|By: John G. Weldon, PhD; ©2011|
|In truth, it’s not just Southerners but Americans nationwide who aren’t certain about Mormon beliefs. In many ways, this is yet true for many Mormons themselves.|
- 1 Introduction
- 2 What does the Mormon Church believe about biblical (historic, orthodox) Christianity?
- 3 What does the Mormon Church believe about the Bible and Spiritual Authority?
- 4 What does the Mormon Church believe about God?
- 5 What does the Mormon Church believe about Jesus Christ?
- 6 What does the Mormon Church believe about Salvation?
- 7 Conclusion
- 8 Appendix: What Biblical Scriptures Are Particularly Applicable to the Mormon Church?
- 9 Notes
- “We have a president that is destroying this country.” – Donald Trump
The online newspaper “AM New York” called 2012 “The Year of the Mormon Presidential Candidates,” — but it would probably be more accurate to call it the year of seriously religious candidates. Regardless, besides two presidential candidates, there are also already 14 Mormon members of Congress.
During the Republican Presidential debate in Iowa on August 11, 2011, presidential candidate Herman Cain was asked about Governor Romney’s Mormon faith and Southerners who he claimed might find it objectionable. Cain clarified the issue by asserting that Southerners really aren’t that certain about what Mormons believe, and whether or not it fits with their generally Protestant religious beliefs. Cain believed it would be difficult for a Mormon to carry the White House without carrying the South as well.
In truth, it’s not just Southerners but Americans nationwide who aren’t certain about Mormon beliefs. In many ways, this is yet true for many Mormons themselves. The issue is confusing because Mormons emphatically claim to be Christian and to hold to biblical doctrine. For example, if one goes to the official Mormon websites (Mormon.org or LDS.org) and reads the sections on Jesus Christ, it sounds biblical. In addition, many people are familiar with Mormons kindhearted nature and “good works” and assume they are Christians.
So, what are the Mormon Church’s official beliefs? We will answer this by presenting a quick question and answer format citing authoritative Mormon sources, primarily the official website Mormon.org.
What does the Mormon Church believe about biblical (historic, orthodox) Christianity?
- “… on this rock [Peter’s confession of Jesus as the Messiah and Son of God] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not overcome it.” (Jesus, Matthew 16:18)
Mormonism sees the Christian Church as an apostate religion and as one of its principal mission fields. Why? Because it believes the Christian church fell away from the truth after the time of the apostles and that Jesus’ true Church was not reestablished until Joseph Smith received allegedly divine revelations through an angel named “Moroni” and other spirits (ca. 1820-30). These revelations culminated in the Book of Mormon and other Mormon Scriptures.
As the official website Mormon.org teaches: “Joseph learned that the Church originally organized by Jesus Christ was no longer on the earth. Joseph Smith was chosen by God to restore the Church of Jesus Christ to the earth.” In addition, right after the apostles, Christians “changed the teachings of the Church that He [Jesus] had established” and fell away from the truth. “This is a period called the Great Apostasy, when there was a “falling away”… from the gospel Christ organized…”
What does the Mormon Church believe about the Bible and Spiritual Authority?
- “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” (Jesus, John 17:17)
- “Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.” (Proverbs 30:6)
According to the Mormon “Articles of Faith,” (identified as “13 statements that summarize our fundamental beliefs”): “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” In all, there are four books that Mormons believe are the word of God: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recognizes the following books as scripture: The Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price.”
In fact, it is these three additional non-Christian books which “properly” interpret (or even translate) the Bible and provide Mormonism with its unique theological doctrines – teachings that clearly are not biblical, as we will now illustrate.
What does the Mormon Church believe about God?
- “…there is only one God and no other.” (Jesus, Mark 12:32, NLT)
In contrast to Christian belief, Mormons believe in the existence of many gods, not one God, although they typically deny this on technical grounds. In contrast to the Bible, which teaches there is only one God, Mormonism teaches that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are each separate, individual gods. For example, in his definitive Mormon Doctrine, leading Mormon doctrinal theologian Bruce McConkie acknowledges that Mormons believe in “three Gods.” In addition, the Mormon Scripture The Pearl of Great Price refers to the activity of the “Gods,” some 50 separate times. Mormons also believe that God is literally a physical being, not a Spirit therefore denying the teaching of John 4:24 that “God is spirit…” (see note 21)
What does the Mormon Church believe about Jesus Christ?
- “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)
Mormons claim to believe in the biblical Jesus Christ; they maintain “Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and the Son of God. He is our Redeemer.” Unfortunately, they believe in a completely different Jesus than the Bible teaches. They use the same words Christians use but have different meanings when they refer to “Jesus Christ,” “Savior,” and “Son of God.” To illustrate, the former president of the Mormon Church (1995-2008) Gordon B. Hinckley was correct when he commented: “The traditional Christ of whom they [Christians] speak is not the Christ of whom I speak.”
For example, orthodox Christian belief teaches that Jesus Christ is eternally God. On the other hand, Mormons teach that Jesus was once a finite being in a pre-earth life and earned his godhood and right to be the Savior of the world. He was not virgin born and is only one god among many. (See note.)
This is anything but the Jesus Christ of the Bible and of Christian teaching for 2,000 years.
What does the Mormon Church believe about Salvation?
- “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” (Jesus, John 6:47, emphasis added)
- “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.” (Romans 3:28, emphasis added)
The Mormon Church officially teaches that: “Only by His [Jesus’] mercy and grace can anyone be saved.”
Nevertheless, by this statement they mean something different than what Christians and the Bible mean. The Mormon Scriptures and official doctrinal teachings for the last 180 years are very clear that personal salvation does not occur by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Jesus Christ alone as the Bible teaches.
Instead, salvation is achieved by “grace” (that is, mercy and opportunity) through human effort and good works. If Mormons are to be “exalted,” (that is, achieve personal godhood) it only occurs through individual merit and effort.
As the official website, Mormon.org teaches: “To inherit eternal life requires our ‘obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.’” This is a citation from the authoritative “Articles of Faith” (Article #3) which teaches: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”
What is the Gospel that must be obeyed? The official LDS.org website defines “the Gospel” as: “In its fullness, the gospel includes all the doctrines, principles, laws, ordinances, and covenants necessary for us to be exalted [achieve godhood] in the celestial kingdom.” Despite what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints claims, Mormonism clearly teaches salvation by good works and personal merit, not by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.
In sum, Mormonism may claim to be biblical and Christian and to be the one true church on earth, but it lacks any evidence in support of its claims. It rejecting biblical Christianity as an apostate religion, it denies the truth about the Bible, God, Jesus Christ, and salvation. In addition, I could go through virtually every specific major teaching of the Bible and document how the Mormon Church denies each of them as I have already done previously and as numerous scholars have documented in detail.
Life is about the true Jesus Christ. Along with everyone else, Mormons must come to grips with the claims of Jesus Christ who declared: “… unless you believe that I Am who I claim to be, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24, NLT))
For Mormons who wish to independently reevaluate their scriptures and teachings in light of their own prophets’ true teachings, Mormon and Christian history, archaeology, biblical teaching and other disciplines, I would recommend they consult the website of former Mormons Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Utah Lighthouse Ministry, one of the most comprehensive and definitive examinations of Mormonism available (UTLM.org).
Jesus also declared, “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6) and “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” If the reader should desire more information on becoming a Christian, please visit JAShow.org.
Appendix: What Biblical Scriptures Are Particularly Applicable to the Mormon Church?
Of many possible verses, two in particular come to mind. Since the Mormon Church teaches that Joseph Smith supernaturally received anti-Christian revelations and a false gospel from an alleged angel named Moroni, Galatians 1:8-9 seems relevant:
- “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!”
Second, in that Mormons are known for their good works and spiritual “fruit,” it could also be mentioned that the primary fruit of Mormonism is producing other Mormons. Given their anti-Christian teachings, it is difficult to conceive of this as good fruit, biblically speaking, which brings to mind the warning of Jesus in Matthew 7:15-23:
- “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoer.”
Some Christians are misinformed and believe that Mormonism is a biblical religion, in essence, another Christian denomination. Perhaps such Christians should also reconsider the admonition of the apostle Paul to the Corinthian church.
- Donald Trump, interview, “Fox & Friends,” Fox news channel, August 15, 2011
- June 20, 2011; http://www.amny.com/urbanite-1.812039/2012-year-of-the-mormon-presidential-candidates-1.2971729
- The fold includes at least two committed Catholics, six committed Protestants (four evangelical) and two committed Mormons running on the Republican ticket or having formed an exploratory committee. Of the 13, only Sarah Palin has not yet declared. One is a non-practicing Jew and one a non-practicing Lutheran. “Republican Candidates: Comparing the 2012 GOP Presidential Candidates;” http://2012.republican-candidates.org/Religion.php
- See note 2
- “Full Transcript: Complete Text of the Iowa Republican Debate on Fox News Channel;” http://foxnewsinsider.com/2011/08/12/full-transcript-complete-text-of-the-iowa-republican-debate-on-fox-news-channel/. The questioner was apparently responding to a July 18 interview in The Washington Times: (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/jul/18/romneys-religion-a-barrier-to-republican-nod-cain-/
- Most Mormons are uninformed as to the beliefs of their early history and the crisis this brings to their modern religion, its beliefs and legitimacy. For full documentation by former Mormons see the Utah Lighthouse Ministry of Jerald and Sandra Tanner at: UTLM.org – for a summary see “The Changing World of Mormonism,” online at: http://www.utlm.org/onlinebooks/changecontents.htm
- “Jesus Christ,” Mormon.org; http://mormon.org/jesus-christ/
- There are allegedly some 60+ LDS sects, the Reformed polygamists, etc. The Utah Church is primarily in mind, although the statement could hold true for Mormons generally.
- “What is Mormonism? Or what do Mormons believe?;” http://mormon.org/faq/#About+Mormons|question=/faq/beliefs-of-mormons/; “How is the Book of Mormon different from the Bible? How did Joseph Smith obtain the “golden plates” or Book of Mormon?” Mormon.org; http://mormon.org/faq/#Book+of+Mormon
- “Who founded Mormonism and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints?” Mormon.org; http://mormon.org/faq/#About+Mormons%7Cquestion=/faq/founder-of-mormon-church/
- “What is Mormonism? Or what do Mormons believe?;” http://mormon.org/faq/#About+Mormons|question=/faq/beliefs-of-mormons/
- “Restoration of Jesus Christ’s Church,” Mormon.org; http://mormon.org/restoration/; “Why was a Restoration of the Gospel needed? Haven’t we always had the Bible?” Mormon.org; http://mormon.org/faq/#Restoration
- “Articles of faith,” Mormon.org; http://mormon.org/articles-of-faith/
- “God’s Commandments: Divine Guidance,” Mormon.org; http://mormon.org/commandments/
- Technically, Mormonism constitutes a form of polytheism termed henotheism, which believes in one supreme god. In Mormonism, the supreme god for this Earth is Elohim, the Father, but they also believe that a virtually infinite number of additional gods exist and that the best Mormons will one day become gods having their own Earth’s to rule, continuing the process. Mormons claim they are monotheists simply because Elohim is their principal deity, ignoring the fact that by their own official doctrines they believe in other gods. For documentation see John Ankerberg, John Weldon, What Do Mormons Really Believe? 2002, Chapter 3.
- Technically, the biblical doctrine of the Trinity teaches there are three divine persons in one divine essence comprising one God of both unity and diversity, solving, incidentally, the age-old philosophical question of the “one and the many.”
- Bruce McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1977, 576-577
- Pearl of Great Price, Book of Abraham 4:1, 5-11, 14-17, 25-29; 5:7-8, 11, 14, excerpted from Joseph Smith, History of the Church, 1975
- “Jesus Christ, our Savior,” Mormon.org; http://mormon.org/jesus-christ/
- Deseret News, Church News Section, Salt Lake City, Utah, week ending June 20, 1998, p. 7. Excerpted from Tanner, note 21.
- Mormons believe in a preexistent life, that is, in a spiritual life prior to life on earth. As the LDS.org website explains: “Before we were born, we lived with God in heaven as spirits. All of our spirit brothers and sisters were there, too—everyone who has lived or will live on earth including Jesus Christ. In this “pre-earth life,” each of us was an individual with a divine nature and destiny.” (“We lived with God,” LDS.org;http://lds.org/plan/we-lived-with-god?lang=eng) According to Mormon teaching, Jesus was begotten through the physical union of the god Elohim and his celestial wife. Remember, according to Mormon theology the gods are physical, not spiritual beings. Thus, Mormon leader and apostle Bruce McConkie taught that: “Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father [physically] in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers.” (Doctrine and Covenants, 93:21-23; “Sandra Tanner, “LDS Leaders Define Their Concept of JESUS CHRIST,” Utah Lighthouse Ministry; http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/ldsleadersconceptofjesus.htm.) Because Jesus proved to be a better person in his pre-earthly life than all his other spirit brothers, he earned his own salvation, the way to godhood and his role as Savior of men. As Mormon authority James Talmage explains in his commentary on the Articles of Faith, “Among the spirit children of Elohim the first born was and is Jehovah or Jesus Christ to whom all others are juniors.” (James Talmage, The Study of the Articles of Faith: Being a Consideration of the Principal Doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1976 471.) Apostle James E. Talmage again wrote: “Plainly there is a way provided by which the child of God may follow the footsteps of the Father, and in time—sometime in the distant eternities—be as that Divine Father is. Even as Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God in the flesh, endured the experiences of mortality, passed the portals of death and became a resurrected Being, so the Father before Him had trodden the same path of progression from manhood to Godhood, and today sits enthroned in the heavens by right of achievement.” (James P. Harris, ed. The Essential James E. Talmage, 132-33 cited by Sandra Tanner, “LDS Leaders Define Their Concept of JESUS CHRIST,” Utah Lighthouse Ministry; http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/ldsleadersconceptofjesus.htm; Milton R. Hunter, the Gospel through the Ages, 21 cited by Gerald and Sandra Tanner, The Changing World of Mormonism, 1987, 519) Because Mormon doctrine believes in three principal gods for this Earth but also in a virtually infinite number of gods altogether, in an ultimate sense Jesus is but one of many gods. See notes 15, 22.
- For additional documentation, see John Ankerberg, John Weldon, What Do Mormons Really Believe, chapters 3,5.
- “Jesus Christ, our Savior,” Mormon.org; http://mormon.org/jesus-christ/
- Mormons believe in three different heavens and based upon individual works, people are assigned to a respective heaven; the highest or celestial heaven is where godhood is achieved.
- “What do Mormons believe about ‘eternal life?;” Mormon.org; http://mormon.org/faq/#Eternal+Life; emphasis added.
- “Articles of faith,” Mormon.org; http://mormon.org/articles-of-faith/; emphasis added
- “Gospel,” LDS.org;http://lds.org/study/topics/gospel?lang=eng; emphasis added
- Consider two further examples: “If your friends ask, “Does your church believe you are saved by grace or works?” you could say, “We believe that we are saved by grace after all we can do (see 2 Ne. 25:23). We don’t earn salvation. Heavenly Father and the Savior will bless us with eternal life, through Their grace, if we do our part.” (“Tough Topics: Are You Saved by Grace or Works?”; New Era March 2005; http://lds.org/new-era/2005/03/tough-topics-are-you-saved-by-grace-or-works?lang=eng&query=grace)Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles writes: “Some Christians accuse Latter-day Saints … of denying the grace of God through claiming they can earn their own salvation. We answer this accusation with the words of two Book of Mormon prophets. Nephi taught, “For we labor diligently … to persuade our children … to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Ne. 25:23). And what is “all we can do”? It surely includes repentance (see Alma 24:11) and baptism, keeping the commandments, and enduring to the end. Moroni pleaded, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ” (Moro. 10:32).” (“Have You Been Saved?” April 1998 General Conference address;http://lds.org/general-conference/1998/04/have-you-been-saved?lang=eng&query=Salvation+grace, emphasis added)
- See note 30, especially Utah Lighthouse Ministry and Ex-Mormon Scholars Testify.
- John Ankerberg, John Weldon, What Do Mormons Really Believe? In addition to the materials at JAShow.org, in particular see Utah Lighthouse Ministry (http://www.utlm.org/booklist/orderauthortitle.htm); ex-Mormon.org; Alpha and Omega Ministries (http://vintage.aomin.org/Mormonism.html); and the 27 books at Ex-Mormon Scholars Testify (http://www.exmormonscholarstestify.org/index.html) See footnote 6 and also the bibliography in note 15, What Do Mormons Really Believe?
- “For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough…. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” (2 Corinthians 11:4, 13-15) This lack of biblical knowledge illustrates the critical need for doctrinal teaching and apologetic knowledge within the true church. Satan masquerades as an angel of light because it is the perfect disguise. To illustrate with a modern example, Gary Ridgway was one of the kindest, most considerate men and loving of husbands – yet he was pure evil. He confessed in court to murdering 48 women (raping many of them), as the Green River Killer. When first suspected, his wife commented, “He’s too good, he’s too gentle. It couldn’t be him.” Years later, under suspicion again, only one among his circle of family and friends had doubts and asked if he had anything at all to do with this, to which he replied “Absolutely not!” When DNA proved he was the Green River Killer beyond all doubt, his wife later commented, “He fooled everyone.” (“The Devil You Know,” Investigative Discovery Channel, August 14, 2011, interview with his wife Judith Mawson and other family and friends.)