s I overhear bits of conversation like these among my fellow believers pertaining to individuals who are Mormons, I am both surprised and grieved. The people whom my friends are referring to are not Christians. Granted, I do not know their hearts, but I do know the doctrine of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS), which they each profess to follow.
Mormonism was founded on the belief that after the ascension of Christ and the deaths of the apostles, the genuine gospel was lost, the Bible was corrupted, and the true church ceased to exist. Mormon history teaches that in 1820 two spirits, allegedly to be God the Father and God the Son, appeared to a young man named Joseph Smith. These spirits told Smith not to join any of the churches currently in existence, because none was true.
Over the course of the next seven years, further “revelations” convinced Smith that he had been chosen to bring back truth to the church. He was called to be the first modern-day prophet. To this day, LDS teachings proclaim that the gospel was restored through Joseph Smith, after truth and authority had been lost from the earth.
In the intervening years, the LDS church has thrived—growing in numbers, in wealth, and in influence, with many famous adherents among its ranks. Though some of its teachings have changed through the decades, Mormonism has continued to reject every doctrine foundational to the biblical doctrine of Jesus Christ upon which Christianity is established.
Yet, in spite of the many theological differences and the rejection of the authority of God’s Word, the Latter-day Saints are often viewed as Christians by outsiders, including true followers of Jesus Christ.
Part of this misunderstanding arises over the use of terminology. Mormonism is a masterpiece of redefined Christian terminology in an attempt to make it their own. Through the years, I have had the opportunity to witness to many Mormons. In an early encounter, I told the two young men who had knocked on my door, “I am born again.”
They countered, “We are born again too.”
Though we were using the same term, we were not saying the same thing. “What do you mean, born again?” I asked.
They explained they had both been baptized in the LDS church. Upon emerging from the water, they were “born again.”
When speaking to Mormons, it is critical to define one’s terminology.
Many of the theological concepts taught by scripturally faithful churches are also taught by the LDS church, but with dangerous differences. Consider the doctrine of salvation. In Christian theology, salvation is centered on the Atonement—Christ’s sacrificial death for the remission of humanity’s sin. His work was an act of grace through faith.
The third of The Articles of Faith of the LDS church states, “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” The second president of the Latter-day Saints taught that the blood of Christ shed at Calvary was ineffective for the cleansing of some sins. This is not the gospel of the Bible.
Even words frequently used by Christians, such as God, have no commonality with Mormonism. When a Mormon speaks of “God,” he is not referring to one God eternally existing in three persons. When a Mormon prays, he is not praying to the unchanging God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The “God” of Mormonism is not the uncreated God of heaven and earth—the One who was, and is, and is to come.
The doctrine of “God” as taught by Mormonism is the story of a created being who was once a man. Through many good works, he progressed to an exalted man and then deity. He became a god. Every faithful Mormon is considered to be a “god in embryo” with the same potential. In the words of Lorenzo Snow, who served as the fifth president and prophet of the LDS church,
“As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.”
The “God” taught by Mormonism is not a spiritual being as the Bible declares, but a being with a body of flesh and bones as tangible as that of any human being. He is only one of many gods.
During a recent research trip to the LDS Temple Visitors’ Center outside of Washington, D.C., the young lady who gave the tour of the facility proudly showed us the centerpiece of the entryway—a large statue of Jesus. She repeatedly stressed that Jesus Christ is the focus of Mormonism. “After all, we are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
The winsome guide did not tell us that Mormonism teaches that Christ was a spirit brother of Lucifer. She concealed from us the Mormon doctrine which declares that Christ was the fruit of a sexual union between Father God (an exalted man) and Mary. Our hostess hid the teaching that Christ was married to Mary and Martha, and the other Mary. She focused her presentation on Christ, but it was a false Christ—a different Jesus than the One revealed in the Bible and whom I have been serving for the past 35 years.
There are many voices out there who sound Christian, but not everyone who talks like a Christian is a Christian. Beware of theological double-talk. A closer look beneath the surface of what seems to be the same language and ideas reveals only superficial similarities. Similar is not the same, but is different.
An even more detailed look, particularly as regards doctrine and theology, shows there are very few real similarities between biblical Christianity and Mormonism, except perhaps in undefined words.
Define your terminology. Guard your heart, and don’t be taken in by something that sounds Christian but is not. Do not be taken in by Mormonism. It is not now and has never been another Christian denomination, no matter how it sounds.