Mormonism, Part 1
"I can tell you that there is no greater joy than leading someone to faith in Jesus Christ. Even if they
reject your message, it still feels great to obey Christ. Yet regardless of how we feel, we need to remember this is what
He has commanded."
D. James Kennedy
following information will give you a brief overview of Mormonism, how its main beliefs contrast with Christianity, and thoughts
to keep in mind when witnessing.
Official Name: Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, Mormons)
Joseph Smith Jr., on April 6, 1830
Current Leader: Gordon
B. Hinckley (b. 1910)
Headquarters: Salt Lake City, Utah
Membership (1998): Worldwide: 10.3 million in 28,670 wards and branches
in 162 countries; United States: 5.1 million in all 50 states and D.C.; Canada: 152,000
Missionaries (1998): 58,700
The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded by Joseph F. Smith Jr. (1805-1844). Smith claimed to have had a visitation from God
in 1820 in which God directed him to establish the true church. Consequently, he organized the Mormon church on April 6, 1830,
with six original members. Beginning with a few hundred followers, the church moved to Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois before
Smith's death at the hands of a mob at the Carthage, Ill., jail.
had been arrested for encouraging the destruction of the Expositor, a Nauvoo, Ill., newspaper. After Smith's death,
Brigham Young was affirmed as president of the church by a majority of the church's leaders and led several thousand followers
to Utah where they established Salt Lake City in 1847. Joseph Smith's widow, Emma, resided in Independence, Mo. Those who
affirmed her son, Joseph Smith, as the true successor of his father and as prophet of the church helped found the Reorganized
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now headquartered in Independence, Mo., in 1852.
Major Beliefs of Mormons
One True Church:
The Mormon church claims to be the only true church. In God's supposed revelation to Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ told him to
join no other church for "they were all wrong ... their creeds were an abomination ... those professors [members] were
all corrupt" (The Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith History-1:19). Mormons teach that after the New Testament,
all churches became heretical and no true saints existed until the "Church of the Latter-day Saints" was organized,
hence their name. Non-Mormons are thus called "Gentiles." The new revelations given to Smith, the institution of
the prophet and apostles in the church, the restoration of the divine priesthoods, and the temple ceremonies make the church
authentic. True and full salvation or exaltation is found only in the LDS church.
Biblical Response: The true Church of Jesus Christ has had an ongoing presence and witness in the
world since Pentecost. Jesus Christ promised that His Church, true baptized and regenerate believers, would not fail
(Matt. 16:17, 18). The marks of a true church include faithfulness to the teaching of the first apostles (Acts 2:42)-not the
creation of new doctrines.
Authority of the Prophet:
The president or prophet of the church is thought to be the sole spokesman and revelator of God. Joseph
Smith was the initial prophet, but each successive president holds that position. Through him God's will can be made known
to the church. All revelations are made scripture and no Mormon can attain godhood without accepting Joseph Smith as a true
prophet. The Mormon scriptures state that Latter-day Saints "shalt give heed unto all his [the prophet's] words and commandments
... For his word ye shall receive as if from mine [God's] own mouth" (Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-5).
Biblical Response: Old and New Testament prophets were God's spokesmen.
Their words were always consistent with the Bible and pointed to God's Son, Jesus Christ. A test of genuineness for prophets
was that any prediction they proclaimed would come true (Deut. 18:20-22).
example, Joseph Smith predicted that the temple of the church would be built in Independence, Mo., within his lifetime (Doctrine
and Covenants 84:2-5). No temple has yet been built there. New Testament prophets spoke, along with teachers, pastors,
and evangelists, in evangelizing with and edifying the church (Eph. 4:11-13).
Scripture: Mormons accept four books as scripture and the word of God. The King James Version of the Bible is one
of them, but only "as far as it is translated correctly"-seemingly allowing for possible questions about its authority.
Joseph Smith made over 600 corrections to its text. Other "standard works" are the Book of Mormon, Doctrine
and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. The Bible is missing "plain and precious parts" according
to the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 13:26), which the other three volumes complete. The Book of Mormon has the "fullness of
the gospel" and tells the story of a supposed migration of Israelites in 600 b.c. to the American continent.
These Israelites subsequently lapsed into apostasy although their story was preserved
on golden plates written in "Reformed Egyptian." Joseph Smith, it is said, translated the plates by the "gift
and power of God" (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3). Reformed Egyptian does not exist as a language. The golden
plates were returned to the angel Moroni after they were transcribed and Moroni returned them to heaven. The Book of Mormon
does not contain explicit Mormon doctrine. Doctrine and Covenants contains the revelations of the Mormon prophets-138
in number along with two "declarations." Here most of Mormon doctrine can be found including the priesthood, baptism
for the dead, godhood, and polygamy. The Pearl of Great Price contains Smith's religious history, the Articles of
Faith, the Book of Abraham, and the Book of Moses.
The Bible explicitly warns against adding to or detracting from its teaching (Rev. 22:18; Deut. 4:2). The New Testament contains
the inspired and totally accurate witness of contemporary disciples and followers of Jesus. It alone claims to be fully inspired
by God and usable for the establishment of doctrine (2 Tim. 3:15-17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21).
Establishment of Temples: The first Mormon temple was constructed in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836. A
temple was constructed in Nauvoo, Ill., in 1846. Presently there are at least 53 operating temples throughout the world including
the one finished in Salt Lake City in 1893. The purpose and function of temples is for the practice of eternal ordinances,
including primarily baptism for the dead, endowments, and celestial marriages. Baptism in the Mormon church, for both the
living and the dead, is essential for the fullness of salvation. The dead often are baptized by proxy, which affords them
after death the opportunity to become Mormons. Celestial marriage for "time and eternity" is also a temple ordinance.
It is necessary for godhood and seals the marriage forever. Temples form an essential part of Mormon salvation. Only Mormons
in possession of a "temple recommend" by their bishop may enter a temple.
Biblical Response: The Temple of the Old Testament was a place of symbolic sacrifice fore-figuring
the sacrifice of Christ. Worship in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem was a practice of early Jewish believers (Acts 2:46). Otherwise
there is no mention of any such practice in the New Testament. Never was the Jewish temple used for baptism for the dead,
marriage, or other secret ceremonies. It was the place in the Old Testament where the glory of God occasionally dwelt. Today
the individual believer is God's dwelling place and not a physical building (1 Cor. 3:16).
God Is an Exalted Man: Elohim, the god of this universe, was previously a man in a prior existence.
As a result of having kept the requirements of Mormonism, he was exalted to godhood and inherited his own universe. God is
confined to a "body of flesh and bones" (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22) and yet is thought to be omniscient
and omnipotent. He obviously cannot be omnipresent. There are an infinite number of gods with their own worlds-these too were
previously men. The Holy Ghost, Jesus Christ, and "Heavenly Father" comprise three separate and distinct gods. Heavenly
Father sires spiritual children in heaven destined for human life on earth. All humans, as well as Jesus Christ and Lucifer,
are god's heavenly children. (See Doctrine and Covenants 130:22; God, Jesus, and the Spirit thus had beginnings.)
Biblical Response: God is Spirit and is not confined to a physical body
(John 4:24). Jesus Christ was incarnated through a miraculous and nonphysical conception through the Virgin Mary. He was fully
God from the beginning (John 1:1). Together with the person of the Holy Spirit, they form the triune (three-in-one) eternal
Jesus Is God's "Son": Jesus was Heavenly
Father's firstborn spirit child in heaven. He was begotten by God through Mary in a "literal, full and complete sense"
in the same "sense in which he is the son of Mary" (Bruce McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith
[Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 67). These two elements of Jesus being literally God's son form his uniqueness in
Mormon theology. In the Garden of Gethsemane as well as on the cross, Jesus atoned for Adam's sin and guaranteed all humankind
resurrection and immortality. Jesus visited the Israelites or Indians of North America after his resurrection and established
the true church among them. We are the spiritual, but literal, younger brothers and sisters of Christ. Some Mormon documents
claim that Jesus was married at Cana in Galilee (Mark 2) and had children himself.
Biblical Response: Jesus is viewed as God, the Word or Son, eternally existent with the Father and
worthy of identity as God (John 1:1-14). He was born of the Virgin Mary who had conceived him supernaturally by the Holy Spirit.
He lived a perfect life, died on the cross for the sins of the world, and was raised from the dead. He will come again and
reign as Lord of lords.
Humans Are Gods in Embryo: Every
human being has the potential of becoming a god by keeping the requirements of Mormonism. A well-known statement within Mormonism
is, "As man is god once was, as god is man may become." From a prior spirit existence in heaven, humans may be born
on earth in order to exercise freedom to choose good or evil and to have a body for the resurrection. Basically humans are
good, but they will be punished for their sin. By keeping Mormon teaching and obeying the church and the Prophet, after the
resurrection worthy Mormon males may pass the celestial guards, bring their wives with them, and achieve a status similar
to Elohim-the god of this world. The consequences of their sin are erased by their allegiance to the tenets of Mormonism.
In resurrection faithful Mormons receive exaltation to godhood and will exercise dominion over their world.
Biblical Response: Human beings are God's special creation. There is
no evidence from Scripture of preexistence; rather, God states that it was in the womb of our mothers that He formed us (Isaiah
44:2). A sinful nature is part of humanity's experience. Liberation from the power and presence of sin is experienced as a
result of faith in Christ. At that point God's image is begun to be remade in every Christian. Although the believer is being
transformed to Christlikeness, the Bible does not teach literal godhood as the inheritance of the saints (Rom. 8:29; Rev.
Mormon Plan of Salvation: The Mormon plan of
salvation is built on the idea that all people have eternal life, but only the most faithful Mormons have godhood or enter
the celestial Kingdom. In order to obtain this ultimate step, Mormons must exercise faith in the God of Mormonism, its Christ,
and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; exercise repentance; and be baptized in the LDS church. Additionally,
Mormons must keep the "Word of Wisdom" by abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine; tithe to the church; attend
weekly sacrament meetings; support the Mormon prophet; do temple works; and be active in their support of the church.
Biblical Response: Salvation, according to the Bible, is due to God's
grace and love. He provided Jesus as the sacrifice for the sins of the world. It is through faith in the crucified and risen
Jesus that we may be saved. Works are excluded (John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 10:9-13; Eph. 2:8, 9).
- Know clearly the
Christian faith and the gospel. Be aware of the unique Mormon doctrines. Remember, Mormons use Christian vocabulary (gospel,
atonement, god) but radically redefine their meanings. Define clearly what you mean when you use biblical words.
- Present a clear testimony of your faith in Christ alone for your salvation. Show your Mormon friend that the Bible
teaches salvation alone through the cross of Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Rom. 10:4, 10-13; Eph. 2:8, 9). Emphasize that salvation
is a gift to be received, not a merit to be earned.
- Warn the Mormon about trusting in feelings
(i.e., the burning in the bosom) for a validation of Mormonism's truth claim. Without historical, objective verification,
feelings are useless.
- When Mormons use a Bible verse, read carefully the verses before and
afterward to make clear the exact meaning and purpose of the passage. Don't let them take Bible verses out of context. Read
carefully the full reference in the Bible before deciding what any one verse means.
- Keep the
central doctrines of the faith as the focus of your discussion.
- Do the basics: pray, trust
the Holy Spirit, and be loving, patient, and steadfast.
Roberts, © 2000 North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, Alpharetta, Georgia. All rights reserved.
Reprinted with permission.
 Cameron, K., & Comfort, R. (2004). The school of biblical evangelism: 101 lessons: how to share your faith simply, effectively, biblically-the way Jesus
did (pp. 571-578). Gainesville, FL: Bridge-Logos Publishers.