The role Jesus Christ plays in Mormonism is often a popular topic among people who are not Mormon. For Mormons themselves, Jesus Christ is such an integral part of the faith that they don’t spend much time analyzing that subject—it’s simply second nature. Let’s examine some of the roles Jesus Christ plays in Mormonism.
Christ is part of the true name for the religion of Mormons.
Although Mormons tend to be referred to by the term “Mormon,” Mormon is actually only a nickname originally applied by people who disliked the early Mormons (in the same way the term Christian was initially used only by outsiders). The actual name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This is important because it tells people several important things about the church.
In the Book of Mormon, a companion volume to the Bible, Jesus informs some of His followers that if you name your church after a person, it becomes that person’s church. This is similar to the way people will name their business after themselves. They were instructed to name their church after Jesus in order for it to be the Lord’s church. Today’s Mormons also honor that very logical request.
The term Latter-day Saints differentiates today’s Mormons (living in the last days) from the ancient Christians in terms of time. The Bible uses the term “saints” to refer to followers of Christ.
Jesus Christ personally launched the restoration that became the church of the Mormons
Fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith was puzzled by the many churches in his community, all of whom assured him they had the truth. He didn’t understand how anyone could identify which one was actually true, so he began reading the Bible cover to cover, looking for answers. When he reached the book of James, he found what he was looking for.
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5).
He understood the brilliance of James’ advice. God knew which church was true. Since he lived in a very full house and he wanted to pray aloud for something so important, he went to the woods near his home to ask his critical question. He received a completely unexpected answer—both God and Jesus Christ appeared to him. God introduced Jesus and told Joseph to listen to Him. Jesus told Him not to join any of the churches because none were entirely correct. In time, when Joseph was grown, he would be guided through the process of becoming the first prophet of the restoration. In the Bible, we often see prophets receiving their first revelations at a very young age—Samuel was only ten.
Each Sunday, Mormons take the Sacrament (communion) to remember the atonement.
Mormons believe that Jesus took on Himself our sins and that this atonement makes it possible for us to be saved. He did for us what we could never have done for ourselves.
“The Atonement of Jesus Christ was an indispensable part of our Heavenly Father’s plan for His Son’s earthly mission and for our salvation. How grateful we should be that our Heavenly Father did not intercede but rather withheld His fatherly instinct to rescue His Beloved Son. Because of His eternal love for you and for me, He allowed Jesus to complete His foreordained mission to become our Redeemer. The gift of resurrection and immortality is given freely through the loving grace of Jesus Christ to all people of all ages, regardless of their good or evil acts. And to those who choose to love the Lord and who show their love and faith in Him by keeping His commandments and qualifying for the full blessings of the Atonement, He offers the additional promise of exaltation and eternal life, which is the blessing of living in the presence of God and His Beloved Son forever.” (M. Russell Ballard, “The Atonement and the Value of One Soul,” Ensign, May 2004, 84) Note: Elder Ballard is a Mormon apostle.
Mormons believe that through the atonement of Jesus Christ, we are all saved. We are all able to be resurrected and live forever. The Bible says we must keep the commandments to live with God, however:
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 7:21).
16 ¶And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.
15 If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15).
This does not mean a person can keep the commandments strictly to earn a reward. This person would receive no reward. Loving God and Jesus Christ and doing these things out of love are part of the commandments. Our obedience, when done purely out of love, are an outward manifestation of our faith. After all, just saying we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior is meaningless if we then ignore everything He taught us. Mere words are meaningless without action. God gave us commandments for a reason and we are expected to obey them. There are rewards and consequences for our choices in this matter.
The Book of Mormon testifies of Jesus Christ.
In recent years, the Mormons added a subtitle to the Book of Mormon to help people understand what it is about. The new subtitle tells readers it is another witness of Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon contains more references to Jesus Christ and His ministry than does the entire Bible, despite being a much smaller book. The highlight of the book is when Jesus Christ appeared to the people of this book and spent time preaching to them after His death and resurrection. His visit proves He was divine since He appeared after His death and also proves the Bible, since the people knew of Christ before His birth. People who read only the Bible can doubt the Savior’s divinity—and many do—but when coupled with the testimony of the Book of Mormon, there can be no room for doubt.
Christ is at the center of Mormonism
Every day, Mormons lead a Christ-centered life. They pray to God in Jesus’ name, they strive to follow His example as they lead their lives, and they spend extensive time studying about Him in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. They spend more time in service than any other segment of American population. They consider themselves Christians who are totally focused on keeping the covenant they made when they were baptized and took His name on themselves.
Thomas S. Monson, Mormon prophet on Jesus Christ:
All Will Live Again
“We laugh, we cry, we work, we play, we love, we live. And then we die. …
“And dead we would remain but for one Man and His mission, even Jesus of Nazareth. …
“With all my heart and the fervency of my soul, I lift up my voice in testimony as a special witness and declare that God does live. Jesus is His Son, the Only Begotten of the Father in the flesh. He is our Redeemer; He is our Mediator with the Father. He it was who died on the cross to atone for our sins. He became the firstfruits of the Resurrection. Because He died, all shall live again.”5
A Personal Witness
“I declare my personal witness that death has been conquered, victory over the tomb has been won. May the words made sacred by Him who fulfilled them become actual knowledge to all. Remember them. Cherish them. Honor them. He is risen.” (He Is Risen”: A Prophet’s Testimony By President Thomas S. Monson)