BELIEF OF MORMONS
OFFICIAL NAME: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS)
FOUNDER: Joseph Smith Jr., on April 6, 1830
CURRENT LEADER: Ezra Taft Benson (1899-)
HEADQUARTERS: Salt Lake City, Utah
MEMBERSHIP (1988): Worldwide: 6.72 million in 16,000 wards and branches in 100 countries;
United States: 4 million in all 50 states and D.C.; Canada: 118,000.
This belief bulletin highlights basic Mormon doctrines and biblical responses.
FOLLOW THE PROPHET: Mormons declare that God always reveals his will through prophets
(Amos 3:7, Mal. 3:6) and reveals his will today only through the Mormon prophet.
The prophet can receive revelation on any temporal or spiritual matter that must be accepted
as new scripture by faithful Mormons.
A person cannot attain "godhood" unless he accepts Joseph Smith as a prophet.
BIBLICAL RESPONSE: The context of Malachi 3:6 says God does not change in His opposition to evil;
it says nothing about His method of revelation.
A Christian should verify that a true prophet's teaching agrees with the revelation of Jesus Christ
(I Cor. 14:29, Heb. 1:1-3).
God reveals His will today through the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16) and the Spirit (John 15:26; 1 John 3:24, 5:7).
OTHER SCRIPTURES NEEDED: The Mormon Church has four accepted scriptures, or "standard works":
the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.
The King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is the Mormon Church's official version, but is accepted
as the Word of God only "as far as it is correctly translated."
Joseph Smith made more than 600 "corrections" to the KJV text.
Mormons state that the Bible is not complete in its revelation nor is it the final written authority.
The Book of Mormon, the "fulness of the gospel" and the "most correct of any book on earth,"
claims to be a history of the American Indians, descendants of Jews who migrated to America centuries ago.
Around A. D. 1800 this was a popular theory, and at least six books advancing this idea were published
before the Book of Mormon.
Official Mormon teaching claims that Smith translated the Book of Mormon from gold plates revealed to him
by the angel Moroni.
The Book of Mormon is the "stick of Ephraim" prophesied in Ezekiel 37:15-20.
Mormons declare it is to be united in purpose and equal to the Bible, which is known as "the stick of judah."
The Pearl of Great Price, the third Mormon scripture, contains Smith's "correction" of Genesis 1-6
and Matthew 24, the account of his first vision, the Book of Abraham and the Thirteen Articles of Faith.
The fourth scripture, the Doctrine and Covenants with 138 revelations and two "declarations,"
is more significant doctrinally.
Revelations on baptism for the dead, polygamy, celestial marriage, the priesthood,
church organization, etcetera, are found in the Doctrine and Covenants.
The present prophet's words are also a source of authority.
BIBLICAL RESPONSE: The Bible is the authoritative Word of God, and a sufficient revelation
for salvation, doctrine and instruction.
It was written by men inspired by the Holy Spirit and has been carefully preserved.
Any "new" revelation from God cannot contradict what He has already revealed
in the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:15-17, 2 Peter L-19-21).
The Bible warns about those who preach "another gospel" (Gal. 1: 6-9).
The context of Ezekiel 36-39 points to the spiritual and political restoration of Israel by God,
fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Luke 1: 30-33).
GOD AN EXALTED MAN: There are an infinite number of gods in the universe, each of whom is
the god of his own planet.
However, only God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost, three separate and distinct gods,
God the Father has a wife (or wives) and is the literal father of every person in the spirit world.
God the Father, Elohim, has a physical body. God had a father, grandfather, et cetera.
He lived on a planet as a mortal man before attaining "godhood" or "exaltation."
BIBLICAL RESPONSE: There is only one true God (Deut. 6A Isa. 43:10, 44:6-8; John 17:3; 1 Tim. 2:5).
God is spirit (Num. 23:19, Isa. 31:3, John 4:24).
God spoke to His people at Sinai, but they saw no form even though He spoke to them "face to face"
(Deut. 4:12, 15-18).
God cannot be likened to anyone or anything on earth (Isa. 40:18).
JESUS IS THE"SON" OF GOD: God the Father is the literal father of Jesus, or Jehovah, in both
the spirit world and on earth.
The virgin birth is denied; Jesus was not begotten of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is unique from other men because He was God's firstborn in the spirit world
and because He is God's only begotten Son in the physical world.
Jesus is our literal spiritual elder brother.
Jesus and Satan are also spirit brothers.
Jesus' death atoned for Adam's fall by guaranteeing every person a resurrection and immortality.
Jesus appeared in the Western Hemisphere, organized a church and appointed apostles among
the American Indians after his resurrection in Palestine.
BIBLICAL RESPONSE: The Bible affirms the virgin birth (Matt. 1:18-23, Luke 1:26-35).
Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, conceived of the Holy Spirit, perfectly revealing
the will of God (Matt. 1:18-23; John 1:1-18, 8:56-59; Phil. 2:6-11; Col. 1:13-22, 2:9; Heb. 1: 3, 13:8).
Jesus died for every person's sins; salvation is freely offered to all who accept him as Lord and Savior
(Rom. 5:6-8, 6:23, 10:9-10; 1 Tim. 2:5-6; Heb. 7:25-28, 9:12, 10: 12; 1 Peter 2:21-25; 1 John 1: 9).
GODS IN EMBRYO: Adam's fall was necessary to provide billions of preexistent spirits with mortal bodies.
After an existence in the spirit world, humans are born on earth for two reasons: to receive
a physical body required for the resurrected state and to exercise the freedom to choose good or evil.
Humans are basically good; they will be punished for their sins, but not for Adam's sin of disobedience.
Men are potential gods, gods in embryo;"as man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.
Women may become wives of gods.
BIBLICAL RESPONSE: Only Christ enjoyed preexistence (John 1:1-2, 15, 8:56-58, 17:5;
Phil. 2:5-8; Col. 1:13-17).
Other Scriptures speak of God's omniscience, not human preexistence (Jer. 1:5, Rom. 8:29, Eph. 1:4).
Consequences of Adam's sin affect all humanity (Psa.. 51:5, Rom. 5:12-19).
Humans freely choose to rebel against God; their nature is corrupted by sin.
Humans are sinners (Rom. 3:23, 7:14-25; 1 John 1: 8, 10).
ONE TRUE CHURCH: The church begun by Jesus Christ "fell away" and disappeared until
Joseph Smith restored the "one true church" in 1830.
The Mormon Church is true because the priesthood from Christ and His apostles was given to
Joseph Smith by Peter, James and John.
All other churches teach doctrines mingled with false man-made philosophies, are guilty of apostasy
and are "an abomination" in God's sight.
Several arguments are given to support this teaching: the name, the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints, was revealed to Joseph Smith; the church has the true organization with
apostles, prophets and priests (Eph. 4:11); and church members are called Saints.
There is no salvation, known as "exaltation," outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
BIBLICAL RESPONSE: The grace of God, offered through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ
as Lord and Savior, saves a person (Acts 4:12, Eph. 2:8-10); church membership does not save.
Christ alone is our "apostle and high priest" (Heb. 3:1, 7:23-24, 9:11-15).
The Bible warns about false apostles and prophets (Deut. 18:21-22, 2 Cor. H: 12-15, 2 Pet. 2:1, Rev. 2:2).
Every Christian is potentially a prophet as the Holy Spirit leads (Acts 2:18).
All Christians are saints (Rom. 1:7, Eph. 4:12).
"WORKS" SALVATION: The Mormon Church distinguishes between "immortality," given to
every person because of Christ's atonement, and "eternal life," received only through obedience
to the gospel as taught by the Mormon Church.
The doctrine of "justification by faith alone" is rejected as "an influence for evil."
A person's destiny is determined by right choices and good works, not Christ's sacrifice.
"Exaltation" or "godhood" is the reward for people granted the "special blessing of "eternal fife."
Salvation begins with faith in God the Father through His Son, Jesus Christ; repentance
and a determination to forsake sin, baptism by immersion for the remission of sin
by a male holding the Mormon priesthood, and laying on of hands to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost
and to be confirmed as a member of the Mormon Church.
Exaltation or individual salvation also is conditional upon: ordination as a Melchizedek priest for all males;
receiving the temple endowment, one of three temple ordinances, to give the individual the knowledge
and power to live the right land of life on earth; celestial marriage, the second temple ordinance,
to unite the husband and wife "for time and all eternity"; observing the "Word of Wisdom,"
which prohibits the use of coffee, tea, alcohol and tobacco; sustaining the prophet; tithing income;
and regularly taking the sacrament.
The reward for complete obedience is "the highest degree of glory" or "godhood."
BIBLICAL RESPONSE: Humans cannot be saved by their efforts (Isa. 64:51-6, Rom. 3:20, 28, Eph. 2:8-10).
No salvation is possible after death (Luke 16:26; 2 Cor. 6:2; Heb. 2:3, 9:27).
Only Jesus is called a priest after the order of Mekbizedek (Heb. 5:6-10-, 6:20; 7:1-21).
THREE KINGDOMS: At death, Mormons go to Paradise while non-Mormons are assigned to
a temporary spirit prison-hell to await resurrection and judgment.
Baptism for the dead (1 Cor. 15:29), the third temple ordinance, provides ancestors in the spirit prison-hell
the opportunity to attain exaltation.
Jesus Christ will return to reign at Independence, MO., (during the millennium) for 1,000 years
before the judgment when all humans will go to one of three kingdoms based on their works.
The ungodly, wicked and "filthy"will be resurrected from a spirit prison at the conclusion
of the millennium and assigned to the telestial kingdom.
Honorable people "blinded by the craftiness of men" and Mormons who lose their testimonies
will be resurrected at the beginning of the millennium and assigned to the terrestrial kingdom.
Worthy Mormons, who have kept "the full law" and obeyed "all the commandments of God,"
will reign with Christ during the millennium.
At the judgment, they will "receive a fulness of the blessing, power and glory of the Father"
in the celestial kingdom.
Mormon men married in a temple can progress to "godhood" and receive a planet to populate,
as God did before them.
Mormons not married in a temple but "worthy" will become angels in the celestial kingdom.
Hell is reserved for Satan, his angels and a few people, who commit unpardonable sins, such as murder.
BIBLICAL RESPONSE: The context of 1 Corinthians 15:29, the only verse in the Bible that mentions
baptism for the dead, is the resurrection.
Paul used this verse to illustrate that some unidentified group believed in the resurrection of the dead.
There are only two eternal states: communion with God (heaven) for the righteous (Matt. 5:12,
Rom.. 8:38-39, Phi 3:20) and eternal separation from God (hell) for the unrighteous
(Matt. 5:29-30, 8:12, 25:41).
While Christ will reward each person according to his works (2 Tim. 4:14; Rev. 20-12, 22:12),
works are not the basis of salvation (Eph. 2:8-10).
Christian works are the evidence of faith in Christ
CONCLUSION: As has been shown, an examination of Mormon theology reveals
it is a different gospel (Gal. 16-7).
Terms often 'sound right" but most have been redefined.
Christians should test the teachings of religious leaders with the revelation of God in Jesus Christ
(Gal. 1. 8-9; Eph. 5.6-7, 6:11-13; 1 Thess. 5:21-22; 2 Tim. 2:15; 1 Pet 3:15, 1 John 4-1).
SELECTED MORMON TERMS: Often heard Mormon terms, not defined elsewhere in this text, are:
Articles of Faith: Thirteen brief statements accepted as an authoritative guide for faith and conduct.
Branch: An unorganized ward (congregation).
Family Home Evening. A Monday evening activity encouraged to affirm parental authority
and strengthen family ties.
First Presidency: The presiding authority over the church, consisting of the president (prophet)
and two or more assistants or counselors.
Free Agency: The belief that an individual has freedom of choice in his preexistence, earth life
and afterlife to determine his eternal destiny.
General Authorities: The general officers of the Mormon Church, consisting of the First Presidency,
Twelve Apostles, Seventies and Presiding Bishopric.
Gospel: The doctrines and teachings of the Mormon Church.
Tabernacle: The 6,000-seat auditorium in Salt Lake City and home of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Temple: A"House of God,"closed to all but "worthy" Mormons, where ordinances (endowment,
celestial marriage, baptism for the dead) necessary for exaltation are performed.
The 42 operating and 5 planned temples are not to be confused with wards or local meeting houses.
Testimony: The affirmation, often heard from one of the 35,000 Mormon missionaries,
that Joseph Smith was a prophet and the Book of Mormon and the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints are true.
Chapel. The local meeting house for the weekly sacrament service, priesthood and auxiliary meetings.
Zion: Generally refers to Independence, Missouri, "the Center Place," where Christ will return,
or any center of Mormon population.
GENERAL GUIDELINES FOR EFFECTIVE INTERFAITH WITNESS:
1. Develop a clear understanding of your faith and the Bible.
2. Gain a basic knowledge of Mormon doctrine, especially their "pet" arguments.
3. Make a list of Scriptures that refute their claims, memorize them and keep them in your Bible.
4. Witness first to your Mormon neighbor or friend, not a missionary.
5. Don't allow a Mormon to use the Bible as a "hook" to distract you before he moves
to a Mormon teaching.
6. Keep the initiative in the encounter.
7. Ask for and give clear definitions of all terms.
8. Check that every text is correctly cited; always consider its context.
9. Remember, just because a Mormon"testifies" something is true does not make it so.
10. Point out the danger of relying on feelings; emphasize that the Bible is a more reliable guide than feelings.
11. Center the discussion on basic Christian doctrines; don't get sidetracked defending your denomination.
12. Give a strong, positive testimony of your salvation experience.
13. Pray for God's love and patience; winning a Mormon takes time.
14. Trust the Holy Spirit to lead you.
Brodie, Fawn M. No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, The Mormon Prophet.
New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979.
Ropp, Harry L. The Mormon Papers -- Are the Mormon Scriptures Reliable?
Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1977.
Spencer, James R. Have You Witnessed to a Mormon Lately Old Tappan, New Jersey:
Fleming H. Revell Co., 1986.
Tanner, Jerald and Sandra. The Changing World of Mormonism. Chicago: Moody Press, 1980.
Gary Leazer Director Interfaith Witness Department
Copyright 1983, Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, Atlanta, Georgia
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