Friday, November 29, 2013

The Living Christ: The Scriptural Basis for Mormon Beliefs About Christ

On January 1, 2000 the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a document which contained their special witness of the reality and divinity of the life, ministry, and atonement of Jesus Christ entitled “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles.” (Read it in its entirety HERE).

When this remarkable declaration was issued to the world, the First Presidency (President Gordon B. Hinckley and his two counselors, James E. Faust and Thomas S. Monson) sent a letter of introduction to church leaders around the world which stated:

“The Prophet Joseph Smith declared: ‘The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.’ In that spirit, we add our witness to that of our predecessors.

“We encourage you to use this written testimony in helping to build the faith of our Heavenly Father’s children” (First Presidency letter, Dec. 10, 1999).

The mere existence of this document is powerful evidence that we do indeed have a living prophet and living apostles once more in our day.  Much like the apostles and prophets of old, these modern day apostles have been called to be special witnesses that Jesus is the Christ and that He died for our sins and was resurrected on the third day.

Acts 10:39-43  And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.  And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.  To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.

The testimony of the apostles concerning the living Christ is a remarkable document for many reasons, and not least because the doctrines set forth within it do not depend, wholly or even substantially, on the so-called restoration scriptures (such as the Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, or The Pearl of Great Price).  In fact, as I studied “The Living Christ,” I was pleased to find that the major doctrinal points in it can be amply supported by scripture contained in the Bible.  I think that “The Living Christ” goes a long way towards demonstrating that members of the Church of Jesus Christ subscribe to a New Testament theology, by which I mean that their beliefs concerning Christ are taken directly from the Bible, while at the same time Mormons reject the innovations made in the creeds and councils that took place in the centuries since the death of the last of the Apostles. 

Due to our rejection of the creeds, members of the LDS church are often accused of “preaching a different Jesus” (see 2 Cor. 11:4) than the rest of Christianity.  Further, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are often informed that their beliefs are not biblical because they depart from the standards established by the creeds (rather than the Bible). That is why this document is so valuable-it demonstrates that we rely upon Bible for the strength of our claims, and that while we choose to reject the creeds, this does not make our beliefs any less “biblical” (in fact I would argue that it makes them more biblical in nature).

It is true that we have (or rather God has) added several books to the scriptural canon that most Christians do not accept and so those who accuse us of not being Christian might well suspect that any declaration that we may make concerning Jesus Christ must depend largely upon our own scriptures for substantiation because surely we cannot support our beliefs biblically.  On occasion I have noted that some Mormons also tend to assume that we rely on the Book of Mormon (or other scriptures unique to Mormonism) in order to establish our version of things, and that the Bible is only a secondary source for those beliefs.  In this regard “The Living Christ” is important because it demonstrates this assumption to be entirely false, while simultaneously illustrating the central role that the Bible plays in establishing our most basic doctrines and beliefs.

“The Living Christ” has great value as a missionary tool, but I think that it has equal value as a teaching tool for each member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to use to learn exactly what it is that we believe concerning Jesus Christ. On a related subject, click HERE to learn more about the nature of Christ and His relationship to God the Father and the Holy Ghost, and HERE and HERE to learn more about how the Atonement of Jesus Christ works.

To the end of demonstrating the centrality of Jesus Christ and His atonement in LDS beliefs, as well as demonstrating the importance of the Bible in establishing those beliefs, I have included my breakdown of “The Living Christ” which highlights some of the more important statements contained in the document and presents a number of scriptures that can be used to support each assertion.  Most of these scriptures, as you will see, come from the Bible but I have included scriptures from the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants in order to further establish the truth of the statements made in “The Living Christ” as well as to show how well these scriptures harmonize with what is taught in the Bible.

The Living Christ

1    1)      “He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New.”

Isaiah 43:1, 3, 10-12  But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.  For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.  Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.  I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.  I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.

Daniel 3:25  He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

John 8:56-59  Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.  Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?  Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.  Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

I included the last verse about the people’s attempt to stone Christ after His declaration that “Before Abraham was, I am” because it shows that the people understood exactly what He was telling them; namely that He was the God of the Old Testament, which statement they considered to be blasphemy and a thus a stoning offense.

D&C 110:2-4  We saw the Lord standing upon the breastwork of the pulpit, before us; and under his feet was a paved work of pure gold, in color like amber.  His eyes were as a flame of fire; the hair of his head was white like the pure snow; his countenance shone above the brightness of the sun; and his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah, saying: am the first and the last; I am he who liveth, I am he who was slain; I am your advocate with the Father.
Web Statistics