“When people say, ‘I believe in Jesus’, look them straight in the eye and ask, ‘Which one?’ ” – Dr. Walter Martin
Last Friday my friends and I visited the 11th annual Christmas Festival at the Huntsville Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The event featured a living Nativity scene, decorated Christmas trees, and a performance by the Orchestra and Choir. But that’s not why we were there. We were there to encourage the young Mormon missionaries on duty at the event to carefully compare the teachings of their Church with the teachings of the Bible they claim to accept.
Our culture would have us believe that it is wrong to treat any religion as erroneous or false, and that we should focus not on doctrinal differences, but on what each religion has in common. But this view simply ignores that all religions make factual claims about both history and the nature of reality. These claims are also often in conflict with one another, and more fundamentally, in conflict with God’s revealed word.
This matters a great deal, because scripture reveals that trusting in the wrong God, the wrong Jesus, or the wrong Gospel is to trust in that which is powerless to save you (1 Timothy 4:1, Galatians 1:6-9, Isaiah 8:20, Romans 16:17-18). As Christians, we are commanded to love our neighbor, and there is nothing that should stop us from humbly and respectfully sharing the truth of God with our Mormon friends. Thus, to keep the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to ourselves out of a sense of respect for the Mormon faith would actually a form of hatred.
I’d like to point out that my Mormon friends are some of the kindest people I know. They also frequently put the average Christian to shame in terms of devotion to their Church. What I mean to say is that this is not a critique against Mormon people, but Mormon theology. While Mormons are almost always sincere and passionate about their beliefs, those beliefs are fundamentally and irreconcilably at odds with scripture.
Unlike Christianity, Mormonism recognizes theBible (Old and New Testaments), and three other authoritative texts: the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. The latter three books were supposedly revealed by God through Joseph Smith, who Mormons consider a prophet.
Now because Mormons agree that the Bible is God’s authoritative word, we have a point of continuity from which we can start. Every Mormon I’ve spoken to agrees that it is most reasonable to test the words of any prophet against the antecedent revelation from God. A prophet that contradicts God’s word can be no prophet at all, as God cannot lie. Yet when we compare the teachings of Mormon theology to those of scripture, a disturbing pattern emerges.
Mormon Theology on the Nature of God:
Mormons once held that Adam is “our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.” (1) This teaching was claimed as revelation from God by Joseph Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, who taught it for over 20 years. Young also claimed to have learned this doctrine from Joseph Smith. (2) The Mormon Church now explicitly denies this teaching, and later Mormon prophets have contradicted it. On this issue Mormon scholar Stephen E. Robinson comments, “So how do Latter-day Saints deal with the phenomenon? We don’t; we simply set it aside. It is an anomaly.” (3)
Yet Mormons still holds that God himself was once a man like us, and is now an exalted man with a body of flesh and bone. (4) In other words, he was not always God, but once a child who had a father before him, who had a father before him, etc. This belief in many God’s fits with the Mormon view that God is a member of a “counsel of gods.” (5)
This is a striking contrast to the God of scripture, who created Adam (Genesis 1:27) and has been God from all eternity (Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 90:2, 93:2). Jesus specifically teaches that “God is Spirit” (John 4:24) and states that “a spirit does not have flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39).
In Isaiah 44:6, God further contradicts Mormon polytheism, stating that “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” While some Mormons will argue this passage refers to idols, God goes on to ask “Is there a God beside me?” His answer to the reader is firm: “yea, there is no God; I know not any.” (44:8) This cannot refer to idols, who God clearly knows of, but actual gods. In the New Testament Jesus also affirms that there is only one God (Mark 12:28-34; Revelation 22:7-13).
Mormon Theology of Jesus
Mormonism holds that Jesus is a created being and one god among many gods, making him our spiritual brother and the spiritual brother of Satan. (6) It is also taught by many Church leaders that Jesus practiced polygamy. Jedediah M. Grant, who served under Church President and supposed prophet Brigham Young wrote that it was “A belief in the doctrine of a plurality of wives caused the persecution of Jesus and his followers.” (7) In Mormon theology it is also held that Jesus was not begotten by the Holy Spirit, but rather was conceived by the Heavenly Father having sexual intercourse with Mary “instead of letting any other man do it.” (8)
Contradicting these views, scripture records that Jesus was not created, but created all things in existence, including Satan (John 1:1, 3, Colossians 1:14-17). Jesus is not one of many gods, but is the eternal God (Isaiah 9:6-7, 7:14; Micah 5:2; Matt 1:23; John 1:1, 14, 8:58, 10:30-33; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:14-19; Acts 20:28; Titus 2:13.) Regarding the incarnation, Jesus was begotten by the Holy Spirit and was miraculously conceived (Matt 1:18-20; Luke 1:35), not through physical sexual relations between God and Mary (Interestingly, this view is exactly what Muslims think Christians believe).
Mormon Theology on a Member’s Responsibility
Perhaps the most divergent of all is the Mormon view that members must “learn how to be gods yourselves…the same as all gods have done before you.” (9) This means literally becoming gods, just like God himself. Former Church President Lorenzo Snow summarized this view in a memorable couplet: “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be” (10).
By contrast, Scripture teaches clearly that there is only one God. Mormons will often argue that this is true now, but will ultimately change as Mormon believers are exalted to the status of godhood. Yet God explicitly says in Isaiah 44:6 “I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.” This excludes any possibility of men becoming gods now or in the future.
Finally, I should note that there is a scriptural basis for the belief that men can become gods. In the Garden of Eden, the Serpent tempts Eve with this deceptive lure, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Gen 3:5). The fact that the only scriptural parallel to Joseph Smith’s teaching on becoming gods is found on the lips of Satan should be deeply concerning to Mormon believers.
Mormon Theology of Salvation
The Mormon Church uses the term “salvation” in various ways. The first use describes salvation from death, as Mormonism holds that all mankind will be resurrected from death due to the atoning work of Christ. This work, however, does not save a person from sin, which requires an individual to be baptized and keep the commandments of Christ. (11)
The true salvation that all mormons strive for, however, is exaltation. The exalted Mormon will become a god himself and dwell in the presence of the Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the “Celestial Kingdom.” This ultimate state of salvation is only achieved through observance of sacred covenants and obedience to the commandments. This “Glorious gift” is not received until after the final judgement. (12)
This emphasis on earning one’s salvation is expounded by Brigham Young who wrote “There is not a man or woman, who violates the covenants made with their God, that will not be required to pay the debt. The blood of Christ will never wipe that out, your own blood must atone for it.” (13)
Unlike Mormon theology, the bible teaches that salvation is something we experience now. This is only possible because Christ’s atoning work on the cross was completely sufficient for those who believe in him. Scripture explicitly states that the blood of Jesus is sufficient for atoning for all sin (1 John 1:7, Colossians 2:13, Revelation 1:5, Romans 5:9).
We receive the gift of faith in Christ, we are justified by this faith alone, and we are guaranteed eternal life. (Romans 5:1, 9, Ephesians 2:8-10, Romans 6:23). Good works and obedience are not a requirement for salvation (John 6:47; Romans 3:20-31, 4:1-8, 5:1-2; Galations 2:16, 21, 3:10-13, 5:4; Titus 3:5). Through our faith in Christ we are also freely given the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit as a guarantee of our inheritance (Ephesians 1:13-14). It is He who then guides, convicts, and conforms the saved into people who obey God and perform good works (John 16:8, Galatians 5:16-25).
Jesus himself states “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28). The eternal life that Mormon theology equates with “exaltation” is therefore not only a free gift to those who are justified by faith, but it is one that cannot be lost through a failure to obey and perform (also Romans 8:37-39).
When confronted with these contradictions between the Bible and Mormon theology, many Mormons appeal to their personal experience with the Holy Spirit, who has shown them the truth of Mormon Scripture. This is usually based on a passage from the Mormon book of Moroni that reads:
“Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.”
The contradiction then becomes one between the revealed word of God (the Bible) and this spirit that the Mormon has experienced. I have no doubt that the young men who have told me of this experience were telling the truth. They were convinced by the overwhelming presence of a spirit. The question is what spirit would willingly contradict God’s Word?
Paul seems to have anticipated this phenomena, writing to Timothy, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits…” (1 Timothy 4:1)
Likewise, 1 John 4:1 reads: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
In summary, our Mormon neighbors are fellow image-bearers of God. They have been deceived and are lost, just as we were before Christ. We are commanded by God to love our neighbors, and that means respectfully and humbly confronting the false doctrines of the Mormon Church and turning our Mormon friends to the true Gospel.
- Brigham Young, “Self Government, Etc.” Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, disc. 8, pp. 46-53, 1852.
- Deseret News, 1873, Accessed through Utah Digital Newspapers.
- Stephen E. Robinson, “The Exclusion by Misrepresentation”
- “I Have a Question,” The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
- Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Brigham Young University, pg 138.
- Brigham Young, “Why the Saints Are a Strange People, Etc.” Journal of Discourses, vol. 13, disc. 26, pp. 235-256, 1870.
- Jedediah M. Grant “Uniformity” Journal of Discourses, vol 1, discourse 49, pages 341-349, 1853.
- Brigham Young, “To Know God is Eternal Life, Etc.“, Journal of Discourses, vol. 4, disc. 42, pg. 218.
- Joseph Smith, “The King Follett Sermon“- Ensign Apr. 1971
- Lorenzo Snow Quotes, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
- “Salvation” an excerpt from See True to the Faith (2004), 150-53.
- Brigham Young, “Instructions to the Bishops, Etc.” Journal of Discourses, Volume 3, disc. 35, Pg.247, 1856.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Gospel Principles, (2011), pp. 275–80.