Do Mormons Worship Jesus Christ?

DO MORMONS WORSHIP
JESUS CHRIST?

Mormons do not worship Jesus Christ with adoration (latreia), so although Mormons may call themselves "Christians," it should be obvious that their christology (theology of Christ) is not. To understand this better, you must first understand what monotheism, polytheism, and henotheism are.

MONOTHEISM

Monotheists believe that there is one, and only one, indivisible God. The great monotheistic religions -Judaism, Christianity, and Islam- believe that the eternal, immutable, indivisible, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God created all other things (time, space, matter, etc.) out of nothing. As the Creator of nature, neither composed of it nor limited by it, God is "supernatural." There can exist no superior, nor peer, beings. Though creatures may be respected and revered (especially as God's work), only the Creator may be worshipped with adoration (latreia).

Note: Monotheists believe that even if there are other worlds and/or universes, the same one and indivisible God -the only true God that exists- created all of them from nothing. This will be relevant to later discussion.

POLYTHEISM

Polytheists believe that there are many gods. Though these gods may have great and extensive powers over natural things (time, space, matter, etc.), they are not believed to be the ultimate cause(s) of those things, and the gods may even be composed of natural things and limited by them. Such gods are not, properly speaking, supernatural. The gods of polytheists may have peer beings and even superiors. Though polytheists may have a particular devotion to one god or only a few gods, it is usually considered acceptable to worship any or all of them.

HENOTHEISM

Henotheists believe that there may be, or even are, many gods, but they worship only one of them. Because they believe in at least the possibility of many gods, they are not monotheists. Yet they are particular polytheists, worshipping only "our god" (often "the most powerful god," "the god of our tribe," "the god sympathetic to our cause," or "the god of this world"). The common polytheistic limitations still apply to the henotheists' god, nevertheless.

MORMON HENOTHEISM

Mormon theology belongs to the third category, the particular subset of polytheism called henotheism, while authentic Christian theology (like Judaism) is monotheistic. Mormons generally despise being called polytheists or henotheists, and claim to be monotheists on the grounds that they worship only one god ("Heavenly Father") and condemn the worship of other gods (in this world). But make no mistake, Mormons do believe in "plural gods" (just as they prefer the term "plural marriage" to "polygamy," Mormons prefer the term "plural gods" to "polytheism").

The god Mormons worship with adoration is usually called "Heavenly Father," their version of God the Father. "Heavenly Father" is, according to Mormon theology, the maker and supreme god of this world (not to be confused with the way the term is used in 2Cor. 4:3-4). Other worlds have their own supreme gods, each worshipped with adoration by the faithful people of his own world. Moreover, the supreme god of each world is believed to have once been a human man in some other world, who worshipped his own "Heavenly Father" (and so on in infinite regress). It would be impossible to number the gods Mormons believe may exist in various worlds: "there is an infinite number of holy personages, drawn from worlds without number, who have passed on to exaltation and are thus gods" (Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, "Plurality of Gods").

Recall the limitations of polytheists' gods mentioned above. They are usually composed of and limited by natural things like time, matter, and space, and are not therefore -properly speaking- "supernatural." This is certainly true of the gods Mormons believe in ("Heavenly Father," his superiors, peers, and subordinates). For example, Mormons believe that "Heavenly Father" has a resurrected material body, i.e. that he is at least partially composed of matter that existed before him. This further requires spatial limitation, for although Mormons profess that his influence is far-reaching, they believe he can only be in one place at one time. The world "Heavenly Father" has made was not created by his word from nothing, but organized out of pre-existing material (like a carpenter makes a chair out of wood). When Mormons use words like "eternal," "almighty," and "creator" to describe God, they do not mean the same thing Jews, Christians, and Muslims mean by those words.

SUBORDINATE DEITIES OF MORMONISM

Although only "Heavenly Father" is the supreme god of this world in Mormon theology, and they worship only "Heavenly Father" with adoration, Mormons still believe that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (Mormons still use the Jacobean term "Holy Ghost") are divine. Mormons call the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit "one Godhead," but they actually believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are separate "Gods" united in will and purpose (a moral -as opposed to ontological- unity). Statements like these are absolutely irreconcilable with authentic Christian faith in the indivisible Trinity:

Three separate personages -Father, Son, and Holy Ghost- comprise the Godhead. As each of these persons is a God, it is evident that a plurality of Gods exists. To us, speaking in the proper finite sense, these three are the only Gods we worship (Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, "Plurality of Gods," emphasis added).

[T]hey [the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] all think, act, speak, and are alike in all things; and yet they are three separate and distinct entities. Each occupies space and is and can be in but one place at one time, but each has power and influence that is everywhere present. The oneness of the Gods is the same unity that should exist among the saints [i.e. unity of will, not ontological unity] (Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, "Godhead," emphasis added).

It's true that the late Mormon Apostle McConkie wrote in Mormon Doctrine that Mormons worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (as three likeminded but separate gods). How then may we presume claim that Mormons do not worship Jesus Christ with the adoration due God?

For one, Mormons do not ever address prayer to Jesus Christ. Prayers are made in His name, but only addressed to the "Heavenly Father":

Prayers of the saints... should fit the approved pattern of proper prayer. They are to be addressed to the Father; should always be made in the name of Jesus Christ... (Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, "Prayer").

Another peril is that those [people] who become so involved [in trying to cultivate a special, personal relationship with Jesus Christ] often begin to pray directly to Christ.... This is plain sectarian nonsense. Our prayers are addressed to the Father, and to Him only. They do not go through Christ... (Bruce McConkie, "Our Relationship with the Lord," 2 March 1982).

The word "pray" simply means "to ask or request" (other meanings and connotations came later). Asking for something need not even be an act of divine adoration, which is why Catholics believe we may ask for each others' intercession and the intercession of saints like Mary and Paul without committing idolatry. But Mormons will not even address prayer to Jesus Christ Himself! This refusal clearly indicates that Mormons believe Jesus Christ is inferior to God the Father.

Moreover, as implied above, Mormon authorities have discouraged what they call an "inordinate... improper and perilous" desire for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ: "some may be offended at [our] counsel that they should not strive for a special and personal relationship with Christ" (Bruce McConkie, "Our Relationship with the Lord," 2 March 1982). This is the clincher. The same Bruce McConkie who wrote Mormon Doctrine, a late Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, gave the address called "Our Relationship with the Lord" in Provo, Utah, on 2 March 1982. Here is another excerpt:

I shall express the views of the Brethren [the teaching authorities of the LDS church, the Mormon "magisterium"], of the prophets and apostles of old, and of all those who understand and are in tune with the Holy Spirit.... Everyone who is sound spiritually and who has the guidance of the Holy Spirit will believe my words and follow my counsel.... We worship the Father and him only and no one else. We do not worship the Son and we do not worship the Holy Ghost. I know perfectly well what the Scriptures say about worshipping Christ and Jehovah [Mormons use the name "Jehovah" for Jesus Christ only], but they are speaking in an entirely different sense -the sense of standing in awe and being reverentially grateful to him who has redeemed us. Worship in the true and saving sense is reserved for God the first [a Mormon term for the Father], the Creator (Bruce McConkie, "Our Relationship with the Lord," 2 March 1982).
In Catholic terminology, Mormons allow Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit the worship of reverence (dulia, proskenesis), but not the worship of adoration (latreia), which Mormons reserve to the Father alone. In Mormon theology, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are clearly subordinate and inferior to "Heavenly Father," and we might add that even "Heavenly Father" is inferior to the Christian monotheist's God, the most holy Trinity.

Other Mormon christological terms to watch out for: firstborn, only begotten, and virgin. Mormons believe that "Heavenly Father" actually fathers spirits ("spirit children") by his wife (or wives). When Mormons say that Jesus Christ is God's "firstborn," they mean the first "spirit child" of many that "Heavenly Father" and his wife had before the material world was created. "Heavenly Father and mother(s)" have since had billions of other "spirit children," including the angels, Satan and the devils, you, and everyone else who has ever lived on this planet. Most receive material bodies from earthly parents sometime after their spiritual birth, though some (like Satan) never do. When Mormons call Jesus God's "only begotten," they mean Jesus is the only man "Heavenly Father" fathered in the flesh as well as in spirit. "Heavenly Father" accomplished this by having sexual intercourse with Mary of Nazareth. This brings us to the word "virgin," which Mormons completely redefine to mean "Mary never had sexual intercourse with a mortal man." Never assume, when Mormons use familiar theological terms, that they mean the same thing you do.

This page uses several traditional theological terms (e.g. monotheism, polytheism, and henotheism) to attempt to describe the Mormon doctrine of God. This is a very difficult endeavor because the Mormon doctrine of God is not traditional, but relatively new, unique, and subject to change. Mormon theologian Van Hale's essay "Defining the Contemporary Mormon Concept of God," which appears in Gary Bergera's Line Upon Line: Essays on Mormon Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Signature Books), is a very helpful resource for anyone who wants to better understand the major difficulties and nuances involved in Mormon theological terminology. Hale does summarize the Mormon doctrine of God in traditional theological terms with great success, but admits that the combined terminology appears ludicrous:

Another solution [to the problem of terminology] might be to combine historic theological terms to define the Mormon doctrine of deity as a development from a homoousion, modalistic monarchian form of monotheism to homoiousion, tritheistic henotheism. But this much technical jargon is too cumbersome for anyone to take seriously.
You needn't be intimidated by that statement; the essay is actually quite short & easy to follow.

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