words of Nephi, “talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that [we and] our children may know to what source [we] may look for a remission of [our] sins” (2 Nephi 25:26). [4]

President Hinckley was quite clear in his position regarding Christ:

Are we Christians? Of course we are Christians. We believe in Christ. We worship Christ. We take upon ourselves in solemn covenant His holy name. The Church to which we belong carries His name. He is our Lord, our Savior, our Redeemer through whom came the great Atonement with salvation and eternal life. [5]


Question: What does it mean to Mormons when Jesus is declared to be the "alpha and omega"?

Latter-day Saints reject the interpretive baggage of the Greeks and Reformers, and claim that Christ is eternal, but not in the sense that the philosophers explain it

Alpha and Omega (Α Ω) are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, respectively. Jesus Christ refers to himself by this title four times in the book of Revelation (1:8; 1:11; 21:6; 22:13). The title also appears in the Book of Mormon once (3 Nephi 9:18) and the Doctrine and Covenants thirteen times (19:1; 35:1; 38:1; 45:7; 54:1; 61:1; 63:60; 68:35; 75:1; 81:7; 84:120; 112:34; 132:66).

The Encyclopedia of Mormonism explains:

Equivalent to the Old Testament term "the first and the last" (e.g., Isaiah 44:6), alpha and omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. Just as no letters stand before alpha or after omega, so there are no other gods in this creation other than that represented in Jesus Christ. He encompasses all, from beginning to end; he extends beyond all extremities and categories.

Jesus Christ is the beginning because he created the earth; he is the end because he is our advocate with the Father at the final judgment.

When early Christianity—a religion based in Hebrew theology—encountered the Greek philosophical world, Greek-thinking converts tried to harmonize the two worldviews. The Greek worldview came from the writings of philosophers like Plato, who postulated that nothing that is perfect can be physical, and so forth. This collision between Hebrew and Greek paradigms resulted in a redefinition of the Hebrew/Christian God into one acceptable to Greek thinkers. God, according to the philosophers, had to be uncreated, eternal (in the philosophical sense of existing outside of time), and unique (in the sense that he is completely different than human beings).

Modern Christians—who have inherited the Greek worldview as interpreted by the Protestant reformers—use a select set of Bible verses to enforce this interpretation. To them, the "Alpha and Omega" passages in Revelation indicate that Jesus was uncreated and existing from all eternity in a triune form (three persons, but one God).


Notes

  1. Gordon B. Hinckley, cited in "Crown of Gospel is Upon Our Heads," LDS Church News, (Saturday, 20 June 1998): 7.
  2. Gordon B. Hinckley, "Be Not Faithless," Ensign (Apr. 1989), 2.;See also “Words of the Prophet: My Testimony of Christ”, New Era, Apr. 2001. (emphasis added)
  3. This version of the statement is attributed to President Hinckley in the “Search for the Truth” DVD. A screenshot may be viewed here. (emphasis added)
  4. Gordon B. Hinckley, "We Look to Christ," Ensign (May 2002), 90. off-site
  5. Gordon B. Hinckley, "What Are People Asking about Us?," Ensign (Nov. 1998), 70. off-site