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Is Mormonism Christian?

By James R. Spencer

Notice that the title of this article is not "Are Mormons Christians?" That is a somewhat different question. No one can see into the human heart but God. No one but God is qualified to judge hearts. But, does Mormonism teach a consistent biblical doctrine — a Christian doctrine? That is an important question because we can judge the teachings of an organization. And we must do so if we are to faithfully discharge our responsibilities as Christ’s disciples.

Mormonism, throughout its 170-year history, has always found itself toe-to-toe with the larger body of Christian believers. Today, the Mormon Church fields some 60,000 missionaries whose job it is to bring people into membership — to baptize them not merely into Christ, but into Mormonism. That is why most evangelical denominations are on record denouncing the doctrines of Mormonism. The late Walter Martin, the father of the modern anti-cult movement, called Mormonism a collection of "garbled doctrines masquerading as Christianity."

Those are strong words. Christians do not make such statements out of rancor, jealousy or ill will. They are simply facing up to their responsibility to challenge Mormonism’s erroneous doctrines. They do so because this religion teaches false ideas about the nature of God and man and about the way of salvation.

The nature of God vs. the nature of man
The most important, distinctive and defended doctrine of Mormonism can be summed up by the famous couplet of Mormon President Lorenzo Snow (president from 1898-1901). This couplet can be recited by every moderately knowledgeable Latter-day Saint (as Mormons call themselves): As man now is, God once was; As God now is, Man may become.

Any Bible-savvy Christian recognizes this statement as patently unbiblical. Not only is it unbiblical, it is of paramount importance. Such a teaching blurs the distinction between the almighty, self-existent God and the creatures He has made. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, claimed, "Man is coequal with God himself."1 Smith taught – and his successors have maintained – that there are many gods in the universe. He told his congregation: "You have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves … the same as all Gods have done before you … until you are able to dwell in everlasting burnings and to sit in glory."2

Joseph Smith’s most noted successor, Brigham Young, remarked, "Man is King of Kings and Lord of Lords in embryo."3

This pervasive teaching about the godhood of man is called, in Mormon theology, the doctrine of eternal progression. Mormon theology says Mormon men will one day rule over their own worlds as gods. This doctrine is foreshadowed in Smith’s version of the creation of the earth: "In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it."4

Man, according to Smith, is himself self-existent with God; man’s intelligence is coequal with that of God: "The mind or the intelligence which man possesses is coequal with God himself."5

Whose authority is it?
Mormonism teaches that authority to act for God on the earth is found only in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Only in the Mormon Church is the "Priesthood" found.

Mormon doctrine states that Jesus Christ bestowed a priesthood upon the original 12 apostles, a priesthood that eventually was lost from the earth. When that happened, Christ’s church supposedly ceased to exist on the earth. This, of course, is contrary to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 16:18: "And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Smith claimed that John the Baptist and the apostles Peter, James and John visited him and conferred upon him two priesthoods so he could restore authority to the earth. This was essential, he said, because without this priesthood man cannot conduct any legitimate ministry. Neither Protestant nor Catholic clergy can conduct the Lord’s Supper or Communion. They cannot baptize anyone in a way God will accept, because they do not hold the Mormon priesthood.

The idea of Mormon priesthood is nowhere found in the New Testament. The Book of Hebrews goes to great lengths to explain that God’s priesthood was finalized in Christ. Everyone who is a child of God has bold access into God’s presence through one Priest, Jesus Christ (Ephesians 3:11,12).

Every blood-bought child of God is equal in power and authority to every other in the kingdom of God: "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (John 1:12,13).

Heaven and hell
Mormon doctrine teaches that there are at least three heavens. Everyone (with a few notable exceptions) who lives on the earth will go to one of these magnificent heavens when they die, regardless of their faith in Christ or whether they lived godly or evil lives.

On the other hand, the atonement of Christ, in Mormonism, is not enough in itself to bring men and women into the presence of God. Mormonism teaches that Christ’s death only bought resurrection for mankind — for all men and women — but their ultimate destiny in one of the three heavens is totally dependent upon their obedience to the laws of Mormonism. And only those who fulfill all of Mormonism’s laws are able to be in the presence of God the Father.

Mormonism also teaches that people who die without hearing the Mormon message get another chance to do so in a place called "Spirit Prison." This is an afterlife realm that is neither heaven nor hell. While they are imprisoned there, they can receive Mormon missionaries and decide to accept Mormonism. If they do so, they must wait for someone on earth to be baptized for them in one of the Mormon temples. Here, thousands of schoolchildren are baptized repeatedly, "for and on behalf of" people who are dead. The dead people in Spirit Prison can accept the baptism and begin their journey toward Mormon heaven.

Proxy baptisms are not the only temple work done for dead people. Other washings, anointings and ceremonies are done in the temples for the dead. That is what drives Mormon genealogical research. Names of dead people are collected from all over the world so that baptisms and other temple ceremonies can be performed on their behalf.

Grace and works
The Mormon Third Article of Faith states: "We believe that through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel." (That is, the Mormon Gospel.)

"Faith without works is dead" (James 2:20) is often quoted by Latter-day Saints. To Christians this verse means that since good works must flow out of living faith, a life without obedience demonstrates that a person does not possess such faith. In Mormonism, however, obedience to laws and ordinances eventually buys access into the higher kingdoms of heaven.

Mormon salvation theology, like the Mormon explanation of the nature of God, clearly contradicts the Bible on every hand. But Mormon founder Joseph Smith had a solution for that – he produced three new books of Scripture and disparaged the Bible.

Scripture
"We believe," the Mormon Eighth Article of Faith declares, "the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly … ." With this statement, Mormonism — from its earliest days — undermines the authority of the Bible. Early Mormon scholars went out of their way to declare the Bible unfit, damaged, mistranslated and dangerous. The Book of Mormon, on the other hand, is "the most perfect book on the face of the earth, singularly without error."

Orson Pratt, the cream of early Mormon scholars, in denigrating the Bible, asked: "What evidence have [Protestants] that the book of Matthew was inspired by God, or any other of the books of the New Testament? … [the books of the Bible] have been mutilated, changed, and corrupted in … a shameful manner … . Who knows that even one verse of the whole Bible has escaped pollution?"6

A law unto itself
In the final analysis, Mormonism is an original, invented religion, born of the mind of Joseph Smith, who is responsible for the spiritual seduction of millions of people. To the world, Mormonism sells itself as the friendly Christian church down the street, but in reality it is no closer to biblical Christianity than Hinduism or Islam.

The goals of Mormonism, however, remain unchanged. It desires to turn Protestants and Catholics, Evangelicals and Pentecostals, into Mormons. It seeks to introduce them to what the Bible calls another gospel, another spirit, and another Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:4).


James R. Spencer is a minister and author of seven books on cults, the occult and secularism. He lives in Boise, Idaho.

1 History of the Church, vol. 6, pp. 310-312.

2 Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 4.

3 Journal of Discourses, vol. 10, p. 223.

4 Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Section Six, 1843-44, p.349.

5 Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p.6.

6 Orson Pratt’s Works, "The Bible Alone, an Insufficient Guide," pp. 44-47.

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