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I'm a Christian, married to a wonderful man, Steven, and mother to a wonderful little son. I have many interests and a few noteworthy journeys in life and I enjoy sharing them.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The First Article of Faith: Who is Jesus?

"We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost."

The second person mentioned in this Article of Faith is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

In Mormonism, Jesus is a god separate from God. "The Savior, on the other hand, though clothed in flesh and blood during His mortal ministry, is a God." (Dec 2000 Liahona, "Christ's Role as Redeemer) They believe him to be the Creator and the God (Jehovah) of the Old Testament.

He is the eldest spirit-son of God the Father--he is our elder brother, and brother to Satan as well. Because of his volunteering to die for the sins of the world, he was given Godhood before he ever had a body, and supposedly still had to "earn" it when he was on earth--which implies that he could have chosen not to.

"Jesus became a God and reached His great state of understanding through consistent effort and continuous obedience to all the gospel truths and universal laws." (General Authority Milton R. Hunter, "The Gospel Through The Ages", Pg. 51)
Though its not taught much in church now, the LDS leaders have also said that Jesus was born through intercourse through God and Mary (not through the Holy Spirit like the Bible says).

"The birth of the Saviour was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood - was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, p. 115).

"Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers." (Apostle Bruce McConkie, "Mormon Doctrine", Pg. 547, 1979)

"Elohim is literally the Father of the spirit of Jesus Christ and also of the body in which Jesus Christ performed His mission in the flesh ..." (First Presidency and Council of the Twelve, 1916, God the Father, compiled by Gordon Allred, p. 150).

As discussed recently in this blog, when Jesus came to redeem mankind from their sins, the LDS believe this took place in the Garden of Gethsemane, rather than the cross.

The Christian reality of Jesus is quite different. He is not our spirit-brother, he is God. He is not a separate God, either--he is a personage of the one and only God, as discussed before in my blogs about the Trinity.

John 14:4-7; 1 Timothy 3:16; Isaiah 9:6; Matthew 1:23; John 1:1, 14; John 12:44-45; John 10:30; Colossians 1:15-17+Genesis 1:1; John 20:28-29; 1 John 5:7; John 4:24; Revelation 1:8;  Exodus 3:13-15 +John 8:52-5 

Christ took on all the limitations of flesh, without giving up his identity as God. This can be difficult to understand for us, since we as humans generally keep all aspects of ourselves together, but even we believe in the separateness of our own body, soul, and spirit--is it so hard to think that God can have that sort of separateness, but in an even greater way than us? This is how Jesus was still able to pray to God as a man, and how the Holy Spirit descended on him. The three aspects of God are separate personages--but they're all completely one God.

Let's look for a moment at Jesus suffering. Starting in the Garden, we see some very real, very strong emotions playing out--strong enough to make Luke describe Jesus' sweat as being as blood, which could either mean that he was just sweating very heavily in the same way someone bleeds heavily, or it could mean that his sweat was tinged with blood (he wasn't literally bleeding from his very pores, though.) Either way, this shows great psychological stress and anxiety. He knew what was coming.

Once in the hands of the Romans, its important to understand the sort of whipping he underwent. This wasn't just a single leather strap cracking across his back. This was a bull-whip with chunks of metal and sharp things woven into it to cause contusions that would then be ripped open. The whipping would extend from shoulders to legs. Although there was a standard number of lashes--I believe 39--it wasn't uncommon for the soldier administering the beating to give more. It was not uncommon for the beating to leave a man's insides laid bare--his spine, his arteries, his nerves, even his bowels if it was bad enough. Many died from the beating before they could make it to the cross.

The cross was horrific. In fact, the word "excruciating" comes from the Latin "out of the cross." The ordeal was so painful, they had to make their own word for it--and they subjected only the worst of people to it. Roman citizens were exempt from the cross except in the case of high treason. Outside of Roman citizenship, only the worst of criminals or those who stood against the Roman empire were subject to the cross. It was a terrible, inhumane, shameful death.

The cross was not a walk in the park either. The spikes were driven through nerves--imagine how it feels to hit your funny bone. Its because you're hitting a nerve. Now imagine how much worse it would be if you took a pair of pliers and crushed and twisted that nerve. That would give you an idea of what it felt like to have spikes driving into your wrists and feet.

Once he was lifted onto the cross, his arms would have quickly pulled from their sockets because of how he was hanging, stretching the tendons, muscles, and ligaments. This also put him into a position that made breathing in difficult, so that he would have to push up on his feet to get a good breath--a painful prospect, considering that he was pushing up on the nail in his feet. Eventually he would have simply grown to week to push up for the next breath, and breathing would have become shallow, making his heartbeat unsteady--especially since it was probably already pumping like crazy before, since he'd lost so much blood from the whipping.

In fact, experts believe its this strain on his heart that killed him. When John describes the spear being thrust into Jesus' side to confirm that he was dead, there was both "blood and water" that came out--the "water" was likely fluid caused by his heart rupturing from the strain

Knowing this was to come, and obviously having great trepidation in facing it--"let this cup pass from me"--what caused Jesus to allow himself to go through it? He was a miracle worker. He was God. He could have stopped it at any time. He could have avoided the pain and death, or at least died in a less terrible way. What made him do it? What made him endure the whipping? What made him make it to the cross? What kept him hanging there until his heart broke, and still say, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"?

Quite simply the answer is love.

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