Mormonism is the religion founded by Joseph Smith in 1830. His followers came to be known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). [Some of his followers came to be know as the Community of “Christ”. The Church is also known as the “Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” (RLDS).] Smith proclaimed that he had been visited by both God the Father and God the Son, at which time they advised him that he should start a new church, for all of the church at that time was corrupt. Smith purported that his church was the only true church and that all other churches on earth were apostate and false. The church was formed with six charter members after Smith published the Book of Mormon, a book that was “allegedly translated from sacred golden plates or tablets revealed to him and unearthed from a hill near his home in Palmyra” (Walker and Caner).
Basic Beliefs of the Mormon Church
This book of “Scriptures” was revealed to Smith by the angel Moroni, a prophet of God in North America who was allegedly killed around 325 A.D (Walker and Caner). Joseph Smith also receive, by prophetic revelation, the Doctrines and Covenants, which contains revelations specific to the Mormon Church. Though an alleged purchase from an antiquities dealer, he obtained scrolls containing the “actual handwriting of Abraham”, part of the Pearl of Great Price. The Pearl of Great Price are a set of documents supposedly written in an ancient Egyptian language, which clarify both doctrines and teachings that were lost from the Bible and also adds its own teachings and clarifications about the creation account from Genesis.
The Mormon Church believes in four “divinely inspired Scriptures”, not one, as do Christians. In addition to the three listed above, they also claim adherence to the Bible, “as far as it is translated correctly” (Ron Rhodes). They do consistently disclose which verses they feel are correctly translated and which are not. The Mormons, through proclamation from Smith, view the Book of Mormon as the primary authority of all Scriptures, as it is the “most correct book on earth”, by which a person can “get closer to God by following its precepts than by any other book” (Ron Rhodes).
The Mormon Church is an anti-Trinitarian cult that believes that “God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three separate Gods”. This defines the LDS as a polytheist religion (Ergun Cane., Class Lecture Notes, Apologetics 500, Chapter 14, Section 2). As deduced from the fact that Smith claimed to have received a personal visit from both Jesus and God, the Mormons hold that God is not a spirit, but is rather a God with a physical body (Millard J. Erickson). They believe that God the Father, called Elohim, has a wife, called the “Heavenly Mother”, and through sexual relations the Father and the Mother produced spirit children. Spirit children who did not depart heaven with the half-brother of Jesus, Lucifer, are rewarded with the opportunity to “be born to human families on earth” (James Walker).
Spirit children, after leaving the “First Estate” of heaven to live on earth in human families, live out their physical lives in a state of progressive salvation. The very purpose of human life, according to LDS theology, is “to progress to full salvation” (James Walker). According to Brigham Young, a successor of Smith, God was once Adam and obtained salvation, and so too, people can themselves become gods. Smith taught that “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in Heaven. [God] was once a man like us…you have got to learn how to be gods yourself” (The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Six, pp 345-46).
As one “progresses” along in life in an attempt to reach his own godhood, he is working to determine where his place will be in the eternal kingdom. Those who reach godhood are the ones who make it to the celestial kingdom, the highest level in the eternal kingdom, a place reserved for those who are fully loyal and devoted to the church and its teachings. Other levels available include the terrestrial kingdom, a place for those who are morally good yet never converted to Mormonism, and the telestial kingdom, which is where the wicked will go. Virtually everyone, according to Mormon theology, will make it to heaven – although some will have to go through “spirit prison” first.
Mormons teach that atonement for sins a series of action, including repenting of our sins, being baptized, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and obeying all of the commandments (Gospel Principles). They believe that if one’s sins are not atoned for in this life, the practice of baptism for the dead can make the dead right with Elohim (Mormon Doctrines of Salvation, vol. II, 141). “This is a practice of baptizing each other in place of non-Mormons who are now dead” (Matthew J. Slick). Their belief is that in the afterlife, the “newly baptized” person will be able to enter into a higher level of Mormon heaven because of the actions of the living.
Mormons also deny the deity of Christ, proclaiming that he is the literal spirit brother of Lucifer. They believe Christ is the first of “spirit children” to become a god, just as humans who were spirit children can become a god. Christ was born of flesh just as we were, out of a sexual union just as we were, and thus is not divine in the since that evangelical Christians perceive. Faith in Elohim and good works, not salvation in Christ, bring about salvation.
Today, the LDS boast about 13 million members. They are in more than 170 countries. They report more than 53,000 active missionaries in these countries. Mormonism is one of the fastest growing religions in the world. They are headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Flaws in the Mormon Belief System
First, Mormonism teaches that one must depend on other books of Scripture in addition to the Bible, such as the Pearl of Great Price and the Doctrines and Covenants. However, the Bible is clear that all Scripture (that is, all Scripture as of ‘the time of the New Testament writers’ – Paul would not have been referring to the Book of Mormon) is God-inspired (2 Timothy 3:16). Paul did not say that future writings would be “God-inspired”. Additionally, John wrote that anyone who added “unto these things, God shall add unto him [self] the plagues that are written in this book” (Revelation 22:1-19). We have no reason to believe that God had any further revelation for us beyond what he had written by the time the New Testament Canon had closed. If God forgot something that he had to later reveal, it indicates that to that He isn’t all-knowing, which isn’t true.
Secondly, Paul warned that a curse should come to anyone, whether men (John Smith) or angels (Moroni, if in fact he existed), if they came preaching a gospel other than what Christ and the apostles taught (Galatians 1 basically squashes any plausibility that Mormonism could be true!!). However, that is just what Smith did. He wrote three books that contradicted the clear Gospel of Jesus Christ, that man was hopelessly dead and sin, and that through grace, God sent His Son to be the only possible remedy for our sin condition. Works and good deeds will never make us gods. We can never become gods. The Bible never taught such a notion. Through the redemptive work of Christ, we can spend eternity in heaven with God, but not as “a god”. We are sinners and cannot save ourselves, according to Jeremiah 17:9, Romans 3:10-23, and Romans Chapter 7. We, as imperfect sinners, have never been gods, nor do we have a chance to obtain godhood, as outlined in Isaiah 43:10. There is only one true God, and He, in three persons, is God alone (see 1 Samuel 2:2 and Isaiah 44:6-8).
Finally, God is the God of the universe, who was from everlasting to everlasting, the Beginning and the End. To deny this and affirm that God was “once as we were” is to deny the clear teachings of the Bible and make God a liar. Psalm 90:2 proclaims, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God”. If God was once a man, then who created that man? Another God? And who created that man that was previously that God? If one holds that God was once a man, then he has an infinite number of questions on his hands. However, God was never a man, and was always a Spirit – a Spirit that the Bible teaches is, and was, and is to come.
Sharing Christ with Mormons
Jesus is either God in the flesh, or a lunatic. Jesus was seen by those around Him as God almighty, and the apostles affirmed this. To say that He is the result of a sexual union is heretical at best, especially given that John 1:1-14 affirms that Jesus was from eternity God. Jesus was the Creator of all things, according to Colossians 1:15-17, a feat He could not have accomplished as “a” god. He was born of a “virgin”, meaning a woman who had not had sexual relations – neither with the “Heavenly Father” nor any other male. Jesus is not just a spirit brother of humans, but is in an exalted place in heaven as the High Priest of man before God, as seen in Hebrews 7:26. If Jesus was “a god”, why would the Bible declare “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11). We certainly would have no need to bow and confess lordship to god who is our equal.
Faith in a false god or a false Christ leads nowhere. The god of the Book of Mormon cannot be reconciled with the God of the Bible. Faith in the god of the Book of Mormon, who stands in direct opposition to the God of the Bible, cannot save. Nor can anyone earn salvation. Salvation is a free gift from the God of the Bible (Ephesians 2:8-9). One must decide or chose for themselves who they will serve – the god of the Book of Mormon, or the God of the Bible. The God of the Universe has preserved His word for thousands of years, while the Book of Mormon has been edited more than 4000 times in less than 180 years.
The Bible, which has never been proven wrong, declares a self-existing, everlasting, eternal God who offered His only Son because He knew our very best would never be enough to reconcile us unto Him. Neither Joseph Smith nor any of His successors or followers could ever measure up to the perfect moral standard of the God of the Bible. Only because of the great love of God, through Christ, can we ever stand before the righteous and holy God of the Bible. Salvation comes only through Jesus Christ our God, not Jesus “a god”, as seen John 17:3, which proclaims: “and this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
________. Gospel Principles, Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979.
Cane, Ergun. Class Lecture Notes, Apologetics 500, Chapter 14, Section 2: The Three Categories of Traditional Cults., Liberty Theological Seminary. (Accessed December 2, 2009).
Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker House, 1998.
Rhodes, Ron. “Is Mormonism a cult? What do Mormons believe?” GotQuestions.Org. http://www.gotquestions.org/Mormons.html (accessed December 1, 2009).
Slick, Matthew J. “What Does Mormonism Teach?” CAMS.org. http://www.carm.org/teachings-of-mormonism (accessed December 5, 2009).
Smith, Joseph. The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Six, http://www.boap.org/LDS/Joseph-Smith/Teachings/T6.html. (Accessed December 1, 2009).
Walker, James, and Ergun Caner. The Popular Encyclopedia of Apologetics. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 2008.
Key search works:
What is Mormonism? How to combat Mormonism. Who is Joseph Smith. What does the Church of Latter Day Saints believe? What is LDS? Who are the Mormons?