In February 1998 Apostle Russell Ballard gave an address at the Logan, Utah Institute of Religion titled Building Bridges of Understanding. In his remarks, Apostle Ballard discussed five areas in which the doctrines of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are often misunderstood. His third point, Our Relationship to Christ, included the following:
" there are many [in the Christian world] who say that Latter-day Saints believe in a 'different Jesus' than do other Christians and that we are therefore not 'Christian.' We do believe things about Jesus that other Christians do not believe, but that is because we know, through revelation, things about Jesus that others do not know. It is a twisting of language to call this a 'different Jesus,' as though we have created some other individual by that name."1
I have encountered many Latter-day Saints who agree with Apostle Ballard, insisting there is and can be only one Jesus. Yet Scripture speaks of "another Jesus" and warns us to beware of "false Christs."2 There is, therefore, reason to believe in the existence of these impostors. How, then, are we to know if we are considering another Jesus or just learning new things about the true Christ?
Many people have heard the story of the six blind men describing an elephant. Each man is encountering a different part of the animal: one the trunk, one the tail, one the leg, and so on. They disagree widely about what an elephant is because they are getting a limited view--they cannot see the big picture. The point is, it is really the same animal; the men just understand different aspects of it. Is this what Christians and Latter-day Saints do with Jesus?
Suppose one group proclaimed that Jesus was five and a half feet tall and the other group said He had blue eyes. These two supposed facts, while not agreeing, do not actually disagree. They address two different aspects of the person of Christ and can therefore both be true. If this were the nature of the disagreement between the Jesus of Christian theology and the Jesus of Latter-day Saint theology we could concede Apostle Ballard's point. However, the points of disagreement about Jesus are actually much more inter-related.
Christian theology states Jesus is the Creator of all things "that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him."3 LDS theology states that Jesus created many things,4 but not all things. He did not create Lucifer, who is identified within Scripture as the "power" we wrestle against in our spiritual battles.5 In fact, within Mormonism Jesus is the spirit brother of Lucifer.6 If we accept this LDS doctrine, are we learning something new about Jesus? Or is this a different Jesus altogether? Can the same Jesus create all things and also not create all things?
In Christian theology, Jesus is God and has always been God: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God."7 In LDS theology, Jesus was procreated by Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother, born to them as a spirit son, and later achieved His Godhood by obedience to "all the Gospel truths and universal laws."8 Is this LDS doctrine a new but compatible revelation about Christ? Can the same Jesus be uncreated and eternally God yet at the same time be a created being who later became a God?
Christian theology claims Jesus is the only true God. "'You are My witnesses,' says the LORD, 'And My servant whom I have chosen, That you may know and believe Me, And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, Nor shall there be after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, And beside Me there is no savior I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.'"9 LDS theology claims Jesus is merely a God, one of many. It says there are three Gods pertaining to this world, and an infinite number throughout "worlds without number." Each of these worlds has its own savior. The Jesus of LDS theology is neither the first nor the last, for many became Gods before Him, and many will become Gods after Him.10 Can all of these things be true about the same person? Can Jesus be both the only God and also be one of many Gods? Can He be the first and the last, but not be the first and the last as well? Can He be the only savior while being one of a multitude of saviors?
In the April 1977 General Conference of the LDS Church, Bernard P. Brockbank of the First Quorum of the Seventy made a statement in opposition to that of Apostle Ballard. Elder Brockbank "noted that many Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. '(We) worship a God and a Jesus Christ with a body, with parts and with passions,' he said 'Jesus warned man to beware of false Christs the Lord commanded man to worship the living God of the scriptures and not to create and worship man-conceived deities.'"11
More recently, LDS Church News reported, "In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President [Gordon B.] Hinckley spoke of those outside the [LDS] Church who say Latter-day Saints 'do not believe in the traditional Christ. No, I do not. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. He, together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the year 1820, and when Joseph left the grove that day, he knew more of the nature of God than all the learned ministers of the gospel of the ages.'"12
Those who are convinced that the LDS Jesus is a different Jesus from that of Christianity have been accused by Apostle Ballard of "twisting of language." He evidently thinks it unfair to give the impression that Mormonism has "created some other individual by that name." Yet Ballard's own Prophet clearly stated that the Jesus he believes in, the Jesus of Mormonism, is another Christ. It is not simply a matter of Latter-day Saints knowing "through revelation, things about Jesus that others do not know," as if they merely have additional information. Mormonism asserts things about Jesus that are contradictory to the revelation of God found in the Bible. The fact that Latter-day Saints maintain these things have been revealed through a modern-day prophet does not change the bottom line: the LDS Church preaches "another Jesus." According to God's Holy Word, this Jesus is a "false Christ."
In the words of the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, "Take heed that no man deceive you"13