Recently a friend and I visited a LDS Ward (church) because we very inquisitive about what their service would be like. To cut a long story short we joined their Sunday school lesson after the service. Here we met a few missionaries, mostly from Africa, and a man who was a teacher at this particular LDS Ward. He had planned on teaching his students a lesson about the Gospel principles but we ended up having a somewhat heated discussion about the differences between Mormon beliefs and Evangelical Christian beliefs. We made it clear that we do not believe in the same Jesus. What I found quite remarkable was that despite the differences between the Bible and the Book of Mormon, he still clung to the idea that we all believed in the same Jesus at the end of the day. Perhaps you are under the same impression, that LDS theology and beliefs about Jesus are very similar if not identical to evangelical Christianity. This however could not be further from the truth as I will demonstrate. In this post I would like to further develop and defend the doctrines of evangelical Christianity by presenting a second reason why the Apostle Paul could not have been a LDS. This reason has to do specifically with the person of Jesus Christ.
REASON # 2: THE PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST
For the sake of simplicity and pre-conceived theological assumptions please allow me to present this doctrine of the person of Jesus as a question that I believe goes to the heart of the issue: “Is Jesus Christ a procreated spirit being or the eternal divine being?”
Let us first see how Joseph Smith would have answered this question. For the sake of context here is a quote taken directly from the official website of the LDS church of Jesus Christ “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that all human beings, male and female, are beloved spirit children of heavenly parents, a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother” (https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/132.19-20?lang=eng#18). Furthermore “the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother is a cherished and distinctive belief among Latter-day Saints” (http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Mother_in_Heaven). Once again author and Apostle Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles confirms this understanding of LDS theology by adding “We are part of a divine plan designed by Heavenly Parents who love us.”
I started with these quotes because it is important to understand that although Mormons will acknowledge that Jesus is eternal, what they mean is that He existed as a spirit being prior to His incarnation. And remember that according to their own doctrine a spirit being is the offspring or creation of heavenly parents. In fact we are all spirit beings that were produced in the same way before the foundation of the world. In an article published in the LDS magazine, Ensign, the following doctrine of mankind’s premortal existence is taught “the human race lived in a premortal existence with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ…but at some distant point in our premortal past, spirit bodies were created for us, and we became, literally, spirit sons and daughters of heavenly parents” (The Fulness of the Gospel: Life Before Birth,” Ensign, February 2006, 30-31.) The similarities between mankind’s premortal existence and Jesus is furthermore highlighted in the Doctrine and Covenants “The difference between Jesus and other offspring of Elohim is one of degree not of kind” (Doctrine and Covenants 93:21). That is why Mormons refer to Jesus as elder brother. So how would Joseph Smith have answered the question regarding the person of Jesus Christ? He would declare that Jesus was procreated.
In other words Jesus Christ is the firstborn spirit child (and the mightiest) of all the created spirit beings (premortal humans), the offspring of a heavenly father and heavenly mother (President of the Church Teacher’s Manual, 1; Doctrine and Covenants 93:21-23).
The New Testament has many places that teach us about the person of Jesus Christ, but since we are focusing specifically on the teachings of the Apostle Paul we will look at one passage in particular, and that is Colossians 1:15-18 which says “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” I have underlined the word “firstborn” in this passage because it is the language used by both the LDS teachers and the Apostle Paul to describe the person of Jesus. We have dealt with the LDS’ understanding of the word let us now look at how Paul used it to teach these believers at Colossae who Jesus was.
When the Apostle Paul says that Jesus Christ is the “firstborn of all creation” he is not teaching us that Jesus was the first created spirit being as the church of Jesus Christ of LDS teaches. If Christ were the “first-created” the Greek word that Paul would have used would have been prōtoktisis. The Greek word that the Apostle Paul uses instead for “firstborn” is prototokos meaning “first in rank, preeminent one.” The word “firstborn” denotes or implies priority in time to all creation but also priority of preeminence in rank over all creation. To confirm this understanding of the word listen to what God says about King David in Psalm 89:27 “And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” We all know David is not the firstborn son in his family, nor is he the first king of Israel. “Firstborn” here is a title of preeminence. Let me give you an example to help you with what Paul is saying. If I were to remind you that David Cameron is the current Prime Minister of England today would you think that I was implying that he is the first Prime Minister that has ever lived? Certainly not. There have been many Prime Ministers before him and therefore the term could not refer to priority in time. I think you would agree then that the term Prime Minister refers to position of authority. So how would the Apostle Paul answer the question regarding the person of Jesus Christ? He would declare that Jesus Christ was uncreated!
In other words Jesus Christ is the firstborn over all creation meaning that He is the highest authority and most supreme divine being in the universe!
Is this because He was created first? Absolutely not! On the contrary it is because of the following reasons:
- He is the creator of ALL things– “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—…” By the way Lucifer cannot be the spirit brother of Jesus according to this verse because he is an angel and part of the created order. He was created by Jesus!
- He is also the designer/agent of ALL things– “all things were created through him…”
- He is the purpose of ALL things– “and for him.”
- He is creation’s predecessor– “And he is before all things…”
- He is the sustainer of ALL things– “and in him all things hold together.”
- Jesus is the originator of the church– “And he is the head of the body, the church.”
- Jesus is the firstborn from the dead– “He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” This time the word “firstborn” refers the fact that He is the first one to be resurrected from the dead never to die again! How do we know this? Paul uses a different Greek word that conveys this meaning.
In concluding, the second reason why the Apostle Paul could not have been a member of the LDS church of Jesus Christ is because he disagrees with the teaching of Joseph Smith on the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ. Whereas Joseph Smith teaches that Jesus Christ is a procreated spirit being, Paul teaches that He is the uncreated eternal God of the universe (Other scriptures that teach this truth are John 1:1-3; Hebrews 1:1-3; Philippians 2:5-11). As sincere as that LDS teacher was he was sincerely misinformed to tell me that LDS Mormons and Evangelical Christians believe in the same Jesus. If you’ve read up to this point then let me leave you with three questions to ponder so that you can draw your own conclusions:
- If Jesus was procreated by God the Father does this not contradict the teachings of other New Testament passages like John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” and John 10:30 “I and the Father are one”?
- If Jesus was procreated by God the Father can He really be eternal with no beginning? (John 8:58; Psalm 90:2).
- If Jesus was not fully God how could He make full payment for our sins on the cross since only God has the authority to forgive sins?
To learn more about the supremacy of Jesus Christ listen to this short video clip by John Piper (https://youtu.be/VeKgfUGtcI0)