The Book of Mormon: A Testament of Another Jesus Christ

Posted: December 6, 2020 in Book of Mormon, Christ, Jesus Christ, Mormon Studies, Susan Grape
Why the Book of Mormon Jesus isn’t the Christ of the Bible

by Susan Grape
There are three reasons why the Jesus in the Book of Mormon is not the Christ of the Bible:

  1. The biblical history of the tribes of Israel, and the claims of the LDS1 position
  2. Jesus descending out of heaven to the Americas after his Ascension
  3. The character of the Jesus in the Bible vs. the Jesus in 3 Nephi


1. The biblical history of the tribes of Israel, and the claims of the LDS position
Israel’s history after Solomon’s reign
As a consequence of Solomon’s idolatry in his later years, the nation split apart. The northern kingdom, “Israel,” was torn from the rule of Solomon’s descendants and consisted of ten tribes. The southern kingdom, “Judah,” was left for his line to rule and consisted of two tribes. (1 Kings 11:26-39)

The northern kingdom would have had God’s blessing if their king and the ten tribes remained faithful, but Jeroboam did the opposite of faithfulness by immediately erecting a pagan altar with pagan priests to attend it (1 Kings 12:25-33). Within four centuries Israel and Judah became so idolatrous, that Israel was exiled in 722BC by the Assyrian Empire, and Judah was exiled by the Babylonian Empire around 588BC. The purpose of Judah’s exile was to purge idolatry and preserve the righteous by removing them from Jerusalem to avoid the destruction of the conquering nation. (Jeremiah 24)

Both nations were exiled within the boundaries of Babylon. Ezekiel prophesied among them (Ezekiel 4:1-7) concerning God’s promise of restoring Israel after Judah’s 70-year captivity. He proclaimed the twelve tribes would rise up together, united (Ezek. 37:1-14) and return to the mountains of Israel (Ezek. 36) as one nation, under one king (Ezek. 37:15-24).2

Ezra however, recorded that only 52,000 men returned from three tribes, so where were the others? Many supposed the missing tribes were absorbed into the cultures they were exiled in; that is until the indigenous peoples in the Americas were discovered. A new theory developed that assumed Native Americans were descendants of the tribes of Israel.

This theory began to fade away as the sciences of linguistics, migration, and genetics gave concrete evidence that Native Americans were not of Israelite origin. Sometimes the sciences aren’t trusted because they aren’t divine revelation; however, the Bible is, and it divinely reveals what befell the tribes.

What happened to the tribes after Solomon’s reign?
Usually, populations increase as time goes by; but this did not happen with Israel or Judah:

  • Wars were the biggest reason for the population reduction of Israel. (2 Chron. 13:13-17)
  • The northern kingdom lost people, even entire tribes to Judah until they only had 10,000 soldiers left when Assyria invaded them. (2 Chron. 11:13-15, cf. 16-17, 12:7; 15:9-15; 17:14-19; 1 Kings 12:24; 2 Kings 13:7)
  • Even though those who joined Judah caused Judah’s population to increase, by the time of Babylon’s last invasion, several devastating wars had reduced its numbers by the hundreds of thousands. (2 Kings 24:3-4; 10-15; 2 Chron. 24:23-24 with 25:5; 2 Chron. 28:5-6; Joel)

After the Assyrian and Babylonian exiles, scattered tribes did not become geographically lost

    • Some were never deported. (Jer. 39:10; 40:7; 2 Kings 25:22; 2 Chron. 30:1-6, 10-11, 18; 31:1 1 Chron. 4:41-43
    • Two-thirds of those in Jerusalem died during Babylon’s second deportation. They died at other times as well: Israel, 2 Kings 13:7; and Judah, Ezekiel 5:11-12; 6:8-10.
    • Some, not listed in Ezra, returned at different times than Ezra’s, Zerubbabel’s, and Nehemiah’s groups did. (1 Chron. 9:1-3)
    • The Book of Esther records where the locations of the exiles were; and, where they remained. (Esther 1:1, 3:6-15; 8:7-14; 9:16-32)3
    • From Esther’s era until the New Testament period, the Bible reveals that they continued to migrate/flee all around the Mediterranean. Acts 2:5-12; 13:5-6, 14-15; 14:1; 16:1-, 14; 17:1-2, 10, 16-17; 21:2; James 1:1.


H
ow the lost tribe theory in the Book of Mormon claims a relationship to the tribes of Israel
The Book of Mormon’s narrative begins around 600 BC., with the story of Lehi, and his remnant that left Jerusalem after Babylon’s first exile. It is one thing for a small group of Jews to become isolated in a remote area. It is quite another story when the claim is that God commanded a person to leave Jerusalem and go to a new “land of promise.” This parting from Biblical principle and history begins in 1 Nephi 1:4:

“For it came to pass in the commencement of the first year of the reign of Zedekiah, king of Judah, (my father, Lehi, having dwelt at Jerusalem in all his days)…”

Lehi (and family) were living in Jerusalem when Zedekiah was king! Lehi was righteous, rich and had trained skills (1 Nephi 1:1, 15; 2:4; 1 1:2-3, 1:16-17) His relative Laban was so wealthy, he owned a guarded treasury house, was a man of valor and an officer (1 Nephi 4:20; 3:31-4:1, 8-9) Nephi was highly skilled (2 Nephi 5:15-17)

But, the residents of Jerusalem during the early reign of Zedekiah were poor, unskilled, and unrighteous! Why? During the previous king’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar deported all the noble, all military officers, all who were strong for war, and all craftsmen and smiths—10,000, with their families to Babylon, leaving only the “unrighteous” poor behind (2 Kings 24:8-18; Jer. 29:6).

Nebuchadnezzar placed Zedekiah on the throne after this deportation.

The people that the Book of Mormon claims were at Jerusalem were there at the wrong time. They fail authenticity.

In this “land of promise” – that is, the Americas, starting around 588 BC (1 Nephi 2:11-20) – Lehi’s descendants grew and split into two nations and were ruled by their own kings. By 400 AD, one nation was wiped out of existence, and the other utterly lost its faith, language, and identity.

They likewise fail authenticity, for this defies God’s promise of preservation; and, restoration His reuniting the twelve tribes as one nation under one king on the mountains of Israel4 (Ezekiel; 36, note: vv. 8-11, 24, 33; 37:1-24; Jeremiah 29:10-14; Isaiah 10:20-22, 51:11; Daniel 9, note: vv. 2, 24-25). Those who remained in foreign lands never formed another nation because they were ethnically and spiritually linked to that one nation, and journeyed there if possible to attend the high festivals. (Acts 2:5-12)

This map of the Persian Empire shows that the tribes were never really lost. Some isolated pockets of Jews such as the modern expatriate communities in India and Africa have been confirmed as Jews. Their locations are exactly where the Book of Esther says their ancestors were deported to during the exile (see Esther 1:1; 3:6-15; 8:7-14; 9:16-32). (click on image to read the Wikipedia article about these recently found lost tribes)


What about the “other sheep?” (John 10:16)
Latter-day Saints claim that Jesus had to preach to these alleged tribes so they could audibly hear his voice in order to become one with those in Jerusalem:

“Other sheep I have that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice…” (John 10:16)
”… And join them one to another into one stick; and they shall become one in thine hand…and they all shall have one shepherd.” (Ezekiel 37:16,24)
“… But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd…” (3 Nephi 16:3)

John 10:16 does not correlate to 3 Nephi 16:3 because it is based on Isaiah 56:1-115 not the Ezekiel passage. It’s about the blind man Jesus healed that the false shepherds, the Pharisees threw out of the synagogue; and, their failure to tend the sheep (John 9:35-10:18). Jesus, therefore, was not privately instructing His disciples how “lost” Israelites must literally hear His voice! Instead, He was rebuking the Pharisees for hindering the Jews who believed Jesus was the Messiah; and the Gentiles because they turned the Court of the Gentiles into a marketplace (John 2:13-16; Matthew 21:12-13; Luke 19:45-46, cf. Isaiah 56:7). In verse 16, Jesus referenced Isaiah 56:8 to the Pharisees: “The Lord God which gathereth the out casts of Israel saith, ‘Yet will I gather others to him, besides those that are gathered to him’.”

Due to their rejection of Him and bad shepherding, Jesus was rejecting their leadership. He would now be the True Shepherd and unite the “others”—believing Gentiles (John 2:12-16, 3:16) with the “out casts of Israel”—those thrown out of the synagogue. All the “sheep” in both folds (Acts 2:5-12; Acts chap. 10) would now be one fold. (Eph. 2:11-19)

2. Jesus descending out of heaven to the Americas after his Ascension6
3 Nephi 11:8-12 states that Jesus Christ bodily descended “out of heaven” “after his ascension” in the same way Acts 1:9-11 describes. Then, he did such works as preaching repentance, the gospel, teaching, instituting baptism, and calling twelve disciples. (3 Nephi. 8-28)

Jesus taught, however, that it was “expedient” that He must “go away” so the Holy Spirit would come and “guide them into all truth.” (John 16:7-14; cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3). So after Jesus ascended, the Spirit is the one who teaches truth and glorifies Christ through:

  • Christians preaching the gospel to ALL nations through planned missionary journeys, daily witnessing, and also unplanned ways like persecution and “accidents” like Paul’s shipwreck. (Matt. 10:6-7; Matt. 28:19-20)
  • Spirit-led visions and miracles. Paul had a vision, then went to Ananias and was converted (Acts 9:3-7; 22:4-16; 26:9-18). Paul was forbidden to go to Mysia, but was beckoned in a vision by a Macedonian to preach in Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10). Phillip was told by an angel to head south. After witnessing to an Ethiopian, he was miraculously taken away by the Holy Spirit to another city to preach there (Acts 8:26-40).

The redeeming work of the Son for all of Israel (and Gentiles) took place on the cross. Since His Ascension, Jesus has “sat down” (signifying His earthly work is complete) on the throne, and the Holy Spirit now reveals who Christ is.


Verses used to support the claim that Jesus left heaven after His Ascension (like 3 Nephi describes) are not proof texts for that belief
First, 1 Corinthians 15:4-7 (KJV) reads as follows:

And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:
And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

Jesus did not have to descend out of heaven to show His self to the 500 because they (excluding Paul) saw Him before He ascended during the forty days He was still on earth.

Next, Revelation 1:10-18, which reads as follows:

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,
Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.
And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;
And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.
His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;
And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.
And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:
I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

John saw Jesus; however, Jesus did not bodily descend out of heaven. Instead, John was “in the Spirit” and saw Jesus in an apocalyptic-style vision.

An Eastern Orthodox fresco of Paul’s Conversion on the Road to Damascus. Artist and location unknown.

Next, there’s Christ’s Post-Ascension appearance to Paul (see Acts 9:3-7; 22:6-9; and 26:12-14). Jesus appeared to Paul after His Ascension. All three accounts of Paul’s vision explicitly document what he saw:

“…suddenly there shined round about him a light from HEAVEN…heard a voice” (see Acts 9:3&4)
“…suddenly there shone from HEAVEN a great light round about…heard a voice” (see Acts 22:6&7)
“…a light from HEAVEN…heard a voice” (see Acts 26:13&14)

And Acts 9:7 adds that the men with Paul also heard the voice, but saw “no man”.

3 Nephi 11:8-12 claims:

“… as they cast their eyes up again towards heaven, behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven and he was clothed in a white robe; and he came down and stood in the midst of them; and the eyes of the whole multitude were turned upon him and they durst not open their mouths… it had been prophesied among them that Christ should show himself unto them AFTER his ascension into heaven.” Then, they touched his wounds. (vv. 14-15)

This was not a vision; it was a narrative; and, it matches the description of how Christ will bodily descend out of heaven at the Second Coming in Acts 1:9-11. This is especially so because just before his descent, he avenged the blood of the saints. (3 Nephi 9:5-11).

Then there’s the word “appear/appearance” in Paul’s accounts

In the first two accounts of his vision, Paul was called to be an apostle to the Gentiles—through Ananias. In Acts 26:12-19 Paul shortens his testimony by stating that Jesus said, “I have appeared unto thee for this purpose to make thee a witness…” (v. 16), making it sound like Jesus physically appeared and preached to him. First, verses thirteen and fourteen verify that Jesus appeared as “…a light from heaven…heard a voice”. Second, the other two accounts explain that that message was given to Paul through Ananias.

Finally, there is Acts 23:11 (KJV) which says: “And the night following the Lord stood by him, and said, Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.”

This was more than likely a manifestation. Unlike the Mormon Jesus, the Biblical Jesus is omnipresent; and can manifest himself somewhere while His resurrected body is in heaven.  More important, this encounter lasted a few seconds to simply assure Paul; unlike the narrative in 3 Nephi, where Jesus continued his work and was there for several days.

These “appearances” of Jesus after His Ascension in the Bible were not ones of Him bodily descending, so they do not conflict with Jesus remaining in heaven “till his enemies are made his footstool” (Ps. 110:1-31 Cor. 15:25-26). The story in 3 Nephi is in opposition to this.


3. The character of the Jesus in the Bible vs. the Jesus in 3 Nephi of the Book of Mormon

The Biblical Jesus who is “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14-17) is now our advocate with the Father. So, unlike the Old Testament’s era of justice and retribution, (i.e. the Flood); or, the final judgment at the Second Coming, we are now in a period of grace. This New Testament Era centers on Jesus who came to “give us life more abundantly,” therefore, mercy is prevalent until He returns. The character of the Book of Mormon Jesus is different. In 3 Nephi, before he left heaven (right after His ultimate act of grace and love—His death on the cross), the Book of Mormon Jesus is pouring out wrath in the Americas comparable to the Apocalypse:

The Book of Mormon Jesus

    1. Killed those who murdered the prophets and saints to avenge them. (3 Nephi 9:5-11)
    2. Killed multitudes for doubt (3 Ne. 8:3-4) and wickedness by burning, drowning, and burying them and their cities. (3 Nephi 9:3-11)
    3. Killed multitudes around the time of his death. (3 Nephi 9-12)
    4. After he died, many were buried in the earth. (3 Nephi 9:5-8)
    5. When the earth stopped shaking (3 Nephi 10:9) he summarized his killing and destruction to the grieving, remorseful survivors, and then told them to repent so he could heal them. (3 Nephi 9:13)
    6. Wept over them after he killed them (3 Nephi 10:4-6)

The New Testament Jesus

    1. Reserves vindication for the martyred saints until His Second Coming. (Revelation 6:9-11; 19:1-8)
    2. Called the wicked who scorned the prophets, rejected Him to His face, and successfully plotted to kill Him, “hypocrites”, and held their generation responsible for the deaths of the saints. (Matthew 23:34-36)
    3. While dying on the cross, He forgave those who physically crucified Him. (Luke 23:33-35)
    4. When He died, the earth shook and many rose from the dead. (Matthew 27:50-53)
    5. Did not kill and destroy to bring about repentance. In fact, His disciples asked Him to destroy some who rejected Him, and Jesus told them: “the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives, but to save them” (Luke 9:51-56)
    6. Wept over them after pronouncing judgment and allowed them to live. (Luke 19:41-44, Matthew 23:37)

Clearly, the Jesus of the Book of Mormon is another Jesus than the Jesus of the Bible. Mormon leaders were quite right when they said:

“In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints ‘do not believe in the traditional Christ.’ ‘No, I don’t. 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’”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the LdS Church, “Crown of Gospel is Upon Our Heads”, Church News, June 20, 1998, p. 7)

“As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say”
(Gordon B. Hinckley, 15th President of the LdS Church, “We look to Christ,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2002, p. 90)

“It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
(Bernard P. Brockbank, LdS Seventy, “The Living Christ”,  Ensign (Conference Edition), May 1977, p.26)

The nutshell version of the last section of this article.

NOTES
1 Latter-day Saints (LDS); aka, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or the Mormon Church.
2 The two sticks in Ezek. 37:15-22 are not the Book of Mormon (the stick of Joseph), and the Bible (the stick of Judah) becoming one as the LDS Church claims. Verses 18-22 explain what they are: the two divided nations! “…Wilt thou not show us what thou meanest by these? God will make the two sticks “one stick,” and that one stick is “one nation, [not books/scrolls] in the land on the mountains of Israel and one king shall be king to them all and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.”
3 Non-Biblical reference: The Works of Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Books X-XV.
4 The idea of a second promised land has been a foreign notion to Jews (and Christians) throughout history. All of the Old Testament prophets were in divine agreement that Israel’s only inheritance forever was the land of Canaan; and, that they would return to that same land promised to Abraham as one restored nation.
5 Isaiah 56:1-11 (KJV) reads as follows:

Thus saith the Lord, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.
Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.
Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the Lord, speak, saying, The Lord hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.
For thus saith the Lord unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;
Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.
Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the Lord, to serve him, and to love the name of the Lord, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;
Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.
The Lord God, which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.
All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest.
His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.
Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.

6 S. Kent Brown, “When Did Jesus Visit the Americas?” in From Jerusalem to Zarahemla: Literary and Historical Studies of the Book of Mormon (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1998), 146–156.

About the Author
Susan Grape grew up in a non-churchgoing family. When she became engaged, her fiancé (now husband) and she joined a Christian church. As she was learning about the Bible and Jesus, several friends, and relatives who were either Mormon, Jehovah’s Witnesses or Christian Scientist shared their beliefs with her and challenged her to the point that she knew that their doctrine was different enough to question that someone (perhaps herself) had to be wrong. When Mormon missionaries and Jehovah’s Witnesses came to her home, it forced her to study the scriptures to see what the Bible actually taught. That very intense time of studying gave her the evidence for what Biblical truth is. It sparked the desire to reach out to these groups with the Biblical gospel and the Biblical Christ.

Mrs. Grape served as a board member for ten years with Berean Christian Ministries and she currently is in her eleventh year of serving on the board of Christian Research & Counsel. Her husband Brad also is on the board. The Grape’s adult children are professing Christians, and their grandchildren are also being raised in the faith.

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