The “Different Jesus” of Mormonism

My suggestion a few days ago that the traditional Christian doctrine that God is incorporeal is a form of atheism has incited outrage among many and a lot of commentary. I am accused of using a rhetorical device to repeat the sins of other Christians when they insist that Mormons are not really Christian because we teach a "different Jesus." They say I am using an esoteric and obscure doctrine to draw a false distinction. They are wrong.

Once again, this is not merely my opinion alone. It was the opinion of Joseph Smith, Orson Pratt and James E. Talmage. And it is the opinion of the Savior himself. He said this in the First Vision when he told the boy Joseph that the creeds of apostate Christendom are an "abomination." What do those creeds teach? They teach that God is incorporeal, that he does not actually exist in the real, physical universe.

And while it is true that the Mormon teaching is esoteric. It should not be. It is the most fundamental and basic teaching there is about the nature of God. Without this teaching it is impossible to understand his relationship with man or that Jesus is really the Son of God. It is a bedrock teaching. Without it men cannot understand anything else about God that is correct.

Of all the lies about God told by the devil to pervert true Christianity during the Great Apostasy, this one is the most damning. It was this single lie that led away an entire religion from the truth about Jesus Christ and his Father. Every other doctrinal abomination begins with this one.

Yes, there are honest Christians in other denominations that believe in God and have faith in Jesus Christ. But they do so in spite of this false teaching, not because of it. Such honest Christians know instinctively that God is an actual, corporeal being with the exact same body that he showed to Doubting Thomas in the Upper Room. They do not believe in the incorporeal God of the creeds. This is the root reason that so many of them fall away from their own churches and end up joining ours. They have faith in a real, tangible God long before they join us.

Calling this point of doctrine "obscure" or "esoteric" completely misses the point. The importance of this doctrine is infinitely critical. It must not be "obscure" or "esoteric." It is because it has become so obscure and esoteric that the whole world has gone astray. It defines the essential difference between theism and atheism.

Joseph Smith knew this. Orson Pratt knew this. James E. Talmage knew this. Joseph Fielding Smith and Bruce R. McConkie knew this. And the Savior himself taught this when he called the creeds of apostate Christianity an "abomination." Those who fight against it or have a different opinion or suppose that it is merely a rhetorical device such as the Mormon bashers use to say we believe in a different Jesus are simply wrong. They do not understand the significance of this esoteric and obscure teaching. It is infinitely significant.

Do we Mormons believe in a different Jesus? Yes we do. Our Jesus actually, bodily exists in the real, physical universe. Theirs does not. A living prophet of God as real as Moses was to the ancient Israelites has confirmed this "different Jesus." Gordon B. Hinckley said,

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.

I believe that he is referring to this most basic difference between the God of traditional Christianity, and the real God of Mormonism that actually exists.

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19 Responses to The “Different Jesus” of Mormonism

  1. Rowan Sheffield says:

    How did Joseph Smith’s revelation “confirm” anything? I can make a statement of any kind about anything but that’s not confirmation of anything. It’s just me making a statement. Sorry, just an “ignorant anti-Mormon” here. Nothing hateful or ignorant about you people at all, is there?

  2. fraggle says:

    [quote]The problem with this statement is that it assigns doability to the task.[/quote] That’s the point.

    [quote]You can’t say “a chair is liftable” without assuming the presence of a capable actor.[/quote] If you replace ‘actor’ with ‘force’, then yes, I absolutely agree. Just because it requires an assumption, doesn’t make the statement less valid. Again, this is a linguistic hangup, not a logical one.

    [quote]This is essentially a non-sequitur, for the object cannot express an attribute of the actor.[/quote] Except that they can and do. An actor can do more on a stage with props and scenery and all the paraphenalia than an empty one. In order to perform acts on objects those objects need to exist. So another illogical 5-yr-old question would be “can God lift a chair that’s not there?”. It’s linguistically expressible, but without meaning.

    My point is, it’s easy to criticise a concept based on the word used to represent it. That is necessarily a simplification if not a random invention! But anyway, it seems I saw this reply just a tad late….

  3. Ujlapana says:

    Yes, a silly question indeed. For immovable objects do not exist, nor do irresistable forces. Those concepts are as illogical as omnipotence. (If you need more help with this–motion is relative to a frame of reference, so nothing can ever be said to be absolutely motionless, except to itself. Force is the interaction between two objects, so if one of them were to remain motionless, the other would have to respond. Consider how much the Earth moves when you push down on it with your feet vs. how far into the sky you jump.)

    “If it can be done, one who is omnipotent can do it?”

    The problem with this statement is that it assigns doability to the task. You can’t say “a chair is liftable” without assuming the presence of a capable actor. In other words, to an ant, a chair is not liftable; to a human, a chair is liftable. This is essentially a non-sequitur, for the object cannot express an attribute of the actor. Alternatively, I am omnipotent, because if an action exists which can be done by me, I can do it.

  4. fraggle says:

    “Can God make a rock to heavy for himself to move?”

    The problem with the above is more linguistic than logical. It reminds me of the philsophical dilemma about what happens when an immovable object is acted on by an irrestible force. To me this is a silly question. When that happens, one of them will cease to be (i.e. the object will move or the force will be resisted). Of course, if you really want to get down to it, you can probe what an object is and what a force is (and more importantly is not). You can try and linguistically enforce that both are absolute but then you’re no longer in reality and the result is irrelevant.

    If God can move any mass rock, than he can move any rock he makes. To state that as somehow being a limitation because he can’t overburden himself, is the sort of linguistic nonsense you *expect* from a 5-year-old.

    Incidentally, the best definition of omnipotence I’ve heard is “If it can be done, one who is omnipotent can do it”.

  5. Ujlapana says:

    But then the question obviously becomes, how do you know that the things not seen are true? As 9/11 painfully demonstrated, other people can have faith that is as strong as any Mormon’s. For you to say that you have “true faith” and they have “false faith” is a meaningless statement to believers of other literalist faiths, for they would as easily and as confidently say the same thing to you.

    Logic only leads people to the wrong answer if the inputs are wrong. Logical errors can lead to wrong answers, of course, but if you can be perfect in your logic, you need only examine the inputs. If something is illogical, it cannot exist, for logic is but the law of existence (A=A, A is not B). Thus, or example, you cannot say God is omnipotent, for omnipotence is so blaringly illogical that a 5-year-old can see it: “Can God make a rock to heavy for himself to move?” We can imagine omnipotence, but that is only because we imagine a simple version of it, e.g. “‘God can do whatever he needs to to help me out.”

  6. Don’t worry. I’m not as hard on myself as it sometimes seems. I actually feign some of my humility to cover for possible errors that I might make. Unlike some, I don’t suppose that I have a perfect command of logic. They have the same problem but cannot see it in themselves. The fact is, a great many logical people arrive at the false answer. In debates on religious topics I’ve notice that it happens so often that it is actually the rule rather than the exception. Faith itself is not logical or rational. But it is true nevertheless. If it is not true, it is not faith. According to Alma, faith is “the substance of things hoped for that are not seen (provable by empirical evidence) that are true.”

  7. Ujlapana says:

    Jonah,

    “I did not say that you can’t believe in things that don’t have a body.”

    True, you said, “You can’t believe in God but not that he has a body. That is not belief. …You can’t sort of believe he exists but not really.” I found these sentences quite confusing, and interpreted them to mean, “You can believe in God, but not if you believe he doesn’t have a body.” Guess you meant something else.

    Sounds like we’ve all reached an agreement that you can’t call a faithful Christian/Jew/Muslim an atheist. That’s what I really wanted to accomplish through all of this.

    I never said Jonah would fly a plane into a building, I said that “that kind of faith,” namely, faith which a believer regards as superior to empirical knowledge, is required for those kinds of behaviors. A sane person doesn’t blow himself up unless he KNOWS he’s going to a better place (70 virgins and all–we’re not so different, Muslims and Mormons). When people assert they KNOW things about diety they are on very shaky ground or they are being sloppy with the word “know.”

    John, don’t be too hard on yourself about logical thinking. It is optional, and improves with practice and study. You have to let that part of your brain get some exercise though–no trusting that “when the brethren have spoken, the thinking has been done.”

  8. Jonah the giant whale says:

    Wow you really like logic! So here is some logic for you, its called Straw man. Since I like definitions so much:

    Straw man
    n.

    A weak or sham argument set up to be easily refuted [syn: straw man]

    I did not say that you can’t believe in things that don’t have a body. You said that. I said that IF you believe in god, you must believe that he has a body since we KNOW that he does (according to the prophets who I am sure have a much more perfect knowledge than me).

    Having a body is neither here nor there.

    I would prefer you refute what I am saying. Not what you say I am saying.

    So for those not paying attention here is what I am saying.

    God has a body. The prophet has told us so. I believe in God. I can’t however; believe in God and say he does not have a body. That is not belief in God. So therefore I do NOT believe in God if I don’t believe he has a body.

    It may not make you an atheist but it is the road to it. The devil doesn’t mislead you all at once, he does it one idea at a time.

  9. I think that you have committed some non-sequiturs yourself in this most recent comment. I can’t be sure because I’m just not logical enough to fully understand what you have written. I’m not very good at chess either. But it seems to me that if your logic leads you to believe that Jonah the Giant Whale is a terrorist who flies airplanes into buildings and blows up bus stops you may have gone beyond good logic yourself.

    As for a flawed understanding of God, perhaps you are right that we all have an imperfect understanding of God, but does it necessary follow that all of us are equally imperfect in our understanding? I mean, is it not possible that some may have a more correct understanding of God than others? I guess only a person with a perfectly logical mind such as yours could figure this out, so I merely ask the question.

    Perhaps you are right that Jonah the Giant Whale is himself an atheist, but somehow I feel that may be an abuse of logic too. In the first place, I have never said that Christians who believe in an immateral Gods are atheists, or at least thinking about it now, I wouldn’t so claim. But the idea of an immaterial God is definitely an atheistic idea, or it tends towards atheism more than does a belief in a God with an exalted body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s.

    Can we denounce false ideas without denouncing the people who mistakenly believe them? I think so. There are undoubtedly many fine Christians who are not atheists in the sense that they believe and proclaim that there is no God of any kind. But if their belief in God is a false belief, if there really is a God and he really does have a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s, their belief in God is certainly further from true theism than is that of those who believe the truth about the corporeal nature of God.

    Perhaps atheism and theism are not just a binary proposition. Perhaps it is a spectrum with atheism on one end and theism on the other. Those who believe in an incorporeal or immaterial God are somewhere in the middle while those who believe in no God of any kind are on the extreme end towards atheism and those who believe in a corporeal God with an exalted body of flesh and bones are at the extreme end towards theism.

    But I cannot say with any certainty. I’m not logical enough. I just know that Joseph Smith was an honest man telling the truth about the First Vision and the gold plates. He published a revelation confirming that God is actually a man with a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s. That much is a fact. And if you accept the first statement, it is pretty hard to reject the second one. At least it is pretty hard unless you are utterly confused in your thinking. I further know that both James E. Talmage and Orson Pratt who were true prophets of God who believed the same things that Joseph Smith did, thought that a belief in an immaterial God was an atheistic belief. That is also a fact that is easily established from their published writings. And Jonah the Giant Whale and I are merely agreeing with the true prophets of God as we understand them. If we are being illogical, then Joseph Smith, James E. Talmage and Orson Pratt were also illogical. And I would rather agree with illogical men who are true prophets of God, than agree with perfectly logical people who are deluded by the devil. The truth is sometimes difficult to determine, but it must be out there somewhere. And all we can do is our best to figure out what it is. For myself, I’ll bet on the ultimate logic of God’s true prophets whether I am logical enough to understand how their statements are true or not. Logic sometimes leads its practitioners far afield from the truth. Perhaps non-squiturs are even more common than those who most denounce them realize.

  10. Ujlapana says:

    Jonah says: “You can’t believe in God but not that he has a body. Because that is not belief.”

    So, Jonah, you don’t believe in the Holy Ghost (or the Holy Spirit, if you’re not used to Mormon terminology)? It doesn’t have a body, right? I’m sorry, but you’re post is a non-sequitur. The definition you so helpfully provide clearly allows for a broad definition of divinity (“God or gods”) so you couldn’t even call ancient Greeks atheists, let alone modern Christians.

    The hubris here is breathtaking. First, you claim, apparently, that you have a perfect, unquestionably correct, absolutely thorough understanding of God. Excuse me? Do you seriously believe this? That’s the kind of faith that gets airplanes flown into buildings and bus stops blown up–really, it is. No, my mere mortal friend, you do not perfectly comprehend God, therefor eyour understanding of God is, by definition, flawed. So if another person with a flawed understanding of God is an atheist, then you, too, are an atheist. That’s how the logic really flows here…

  11. Jonah the giant whale says:

    Dictionary.com defines atheist as…

    a•the•ist ( P ) Pronunciation Key (th-st)
    n.
    One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods.

    Now if there is only one true god (as we believe) then belief in any other god is not belief in God. You are arguing from a point of reference where you believe that all faiths that believe in God are correct. But when it comes down to it…

    “And whoso believeth in me, and is baptized, the same shall be saved; and they are they who shall inherit the kingdom of God”

    That’s it, you can’t sort of believe in him. You can’t believe in God but not that he has a body. Because that is not belief. It is a pretty simple concept. Either you believe in God or you don’t. You can’t sort of believe he exists but not really.

  12. Ujlapana says:

    You don’t mock? Deride then?

    Calling any Christian an atheist is just rude. It also shows a poor command of the English language, given that the definitian of “atheist” is, obviously, not tied to a specific version of deity–simply to deity in general. I’m sorry, but even ancient Greeks weren’t atheists, no matter how errant their notion of god was. If someone believes in a supreme being, no matter how illogically defined, they cannot be an atheist. (Logic and faith are, in general, barely compatible as it is.) Hence your application of the word in this way is identical to a Southern Baptist calling a Mormon non-Christian.

    If you were “identifying false doctrine” you would discuss the doctrine. Instead, you are labeling someone (Christians) in a way they would not label themselves (atheist). It’s like calling someone with faulty logic “stupid,” instead of pointing out the missteps in their reasoning.

  13. I don’t mock. And I certainly don’t mock other Christians. I just point out doctrinal differences and correctly identify false doctrine. That is not mocking or being disrespectful.

  14. Ujlapana says:

    John said: “It really does seem perfectly obvious to me that if God has a body, then to believe in that god you have to believe in a god who has a body.”

    So, if God has a body, he would have other physical traits, such as eye color. JS, presumably, knows God’s eye color. What color do you think His eyes are? Be careful, if you believe in the wrong eye color, you are an atheist.

    Be careful about mocking others for not understanding mysteries. If traditional Christianity wonders about the nature of God, Mormons cease to wonder only because they lack the capacity to really think about their assertions. In other words, if God has a solid, permanently attached body, how does it travel through solid matter (entering locked rooms and such)? Bit of a mystery, don’t you think? God can’t be attached to a material body the way we are and do the things He does (teleport, know everything, etc.) So if it’s all clear to you, it’s only because you haven’t thought hard enough about it.

  15. Kurt says:

    John, cant you see that you have changed subjects in order to defend your position? Your argument started out in that other thread that it is essential doctrine that God the Father has a body and if you dont believe it you are an atheist. I point out you are incorrect by showing that is not an essential doctrine, and so now you argue that the resurrected Jesus Christ has a body and concoct some wacky inferential loopy logic to say that Jesus demands it as much himself in 3 Ne. 11, which is nothing short of absurd, since he says absolutely nothing like that. OK, fine, whatever. You want to add requirements Jesus himself didnt make? Knock yourself out, John.

    The only thing that is obvious here is you are incapable of staying on topic and admitting you are wrong in your original premise when it is abundantly obvious. You are making straw men and attacking them, just like any ignorant anti-mormon does.

  16. In that case, there is nothing more for us to do but to agree that we disagree. I hope that both of us have been able to and have disagreed with one another in an agreeable manner. I believe you see me as someone who knows he is wrong but will not admit it. I assure you sincerely, that if I am wrong, I do not know it. It really does seem perfectly obvious to me that if God has a body, then to believe in that god, you have to believe in a god who has a body.

    After his resurrection Jesus said, “See me. Feel me. A spirit hath not flesh and bones as ye see me have.” He even insisted that Thomas thrust his hands into his side and feel the scars on his hands and feet so that he could know for a certainty that God had a body of flesh and bones.

    Now the traditional Christian world is very insistent that there is only one God and that God is Jesus Christ who is also his own Father is some mysterious way that no one can adequately explain. They accuse us of being polytheists because we believe that Joseph Smith was telling the truth about the First Vision as it is recorded in our Pearl of Great Price. This insistence of the traditional Christian world, and their opinion that we are polytheists because of our view, is a fact that cannot be disputed.

    So by their very own words, they cannot possibly believe in their incorporeal God and also believe that Jesus Christ is the one and only true God. Hence their refusal to believe that God has a body, that he is corporeal, is a refusal to believe that Jesus Christ is God because Jesus Christ obviously has a body of flesh and bones according to their own teachings from the New Testament.

    If you cannot see that a belief in a corporeal God is absolutely demanded by the Savior’s statement of his doctrine in 3 Nephi 11:33-34, then there is nothing more that I can say. Your eyes are closed and you refuse to see what is right in front of you.

    Having arrived at this impasse, I see no point in continuing the discussion further. If I ever learn that what I have said here is wrong, I will let you know. For now, what I have said here is so obvious that anyone who could deny it could deny the sun shining on a clear day at noon.

  17. Kurt says:

    John, where in 3 Ne. 11 does it say one word about the corporeal status of God the Father? Show me. It doesnt, you are insinuating things that just arent there. Your original premise was that God the Father, now you are arguing the corporeal status of God the Son.

    What I see is someone who is wrong who cannot admit it.

  18. Kurt, if you do not believe that the doctrine of a corporeal God is critical, then you do not understand 3 Nephi 11:21-41. Jesus says that you have to believe and be baptized to be saved, and that if you do not believe and get baptized you are damned. If you do not believe in a corporeal God, a God of flesh and bones, then either you do not believe in Jesus, or you do not believe that Jesus is God.

    If you cannot see that the one teaching is absolutely essential to the other, then I don’t know what to tell you. The most important thing that Joseph Smith learned in the First Vision was that Jesus and his Father are actual men with bodies. People who don’t believe that don’t really believe in Jesus. They fail the test of 3 Nephi 3:11. And if they do not believe what the Mormons teach about the First Vision, they will not be baptized and by the Lord’s own mouth they will be damned.

    To say that the doctrine of God having a body of flesh and bones is not critical and that the only thing that is critical is 3 Nephi 11:21-40 is perfectly self-contradictory. It is perfect nonsense. The two doctrines are not only related, they are the same doctrine.

    Think about it. I’m sure you will see what I mean.

  19. Kurt says:

    John, this doctrine is NOT infinitely critical. The only essential, or “infinitely critical”, doctrine is that laid out in 3 Ne. 11:21-41, and there is no mention at all there upon the corporeal status of the Father. Is is a true doctrine that the Father has a body? Yes, it is. But you have picked up this ball and run clear out of the stadium with it. There are no complex theological or doctrinal requirements for being a Christian, none at all. The Scriptural requirement is your daily walk. Period. Disciples of Christ are expected to reconcile themselves to the Lord by following his example in their daily life, and if any man will do his will, then he shall know the doctrine.

    There are loads of doctrines which Jesus rejected mortally among the Jews of the time and he predicted there would be false teachers and false messiahs and post-mortally the Lord rejects all sorts of false doctrines, there is nothing new about that. But, focusing so much on one point and then flailing others with it is not productive. You are picking one thing out of many and making that an acid test, an acid test that nobody else uses in the manner you forward.

    Take D&C 49 for example. The Shakers had some odd doctrines that the Lord rejected and told them to repent of. Did the Lord flail them and say they were atheists and abominable because they offended Him because they dared to suggest Ann Lee was the “Second Coming” of Himself? No, He told them to repent and He gave them the correct doctrines.

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