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Response to claims in "Hinckley Claims LDS Worship Different Christ"

A FAIR Analysis of: Watchman Fellowship, a work by author: James K. Walker
Claim Evaluation
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Response to claims in "Hinckley Claims LDS Worship Different Christ" by Watchman Fellowship

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Response to claim: Gordon B. Hinckley's statement to "prove" that Latter-day Saints believe in "another Christ"

The author(s) of Watchman Fellowship: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Profile make(s) the following claim:

The authors use Gordon B. Hinckley's statement to "prove" that Latter-day Saints believe in "another Christ." President Hinckley stated that Latter-day Saints

do not believe in the traditional Christ. No, I don't. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times.

Author's sources:
  1. LDS Church News, June 20, 1998. off-site

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

Latter-day Saints reject non-biblical aspects of the creeds about Christ.


Question: Did Gordon B. Hinckley say that Latter-day Saints do not worship the biblical Jesus?

It is clear that Latter-day Saints believe in the biblical Christ—the Christ that is described in the New Testament

President Gordon B. Hinckley, responding to a question regarding whether Latter-day Saints believe in the “traditional Christ,” stated:

No I don't. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the dispensation of the fullness of times. [1]

President Hinckley is referring to the concept of Christ that has developed in the centuries since the Nicene Creed was formed

President Hinckley is referring to the concept of Christ that has developed in the centuries since the Nicene Creed was formed—He is saying that we do not believe in non-Biblical creeds. This statement is quite correct: Latter-day Saints do not have some of the same beliefs about Christ that other Christian churches do. He is not saying that we do not believe in the Biblical Christ. In fact, the reason that Latter-day Saints do not accept these creeds is because they are non-Biblical. President Hinckley continued (with words usually omitted by critics):

Am I Christian? Of course I am. I believe in Christ. I talk of Christ. I pray through Christ. I'm trying to follow Him and live His gospel in my life.

Hinckley: "Believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the greatest figure of time and eternity"

Consider the following words by President Hinckley:

Believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the greatest figure of time and eternity. Believe that His matchless life reached back before the world was formed. Believe that He was the Creator of the earth on which we live. Believe that He was Jehovah of the Old Testament, that He was the Messiah of the New Testament, that He died and was resurrected, that He visited the western continents and taught the people here, that He ushered in this final gospel dispensation, and that He lives, the living Son of the living God, our Savior and our Redeemer. [2]

In the statement above, there is no question that President Hinckley is professing belief in the Jesus Christ of the New Testament. Critics, however, ignore clear statements such as these, and instead look to justify their claims that Latter-day Saints are not Christian by mining the quotes of church leaders for phrases which seem to support their position.

In order to strengthen their claim, critics of the Church sometimes even modify these quotes

Consider the use of President Hinckley’s quote in the critical Search for the Truth DVD. The critics have actually added a phrase to the quote:

No I don't believe in the traditional Christ. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the dispensation of the Fullness of Times. [3]

President Hinckley understood how the critics would attempt to portray Latter-day Saints with regard to their belief in Christ:

As a Church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say. Our faith, our knowledge is not based on ancient tradition, the creeds which came of a finite understanding and out of the almost infinite discussions of men trying to arrive at a definition of the risen Christ. Our faith, our knowledge comes of the witness of a prophet in this dispensation who saw before him the great God of the universe and His Beloved Son, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ. They spoke to him. He spoke with Them. He testified openly, unequivocally, and unabashedly of that great vision. It was a vision of the Almighty and of the Redeemer of the world, glorious beyond our understanding but certain and unequivocating in the knowledge which it brought. It is out of that knowledge, rooted deep in the soil of modern revelation, that we, in the words of Nephi, “talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that [we and] our children may know to what source [we] may look for a remission of [our] sins” (2 Nephi 25:26). [4]

President Hinckley was quite clear in his position regarding Christ:

Are we Christians? Of course we are Christians. We believe in Christ. We worship Christ. We take upon ourselves in solemn covenant His holy name. The Church to which we belong carries His name. He is our Lord, our Savior, our Redeemer through whom came the great Atonement with salvation and eternal life. [5]

Response to claim: The "Traditional Christian Christ" is "Eternally God." The "Mormon Christ" was "not always God" and "became a God"

The author(s) of Watchman Fellowship: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Profile make(s) the following claim:

The "Traditional Christian Christ" is "Eternally God." The "Mormon Christ" was "not always God" and "became a God."

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

This is viewed in terms of Jesus rather than God the Father. Jesus did change in the sense that while he was Divine in his pre-mortal state, he became mortal, “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52), “learned” obedience through suffering (Hebrews 5:8), died, was resurrected and exalted on high. That the scriptures speak of Jesus growing in grace (favor) and wisdom and learning is significant.


Response to claim: The "Traditional Christian Christ" is "Only God." The "Mormon Christ" is "One of Many Gods"

The author(s) of Watchman Fellowship: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Profile make(s) the following claim:

The "Traditional Christian Christ" is "Only God." The "Mormon Christ" is "One of Many Gods."

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

In LDS theology, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God. That oneness is understood differently than the creeds.

Question: Are Mormons polytheists because they don't accept the Nicene Creed?

Latter-day Saints are not polytheists in any reasonable sense of the term that does not also exclude most other Christians who deny the Modalist heresy

Some Christians say Mormons are polytheists because they believe humans can become gods. Is this an accurate characterization of LDS belief? Trying to reduce LDS thought to a simple term or "slogan" in this way distorts LDS doctrine.

Latter-day Saints worship one God

The Saints worship one God. There are no competing divinities in whom they put their trust. LDS scripture contains such language (1 Nephi 13:41, 2 Nephi 31:21, Mosiah 15:1-5, Alma 11:26-37, Mormon 7:7, DC 20:28, Moses 1:20), but it is qualified in somewhat the same way that Creedal Christians have found a way of saying "three"—as in Trinity—and yet also one.

Almost invariably when someone claims Mormons are polytheists, they are not seeking a clear explanation of Mormon thought on the nature of God, but are simply using a word with negative connotations in our religious culture as a club to intimidate or confuse others. Consider, for example, a conversation that Evangelical Christian author Richard Abanes, in his book Becoming Gods (pp. 107-8), claims to have had with a LDS bishop:

Abanes: "Don't you believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost?"
Bishop: "We certainly do, and they are one God."
Abanes: "Don't you believe the Father is a god?"
Bishop: "Yes, of course."
Abanes: "And the Son is a god?"
Bishop: "Yes"
Abanes: "And the Holy Ghost is a god."
Bishop: "Yes"
Abanes: "That's three gods."
Bishop: "No, they're one God."

The author goes on to describe that he felt he had entered some sort of Twilight Zone scenario, and goes on to declare all Mormons "polytheists." Yet, any Latter-day Saint, upon reading the conversation outlined above, would recognize the creation of a simplified version, or "strawman," of LDS belief. One might also seriously consider how an Evangelical Christian would answer these same questions. The reality is certainly more complex than the "strawman" above would lead us to believe.

There really is not a single word that adequately captures LDS thought on the nature of God. Pertinent key technical terminology includes the following:

  • Monotheism (belief that there is only one God)
  • Tritheism (understanding the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as distinct Gods)
  • Polytheism (worship of, or belief in, more than one God)
  • Henotheism (worship of one God without denying the existence of other Gods; also called Monolatry)
  • Trinitarianism (belief that God consists of three Persons in one substance)
  • Social Trinitarianism (belief that the oneness of the three Persons is not one of substance but is social in nature [e.g., unity of thought, etc.])
  • Modalism (belief that there is only one God that does not exist as three separate Persons but rather manifests itself in three different "modes" [i.e., as Father, Son, or Holy Ghost])

Usually the very same people who are pressing the case that Mormons are polytheists are some stripe of Evangelical Christians who claim to be monotheists. But Trinitarians are not Monotheists by definition (just ask a Jew or Muslim).

The facts that the LDS do not believe the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one in substance, and believe in deification/theosis (that humans may eventually become deified and become partakers in the divine nature), has been used to paint Mormons as polytheists. When we examine the technical terminology above, though, it becomes clear that a key point of demarcation is worship versus acknowledgment of existence. If members of the Church worshiped an extensive pantheon like the Greeks or Romans, then the label would be appropriate. In the context of doctrinal differences over the relationship among the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, however, or the doctrine of deification (which is a profoundly Christian doctrine and not just a Mormon one), use of the word "polytheistic" as a pejorative is both inaccurate and inappropriate.

Instead of using a single-word label, one must actually articulate the belief (using fully-developed sentences or paragraphs). The single-word label that will adequately describe the full breadth of LDS thought on the nature of God has yet to be coined.

Human deification and monotheism

The Bible contains language indicating human beings can put on the divine nature and be called "gods" (see John 10:33, 34; Ps. 82:6, Deut. 10:17, etc.). They are instructed to become one with Jesus just as he is one with his Father. The key point to realize is that any existence of other beings with godly attributes has no effect on who Latter-day Saints worship. According to Jeff Lindsay, a popular LDS online apologist:

We worship God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ - not glorious angels or Abraham or Moses or John the Baptist, no matter how great they may be in the kingdom of heaven as sons of God who have become "like Christ" (1 Jn 3:2). The only reasonable definition of polytheism requires that plural gods be worshiped - but the beings that Christ calls "gods" are not who we worship at all. In terms of worship, we are properly called monotheists.[6]

Additionally, there is abundant evidence of deification being taught by various commonly accepted Christians. If belief in theosis makes one a polytheist, many Christians would have to be so labeled - including such figures as C. S. Lewis and John Calvin. Clearly, this is not the way in which the term "polytheist" is normally used, but critics of the Church are often willing to be inconsistent if the Church can be made to look alien or "unchristian."

"Monotheism" is sufficiently broad to include the kind of oneness enjoyed by the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as well as that promised to those who become one with them when fully sanctified.

Response to claim: The "Traditional Christian Christ" is "Creator of All Things." The "Mormon Christ" "Was Created; Spirit Brother of Lucifer"

The author(s) of Watchman Fellowship: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Profile make(s) the following claim:

The "Traditional Christian Christ" is "Creator of All Things." The "Mormon Christ" "Was Created; Spirit Brother of Lucifer."

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim contains propaganda - The author, or the author's source, is providing information or ideas in a slanted way in order to instill a particular attitude or response in the reader

Much of this is false. Jesus was not created in LDS theology. Jesus is also the Creator in LDS theology: "he shall be called Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Father of heaven and earth, the Creator of all things from the beginning; and his mother shall be called Mary" (Mosiah 3:8). Latter-day Saints, like the early Christians, reject the creedal doctrine of creatio ex nihilo (creation out of nothing).

Question: Do Latter-day Saints ("Mormons") consider Jesus to be the brother of Satan?

We believe Jesus is the divine Son of God and that Satan is a fallen angel, but that God is the Father of all

Some Christians claim that since Latter-day Saints consider Jesus and Satan to be "brothers" in the sense that they have the same Father, that this lowers the stature of Christ, or elevates that of Satan. Some go so far as to imply that the LDS "really" worship or revere Satan, and are thus not true "Christians."

Jesus, Satan, and all humanity share God the Father as their spiritual sire. However, moral agency led Jesus to obey God the Father perfectly and share fully in the Father's divine nature and power. The same agency led Satan to renounce God, fight Jesus, and doom himself to eternal damnation. The remainder of God's children—all of us—have the choice to follow the route chosen by Satan, or the path to which Christ invites us and shows the way.

Divine parenthood gives all children of God potential; Christ maximized that potential, and Satan squandered it.

To choose the gospel of Jesus Christ and the grace that attends it will lead us home again. If we choose to follow Satan's example, and refuse to accept the gift of God's Only Begotten Son, our spiritual parentage cannot help us, just as it cannot help dignify or ennoble Satan.

In December 2007 the Church issued the following press release on this issue:

Like other Christians, we believe Jesus is the divine Son of God. Satan is a fallen angel.
As the Apostle Paul wrote, God is the Father of all. That means that all beings were created by God and are His spirit children. Christ, however, was the only begotten in the flesh, and we worship Him as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind. [7]

Latter-day Saints do not believe the extra-biblical doctrines which surround many Christians' ideas about God, such as expressed by the Nicene Creed

LDS doctrine does not subscribe to traditional creedal trinitarianism. That is, the LDS do not believe the extra-biblical doctrines which surround many Christians' ideas about God, such as expressed by the Nicene Creed. Specifically, the LDS do not accept the proposition that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are "of one substance (homoousios) with the Father," as the Nicene Creed declares.

Rather, LDS doctrine teaches that God the Father is physically and personally distinct from Jesus Christ, His Only Begotten Son. The Father is understood to be the literal father of His spirit children.

LDS believe that Jesus Christ's role is central to our Heavenly Father's plan. Christ is unique in several respects from all other spirit children of God:

It is technically true to say that Jesus and Satan are "brothers," in the sense that both have the same spiritual parent, God the Father

God the Father also had many other spirit children, created in His image and that of His Only Begotten. These children include all humans born on the earth. Some of God's children rebelled against Him, and contested the choice of Jesus as Savior. (See D&C 76:25–27). The leader of these children was Lucifer, or Satan. Those spirit children of God who followed Satan in his rebellion against Christ are sometimes referred to as "demons," or "devils." (See Moses 4:1–4, Abraham 3:24–28).

Thus, it is technically true to say that Jesus and Satan are "brothers," in the sense that both have the same spiritual parent, God the Father.

Cain and Abel were also brothers, and yet no Bible reader believes that they are spiritual equals or equally admirable

However, critics do not provide the context for the idea that Christ and Lucifer were brothers. Cain and Abel were also brothers, and yet no Bible reader believes that they are spiritual equals or equally admirable. In a similar way, Latter-day Saints do not believe that Jesus and Satan are equals. The scriptures clearly teach the superiority of Jesus over the devil and that Michael (or Adam) and Lucifer (Satan) and their followers fought against each other (See Revelation 12:7-8) to uphold the plan of the Father and the Son.

Finally, while it is true that all mortals share a spiritual parent with Jesus (and Satan, and every other spiritual child of God), we now have a different, more important relationship with Jesus. All of God's children, save Jesus, have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). In sinning, they abandon and betray their divine heritage and inheritance. Only through Jesus can any mortal return home to God the Father. This return becomes possible when a sinner is born again, and adopted by Christ, who becomes the spiritual father to those whom He redeems. (See Romans 8:14–39.)

Critics also ignore the Biblical references that imply that Satan is one of the "sons of God." (See Job:16, Job 2:1)

Cautionary Note to Members

An Anti-Mormon poster at the 2004 Mesa Easter Pageant betrays its poor understanding of what "Mormonism" actually teaches.

Elder M. Russell Ballard cautioned members of the Church:

We occasionally hear some members refer to Jesus as our Elder Brother, which is a true concept based on our understanding of the premortal life with our Father in Heaven. But like many points of gospel doctrine, that simple truth doesn't go far enough in terms of describing the Savior's role in our present lives and His great position as a member of the Godhead. Thus, some non-LDS Christians are uncomfortable with what they perceive as a secondary role for Christ in our theology. They feel that we view Jesus as a spiritual peer. They believe that we view Christ as an implementor for God, if you will, but that we don't view Him as God to us and to all mankind, which, of course, is counter to biblical testimony about Christ's divinity…
Now we can understand why some Latter-day Saints have tended to focus on Christ's Sonship as opposed to His Godhood. As members of earthly families, we can relate to Him as a child, as a Son, and as a Brother because we know how that feels. We can personalize that relationship because we ourselves are children, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. For some it may be more difficult to relate to Him as a God. And so in an attempt to draw closer to Christ and to cultivate warm and personal feelings toward Him, some tend to humanize Him, sometimes at the expense of acknowledging His Divinity. So let us be very clear on this point: it is true that Jesus was our Elder Brother in the premortal life, but we believe that in this life it is crucial that we become "born again" as His sons and daughters in the gospel covenant. [8]

Early Christian Evidence

An anti-Mormon protester at October 2002 LDS General Conference does little to help others understand LDS doctrine properly.

The early Ante-Nicene Church father Lactantius wrote:

Since God was possessed of the greatest foresight for planning, and of the greatest skill for carrying out in action, before He commenced this business of the world,--inasmuch as there was in Him, and always is, the fountain of full and most complete goodness,--in order that goodness might spring as a stream from Him, and might flow forth afar, He produced a Spirit like to Himself, who might be endowed with the perfections of God the Father... Then He made another being, in whom the disposition of the divine origin did not remain. Therefore he was infected with his own envy as with poison, and passed from good to evil; and at his own will, which had been given to him by God unfettered, he acquired for himself a contrary name. From which it appears that the source of all evils is envy. For he envied his predecessor, who through his steadfastness is acceptable and dear to God the Father. This being, who from good became evil by his own act, is called by the Greeks diabolus: we call him accuser, because he reports to God the faults to which he himself entices us. God, therefore, when He began the fabric of the world, set over the whole work that first and greatest Son, and used Him at the same time as a counselor and artificer, in planning, arranging, and accomplishing, since He is complete both in knowledge, and judgment, and power... [9]

Many things he here taught are not considered "orthodox" by today's standards. However, Lactantius was definitely orthodox during his lifetime. Amazingly, many things here correspond to LDS doctrine precisely in those areas that are "unorthodox." For example,

1. "He produced a Spirit like to Himself," namely Christ. Christ, in this sense, is not the "co-equal," "eternally begotten," "same substance" "persona" of the later creeds.
2. "Then he made another being, in whom the disposition of the divine origin did not remain." God made another spirit who rebelled and who fell from his exalted status. He is the diabolus.
3. Christ is the "first and greatest Son." Not the "only" son.
4. Lastly, since the diabolus and Christ are both spirit sons of God, they are spirit brothers.

Response to claim: The "Mormon Christ" is "Begotten Sexually, by God the Father"

The author(s) of Watchman Fellowship: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ProfileItemShort make(s) the following claim:

The "Traditional Christian Christ" is "Begotten Miraculously, of the Holy Spirit." The "Mormon Christ" is "Begotten Sexually, by God the Father."

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

There is no LDS doctrine on the method of Jesus' conception, save to say He is literally God's son. In LDS doctrine, "the virgin [Mary] the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh....she was carried away in the Spirit; and after she had been carried away in the Spirit for the space of a time" she bore Jesus, the Son of God (see 1 Nephi 11:18-19).

Question: Do Latter-day Saints believe that Mary was still a virgin when Jesus was born?

Latter-day Saints believe in the virgin birth

It is claimed that Latter-day Saints believe Jesus was conceived through sexual intercourse between God the Father and Mary, and that Mary therefore was not a virgin when Jesus was born. It is also claimed that Latter-day Saints reject the "Evangelical belief" that "Christ was born of the virgin Mary, who, when the Holy Ghost came upon her, miraculously conceived the promised messiah."

Often used as evidence are a handful statements from early LDS leaders, such as Brigham Young, that directly or indirectly support this idea. However, such statements do not represent the official doctrine of the Church. The key, official doctrine of the Church is that Jesus is literally the son of God (i.e., this is not a symbolic or figurative expression), and Mary was a virgin before and after Christ's conception.

At the annunciation, Mary questioned the angel about how she could bear a child: "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" (Luke 1:34; the expression "know" in the Greek text is a euphemism for sexual relations). Nephi likewise described Mary as a virgin (1 Nephi 11:13-20), as did Alma1 (Alma 7:10).

Latter-day Saints believe Jesus was the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh

Latter-day Saints do believe that Jesus Christ was literally the Son of God, not the son of Joseph or even the son of the Holy Ghost. (see 2 Ne 25:12 and DC 93:11) As Ezra Taft Benson stated,

[T]he testimonies of appointed witnesses leave no question as to the paternity of Jesus Christ. God was the Father of His fleshly tabernacle, and Mary, a mortal woman, was His mother. He is therefore the only person born who rightfully deserves the title “the Only Begotten Son of God.”[10]

What the Church has not taken a position on is how the conception took place, despite speculations by various early Church leaders

The canonized scriptures are silent on how the conception took place—even Nephi's detailed vision of then-future Messiah is veiled during the part where Mary conceives (1 Nephi 11:19).

Some early leaders of the Church felt free to express their beliefs on the literal nature of God's Fatherhood of Jesus' physical body

For example, Brigham Young said the following in a discourse given 8 July 1860:

"...[T]here is no act, no principle, no power belonging to the Deity that is not purely philosophical. The birth of the Saviour was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood—was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers." [11]

Jesus shared God's genetic inheritance without necessarily requiring a sexual act to combine that inheritance with Mary's mortal contribution

But are these types of statements official Church doctrine, required for all believing Latter-day Saints to accept? No—they were never submitted to the Church for ratification or canonization. (See General authorities' statements as scripture.)

Critics have noted that this statement, and others like it, can be read to indicate there was sexual intercourse involved in the conception of Jesus. Regardless of this speculation--which goes beyond the textual data--Brigham Young's view may be seen by some contemporary Latter-day Saints as correct in that Jesus was literally physically the Son of God, just as much as any children are "of our fathers." Modern science has discovered alternative methods of conceiving children--e.g., in vitro "test tube" babies--that don't involve sexual intercourse. Thus, though processes such as artificial insemination were unknown to Brigham and thus likely not referenced by his statements, it does not necessarily follow from a modern perspective that the conception had to come about as the result of a literal sexual union. It is certainly not outside of God's power to conceive Christ by other means, while remaining his literal father. (Put another way, Jesus shared God's genetic inheritance, if you will, without necessarily requiring a sexual act to combine that inheritance with Mary's mortal contribution).

Ezra Taft Benson taught:

He was the Only Begotten Son of our Heavenly Father in the flesh—the only child whose mortal body was begotten by our Heavenly Father. His mortal mother, Mary, was called a virgin, both before and after she gave birth. (See 1 Nephi 11:20.) [12]

Benson's emphasis is on both the literalness of Jesus' divine birth, and the fact that Mary's virginal status persisted even immediately after conceiving and bearing Jesus.

Church leaders' statements on the literal paternity of Christ were often a reaction to various ideas which are false

  • they disagreed with the tendency of conventional Christianity to deny the corporeality of God. They thus insisted that God the Father had a "natural," physical form. There was no need, in LDS theology, for a non-physical, wholly spirit God to resort to a mysterious process to conceive a Son.
  • they disagreed with efforts to "allegorize" or "spiritualize" the virgin birth; they wished it understood that Christ is the literal Son of God in a physical, "natural" sense of sharing both human and divine traits in His makeup. This can be seen to be a reaction against more "liberal" strains in Christianity that saw Jesus as the literal son of Mary and Joseph, but someone endowed with God's power at some point in His life.
  • they did not accept that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were of one "essence," but rather believed that they are distinct Personages. Thus, it is key to LDS theology that Jesus is the Son of the Father, not the Holy Ghost. To a creedal, trinitarian Christian, this might be a distinction without a difference; for an LDS Christian it is crucial.

Bruce R. McConkie said this about the birth of Christ:

God the Father is a perfected, glorified, holy Man, an immortal Personage. And Christ was born into the world as the literal Son of this Holy Being; he was born in the same personal, real, and literal sense that any mortal son is born to a mortal father. There is nothing figurative about his paternity; he was begotten, conceived and born in the normal and natural course of events, for he is the Son of God, and that designation means what it says. [13]

In the same volume, Elder McConkie explained his reason for his emphasis:

"Our Lord is the only mortal person ever born to a virgin, because he is the only person who ever had an immortal Father. Mary, his mother, "was carried away in the Spirit" (1 Ne. 11:13-21), was "overshadowed" by the Holy Ghost, and the conception which took place "by the power of the Holy Ghost" resulted in the bringing forth of the literal and personal Son of God the Father. (Alma 7:10; 2 Ne. 17:14; Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38.) Christ is not the Son of the Holy Ghost, but of the Father. (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, pp. 18-20.) Modernistic teachings denying the virgin birth are utterly and completely apostate and false. [14]

Note that McConkie emphasized the literal nature of Christ's divinity, his direct descent from the Father, and the fact that the Holy Ghost was a tool, but not the source of Jesus' divine Parenthood.

Harold B. Lee was clear that the method of Jesus' conception had not been revealed, and discouraged speculation on the matter

Harold B. Lee said,

We are very much concerned that some of our Church teachers seem to be obsessed of the idea of teaching doctrine which cannot be substantiated and making comments beyond what the Lord has actually said.

You asked about the birth of the Savior. Never have I talked about sexual intercourse between Deity and the mother of the Savior. If teachers were wise in speaking of this matter about which the Lord has said but very little, they would rest their discussion on this subject with merely the words which are recorded on this subject in Luke 1:34-35: "Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God."

Remember that the being who was brought about by [Mary's] conception was a divine personage. We need not question His method to accomplish His purposes. Perhaps we would do well to remember the words of Isaiah 55:8-9: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts."

Let the Lord rest His case with this declaration and wait until He sees fit to tell us more. [15]

Response to claim: The "Traditional Christian Christ" is "Not Married."The "Mormon Christ" is "Married with Children"

The author(s) of Watchman Fellowship: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Profile make(s) the following claim:

The "Traditional Christian Christ" is "Not Married."The "Mormon Christ" is "Married with Children."

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: This claim is false

Some early LDS believed Jesus may have been married; the Church has no doctrine on this position. The scriptures do not tell us if Jesus was married or not.

Question: Do Latter-day Saints believe Jesus Christ was married?

Mormons don't officially believe that Jesus was married

The easy answer is that no, Mormons don't officially believe that Jesus was married. In fact, there is no official Church doctrine on this issue. Individual members are free to believe as they wish concerning this matter. (Some believe that He was married; others believe He wasn't. Most members are open to believe either way.)

Do many Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus was married?

Since eternal marriage is one of the ordinances required to achieve exaltation, many Latter-day Saints do indeed believe that Jesus Christ was married. The question is: What is it about Jesus being married that would make Him less of our Lord and Savior? Yet, Latter-day Saints are accused of not being Christian because of such beliefs.

William Phipps, Professor of Religion and Philosophy at Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia, wrote an article and a book declaring his belief that the Lord Jesus Christ was married.[16] Are all Presbyterians not Christians on account of Reverend Phipps' beliefs, or do different standards exist for Evangelicals than for those "Satanic cultists," the "Mormons?" Perhaps those who make such accusations would counter that it is just Phipps who is not a Christian, on account of his belief that Jesus Christ was married. But again, why would they damn all Latter-day Saints because some Latter-day Saints believe something that is not official LDS doctrine?

The Bible is silent on the issue of Jesus' marital state

The Bible is silent on the issue of Jesus' marital state, and there has been no modern revelation stating he was or was not married. This leaves the issue an open question. Some Latter-day Saints believe he was married, but the Church has no position on the subject. This question was addressed by Charles W. Penrose in the September 1912 issue of the official Church magazine, the Improvement Era:

Question 2: Do you believe that Jesus was married?

Answer: We do not know anything about Jesus Christ being married. The Church has no authoritative declaration on the subject. [17]

Several early Latter-day Saint leaders believed Jesus was married and preached this from the pulpit

Several early LDS leaders believed Jesus was married, and said so from the pulpit on occasion. Here is one example from Apostle Orson Hyde:

Now there was actually a marriage [at Cana (John 2:1–11)]; and if Jesus was not the bridegroom on that occasion, please tell who was. If any man can show this, and prove that it was not the Savior of the world, then I will acknowledge I am in error. We say it was Jesus Christ who was married, to be brought into the relation whereby he could see his seed (Isaiah 53:10), before he was crucified. "Has he indeed passed by the nature of angels, and taken upon himself the seed of Abraham, to die without leaving a seed to bear his name on the earth?" No. But when the secret is fully out, the seed of the blessed shall be gathered in, in the last days; and he who has not the blood of Abraham flowing in his veins, who has not one particle of the Savior's in him, I am afraid is a stereotyped Gentile, who will be left out and not be gathered in the last days; for I tell you it is the chosen of God, the seed of the blessed, that shall be gathered. I do not despise to be called a son of Abraham, if he had a dozen wives; or to be called a brother, a son, a child of the Savior, if he had Mary, and Martha, and several others, as wives; and though he did cast seven devils out of one of them, it is all the same to me. [18]

Joseph Fielding Smith apparently believed that Jesus had been married

Joseph Fielding Smith apparently believed that Jesus had been married, and that He had children. In a 1963 letter to Elder Smith (then President of the Quorum of the Twelve), J. Ricks Smith asked for clarification on a question he had concerning the marital and paternal status of Jesus:

Burbank, California March 17, 1963

President Joseph Fielding Smith 47 East South Temple Street Salt Lake City 11, Utah

Dear President Smith:

In a discussion recently, the question arose, "Was Christ married?" The quote of Isaiah 53:10 was given, which reads,

Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put Him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul and offering for sin, he shall see His seed, he shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.

What is meant by "he shall see his seed"? Does this mean that Christ had children?

In the Temple ceremony we are told that only through Temple marriage can we receive the highest degree of exaltation and dwell in the presence of our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. Christ came here to set us the example and, therefore, we believe that he must have been married. Are we right?


J. Ricks Smith 1736 N. Ontario Street Burbank, California

In a written response (on the same letter), Elder Smith indicated his feelings on the matter—both in the positive. Placing an asterisk next to the words "His seed" in the letter, at the bottom of the letter Elder Smith wrote:

*Mosiah 15:10-12 Please Read Your Book of Mormon!

Placing two asterisks next to the words "he must have been married," at the bottom of the letter Elder Smith wrote:

**Yes! But do not preach it! The Lord advised us not to cast pearls before swine!

Apparently Elder Smith believed that the married state of Jesus was true, but that it should not be preached to others.

There has never been any revelation or official statement on the subject on behalf of the Church

Even though several leaders have expressed positive opinions on the subject, there has never been any revelation or official statement on the subject on behalf of the Church.

Dale Bills, a spokesman for the Church, said in a statement released Tuesday, 16 May 2006:

The belief that Christ was married has never been official church doctrine. It is neither sanctioned nor taught by the church. While it is true that a few church leaders in the mid-1800s expressed their opinions on the matter, it was not then, and is not now, church doctrine. [19]

Response to claim: The "Traditional Christian Christ" is "Atoned for Sin by Death on the Cross." The "Mormon Christ" is "Atoned by Sweating Blood in Gethsemane"

The author(s) of Watchman Fellowship: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Profile make(s) the following claim:

The "Traditional Christian Christ" is "Atoned for Sin by Death on the Cross." The "Mormon Christ" is "Atoned by Sweating Blood in Gethsemane"

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

This is false. Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus' atoning sacrifice began in the Garden of Gethsemane, and was completed by his death on the cross. Furthermore, Jesus' entire perfect life formed part of his offering and mission in our behalf. }}

Question: Are Latter-day Saints are not true Christians because they do not use the cross and believe that the atonement occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane?

Latter-day Saints include Christ's suffering and death on the cross as part of his atonement for all humanity

Latter-day Saints teach that the atonement of Christ was carried out in Gethsemane, rather than on the cross. However, these statements from a variety of LDS sources are sufficient to show that the LDS include Christ's suffering and death on the cross as part of his atonement for all humanity. His suffering on the cross was preceded by suffering at Gethsemane.

Even Jesus' life had a part in His atonement, since only God, a perfect being, could perform this service. His mission thus also included being "in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). It is therefore arbitrary and misleading to draw some type of "line" during Jesus' mortal life or death when He was not working for our salvation. This includes Gethsemane and the cross.

An anti-Mormon protester claims—falsely—that Latter-day Saints do not value the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross for all humanity.

There is a spectrum of belief in the Church, among both the leaders and the people in the pew, as in all religions. It is true that members of the Church have historically included the garden of Gethsemane as playing a role in Jesus' saving act. Some have emphasized it, perhaps in reaction to the emphasis on the cross alone in other Christian denominations.

The garden and the cross

However, even that emphasis, were it the sole message of the Church (and it is not) does not exclude the cross. Note, for example, this excerpt from the Christmas message of Gordon B. Hinckley, past President of the Church:

We honor His birth. But without His death that birth would have been but one more birth. It was the redemption which He worked out in the Garden of Gethsemane and upon the cross of Calvary which made His gift immortal, universal, and everlasting. His was a great Atonement for the sins of all mankind. He was the resurrection and the life, "the firstfruits of them that slept" (1 Corinthians 15:20). Because of Him all men will be raised from the grave. [20]

Other statements by Elder Bruce McConkie, who is sometimes used as evidence for this criticism, show he was not as one-sided as critics imply:

And now, as pertaining to this perfect atonement, wrought by the shedding of the blood of God—I testify that it took place in Gethsemane and at Golgotha, and as pertaining to Jesus Christ, I testify that he is the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He is our Lord, our God, and our King." [21]

The official training booklet sent out with missionaries includes this statement:

The Atonement included His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane as well as His suffering and death on the cross. [22]

As a fourth example, consider something that recently came from the Church press:

Jesus' atoning sacrifice took place in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross at Calvary. In Gethsemane, He began to take upon himself the sins of the world…. The Savior continued to suffer for our sins when He allowed Himself to be crucified. [23]

The importance of Gethsemane in the scriptures

Gethsemane does present some interesting problems. Other Christians reject the Latter-day Saint view of the importance of Gethsemane in part because it is only mentioned twice in the New Testament (Matthew 26:36 and Mark 14:32). While this may be so, the events that transpired there are mentioned also in the other two gospels. In other words, all four gospel writers felt it important enough to include it in their 'memoirs.' In John 18:1 it is reported that Christ and His disciples "often resorted thither." Luke 22:39 tells us that He went there, "as he was wont" (compare Luke 19:29 and Luke 21:37, the latter of which says He spent the 'nights' on Mount Olive). This was apparently a special place for them to seek solitude, a private place to seek their Father in prayer. It is evident from the commentaries written on the various gospels that the exact purpose of the experience is not well understood. We don't need to go into the events verse by verse, but there are some things that need to be noted. Despite the importance the Lord places on prayer in general, there are only a few places where He is actually depicted as doing so; this prayer in Gethsemane is one of them. Furthermore, there are few places in the New Testament where He is depicted as being 'strengthened' by an angel (Matthew 4:11). The experience in the Garden is one of them (Luke 22:43, in which an angel is sent to strengthen Him during His prayer). There are others who have also commented on the singularity of this experience, and attributed it, at least in part, to the atonement.

Gethsemane as viewed by non-Latter-day Saint Christians

Christian theologian Leon Morris is quoted frequently by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, the authors of the book Mormonism 101 (a book critical of Mormonism). It is not without significance, therefore, that Morris quotes Lesslie Newbigin as follows:

The Son of God, the Word of God made flesh, kneels in the garden of Gethsemane. He wrestles in prayer. His sweat falls like great drops of blood. He cries out in an agony: "not my will, but thine be done." That is what it costs God to deal with man's sin. To create the heavens and the earth costs Him no labor, no anguish; to take away the sin of the world costs Him His own life-blood. [24]

Elsewhere, Leon Morris himself admits that, at least for Matthew, "what took place in the Garden was very important." [25]

In a recent commentary, Donald A. Hagner of Fuller Theological Seminary writes:

The thought of what he will have to undergo in the near future fills Jesus with dread and anguish. A real struggle within the soul of Jesus takes place in Gethsemane, and he craves the support of those who have been closest to him during his ministry. The mystery of the agony of God's unique Son cannot be fully penetrated. That it has to do with bearing the penalty of sin for the world to make salvation possible seems clear. [26]

In a commentary on Matthew 26, first published in 1864, German scholar John Peter Lange refers to several interpretations offered by earlier commentators. He quotes a scholar named Ebrard: "His trembling in Gethsemane was not dread of His sufferings, but was part of His passion itself; it was not a transcendental and external assumption of a foreign guilt, but a concrete experience of the full and concentrated power of the world's sin." [27] At the same place Lange refers to the reformer Melanchthon as teaching that in the Garden Christ "suffered the wrath of God in our stead and our behalf."

Another recent commentary quotes favorably a statement to the effect that Matthew 26:37 ("And he took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy") indicates that "at this point the Passion, in its full sense, began." [28]

J.M. Ford writes, "the theological importance, however, is that for Luke the blood that redeems humankind begins to flow in the garden." [29] Popular evangelical scholar Thomas C. Oden paraphrases Catherine of Siena this way:

[Christ] was not externally compelled to be baptized with the baptism of sinners, to set his face steadfastly toward Jerusalem or go to Gethsemane, or drink the cup of suffering. Rather he received and drank that cup not because he liked to suffer—the very thought cause him to sweat profusely—but rather because it was an intrinsic part of the purpose of his mission to humanity. [30]

B.H. Roberts quotes the following from the International Commentary on Matthew:

This conflict presents our Lord in the reality of His manhood, in weakness and humiliation, but it is impossible to account for it unless we admit His Divine nature. Had He been a mere man, His knowledge of the sufferings before Him could not have been sufficient to cause such sorrow. The human fear of death will not explain it. As a real man, He was capable of such a conflict. But it took place after the serenity of the Last Supper and sacerdotal prayers, and before the sublime submission in the palace and judgment hall. The conflict, therefore, was a specific agony of itself. He felt the whole burden and mystery of the world's sin, and encountered the fiercest assaults of Satan. Otherwise, in this hour this Person, so powerful, so holy, seems to fall below the heroism of martyrs in His own cause. His sorrow did not spring from His own life, His memory of His fears, but from the vicarious nature of the conflict. The agony was a bearing of the weight and sorrow of our sins, in loneliness, in anguish of soul threatening to crush His body, yet borne triumphantly, because in submission to His Father's will. Three times our Lord appeals to that will, as purposing His anguish; that purpose of God in regard to the loveliest, best of men, can be reconciled with justice and goodness in God in but one way; that it was necessary for our redemption. Mercy forced its way through justice to the sinner. Our Lord suffered anguish of soul for sin, that it might never rest on us. To deny this is in effect not only to charge our Lord with undue weakness, but to charge God with needless cruelty. "Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…. He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed" [Isaiah 53.4-5]" [31]

David B. Haight, of the Quorum of the Twelve, quotes the following from the Reverend Frederic Farrar:

They then rose from the table, united their voices in a hymn, and left the room together to walk to the Garden of Gethsemane and all that awaited them there "The awful hour of His deepest [suffering] had arrived…. Nothing remained…but the torture of physical pain and the poignancy of mental anguish…. He…[calmed] His spirit by prayer and solitude to meet that hour in which all that is evil in the Power of [Satan] should wreak its worst upon the Innocent and Holy [One]. And He must face that hour alone…. 'My soul,' He said, 'is full of anguish, even unto death.'" It was not the anguish and fear of pain and death but 'the burden…of the world's sin which lay heavy on His heart. [32]

Evangelical scholar Klaas Runia has recently drawn our attention to a prayer which was formerly read at the beginning of the Lord's Supper service in the Reformed Churches in Holland. The prayer said in part: "We remember that all the time he lived on earth he was burdened by our sin and God's judgment upon it; that in his agony in the garden he sweated drops of blood under the weight of our sins." [33]

Alfred Edersheim referred to the Garden as "the other Eden, in which the Second Adam, the Lord from heaven, bore the penalty of the first, and in obeying gained life.'" [34] Adam Clarke is quoted as having once said that "Jesus paid more in the Garden than on the Cross." [35] S. Lewis Johnson, from whose article these previous two quotations derive, concluded, "Gethsemane sets forth for us the passion of our Lord for the souls of men. The voice of Gethsemane sounds forth, 'I am willing,' while the voice from Calvary cries, 'It is finished.' Both illustrate how much He cared." [36]

This is the one thing which seemingly all commentators, LDS or otherwise, agree: He loved us and He manifested that love by His life and by His death. As the above quotations indicate, there is a fair amount of non-LDS support for the idea that the experience of our Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane is also related to the atoning sacrifice which He made for us. There is also enough material by non-LDS scholars to indicate that the exact mechanics of the Atonement are not known.

Latter-day Saint scripture contains some clear references to the cross

Further, uniquely LDS scripture contains some clear references:

1 Nephi 11:33
Jesus was "was lifted up upon the cross and slain for the sins of the world."
3 Nephi 27:14
"My Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross"

Latter-day Saint Sacrament hymns refer to the cross

An anti-Mormon protester at October 2004 LDS General Conference claims that members of the Church are "enemies" of the cross. He apparently knows little of LDS scripture, doctrine, hymns, or belief.

It is worthwhile to note that Latter-day Saints make frequent reference to Christ's sacrifice on the cross in their Sacrament hymns:

  • Hymn 171, With Humble Heart: "Help me remember, I implore, Thou gavst thy life on Calvary."
  • Hymn 172, In Humility Our Savior: "Let me not forget, O Savior, Thou didst bleed and die for me when Thy heart was stilled and broken on the cross at Calvary."
  • Hymn 174, While of these Emblems We Partake: "For us the blood of Christ was shed; For us on Calvary's cross He bled..."
  • Hymn 177, Tis Sweet To Sing the Matchless Love: "For Jesus died on Calvary, that all through him might ransomed be."
  • Hymn 178, O Lord of Hosts: "salvation purchased on that tree for all who seek thy face."
  • Hymn 181, Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King: "Jesus of Nazareth, Savior and King, Our thoughts to thee are led, in reverence sweet. Bruised, broken, torn for us, on Calvary's hill."
  • Hymn 182, We'll Sing All Hail to Jesus' Name: "We'll sing all hail to Jesus him that bled on Calvary's hill, And died that we might live."
  • Hymn 184, Upon the Cross at Calvary: "Upon the cross at Calvary, they crucified our Lord, and sealed with blood the sacrifice that sanctified his word. Upon the cross he meekly died, for all mankind to see that death unlocks the passageway into eternity. Upon the cross our Savior died, but, dying brought new birth through resurrection's miracle to all the sons of earth."
  • Hymn 185, Reverently and Meekly Now: "With my blood that dripped like rain, sweat in agony of pain, with my body on the tree, I have ransomed even thee...Oh remember what was done, that the sinner might be won. On the cross of Calvary, I have suffered death for thee."
  • Hymn 190, In Memory of the Crucified: "Our Savior in Gethsemane shrank not to drink the bitter cup. And then, for us, on Calvary, upon the cross was lifted up."
  • Hymn 191, Behold the Great Redeemer Die: "Behold the great Redeemer die... They pierce his hands and feet and side; And with insulting scoffs and scorns, they crown his head with plaited thorns. Although in agony he hung... his high commission to fulfill, He magnified his Father's will."
  • Hymn 193, I Stand All Amazed: "I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me, confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me. I tremble to know that for me he was crucified, that for me, a sinner, he suffered he bled and died...I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt! Such mercy, such love, and devotion can I forget? No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat, until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet...Oh it is wonderful that he should care for me, enough to die for me. Oh it is wonderful... wonderful to me."
  • Hymn 196, Jesus, Once of Humble Birth: "Jesus once of humble birth, now in glory comes to earth...Once upon the cross he bowed, Now his chariot is the cloud. Once he groaned in blood and tears, now in glory he appears."
  • Hymn 197, O Savior, Thou Wearest a Crown.: "O Savior, thou who wearest a crown of piercing thorn, the pain thou meekly bearest, weighed down by grief and scorn. The soldiers mock and flail thee; for drink they give thee gall; Upon the cross they nail thee to die, O king of all."

These hymns are sung every Sunday as the Sacrament is being prepared. It is clear that Jesus' sacrifice on the cross is a central focus of Latter-day Saint worship services.

Statements regarding the atonement

These statements are not cited in order to devalue in any way the importance of the cross. It is important to realize however that the cross is not necessarily as significant a concept in the scriptures as some might think. Leon Morris agrees with Murphy-O'Connor that aside from the writings of Paul, there are not many references in the New Testament to the 'death' of Jesus; indeed: "We would imagine that there are many New Testament references to the death of Christ. But, outside of Paul, there are not." [37] And in this context it is important to remember that Paul's writings comprise less than one-fourth of the New Testament writings. Father Murphy-O'Connor also writes "during the first Christian centuries, the cross was a thing accursed. No one professed allegiance to Christ by wearing a cross." He indicates that it was only after Constantine lifted the ban against Christianity in general, and forbade crucifixion in particular, that a "new, more pleasant meaning for the cross was facilitated." But, he concludes, "even after the cross had been widely accepted as a symbol, there was a consistent refusal to accept its reality. Only two crucifixion scenes survive from the fifth century… The situation remains unchanged until the twelfth century." [38] These comments are not intended to devalue the cross or the blood shed there, only to place these events in their proper context within sacred scripture. Despite the fact that Gethsemane is mentioned only twice in the scriptures, it has nevertheless engendered an enormous amount of secondary literature. A study on the study of the passion narratives published in 1989 identified seven books dealing specifically with Gethsemane during the previous 100 years and more than 100 articles. That represents a significant amount of discussion on something seemingly of no account! [39]

Response to claim: The "Traditional Christian Christ" "Justifies the Ungodly." The "Mormon Christ" "Requires Godliness before Justification"

The author(s) of Watchman Fellowship: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Profile make(s) the following claim:

The "Traditional Christian Christ" "Justifies the Ungodly." The "Mormon Christ" "Requires Godliness before Justification."

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The authors here regard their late, rather idiosyncratic brand of conservative Protestant Christianity to be the same as "traditional" Christian views. But, in fact, there have been multiple Christian views on this point throughout history.

In LDS doctrine, one is initially justified by the receipt of the Holy Ghost at baptism (see Moses 6:60). This requires faith in Christ, repentance, and baptism. The Book of Mormon contains account of wicked, ungodly individuals receiving this blessing prior to any change in behavior (see Mosiah 27:8-31; Alma 36:.) Even in these critics' theology one must "do something" to be justified: accept Christ. }}

Question: What can the writings of early Christians tell us about how to receive salvation in Jesus Christ?

Here are a few examples of what the early Church fathers taught on salvation:

Justin Martyr

Justin (110-165 A.D.) said:

“works deliverance from death to those who repent of their wickedness and believe upon Him.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:249, chap 100, Dialogue with Trypho)

“by our works also to be found good citizens and keepers of the commandments, so that we may be saved with an everlasting salvation.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:185, chap. 65, First Apology of Justin)

"But there is no other [way] than this,-to become acquainted with this Christ, to be washed in the fountain spoken of by Isaiah for the remission of sins; and for the rest, to live sinless lives." (ANF 1:217, chap. 44, Dialogue with Justin)

“Christ has come to restore both the free sons and the servants amongst them, conferring the same honour on all of them who keep His commandments” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:267, chap 134, Dialogue with Trypho)


Irenaeus said:

“But He taught that they should obey the commandments which God enjoined from the beginning, and do away with their former covetousness by good works, and follow after Christ.” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, book 4, chap. 12, Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:476)

“God has always preserved freedom, and the power of self-government in man, while at the same time He issued His own exhortations, in order that those who do not obey Him should be righteously judged (condemned) because they have not obeyed Him; and that those who have obeyed and believed on Him should be honoured with immortality.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:480, Against Heresies 15)

“God, who stands in need of nothing, takes our good works to Himself for this purpose, that He may grant us a recompense of His own good things, as our Lord says: "Come, ye blessed of My Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you. For I was an hungered, and ye gave Me to eat: I was thirsty, and ye gave Me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took Me in: naked, and ye clothed Me; sick, and ye visited Me; in prison, and ye came to Me."[Mat. 25:34]” (Irenaeus Against Heresies, book 4, Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:486)

“And when we come to refute them, we shall show in its fitting-place, that this class of men have been instigated by Satan to a denial of that baptism which is regeneration to God, and thus to a renunciation of the whole[Christian] faith.” (Ante-Nicene Fathers 1:331, Irenaeus Against Heresies, Chap. 21)

Clement of Alexandria

Clement said:

“Being baptized, we are illuminated. Illuminated, we become sons...This work is variously called grace, illumination, perfection, and washing. Washing, by which we cleanse away our sins. Grace, by which the penalties accruing to transgressions are remitted. Illumination, by which that holy light of salvation is beheld, that is, by which we see God clearly.” (Clement of Alexandria, Ante-Nicene Fathers E 2:215)

“Straightway, on our regeneration, we attained that perfection after which we aspired. For we were illuminated, which is to know God.” (Clement of Alexandria, Ante-Nicene Fathers E 2:215)


Theophilus said:

“The things proceeding from the waters were blessed by God, that this also could be a sign of men being destined to receive repentance and remission of sins, through the water and bath of regeneration-as many as come to the truth and are born again” (Theophilus, Ante-Nicene Fathers E 2:101)

Response to claim: The "Traditional Christian Christ" is "Offers Full Salvation Unconditionally." The "Mormon Christ" "Offers Full Salvation Only on Conditions"

The author(s) of Watchman Fellowship: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Profile make(s) the following claim:

The "Traditional Christian Christ" is "Offers Full Salvation Unconditionally." The "Mormon Christ" "Offers Full Salvation Only on Conditions."

Author's sources:

FAIR's Response

Fact checking results: The author has stated erroneous information or misinterpreted their sources

The authors here regard their late, rather idiosyncratic brand of conservative Protestant Christianity to be the same as "traditional" Christian views. But, in fact, there have been multiple Christian views on this point throughout history.

The critics' theology does not offer salvation without any conditions: it requires that one accept Jesus. Latter-day Saints likewise believe that one must accept Jesus' sacrifice—those who do so sincerely will keep the conditions which the scriptures require: faith in Christ, repentance, baptism, being born again of the Spirit, and enduring to the end. }}

Question: How does the Latter-day Saint view of the Atonement compare to the evangelical Christian view?

The way that evangelical Christians view the Mormon approach to the atonement

It is claimed that the Latter-day Saints view of the Atonement is as follows:

  1. The atonement "provides everyone with a general resurrection and cancellation of the consequences of Adam's transgression;"
  2. It "took place primarily in the Garden of Gethsemane;"
  3. It "was possible before Christ had died and was raised;"
  4. The atonement "is not complete unless the individual demonstrates total obedience."

The four positions of the Christian theory, which by definition must be correct, are:

  1. The atonement "provides for the salvation of only those who have faith in Christ;"
  2. It "took place on the cross alone;"
  3. It "was possible only after Christ's death;"
  4. It "is complete for the believer by the grace of God."[40]

The Latter-day Saint meaning of "salvation" is different than the evangelical Christian meaning of the word

As is so frequently done, the critics here are attempting to compare apples and oranges. They are contrasting "resurrection" on the LDS side with "salvation" on the other side. They are contrasting "cross only" with "garden and cross." They are rejecting the possibility of the Israelites having any knowledge whatever of the works of the future Messiah, and therefore being saved by their faith in the future Messiah. And do they really want to contrast "obedience" to the Gospel with the "grace of God?" Does God require nothing at all of us after that grace has entered our life? The Lord had something to say about those who cry Lord, Lord, but do not what He says. The restoration of the Gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith actually makes the two positions most compatible, at least from the perspective of the members of the Church of Jesus Christ. It is really only the critics who have a problem reconciling the two positions. The LDS position is a broader concept, based on further light and knowledge, i.e., revelation from God.

The Latter-day Saints teach a principle of exaltation, beyond the ordinary salvation mentioned by evangelical critics, which makes both systems compatible on the first point. Salvation is a free gift of grace provided for by the atoning death and resurrection of the Savior; however, the specific type of resurrection is based on one's own life activity: we will be judged according to our works; (John 5:29) Jesus Christ is the "author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." (Hebrews 5:9) The "Great Commission" of Jesus to the Apostles at the end of Matthew says that they are "to teach them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:20) The word 'primarily' in the second point of differences opens up the door for reconciling the two positions on the issue of Gethsemane vs. Calvary. As has been seen, there is no such issue for the Latter-day Saints: the atonement begins in the Garden (or before creation, 'before the foundations of the world were laid'), and ends on the Cross (or perhaps is still continuing, with Christ continuing to intercede for us with the Father).

Latter-day Saints basically agree that until the atonement and resurrection had actually taken place, there was no opportunity for anyone

The Latter-day Saints basically agree with the third critical position point, in the sense that until, or unless, the atonement and resurrection had actually taken place, there was no opportunity for anyone, before or after that event, to receive the benefits of it. All this really means however is that there was no resurrection prior to the resurrection of the Savior Himself, and, therefore, no possibility of anyone being brought back into the presence of God the Father. Heaven was only a dream until the atonement and resurrection made its attainment a real possibility. As for the forgiveness of sins: since it is based on the atonement by Jesus Christ, that could be accomplished, because of the foreknowledge of the Father: He knew that His Son would follow through with the Atonement, thereby redeeming all from the individual effects of the Fall. The belief in the possibility of receiving a forgiveness of one's sins prior to the birth and death of the Savior is also contingent upon the belief in Prophets being 'truly' called of God. One must believe that God can really and truly call to His service an individual and proclaim to them what will be in the future. If we believe with Paul that the "gospel was preached beforetime to Abraham," or that the "Israelites were baptized to God in a cloud," we must do so completely. If the gospel was preached to them, then we have to admit that they were, at least to some degree, taught about the future Savior and His atoning sacrifice. We must believe that, not only would He not leave their souls in hell, but that He would make a way possible for them to confess their sins and repent of them. If this is true, then a certain amount of salvation was possible before the birth of the Savior. However, it still required His atonement and resurrection to make the fullness of that salvation possible.

Latter-day Saint accept that the atoning sacrifice of the Savior was an act of grace

The fourth position point deals with the principle of grace, which Latter-day Saints accept, if understood properly. The atoning sacrifice of the Savior was an act of grace; no one forced Him to go through with it; nor did we, on the basis of anything we had done, merit its occurrence. Christ atoned for the sin of Adam, and for our individual sins, because He loved us. But we have to accept it if it is going to be meaningful in our lives. All will receive that aspect of the atonement that applies to the resurrection of the body; only those who accept Jesus Christ and follow His commandments are going to receive the fullest benefits of that sacrifice.


  1. Gordon B. Hinckley, cited in "Crown of Gospel is Upon Our Heads," LDS Church News, (Saturday, 20 June 1998): 7.
  2. Gordon B. Hinckley, "Be Not Faithless," Ensign (Apr. 1989), 2.;See also “Words of the Prophet: My Testimony of Christ”, New Era, Apr. 2001. (emphasis added)
  3. This version of the statement is attributed to President Hinckley in the “Search for the Truth” DVD. A screenshot may be viewed here. (emphasis added)
  4. Gordon B. Hinckley, "We Look to Christ," Ensign (May 2002), 90. off-site
  5. Gordon B. Hinckley, "What Are People Asking about Us?," Ensign (Nov. 1998), 70. off-site
  6. Jeff Lindsay, "If you believe the Father and the Son are separate beings, doesn't that make you polytheistic?" (accessed December 2007). off-site
  7. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Answering Media Questions About Jesus and Satan," Press release (12 December 2007). off-site
  8. M. Russell Ballard, "Building Bridges of Understanding," Ensign (June 1998), 62. off-site
  9. Lactantius, Divine Institutes 2.9. in Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson, eds. The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols. (1885; reprint, Peabody: Hendrickson, 2004), 7:52–53.
  10. Ezra Taft Benson, "Five Marks of the Divinity of Jesus Christ," From a fireside address given at the University of Utah Special Events Center on 9 December 1979.
  11. Brigham Young, "Character of God and Christ, etc.," (8 July 1860) Journal of Discourses 8:115. (See also Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 1:238.; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 4:218.; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 11:268..
  12. Ezra Taft Benson, "Joy in Christ," Ensign (March 1986), 3–4. (emphasis added) off-site
  13. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 742. GL direct link
  14. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd edition, (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 822. GL direct link
  15. Harold B. Lee, Teachings of Harold B. Lee (Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1996), 14.
  16. William Phipps, "The Case for a Married Jesus," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 7 no. 4 (1972), 44-49., and William Phipps, Was Jesus Married? The Distortion of Sexuality in the Christian Tradition (New York: Harper and Row, 1970).
  17. Charles W. Penrose, "Peculiar Questions Briefly Answered," Improvement Era 15 no. 11 (September 1912).
  18. (6 October 1854) Journal of Discourses 2:82. Elder Hyde's interpretation of Isaiah 53:10 is at variance with the one given in the Book of Mormon. Abinadi taught that the prophets and those who believe the words of the prophets are Jesus' seed (Mosiah 15:10-13).
  19. "LDS do not endorse claims in 'Da Vinci'," Deseret News, 17 May 2006; (Link). See also "Book's premise not so shocking to LDS," The Salt Lake Tribune, 19 May 2006; (Link).
  20. Gordon B. Hinckley, "A Season for Gratitude," Ensign (December 1997), 2. (italics added)
  21. Bruce R. McConkie, "The Purifying Power of Gethsemane," Ensign (May 1995), 9. (italics added)
  22. Preach My Gospel: A Guide to Missionary Service (Intellectual Reserve, 2004), 32. ISBN 0402366174. LDS link (italics added) PDF link
  23. "Atonement of Jesus Christ," in True to the Faith (Intellectual Reserve, 2004), 17. [{{{1}}} LDS link] direct off-site (italics added)
  24. Morris, The Cross in the New Testament, 28, note 30, quoting Newbigin, Sin and Salvation (London: SCM, 1946), 32. As mentioned earlier, Morris is designated by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, the authors of Mormonism 101, as a Christian theologian from whom they elicit support.
  25. Leon Morris, New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing, 1985), 134.
  26. Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 14–28: Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 33b (Dallas, Texas: Word Books, 1995), 785. Notice that Professor Hagner mentions the 'dread and anguish' which Jesus felt as He looked ahead to His death on the Cross; this is precisely what several of the LDS Church leaders have said.
  27. Ebrard, quoted in John Peter Lange, A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical, Vol. 1, Matthew, translated by Philip Schaff (New York: Scribner, 1899), 481. No further details are given about this 'Ebrard.' However, it is probable that it could be Johannes Heinrich August Ebrard (1818–1888), who, about 1860, wrote a work translated in English as Apologetics; or the Scientific Vindication of Christianity. He was also the author of a Biblical Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews (1853); and another on the Epistles of St. John (1860). In 1858 was published the American version of his Biblical Commentary on the New Testament.
  28. W. D. Davies, Dale C. Allison, Jr., The International Critical Commentary. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. Volume III: Matthew 19–28 (Edinburgh, T and T Clark Publisher 1997): 494, note 27, quoting A.H. McNeile, The Gospel according to St. Matthew. The Greek Text with Introduction and Notes (Grand Rapids 1980): 389. "Magisterial" is a word way overused with reference to others' studies, but it is used with reference to Davies and Allison's commentary by John Jefferson Davis, "'Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.' The History of the Interpretation of the 'Great Commission' and Implications for Marketplace Ministries," Evangelical Review of Theology 25.1 (2001): 77.
  29. J. Massyngberde /Allen, this name is spelled 'Massyngbearde'; I checked it in the library; I have found her name spelt with and without the last 'a' in online discussions; she apparently has the 'a' in; her name is J. Massyngbearde Ford/Ford, My Enemy is my Guest. Jesus and Violence in Luke (Maryknoll, New York Orbis Books 1984): 118. Dr. Ford is a professor at the University of Notre Dame. She cites A. Feuillet, L'Agonie de Gethsemani (Paris 1977): 147–50.
  30. Oden, The Word of Life, Vol. 2, 323, citing The Prayers of Catherine of Siena (New York: Paulist Press, 1984), 17–18, 174.
  31. B.H. Roberts, The Seventy's Course in Theology, 2:127–128, quoting International Commentary, Matthew, page 359.
  32. David B. Haight, A Light Unto the World (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1997), 16, quoting Frederick W. Farrar, Life of Christ (Hartford, Connecticut: S. S. Scranton Company, 1918), 575–576, 579.
  33. Klaas Runia, "The Preaching of the Cross Today," Evangelical Review of Theology 25:1 (2001), 57.
  34. Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1953), 534, partially quoted in Lewis Johnson, Jr., "The Agony of Christ," Bibliotheca Sacra 124 (October 1967), 306.
  35. Quoted in Johnson, "The Agony of Christ," 307. Clarke was a Methodist theologian and died in 1832.
  36. Johnson, Ibid., 313.
  37. Morris, The Cross in the New Testament, 217.
  38. Murphy-O'Connor, "Even Death On a Cross," 21-22. H.E.W. Turner wrote 50 years ago that "it still remains true that the monumental genius of St. Paul had little permanent influence on the theology of the early Church." [H.E.W. Turner, The Patristic Doctrine of Redemption. A Study of the Development of Doctrine during the Fist Five Centuries (London: A.R. Mobray, 1952), 24.] After his exhaustive study of 'grace' in the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers, Thomas Torrance had to conclude that Paul had had almost no influence on them: "The most astonishing feature was the failure to grasp the significance of the death of Christ." He further concludes that "failure to apprehend the meaning of the Cross and to make it a saving article of faith is surely the clearest indication that a genuine doctrine of grace is absent" in the Apostolic Fathers. [Thomas Torrance, The Doctrine of Grace in the Apostolic Fathers (London: Oliver and Boyd, 1948), 137–138.]
  39. David D. Garland, One Hundred Years of Study on the Passion Narratives, National Association of Baptist Professors of Religion Bibliographic Series, Vol. 3 (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1989), 73–79. More recent commentaries on the relevant verses add significantly to that total.
  40. Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101. Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2000), Chapter 10. ( Index of claims )