The Mormon View of Jesus

According to official Mormon doctrine, Jesus was “begotten” as the first spirit-child of the Father (Elohim) and one of his unidentified spouses (“Heavenly Mother”) (Psalm 2:7). Jesus was said to be the first and highest of all spirit children. After all, Jesus is called the “firstborn” (Colossians 1:15). Because the Heavenly Father and Mother had numerous spirit children, Mormons frequently refer to Jesus as “our elder brother.” (Lucifer, too, is Jesus’ spirit brother.) Jesus advanced through obedience and commitment to the truth in the spirit world until he became a god. This took eons of time. Before his incarnation, Jesus was the Jehovah of the Old Testament. (The Father, a different God, was called Elohim.)

Despite their belief in numerous gods (including Jesus), Mormons maintain that they are not polytheists since they worship and pray to just one God—the Father (Elohim). They refrain from worshiping and praying to Jesus.

This ultimately means that Jesus is not unique. The only true distinction between Jesus and us is that Jesus was the firstborn of Elohim’s children, whereas we were “born” later during the “preexistence.” 

When it came time for Jesus’ earthly birth, a flesh-and-bone Heavenly Father and Mary had sexual relations, and Jesus was thereby “begotten.” There is nothing symbolic about the word “begotten.” Mormon theologian Bruce McConkie is careful to say that “Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers.”[1]

Mormons refer to Christ’s work as an “atonement,” although they do not mean the same thing that Christians do by this term. In Mormon terminology, Jesus’ atonement exclusively addresses Adam’s transgression. Christ “atoned for Adam’s sin, leaving us responsible only for our own sins.”[2] The Mormon second Article of Faith states, “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.”[3] As a result, salvation begins with Jesus’ atonement, but each person must finish the process by performing good works. The official Gospel Principles manual states that Jesus “became our savior and he did his part to help us return to our heavenly home. It is now up to us to do our part and become worthy of exaltation.”[4]

Mormons teach that Jesus’ atonement will culminate in the resurrection of all humans. Jesus overcame bodily death for us. He “opened the door of immortality for all to walk through. He paid the price for us to rise from the grave. Through His own willful sacrifice—the infinite and eternal atonement—we all shall live again.”[5]

A Biblical Assessment

Contrary to the Mormon view, the Bible affirms that Jesus was (is) God Almighty. Indeed, Jesus is the eternal Son of God, not a product of procreation. The term “Son of…” was used by ancient Semitics and Orientals to denote sameness of nature as well as equality of being.[6] As a result, when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, His Jewish contemporaries recognized that He was making an unqualified claim to be God (John 5:18).[7] This is why, when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, the Jews insisted: “We have a law, and according to that law he [Christ] must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God” (John 19:7; insert added). Recognizing that Jesus was identifying as God, the Jews sought to execute Him for blasphemy.

The fact that Christ is described as the “Son of God” prior to His human birth in Bethlehem provides evidence for His eternal Sonship. According to Hebrews 1:2, God created the universe through his “Son”—implying that Christ was God’s Son prior to Creation. Furthermore, Christ as the Son is expressly stated to have existed “before all things” (Colossians 1:17; see verses 13-14). Still further, Jesus, speaking as the Son of God (John 8:54-56), claimed eternal preexistence before Abraham (verse 58).

Mormons rebut that Psalm 2:7 indicates that the Father procreated Jesus.[8] However, Acts 13:33-34 reveals that Jesus’ resurrection from the dead by the Father fulfills the words in Psalm 2:7, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father.” A basic interpretive principle is that Scripture interprets Scripture. The best way to find out what Psalm 2:7 means is to let Scripture tell us what it means. According to Acts 13:33-34, the verse deals not with the Father’s alleged procreation of Jesus but Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

How are we to respond to the Mormon claim that since Jesus is called the “firstborn,” he is literally the first son born to Elohim, “the mightiest of all the spirit children of the Father”?[9] In addition to its literal sense, Greek scholars agree that the word “firstborn” (Greek: prototokos) can mean “first in rank, preeminent one, heir.”[10] The word conveys the idea of positional superiority and supremacy.

Christ is the “firstborn,” not in the sense that He is the first spirit son born of Elohim, as Mormons believe, but in the sense that He is positionally superior to creation and supreme over all things. The background is that among the ancient Hebrews, the term “firstborn” referred to the son in the family who held the highest position, regardless of whether that son was physically the first son born to the parents. David was called “firstborn” even though he was the last son born to his father Jesse. The term makes sense because David held a place of supremacy in Israel. It certainly makes sense to say that Jesus is the “firstborn of all creation” since He is supreme over creation. After all, He created the creation (Colossians 1:16-17). He is superior to that which He created.

Since Jesus is absolute deity as the eternal Son of God, it is evident that Jesus is not Lucifer’s spirit brother. According to Colossians 1:16, Jesus Christ created the entire angelic realm, including the angel Lucifer: “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” In biblical times, rabbinical Jews used the terms thrones, powers, rulers, and authorities to represent different classes of angels (see Romans 8:38; Ephesians 1:21; 3:10; 6:12; Colossians 2:10,15; Titus 3:1).

We know historically that a heresy that featured angel worship was thriving in Colossae (to whom Paul wrote Colossians). Christ was denigrated with the worship of angels. To correct this grave error, Paul emphasizes in this passage that Christ is the Creator of all things, including all angels, and hence He is preeminent and is alone deserving of worship.

Now, we know from Scripture that Lucifer is a created angel—a “cherub” (Ezekiel 28:13-19; Isaiah 14:12-15). Since Lucifer was an angel and Christ created all the angels, it is apparent that Christ is not Lucifer’s “spirit brother.” Christ is not a creature but rather the Creator. Lucifer and Christ belong to two fundamentally different classes: creature and Creator.

Christ’s distinctiveness from the angels (and all other beings) is emphasized throughout Scripture. For example, the first three chapters of the book of Hebrews are entirely focused on demonstrating Jesus Christ’s superiority above the prophets (1:1-4), the angels (1:5–2:18), and Moses (3:1-6). How is this superiority demonstrated? Among other things, we see in the first chapter of Hebrews that Christ is God’s greatest revelation (verse 1), the Creator and Sustainer of the universe (verses 2-3), and He possesses the very nature of God (verse 3). These things could not be said about simple creatures like prophets, angels, and Moses. Such facts stand against the Mormon view of Jesus being Lucifer’s spirit brother.

Scripture also reveals that Jesus is both Jehovah and Elohim. While Mormons claim that Jehovah and Elohim are two distinct Gods, with Elohim being the greater (the Father) and Jehovah the lesser (Jesus), Scripture clearly states that these titles pertain to the same God. In Genesis 27:20, for example, Isaac says to his son, “The LORD [Jehovah] your God [Elohim] gave me success” (inserts added). Likewise, the Almighty Himself declares in Exodus 3:6-7: “‘I am the God [Elohim] of your father, the God [Elohim] of Abraham, the God [Elohim] of Isaac and the God [Elohim] of Jacob.’ At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God [Elohim]. The LORD [Jehovah] said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering’” (inserts added). Such verses prove beyond any doubt that Elohim and Jehovah are one and the same God.

Similarly, we read in Jeremiah 32:18: “You show love to thousands but bring the punishment for the fathers’ sins into the laps of their children after them. O great and powerful God [Elohim], whose name is the LORD [Jehovah] Almighty” (inserts added). In accordance with this, Deuteronomy 6:4 states: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.” The Shema was a Jewish confession of faith from ancient times. Notice how Jehovah and Elohim are equated in this verse: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD [Jehovah] our God [Elohim], the LORD [Jehovah] is one” (inserts added). There is no way to reconcile such verses with the Mormon claim that Elohim is the Father and Jehovah is Jesus.

Furthermore, there are explicit passages in the Bible where Jesus is referred to as Elohim, which refutes the Mormon position that only the Father is Elohim and Jesus is Jehovah. For example, Isaiah 40:3 prophesies: “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD [Jehovah]; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God [Elohim]’” (inserts added). According to John 1:23, Isaiah’s prophecy was written about John the Baptist preparing the way for Christ’s ministry, and it marks one of the clearest assertions of Christ’s deity in the Old Testament. Within a single passage, Christ is called Jehovah and Elohim.

The Mormons also get it wrong on the Incarnation. Jesus was not conceived by the heavenly Father and Mary; rather, the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary. In Matthew 1:18-20, we are told: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit… An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying,… that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” This passage irrefutably proves that the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus, and nowhere do we find any claim or evidence to the effect that the Father had physical relations with Mary—who, in Mormon theology, was the Father’s “daughter.”

Also against the Mormon view is the Scriptural teaching that Jesus, as God, was worshiped on numerous occasions, and He always regarded such worship as appropriate. Jesus received worship from Thomas (John 20:28), the angels (Hebrews 1:6), several wise men (Matthew 2:11), a leper (Matthew 8:2), a ruler (Matthew 9:18), a blind man (John 9:38), an unnamed woman (Matthew 15:25), Mary Magdalene (Matthew 28:9), and the disciples. All of these texts employ the Greek word proskuneo, the same word used for worshiping the Father throughout the New Testament.

Yet another problem for the Mormon view is that Scripture reveals that Jesus atoned for the sins of all humankind, not merely Adam’s transgression. Isaiah 53:6 says, “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” In John 1:29, we read, “The next day John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’” John 2:1 affirms that Jesus “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 

Still further, Jesus provided a total redemption—not just resurrection from the dead—for human beings, which they had virtually no hope of procuring for themselves (Matthew 16:25; 26:26-28; John 12:27). It is by believing in Him alone—with no works involved—that one appropriates this total redemption (John 3:16-17).

Praise be unto Jesus!

This article is only a brief introduction to the Mormon view of Jesus. If you’re seeking a comprehensive treatment on this subject, I invite you to dive into my rather large book, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Mormons (published by Harvest House). It will not only explain the Mormon view with clarity, but it will also give you the scriptural answers you need to intelligently dialog with a Mormon.

  1. Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1977), pp. 546-47.
  2. LeGrand Richards, A Marvelous Work and a Wonder (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1958), p. 98.
  3. James Talmage, Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982), #2.
  4. Gospel Principles (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981), p. 19.
  5. Church News, 18 March 1989, p. 16.
  6. Charles C. Ryrie, Basic Theology (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1986), p. 248.
  7. Benjamin Warfield, The Lord of Glory (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1974), p. 77.
  8. Stephen Robinson and Craig Blomberg, How Wide the Divide? (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995), p. 139.
  9. Doctrine and Covenants, 93:21-23.
  10. See Robert Reymond, Jesus, Divine Messiah: The New Testament Witness (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1990), p. 247.

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