The (Real) Book of Mormon Lesson 2

THE (REAL) BOOK OF

MORMON

Know Jesus

Christian and LDS teaching make much of Jesus.  Both groups would say he is pivotal.  Both would say, "Jesus is my Savior.

 

The Latter-day Saints

 

There once was a man who wanted something very much.   It seemed more important than anything else in his life.  In order for him to have his desire, he incurred a great debt.

He had been warned about going into that much debt, and particularly about his creditor.  But it seemed so important for him to do what he wanted to and to have what he wanted right now.  He was sure he could pay for it later.

So he signed a contract.  He would pay it off sometime along the way.  He didn't worry too much about it, for the due day seemed such a long time away.  He had what he wanted now, and that was what seemed important.

The creditor was always somewhere in the back of his mind, and he made token payments now and again, thinking somehow that the day of reckoning really would never come.

But as it always does, the day came, and the contract fell due.  The debt had not been fully paid.  His creditor appeared and demanded payment in full.

Only then did he realize that his creditor not only had the power to repossess all that he owned, but the power to cast him into prison as well.

"I cannot pay you, for I have not the power to do so, he confessed.

"Then, said the creditor, "We will exercise the contract, take your possessions and you shall go to prison.  You agreed to that.  It was your choice.  You signed the contract, and now it must be enforced.

"Can you not extend the time or forgive the debt? the debtor begged.  "Arrange some way for me to keep what I have and not go to prison?  Surely you believe in mercy?  Will you not show mercy?

The creditor replied, "Mercy is always so one-sided.  It would serve only you.  If I show mercy to you, it will leave me unpaid.  It is justice I demand.  Do you believe in justice?

"I believed in justice when I signed the contract, the debtor said.  "It was on my side then, for I thought it would protect me.  I did not need mercy then, nor think I should need it ever.  Justice, I thought, would serve both of us equally as well.

"It is justice that demands that you pay the contract or suffer the penalty, the creditor replied.  "That is the law.  You have agreed to it and that is the way it must be.  Mercy cannot rob justice.

There they were.  One meting out justice, the other pleading for mercy.  Neither could prevail except at the expense of the other.

"If you do not forgive the debt there will be no mercy, the debtor pleaded.

"If I do, there will be no justice, was the reply.

Both laws, it seemed, could not be served.  They are two eternal ideals that appear to contradict one another.  Is there no way for justice to be fully served, and mercy also?

There is a way!  The law of justice can be fully satisfied and mercy can be fully extended”but it takes someone else.  And so it happened this time.

The debtor had a friend.  He came to help.  He knew the debtor well.  He knew him to be shortsighted.  He thought him foolish to have gotten himself into such a predicament.  Nevertheless, he wanted to help because he loved him.  He stepped between them, faced the creditor, and made this offer.

"I will pay the debt if you will free the debtor from his contract so that he may keep his possessions and not go to prison.

As the creditor was pondering the offer, the mediator added, "You demanded justice.  Though he cannot pay you, I will do so.  You will have been justly dealt with and can ask no more.  It would not be just.

And so the creditor agreed.

The mediator turned then to the debtor.  "If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?

"Oh yes, yes, cried the debtor.  "You saved me from prison and show mercy to me.

"Then, said the benefactor, "you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms.  It will not be easy, but it will be possible.  I will provide a way.  You need not go to prison.

And so it was that the creditor was paid in full.  He had been justly dealt with.  No contract had been broken.

The debtor, in turn, had been extended mercy.  Both laws stood fulfilled.  Because there was a mediator, justice had claimed its full share, and mercy was satisfied.

From Elder Boyd K Packer of the Council of the Twelve, Gospel Principles, pp. 75-77.

 

So, the effect of Adam's transgression was to place all of us in the pit with him.  Then the Savior comes along, not subject to that pit, and lowers the ladder.  He comes down into the pit and makes it possible for us to use the ladder to escape.

Joseph Smith, quoted in Sharing the Gospel, p. 17

For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

2 Nephi 25:23

How has Jesus "saved the Latter-day Saint?

He has purchased his debt and stretched out the payments so the Latter-day Saint can repay in full.

What must the Latter-day Saint do to repay Jesus?

Earn his way through good works.

Jesus kept the law of God, and remained without sin, showing thereby that is in the power of man to keep the law and remain also without sin; and also, that by him a righteous judgment might come upon all flesh, and that all who walk not in the law of God may justly be condemned by the law, and have no excuse for their sins.

Joseph Smith, quoted in Mormon Doctrine, p. 320

Why did Jesus lead the perfect life?

To show us it could be done.

Why are people on earth without excuse for their sins?

Jesus did it, why do you think you can't do it?

And virtually all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ whom they vainly suppose to be a spirit essence who is incorporeal, uncreated, immaterial, and three-in-one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Mormon Doctrine, p. 269

The first spirit born to our heavenly parents was Jesus Christ.

Gospel Principles, p. 11

He was the birthright son, and he retained that birthright by his strict obedience.  Through the aeons and ages of premortality, he advanced and progressed until, as Abraham describe, he stood as one "like unto God.  "Our Savior was a God before he was born into this world,' wrote President Joseph Fielding Smith, "and he brought with him that same status when he came here.  He was as much a God when he was born into the world as he was before.

The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, p. 15

Is Jesus a creature of God the Father?

Yes, according to LDS teaching Jesus was born from the heavenly parents.  So there was a time when Jesus didn't exist, but God the Heavenly Father did.

Has Jesus always been a member of the Trinity?

No, there is no such thing as a Trinity to LDS thinking.

When did Jesus become a God?

Before he came to earth.

Christianity

It is so ingrained in our mindset that Jesus is fully God, it is hard to come up with proofs from the Bible.  Yet there are there in abundance.

Hebrews 1.3 (page 1862) Jesus is the exact representation of God the Father's being

Philippians 2.5, 6 (page 1827) Jesus is in very nature God

John 10.30 (page 1667) Jesus and the Father are one.  One in everything.

John 1.1, 14 (pages 1645, 1646) Jesus, the Word, is God and became flesh to live with us

John 5.23 (page 1654) Everyone must honor Jesus just as much as they honor the Father

Who is Jesus?

Jesus is God, equal to the Father and the Holy Spirit

What adjectives describing God do not describe Jesus?

None according to his divine nature.  Jesus is human (with all that comes along with that), which God isn't, but that's the only difference.

 

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God,  begotten, not made, of one being with the Father.

Nicene Creed, Second Article

 

Certainly Jesus is an example for us as Christians.

Philippians 2.5 (page 1827) We should have the same attitude of humility as Jesus

Hebrews 12.2, 3 (page 1877) Jesus set the course we should follow

What does having Jesus as an example do for us as Christians?

It encourages and guides us to live the way Jesus lived.  That way we will be following God's will for us in our lives.

But there was a different reason Jesus lived as our example.

2 Corinthians 5.21 (page 1799) Jesus' righteousness becomes ours before God

Philippians 3.8, 9 (page 1829) I have a righteousness from Jesus through faith

What is it?

Jesus lived the perfect life for us.

What happens if we don't perfectly follow Christ's example?

We are forgiven our sins and Jesus' perfect life is credited to our account

But the most glaring difference between LDS teaching and Christian doctrine is Jesus as our Savior.

The Latter-day Saint sees Jesus as his new creditor.  Jesus is a kinder and more compassionate creditor, but a creditor none the less.

Here's what the Christian sees in Jesus.

Colossians 1.13, 14 (page 1832) We have a complete rescue and forgiveness from Jesus

Colossians 2.13, 14 (page 1833) We are forgiven.  There is no debt standing against us.

Ephesians 1.7 (page 1818) We have forgiveness of sins.  We don't have to repay Jesus.

Jeremiah 31.34 (page 1228) The new covenant is totally one-sided.  God forgives and we do nothing

Edit this part of Elder Packer's parable to reflect what Jesus has done for you.

The mediator turned then to the debtor.  "If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor? I paid your debt.  Believe it.

"Oh yes, yes, cried the debtor.  "You saved me from prison and show mercy to me.

"Then, said the benefactor, "you will pay the debt to me and I will set the terms.  It will not be easy, but it will be possible.  I will provide a way.  You need not go to prison.

You are now free of debt.  Those are the terms I have set.  I have forgiven all your sins and remember your iniquities no more.  The terms are easy and my burden light.  You are saved.  You will be in heaven.

 

Drawing It Together

What do Christians and Latter-day Saints believe in common about Jesus?

The both believe Jesus is God and that Jesus is our example.  They also both believe that Jesus' death means that believers will rise to life eternal.

What are the differences between their respective beliefs?

The Mormon does not believe that Jesus is God on an equal footing with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, because he rejects the Trinity.  Jesus is a God, whereas the Christian believes Jesus is God, equal in every respect with the Father and the Spirit in the Trinity.

The Mormon does not believe Jesus has freely forgiven all our sins.  The Mormon has to follow Jesus' example and earn godhead for himself.  The Christian, on the other hand, believes that Jesus' forgiveness is free”there is nothing you can do to earn it.  We follow Jesus' example out of love and gratitude.

 

A Lutheran pastor told his son, "Here's one difference between Mormons and Lutherans.  When you go to church on Tuesday, Christmas Eve, you tell me how the parking lot of the LDS church down the street looks.

The answer came back, "It was empty!

"Yes, because when you think you are your own Savior, you don't have much need for another one.