David Lahevi, FISM News
Earlier this year Dallas Jenkins, the creator of the hit show “The Chosen,” sparked controversy when he made statements regarding whether or not his Latter-day Saint or Mormon friends love the same Jesus and are Christians. Additionally, many have expressed concern that the show’s executive producer, Derral Eves, is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Much has been written about Jenkin’s comments and he has attempted to clarify many of these comments multiple times for which I give him full credit. Dallas recently posted a video entitled “My definitive (final) comments on the ‘LDS issue’” where he attempts to put an end to having to defend or clarify statements he made on multiple podcasts and interviews in which he said that some of his close LDS friends “love the same Jesus as I do.”
In his video, Jenkins says that it would be “wrong” and “arrogant” of him to say that any one group has a true relationship with Christ and that it would be equally “dumb” of him to say that no LDS has a true relationship with God. He further states that he believes in the inerrancy of scripture and that neither he nor the show should replace the Bible or the church.
However, for all the clarification Jenkins doesn’t provide any specific definition of exactly who the Jesus is that both Dallas and his LDS friends love. My main motivation for this article is not to call Dallas to the carpet or paint him in a bad light. God forbid! My motivation is to clarify exactly who Jesus is as defined by the LDS faith and compare that to the biblical Jesus.
Before immigrating to Israel my family and I lived in Utah, worked in Utah, and led inbound mission trips to Utah where we trained (and continue to train) orthodox evangelical Christians to share the biblical gospel with people of the LDS faith.
We have knocked on hundreds of doors in Utah to share the gospel. We have spoken with LDS apologists, ex-LDS members who are now atheists, and ex-LDS members who are now evangelical Christians. We have attended ward (LDS congregation) services and broken bread with LDS bishops and stake (administrative unit) presidents. Additionally, we took a group of about 20 evangelicals to Rocky Ridge, Utah where a fundamentalist LDS sect practices plural marriage. We knocked on their doors for three hours and were able to share the biblical gospel with about 30 families.
I say all this not to boast but to paint a picture that testifies to our ministry’s knowledge of the LDS faith, teaching, culture, practices, and doctrine. After thousands of conversations, we have had with people from the LDS church one thing has become certain, 99.9% of Latter-day Saints do NOT know, love, or understand the same Jesus as revealed through the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, and extra-biblical historical accounts. While the .1% may be anecdotal, the point I am making about Jenkins’ comments, is that there may be a member of the LDS faith who has a correct biblical understanding of the Jesus of the Bible, but we have yet to come across that LDS member.
Former LDS who are now biblical Christians repeatedly testify to the fact that they did not know the true Jesus, God of the Bible, or nature of the true gospel while in the LDS faith. I am happy to take Dallas Jenkins at his word when he says, “my friends who identify as LDS love the same Jesus that I do.” Yet, according to LDS doctrine, the Jesus of the LDS faith is NOT the same as the Jesus of the Bible.
Here I see three possible scenarios: 1) Dallas’ friends are LDS in name only and don’t believe the teachings of the LDS church, 2) Dallas believes in the same Jesus the LDS do as defined by LDS doctrine, or 3) Dallas is mistaken by what his LDS friends mean when they use words like Jesus, Heavenly Father, gospel, salvation, grace, heaven, hell, etc.
Let me give an analogy that helps us understand this third and most likely option.
Within my group of friends, myself and four of the men are all married to a woman named “Amanda” (name changed for this article but yes, all our wives have the same name). If the five of us men went out for dinner and were overheard by neighboring tables discussing the day-to-day events lived with our wife “Amanda,” few if any people at those neighboring tables would think that we were all married to the same woman. Why? Because it would be extremely obvious due to context that we are married to different women who happen to have been named the most popular girl’s name of 1979.
As simple as it may sound, this is the extent of the similarities between the Jesus of the LDS faith and the Jesus of the Bible.
When we speak to our LDS neighbors and friends about Jesus it is as if we are speaking of someone with the same name but in nearly every single aspect of how we would know and define Him, is different. We teach our students that when speaking with a member of the LDS faith it is as if we are both using the same lexicon but with completely different dictionaries.
Three of the foundational aspects of Christian doctrine have to deal with the Nature of God, the Nature of Jesus, and the Nature of Salvation. We must compare these with what the LDS church teaches to understand how vast the divide is between our two faiths.
A note of clarification: LDS beliefs are as diverse as the individuals who hold its membership. It is a very nuanced faith from person to person. Therefore, varying beliefs about the following are abundant even within official church teachings throughout the past 190 years.
LDS View of God/Heavenly Father
He is a created man and not spirit, was once a man who became a god, and created the world we live in now. Joseph Smith stated plainly,
I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show what kind of being God is. What sort of a being was God in the beginning? Open your ears and hear, all ye ends of the earth, for I am going to prove it to you by the Bible, and to tell you the designs of God in relation to the human race, and why He interferes with the affairs of man. God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345).
Jesus had a father and mother like we do (The Essential Brigham Young, 138) named the Heavenly Father and the Heavenly Mother. Jesus, Lucifer, and all humans on the earth today were once spirit children of the Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother who have now taken on human form and will someday return to the Heavenly Father. We as humans can become gods and creators of our own worlds just as the Heavenly Father did. The Heavenly Father can learn and change. Being that he was a man, he at one point could sin yet attained Godhood through good works. He is an entirely separate being from Jesus.
Orthodox Christian View of God
God is the uncaused first cause. He is the creator and sustainer of all things (Col. 1:16, 1Cor. 8:6, Neh. 9:6). He has always existed in a tri-unity of three persons in one essence (Is.48:12-16, Jn.1). He is eternal and infinite in his attributes and characteristics. He is immutable, that is he cannot change. There is no one like him or beside him (Isaiah 45:6). He is NOT a man (Numbers 23:19).
LDS View of Jesus
Jesus was created by the Heavenly Father and the Heavenly Mother. According to LDS manuscripts, it is clear that Jesus is taught to have become a God through good works and obedience. Prophet and 10th president Joseph F. Smith taught:
Even Christ himself was not perfect at first; he received not a fullness at first, but he received grace for grace, and he continued to receive more and more until he received a fullness. (Gospel Doctrine, 1986, p. 68. See also Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p. 153)
An official LDS church manual also states:
Jesus became a God and reached His great state of understanding through consistent effort and continuous obedience to all the Gospel truths and universal laws. (The Gospel Through the Ages, p. 51)
Additionally, Jesus is the product of a physical sexual union between Heavenly Father and Mary. Prophet and 10th President of the LDS Church Joseph Fielding Smith wrote,
CHRIST NOT BEGOTTEN OF HOLY GHOST . . Christ was begotten of God. He was not born without the aid of Man, and that Man was God!” (Doctrines of Salvation 1:18. Ellipsis mine – see Matt.1:18 for the clear biblical circumstances of Jesus’ conception )
Within LDS teaching Jesus is the literal physical child of Heavenly Father and Mary. He is by definition at birth not divine and only a created human being. This also negates that Mary was a virgin and contradicts the prophecy of Is. 7:14.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost” (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 7. See also the Church News, December 18, 2004, p. 16)
Logically, it follows that Mary was the spirit child of Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother and thus Heavenly Father had intercourse with his own daughter.
LDS Church leaders have long known and held that they do not worship or believe in the same Jesus as taught by Orthodox Christianity.
It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”(“The Living Christ,” Ensign Conference Edition, May 1977, p. 26)
Fifteenth Prophet and President Gordon B. Hinckley referenced those outside the LDS Church who say Latter Day Saints do not believe in the traditional Christ by stating,
The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak.” (Crown of Gospel is Upon Our Heads, Church News, June 20, 1998, p. 7)
Additionally, Jesus’ atonement for sin did not happen on the cross, but in the Garden of Gethsemane (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 14). Several LDS church apostles have taught that Jesus was married and had children. Orson Pratt taught that Jesus had multiple wives and appeared to Mary and Martha first as “it would be natural for a husband in the resurrection to appear first to his own dear wives, and afterwards show himself to his other friends. If all the acts of Jesus were written, we no doubt should learn that these beloved women were His wives.” (The Seer, p. 159).
Jesus in the LDS view was a created being who became a God through obedience and good works to his literal (physically) Heavenly Father who was both his spiritual father and grandfather. According to LDS tradition, Jesus was taught by church apostles to be married with children and practiced plural marriage. He atoned for the sins of those who would repent by sweating blood in the garden of Gethsemane, not his work on the cross. (See Is 52:13-53:12, Col. 1:20, Gal. 6:14 for the true biblical teaching on the essential nature of the cross.)
Orthodox View of Jesus
Jesus is Mighty God and the Word of The Lord (Jer. 2:1, Jer. 18:5, Isaiah 9:6). He is co-equal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit (Is.48:12-16, Psalm 110, Jn. 1). He is a tri-unity of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit . . .three persons in one essence. He is an eternal being whose origins are from eternity past (Micah 5:2), therefore he was not created. He is the creator and sustainer of all things (Jn. 1). In his incarnation, he took on human form being born of a virgin (Mt.1:13, Is.7:14, Lk.1:27.) He is “God over all blessed forever” (Rom 9:5). There is no evidence whatsoever that he was ever married or had children. His work on the cross, where his blood was shed, was sufficient for the atonement for the sins of the world and “all who believe”(John 3).
LDS Plan of Salvation (Gospel)
The LDS plan of exaltation which is the work needed to obtain Godhood and spend eternity with “Heavenly Father” is divided into 23 steps of required behavior or “works”.
Things like being baptized in an LDS temple, being married in an LDS temple to another LDS member, and repenting of sin, never going back to commit the same sin again allows one to work his or her way towards a possibility of becoming a god. A long imaginary staircase stretches ahead of LDS members with an assortment of many impossible deeds which keep one enslaved to a works-based mentality where humans can be perfect in work, deed, and intent. Only by achieving all of these commands can one hope to be granted the grace of the Heavenly Father “after all they can do.”
For Mormons, there is no assurance of true salvation from one’s sins and reconciliation back to God. His work on the Cross was NOT sufficient. As prophet and 10th president Joseph F. Smith taught:
Through obedience to those commandments which are set forth in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and by continuance therein, we shall receive immortality, glory, eternal life, and dwell in the presence of God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ, where we shall truly know them. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, 2013, p. 237)
This is clearly a different gospel than the one found in the New Testament. This LDS “gospel” was presented as the supposed “full and restored gospel” to Joseph Smith through several visitations by “personages” and the angel Moroni who revealed the golden plates to Smith by which the Book of Mormon was allegedly translated.
Paul warns the Church in Galatia of just such a deception stating in Galatians 1:18 “If we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.”
Orthodox Protestant Christian View Gospel/Salvation
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9).
“For the wages of sin is death but the GIFT of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23).
A gift is free, and nothing can be done to earn it. It is by definition freely given. Jesus paid the price for our sin on the cross and through our trust in him we are immersed in his death and resurrection and reconciled back to Him. There is no good work/action required or needed to supplement the reality of what the Messiah did. He is God over all, creator of all, and worthy to be worshiped because of his unique holy nature as the perfect and ONLY God/Man.
What it Means
The God, Jesus, and gospel of the LDS church are fundamentally different in every possible way from that which is found in the 66 books of the Bible. Additionally, it contradicts basic logical reasoning regarding the nature of God and how things come to be. The LDS Church preaches the different gospel which Paul warned about in Galatians 1:8 and cannot save a human being from eternal separation from the one true God.
Followers of Jesus must understand that despite the many differences within our own congregations – whether they be non-denominational, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc. – we are all under one roof regarding the fundamentals of our faith. We may differ on many things that can make it difficult to cooperate in certain areas, yet we have a core set of fundamental beliefs which do not change regardless of denomination.
That is not to say that everyone who goes to a Protestant church is saved. Each person must have a personal relationship with Jesus to be saved, but this relationship is with a real person who has defined himself and salvation in scripture.
If one were to deny that Jesus was not eternally God and creator of all things it would remove one from the “house,” so to speak, of orthodox belief. If one were to introduce a gospel that required a person to do works in order to receive eternal life and salvation from God’s just wrath, they would again be removed from the “house” of faith which defines orthodox protestant Christianity.
These fundamental truths cause the LDS Church to be placed “outside the house” of orthodox Christian faith and into the category of “cult”. Cult is defined here as the perversion of the person of Jesus and his gospel to be other than that found within the canon of scripture as revealed in the 66 books of the Bible. The only thing we as Christians have in common with the LDS faith are the terms we use. However, as you have seen those terms do not in any way coincide with the same definitions.
I hope this clarifies why so many were bothered by the statements Dallas Jenkins has made regarding the Jesus he loves being the same as the Jesus his LDS friends love. I believe it also magnifies why so many are frustrated with his continued lack of clarity of exactly who this Jesus is in which he believes when he has made these statements publicly.
For more information on the LDS Faith, its teachings, and how they differ from the Orthodox Christian faith please visit www.mrm.org. For a one-stop book, grab a copy of Mormonism 101 by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson.