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The Mormon View of Faith in Christ

The Mormon View of Faith in Christ

The Bottom-Line Guide to Mormonism, Part 16
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The LDS Church teaches that the first “principle of the Gospel” is “faith in the Lord Jesus Christ” (Articles of Faith 4). However, on close examination the Mormon understanding of faith in Christ turns out to be radically different from the biblical and historic Christian understanding. 

Biblical View of Faith in Christ

LDS View of Faith in Christ

Faith in Christ means believing that he is one God with the Father and the Holy Spirit, that he is the only divine Son of God, and that he was conceived of a virgin by the Holy Spirit.

Faith in Christ means believing that he is one of three Gods, the eldest divine son of a heavenly Father, and the only human being literally begotten by the Father in the flesh.

Faith in Christ means believing that he died on the cross to atone for our sins, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven, and that he will remain in heaven sustaining and ruling the church until his second coming.

Faith in Christ means believing that he atoned for sin in Gethsemane and on the cross, rose from the dead, ascended to heaven, returned to preach to the Nephites, and revealed to Joseph Smith that the church needed to be restored.

Apart from faith in Christ, people have no hope of salvation from eternal condemnation—and no one who rejects Christ will be saved.

Virtually all humanity will be saved to live in some glorious heaven whether they believe in Christ or not—even people who reject Christ.

The goal of faith in Christ is immortal life as glorified human beings in the new heavens and new earth.

The goal of faith in Christ is entrance to the highest, celestial kingdom and the possibility of becoming gods like Heavenly Father.

Faith in Christ means trusting in Christ for eternal life as the undeserved gift of God’s grace alone, not based at all on our works.

Faith in Christ means obeying his commands as the LDS Church explains them in order to attain to eternal life in the celestial kingdom.

The historical facts that are at the core of the gospel are the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:3-4). The LDS religion clearly affirms these facts and teaches its members that it is necessary to believe them. We are glad to acknowledge that on these points Mormon doctrine agrees with the Bible. However, there are four ways in which the Mormon understanding of faith in Christ deviates from the teaching of the Bible. 

1. The content of faith in Christ. LDS doctrine includes unbiblical beliefs about Jesus Christ. These concern both the person and work of Christ (who he is and what he has done). 

The person of Christ: According to Mormon doctrine, all people existed in heaven as God’s spirit children, of whom Jesus was simply the eldest. According to the Bible, on the other hand, Jesus Christ is the only human being who, as God incarnate, preexisted in heaven and the only one who is by nature the divine Son of God (John 1:1, 14; 3:16, 31; etc.). Mormons view Jesus as one of three Gods in the Godhead, whereas the Bible teaches that the three divine persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19) are just one God (Deut. 6:4; Isaiah 43:10; 1 Cor. 8:4-6). LDS doctrine teaches that the Father literally begat Jesus in the flesh. God is Jesus’ father in the flesh and Mary is his mother, resulting in Jesus inheriting divine powers from his Father and mortality from his mother. In biblical doctrine, Christ was conceived “from the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:18), not as God’s literal offspring in the flesh. Jesus did not “inherit” his divine powers by being God’s offspring because he was already the eternal, divine Son (John 1:14, 18). 

The work of Christ: Mormons believe that Christ suffered to atone for our sins in Gethsemane, bleeding from “every pore” (D&C 19:18-19), as well as by his death. However, while the Bible does report Christ agonizing in prayer in Gethsemane, he did not bleed from every pore, and he atoned for our sins on the cross (Eph. 2:16; Col. 2:14; 1 Peter 2:24), not in Gethsemane. The LDS Church teaches that Christ appeared to the “Nephites” in the Americas after his ascension and established a Church there. Yet the Bible teaches that after Jesus’ ascension, he was to remain in heaven until his second coming (Acts 1:9-11; 3:19-21). Finally, the LDS Church claims that Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith to tell him to join none of the churches because all of them were wrong and their creeds an abomination. In the Bible, however, Jesus Christ promised the apostles that the gates of Hades (death) would not prevail against his church and that he would be with his disciples until the end of the age (Matthew 16:18; 28:20). 

2. The necessity of faith in Christ. LDS doctrine asserts that huge numbers of people who reject Christ in this life will nevertheless receive salvation. Mormon theology teaches a form of near-universalism, that is, the doctrine that nearly everyone will be saved. Specifically, it teaches that virtually everyone will be resurrected to immortal life and inhabit one of three glorious heavenly kingdoms for all eternity. This includes nearly everyone who rejects Christ in this mortal life. (Only the “sons of perdition,” individuals who have an indubitable “testimony of the Holy Ghost” that the LDS gospel is true and yet choose to turn their back on it, will suffer forever in “outer darkness.”) The Bible clearly teaches that large numbers of people, including all who reject Christ, will be forever lost (Matt. 7:13-14, 21-23; 25:46; Mark 8:35-38; John 3:18, 36; 8:24; 12:48; 2 Thess. 1:6-9; Rev. 21:8). 

3. The goal of faith in Christ. LDS doctrine makes godhood the goal of faith in Christ. As just noted, in LDS theology no one needs to have faith in Christ to live forever in a glorious heavenly kingdom. Faith in Christ, it turns out, is necessary in Mormon doctrine only to gain access to the highest of its three heavenly kingdoms, the celestial kingdom, with the potential of becoming gods. In other words, Mormons are “believing in Christ” for something that is not even part of the biblical gospel. In the Bible, the redeemed will all live as resurrected, glorified human beings—not gods—in the new heavens and new earth (Rev. 21-22). 

4. The meaning of faith in Christ. LDS doctrine explains faith in Christ as a determination to obey Christ’s commands as revealed through the LDS Church. While acceptance of Christ’s “Atonement” is part of Mormon faith in Christ, the focus is on obeying what the LDS Church says Christ commands us to do. It “means to have such trust in Him that we obey whatever He commands” (Gospel Principles [2009 ed.], 103). In other words, faith means doing good works to make ourselves worthy of life in the celestial kingdom: “Faith involves doing all we can to bring about the things we hope and pray for” (Gospel Principles, 105). By “Christ’s commands” the LDS Church means not only loving other people, living a moral life, and so forth, but also performing rituals in the Mormon temples, observing Mormon taboos against hot drinks, “sustaining” the LDS Church leaders, and other such requirements for which there is no biblical basis. In the Bible, faith in Christ is not the determination to make ourselves righteous in order to be worthy of eternal life but the humble acceptance of God’s gift of righteousness and of eternal life in Christ alone (John 3:16; 11:25-26; Acts 16:31; Rom. 3:21-26; 6:23; Eph. 2:8-10).