What Do Mormons Believe About Jesus
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Sandra Tanner, Dr. Lynn Wilder, Michael Wilder; ©2012|
|In this program, Dr. John Ankerberg along with Sandra Tanner, Dr. Lynn Wilder and Michael Wilder, takes a look at these significant differences between Mormon teachings and biblical teaching regarding Jesus. This program reveals the stark contrasts that exist and what the Bible truly teaches about Jesus Christ.|
According to a recent survey, half of all Americans believe Mormonism is a Christian religion, while one third think it is not. This has caused many to ask, are Mormons Christians? How do their beliefs compare with what Jesus and the apostles taught in the Bible? My guests today are three prominent Mormons who have left the LDS Church and become Christians. First, Sandra Tanner, the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon Church.
- Sandra Tanner: In June of 1998, Gordon B. Hinckley, who was the president of the church at that time, he said “the traditional Christ of whom they,” meaning the Christians, “speak, is not the Christ of whom I speak.” Now, why isn’t it the same Christ? Because the Christ of the Bible has eternally been God. He’s never been less than he is today. And yet Jesus of Mormonism is one of a whole string of Gods. His father, Heavenly Father, had to earn the right to become a God; Jesus had to earn the right to become a God; Jesus in Mormonism has not always been God. This is something he achieved. It is the goal of every Mormon man to someday achieve godhood the same as Jesus did, the same as Jesus’ father did.
- Second, Dr. Lynn Wilder, a tenured professor at Brigham Young University, who authored more than 50 scholarly publications. She left her teaching position in 2008 after becoming a Christian.
- John Ankerberg: As a tenured professor at Brigham Young, okay, and being a Mormon for 30 years, do you still believe that the Book of Mormon is the true word of God?
- Lynn Wilder: I do not. There are contradictions all over their own scriptures. There are blatant contradictions between the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, even. One says God is spirit, and one says God has a body of flesh and bones. You can’t have it both ways.
- And third, Michael Wilder, Lynn’s husband, who worked in the Temple, was a member of the High Council, and served in two bishoprics.
- Ankerberg: Glenn Beck, Harry Reid, Steve Young, Mitt Romney, Stephen Covey and Orrin Hatch, they’re all Mormons.
- Michael Wilder: Yes, they are.
- Ankerberg: Okay, so if I ask them the question, can you be a biblical Christian at the same time that you are a Temple attending Mormon, as one of those that gave the Temple Recommend, what would you answer?
- M. Wilder: I would say, with my understanding of Christianity now, is that, no, there’s a huge conflict between being a biblical Christian and being a Mormon.
- Tanner: It’s a totally different concept of who Jesus is, who man is, who God is, how we fit in the universe, how we get right with God. In Mormonism it all hinges on participation in the Mormon Temple ritual; in Christianity it all hinges on throwing ourselves on the mercy of God and claiming Christ as savior.
- We invite you to join us for this special edition of the John Ankerberg Show.
- John Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We’re talking about a very interesting topic. And that is, is the Jesus Christ of the Mormon Church the Jesus Christ of orthodox Christianity and the Bible?
- And today we’ve got three guests that I think can answer this question. They’re all former Mormons. And one of them is Sandra Tanner, who is the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon Church. We’ve got Dr. Lynn Wilder, who has served as a tenured professor at Brigham Young University. She has traveled the world representing Mormonism. And we also have Michael Wilder, Lynn’s husband, who was a Mormon leader in the LDS Church and held a wide range of leadership roles, including serving in the High Council and in two bishoprics.
- Sandra, let me start with you. A lot of folks would say, of course the Jesus of the Mormon Church is the Jesus of the Bible. But I’ve heard that the president of the Mormon Church has said that’s not true. Tell me about that.
- Sandra Tanner: Right. In June of 1998, Gordon B. Hinckley, who was the president of the church at that time, he said, “the traditional Christ of whom they…” meaning the Christians, “…speak, is not the Christ of whom I speak.” Now, why isn’t it the same Christ? Because the Christ of the Bible has eternally been God. He’s never been less than he is today. And yet the Jesus of Mormonism is one of a whole string of Gods; his father, Heavenly Father, had to earn the right to become a God; Jesus had to earn the right to become a God. Jesus in Mormonism has not always been God. This is something he achieved. It is the goal of every Mormon man to someday achieve godhood, the same as Jesus did, the same as Jesus’ father did. It’s a totally different concept of who Jesus is, who man is, who God is, how we fit in the universe, how we get right with God. In Mormonism, it all hinges on participation in the Mormon Temple ritual; in Christianity, it all hinges on throwing ourselves on the mercy of God and claiming Christ as Savior.
- Ankerberg: Dr. Wilder, let me ask you this question. When I go to the official website of the Mormon Church, I think I’m reading a Christian doctrinal statement. For example, you will find that this is what they say they believe: “Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the son of God. He is our redeemer.” “We believe in the Jesus of the New Testament. We believe what the New Testament teaches about him.” And it sounds just like what we’re talking about, but it’s not. So why do they put that kind of wording on their website? What’s going on?
- Lynn Wilder: There’s been a real push in the Mormon public relations area in recent years for Mormons to say, “We’re Christians, too.” Right now there’s a campaign out there called “I am Mormon” in 21 major markets. The church has a lot of money and they’ve done a lot of public relations in the years. Twenty, thirty years ago, they were putting ads in Reader’s Digest; they always have Mormon ads on television. It’s important to them that they’re seen as part of the kind of mainstream Christian environment.
- Ankerberg: Didn’t I read in one of your books that you said there was a time when Mormons did not want to be called Christian?
- Tanner: Well, you read through the early sermons of the church leaders, and they speak of the Christian world as being the whore of Babylon, the church of the devil. Even the Book of Mormon says there’s only two churches…only—the church of the lamb of God and the church of the devil. And so when Joseph Smith prays to know what church to join, God tells him, don’t join any of them, for they’re all corrupt. So that Mormonism is the only church of God; it’s the only Christian church. Their whole claim dismisses everyone else as being part of Christ’s church.
- L. Wilder: John, probably 80% of the converts that go into Mormonism come from Protestant and even Evangelical Christianity; folks who believe that Mormons are Christians, and this is just another option. And so, because those folks are kind of feeding their church, then it makes sense that the public relations would be kind of geared to making them feel comfortable.
- Ankerberg: Michael, let me ask you why… Are they “Christianizing” Mormonism?
- Michael Wilder: Well, they’re making it appear that way. They still teach the doctrine of what Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and so forth. But they’re trying to make it sound like more like “Christian-ese,” so that, as Lynn mentioned, they’re getting their converts from other Christian churches. So, when the Mormon missionaries are out knocking on doors, if you say you’re a Christian, they don’t say, “God bless you,” and move on to try to find somebody who is not a Christian. They say, “Well, we would like to come in and teach you more.” Because, it’s not about bringing people to Christ, it’s bringing people to the Mormon Church. That’s what they want. So the more Christians they can get in, the more members they have. That means the more tithing money is coming in; because once you become an active member, and before you can even be baptized in the Mormon Church, you have to state that you will pay a full tithe to the Mormon Church. It doesn’t count anyplace else that it goes, it’s got to be to the Mormon Church.
- Ankerberg: Sandra, give me a comparison of the Mormon Jesus versus the biblical Jesus. And do this in terms of the virgin birth; who he was in terms of while he was on this earth; what happened at the cross; and what happened after the cross; on both sides.
- Tanner: Well, you have to even go earlier than that. The Mormons believe that we were all born as spirit children of Heavenly Father. And so Jesus is my older brother. I’m the same species as him. Right there you’re denigrating Christ by saying every one of us here in the room had equal standing at some point, in some prior life. Jesus was picked by God to be the savior, but it could have been Michael. See how this pulls Christ down?
- Ankerberg: We were also brothers with Satan, too.
- Tanner: And Lucifer was one of those children. Lucifer and Jesus are the two oldest sons of God. Supposedly they each proposed a plan how to run earth; God chose Jesus’ plan of free agency, rejected Lucifer’s plan of forced obedience. It started a war in heaven. So two-thirds of those spirit children are the ones that came to earth; one-third fought in the war with Lucifer and got thrown out and became the demonic forces on earth. So, we’re all the same species. And this is pulling Christ… well, it’s pulling God down to man’s level, when you say we are all the same species with the same potential. And so, when Jesus gets chosen as being the savior, it’s pulling down his position as God.
- And when he’s born of Mary, the Mormons are saying that God’s got a physical resurrected body; and they always say that Jesus is “the literal son of the father in the flesh.” They always add that phrase on, “literal son of the father in the flesh.” Okay, what does that mean to say “the literal son of the father in the flesh?” They’re meaning that Heavenly Father had intercourse with Mary to procreate Jesus.
- Now, the average Mormon will say, “That’s not true. I haven’t heard that.” But I can show church statements through the years that are fairly explicit on saying that Jesus’ paternity was… he was sired in the same way every son is sired by his father.
- Bruce McConkie, who was a past apostle in the Mormon Church, he wrote in his teachings: “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.” He goes on to say, “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.” That’s from Mormon Doctrine, page 742.
- M. Wilder: When I was in the LDS Church, I used to get confused about this fact. Was, you know, Heavenly Father the actual father of Jesus Christ? And people used to tell me, they’d say, “Well, remember, we believe in three individual beings. And if Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is what the Bible teaches, then Jesus would be the son of the Holy Ghost, not the son of Heavenly Father. So you can’t say that Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost. You have to say he was conceived by God directly.”
- Ankerberg: Okay.
- M. Wilder: That’s how they explained it to me.
- Ankerberg: Then what?
- Tanner: Well, they believe that Christ earned the right to be the savior for this world. They believe it starts in the Garden of Gethsemane. That’s where he sweat drops of blood to pay for our sin. Then he goes to the cross to complete his sacrifice. But what he is achieving for us on the cross is this general salvation we talked about earlier—that we can be resurrected. So when they say we’re saved by grace, they mean Jesus died on the cross so that we can be resurrected. But individual salvation is Jesus’ death and resurrection, plus Mormon ordinances, Mormon gospel, Mormon Temple ritual—all those things have to also go along with it. Christ’s atonement is not sufficient; belief in that is not sufficient for one to have eternal life in the presence of Heavenly Father.
- Ankerberg: Did it ever occur to you that if the real Jesus of the Bible was listening to all these things that were being said about him, that this would be an affront to him; that he might be angry with being depicted that way?
- L. Wilder: Oh, I didn’t get very far through the New Testament before I realized that the Christ in the Bible was not the Christ I knew in Mormonism. And I had sold this Christ short. This one was huge. And this was the one that was real. And this was the one that I wanted. This is the one that changed my life.
- Ankerberg: Yeah. The apostle Paul was just like that. He said, you know, “If we or an angel from heaven preach unto you any other gospel than the one that we preach, let him be accursed,” let him be anathema, alright. And for people that didn’t get it, he said it twice in the same verse. And I just think that it’s something, for folks that are reading their Bible, that are thinking about these things, you need to take them seriously.
- Now, we’re going to take a break. When we come back, I want to come to your family’s story, because you had a son who was ordained to be a Temple worker at 18 years of age and was out on a mission journey; and something happened that changed him, and then changed the whole family. And I want you to tell all our folks about that. Stick with us. We’ll be right back, we’ll hear that story.
- Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with Sandra Tanner, the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon Church; we’re talking with Dr. Lynn Wilder, who was a tenured professor at BY University; and Michael, her husband, who actually was high up in the Mormon hierarchy, performed some of the ceremonies in the Temple itself.
- And what I want you folks to tell our audience right now is that, here you are, you’re a professor at BYU, you’re Mormons for 30 years, you’re doing all of this, and you send one of your three sons on a missionary journey for Mormonism. And what happened?
- L. Wilder: I realized when we moved to Utah that things were a little funny in the church. It wasn’t quite what we thought it was. And we started having these questions. But, you know, life was good for us in Mormonism. We were dug in. We were successful, and people looked to us. I was so full of pride.
- When our third son went on his mission, God got a hold of his life in an odd way. He was sent to Orlando, Florida. And he came upon a Baptist preacher who showed him why Mormonism might not be Christian. And Micah was such a Pharisee, like his dad says he was, he went into the Bible to try to refute that pastor. But what happened was, God opened his eyes to the falseness of Mormonism when he read the New Testament. He had a similar experience to us. We went into the Bible; the Spirit was strong; God showed us a new God, and we realized the old one was false.
- But this happened to Micah while he’s on his Mormon mission and while he’s a leader in the mission. And he says it took him…he didn’t have any Christians to talk to, he only had the New Testament to read. He said it was a little over a year, maybe a year-and-a-half, before the full import of the idea that Mormonism was wrong—just plain false—hit him. But he was brave enough, three weeks before it was time for him to normally come off his mission, he had an opportunity to bear testimony of the Mormon gospel to 60 other missionaries. And he took that opportunity to say, “All you need is Christ—Christ alone, faith alone, grace alone” to those 60 missionaries.
- Ankerberg: I’m sure that didn’t go down real easy. So, what happened?
- L. Wilder: He got called in by his mission president. They took his Temple Recommend away; called us at home, said they were going to send him home. He did get on a plane and come home. They told us he’d be released honorably. But when he got home, his Stake president really reamed him out and asked us to bring him in front of the High Council the next morning, which we assumed meant they were going to excommunicate him. Mike and I were so confused. We so had trusted this kid. We didn’t know what was going on. And we were really confused about what the Mormon Church was seemingly trying to do to him. We did not take him in for that church court.
- Micah was only home two days, and went back to Florida. And all he said to Mike and myself—totally turning our lives upside-down—was, “Mom and Dad, just read the New Testament.” And that’s when we began to do it in earnest, didn’t we?
- M. Wilder: Yeah.
- L. Wilder: Took me ten months of reading before I got to the place where Micah was.
- M. Wilder: Yeah, it was a unique experience in that, so many times we’ve always been reading the Book of Mormon as a family; reading the Book of Mormon as a family, and so forth. But actually, during the summer of 2006, I actually got into the Word and started reading the Word. And it wasn’t Micah’s testimony that affected me, it was the words in the Bible. And again, as I mentioned earlier, when I read Luke chapter 18, and I read about, Christ said, two men went up to the temple: one a Pharisee, one a publican. And the Pharisee said, “I thank God I’m not as other men; that I’m not an adulterer, unjust, or even as this publican. I fast weekly, twice a week; I give all that I have to in tithes.” And the publican came up to the Temple, smote his breast, bowed his head, wouldn’t even look up. He said, “I’m a sinner.” He cried out to God for help. “I can’t do it on my own.”
- When I read that, it really started the understanding that I cannot do it on my own; that I am a sinner; that I had to humble myself; because Christ said that this man, this publican, came justified before him, where he said that the Pharisee came, who was not humbling himself. But he said “those who humble themselves will be exalted,” but the Pharisee who exalted himself would be humbled. And I was the Pharisee. I was the one doing all these righteous acts. I was going to the Temple; I was a high priest; I was doing everything I was supposed to do to get to live with Heavenly Father in the celestial kingdom. And God showed me my sins, and he humbled me, and said “You can’t do it on your own. Don’t even think about doing it on your own. You have to come through me.”
- Ankerberg: What happened for you, Lynn?
- L. Wilder: Christ became real. Someone who loved me. And I was just blown away by the fact that he loved me so much that he died for me. Micah, then, eventually talked to one of his other brothers, who called him up and said, “What are you doing to the family?” I guess. He came to Christ. And then his sister came to Christ. This whole family has come out of Mormonism. There isn’t a family that was more pharisaical than we were, do you think?
- M. Wilder: No.
- L. Wilder: God broke us; brought us to a place where we were broken so that we needed him. And he is worth this journey. Everything that we thought was important at one time is no longer important—money, education, appearances. None of that matters anymore. All that matters to us is to preach Christ. And, like I said before, we’ll do that ‘til the day we die.
- Ankerberg: Thirty seconds left. What would you like to say?
- Tanner: My challenge to the Mormons that would be watching is to read the New Testament. See who Jesus is; see who God is; see what the atonement is. See yourself, as Mike said, as the publican, not as the Pharisee. We have nothing to bring to the table but to beg God for forgiveness.
- And, for the Christian, to understand that when those young boys come to your door, they sincerely believe what they’re preaching. They don’t understand, probably, all of Mormon doctrine. Your kindness to them, your challenge to them to read the New Testament, could be the start of their journey to Christ. So, when we see them at the door, we need to remember, this is someone Christ died for. They don’t know the deception they’re in. We need to reach out with a heart of love to these people.
- Ankerberg: Alright. Now, next week, I’m going to ask Dr. Lynn Wilder to talk about what she went through as a professor, teaching at Brigham Young University, when she came to realize that the Book of Mormon was not a book that came from God. I hope that you’ll join me then.