Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Christian's Guide to Mormonism

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is one of the fastest growing faiths on the planet. According to the LDS website, there are 13,824,854 Mormons around the world as of 2009. They are the fourth largest religious group in America. Even with their reach extending across every continent, people still have many misconceptions about what exactly Mormons believe. Are they Christian? Who was Joseph Smith? What should we say when they come a-knockin'? The majority of Christians, not to mention people of other faiths, simply don't know anything about Mormon history and doctrinal teachings. My purpose in writing this blog series is to explain Mormon theology from a Christian's perspective in a manner that is both truthful and non-offensive, and then show the logical implications. I do not intend to "bash" Mormons or make fun of the LDS religion in any way. That said, there are a number of things I need to put forward before I begin, so that there is no confusion on my full position.
1. I believe Joseph Smith was not a prophet of God.
2. I believe that the Bible is the only source of Scripture, and the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price are not divinely inspired.
3. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Lord God, a person of the Trinity, who died on the cross as a sacrifice for ALL my sins, past, present, and future, and that he rose from the dead, fulfilling the prophesies and proving himself to be the Lord.

During these posts, I will refer to a number of resources. Though I will be speaking from a Christian’s perspective, I will be using all LDS materials, such as the King James Version of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price (all with the Church of LDS seal of approval), as well as President Spencer Kimball’s The Miracle of Forgiveness. I encourage all of my readers to look up any verses or passages I cite for themselves.

OK, first things first: are Mormons Christian? The simple answer is “no”. Whenever I enter into a discussion about Mormonism, both Christians and Mormons alike look puzzled when I give this answer. “But aren’t Christians just ‘followers of Christ’? Look! The LDS church even has Jesus Christ in the name!” To which I reply, “Yes, but they follow a different Jesus Christ.” It’s not that there are two Jesus’ of Nazareth, but rather that Jesus is ultimately the core of both religions, and both attribute different qualities to Jesus. Similarly, the God of the Qur'an and the God of the Bible are different gods, yet don't simultaneously exist. In fact, Christianity and Mormonism differ on every major doctrine. For example, Mormons disagree with the Christian doctrines of God, Jesus, Salvation, and the Trinity. Also, Christians do not adhere to (much less hear of) the LDS doctrines of Exaltation, Pre-Existence of Spirits, Baptism for the Dead, Temple Endowments, Marriage for Time and Eternity, and Eternal Progression, just to name a few. Now they’re sounding more separate belief systems, aren’t they? As you can see, the doctrinal difference between Christianity and Mormonism is literally an eternity.

Speaking with a Mormon about certain doctrines can get complicated extremely easily. This is because of a language barrier that many people (Mormons and Christians alike) are unaware of. What I mean is this: Christian and Mormon terminology have different definitions for the same words. For instance, the first Mormon Article of Faith states, "We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost." However, when a Mormon says this, it means something completely different than when a Christian says the exact same words. When a Christian says the previous statement, he or she is talking about the Doctrine of the Trinity: three persons who exist as a single entity, a single deity. A Mormon, on the other hand, would say that the three are separate entities and separate deities "united in a single purpose". See how significant that difference is? Some other terms that share this difference in definition include Godhead, Jesus Christ, The Fall, The Virgin Birth, Sin, Forgiveness, Salvation by Grace, Redemption, Gospel, True Church, Authority/Priesthood, Baptism, Sons of God, Eternal Life, Immortality, Hell, Heaven, Kingdom of God...I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

I’ll explain the previous differences further in subsequent posts, however, for now, I will explain the essential difference between the two religions in two verses. In the Bible, Ephesians 2:8-9 states, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” In the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 25:23 states, “…We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” Notice the not-so-subtle difference. Both say, “by grace that we are saved,” but what kind of grace is it? For Christians, it is “through faith…not of works” (ie. what we do). For Mormons, it is “after all we can do” (ie. works).

In the coming posts, I will attempt to give a nearly-comprehensive guide to many of the most important differences between Mormonism and Christianity. I hope that I have sufficiently shown in this introductory post that both religions are different and that a closer look into these dissimilarities is warranted.

Other "Christian's Guide to Mormonism" posts:

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