Mormonism versus Christianity

by Michael R. Bott

   

Introduction

They are clean‑cut, healthy‑looking and always friendly. But are they really God's ambassadors? I had always wondered about this, so one summer afternoon I accosted a Mormon and asked him if he could spare some time to come into my house and talk about his faith. The bulk of this article is made up of what I have discovered about Mormon doctrine through these discussions with Mormon missionaries.

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Scripture "Plus" vs  Scripture Alone

Christianity is a black or white religion. Unless our beliefs are based on the Bible it is highly unlikely that our beliefs are Christian. It is, therefore, a valuable rule of thumb, in detecting a cult to first ask the question, "Are your beliefs based solely upon the 66 books of the Bible? If someone answers either: "No!" or "Yes and some other sacred writings as well", then your alarm bells should start ringing. Mormons will state that they acknowledge the divine authority of the Bible but go on also to acknowledge as divinely authoritative: The Book of Mormon (BM), Doctrine and Covenants (D&C) the Pearl of Great Price (PGP) and the ongoing prophetic messages that flow from the President of their Church. As Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, wrote in PGP, The Articles of Faith, vv. 8‑9:

8. We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly ; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
9 We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining, to the Kingdom of God.

Therefore Mormons believe in continuing revelation from their Prophet. The prophet is their President (similar in rank to the Catholic Pope), who, following in the tradition of the first President (Joseph Smith), is appointed "... to be a presiding elder over [the] church. to be a translator, a revelator, a seer, and prophet" (D&C 124:125)

The Book of Mormon comes down hard on evangelicals who insist on the Bible as their sole source of authority on matters of faith, for it states:

6. Thou fool, that shall say: a Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?
9. And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that 1 have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished...
10. Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words. neither need ye suppose that 1 have not caused more to be written.
(BM, 2 Nephi 29:6‑10)

Verse 9 above is a particularly convenient text for Mormons as it allows them to explain away some of the contradictions in the ongoing revelations from their church. But before we deal with this topic, we must confine ourselves to the question of authority. Mormons are not alone in claiming continued special revelation from God. Muslims have their Koran. spiritualists have their sťances and some people in Waco had David Koresh. This alone should indicate that one should avoid accepting continuing revelation without due consideration Why should we accept the Mormons' claim? Mormons are not the only ones who claim to have the sole source of divine authority, so do Jehovah's Witnesses, as did cult leader David Koresh. So how do Mormons justify then claims? When I asked a teen‑aged Mormon elder this question, with wisdom befitting his years, he drew my attention to the Book of Mormon. More particularly, Moroni 10 3‑4:

3 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.
4. 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.

Here we have a wonderful example of the circular logic and subjective reasoning which is the hallmark of Mormon apologetics. The basic Mormon formula for determining whether their doctrine is true (i.e. is Joseph Smith a prophet of God?), is to read his writings, and after so doing, if you pray to God with a sincere heart (Mor. 10.4), he will manifest the truth of it with a burning in your bosom ("... if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you., therefore, you shall feel that it is right" D&C 9:8).

If you pray to God according to this formula and get back a resounding "NO!", then you were not praying with a sincere heart. The trouble with this type of "apologetics" is that Muslim fanatics also feel in their hearts that Muhammad was their greatest prophet. Countless other faiths likewise feel in their hearts that each of their particular founders was the chief source of truth. Perhaps a better way of evaluating the credibility of Mormonism is to see whether their revelations are consistent. In court, one way of determining whether the accused is guilty or innocent, is to examine his story for consistency through all the occasions he had to give his testimony.

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Polytheism vs the Trinity

When we apply this principle to Mormonism, we see that it is plagued with problems from the outset. Take the question as to whether there is one God or many. Mormon 7:7 (BM) appears to affirm traditional Christian doctrine when it states that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost "are one God" (cf. Mos. 15:4). Joseph Smith further writes of:

... the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end.

(2 Nephi 31:21)

When Zeezrom, one of the characters mentioned in the book of Alma, asked Amulek, a man who said "nothing ... contrary to the Spirit of the Lord", "Is there more than one God?" Amulek answered emphatically, "... No" (Alma 11:22, 28‑29, BM).

Later, Joseph Smith changed his mind and wrote in D&C 121.28 of:

... [a] time to come in the which nothing shall be withheld, whether there be one God or many gods, they shall be manifest.

In Abraham 4:1 of PGP, we read of Gods organising and forming the heavens and the earth≠.

To get around this contradiction between the Book of Mormon stating that there is but one God and D&C and PGP declaring that there are many gods, Mormons resort to a line of reasoning used by Jehovah's Witnesses regarding Jesus and the Father being one. They say that the Gods are one in purpose. This argument does not do justice to the question posed to Amulek in BM about whether there is more than one God. To do justice to Joseph Smith's later revelation, Zeezrom should have asked, "Do the Gods always agree"", but he did not. To stretch the plain meaning of the text as Mormons do is theological contortionism.

In the creation story of Abraham 4. 1 in PGP, we read that:

... the gods organised and formed the heavens and the earth.

What is not used is the word "creating", Mormons do not believe that God(s) made matter, which is why D&C 93:33 says:

For man is spirit. The elements are eternal ...

This is quite strange when BM (2 Nephi 14) declares that:

... there is a God, and he hath created all things, both the heavens and the earth, and all things that are in them ...

Thus, while official Mormon dogma maintains the eternal existence of matter, their official books both deny and affirm it. Further, if God did not make matter, but it had existed at least as long as He has, then there is the possibility that there is a Cause greater than God who made both Him and matter.  One Mormon elder I spoke to privately admitted that this was a possibility

Mormons also have to live with contradictions between their later sacred books and the Bible. Mormons believe that God the Father has a physical, fleshly body: "The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's: the Son also ..." (D&C 130:22). This stands in sharp contrast to the Bible:

John 4:24: God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Luke 24:39: Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. (NB: all Scripture quotations in this article are from the King James Version, which is also the version used by Mormons)

When I ask Mormons about this, they inevitably refer to Scriptural passages referring to the "hand of the Lord" which apparently suggest a physical body. I always counter with Scriptural references to Christ as the door or the vine and ask them, "So, if you take that literally, do you believe in a Jesus who sprouts leaves and has roots?" One more problem with the Mormon idea of God having only a physical body is that a physical body can only be present in one place at any time. This contradicts those Scriptural passages which say that God is omnipresent. As David wrote in Ps. 139:7, "... where can 1 flee from thy presence?". The implied answer to this rhetorical question is "Nowhere'. God is everywhere."

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Rising Gods vs Fallen Men

Mormons also believe that we were all spirit children living in the presence of our Heavenly Father before our enfleshment (PGP, Abraham 3,23‑24) Not only were we God's spirit children, but we also had Jesus and Lucifer as our elder brothers (PGP Moses 4:1‑4 and Abraham 3:27‑28). The very idea that we were once spirit children in a pre‑existence is totally foreign to the teaching of the Bible. 1 Corinthians 15:46 teaches us plainly that the spiritual is not first; but the natural; then the spiritual.

The question now arises as to what caused this happy family to break up. In a nutshell, according to Mormonism, God proposed a plan for our eternal progression to Godhood. He wanted all His spirit children to graduate, becoming fully‑fledged Gods like Himself (D&C 132:19‑20). To do this, we had to learn the difference between good and evil. To facilitate our schooling, God set some of the leading spirit children (Gods) the task of forming the earth, so we could come to earth, gain physical bodies and learn good from evil. God called a council of leading spirits with the aim of sending one of these Junior Gods down to earth to help us "learn the ropes". Jesus pipped Lucifer for the job, so Lucifer became jealous and organised a rebellion. Lucifer managed to persuade one third of the spirit children to follow him and rebel against the plan to follow Jesus. These rebellious spirits were cast down to earth without bodies of flesh and blood (D&C, 29:36‑37 and PGP, Abraham 3:28). God's anger also extends to those descendants of the people of Canaan who were turned black as a mark of God's curse As Moses 7:8 (PGP) states.

For behold, the Lord shall curse the land with much heat, and the barrenness thereof shall go forth forever; and there was a blackness came upon all the children of Canaan, that they were despised among all people.

This last quote explains why, until recently, blacks were prohibited from holding high office in the Mormon church.

This fine yarn, aside from having no Biblical basis whatsoever, is totally Satanic in origin. A major indicator that this is so, is the fact that the goal of Mormonism is the individual's progression to Godhood. This repeats the seductive lie used by the serpent to deceive Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Genesis 3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye cat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

Satan tempted Adam and Eve with the desire to become Gods. Mormonism repeats this Satanic lie by saying that we human beings can become Gods. It teaches that one vital step to Godhood was Adam's original sin which is considered to be meritorious (PGP, Moses 5: 10‑11, BM, 2 Nephi 2:22‑25):

22. And now, behold, if Adam had not transgressed he would not have fallen, but he would have remained in the garden of Eden. And all things which were created must have remained in the same state in which they were after they were created., and they must have remained forever, and had no end.
23. And they would have had no children,‑ wherefore they would have remained in a state of innocence, having no joy, for they knew no misery; doing no good, for they knew no sin.
24. But behold, all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.
25. Adam fell that men might be, and men are, that they might have JOY.

Adam was given two instructions by God in the Garden of Eden: 1) be fruitful and multiply (Gen. 1:28) and 2) do not eat of "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:17). Mormonism teaches that God knowingly put Adam in a Catch‑22 situation. Mormons assume that Adam knowing neither good nor evil and being in a state of innocence, could not have had sexual relations with Eve. However, by not having such relations it would have meant violating God's commandment to procreate. It would also have meant that the plan for placing our pre-existing spirits into human bodies would have ground to a halt. Accordingly, Adam, in order to fulfil the plan of God, had to gain knowledge of good and evil, and in so doing disobey God. Aside from the fact that this is totally unscriptural, this paints a picture of God as being totally unfair in giving Adam two laws which were impossible to keep concurrently To keep the one would mean the violation of the other. There is also the unsubstantiated premise that for Adam to have intercourse with Eve entailed his knowledge of good and evil. To claim this is purely fantastic.

In the Bible, one of the results of the Fall is the corruption of what God had declared as good. Eve, as a result of the Fall, is told that her pain in childbirth would be greatly multiplied (Gen. 3:16). This implies that there was a pre‑Fall state in which it was possible for her to bear children with significantly less pain than after the Fall. If it were possible to bear children in the pre‑Fall state, then obviously Adam and Eve were capable of conceiving children before the Fall.

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Baptism for the Dead

One of the strangest points of Mormon doctrine is their rite of baptism for the dead. This ritual conjures up images of Mormons meeting in the dead of night to dunk the cadavers of their loved ones in their church fonts. But this is not so. The ritual is a form of baptism, whereby a living Mormon is vicariously baptized for those who have died as unbelievers. These departed non‑Mormon spirits exist in a form of purgatory. If they choose to accept baptism carried out in their name, they become "heirs of salvation".

D&C 124:36: For it is ordained that in ... those places which 1 have appointed for refuge, shall be the places for your baptisms for your dead.

D&C 138:58: The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God, 59 And after they have they have paid the penalty of their transgressions, and are washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation.

Mormons also claim that this doctrine is found in the Bible in 1 Corinthians 15:29:

Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

Aside from the dubious practice of building a doctrine upon one Bible verse, this passage. If interpreted in the Mormon way would have Scripture contradicting Scripture, God, in Hebrews 9,27, states emphatically: "And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment." Jesus asks in Matthew 16:26: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" The tenor of this question suggests that salvation is granted in this life only; after this, if you have lived totally for the world or yourself, you totally forfeit any chance of redemption.

Furthermore, the Mormon exegesis of 1 Cor. 15.29 is not the best explanation. Paul does not commend the practice, and we must note "that Paul referred to those (not "we") who are "baptized for the dead".1 Dr. Gleason Archer also makes a strong case for a non‑Mormon interpretation. He notes that in the Greek the words baptized "for the dead" can be translated "for the sake of the dead". Archer paints the picture of a righteous Christian in the early church surrounded by his loved ones. Before he dies he makes an earnest entreaty to unbelievers to become Christians and be baptized. Such an appeal in an emotionally charged situation would be very effective. One can imagine a wayward son, after the death of his Christian father, acting on his father's advice and repenting, becoming a Christian and being baptized. Such a young man, in every sense of the word, can be said to have been baptized for the sake of his father.2

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Salvation:
by Works or by Faith Alone?

Perhaps one of the saddest things about Mormonism, is that even if it were true, Mormons can never have full assurance of personal salvation. They believe that Christ's shed blood is not a sufficient basis for God to forgive a man's sins. Mormons believe that it Is through Christ's atonement and their own obedience to the prescribed laws and ordinances that one is saved.

PGP, Articles of Faith 3: We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel (cf. D&C 138:4)

One example of this is Mormon tithing. D&C 119:1‑5 instructs Mormons to pay their surplus property and money as tithes giving one tenth of their interest annually to the church. As an added incentive, the Mormon is told.

... he that is tithed shall not be burned at his [the Lord's] coming. (D&C 64.23)

This is totally foreign to the Bible. Mormonism teaches that Christ's work only takes you half‑way to Heaven's gate; man's work must get you the rest of the way. The Bible teaches that salvation is on the ground of Christ's merit alone:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God.
(Eph. 2:8)

Indeed, the Scripture teaches that "... by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight" (Romans 3:20) This gospel message stands in sharp contrast to the false Mormon teachings which hold that the Atonement provided merely the opportunity for men to achieve their own salvation. The Bible has strong words for people who believe this:

For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. (Rom. 10.3)

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Conclusion

In conclusion, we may find it hard to take Mormon teachings seriously, but we must do so. People are being deceived by a lie and their souls are being lost. We must learn all we can about this and every other cult. We must stress the fact that God does not change:

For I am the LORD, I change not. therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. (Mal. 3:6)

Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever. (Heb. 13:8) No‑one can rationally believe concurrently that there is one God but also many gods; that God/gods did not create everything but also created all there is, that God is flesh and bones and not spirit but is also Spirit. But above all, we must proclaim that we are saved by God's grace alone.

And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. (Rom. 11: 6)

Mormons tell us that they believe their doctrines despite all the problems and contradictions because of the "burning in their bosoms". That is, they feel in their hearts that what they believe is right. We must be wary of using our hearts as a guide for truth. The Bible tells us in Jeremiah I7:9:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

Which is why Proverbs 14.12 states.

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.

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References

  1. Walwoord, John F. and Zuck, Roy B. The Bible Knowledge Commentary. (Victor Books. 1984) p. 544[Return to text]

  2. Gleason L. Archer. Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1982) pp. 401‑421. [Return to text]

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Bibliography

  • Harold, Berry. Examining the Cults. (Lincoln, Nebraska: The Good News Broadcasting Association, Inc., 1986)

  • Floyd, C. McElveen. The Mormon Illusion. (California.‑ Regal Books, 1984)

  • Gordon, R. Lewis. The Bible, the Christian, and Latter‑Day Saints. (New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1966)

  • Decker, Ed. The Mormon Dilemma. (Oregon. Harvest House Publishers, 1990)

  • Hunt, Dave. The Cult Explosion. (Oregon. Harvest House Publishing, 1980 edition)

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©2002 Wellington Christian Apologetics Society (Inc.) All Rights Reserved.

 

Previously published in
Apologia (The Journal of the Wellington Christian Apologetics Society)
Vol.3, No.2, p.19-24 1994

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Last modified: Friday, 08 October 2004