Mormon Prophet Admits He Believes in Another Christ - Not the Traditional
By James K. Walker (Chart and notes by Timothy Oliver)
Paris, France - In a surprising admission during last month's three
nation European speaking trip, Mormon president Gordon B. Hinckley stated
that the Christ he believes in is not the same Christ as the one followed
by those outside the LDS Church.
Hinckley quoted unnamed critics of the LDS Church who claim that Mormons
do not believe in the traditional Christ and then he agreed with them.
The LDS Church News reported: "In bearing testimony of Jesus
Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say 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
[sic] of Times'" (June 20, 1998, <http://www.desnews.com/cgi-bin/libstory_church?dn98&9806210091>).
Despite this major difference on a pivotal doctrine of the Christian
faith, Hinckley maintains that he is a Christian. "Am I Christian?" Hinckley
asked rhetorically, "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" (Ibid.).
Christians should ask, "Which Christ?" The Bible warns of false teachers
who promote "another Jesus whom we have not preached" (2 Corinthians 11:4).
The Apostle Paul warned the Corinthians not to believe everyone who preached
"Jesus." The true Jesus was based on the tradition of apostolic preaching
- the Jesus "we preached." Paul compared the preaching another Christ outside
of that tradition with the deception of the serpent in the Garden of Eden
(2 Corinthians 11:4, Genesis 3 1:4-5). In the same context, Paul warned
the Church to beware of ".false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming
themselves into the apostles of Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:13).
Who Is Jesus?
Christian creeds contain the basic beliefs of traditional Christians
- including what they believe about Christ. Christians claim that their
creeds are based solely on the Bible. Furthermore, the authority of the
creeds rests on their underlying scripture. Because the creeds are derived
from and dependent on biblical data, there is a remarkable uniformity between
the creeds of various denominations and churches. This is especially true
on the essential doctrines such as the Person of Christ.
Unlike the traditional Christian view of Jesus based solely on the Bible,
Hinckley's Christ is based to a large extent on extra-biblical revelation.
It is not surprising then to find significant differences.
Hinckley notes this important distinction: "For the Christ of whom I
speak has been revealed in this, the Dispensation of the Fulness [sic]
of Times. He, together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith
in the year 1820, and when Joseph left the grove that day, he knew more
of the nature of God than all the learned ministers of the gospel of the
ages" (LDS Church News).
Additional Information, or Actually Another Jesus?
It is interesting that Hinckley
states that the beliefs of traditional Christians were so different than
that of Latter-day Saints, that their traditional Jesus "is not the Christ
of whom I speak." It is not just some different information about the same
Jesus but a completely different Jesus.
This is a quite rare confession in recent Mormonism. Early Mormon leaders
were quite candid about the differences between LDS doctrine and Christian
doctrine. One example is the 1820 First Vision account Hinckley cited which
is also recorded in LDS Scripture. In relating this vision, Mormon Church
founder, Joseph Smith, makes a similar point to Hinckley's. Smith said
that Jesus told him that all of the creeds of existing Christianity were
"an abomination in his sight." These Christian creeds would, of course,
include those that describe the essential attributes and identity of the
Jesus worshipped by traditional Christians.
As Hinckley observed, Joseph Smith's first vision introduced a completely
different understanding of God's nature and an entirely distinct concept
of Jesus - in fact a different Jesus - than the one worshipped by "all
the learned ministers of the gospel of the ages" (Ibid.).
One may still find today, for sale in LDS bookstores, similar examples
of candor in books written by General Authorities. In most cases, however,
they are old publications written by former Mormon leaders.
Although they are rare, there are similar statements by LDS leaders
in the last twenty-five years. For example, Elder Bernard P. Brockbank,
of the First Quorum of the Seventy, speaking from the Tabernacle in Salt
Lake City during General Conference quotes a June 18, 1976 London Times
article that states in part, "In fact, there is good reason for regarding
them as a new religion rather than as another variety of Christianity..
the Christ followed by the Mormons is not the Christ followed by traditional
Elder Brockbank then adds a very frank admission: "It is true that many
of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped
by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. For
example from the Church of England's Articles of Religion, article one,
I quote: 'There is but one living God, everlasting, without body, parts,
or passions..' We cannot obtain salvation and eternal life by worshipping
fake Christs.. The belief that God has no body parts, and passions is not
a doctrine of Jesus Christ or a doctrine of the holy scriptures but is
a doctrine of men, and to worship such a God is in vain" ("The Living Christ,"
May, 1977, pp. 26-7).
But Brockbank's frankness may be the exception that proves the rule.
LDS Apostle Bruce R. McConkie was one of the last LDS leaders to openly
state that the Christ of traditional Christianity was different than the
LDS Christ, and false. Also citing Joseph Smith's First Vision, McConkie
said Christians worship "false Christs." He specifically named Methodists,
Presbyterians and Baptists and included all Christianity by implication.
"But in a larger and more realistic sense, false Christs are false systems
of religion that use his name and profess to present his teachings to the
world. The cries, 'Lo, here,' and 'Lo, there,' which went forth in Joseph
Smith's day, when 'some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for
the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist' (JS-H 5), meant that each group
of gospel expounders was saying, 'Lo, here is Christ; we have his system
of salvation; ours is the true church; we know the way; come, Join with
us'" (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, p.324).
Since McConkie's death in 1985 such statements by General Authorities
are very rare. They have not repealed these teachings - they continue to
publish the older books and Scriptures where the doctrines are clearly
taught. Mormon leaders, however, are not prone to publicly repeat or emphasize
their belief that all traditional Christian doctrines are an abomination,
and that Christians worship a different, and wrong, Jesus.
Today one is more likely to hear Mormons say that they believe in Jesus
"too" - but have some additional information. They may point out a few
historical differences (such as Christ's visit to America recorded in the
Book of Mormon) but ignore big differences - the fundamental issue of Christ's
very nature and essential attributes.
Reflecting this newer attitude, the notion that the Mormon Jesus is
different than the Christ of traditional Christianity is dismissed by the
of Mormonism as simply one of many anti-Mormon misconceptions. "A broad
spectrum of anti-Mormon authors has produced the invective literature of
this period. Evangelicals and some apostate Mormons assert that Latter-day
Saints are not Christians. The main basis for this judgment is that the
Mormon belief in the Christian Godhead is different from the traditional
Christian doctrine of the Trinity. They contend that Latter-day Saints
worship a 'different Jesus' and that their scriptures are contrary to the
Bible" ("Anti-Mormon Publications," vol. 1).
Brigham Young University professor Dr. Stephen E. Robinson attempts
to further blur the distinction between the LDS Jesus and the traditional
Christian Jesus. According to Robinson, those who claim Mormons have a
"different Jesus" are not honestly dealing with real issues but only playing
tricks with language.
Robinson argues that, "Evangelicals often accuse Latter-day Saints of
worshiping a 'different Jesus' because we believe some things about Jesus
that cannot be proven from the Bible.. This charge that people worship
'a different Jesus' if they disagree over any detail of his character or
history, is simply a rhetorical device, a trick of language" (Craig L.
Blomberg and Stephen E. Robinson, How Wide the Divide?, pp. 136-37).
With apparent reluctance, Robinson confesses in a footnote, "Unfortunately,
some Latter-day Saint authors have also resorted to this rhetorical device
in describing 'the false Jesus of the apostate sectarians' and the like"
(Ibid., p. 220).
Unfortunately for Robinson, he is clearly out of harmony with the Prophet
and President of his church. President Hinckley does not appear to regard
this as a mere "rhetorical device" or some attempt to play "a trick of
Far from it! Hinckley even cited Joseph Smith's First Vision found in
Mormon scripture, as proof of his contention that his Jesus is a different
Christ than the Jesus of historical Christianity.
This may be one of the few times that evangelical Christians can agree
with the leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Indeed,
the Mormon Jesus is a "different Christ." It should be hoped that Robinson
and all others would see this distinction also.