Jesus Christ in Mormonism
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is frequently misnamed the “Mormon Church,” is completely centered on Jesus Christ. Many critics accuse members of the “Mormon Church” of not being Christians. This is often confusing and hurtful to faithful members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who worship Jesus as the Son of God, their Savior, and their Redeemer. A somewhat closer look at Mormon doctrine, though, can answer some basic questions about what Latter-day Saints (or “Mormons”) believe and where Jesus Christ figures in the Mormon faith.
Latter-day Saints believe the Bible to be the word of God, but they also believe that many basic and pure doctrines have been lost from the Bible. There is a great deal of historical evidence that shows there was great confusion in the early Church beginning about 100 years after Jesus Christ’s Ascension into heaven. By this time, the Apostles had been martyred, and there was no clear leader of the Church. The Apostles had been consistently fighting against the creeping in of philosophies which were corrupting the pure doctrine. Once the Apostles were gone, however, and there was no clear leader to take their place, learned men began to change some of the earliest doctrines of the Church—the doctrines which Jesus Christ Himself had taught. Many people began to turn away from the truth, and this led to a period of apostasy. Some truths remained, but others were lost.
In councils like the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., bishops were gathered together to decide what the official Church doctrine would be. There was a great deal of debate an compromise, and out of such councils came the Christian creeds. Latter-day Saints are accused by some Christians of not being “true” Christians, because Latter-day Saints do not adhere to these creeds as doctrine. In fact, they flatly reject them. These creeds did not come from God, but from man. Latter-day Saints believe that for the next millennium, men continued to be confused about what the truth was. Noble men such as Martin Luther and William Tyndale recognized the discrepancies between the Bible and what the Church was practicing and tried to reform the Church to its purity. However, things had become so corrupted that a full restoration was necessary, not a reformation.
In 1820, a young American boy named Joseph Smith was confused in his own area about which of all the many denominations claiming to be the only true church actually was the true church. He sought divine guidance through scripture study and prayer. In answer to his prayer, he received a vision of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. In one moment, the doctrine of the Trinity was dispelled as it was once again revealed to man that God the Father and Jesus Christ are two separate, distinct beings with bodies. The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit. These three beings, while one in purpose, are separate in identity. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ revealed to Joseph Smith that none of the current churches contained the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Over the next ten years, Joseph was visited by many more divine messengers. He was called to be the first prophet of our dispensation and was entrusted with restoring the full gospel of Jesus Christ by divine authority.
Joseph Smith organized The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 6, 1830, under direction from Jesus Christ Himself. The priesthood power, which was last held in its fulness by Peter, James, and John, was restored to Joseph Smith and remains available to all worthy male members of the Church ages 12 and up. Young men are first given a certain portion of the priesthood power. Then, as they are true to the responsibility of using the priesthood, and as they mature, they are entrusted with more power and responsibility.
This background is essential in understanding why many other Christian denominations claim that Latter-day Saints do not worship the same Jesus they do. While there are many doctrinal differences in understanding the authority of Jesus Christ and how that has been passed down (or, rather, restored), it is clear from every Mormon doctrine that Jesus Christ is the center of Mormonism. It is to Jesus Christ that every Latter-day Saint looks for redemption and salvation.
Because Latter-day Saints believe in continuing revelation (that God continues to speak to His children today through a living prophet), they believe in scripture other than the Bible. While the Bible is considered the word of God, Latter-day Saints believe that God has spoken to His children throughout all time. The Book of Mormon is a record of the dealings of Jesus Christ with some of the inhabitants of the ancient Americas. It is not a replacement for the Bible, but is a complementary book of scripture to the Bible and is a second testament that Jesus is the Christ.
All Latter-day Saint scripture points towards Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Latter-day Saints recognize that He is the literal Son of God, the Redeemer of our souls, and the only way back to God the Father. “And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent” (Mosiah 3:17). Every piece of “Mormon” belief, practice, and worship centers on Jesus Christ. Mormon temples also focus on Jesus Christ as the Savior of the World and as the only sure means of returning to our Heavenly Father.
Personal Witness of Jesus Christ
As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have a personal relationship with my Savior. I recognize that the miracles He performed while living on this earth can be manifested in my life today, through the power of the holy priesthood, and I testify that they have occurred and continue to occur in my life. I am so grateful to my Savior for all that He has sacrificed and suffered to give me the opportunity to repent and to return to live with God. I recognize His love for me and His hand guiding my life as I do my best to follow His commandments and live up to my covenants. He is present in every minute of our lives, watching with a keen interest and waiting with an urgent desire for us to invite Him in that He may bless us further. He cares about everything that is important to us, even if He recognizes something is not important in the eternal scheme of things. I can personally testify of that. God has answered prayers of mine with a speed and concern that lets me know how much He loves and cares, even about trivial things, because they matter to me, and I matter to Him. I am overwhelmed with gratitude towards my Savior and my Heavenly Father and earnestly desire to do better, to please them, and to show them I acknowledge and appreciate their hands in my life. Jesus is the Son of God. He did live on this earth. He gave Himself a sacrifice for sin, offered His life on Calvary, and took up His life again. He lives today, and He loves us.