Yes, “A Different Jesus!”: A Response to Dr. Robert Millet

Paul Derengowski, ThM

 

Dr. Robert Millet

In 2005, Dr. Robert Millet, Professor at the Mormon sponsored Brigham Young University, published a book entitled A Different Jesus? According to Dr. Millet it was written for the purpose of “bridge-building,” or to create dialogue between those of the Mormon faith and those in the Christian ranks who, in his estimation, tend to “talk past” each other in matters of religion. What Dr. Millet produced was a brief piece which was inspired after discussing his beliefs with leaders of the Southern Baptist Convention, probably sometime in 1997 or early 1998, when the SBC was in the process of making an evangelistic trip to Salt Lake City, which included the production of the movie The Mormon Puzzle in which Dr. Millet appeared. A Different Jesus? attempts to divulge what Mormons believe about the person of Jesus, with the underlying goal of demonstrating that what the Latter-day Saints believe about him is essentially no different than what the critics of Mormonism have been saying to the contrary.

But, does Dr. Millet necessarily tell us anything different than past LDS writers have written? Moreover, does he really answer his own question of whether or not the Mormons believe in “a different Jesus?” There is no doubt that his effort has received some acclaim from those in the Christian and Mormon community. But did his effort answer the necessary questions often brought up by the critics of Mormonism, or did Dr. Millet simply do as so many Mormons apologists have done in the past, and that is to fail to address the critical beliefs about the Mormon Jesus that keeps fueling the contentions that Mormons believe in another Jesus, which is distinct from the one historic, orthodox Christianity advocates?

This response, therefore, will not only take a look at what Dr. Millet had to offer by way of explanation, but it will also fill in the gaps, so to speak, which he assumes are not “vital.” By that it is meant that crucial doctrines and beliefs consistent with Mormon Christology will be examined in the light of biblical Christology to see if there are significant variances which keep the two systems of belief apart. In other words, the following critique will perform a Paul Harvey upon Dr. Millet’s tome, by giving the “rest of the story.” To accomplish this feat the paper will be divided into three parts. Part one will deal with the Mormon Jesus’ existence and identity prior to becoming Jesus. Although that sounds somewhat odd, it should, given that Mormon cosmology postulates that all matter is eternal, and that Jesus sprung forth from the eternal mass. Part two will examine who Jesus was when he walked the earth. How did he arrive on earth? Was he God incarnate? What kind of life did he lead? What about his sacrificial death: did it really accomplish anything? Finally, we will take a look at who Jesus is presently. What happened after his resurrection, and is the Mormon belief about the post-resurrection Jesus anything like what the Bible has to say about him? Or is he just another in the long line of finite gods and goddesses that Millet failed to substantively address? The conclusion to each of these parts and questions should sufficiently help the reader to resolve in his mind that Mormonism teaches the belief in “another Jesus,” and that that Jesus should be avoided at all costs, both of which Dr. Millet failed to mention. So, without further introduction, let us now turn our attention to Jesus’ identity before he became Jesus.

Nebulous “Intelligence” Unto Specific Being

In Dr. Millet’s book he begins his discussion of Jesus’ existence from shortly after the time of his birth. He mentions that Jesus lived in a pre-existence prior to his becoming a human being, but fails to mentions anything about his existence prior to his pre-existence. Mormonism teaches that before anyone pre-existed, including Jesus, that they existed, eternally, as an “intelligence.”

The idea of eternal intelligences goes back as far as Mormon founder Joseph Smith, and has been discussed as recently as the February 2006 Ensign magazine, which is “an official magazine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” How an intelligence has been defined, though, is somewhat diverse. Joseph Smith spoke of it as something that may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus. 1

Joseph also spoke of intelligence being the mind itself when he wrote, “The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is coequal with God himself.” 2  The Doctrine & Covenants seems to confirm this somewhat abstract idea by stating that “Man was also in the beginning with God. Intelligence, or the light of truth, was not created or made, neither indeed can be. 30 All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence” (93:29-30).

When one turns elsewhere the idea of intelligence takes on a more concrete aspect. Instead of intelligence being an ideological truth concept, or the human mind, intelligence is seen in a more personal light. It is the formative substance that would be the building block of each individual spirit whom God would sire into existence as persons, with God being the most intelligent person of them all. In fact, the doctrine of eternal intelligences is one response to the traditional Christian view of God creating all things ex nihilo, or “out of nothing.” Former Mormon apostle Neal Maxwell makes this clear when he wrote,

Brothers and sisters, you have been for a long, long time! We existed as individuals well before our mortal births. We are now and have been accountable for our choices! Thus the doctrines of premortality and foreordination overturn incorrect traditions which hold that mortals were created ‘out of nothing” in an instant. 3

It is from this pool of intelligences that both God and Jesus Christ would evolve from. According to the Book of Abraham, which Mormons consider an additional source of authoritative doctrine, “And the Lord said unto me [Abraham]: These two facts do exist, that there are two spirits, one being more intelligent than the other; there shall be another more intelligent than they; I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all” (3:19). It continues the narrative by stating, “And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is a space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell” (3:24). These two spirits were the spirits of God the Father and Jesus.

It is also from this collection of intelligences that other beings have their beginning as persons, such as Lucifer, for instance. Mormonism not only teaches that Lucifer, who would become Satan after rebelling against God, is Jesus’ “spirit-brother,” 4 but that there is nothing especially distinct between Jesus, God, and the rest of the existing beings. In fact, Dr. Millet himself makes the same point in his book by stating,

The tougher issue for many Christians to deal with is the accompanying doctrine set forth in the King Follett Sermon and the Lorenzo Snow couplet—namely, that God was once a man. Latter-day scriptures state unequivocally that God is a man, a Man of Holiness (Moses 6:57) who possesses a body of flesh and bones (D&C 130:22). These concepts are clearly a part of what Mormons call the doctrinal restoration. We teach that man is not of a lower order or different species than God. This, of course, makes many of our Christian friends extremely nervous (if not angry), for it appears to them that we are pulling God down and thus attempting to bridge the Creator/creature chasm. 5 [emphasis added]

Such an idea would only be consistent given what Mormonism teaches about the eternality of the “elements,” 6 and that it is from the elements that the intelligences garner their physical beings. Is it any wonder that Mormons also believe that God is an exalted man and that Jesus looks like his identical twin?

To summarize, Mormonism teaches the eternal existence of all beings as “intelligences.” Each of these intelligences are defined as either the “light of truth,” minds, or spirit of those who would later become people. Jesus Christ was among this group of intelligences prior to him becoming a person, and that there is nothing especially distinct between him and Satan, nor anyone else. This is a major concept, or doctrine, that Dr. Millet failed to mention in his book when discussing Jesus’ existence “before Bethlehem.” 7

A Christian Response

Christians do not object to the reality that Jesus lived a preexistent life prior to his incarnation as a human being. The Bible gives clear testimony to that fact. John 1:1-3 tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” From this one may discern that prior to creation the Word, who is Jesus (John 1:14), already existed in an intimate relationship with God. “There never was a time when the Word was not,” comments Leon Morris. “There never was a thing that did not depend on him for its existence. The verb ‘was’ is most naturally understood of the eternal existence of the Word…We should not press the tense unduly, but certainly the verb denotes neither a completed state nor a coming into being. It is appropriate to eternal, unchanging being.” 8 Other biblical passages confirm the preexistence of Jesus as well (cf. Jn. 17:5; Col. 1:16-17; Phil. 2:5-11; Heb. 13:8; 1 Jn. 1:1-2). Therefore, when anyone speaks of Jesus’ preexistence, the Christian can agree that such a position has biblical merit.

Yet despite any apparent agreement that a Christian might have with a Latter-day Saint in respect to Jesus’ preexistence, that agreement immediately turns into a point of disagreement with the introduction of eternal “intelligences” and “elements.” For the Bible does not mention, or even allude to, the eternal existence of anything or anyone other than the person of God. As has already been seen above, it is because Jesus is coeternal and coequal with God, as God, that he brings that which does not exist into existence (cf. Isa. 66:2; Jn. 1:3; Rom. 4:17; 1 Cor. 8:6). The doctrine that Jesus created all things (Rom. 11:36; Col. 1:16-17) out of that which did not already exist is commonly known as creation ex nihilo; a doctrine that Mormonism readily rejects, yet has been embraced, taught, and preached by Christians since the inception of the Church. This is clearly seen in not only the aforementioned scriptural references, but in the comments made by the Church Fathers and subsequent theologians down through church history. A brief sampling of those comments bears out this fact. For example, the Church Father Irenaeus taught,

For, to attribute the substance of created things to the power and will of Him who is God of all, is worthy both of credit and acceptance. It is also agreeable [to reason], and there may be well said regarding such a belief that “the things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” While men, indeed, cannot make anything out of nothing, but only out of matter already existing, yet God is in this point preeminently superior to men, that He Himself called into being the substance of His creation, when previously it had no existence 9 [emphasis added].

Another Church Father, Tertullian, would echo Irenaeus’ comments by not only asserting that God created all things “out of nothing,” but he rebuts the Mormon notion concerning the “veil of forgetfulness” doctrine, which basically states that prior to being incarnated on earth as human beings, our minds were erased of any memory of the previous life humans lived with God in the preexistence. Tertullian wrote,

Consider thyself, O man, and thou wilt believe in it! Reflect on what you were before you came into existence. Nothing. For if you had been anything, you would have remembered it. You, then, who were nothing before you existed, reduced to nothing also when you cease to be, why may you not come into being again out of nothing, at the will of the same Creator whose will created you out of nothing at the first?…Indeed, it will be still easier surely to make you what you were once, when the very same creative power made you without difficulty what you never were before 10 [emphasis added].

The great Latin Church Father, Augustine, also held to the belief that God created all things out of nothing. In fact, he would assert that equating the creation with the substance of the Creator to be unjust, thereby further countering the Mormon idea that all the “elements” which comprise existence are eternal and coequal with God. Augustine would write,

You created heaven and earth but you did not make them of your own substance. If you had done so, they would have been equal to your only-begotten Son, and therefore to yourself, and justice could in no way admit that what was not of your own substance should be equal to you. But besides yourself, O God, who are Trinity in Unity, Unity in Trinity, there was nothing from which you could make heaven and earth. Therefore you must have created them from nothing, the one great, the other small. For there is nothing that you cannot do. You are good and all that you make must be good, both the great Heaven of Heavens and this little earth. You were, and besides you nothing was. From nothing, then, you created heaven and earth, distinct from one another; the one close to yourself, the other close to being nothing; the one surpassed only by yourself, the other little more than nothing 11 [emphasis added].

Last, but certainly not the last in a long list of Church Fathers who believed in creation ex nihilo, is Athanasius, who pointed out that not only was humanity created “out of nothing,” but he also rebutted the Mormon idea that God and man are of the same species.

For God, being good and loving to mankind, and caring for the souls made by Him,—since He is by nature invisible and incomprehensible, having His being beyond all created existence, for which reason the race of mankind was likely to miss the way to the knowledge of Him, since they are made out of nothing which He is unmade,—for this cause God by His own Word gave the Universe the Order it has, in order that since he is by nature invisible, men might be enabled to know Him at any rate by His works 12 [emphasis added].

From the Medieval period St. Anselm continued the creation ex nihilo doctrine, but also asserted that there is a distinction in nature between God and His creation, and that because God is a self-existent being, whatever exists and had being is directly attributable to Him, thereby refuting, again, the Mormon doctrine of eternally existing “elements.”

It is certain, then, that through the supreme Nature whatever is not identical with it has been created. But no rational mind can doubt that all creatures live and continue to exist, so long as they do exist, by the sustenance afforded by that very Being through whose creative act they are endowed with the existence that they have. For, by a like course of reasoning to that by which it has been gathered that all existing being exist through some one being, hence that being alone exists through itself, and others through another than themselves—by a like course of reasoning, I say, it can be proved that whatever things live, live through some one being; hence that being alone lives through itself, and others through another than themselves 13 [emphasis added].

Thomas Aquinas, another prominent medieval theologian and scholar addressed the very question of whether God can create anything, simply because some had thought it inconsistent that something could be brought into existence out of nothing, which is another common argument found in Mormonism. Aquinas would respond by saying,

Not only is it impossible that anything should be created by God, but it is necessary to say that all things were created by God, as appears from what has been said (Q. 44, A. 1). For when anyone makes one thing from another, this latter thing from which he makes is presupposed to his action, and is not produced by his action; thus the craftsman works from natural things, as wood or brass, which are caused not by the action of art, but by the action of nature. So also nature itself causes natural things as regards their form, but presupposes matter. If therefore God did only act from something presupposed, it would follow that the thing presupposed would not be caused by Him. Now it has been shown above (Q. 44, AA. 1, 2), that nothing can be, unless it is from God, Who is the universal cause of all being. Hence it is necessary to say that God brings things into being from nothing 14 [emphasis added].

In turning to the Reformation period, Reformed theologian John Calvin would subscribe and propagate the creation ex nihilo doctrine as well. To him the history of creation began when God, who preceded creation, not only created all things, but preserves their being as well, both of which are contrary to Mormon idea that all things have always self-existed. Calvin wrote in his Institutes,

Therefore, that we may apprehend with true faith what it profits us to know of God, it is important for us to grasp first the history of the creation of the universe, as it has been set forth briefly by Moses [Gen., chs. 1 and 2]…From this history we shall learn that God by the power of his Word and Spirit created heaven and earth out of nothing; that thereupon he brought forth living beings and inanimate things of every kind, that in a wonderful series he distinguished an innumerable variety of things, that he endowed each kind with its own nature, assigned functions, appointed places and stations; and that, although all were subject to corruption, he nevertheless provided for the preservation of each species until the Last Day 15 [emphasis added].

Martin Luther, another Reformed theologian, would concur that God created all things out of nothing, but added an interesting insight as well, by denying an inability to even be able to counsel God on how to create anything, even if the creature did exist prior to his current existence. What makes it interesting is that Mormonism teaches that aside from co-existing with God, that God actually had help from created beings to create creation. 16  Writes Luther,

As lately I lay very sick, so sick that I thought I should have left this world, many cogitations and musings had I in my weakness. Ah! thought I, what may eternity be? What joys may it have? However, I know for certain, that this eternity is ours; through Christ it is given and prepared for us, if we can but believe. There it shall be opened and revealed. Here we shall not know when a second creation of the world will be, seeing we understand not the first. If I had been with God Almighty before He created the world, I could not have advised Him how, out of nothing, to make this globe, the firmament, and that glorious sun, which in its swift course gives light to the whole earth. I could not have advised him how, in such manner, to create man and woman, etc., all which He did for us without our counsel. Therefore ought we justly to give Him the honor, and leave to His divine power and goodness the new creation of the life to come, and not presume to speculate thereon 17 [emphasis added].

More contemporaneously, theologians since the Reformation period have generally adhered to creation ex nihilo as well. Dispensational theologian Lewis Sperry Chafer wrote in his Systematic Theology,

In itself, the act of creating is an incomparable undertaking. In His creation of material things, God called them into existence out of nothing. Such a declaration is far removed from the notion that nothing has produced something. It is obvious that out of nothing nothing of itself could arise. The Biblical declaration is rather that out of infinite resources of God everything has come into existence. He is the Source of all that is 18 [emphasis added].

Reformed theologian Wayne Grudem would repeat the same sentiment by writing, “The Bible clearly requires us to believe that God created the universe out of nothing…This means that before God began to create the universe, nothing else existed except God himself.” 19  And Evangelical theologian Thomas Oden alluded to the fact that,

The prophets of the eighth, seventh, and sixth centuries B.C. grasped and developed this surprising analogy: God created the people of Israel out of nothing, just as God creates everything else. As God creates Israel as a nation “from nothing” (as later Latin writers would speak of creation ex nihilo, out of nothing), so does God create all things. The people of Israel were nobody. God created them from dust. As Israel was not a people except for Yahweh, so the prophet declared that the world would be nothing except for Yahweh (Isa. 43:16-21; Jer. 31:17-25) 20 [emphasis added].

Clearly the Bible and history is at odds with the Mormon concept of eternal “intelligences” and “elements.” Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Dr. Millet chose not to include any mention of them in his book, even though they are an integral part of Mormon theology and understanding. Nevertheless, failure to discuss such a key component of Mormon thought in answering the question of whether or not the Latter-day Saints believe in “A Different Jesus?” does not end with “intelligences” and “elements.” Another discussion mysteriously missing from his book is what the Mormon Jesus was like when he walked the face of the earth; for he was like his father in ways that few people, let alone Christians, would ever recognize.

Like Father, Like Son

When one turns to the subject of the earthly life of Jesus, and how he managed to mimic the Father, Dr. Millet gives a fairly standard Latter-day Saint explanation of what took place. Dr. Millet tells the reader that (1) Jesus is God’s first-born spirit child, as well as the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, (2) Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, but not the “Son of the Holy Ghost,” (3) Jesus did not possess the fullness of God’s glory, but inherited it after the resurrection, (4) Jesus did nothing of himself, but only did what he saw his Father do, (5) Jesus led a matchless and perfect life, (6) Jesus, as Jehovah, was the Creator of earth, (7) Jesus was the “the Prototype of all saved beings,” and protégé model for man in keeping the law, (8) Jesus suffered and bled in the Garden of Gethsemane, and died on the cross to atone for human sin, (9) Jesus preached a postmortem salvation to those in hell, and (10) Jesus established his church.

Space does not permit an evaluation of each of Dr. Millet’s comments, but there are at least two points worth commenting on that Dr. Millet did not feel compelled, for whatever reason, to elaborate on, which if he did, would further answer his question: “A Different Jesus?” First, if Jesus was God’s Only-Begotten Son in the flesh, what does that mean in light of numerous LDS authorities who have commented on Jesus’ incarnation? Second, Dr. Millet asserts that Jesus emulated his father, and could do nothing of himself, yet is he doing justice to the passage that he cites to subordinate Jesus? If so, what kind of an impact should such a belief have upon Jesus’ earthly life? While multiple other questions could arise from the statements that Dr. Millet has given, answering these two questions should prove beyond a doubt that the Jesus that Mormons subscribe to is “A Different Jesus.” Nevertheless, let’s look more closely at the first question.

Dr. Millet shares with the reader the Mormon concept of Jesus’ incarnation in at least two different statements, both of which stress God’s direct, physical involvement in the action. Millet emphasizes that Jesus was “the Only Begotten Son in the flesh,” 21 and “literally the Son of God, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He is not the Son of the Holy Ghost, nor is he the Son of the Father in some mystical metaphorical sense; he is the Son of Almighty God.” 22  His emphasis is similar to other LDS spokespersons. 23  What is interesting, though, is that amid all the emphasis on Jesus being the “literal Son of God,” Millet backtracks in a footnoted statement designed to keep the reader from logically deducing just what it means to be the “literal Son of God.” He writes, “While the Latter-day Saints clearly believe that Jesus is the Son of God the Father, there is no authoritative doctrinal statement within Mormonism that explains how the conception of Jesus was accomplished.” 24  Such a disclaimer is misleading, for although Millet is technically correct in stating that there are no “official” detailed statements declaring how Jesus was sired, there are multiple statements from LDS authorities who have provided adequate circumstantial commentary that would lead any normal, rational person to the conclusion that God, in human form, performed an act of sexual intercourse with Mary to conceive Jesus. Ultimately, though, we have the Bible as an authoritative witness which debunks the notion that God is the “literal” father who sired Jesus Christ. So, in this instance, Millet is both technically correct and incorrect in his attempt to divert attention away from what is an obvious perversion associated with the incarnation of Jesus.

For example, aside from the comments already mentioned by Brigham Young and Ezra Taft Benson (see note 23), Mormon apostle Orson Pratt surmised that not only did God sire Jesus’ fleshly body with Mary in the same manner as when He sired his spiritual body with Heavenly Mother, Pratt postulated that God even married Mary prior to doing it. 25  According to the Mormon leader,

As God the Father begat the fleshly body of Jesus, so He, before the world began, begat his spirit. As the body required an earthly Mother, so his spirit required a heavenly Mother. As God associated in the capacity of a husband with the earthly mother, so likewise He associated in the same capacity with the heavenly one. Earthly things being in the likeness of heavenly things; and that which is temporal being in the likeness of that which is eternal; or, in other words, the laws of generation upon the earth are after the order of the laws of generation in heaven 26 [emphasis added].

Another Mormon apostle, Bruce R. McConkie, has been repeatedly vilified by contemporary Mormons for his insight on how Jesus was conceived, for his declaration leaves little to the imagination of just what took place. In spite of the invectives, though, Dr. Millet recognizes McConkie as an authority on the subject of Jesus Christ by citing his book, Mormon Doctrine, in discussion of Jesus’ reception of the Father’s glory. 27  Therefore, one must wonder what is so offensive to the contemporary Mormon in McConkie’s explanation when he wrote in reference to Jesus’ conception and incarnation,

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 his is the Son of God, and that designation means what it says (1 Ne. 11) 28 [emphasis added].

Other comments from Mormon authorities, writers, and sources recognized by the Latter-day Saints as representative of LDS thought include Joseph Fielding Smith, who wrote that, “Christ was begotten of God. He was not born without the aid of Man, and that Man was God!;” 29 Hoyt Brewster, in contributing to the Doctrine and Covenants Encyclopedia declared, “The term only begotten means exactly what it says. Though God the Father is the pre-earth father of all His children conceived and born in the spirit world–of whom Jesus was the first–only this Son, Jesus the Christ, also had a Heavenly Father of the flesh;” 30 and from FARMS notoriety, Dr. Stephen Ricks bluntly asserted, “The point is that although Jesus was born after ‘the manner of the flesh,’ the way all babies are born, his father was not a son of Adam, but the Father of Adam, God.” 31  Therefore, for Dr. Robert Millet to be alluding to the oft-repeated “there is no authoritative doctrinal statement within Mormonism that explains how the conception of Jesus was accomplished” is not only misleading, it is disingenuous. Dr. Millet and The Latter-day Saints know exactly how Jesus was sired, according to their own doctrine, whether they admit it in an “official statement” or not, and such a belief has serious ramifications, one of which has to do with the kind of person Jesus would have been like and was like, according to Mormon thought, when we walked the earth.

DWGD: Doing What God Did

As pointed out above Dr. Millet alludes to the common belief held by many Mormons that Jesus was a perfect human being, that he walked a sinless life, and that he merely did what he saw his Father do. Nevertheless, it is at this juncture that we must stop and ask just what was the Father like, as a human being himself, that Jesus was so much alike?

It is common knowledge among Mormons that God was once a human being, that he lived elsewhere, on another earth, and that through what is known as the Law of Eternal Progression, became what he currently is today: a god. In fact, even after becoming a god he retained his physical features, 32 and as Joseph Smith once preached, “…if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man.” 33  Yet, this man that Jesus imitated while on earth must have participated in all the same sins and ordeals that all human beings have, which is an extension of the behavior that he engaged in by imitating his father. 34  Mormon apostle John A. Widtsoe and former LDS President Joseph F. Smith make this quite evident.

God, the Father, the supreme God, has gone through the equivalent of every phase of the Great Plan, which we are working out. Therefore, he has had our experiences or their equivalents, and understands from his own experiences the difficulties of our journey. His love for us is an understanding love. Our earth troubles we may lay fully before him, knowing that he understands how human hearts are touched by the tribulations and the joys of life 35 [emphasis added].

We are precisely in the same condition and under the same circumstances that God our Heavenly Father was when he was passing through this, or a similar ordeal 36 [emphasis added].

Some Mormons, such as Dr. Millet, will obviously disagree with the conclusion that God the Father, as a man, sinned in a previous life, but such a denial automatically requires a fuller explanation of what these church leaders were talking about if sin is not included. How does one participate equally in human experiences and precise conditions and not include sinful activity? Moreover, if God in fact did sin, as a man, and he participated in all the same sins that humanity has committed presently, in order to more fully understand and sympathize with human suffering as a future god, included in that long list of sins is one sin that is unforgivable in Mormon thought: the sin of murder. 37  And if God committed an act of murder in a previous life, then (1) how could he have possibly evolved into a god, much less, what kind of god is he, given his unforgiven, murderous record, and (2) if Jesus only did what he saw his father do, then who did Jesus murder? We have no record of such an action, yet by deduction, he must have, if what the Mormon leaders are teaching is true. In addition, if Jesus was a murderer, then just what kind of sacrifice did he offer in atonement for human sin, given that he was a sinner himself? If Jesus did not commit an act of murder, or an act of sin, then how can it be said of him that he only did what he saw his father do? Unfortunately, Mormon answers to these types of questions are non-existent. Instead, what the average person is often presented are repetitive statements, much like what are found in Dr. Millet’s book, that only serve to further exacerbate the problematic doctrines of Mormonism rather than reconcile the inconsistencies with the truth.

A Christian Response

Dr. Millet is absolutely correct in stating that Jesus lived a sin-free life, and that he was God. Unfortunately, as before, that is where the parallels between the Mormon Jesus and the Christian Jesus end. For Christians believe that the reason why Jesus lived a sinless life had nothing to do with his ability as a created being by God to live the commandments and laws that God had set forth to define or determine that a person was sinless. Jesus did not sin because his nature, as God, would not allow for him to sin. This is sometimes known as the doctrine of impeccability, 38 or the inability to sin. Yet, if one accepts what Dr. Millet and Mormonism is saying about Jesus’ incarnation and the conception event that allegedly took place between God and Mary, however the Mormons wish to attempt to explain or not explain their leadership’s comments, immediately implicates not only God in a sin, but Jesus as the product of sin.

In the Old Testament there are multiple laws governing the familial and social activities of the people of Israel (cf. Lev. 18; Deut. 22), particularly when it pertained to sexual intercourse and the marriage covenant. In Deuteronomy 22:23-24 we read the following:

If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor’s wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.

In other words, the marriage covenant was considered sacred, which included the betrothal period which was analogous to marriage. Anyone violating it, as in the scenario presented above, was a capital offense.

In the case of Jesus, we know that his earthly parents, Joseph and Mary were engaged or betrothed to one another, which in Jewish custom amounted to them already being married, with the exception that the official ceremony had yet to be performed (cf. Matt. 1:20, where Joseph is told “to take Mary your wife”). 39  If what Dr. Millet and the Latter-day Saints insist is true, that God is the “literal father” of Jesus, with all the descriptive language of Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, Ezra Taft Benson, Bruce McConkie, et al, providing the details of just what “literalness” means as it pertains to Jesus’ conception, birth, and relation, then God would have had to interrupt the engagement of Joseph and Mary, marry Mary, and then conceive with her the person of Jesus. God would end up violating his own commandment found in Deuteronomy 22 in order to do it. Furthermore, when one takes into account the mandates against incest found in Leviticus 18, then one should be able to see that there is no possible way for God to have done what he did and have Jesus be anything other than a sinner, born with a sin nature, just like any other human being. Hence, God is not the “literal father” of Jesus “in the flesh.”

When we approach the question of how Jesus did what he saw his father do (Jn. 5:19), one is faced with an utter contradiction, both in terms of Mormon thought and Christian thought. In Mormonism everyone becomes what they eventually will be, not that they were always someone from eternity past to eternity future. Therefore, Jesus could not have been watching his father do anything, given that Jesus had yet to become. Furthermore, if Dr. Millet and the LDS intend to show that Jesus is somehow subordinate to the Father, and that because of his subordination he could not do anything due to a lack of knowledge or ability, then once again such an interpretation is an injustice to John’s gospel and what he was saying in the text cited. From the Christian perspective, Jesus doing what he saw his father do had absolutely nothing to do with a preexistent life in which he either witnessed his father living a human life somewhere in the universe prior to becoming God, nor did it have to do with Jesus’ subordination as an inferior. Jesus doing what he saw his father do had to do with Jesus’ alignment with the Father as an equal. In other words, when Jesus made his declaration he was responding to criticisms of his authority as God, since Jesus posed that he and the Father were harmoniously One. Barrett comments, “The activity of Jesus the Son of God…can only be claimed as a revelation of the Father on the ground that Jesus never acts independently of him. What he does is always a reflection of God’s own work.” 40  John was talking about something wholly contrary to what Dr. Millet and the LDS are wishing to impose upon him. Hence, the idea that Jesus was like the Father in the naturalistic sense that Mormonism wishes to characterize him is completely contrary to what Christianity has doctrinally and historically taught about him.

Nevertheless, from the preceding we have seen what Dr. Millet proposes in terms of who Jesus was in the preexistence and upon the earth, and found them both dissimilar to what Christians believe. Is there any redeeming value to what he has to say about Jesus after his resurrection?

The Post-Resurrection Jesus: He’s coming to America!

When we turn our attention to the post-resurrection Jesus, his activities, and the prophecies surrounding him, Dr. Millet provides very little, if any, substantive information that would give the reader an indication that he is speaking about the same Jesus that Christians would recognize. In fact, what he does provide is a depiction of a Jesus who instead of briefly visiting with his disciples and then ascending to heaven, actually makes another earthly stop on earth on his way to heaven. Although not all of the details of that visit can be described here, Dr. Millet does succinctly given attention to those whom Jesus allegedly visited, and then completely leaves out three special individuals that Jesus ordained to his service, that if they would come forth would certainly be a tremendous plus in favor of the Mormon story itself. Therefore, let us look at the “other sheep” and Jesus three disciples.

On pages 11-12 of A Different Jesus? Dr. Millet briefly mentions that Jesus was predicted in the Book of Mormon to visit the Nephite people in America “following his death, resurrection, and ascension in the Holy Land.” The Nephites were supposedly one of two groups of people that existed in Central America when a prophet by the name of Lehi left Jerusalem in 600 B.C. and migrated to that region. According to Milton R. Hunter, a former General Authority of the Mormon Church, “If ever men were God-centered and had the religious motive as the one dominating and controlling purpose of existence, the Nephites were those men.” 41  The purpose of the visitation was to not only teach and comfort Jesus’ “other sheep,” but to establish a Christian church prior to ascending into heaven. According to Millet,

A major feature of this ministry among them was to show them his resurrected glorified body and allow the people to feel and handle and thus experience its tangible nature — to gain an assurance of the resurrection. 42

Beyond this short allusion to Jesus’ visitation to these people, Dr. Millet is generally silent. When we turn to the Book of Mormon and sift through some of its commentary dealing with the Nephites, and its enemies, we find potential reasons for the silence.

In 3 Nephi we find the story of Jesus’ visitation. Prior to that visitation, however, there is a record of the discord and animosity between the Nephites and the Lamanites, the latter of which also migrated to Central America when Lehi first came over from Jerusalem. During a particular war, though, with the “Gadianton robbers” the Nephites and Lamanites sided together against them. Apparently the situation was so dire that “the Nephites were threatened with utter destruction” (3 Nephi 2:13). When the Lamanites joined hands with the Nephites a sore spot with Mormonism, in general, is discovered, since Mormonism historically has taught that those with dark skins have been cursed by God. The curse itself stems from another controversial event espoused in Mormon thought, the War in Heaven, the effects of which have carried over to the present time. According to former LDS president Joseph Fielding Smith,

There were no neutrals in the war in heaven. All took sides either with Christ or with Satan. Every man had his agency there, and men receive rewards here based upon their actions there, just as they will receive rewards hereafter for deeds done in the body. The Negro, evidently, is receiving the reward he merits. 43

The Lamanites had dark skin, until they were converted, and then we are told that “their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites” (3 Nephi 2:15). So, not only were the Nephites presumably identified as the “true believers” of God, a clear indication of their fidelity was their white skin. Interestingly, later on the Nephites “became more corrupt and wicked than the Lamanites and were destroyed, as a people and nation,” 44 but there is no indication that their skin changed color because of their corruption. Nevertheless, those Nephites that managed to survive the Lamanites onslaught proceeded to mingle “themselves with the Lamanites, the resulting peoples being know to the world as the American Indians,” 45 which of course did have less than “white and delightsome” skin. These are the “other sheep” that Jesus supposedly visited after his ascension in Jerusalem, and the very ones that Dr. Millet gives only scant notice in his book. Nevertheless, while Dr. Millet gives them bare recognition, there are three special disciples that Jesus supposedly had when he visited America that Dr. Millet does not mention at all.

According to Dr. Millet and Mormon lore when Jesus visited America he set up a church environment that was similar to the one he established while in Israel. Included in that establishment was the selection of twelve disciples who would carry on Jesus’ ministry in the same sense that the early church apostles did. Those American church disciples’ or “apostles” 46 names were Nephi, Timothy (whom Nephi rose from the dead), Jonas (Timothy’s son), the brothers Mathoni and Mathonihah, Kumen, Kumenonhi, Jeremiah, Shemnon, Jonas, Zedekiah, and Isaiah (3 Nephi 19:4). Just prior to Jesus’ final departure he asks what the disciples would desire of him. Nine of the disciples, none of which are specifically mentioned, tell him, “We desire that after we have lived unto the age of man, that our ministry, wherein thou has called us, may have an end, that we may speedily come unto thee in thy kingdom” (3 Nephi 28:2). He assures them that after they turn 72 years of age that their desire would be granted. It is the request of the remaining three disciples that if granted would contribute immense credibility to the Mormon story.

The three special disciples, upon being asked their desire, become mum. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, concludes that their desire was similar to that of John the Beloved’s, which was to never die. 47  He tells them,

Therefore, more blessed are ye, for ye shall never taste of death; but ye shall live to behold all the doings of the Father unto the children of men, even until all things shall be fulfilled according to the will of the Father, when I shall come in my glory with the power of heaven.

He continues by stating,

And ye shall never endure the pains of death; but when I shall come in my glory ye shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye from mortality to immortality; and then shall ye be blessed in the kingdom of my Father [emphasis added].

And again, ye shall not have pain while ye shall dwell in the flesh, neither sorrow save it before the sins of the world; and all this will I do because of the thing which ye have desired of me, for ye have desired that ye might bring the souls of men unto me, while the world shall stand (3 Nephi 28:7-9).

What Jesus is promising here is astounding! Three of the American disciples are promised that they will not die, that they will be allowed to perform their ministry among men, and that upon the Lord’s return they will be translated from mortality to immortality. Hence, it has been nearly two-thousand years since Jesus made his declaration to these three, and they have been alive, somewhere on the earth, carrying out their mission. If this is true, and it surely should have been mentioned by Dr. Millet, then clearly we would have an extraordinary piece of tangible evidence to support the Mormon claims. Yet, there is nothing! Mormon 8:10 tells us that the wickedness of the people more or less drove them into obscurity, with a comment that, “and whether they be upon the face of the land no man knoweth.” But, such a pronouncement is contrary to what Jesus allegedly promised. And according to Bruce McConkie, “Unbeknowns to the world, they are continuing their assigned ministry at this time, and there have been occasions when they have appeared to members of the Church in this final dispensation.” 48  If that is the case, then surely someone outside the LDS Church would have take notice as well, but once again, we have nothing aside from Dr. Millet’s failure to mention them at all.

A Christian Response

Dr. Millet’s brief explanation of what occurred when Jesus ascended to heaven, and then made an almost immediate return to the earth to set up a Christian church in the Americas is fantastic. It is fantastic, not in the sense of wonderful or believable, but that it is based on pure fantasy. It is fiction, in other words. The reasoning being that there is absolutely no credible or verifiable evidence to support his thesis. Instead, he merely gives an extremely abridged version of what other LDS leaders have repeated since the day that Joseph Smith uttered his story at the inception of Mormonism. Even worse, Dr. Millet does what other LDS spokespersons have done by ignoring the context of the Bible when alluding to specific events to sustain his explanation.

For example, when Dr. Millet alludes to the “other sheep” that Jesus spoke of in John 10:16, instead of taking the statement by John in its context, he bypasses it and imposes the context of Joseph Smith’s tale into John’s statement. Hence, we have Jesus showing up and preaching to a crowd of Reformed Egyptian speaking/writing Jewish American Indians, instead of what is overwhelmingly believed to be an allusion to the Gentile mission that Jesus had in mind that he commissioned his disciples and apostles to fulfill upon his ascension. In other words, the “other sheep” that Jesus spoke of are Gentiles, not Jewish Indians. Köstenberger points out,

The present passage clearly indicates that Jesus envisioned a full-fledged Gentile mission subsequent to his death on the cross. Though this mission is to be carried out through his followers, the pronoun “I” makes clear that Jesus will still be involved from his exalted position with the Father. Together with his “own” (10:14-15), the “others” describe the full extent of Jesus’ mission, both present and future. 49

D. A. Carson adds,

I have other sheep is tied to the previous two verses by the assumption that, however many sheep Jesus has, they are known to Jesus and ultimately respond to his voice. At the same time, this verse refers back to vv. 1–5. There the sheep pen represents Judaism. Jesus calls his own sheep out of that fold, thereby constituting his own flock; the sheep that remain in that pen are, presumably, the unbelieving Jews. If Jesus has other sheep that are not of this sheep pen, the reference must be to Gentiles. 50

Finally, G. E. Ladd concludes,

Although John has no explicit doctrine of the church, he foresees a mission for Jesus’ disciples. It is his mission “to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (11:52). This clearly reflects the Gentile mission, as does the saying that as the Good Shepherd he must bring “other sheep that are not of this fold” (10:16). 51

Clearly, there is no basis for believing that Jesus visited the Americas, let alone a migrated group of Jewish settlers, who because of their eventual savagery would have their skin turn dark, or red, and become the ancestors of the present-day American Indians, who wrote in a language for which there is no evidence either, namely Reformed Egyptian. It is just plain folly.

A similar conclusion can be drawn in respect to the three special disciples that Dr. Millet failed to mention, yet should have, when he spoke of Jesus’ visitation. As already mentioned, if the whole account is true, then pointing to them as real, actual, living, breathing characters, which have existed since the day that Jesus supposedly blessed them with immortal life, would go far in convincing even the most hardened skeptic concerning Mormon claims. Yet, Dr. Millet avoids any allusion to them, perhaps because of the extreme amount of credulity needed to reconcile the truth with more fantasy. Nevertheless, since Dr. Millet mentions several other fairly incredulous things in his book, audience hesitation over what he has to say cannot be a major factor, if a factor at all. Maybe he just plainly does not believe it himself. Whatever the case, if these three disciples are currently walking the earth, then someone, somewhere, somehow would have taken notice of them. Yet, once again, the evidence for their existence is as wanting as the existence of the Reformed Egyptian Jewish-American Indians that supposedly wandered the North American continent between 600 B.C. and 400 A.D.

CONCLUSION

Although some people thought that Dr. Millet provided the Christian community with an explanation answering the question of whether or not The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints espouses a different Jesus, from just the foregoing it should be evident that not only did Dr. Millet not answer his own question, he left out so much detail in respect to the Mormon Jesus that all one was left with was the usual vague depiction that Mormons commonly portray when asked. Hence, one has to wonder just why Dr. Millet wrote the book in the first place. He stated it was about bridge-building, but when many of the pieces are left missing from the bridge, then just what kind of building was taking place on Dr. Millet’s behalf?

Clearly Dr. Millet could have done a much better job of explaining just what Mormons believe about Jesus, from their beliefs about his pre-existence, to his life, to his resurrection and ascension. Since he did not do that, but chose to rehash much of the same material that one finds in so many LDS publications, then it would appear that Dr. Millet was more intent on proselytizing and propagandizing than informing. And who could blame him, given that if Dr. Millet was really intent on informing his projected audience of Christians of what he comprehensively believed about Jesus, then the audience would immediately conclude that the Jesus of Mormonism is not the Jesus of Christianity, or that “yes,” Mormons worship and recognize “A Different Jesus,” and they would have scoffed at his effort.

Therefore, since Dr. Millet failed to answer his own question, and instead produced a script that essentially avoided the question, while reproducing information intended to make the LDS religion look as if it has something in common with Christianity in general, then perhaps the best advice that anyone could give in respect to the book is to watch out. Watch out for the sleight of hand, watch out for the misinformation, and watch out for the lack of information. And above all, watch out for the “different Jesus” that Dr. Millet wants you to trust in, yet is hesitant to also tell you fully about.

Notes:

  1. Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1980), 3:381.
  2. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1976), 353.
  3. Neal A. Maxwell, “The Wondrous Restoration,” Ensign 33.4 (April 2003): 32-33.
  4. Some Mormons are less than amiable when this fact is brought up, calling it “a verbal form of ‘yellow journalism’” (Richard R. Hopkins, Biblical Mormonism: Responding to Evangelical Criticism of LDS Theology (Bountiful: Horizon, 1994), 103, as quoted by Daniel C. Peterson in FARMS Review of Books on Infobases Gospel Library CD-ROM [hereafter IGLCD]). Nevertheless, it is a part of Mormon thought, and to act in such a hostile manner seems a bit disingenuous.
  5. Robert L. Millet, A Different Jesus? (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), 144.
  6. Mormon apostle Bruce R. McConkie explains that , “Those natural or earthy substances of which the earth is all its parts is composed and which make up the physical or temporal bodies of all created things are called <elements.> They are the earth, earthy (1 Cor. 15:44-48); that are to be distinguished from the more pure and refined substance of which spirit matter is composed. (D. & C. 131: 6-7). “The elements are eternal,” the Lord says; and when they are organized into a mortal body, those elements become the tabernacle of the eternal spirit that comes from pre-existence.” Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 218.
  7. Dr. Millet devoted a whole chapter, which was the first chapter, entitled “Jesus Before Bethlehem” in his book (pp. 18-38).
  8. Ned B. Stonehouse, F. F. Bruce, and Gordon D. Fee, eds., The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), “The Gospel According to John” by Leon Morris, 65.
  9. Irenaeus, “Against Heresies,” in Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols., Alexander Roberts & James Donaldson, eds., (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 1:370.
  10. Tertullian, “The Apology” by Tertullian,” ANF, 3:53.
  11. Augustine, Confessions, translated by R. S. Pine-Coffin (London: Penguin, 1961), 284.
  12. Athanasius, “Against the Heathen,” Nicene Post-Nicene Fathers, 14 vols., Second Series, Philip Schaff and Henry Wace, eds. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1994), 4:22.
  13. St. Anslem, St. Anselm Basic Writings, translated by S. N. Deane (Chicago and LaSalle, IL: Open Court, 1962), 106.
  14. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, 5 vols. trans. by Fathers of the English Dominican Provice (New York: Benziger, 1948), 1:233.
  15. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, John T. McNeill, ed., translated by Ford Lewis Battles, 2 vols. (Louisville & London: Westminster John Knox Press, 1960), 1:179-80.
  16. “It is true that Adam helped to form the earth. He labored with our Savior Jesus Christ. I have a strong view or conviction that there were others also assisted them. Perhaps Noah and Enoch; and why not Joseph Smith, and those who were appointed to be rulers before the earth was formed?” Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, edited by Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft [1954]), 1:74-75.

    “That he was aided in the creation of this earth by “many of the noble and great” spirit children of the Father is evident from Abraham’s writings…Michael or Adam was one of these. Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Peter, James, and John, Joseph Smith, and many other “noble and great” ones play a part in the great creative enterprise.” Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 169.

  17. Martin Luther, Table Talk, updated and revised from a translation by William Hazlitt (Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos, 2004), 74.
  18. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols. in 4 (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1993), 5:23.
  19. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 262.
  20. Thomas Oden, Systematic Theology, 3 vols. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2006), 1:241-42.
  21. Millet, A Different Jesus?, 66.
  22. Ibid., 74.
  23. Brigham Young once taught that, “When the time came that His first-born, the Savior, should come into the world and take a tabernacle, the Father came Himself and favoured that spirit with a tabernacle instead of letting any other man do it. The Savior was begotten by the Father of His spirit, by the same Being who is the Father of our spirits.” Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses (London: Latter-day Saints’ Book Depot, 1856) 4:218; Discourses of Brigham Young, compiled by John A. Widtsoe (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1978), 50.

    More recently, Ezra Taft Benson would write, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost. He is the Son of the Eternal Father!” Ezra Taft Benson, “Come Unto Christ” (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1983), p. 4 in Book of Mormon Symposium Series, Nyman, Tate & Cheesman, eds., 1988 on IGLCD.

  24. Millet, A Different Jesus?, 74n.
  25. The typical response heard from many Mormon apologists is to discount Orson Pratt as an authoritative spokesperson on Mormonism, as well as his book The Seer. Yet, as Mormon historian John Henry Evans pointed out, Orson Pratt was no slacker when it came to Mormon beliefs and the propagation of them. He wrote in behalf of Pratt, “In the first century of “Mormonism” there is no leader of the intellectual stature of Orson Pratt.

    “When everything is said and done, it will be found that Orson Pratt traveled more miles on land and sea delivering the Word; that he brought more people into the Fold through his spoken and written message; that, with the exception of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, he was in the vanguard of more undertakings; and that he was more prolific in his written defense of the Faith—than any other man that can be mentioned. We are speaking now of one person in whom all these activities are combined.

    “Orson Pratt was a leader, a pioneer, a preacher, a writer; and there were other leaders, pioneers, preachers, and authors. But Orson Pratt was also a philosopher and thinker, and in this respect he stood alone among his brethren during the first one hundred years of the Faith.” John Henry Evans, The Heart of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1930), 411-12.

  26. Orson Pratt, The Seer, (Washington, D.C.: Orson Pratt) 158-59.
  27. Millet, A Different Jesus?, 67.
  28. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1966), 742.
  29. Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, compiled by Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1954), 1:18.
  30. Hoyt W. Brewster, Jr., Doctrine and Covenants Encyclopedia (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996), 399 on IGLCD.
  31. Stephen D. Ricks, FARMS Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, 6 vols. (Provo: FARMS, 1992), 2:82 on IGLCD.
  32. “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.” (Doctrine & Covenants 130:22).
  33. Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 8 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1980), 6:305.
  34. Mormon Church leaders, starting with Joseph Smith have taught an infinite regression of gods and goddesses, each of which are familiarly contingent upon each other for their existence. Joseph Smith taught, “If Abraham reasoned thus—If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way…Hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also? I despise the idea of being scared to death at such a doctrine, for the Bible is full of it.” Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 373; Smith, History of the Church, 6:476.

    “The Prophet taught that our Father had a Father and so on,” declared Joseph Fielding Smith. “Is not this a reasonable thought, especially when we remember that the promises are made to us that we may become like him?” Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:12.

  35. John A. Widtsoe, A Rational Theology (n.p.: 1915), 65.
  36. Gospel Doctrine: Sermons and Writings of Joseph F. Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret, 1986), 64.
  37. “And now, behold, I speak unto the church. Thou shalt not kill; and he that kills shall not have forgiveness in this world, nor in the world to come” (D&C 42:18).

    “A murderer, for instance, one that sheds innocent blood, cannot have forgiveness. David sought repentance at the hand of God carefully with tears, for the murder of Uriah; but he could only get it through hell: he got a promise that his soul should not be left in hell.” TPJS, 339.

  38. Impeccable is actually a Latin term derived from the negative im and peccare “to sin,” hence, “not to sin.”
  39. Some translations, such as the NAS, include “as” in the phrase, but it in the Greek text it (w`j) is missing, and hence it is better to simply translate the expression “Mary your wife,” rather than “Mary as you wife.”
  40. C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978), 259.
  41. Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel Through the Ages (Salt Lake City: Steven and Wallis, 1945), 85.
  42. Millet, A Different Jesus?, 12.
  43. Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:65-66.
  44. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 529.
  45. Ibid.
  46. Apparently, since these 12 individuals were given certain divine authority to witness to the Nephite nation, “the Nephite twelve became apostles, as special witnesses, just as did Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times.” Joseph Fielding Smith, Answer to Gospel Questions, 5 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret, [1957]), 1:122.
  47. 3 Nephi 28:6 erroneously cites John 21:22 (21-23) for Jesus’ conclusion, but John 21:23 clearly states that, “This saying therefore went out among the brethren that that disciple [John] would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you [Peter]?” So, Jesus is not claiming what the writer of Nephi is attributing to him as he speaks to these three witnesses.
  48. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 793.
  49. Andreas J. Köstenberger, John (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 306-7.
  50. D. A. Carson, “The Gospel According to John,” in The Pillar New Testament Commentary, D. A. Carson, ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 388.
  51. George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, revised (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 268.

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