MORMONISM

Official Name: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, Mormons) FOUNDER: Joseph Smith Jr., on April 6, 1830 CURRENT LEADER: Gordon B. Hinckley (b. 1910)

Headquarters: Salt Lake City, Utah

Membership (1998): Worldwide: 10.3 million in 28,670 wards and branches in 162 countries; United States: 5.1 million in all 50 states and D.C.; Canada: 152,000.

Missionaries (1998): 58,700

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded by Joseph F. Smith Jr. (1805–1844). Smith claimed to have had a visitation from God in 1820 in which God directed him to establish the true church. Consequently he organized the Mormon Church on April 6, 1830, with six original members. Beginning with a few hundred followers the church moved to Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois before Smith’s death at the hands of a mob at the Carthage, Ill., jail. Smith had been arrested for encouraging the destruction of the Expositor, a Nauvoo, Ill., newspaper. After Smith’s death, Brigham Young was affirmed as president of the church by a majority of the church’s leaders and led several thousand followers to Utah where they established Salt Lake City in 1847. Joseph Smith’s widow, Emma, resided in Independence, Mo. Those who affirmed her son, Joseph Smith, as the true successor of his father and as prophet of the church helped found the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, now headquartered in Independence, Mo., in 1852.

MAJOR BELIEFS OF MORMONS

One True Church:

The Mormon church claims to be the only true church. In God’s supposed revelation to Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ told him to join no other church for "they were all wrong . . . their creeds were an abomination . . . those professors [members] were all corrupt" (The Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith History —1:19). Mormons teach that after the New Testament all churches became heretical and no true saints existed until the "Church of the Latter-day Saints" was organized, hence their name. Non-Mormons are thus called "Gentiles." The new revelations given to Smith, the institution of the prophet and apostles in the church, the restoration of the divine priesthoods, and the temple ceremonies make the church authentic. True and full salvation or exaltation is found only in the LDS Church. Biblical Response: The true church of Jesus Christ has had an ongoing presence and witness in the world since Pentecost. Jesus Christ promised that His church, true baptized and regenerate believers, would not fail (Matt. 16:17– 18). The marks of a true church include faithfulness to the teaching of the first apostles (Acts 2:42)—not the creation of new doctrines.

Authority Of The Prophet:

The president or prophet of the Church is thought to be the sole spokesman and revelator of God. Joseph Smith was the initial prophet, but each successive president holds that position. Through him God’s will can be made known to the church. All revelations are made scripture and no Mormon can attain godhood without accepting Joseph Smith as a true prophet. The Mormon scriptures state that Latter-day Saints "shalt give heed unto all his [the prophet’s] words andcommandments . . . For his word ye shall receive as if from mine [God’s] own mouth" (Doctrine and Covenants 21:4–5).

Biblical Response: Old and New Testament prophets were God’s spokesmen. Their words were always consistent with the Bible and pointed to God’s Son, Jesus Christ. A test of genuineness for prophets was that any prediction they proclaimed would come true (Deut. 18:20–22). For example, Joseph Smith predicted that the temple of the church would be built in Independence, Mo., within his lifetime (Doctrine and Covenants 84:2–5). No temple has yet been built there. New Testament prophets spoke, along with teachers, pastors, and evangelists, in evangelizing with and edifying the church (Eph. 4:11–13).

Mormon Scripture:

Mormons accept four books as scripture and the word of God. The King James Version of the Bible is one of them, but only "as far as it is translated correctly" —seemingly allowing for possible questions about its authority. Joseph Smith made over 600 corrections to its text. Other "standard works" are the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. The Bible is missing "plain and precious parts" according to the Book of Mormon (1 Nephi 13:26) which the other three volumes complete. The Book of Mormon has the "fullness of the gospel" and tells the story of a supposed migration of Israelites in 600 B.C. to the American continent. These Israelites subsequently lapsed into apostasy although their story was preserved on golden plates written in Reformed Egyptian. Joseph Smith, it is said, translated the plates by the "gift and power of God" (Doctrine and Covenants 135:3). Reformed Egyptian does not exist as a language. The golden plates were returned to the angel Moroni after they were transcribed and Moroni returned them to heaven. The Book of Mormon does not contain explicit Mormon doctrine. Doctrine and Covenants contains the revelations of the Mormon prophets—138 in number along with two "declarations." Here most of Mormon doctrine can be found including the priesthood, baptism for the dead, godhood, and polygamy. The Pearl of Great Price contains Smith’s religious history, the Articles of Faith, the Book of Abraham, and the Book of Moses. Biblical Response: The Bible explicitly warns against adding to or detracting from its teaching (Rev. 22:18; Deut. 4:2). The New Testament contains the inspired and totally accurate witness of contemporary disciples and followers of Jesus. It alone claims to be fully inspired of God and usable for the establishment of doctrine (2 Tim. 3:15–17; 2 Pet. 1:19–21).

Establishment Of Temples:

The first Mormon temple was constructed in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1836. Subsequently, a temple was constructed in Nauvoo, Ill., in 1846. Presently there are at least 53 operating temples throughout the world including the one finished in Salt Lake City in 1893. The purpose and function of temples is for the practice of eternal ordinances including primarily baptism for the dead, endowments, and celestial marriages. Baptism in the Mormon church, for both the living and the dead, is essential for the fullness of salvation. The dead often are baptized by proxy which affords them after death the opportunity to become Mormons. Celestial marriage for "time and eternity" is also a temple ordinance. It is necessary for godhood and seals the marriage forever. Temples form an essential part of Mormon salvation. Only Mormons in possession of a "temple recommend" by their bishop may enter a temple.

Biblical Response: The Temple of the Old Testament was a place of symbolic sacrifice forefiguring the sacrifice of Christ. Worship in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem was a practice of early Jewish believers (Acts 2:46). Otherwise there is no mention of any such practice in the New Testament. Never was the Jewish temple used for baptism for the dead, marriage, or other secret ceremonies. It was the place in the Old Testament where the glory of God occasionally dwelt. Today the individual believer is God’s dwelling place and not a physical building (1 Cor. 3:16).

God Is An Exalted Man:

Elohim, the god of this universe, was previously a man in a prior existence. As a result of having kept the requirements of Mormonism, he was exalted to godhood and inherited his own universe. God is confined to a "body of flesh and bones" (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22) and yet is thought to be omniscient and omnipotent. He obviously cannot be omnipresent. There are an nfinite number of gods with their own worlds—these too were previously men. The Holy Ghost, Jesus Christ, and "Heavenly Father" comprise three separate and distinct gods. Heavenly Father sires spiritual children in heaven destined for human life on earth. All humans, as well as Jesus Christ and Lucifer, are god’s heavenly children. (See Doctrine and Covenants 130:22; God, Jesus, and the Spirit thus had beginnings.)

Biblical Response: God is Spirit and is not confined to a physical body (John 4:24). Jesus Christ was incarnated through a miraculous and non-physical conception through the Virgin Mary. He was fully God from the beginning (John 1:1). Together with the person of the Holy Spirit they form the triune (three-in-one) eternal God. JESUS IS GOD’S "SON": Jesus was Heavenly Father’s firstborn spirit child in heaven. He was begotten by God through Mary as in a "literal, full and complete sense" in the same "sense in which he is the son of Mary" (Bruce McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1993], 67). These two elements of Jesus being literally God’s son form his uniqueness in Mormon theology. In the Garden of Gethsemane as well as on the cross Jesus atoned for Adam’s sin and guaranteed all humankind resurrection and immortality. Jesus visited the Israelites or Indians of North America after his resurrection and established the true church among them. We are the spiritual, but literal, younger brothers and sisters of Christ. Some Mormon documents claim that Jesus was married at Cana in Galilee (Mark 2) and had children himself.

Biblical Response: Jesus is viewed as God, the Word or Son, eternally existent with the Father and worthy of identity as God (John 1:1–14). He was born of the Virgin Mary who had conceived him supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. He lived a perfect life, died on the cross for the sins of the world, and was raised from the dead. He will come again and reign as Lord of lords.

Humans Are Gods In Embryo:

Every human being has the potential of becoming a god by keeping the requirements of Mormonism. A well-known statement within Mormonism is, "As man is god once was, as god is man may become." From a prior spirit existence in heaven, humans may be born on earth in order to exercise freedom to choose good or evil and to have a body for the resurrection. Basically humans are good, but they will be punished for their sin. But by keeping Mormon teaching and obeying the church and the Prophet, after the resurrection worthy Mormon males may pass the celestial guards, bring their wives with them, and achieve a status similar to Elohim—the god of this world. The consequences of their sin are erased by their allegiance to the tenets of Mormonism. In resurrection faithful Mormons receive exaltation to godhood and will exercise dominion over their world. Biblical Response: Human beings are God’s special creation. There is no evidence from Scripture of preexistence, rather God acknowledges that it was in the womb of our mothers that He formed us (Isaiah 44:2). A sinful nature is part of humanity’s experience. Liberation from the power and presence of sin is experienced as a result of faith in Christ. At that point God’s image is begun to be remade in every Christian. Although the believer is being transformed to Christlikeness, the Bible does not teach literal godhood as the inheritance of the saints (Rom. 8:29; Rev. 1:5– ).

Mormon Plan Of Salvation:

The Mormon plan of salvation is built on the idea that all people have eternal life, but only the most faithful Mormons have godhood or enter the celestial Kingdom. In order to obtain this ultimate step, Mormons must exercise faith in the God of Mormonism, its Christ, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; exercise repentance; and be baptized in the LDS Church. Additionally Mormons must keep the "Word of Wisdom" by abstaining from alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine; tithe to the church; attend weekly sacrament meetings; support the Mormon prophet; do temple works; and be active in their support of the church.

Biblical Response: Salvation, according to the Bible, is due to God’s grace and love. He provided Jesus as the sacrifice for the sins of the world. It is through faith in the crucified and risen Jesus that we may be saved. Works are excluded (John 1:12; 3:16; Rom. 10:9–13; Eph. 2:8–9).

Evangelizing Mormons


Know clearly the Christian faith and the gospel.

Be aware of the unique Mormon doctrines as presented here.

Remember, Mormons use Christian vocabulary (gospel, atonement, god) but radically redefine their meanings. Define clearly what you mean when you use biblical words.

Present a clear testimony of your faith in Christ alone for your salvation.

Show your Mormon friend that the Bible teaches salvation alone through the cross of Christ (John 3:16; Rom. 10:4,10–13; Eph. 2:8–9). Emphasize that salvation is a gift to be received, not a merit to be earned.

Warn the Mormon about trusting in feelings (i.e., the burning in the bosom) for a validation of Mormonism’s truth claim. Without historical, objective verification, feelings are useless.

When Mormons use a Bible verse, read carefully the verses before and afterward to make clear the exact meaning and purpose of the passage. Don’t let them take Bible verses out of context. Read carefully the full reference in the Bible before deciding what any one verse means.

Keep the central doctrines of the faith as the focus of your discussion.

Do the basics: pray, trust the Holy Spirit, and be loving, patient, and steadfast.

How to Witness to Mormons

There are at least two approaches to use in witnessing to Mormons. We can either debate the doctrines of Mormonism (baptism for the dead, "burning" in the bosom, Joseph Smith as a prophet of God, the validity of the Book of Mormon, the Trinity, "God was once a man," "protective" underwear, etc.), or we can present the gospel biblically. One creates an atmosphere of contention and often leaves the Christian feeling frustrated, while the other creates an atmosphere of concern for the eternal welfare of the Mormon. Our goal should be to win a soul to Christ rather than merely win a doctrinal argument.

One point of frustration for the Christian is that Mormons often agree when they hear words such as "salvation," or Jesus as "Savior." The problem is that their understanding of the words differs from the biblical revelation of the words. "Salvation" for a Mormon can mean the salvation of all humanity—when the "Savior" will eventually raise everyone from the dead. Rather than speak of "going to heaven," the Christian should ask what the Mormon has to do to be at peace with the "heavenly Father." This is language they can understand, and will reveal the basis for their salvation. Are they trusting in self-righteousness, or solely in the righteousness of Christ?

Mark J. Cares writes: "Although Mormons commonly appear self-assured and self-righteous, many are undergoing great stress. This is because Mormonism holds up perfection as an attainable goal. The one Bible passage the Mormon church constantly holds up before its membership is Matthew 5:48: ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ They then expound on it with numerous exhortations to strive for perfection. Spencer W. Kimball, for example, wrote: ‘Being perfect means to triumph over sin. This is a mandate from the Lord. He is just and wise and kind. He would never require anything from his children which was not for their benefit and which was not attainable. Perfection therefore is an achievable goal’ (Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

"This emphasis on perfection permeates every aspect of a Mormon’s life. Its most common form is the unending demand on them to be ‘worthy.’ Every privilege in Mormonism is conditioned on a person’s worthiness. Kimball wrote: ‘All blessings are conditional. I know of none that are not’ (Remember Me, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).

"Christians need to recognize that this constant striving for perfection—and the resultant stress it produces—offers an excellent opening to talk to Mormons about Jesus and the imputed perfection we receive through Him.

"Reinforce their predicament. Average hard-working Mormons view this striving for perfection as a heavy but manageable burden. They can cultivate illusions of perfection because the Mormon church has greatly watered down the concept of sin. Consequently, the Christian witness needs to show Mormons both the severity of their predicament and the impossibility of their becoming perfect. In other words, they need to have a face-to-face confrontation with the stern message of God’s Law, because ‘through the Law we become conscious of sin’ (Romans 3:21).

"The Law must first convince Mormons of the severity of their predicament. The best way to accomplish this is to tell them, lovingly but firmly, that they are going to ‘outer darkness.’ (Outer darkness is the closest concept in Mormonism to an eternal hell.) Most Mormons have never been told this, nor have they ever considered that possibility for themselves, since Mormonism teaches that nearly everyone will enter one of Mormonism’s three kingdoms of heaven. Therefore, until you introduce the thought of eternal suffering, they will not feel any real urgency to take your witness to heart. On the contrary, most, if they are willing to talk at all, will view any religious conversation as nothing more than an interesting intellectual discussion.

"Christians often hesitate to be this blunt. They feel that if anything will turn Mormons off, telling them that they are going to outer darkness surely will. I shared that fear when I began using this approach. To my amazement, however, rejection wasn’t the reaction I received. Most have been shocked, but they were also eager to know why I would say such a thing. The key is to speak this truth with love, in such a way that our concern for their souls is readily apparent.

"Alerting Mormons to the very real danger of their going to outer darkness opens the door to telling them the basis for that judgment —which is, they are not meeting God’s requirement for living with Him (they are not presently perfect). The key to explaining this is the present imperative, be perfect, in Matthew 5:48." See Luke 18:20 footnote for how to go through the Law, and 1 Corinthians 15:58 footnote on how not to be discouraged in witnessing.

"Is Mormonism a cult? What do Mormons believe?"

The Mormon religion was founded less than two hundred years ago by a man named Joseph Smith. He claimed to have received a personal visit from God the Father and Jesus Christ and told that all churches and their creeds were an abomination. Joseph set out to impose a brand-new religion that claims to be the “only true church on earth.” The problem with Mormonism is that it contradicts, modifies, and expands on the Bible. Christians have no reason to believe that the Bible is not true and adequate. To truly believe in and trust God means to believe in His Word. And all Scripture is inspired by God, which means it comes from Him (2 Timothy 3:16).

Mormons believe that there are in fact four sources of divinely inspired words, instead of just one. 1) The Bible “as far as it is translated correctly.” Which verses are incorrectly translated are not always made clear 2) The Book of Mormon was “translated” by Smith and published in 1830. Smith claimed it is the “most correct book” on earth, and that a person could get closer to God by following its precepts, “than by any other book.” 3) The Doctrine and Covenants is considered scripture by Mormons, containing a collection of modern revelations regarding the “Church of Jesus Christ as it has been restored.” 4) The Pearl of the Great Price is considered by Mormons to “clarify” doctrines and teachings that were lost from the Bible and adds its own information about the earth's creation.

Mormons believe these things about God: that He has not always been the Supreme Being of the universe, but attained that status through righteous living and persistent effort. They believe God the Father has a “body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s.” Though abandoned by modern Mormon leaders, Brigham Young taught that Adam actually was God and the father of Jesus Christ. Christians know this about God: there is only One true God (Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 43:10, 44:6-8), that He always has and always will exist (Deuteronomy 33:27, Psalm 90:2, 1 Timothy 1:17), and that He was not created, but is the Creator (Genesis chapter1, Psalm 24:1, Isaiah 37:16). He is perfect and no one else is equal to Him (Psalm 86:8, Isaiah 40:25). God the Father is not a man, nor was He ever (Numbers 23:19, 1 Samuel 15:29, Hosea 11:9). He is Spirit (John 4:24), and Spirit is not made of flesh and bone (Luke 24:39).

Mormons believe that there are different levels or kingdoms in the afterlife: The Celestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom, the Telestial Kingdom and outer darkness. Where mankind will end up depends on what they believe and do in this mortal life. The Bible tells us that after death, we go to Heaven or Hell based on whether we had faith in Jesus or not. To be absent from our bodies as believers means we are with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:6-8). Unbelievers are sent to Hell, or the place of the dead (Luke 16:22-23). When Jesus comes for the second time, we will receive new bodies (1 Corinthians 15:50-54). There will be a New Heaven and New Earth for believers (Revelation 21:1), and unbelievers will be thrown into an everlasting lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15). There is no second chance for redemption after death (Hebrews 9:27).

Mormon leaders have taught that Jesus’ incarnation was the result of a physical relationship between God the Father and Mary. They believe Jesus is a God, but that any human can also become a god. Christians historically have taught that God is Triune and that He exists eternally as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). No one can achieve the status of God, only He is holy (1 Samuel 2:2). We can only be made holy in God's sight through faith in Him (1 Corinthians 1:2). Jesus is the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16) and is the only one ever to have lived a sinless, blameless life, who now has the highest place of honor in Heaven (Hebrews 7:26). Jesus and God are one in essence, Jesus being the only One existing before physical birth (John 1:1-8, 8:56). Jesus gave Himself to us as a sacrifice, and God raised Him from the dead, and one day everyone will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:6-11). Jesus tells us it is impossible to get to Heaven by our own works, only with faith in Him is it possible (Matthew 19:26). And many will not choose Him. “You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way” (Matthew 7:13). We all deserve eternal punishment for our sins, but God's infinite love and grace has allowed us a way out. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Clearly there is only one way to receive salvation; to know God and His Son, Jesus (John 17:3). It is not done by works, but by faith (Romans 1:17, 3:28). When we have this faith, we will automatically be obedient to God's laws and become baptized out of love for Him, but not because it is a requirement for salvation. We can receive this gift no matter who we are or what we have done (Romans 3:22). “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Although Mormons are usually friendly, loving, and kind people - they are involved in a false religion that distorts the nature of God, the Person of Jesus Christ, and the means of salvation.