In light of the recent hubbub over Mormonism, as revealed to be the personal faith of certain political candidates for the upcoming election, I’ve decided to present (as basically as possible) a clear and concise depiction of the religion as it contrasts Christianity. Much hullabaloo has been raised over the claim that Mormonism is a cult, and to call it anything other than “Christianity” has become increasingly unpopular among the religiously uninformed. So in efforts for consolidation and clarification, here are 3 reasons why Mormonism is NOT Christianity.
1. Mormonism makes divine usage of extra-biblical, unverifiable, nonexistent sources. This is no secret. If you own or have read a Book of Mormon, in its first few pages you are free to read the story of Joseph Smith and his encounter with the elusive “angel,” Moroni, who was the supposed “glorified, resurrected” individual known (only in Joseph Smith’s writings) to be the son of the ancient prophet-historian, Mormon. Mormon “quoted and abridged” the writings of “ancient prophets” on golden plates. It is supposedly the story of American civilization and God’s newest workings in His kingdom initiative, among the people living in the Western Hemisphere. One of the major problems with this book, which is the sole basis for the Mormon religion, is that there are only 12 individuals who claim to have ever seen the golden tablets. Joseph Smith himself, and 11 others who simply wrote brief paragraphs testifying that they saw and held the tablets (two letters of testimony exist – “The Testimony of the Three,” and “The Testimony of the Eight,” each of which are simple paragraphs supposedly signed by the alleged witnesses) are the only individuals to have ever beheld them. And Joseph Smith himself is the only individual to ever have interpreted/translated them. For the sixty-six books of the Bible, however, we have numerous original manuscripts and copies all dating within one generation of their original composition, all with about 98% accuracy when compared to one another. Also, many books of the Bible testify that the others are “scripture” (such as Peter in 2 Peter 3:16 calling Paul’s writings γραφή, the same word used all over the New Testament to refer to Old Testament writings as scripture).
So the Mormons have another book… what’s the big deal? Allow me to quote from the book itself:
“The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible… contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel… is the most correct book on earth and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.” (Book of Mormon, c: 1981, INTRODUCTION).
The Mormons believe that the Book of Mormon is more profitable to an individual than the Bible itself. Even if you don’t agree with the claims of Christianity, you should be able to see here that at a minimum, Mormonism is not Christianity because it elevates a different sacred text to a position greater than the sacred text of historical Christianity.
One more point on this… While the Bible itself says that scripture is a closed canon (Rev. 22:19) and that the truth of the Bible is all one needs to live a productive Christian lifestyle (2 Tim 3:14-17), the Book of Mormon, which claims to be a “companion to the Bible,” is textually presented as a necessary component for faith in Christ:
” If ye shall believe in Christ, ye will believe in these words, for they are the words of Christ, and He hath given them unto me.” (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 33:10).
In other words, if you don’t believe in the Book of Mormon, you don’t believe in Christ. The Bible is not sufficient. You must affirm this other book too.
2. Mormonism and Christianity teach differing soteriologies (how one is saved). To the untrained ear, the soteriological language of Mormonism sounds suspiciously similar to the soteriological language of Christianity. This is where many Christians are led astray in their assessment of the religion. Mormonism claims that Jesus Christ is Savior, and that only through the personal choice of repentance and faith in Him can one be saved. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross of Calvary provides the atonement necessary to cover our sins and reconcile us to God. Sounds like Christianity, doesn’t it? They key difference is that Mormons believe that salvation is inseparably connected with the Mormon Church – the Church of Latter-Day Saints. Baptism into the Mormon church is necessary for salvation… remember from #1 above?… because if you don’t believe in the Book of Mormon, you haven’t really placed your faith in Christ. But if you don’t get around to it before you die, says the Mormon religion, it’s okay… you’ll have a chance to accept Jesus and be baptized into the Mormon Church after you pass away:
“Because Heavenly Father is a fair and loving God, everyone will have the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ through baptism, if not in this life then in the next.” - http://mormon.org/jesus-christ/
These soteriological beliefs are diametrically opposed to the salvific message of Christianity as revealed in the Bible. The Bible teaches that for salvation, it doesn’t matter what denomination or church you are a part of, only that you confess Jesus as Lord and believe Him in your heart (Romans 10:9-10). In fact, the Apostle John warns us of extra-biblical teachings such as these:
“Anyone who does not remain in the teaching about Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God. The one who remains in this teaching has both the Son and the Father. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home, and don’t say, ‘Welcome,’ to him; for the one who says, ‘Welcome,’ to him shares in his evil works.” – 2 John 9-11.
Biblical Christianity (admittedly unlike historic Christianity on this point, with consideration of the Roman Catholic Church) does not require participation in any specific denomination or church body for salvation. The message of salvation in Christ Jesus is free to all who would accept it, regardless of denominational affiliation or geographic location.
Also extra-biblical is the Mormon church’s soteriological practice of “baptizing for the dead,” as the quote from Mormon.org, two paragraphs above, reveals. Mormons believe that the choice to choose Christ’s salvation will be available even after one dies… when they are offered a chance (or another chance as it may be) to accept Christ and be baptized into the Mormon church. But the author of Hebrews writes, “It is appointed once for man to die, and after that, judgement,” (Heb. 9:27). And in the Old Testament Book of Daniel, “Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake, some to eternal life, and some to shame and eternal contempt,” (Dan. 12:2). In the message of Christianity, there is no second chance after death. In the message of Mormonism, there are more opportunities to accept Christ’s salvation after passing away.
The salvific message of Mormonism also espouses a doctrine of salvation by works. Although a devout Mormon would disagree with me here, and may even be offended at the claim, the articles of their faith speak for themselves. The third article of the Mormon faith reads, “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel,” (http://mormon.org/articles-of-faith/). Did you get that? Salvation is obtained, according to Mormonism, “through” the atonement of Christ, “by” obedience to laws and ordinances. Salvation “through” Jesus and “by” obedience is not the same as the salvation biblical Christianity preaches:
“By grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is a gift from God – not from works, so that no one can boast.” – Eph. 2:8-9.
Two completely different soteriologies.
3. Mormonism and Christianity teach and believe in two different Jesus’s. The Jesus of Mormonism was a polygamous (Jedediah M. Grant, Second Counselor to Brigham Young the Second Prophet of the LDS Church – Journal of Discourses, Volume 1; Brigham Young – Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13; and many more), created being – the product of God and His goddess wife (Bruce McKonkie in Mormon Doctrine), and the step-brother of Lucifer who later became Satan (ibid.). But the Bible teaches that, as difficult to understand as it may be, Jesus is God Himself (John 10:30, Col. 1:15, 2:9, and more). The Bible never speaks of Jesus having been married or fathered children, and testifies that Jesus (Col. 1:16, Gen. 1:1) is uncreated – having existed before all things, and having been “one with the Father” eternally. Mormons agree that the Jesus of Mormonism and the Jesus of Christianity are not the same:
“In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints ‘do not believe in the traditional Christ.’ ‘No, I don’t. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times. He together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the year 1820, and when Joseph left the grove that day, he knew more of the nature of God than all the learned ministers of the gospel of the ages.’” (LDS Church News Week ending June 20, 1998, p. 7).
Mormons believe that their beliefs about the person of Jesus are the only biblical ones. All other beliefs about Jesus are not accurate, in their eyes. The Christ of Mormonism can only be known, so they posit, through the “Dispensation of the Fullness of Times.” That is, through the adherence and subjugation to the Book of Mormon and the Church of Latter-Day Saints. Basically, without ascribing to their religion and to their church’s history and extra-biblical sacred texts, one cannot know the real Jesus of the Bible.
Christians, however, teach that Jesus is knowable by anyone from any religious background, any geographic location, and any socioeconomic status. The real Jesus-Savior is not concealed inside one man’s interpretation of some elusive secret text. The real Jesus-Savior is openly displayed in the pages of the Bible, even after thousands of years of scrupulous study and verification.
The Jesus of Mormonism is not the Jesus of Christianity. Thus, when one places his or her faith in the Mormon Jesus, he or she is not placing faith in the biblical Jesus. The Jesus of Mormonism is not the Jesus of the Bible. Therefore, biblically, the Jesus of Mormonism cannot save anyone from anything.
I hope you will come to understand that Mormonism is NOT Christianity. That does not mean that all Mormons are terrible people, and it does not necessarily mean that Christians cannot support Mormons in public office (no less than a JW, Athiest, Liberationist, or Agnostic anyway). It does, however, mean that Mormons need the salvation that Jesus offers. They need, as does the whole world, to be liberated from a gospel of works and false doctrine into a life of forgiveness and acceptance in the real Jesus Christ.
NOTE: As for the word “cult,” it depends on how you define it. If “cult” takes on its most traditional meaning – a group providing a plan of salvation other than that which is proposed in the Bible – then, yes, Mormonism is a cult. If “cult” takes on a more modern definition – a group who worships Satan by sacrificing various animals and drinking their blood – then, no, Mormonism doesn’t exactly fit in that category. Call it whatever you want… just understand that Mormonism is NOT Christianity.
Grace and Peace,