Chapter 6

What Think Ye of Christ?

Throughout the account of the Savior’s three-year ministry as recorded in the New Testament, we read of the many attempts by the Pharisees and Sadducees to discredit him and his teachings. These groups of learned religious men would pit their lawyers and spokesmen against Jesus in public forums where they would seek to trap him in rhetorical play by twisting his words around. However, their efforts were in vain as Christ would speak in parables and pose questions in return that they could not possibly answer with their limited knowledge.

The book of Matthew contains the account of the last time the Savior was accosted by these groups in chapter 22. They alternately asked him questions in order to “entangle him in his talk”, (KJV Matthew 22:15) but Christ answered them in such a way that they “marvelled” and “were astonished at his doctrine.” (KJV Matthew 22: 22,33) Finally, when he had had enough, the Savior queried them back. “What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he?” When they answered that he was the Son of David, he responded, “How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies they footstool? If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?” (KJV Matthew 22: 42-45) This reply was so profound that no one was! able to answer him back “neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.” (KJV Matthew 22:45)

Even though the question was never asked again in Christ’s time, the issue and subsequent debates have occupied over two millennia of religious controversy since then. Every major religion answers this question within the framework of their beliefs and many people judge the truth of each other’s faith as a whole by their stance on this one point. Just among the denominations today that claim to be Christian, there are widely differing doctrines on exactly who Christ was, how he was born, his mission, his death, and his current status.

Additionally, written records have been altered, truths lost and doctrines changed over the millennia since Christ was born. Consequently, religious groups have held councils through the years to decide what is and isn’t true doctrine or scripture. Perhaps the most famous is the council of Nicea in 325 CE where the books of the Bible and the nature of the Christ were in dispute. Subsequent doctrines came out of that meeting which have led to the variance of Christian beliefs today.

For Latter-day Saints, there is no dispute or question regarding this issue since Joseph Smith restored many of these plain and precious truths to us through direct revelation from God. We are able to answer what we think of Christ with conviction and testimony. We know of his birth, death, role, and that he still lives. We have no doubts that he will come again to this earth and that every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah of humankind.

This knowledge, as revealed through modern day prophets, puts us at odds sometimes with our fellow Christians. We find ourselves often in the position of fighting misconceptions that we worship Joseph Smith or that we are not even Christian despite the fact that our church is named after Jesus Christ. Our belief in the distinctness of personage between God the Father and Christ separates us from the majority of Christian groups today who hold to the Nicean doctrine of the t Trinity. We declare that God, Christ and the Holy Ghost are three separate beings who work together in a Godhead that is one in purpose, not one joined together in a single corporeal body or essence. We do not believe that Christ was God the Father incarnate while living his earthly life. We do not glorify, worship or pray to him instead of God the Father nor do we pray to the Virgin Mary or other saintly people.

The fact that we do not use the normal Christian icons of the cross or crucified Christ figure in our churches is another point that promotes our individuality. We also believe that the Bible is the word of God only as far as it is translated correctly. We know it contains faults, is missing text and in many instances uses mistranslations. This confession on our part widens the gap between us and other main-stream Christian faiths. With the addition of our other three books of scripture, it is no wonder that the majority of Christendom today views us as something entirely outside their concept of a Christian faith. Conversely, from our side, Elder Parley P. Pratt’s comments from 1855 as quoted earlier are still relevant now in that we would most likely view modern Christianity’s Trinitarian doctrines to be a form of heathenism as compared with those of Islam that closely parallel our own.

So what exactly do Muslims think of Christ? One of the foremost misconceptions about Islam is that they do not believe in Christ at all. This is to them like saying to Mormons that we are not Christians. It is utterly false and really very upsetting to a faithful Muslim. Just because they do not have knowledge of his role as the Savior does not mean that they do not revere and accept his teachings as a prophet nor his mission in restoring the truth to his dispensation. The Islamic beliefs about Christ “do not intend in any way to belittle his role or underestimate his character or diminish his great person. On the contrary, these Islamic beliefs depict Jesus in a most respectable manner and place him as high in status as God himself has placed him. In fact, the Muslim is more respectful of Jesus than many Christians… Acceptance of Jesus by Muslims is a fundamental article of faith in Islam.”[1]

The Quran refers to Christ as a holy or pure son born to the Virgin Mary and a mercy from God.[2] It is interesting to note that he is called Jesus the Messiah in several places in the Quran including the instance of the annunciation of the angel to Mary regarding his birth. “Allah bids you rejoice in a Word from Him. His name is the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary.” (Surah 3:45) The Arabic root of the word Messiah includes among other definitions to erase, wipe or rub away. In his role as the Savior though the atonement, Christ fulfills all the meanings of this title but nothing more is mentioned in the Quran alluding to his role as redeemer.

The important point to remember here is that Muhammad’s mission was to rid the Arabian peoples of their idolatrous beliefs, their plurality of Gods and their misconceptions concerning the true character of Allah. The Christian churches during his time were already teaching the Trinitarian doctrine in full force, and with the addition of pagan idolatry among non-Christians, there was little if any pure religion left on earth in 600 CE. This was indeed an age of ignorance in regards to religious truths as well as other aspects of civilization. When Muhammad revealed the Quran, the main theme was the Unity of God- not partnered or shared by any idols, sons, daughters, or additions of any kind.

There are numerous passages in the Quran that refute idolatry and an equal number that address the erroneous Christian view of the Trinity essence. The deification of Jesus, declaring that he was God the Father in the flesh and should be worshipped, was as heinous a sin as to believe that God had created daughters who were idols, also worthy of worship.[3] In one poignant passage, God declares that they would assign daughters to Him, yet they would bury their own when they were born. “They give daughters to Allah (Glory be to Him!), but they themselves would have what they desire. When the birth of a girl is announced to one of them, his face grows dark and he is filled with inward gloom. Because of the bad news he hides himself from men: should he keep her with disgrace or bury her under the dust? How ill they judge!” (Surah 16: 57-59)

The single important truth of tawheed (the Unity of God) that Muhammad revealed did not leave room for God to have any deified sons or daughters that would draw worship and belief away from Him. Additionally, the Christian denominations were promoting the birth of Christ to be something other than the miraculous creation by God. They were using the words “only begotten” to imply the strict definition of an earthly physical union as the means by which conception took place. That coupled with their view of Christ as God the Father incarnate resulted in many Quranic revelations given in the strongest language possible to set the record straight. Regarding the act of Christ’s conception, God declares, “Allah forbid that He Himself should beget a son! When he decrees a thing He need only say: ‘Be,’ and it is.” (Surah 19:35)

And further: “Those who say: ‘The Lord of Mercy has begotten a son preach a monstrous falsehood, at which the very heavens might crack, the earth break asunder, and the mountains crumble to dust. That they should ascribe a son to the Merciful, when it does not become Him to beget one!” (Surah 19:88-92) Of the actual process of the creation of Christ, another surah states, “And in Mary, Imran’s daughter, who preserved her chastity and into whose womb We breathed of Our spirit; who put her trust in the words of her Lord and His scriptures and was truly devout.” (Surah 66:12)

Jesus Christ came to this earth to live a completely mortal life experience as an example for us to follow. He did not perform his miracles[4] by using some special divine power in the role of a god himself, but accomplished them through his faith and to give the glory and honor to the Father only. The Quran has an interesting passage where God will question Christ about what he taught and did in this life. “Then Allah will say: ‘Jesus, son of Mary, did you ever say to mankind: “Worship me and my mother as gods beside Allah?”’ ‘Glory to You,’ he will answer, ‘how could I say that to which I have no right? If I had ever said so, You would have surely known it…I spoke to them nothing except what You bade me. I said: “Serve Allah, my Lord and your Lord.”” (Surah 5: 116, 117)

In regards to the issue of Christ as a deity that is part of a Trinity essence, the Quran repeats time and time again that Jesus is not the Son of God[5] (meaning his creation through earthly physically begotten means and then partnered on the same level as God the Father or sharing an essence with Him.) If God so chose, He could have destroyed Christ, Mary and all the inhabitants of earth.[6] God is totally self-sufficient without the need of a Son or partner with whom to share His power or glory. All that the heavens and earth contain are His alone.[7] If there were more than one God in heaven, each God would govern his own creation and vie each other for position.[8] Christ was only mortal, an apostle (prophet), and a servant of God, which position he did not distain.[9] The disbelievers are those who say Allah is one of three. But He is only one God.[10] The Jews say that Ezra is the Son of God and the Christians say the Messiah is the Son of God. They worship them along with their rabbis and monks as gods besides Allah although they were ordered to serve one God only. There is no God but Him. He is exalted beyond those whom they would deify beside him.[11] 

Islam leaves no room for doubt about the supreme Oneness of God to whom all glory belongs. To the People of the Book (Christians), the Quran gives a challenge: “Say: ‘People of the Book, let us come to an agreement: that we will worship none but Allah, that we will associate none with him, and that none of us shall set up mortals as gods besides him.” (Surah 3:64) Christ as a deified God the Father incarnate and part of a Trinity godhead’s singular essence were the very doctrines that Joseph Smith also refuted in his time. Through his first vision[12] of the Father and the Son, the first thing Joseph learned about the character of God was that He was a separate and distinct being from that of the Savior. While God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost constitute a working Godhead, they are one only in purpose, not in essence.

LDS doctrine teaches that Jesus Christ is our elder brother (the firstborn spirit of our Heavenly Father) who came to this earth in the bodily nature and form of a mortal man. “…I was in the world and made flesh my tabernacle, and dwelt with the sons of men.” (D&C 93:4) While we affirm His divine roles as a member of the Godhead in the pre-existence and the Savior of this earth, all things that were delegated to him both in heaven and on earth were done at the command of and for the glory of the Father, not for himself. Christ fulfills the commands of the Father and carries out His will. He is not to be worshipped as a God equal in position of hierarchy to the Father. He is subordinate to God the Father in power, supremacy and authority. All glory belongs to the Father only. While we also strongly affirm that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Only Begotten of the Father, the concept of “begotten son” to us is not strictly that of a physical act of conception. Rather, it refers to the literal relationship that Christ has with the Father that was necessary to his mission to act as the Savior for the world.

We are in agreement with those of most faiths regarding the fact that Mary was a virgin and that Christ had no mortal physical father. In this sense, we say that God “begot” him through His direct involvement in His creation and because of this, he is the Son of God (differing from all of us who were conceived by solely mortal physical means). But we do not know how the actual act was performed. In the book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price, God refers to Christ as His Only Begotten and the Savior, but within the same verse states very emphatically that there is no God beside Him. He speaks to Moses telling him that he is in similitude to Christ, “and mine Only Begotten is and shall be the Savior, for he is full of grace and truth; but there is no God beside me, and all things are present with me, for I know them all.” (PGP Moses 1:6)

The title of “son of God” or “God the son” also refers to Christ’s participating role as a member of the Godhead in the pre-existence. As we learn through the scriptures, Christ took an active role in the creation of the earth by carrying out the instructions of the Father. In the book of Moses, God states: “Behold I reveal unto you concerning this heaven, and this earth; write the words which I speak. I am the Beginning and the End, the Almightly God: by mine only begotten I created these things; yea, in the beginning I created the heaven, and the earth upon which thou standest.” (PGP Moses 2:1) All glory and credit for the creation are still with the Father, but He clearly states that He used the Savior to accomplish the act.

The divine role that Christ performed as the Savior is the major differing factor in our beliefs with those of Islam. For us, Jesus was more than just a prophet and teacher of truth. He was also the Redeemer of humankind wherein he used his divinely inherited powers to take upon himself the sins of the world to bring about the laws of mercy and fulfill the laws of justice according to the commands of the Father. This was another of his pre-existent assignments as part of the Godhead. He was foreordained to fulfill the role of Savior in the Father’s great plan of salvation for His children.

When he appeared to the Nephites in 34 CE shortly after his crucifixion and resurrection in Jerusalem, Christ told them, “Behold, I have come into the world to bring redemption unto the world, to save the world from sin. Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him I will receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such I have laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me all ye ends of the earth, and be saved.” (BM 3 Nephi 9:21,22) We do not know exactly how Christ performed the atonement, but we believe his divine parentage from God allowed him to have the power of His Godhood at the proper time to accomplish this act. This is why he could not have been born from a normal physical union as were the rest of us.

Although he lived his life as a mortal, he had the divine ability to fulfill this task when the necessary time came. “The fact of Jesus’ being the literal Son of God in the flesh is crucial to the Atonement, which could not have been accomplished by an ordinary man… To complete the Atonement by physical death and resurrection, it was necessary that Jesus be able to lay down his physical body and also be able to take it up again. He could do this only because he had life in himself, which he inherited from God his Father.[13] Christ inherited the ability to die from his mortal mother and the power to resurrect himself from his immortal Father. Dying was for him a voluntary, deliberate act for mankind, made possible only because he was the Only Begotten of the Father (D&C 20:18-26).”[14]

We do know that the act of the Atonement began in the Garden of Gethsemane and that the process was extremely painful. In a very beautiful passage of scripture, Christ tells us of the event himself. “I, having accomplished and finished the will of him whose I am, even the Father, concerning me…For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent, they must suffer even as I, Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit- and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink- nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.” (D&C 19: 2, 16-19)

Even in fulfilling this role as the Savior, Christ did not glorify anyone but the Father and in fact, spoke of his submission to God in all things. “And behold, I am the light and life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon myself the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning.” (BM 3 Nephi 11:11) God had chosen Christ to be the Redeemer in the beginning before the world was created and gave him “power to make intercession for the children of men.” (BM Mosiah 15:8) Additionally, Jesus’ role of intercessor was intimated or foretold by most of the prophets who preceded him.

The Quran actually contains several references to intercession (though none in direct reference to Christ), stating that none will have this power unless God grants it.[15] On the Day of Judgment, when the trumpet shall sound, “none shall have power to intercede for them except him that has received the sanction of the Merciful and whose word is acceptable to Him.” (Surah 20: 100, 102, 109) Then it will not matter which idols were worshipped, for none will be able to answer. “The gods to whom they pray besides Him have not the power to intercede for them. None can intercede for them save him who knows the truth and testifies to it.” (Surah 43:86) A very interesting note in the King Fahed commentary on this verse states, “While idols and false gods have no power of intercession, persons like Jesus, who is falsely worshipped by his misguided followers, but who himself preached the Gospel of Unity with full understanding will have the power of intercession.”[16]

Muslims believe that forgiveness of sins is obtained through repentance and the will of God. One of God’s 99 names is the “Forgiving One” and He is able to apply mercy to the repentant: “Say: Servants of Allah, you that have sinned against your souls, do not despair of Allah’s mercy, for He forgives all sins. He is the Forgiving One, the Merciful. Turn in repentance to your Lord and surrender yourselves to Him before His scourge overtakes you; for then there will be none to help you.” (Surah 39: 53,54) The Quran also mentions that there are those who surround the throne of God to plead for forgiveness for the faithful. They implore God to let those who repent enter into paradise with their families and descendants. But ultimately it is only God who forgives and accepts repentance.[17] Additionally, there are passages that mention the performance of righteous deeds as a way to help gain forgiveness: “As for those that have faith and do good works, We shall cleanse them of their sins and reward them according to their noblest deeds… Good deeds make amends for sins.” (Surah 29:7, 11:114)

For the Muslim, repentance and forgiveness are straightforward. If you will truly acknowledge your sins before God, change your ways and ask for forgiveness, He will be Merciful and grant it to you. There is no need for an intermediary or Savior to perform an atonement since God is very capable of forgiving man if He so chooses. How God actually accomplishes this is neither relevant nor in need of explanation. It is enough to say that He has the power to do so. Since Christ’s role as Savior was not revealed to Muhammad, there would be no need to provide any other revelations regarding the process of repentance and forgiveness. This is totally consistent with other Old Testament peoples who did not receive this knowledge nor the higher laws and responsibilities that would ensue.

Additionally, the Quran has very little to say about the last days of Christ’s life or his death. There is one passage that refers to the crucifixion as not happening the way the Jews believed: “They declared: ‘We have put to death the Messiah, Jesus the Son of Mary, the apostle of Allah.’ They did not kill him, nor crucify him, but thought they did.[18] Those that disagreed about him were in doubt concerning his death, for what they knew about it was sheer conjecture; they were not sure that they had slain him. Allah lifted him up to His presence.” (Surah 4:157,158) Most Quranic commentary states that Christ was never crucified at all and some even purport that another person was crucified in his stead. However, when reading the verse in context from the standpoint of the Jews’ belief that they killed him, the main point here is that Christ did not die the permanent death the Jews thought they had inflicted upon him. He was indeed raised to God. Again, the resurrection or any reference to it is not in the Quran for it would have to allude directly to Christ’s overcoming death as a part of his role as Savior.

The King Fahed Commentary states: The end of the life of Jesus on earth is as much involved in mystery as his birth… It is not profitable to discuss the many doubts and conjectures among the early Christian sects and among Muslim theologians…The Quranic teaching is that Christ was not crucified nor killed by the Jews, not withstanding certain apparent circumstances which produced that illusion in the minds of some of his enemies; that disputations, doubts, and conjectures on such matters are vain; and that he was taken up to Allah.”[19]

There is one verse in the Quran that is of interest, though, that states that Christ did indeed die as part of God’s plan: “Allah is the supreme Plotter. He said: ‘Jesus, I am about to cause you to die and lift you up to Me. I shall take you away from the unbelievers and exalt your followers above them till the Day of Resurrection.” (Surah 3:55) However, the commentary for this verse only refers back to the quoted verse above in reference to the Jews not really killing him as they thought. Also, other translations of the Quran do not use the word “die” in this passage, but “take or gather” and in the Ibn Katheer commentary, he points out an alternate meaning of “put to sleep”. Christ, himself, also is quoted as making reference to his own death when he miraculously spoke from the cradle as an infant (see end for full text): “I was blessed on the day I was born, and blessed I shall be on the day of my death; and may peace be upon me on the day when I shall be raised to life.’” (Surah 19:33) Muslims believe that this reference to death has yet to take place in the future.

Regardless of the differing views on his death, the fact that God took Christ up to Himself is undisputed. Muslims also firmly believe that Jesus will yet appear again on the earth prior to the Day of Judgement.[20] In the Hadith it states that he will destroy the anti-Christ, establish Islam and remain on earth for forty years before he dies.[21] Any disputations concerning his life and role will then be settled and made clear for all to understand. If we are truly pure in heart and seek only to follow God, it will be easy to accept whatever Christ will teach us when he is among us once again in the future.

This belief of Jesus’ imminent return is something to which both Mormons and Muslims can look forward. At that time Christ will reign upon the earth as the head of one religion and one people who will finally live together in peace: “…and the earth shall be like as it was in the days before it was divided. And the Lord, even the Savior, shall stand in the midst of his people, and shall reign over all flesh…and the government shall be upon his shoulder and his name shall be called …The Prince of Peace.” (D&C 133: 24,25; BM 3 Nephi 19:6)

[1] Ati, p.152

[2] Surah 19:19, 21

[3] Allah’s daughters were the Arabian idols Al-Lat and Al-Uzzah specifically- see Surah 53:19

[4] For complete texts of miracles mentioned in the Quran but not found in our scriptures, see end of chapter.

[5] For references regarding the Islamic definition/ connotation of Son of God see end of chapter.

[6] Surah 5:17

[7] Surah 10:68

[8] Surah 23:91

[9] Surah 4:171,172

[10] Surah 5:73

[11] Surah 9:30,31

[12] When Joseph Smith was a young man, he received a vision in which the Father and the Son appeared to him. For his account of this vision, see PGP Joseph Smith-History

[13] KJV John 5:26; 10:17-18

[14] Ludlow, Daniel H. Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Mac Millan Company, 1992, Vol 2, p.729

[15] Surah 10:3

[16] Quran, King Fahed Translation, p.1516, note 4683

[17] Surah 40:3, 7-9

[18] Other Quran translations state “as it seemed to them or appeared to them or a likeness of that was shown to them”.

[19] Quran, King Fahed Translation, pp.267,268, note 663

[20] Surah 43:61

[21] Hadith as reported in Sunan Abu Dawud, vol 3, p. 1203, no. 4310

Miracles of Christ not found in the Bible:

1- Speaking from the cradle:

“Carrying the child, she came to her people, who said to her: ‘your father was never a whore-monger, nor was your mother a harlot.’ She made a sign to them, pointing to the child. But they replied: ‘How can we speak with a babe in the cradle?’ Whereupon he spoke and said: ‘I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the gospel and ordained me a prophet. His blessing is upon me wherever I go, and He has commanded me to be steadfast in prayer and to give alms to the poor as long as I shall live. He has exhorted me to honour my mother and has purged me of vanity and wickedness. I was blessed on the day I was born, and blessed I shall be on the day of my death; and may peace be upon me on the day when I shall be raised to life.’ Such was Jesus, the son of Mary. (Surah 19: 27-34)

2- Miracle of the clay bird:

“Allah will say: ‘Jesus, son of Mary, remember the favour I have bestowed on you and on your mother: how I strengthened you with the Holy Spirit, so you preached to men in your cradle and in the prime of manhood; how I instructed you in the Scriptures and in wisdom, in the Torah and the Gospel; how by My leave you fashioned from clay the likeness of a bird and breathed into it so that, by My leave, it became a living bird; how, by My leave, you healed the blind man and the leper, and by My leave restored the dead to life; how I protected you from the Israelites when you brought them veritable signs: when the unbelievers among them said: “This is nothing but plain magic”… (Surah 5: 110)

For Islamic definition of Son of God, see:

Abdal Ati, Hammudah. Islam in Focus, International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1999, pp.151-162

Al-Johanim, Maneh Hammad. The Truth About Jesus, World Assembly of Muslim Youth, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Aziz-Us-Samad, Ulfat. Islam and Christianity, International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations, Al-Faisal Printing Co, Kuwait, 1988, pp. 35-42

Baagil, H.M. Christian Muslim Dialogue, Foreigners Guidance Center, Gassim Zone, Saudi Arabia, 1991, pp. 20-27

Deedat, Ahmad. Christ in Islam, Dar El Fadila, Cairo, Egypt, 1988, pp. 28-30

Haneef, Suzanne. What Everyone Should Know About Islam and Muslims, Kazi Publications, Lahore, Pakistan, 1979, pp. 175-184

Philips, Bilal. The True Message of Jesus Christ, Dar Al Fatah, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, 1996, pp. 40-70

Ur-Rahim, Muhammad Ata. Jesus A Prophet of Islam, MWH London Publishers, International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1979