Jesus Is the Christ
Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus was the literal physical son of God the Father, making Jesus--in the traditional language of Christianity--"the only begotten of the Father." Thus, Jesus was not just a wonderful human being: Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus was crucified, resurrected, and lives today. Jesus will return to the Earth at some time in the future, in a very obvious manner: the Second Coming.
Beyond this, we believe that Jesus is "the Christ." The Greek word Christ means "Anointed One"; the word occurs in the Greek New Testament as an equivalent of the Hebrew word mashiach, that is, "Messiah." We believe that Jesus is the Messiah, chosen by God the Father with a very special mission. That mission is encompassed in the word, "Atonement."
The Atonement of Christ
The Atonement of Christ is the central doctrine of the LDS faith. In its essence, the Atonement is simple to state, but its implications are immense.
We are, each of us, a literal spiritual child of God. Our human destiny is to inherit the kind of life that God has, which Latter-day Saints call eternal life. ('Eternal life' thus involves a great deal more than just immortality, or living forever.) However, as human beings, we have all sinned. (This covers a great deal of territory, involving the breaking of any of the commandments of God, including: failure to love God; failure to love others; lack of honesty; much, much else.) The effect of sin is to separate us from God, and make it impossible for us to achieve our destiny, eternal life.
Through the Atonement, Jesus took upon himself the penalty of our sins, and made it possible for us to return to God the Father and achieve our destiny. This aspect of the Atonement is voluntary: if we want to have the Atonement effective in our individual lives, we must show this through obedience to God.
This is the heart of the LDS faith. I have mentioned several terms that may be unfamiliar to the reader: 'Atonement,' 'eternal life,' and so forth. I plan, in future posts, to go over each of these, and much else besides. However, the important things to understand about LDS beliefs, at this juncture, are the following points:
- The Latter-day Saints believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that Jesus is the Christ, or divinely chosen Messiah of the human race, and that Jesus lives today.
- Through the Atonement of Christ, people are able to have their sins truly forgiven, and achieve their destiny: eternal life, the kind of life that God has.
Where Latter-day Saints Differ
The Saints differ from much of the accepted wisdom of the world at large regarding Jesus:
- In the world at large, many believe that Jesus never really existed, but was just an invention of some people in the first century AD. The Saints regard Jesus as a real, historical person--who not only lived, but lives.
- Of those people who do believe that Jesus lived, many believe that Jesus was a great teacher, and a great human being, but not divine. In contrast, the Saints believe that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, divine, a member of the Godhead (along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit).
Although the two points above are held by the Saints in common with many other Christians, there are ways in which the Saints' beliefs are quite distinct. Possibly the most important of these is the following:
- The Saints believe that God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit are actually three separate individuals--united in purpose, to be sure, but nonetheless three separate beings.
I plan to address the nature of the Godhead in LDS belief in a future post. For now, the most important thing to know is that the Saints consider Jesus Christ and his Atonement to be at the very center of their faith.
A Personal Note
I do not hold these beliefs because someone else taught them to me. I believe this because I have prayed to know whether or not these principles are true, and in my prayers I felt the influence of the Holy Spirit testifying to me that this is indeed the truth. I realize that this proves these beliefs to no one but myself; however, I would invite you to pray yourself to find out about the truth of these things.
Any questions or comments?
More About This Topic
The website of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has a page specifically about LDS basic beliefs regarding Jesus as the Savior.
My thanks to Florance S. Jacobsen for posting the photo of the Christus statue, above, on her "LightPlanet" page.