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Mormonism: A Survey and Biblical Critique
by Kevin James Bywater

WORLDWIDE PRESENCE

Originating in America, and now headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism) is one of the fastest growing pseudo-Christian religions in the world, with a presence in 140 nations and 21 territories and possessions.

As of December 31, 1996, the church claimed a worldwide membership of 9,694,549, surely reaching 10 million by the end of 1997. The church also claimed:

52,938 full-time missionaries throughout the world

90 partial or complete translations of the Book of Mormon

49 temples in use, with 15 more planned or under construction around the world

Needless to say, Mormonism has grown from a small aberrant sect into the significance of a world religion.

THE FOUNDING

Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder and first prophet of the Mormon church, was born on December 23, 1805, in Sharon, Vermont. The Smith family migrated to western New York, near Palmyra, in 1816. It was there that Joseph spent his teenage years.

As Joseph recounted, when he was fourteen years old (1820), he became concerned as to which church to join. The different churches in his area were at odds with one another, each claiming to be the true church. After reading James 1:5 — "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him" (KJV) — he went into the woods to prayerfully ask God which church he should join.

According to Joseph, while praying in the woods near his home, he received his "first vision" of God. As he was battling the powers of darkness, he was delivered when a pillar of light descended upon him. Two personages appeared in the pillar of light. Although they never explicitly identified themselves, Joseph described the personages as God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. He asked the Son which church he should join. Claimed Joseph, "I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong . . . that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt. . . ." (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith — History 1:19).

In September of 1823 Joseph allegedly received several visitations from the angel Moroni (reportedly, a resurrected prophet/warrior). According to Moroni, God had chosen Joseph to be the prophet of the restoration. He was to restore the power and authority of the priesthood, and translate a book containing an account of the origin and history of the former inhabitants of Central America. This book contained an alleged account of the resurrected Jesus visiting these people. But it was not until 1827 that Joseph was lead by the angel Moroni to unearth the golden plates, upon which was inscribed the text of the Book of Mormon in "Reformed Egyptian."

In May of 1829, while in the process of translating the golden plates, Joseph Smith and his scribe, Oliver Cowdery, decided to pray and ask God about baptism and the authority to baptize (they had read of it in the Book of Mormon). As they prayed, a light engulfed them and John the Baptist allegedly appeared. He bestowed the Aaronic Priesthood upon both Joseph and Oliver — authorizing them to preach the gospel and to baptize and administer the sacraments. But this priesthood was only one of two priesthoods reportedly granted to Joseph. Being the lesser, it did not authorize the laying on of hands, nor did it authorize the reestablishment of the true church.

Sometime in 1829 or 1830, Joseph and Oliver prayed and were answered in another vision. This time, the apostles Peter, James and John are said to have appeared to bestow the Melchizedek Priesthood (the more authoritative priesthood) upon both Joseph and Oliver.

On April 6, 1830, the "Church of Christ" was established in Fayette, New York, and the new church quickly grew. (The current name of the church — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — was adopted in 1834.) In 1831, the church began constructing its first temple in Kirkland, Ohio. But after a few years, opposition to the church grew strong, and in 1838 the church migrated to Independence, Missouri.

In 1839 the church established the city of Nauvoo, Illinois, which soon grew to be one of the largest cities in the state, second only to Chicago. It was here that Joseph's practice of polygamy became known to the public. Because of this practice, in addition to several doctrinal changes, opposition to Joseph and his church increased among members and non-members alike.

After being excommunicated from the church for opposing Joseph's polygamy and unbiblical teachings (e.g. a plurality of gods), William Law, a citizen of Nauvoo, along with several associates, founded The Nauvoo Expositor (a newspaper exposing these doctrines and practices of the "fallen prophet"). Upon the newspaper's first issue, Joseph, as mayor of the city, declared the press a public nuisance. The city marshal, along with hundreds of Mormon men, destroyed the press and office of the Expositor. This event eventually led to Joseph's incarceration in Carthage, Illinois.

On June 27, 1844, an armed mob attacked the Carthage jail. Although Joseph shot three of the intruders (killing two) with a handgun that had been smuggled into the jail, both he and his brother, Hiram, were overwhelmed and killed.

Following Joseph's death, great confusion arose as to who would be his successor. Two factions gained significant control. One group, lead by Joseph's widow, Emma, and her son, Joseph Smith, III, parted and settled in Missouri. They are known today as The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The second and larger group was led by Brigham Young to the Utah Territory. It is known today as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

MORMON SCRIPTURES

Four books comprise the scriptures of the Mormon church; these are known as "The Standard Works": the Bible (King James Version), the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.

The Bible

The eighth Article of Faith of the Mormon church reads, "We believe the Bible to be the Word of God as far as it is translated correctly" (emphasis added). Although Mormons believe the Bible is the word of God, they believe that the text has been corrupted by the errors of copyists and translators. They also believe that key doctrines, even entire books, have been omitted over the course of its transmission. As stated in the Book of Mormon, "Wherefore, thou seest that after the book [the Bible] hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God" (1 Nephi 13:28). Thus they deny that the Bible is wholly trustworthy and reliable.

The Book of Mormon

First published in 1830, the Book of Mormon was given a new subtitle in 1972: "Another Testament of Jesus Christ." Supposedly translated from "reformed Egyptian" (an unverified language) inscribed on golden plates, this book alleges that the resurrected Jesus Christ visited the Americas. It also contains selections of the history of the inhabitants of the ancient Americas. Two groups are primary to the narrative: the Nephites, who were mainly faithful to God; and the Lamanites, who were enemies both of God and the Nephites. As these two groups battled, the Lamanites gained victory over the Nephites. One of the last living Nephites, Moroni (the angel who allegedly appeared to Joseph), buried golden plates in the hill Cumorah — located in upstate New York. These plates contained the Book of Mormon.

While Mormons hold strong allegiance to the Book of Mormon, it is interesting to note that it contains very little distinctly Mormon doctrine. It does not teach a plurality of gods, that humans may progress to godhood, temple marriage, or baptism for the dead.

The Doctrine and Covenants

First published in its present form in 1870, the Doctrine and Covenants is a compilation of modern revelations, primarily received by Joseph Smith. It consists of 138 "sections" (individual revelations), and two "Official Declarations" (one delivered in 1890 by the fourth President of the church, Wilford Woodruff, disallowing polygamous marriages, and one delivered in 1978 by the twelfth President, Spencer W. Kimball, allowing black males to hold the priesthoods of the church).

Unlike the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants presents several distinctively Mormon doctrines. For example, it teaches there are three levels of heaven (Section 76); the Word of Wisdom (Section 89); the practice of baptism for the dead (Sections 124, 127, 128); that God the Father has a body of flesh and bone just like humans (Section 130); the necessity of temple marriage (Celestial Marriage) for all eternity (Section 131); polygamy and godhood (Section 132); and missionary work in the spirit world (Section 138).

The Pearl of Great Price

The Pearl of Great Price is a compilation of several different writings: selections from the Book of Moses (a reworking of Genesis); the Book of Abraham (allegedly translated by Joseph Smith from ancient papyri; also a reworking of Genesis, teaching a plurality of gods); a brief extract from Joseph Smith's "translation" of the Bible; Joseph Smith — History (which contains accounts of Joseph's alleged visions and early persecutions); and The Articles of Faith (a vague summary of Mormon beliefs).

The beliefs of the Mormon church are based primarily on the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and the numerous teachings of church leaders. They are based little on the Book of Mormon, and only verbally on the Bible. Several contemporary leaders of the church speak and write about their doctrines — expounding upon them and developing them.

MORMON BELIEF

The Great Apostasy

The Mormon church teaches that the original apostles were given the charge of teaching the gospel and establishing Christ's church. But they were often opposed and persecuted, and many were killed. Other believers also were persecuted and killed, leaving only the less faithful who were carried away by false teachings and unrighteous-ness. Because of this, God took the priesthood authority from the earth, and neither the fullness of the gospel nor the authority of the true church remained. Since no church was directed by divine revelation, many have mistaken man-made doctrines for divine revelations. Mormons call this sad state of the church the great apostasy, and they believe this apostasy persisted until the time of the restoration.

The Restoration

Mormons believe that through Joseph Smith, the true church has been restored to the earth. The priesthood authority, the fullness of the gospel, and the guidance of continuing revelation are again available in their fullness through the Mormon church.

God

The first Article of Faith of the Mormon church reads: "We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost." While this may sound Christian at first glance, upon further examination it is found to be radically different. The Mormon church explicitly rejects the biblical doctrine of the Trinity. Said Joseph Smith, "I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 370; emphasis added).

OUR FATHER IN HEAVEN

Mormons believe that our Father in heaven has not always been God, but was once a mortal man who progressed to godhood. Joseph Smith declared: "God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man. . . . I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see. . . . [H]e was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did. . ." (Ibid., pp. 345, 346; italics in original).

Mormons also believe that God is literally the Father of our spirits, that he is married, and that with his wives he procreates spirit children: "Our Heavenly Father and mother [sic] live in an exalted state because they achieved a celestial marriage. As we achieve a like marriage we shall become as they are and begin the creation of worlds for our own spirit children" (Achieving a Celestial Marriage, p. 1). They also believe that all faithful members may become gods (or goddesses), just as our heavenly Father and Mother have.

JESUS CHRIST

Mormons believe that Jesus is literally our older brother, the firstborn of our Heavenly Parents, and that he progressed to godhood while in the preexistence — before he came to earth.

The church teaches that while still in the preexistence, both Jesus and Lucifer (the second-born of our heavenly parents) offered plans of salvation. Jesus' plan was accepted and Lucifer's was rejected. Lucifer rebelled, along with one-third of the spirits in heaven (who literally are our spirit-brothers and sisters), thus becoming Satan and the demons.

The Mormon church teaches that our Father in heaven, who has a body of flesh and bone like man (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 130), with Mary, procreated the human Jesus in a natural, human way. As Joseph Fielding Smith, a former prophet of the Mormon church, alludes, "Christ was begotten of God. He was not born without the aid of Man, and that Man was God!" (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 1, p. 18).

HOLY GHOST/SPIRIT

Mormon doctrine distinguishes between the Holy Ghost and the Holy Spirit, even though there is no biblical distinction. (This teaching actually derives from the King James Version of the Bible. The translators translated the same Greek words [hagios pneuma] sometimes "Holy Spirit" and sometimes "Holy Ghost.") The Holy Ghost is a personal being, a god, although without a body of flesh and bone. The Holy Spirit is a force of God, the "power" or "presence" of God.

Mankind

According to Mormon doctrine, all humans preexisted as spirit children of God before coming to earth. Even before we became spirits, we existed eternally as individual intelligences. Now that we have come to earth and have mortal bodies, we have the opportunity to become worthy to return to our Father in heaven and become gods. This is the core teaching of Mormonism and is called "the Law of Eternal Progression." (See, McConkie, pp. 589–590.)

THE FALL OF MANKIND

The fall of Adam and Eve was a necessary and important event. According to Mormon teaching; it allowed for us to enter a mortal state where we can become worthy to return to our Father in heaven.

The Mormon church teaches that Adam and Eve were given two conflicting commands: 1) not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; and 2) to multiply and fill the earth. Allegedly, Adam and Eve could not have children while in a state of innocence — an immortal, un-fallen state. Therefore, they could not procreate bodies for all the spirit children still in heaven. Adam and Eve had to make a choice between mortality and immortality, and Mormons believe the right choice was made when they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. M. Russell Ballard, an apostle of the Mormon church, has written, "Indeed, we honor and respect Adam and Eve for their wisdom and foresight. Their lives in the Garden of Eden were blissful and pleasant; choosing to leave that behind so they and the entire human family could experience both the triumphs and travails of mortality must not have been easy. But we believe that they did choose mortality, and in so doing made it possible for all of us to participate in Heavenly Father's great eternal plan" (Ballard, 87).

The Plan of Salvation

The Mormon church's teaching on the plan of salvation is well-developed, and shows that their belief system is very different from biblical Christianity.

THE ATONEMENT OF CHRIST

The Mormon church teaches that Jesus Christ made atonement for both Adam's sin and our sins. By actually making atonement for Adam's transgression, Jesus made resurrection sure for all men. By hypothetically making atonement for our sins, Jesus made it possible, if we repent, believe the Mormon gospel, and keep the commandments, to attain exaltation in the life hereafter (see Ballard, 12).

Peculiar to Mormon doctrine is the belief that the atonement of Jesus Christ took place in the Garden of Gethsemane, when "his sweat was as it were great drops of blood" (Luke 22:44). It was here that he achieved spiritual redemption. Physical redemption was accomplished by Christ's death on the cross and his resurrection (see Ballard, 12).

GENERAL (UNCONDITIONAL) SALVATION

Mormons believe in two kinds of salvation: general salvation and individual salvation. General salvation is also called immortality. It is given to all mankind because of the atonement of Jesus Christ for Adam's transgression. This salvation is by grace alone — it is not conditioned upon any individual's faith or works. This salvation allows all mankind to be physically resurrected.

INDIVIDUAL (CONDITIONAL) SALVATION

This salvation is also known as exaltation or eternal life, and can be achieved only by individual faith, repentance, and obedience to God's laws and ordinances. One is exalted based on one's worthiness. These laws include temple marriage, obeying the Word of Wisdom, proper tithing, faithful church attendance, and obeying the Mormon prophets (see Gospel Principles, 289–292; see also Ballard, 88).

If one gains exaltation, then one will attain ultimate salvation according to Mormonism: one will live forever in the presence of our Father in heaven, and one will become a god. Joseph Smith taught, "Here, then, is eternal life — to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves. . . . When you climb up a ladder, you must begin at the bottom, and ascend step by step, until you arrive at the top; and so it is with the principles of the Gospel — you must begin with the first, and go on until you learn all the principles of exaltation" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 346, 348; italics in original).

Life After Death

According to Mormon doctrine, at death people either go to spirit prison or to paradise. Mormon spirits go to paradise where they will continue to progress toward godhood, and they also will have opportunities to present the Mormon gospel to the spirits in spirit prison. If the spirits in prison receive the Mormon gospel, they will also receive the benefit of proxy baptism — living Mormons will be baptized on their behalf (this is known as baptism for the dead).

With few exceptions, everyone will attain to one of three levels of heaven or heavenly kingdoms: the Celestial Kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom, and the Telestial Kingdom.

THE CELESTIAL KINGDOM

Those who are faithful in the things of God — baptism, membership in the Mormon Church, keeping the Word of Wisdom, etc. — will live with Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost forever in the Celestial Kingdom, and will have their faithful family members with them (hence the Mormon commercials regarding "Families are Forever"). Those who attain the highest level of the Celestial Kingdom — by means of complete faithfulness, which includes temple marriage — will become gods: creators of their own planets, and procreators of their own spirit children. (Doctrine and Covenants 76:51–53, 62; 131:1–4)

THE TERRESTRIAL KINGDOM

This is the lowest of the heavenly kingdoms. The occupants did not receive the Mormon gospel either on earth or in spirit prison, and they suffer for their sins in hell, though only temporarily. They will be forever single, without their family members. Neither the Father nor Jesus Christ will visit them, but they will be visited by the Holy Ghost (Doctrine and Covenants 76:81–86, 103–106).

HELL

Mormons believe hell is a place where the future inhabitants of the Telestial Kingdom (the lowest heaven) will suffer for their own sins; though their punishment is not eternal in duration. As Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, "Those who live lives of wickedness may also be heirs of salvation, that is, they too shall be redeemed from death and from hell eventually. These, however, must suffer in hell the torments of the damned until they pay the price of their sinning, for the blood of Christ will not cleanse them" (Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, 133–134).

OUTER DARKNESS

Those who received the Mormon gospel and the Holy Ghost but reject both will be cast into outer darkness. Like the biblical doctrine of an eternal hell, assignment here is for all eternity (Doctrine and Covenants 76:28–35, 44–48).

Temple Work

The rites and rituals performed in Mormon temples are essential for individual salvation.

ENDOWMENT CERMONY

This is the initial ceremony of the temple. Through this ceremony individuals are believed to be endowed with divine power and special protection. One can participate in this ceremony either when embarking on a Mormon mission, or when seeking to obtain a celestial marriage.

CELESTIAL MARRIAGE

This is marriage for time and all eternity. Mormons believe this practice will allow them to live with their family members in the life hereafter. Celestial marriage is essential to attaining godhood. Worthy Mormons who attain exaltation (godhood) will, in this married state, be able to procreate spirit children to populate their own planetary system, just as their heavenly parents have.

BAPTISM OF THE DEAD

This is a practice whereby living Mormons are baptized proxy for the spirits of the dead, who are in " spirit prison" (see above, under "LIFE AFTER DEATH"). Mormon youth often participate in this ceremony.

The practice of baptism for the dead is the driving force behind Mormon genealogical research, for which they are widely known. The purpose is to gather the names of people who did not have an opportunity to become Mormons in their earthly lives, and to be baptized on their behalf.

The Word of Wisdom

The Word of Wisdom is a set of dietary rules that faithful Mormons are expected to obey. These rules are commonly summarized as abstaining from caffeinated drinks, tobacco products, alcoholic drinks, and illegal drugs. Mormons, in order to achieve the celestial kingdom, are expected to abide by the Word of Wisdom. (The original revelation also allowed the consumption of meat only in the winter, and then only sparingly. Most Mormons take no heed of this and other elements of the Word of Wisdom.) (Doctrine and Covenants, Section 89).

COMPARISON CHART

MORMONISM CHRISTIANITY

Many Gods

Joseph Smith taught, "I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 370; emphasis added).

One Trinitarian God

The Bible teaches that the Father is God, the Son is God (John 1:1; 20:28) and the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3–4); and that they are distinct Persons in the Godhead — not to be confused with one another (Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 12:4–6). There is only one true God (Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 43:10; 1 Corinthians 8:4).

God, Once a Man, Progressed to Godhood

Joseph Smith taught, "God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man. . . . I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see. . . . [H]e was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did. . ." (Ibid., 345, 346; italics in original).

God Has Always Been God

God has always been God (Genesis 21:33; Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 40:28). God is spirit, not an exalted man with flesh and bone (John 4:24; Luke 24:39; Hosea 11:9; Numbers 23:19). God does not change (Malachi 3:6), nor does he grow in knowledge (Isaiah 40:13). There is none like him, he is unique, he is the only true God (Exodus 8:10; 2 Samuel 7:22; Isaiah 43:10; 44:6–8; 45:5, 21–22; 46:9; 1 Corinthians 8:5). (Note that though Jesus, being God, did become human in his incarnation [John 1:1, 14], this is quite different from a man progressing to become a god.)

Humans Can Become Gods

Joseph Smith taught, "Here, then, is eternal life — to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you" (Ibid., 346).

Humans Cannot Become Gods

Men cannot become gods (Isaiah 43:10). Man is a created being, unlike God — who has always been (Genesis 21:33). God will not share his glory with another (Isaiah 42:8).

Humans Were Procreated in the Preexistence

M. Russell Ballard wrote, "Before the world was created, we all lived as the spirit children of our Heavenly Father [and Mother]. Through a natural process of inheritance we received in embryo the traits and attributes of our Heavenly Father" (Ballard, Our Search for Happiness, 70). Mormons also infer this from the preexistence of Jesus Christ.

Humans Were Created

Humans are created, not procreated, by God (Genesis 1:26; 2:7). Our existence begins in the womb of our mothers (Psalm 139:13). Humans cannot compare themselves to Jesus and his preexistence, for they are not deity by nature, as is Jesus. He preexisted because he is God (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1; 17:5; Philippians 2:6–7). Jesus alone is from heaven, we are from the earth (John 3:13, 31; 8:23–24).

A Complete Apostasy of the Church

M. Russell Ballard wrote, "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that God's full authority was lost from the earth for centuries following the mortal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. . . . In short, the church Christ organized gradually disintegrated, and the fullness of the gospel was lost" (Ibid., 26, 31).

The Church Remains Forever

In Matthew 16:18 Jesus declared, "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Given that Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth, we can trust that this promise would not fail (Matthew 28:18). While there are several passages that refer to an apostasy, it is never said to be a universal or complete apostasy (e.g., Acts 20:30; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1). Rather, we know that God will be glorified in the Church throughout all ages (Ephesians 3:21), and that Christians have received a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28; cf. Daniel 2:44).

The Bible is Corrupted and Incomplete

Gordon B. Hinckley wrote, "Latter-day Saints recognize that errors have crept into this sacred work because of the manner in which the book has come to us. Moreover, they regard it as not being complete as a guide" (Hinckley, What of the Mormons?, 26).

The Bible is Reliable and Sufficient

God has promised that his word, the Bible, would stand forever (Isaiah 40:3). We know that his word is true (John 17:17), contains wisdom unto salvation, and thoroughly equips God's people for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15–17). God has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:2).

Works Necessary to Live with God Forever (Salvation)

M Russell Ballard wrote, "Jesus Christ accomplished two incomparable feats through His atoning sacrifice. First, He conquered death, and as a result all people will have the privilege of everlasting life with a resurrected body. Second, He suffered the burden and pains of our sins so that we might have the privilege of eternal life in the presence of God if we have faith in Christ as our Savior and choose to repent of our sins and keep His commandments" (Ballard, Our Search for Happiness, 88).

Salvation is Based on the Righteousness of Christ

The Bible never interprets mere resurrection as salvation (John 5:29). Those who receive Jesus will have eternal life, but the wrath of God remains on those who reject him (John 3:36). While Christians are called to keep God's commandments (e.g. John 14:15), salvation is in no way based on our own righteous deeds (Ephesians 2:8-10; Titus 3:5–8). It is through the atonement of Christ that we are made perfect (Hebrews 10:13–18). The atonement took place, not in the Garden of Gethsemane but through his blood shed on the cross (Colossians 1:20; 1 Peter 2:24).

Heaven(s)

There are three heavenly kingdoms: the celestial, terrestrial and telestial. Mormons argue for this belief from 1 Corinthians 15:40-41 and 2 Corinthians 12:2 (where the apostle Paul says he was caught up to the "third heaven"). See "Three Levels of Heaven" under "The Beliefs of Mormonism" above.

Heaven

The context of 1 Corinthians 15:40–41 is the contrast between resurrection (celestial or heavenly) and pre-resurrection (terrestrial or earthly) bodies, not heavenly kingdoms. The Bible does speak of three heavens: the atmospheric heaven, where birds fly and from which the rains fall (Genesis 7:23;8:2); the astronomic heaven, where the stars and planets reside (Genesis 1:14, 15; 22:17); and the third heaven, the throne of God (Matthew 6:9; Revelation 4:2).

Hell

Joseph Fielding Smith wrote, "Those who live lives of wickedness may also be heirs of salvation, that is, they too shall be redeemed from death and from hell eventually. These, however, must suffer in hell the torments of the damned until they pay the price of their sinning, for the blood of Christ will not cleanse them" (Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, 133–134).

Hell

One's abode in hell is as eternal as one's abode in heaven (Matthew 25:46). There is no second chance after death (Hebrews 9:27). At the final judgment, men either receive the resurrection of life or the resurrection of condemnation (Daniel 12:2; John 5:29) — they are assigned either to heaven or hell.

PREPARING TO WITNESS

Where Are You?

In order to be equipped to witness to our Mormon friends we need to know what we believe. It is one thing to focus our attention on what Mormons believe, it is quite another to understand clearly what the Bible teaches. In light of this, it is important that you, as a Christian, are in a habit of studying God's word, attending a strongly biblical church, and praying for God to grant you wisdom in your witnessing opportunities.

Your Message and Deliver

It is easy for Christians to become overly defensive and negative toward Mormons and their claims. But this temptation must be avoided. Second Timothy 2:24-26 provides clear guidelines for us: "And the Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will" (New American Standard Version; see also, Colossians 4:5-6.).

Defining Your Terms

Mormonism, like other pseudo-Christian religions, uses Christian vocabulary but does not use a biblical dictionary. For this reason, confusion can arise while witnessing. Always be prepared to ask, "What do you mean by that?" Christian also need to be able to explain what they mean by what they say. It has been said, that if a Mormon continually agrees with you, either they do not know what their church teaches or you have not defined your terms. Clear definitions of terms are essential for good communication. (Look at the accompanying chart to see some of the definitional differences between Mormonism and Christianity.)

Asking Questions

An important skill in witnessing is asking probing and insightful questions. By asking questions you can find out if an individual Mormon agrees strictly with the church's teaching or if he has a personal twist on Mormon doctrine. Also, because Mormons often feel persecuted, it is important to avoid blunt or direct statements as much as possible. These will only cause them to become more defensive. Finally, by asking questions you help Mormons arrive at their own conclusions, rather than forcing conclusions at which you have arrived. We'll list some questions in the text below.

Seeking to Understand Them

Seek to understand Mormon culture: the importance of family, church authority, and personal perfection. It is important as you witness to Mormons that you seek to understand what they believe, why they believe it, and exactly how they believe it. It is best to simply ask individual Mormons about their beliefs. For example, find out how he or she became a Mormon, if their family members are Mormons, how they determine truth, and if they understand the differences between Christian doctrine and Mormon doctrine.

ANSWERING OBJECTIONS

The Great Apostasy

Was there really a great apostasy? Did the true Church die out so we now need a restoration — the Mormon Church being the true Church restored? The biblical response is clear. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus declared, "I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Ask them, "Does this sound to you like Jesus thought there would be a total apostasy? Could Jesus have been wrong?" Keep in mind, in your conversation, that Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). Therefore, how could he fail? (See also, Ephesians 3:21; Hebrews 12:28; and Daniel 2:44.)

Mormons will use a variety of passages to support their belief in a complete apostasy (e.g., Acts 20:30; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1). But none of these actually teaches a universal apostasy; they only teach a limited falling away. Make sure you read these passages aloud when Mormons refer to them.

Priesthood Authority

What about the Mormon priesthood authority? Is it biblical? Not at all. The Aaronic priesthood was to be held only by those of the tribe of Levi (Numbers 3:5–10). This priesthood was fulfilled by the atonement of Christ (Hebrews 7:11–28; 10:8–18); thus, making this priesthood no longer valid or necessary.

In the Old Testament, there was generally only one high priest. What the book of Hebrews teaches is that Jesus has fulfilled the Aaronic priesthood (meaning it is no longer in effect), and that he has permanently taken the position of high priest. Since he will never die, he will have no successors (Hebrews 7). Thus he is of the order of Melchizedek, without beginning or end of days. Therefore, his priesthood is "unchangeable" (v. 24; the Greek word is aparabatos, which literally means "untransferable"). We need no other high priest — no other mediator (1 Timothy 2:5).

So where do Christians get their authority? Directly from God. John 1:12 teaches that those who receive Christ are given authority (exousia, the same word used of Christ in Matthew 28:18). We have been adopted as God's children, therefore we are co-heirs with Christ.

The Reliability of the Bible

Since Mormons do not believe the Bible is fully trustworthy, you may encounter some trouble using the Bible. But you should never stop using the Bible, simply because of their unbelief. In spite of their unbelief, the Bible is still the word of God; and it is true (John 17:17) and reliable (Isaiah 40:3). Remember, the word of God contains wisdom unto salvation, and thoroughly equips God's people for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

If you use a modern translation of the Bible (e.g., NIV, NASB), you may want to have a King James Version available while witnessing to Mormons. This way, you can compare translations.

There are several books that show the reliability of the Bible: F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?; Evidence That Demands a Verdict I and II, by Josh McDowell; or Norman Geisler and William Nix's From God to Us. If a Mormon is willing to read this type of information, then find some for them to read.

Many Mormons point to alleged contradictions in the Bible to undermine its trustworthiness. While there are certainly hard passages in the Bible, there are no real contradictions (note, 2 Peter 3:16–17). Gleason Archer's Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties is an excellent study aid regarding hard passages in the Bible.

When using the Bible with Mormons, often they will respond to your use of a passage with, "Well, that's just your interpretation." Simply respond by having them look closely at what the passage says. You may also refer to cross-references to aid in your presentation. Pray that God would open their eyes, that they may come to a knowledge of the truth. Finally, keep in mind that one carefully explained verse or passage may be more effective than a dozen passages simply thrown at your Mormon friend.

MISPLACED TRUST

Important in witnessing to Mormons is showing that they have placed their trust in something truly untrustworthy. Here are a few areas on which you may focus.

The God of Mormonism

Mormonism teaches that God has not always been God, but that through obeying the laws and ordinances of the Gospel he was able to progress to deity. Therefore, the god of Mormonism is a changing being. He was once a man, who then became a god. His knowledge, wisdom and power have thus increased. Mormons believe that all faithful Mormons will also progress to become deities.

In contrast to Mormonism, the Bible reveals a distinctly different and wonderful God. The true God does not change (Malachi 3:6), nor does he grow in knowledge Isaiah 40:13). There is none like him, he is unique, he is the only true God (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6–8; 45:5, 21–22; 46:9; 1 Corinthians 8:5). He has always been God (Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 40:28). God is spirit, not an exalted man with flesh and bone (John 4:24; Luke 24:39; Hosea 11:9; Numbers 23:19). (Note that though Jesus, being God, did become human in his incarnation, this is quite different than saying that a man became a god.)

Despite the teachings of Mormonism, men cannot become gods (Isaiah 43:10). Man was created, unlike God, and therefore has not existed from eternity (1 Corinthians 15:46). Mormons cannot compare themselves to Jesus and his preexistence, for they are not deity by nature, as is Jesus. He preexisted because he is God (Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1; 17:5; Philippians 2:6–7).

As you dialog with your Mormon friend, show them the greatness of the God of the Bible, the true God. Pray that they will see how wonderful and great God is. Who should trust in gods who change? Why trust in a mere man who has become a god? Are you not still trusting in a man (Jeremiah 17:5–8)?

The Book of Mormon

Mormons believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God — like the Bible. But when one compares the two books, one can see that they are not in the same category. For example, while many Mormons believe that there is archaeological evidence supporting the Book of Mormon, in fact, there is none. No cities unique to the Book of Mormon have ever been located. While Mormons may insist that cities have been found, the fact that the Book of Mormon contains no maps is one indication that the alleged cities have never been located. Ask them, "If the Book of Mormon is a record of real history, like the Bible, why hasn't the Mormon church published any maps?" (Note that while individual Mormons may have published maps, the church itself has never authorized an official map of Book of Mormon lands.)

Mormons will many times side-step the question of the historical authenticity of the Book of Mormon for experiential "proof" that the book is true. In Moroni 10:4–5 (a book in the Book of Mormon) we are instructed to pray about the Book of Mormon to find out if it is true. Generally, the answer expected by Mormons is a "burning in the bosom," a heart-felt emotional experience.

The biblical approach to truth is clear. Though we are called to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), the Bible nowhere teaches that prayer is a test for truth. We cannot trust the feelings of our hearts (Proverbs 14:12; 28:26; Jeremiah 17:9), nor can we trust every spiritual witness (1 John 4:1-6). Rather, we are called to be like the Bereans of Acts 17:11, who searched the Scriptures to test even what the apostle Paul was preaching. They are therefore said to be more noble than the Thessalonians. The biblical test for truth focuses on the word of God as our standard (2 Timothy 3:16–17; John 17:17). And the witness of the Holy Spirit will never contradict the word he inspired — the Bible (2 Peter 1:21). (In light of this, if Joseph Smith really did encounter an angel in his first vision, then it was surely an angel of light [2 Corinthians 11:14].)

You should ask your Mormon friend, "How do you know that witness is the Holy Ghost?" They may respond that an unholy spirit would not bear witness to such a good and moral religious system. You may want to point them to the Jehovah's Witnesses as an example of something they believe is of the devil, but that is also something that teaches good morals. It is important to show them that their test for truth is simply unreliable.

Perfectionism

Mormon perfectionism stands in sharp contrast to the biblical Gospel of grace. Many Mormons are weighted down spiritually, psychologically, and physically as they seek to live according to their church's teachings. In seeking to present the biblical Gospel to a Mormon, it is important that you first present the weightiness of the Law of God and our falling short of it.

Matthew 5:48 reads, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (KJV). This is a very important verse-one with which Mormons are very familiar. With this in mind, you may ask them if they are in fact perfect-now. The command "be perfect" is in the present imperative tense. It does not say "become perfect," but be perfect. Emphasize that according to God's law, we are to be perfect now.

You may then ask them whether they have ever sinned. (I have actually had some Mormons tell me they haven't sinned. In that case, have them read Romans 3:23 and 1 John 1:8, 10.) To show the gravity of our sin, have them read James 2:10. If they have sinned at any point in their lives, they are guilty of breaking the whole law of God.

Then, once a Mormon, through the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, recognizes his or her sinfulness it is time to present the biblical Gospel of grace. Emphasize that salvation comes only by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9), it is not based on our righteous works (Titus 3:3–5). In fact, if we could attain salvation by obeying the law, then Christ died in vain (Galatians 2:21). Show them that we can be righteous before God only on the basis of the righteousness of Christ. Though Christ was without sin, he paid the penalty due our sin so that we would be declared righteous before God (2 Corinthians 5:21; see also, Ephesians 2:1–5).

With specific reference to the idea of perfection, you should familiarize yourself with Hebrews 10:10-18. In this passage we read that we have been made perfect through the atonement of Christ (v.13). Therefore, God no longer remembers our sins (v.17). What good news!

Joseph Smith

We don't recommend that you initially focus on Joseph Smith. Mormons can become very defensive when their prophet is critiqued. But, after you have built a relationship with them, you may raise some of the following issues.

The Bible presents clear tests for those who claim to be prophets. In Deuteronomy 18:20–21 we are told that a prophet of God will never have false prophecies and will never teach false gods. We have already seen that Joseph taught false gods. But he also proclaimed several false prophecies. Keep in mind that it only takes one false prophecy to make one a false prophet.

Here is just one false prophecy. In Doctrine and Covenants section 84, Joseph prophesied that the city of New Jerusalem would be erected within his generation — "in the Western boundaries of the State of Missouri." But to this day, the Mormon Church has failed to erect it. In fact, the Mormon Church does not even own that land on which Joseph said the city would be built. This clearly is a false prophecy. How could Joseph be a prophet of God?

MISUSE OF THE BIBLE

Because so many Bible passages are distorted by the teachings of Mormonism, we will only be able to look at a few of the more common distortions. Keep in mind that if you take the context of a verse into account, you will see that it does not teach Mormon doctrine. Their interpretation is read into the text.

Are We Saved by Works?

Mormons, when attempting to prove the necessity of works for individual salvation, will often reference James 2:17, "faith without works is dead." In order to answer this misuse of the Scripture, you must become familiar with the teachings of James.

When one carefully examines this verse in its context, one can see that it does not teach a works-based salvation. The context: people claiming to have faith in Christ but not showing this in their everyday lives (1:19–2:13). James's "justification" (v. 24) is in reference to men, not God. His point is that men can only see that your claim to faith is true by how it is expressed in your life. "Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works" (v. 18). Your works prove your claim to faith to those who cannot see your heart. Christians are called to live up to their claims. (It will be good, at this point, to study the fourth chapter of Romans to see how Paul presents his case for justification.)

Mormons many times believe that if one believes he can be saved without works, then he believes he can sin freely. In other words, that a Gospel of grace is a license to sin. At this point it is important to note what the apostle Paul said in response to the same argument. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. . . . What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid" (Romans 6:1–2, 15).

Are the Two Sticks of Ezekiel The Bible and the Book of Mormon?

Mormons often refer to Ezekiel 37:16–17 as a prophecy of the Book of Mormon. But is this really the point of the prophecy? As always, it is important to read the context. Ask your Mormon friend to read verses 15–22. God explains the meaning of the prophecy to Ezekiel, so that he can in turn explain it to his countrymen. It says nothing about the Book of Mormon. Once they have read the passage, then ask them, "How does God explain this prophecy to Ezekiel? Don't you think we should believe God's interpretation?"

You may also want to note that Ezekiel is told to write on some sticks, but the Book of Mormon was allegedly written on golden plates. After noting this you can ask, "Wasn't the Book of Mormon written on golden plates? But Ezekiel is told to write on sticks, not golden plates. Could you be reading something into this passage that is not there?"

Finally, you may want to ask them what Ezekiel was to write on the sticks (v. 16). Then ask them, "Does it say to write 'Bible' and 'Book of Mormon?'" They will answer "No." Then ask, "Do you think that might be because this prophecy is not about books but about tribes?"

Were the "Other Sheep" in the Americas?

Mormons use John 10:16 — "I have sheep which are not of this fold" — to argue that Jesus needed to visit his people in the Americas. Who are these "other sheep" according to the Bible? Several passages clearly teach that these "other sheep" are the Gentiles. Study the following passages yourself. John 11:51–52; Acts 10:45; 11:18; 13:46; 14:27; 15:3–23; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:11–19; 3:3–6. Choose one or two to have your Mormon friend read aloud. Ask them what the passages say, and to whom they refer.

Are there Three Heavens?

Mormons most often refer to 1 Corinthians 15:40–41 as proof that there are different levels of heaven: "There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory." But these verses teach nothing of the Mormon concept of the three degrees of glory.

First, you should note that the word "telestial" does not occur in verse 40; in fact, it does not occur anywhere in the Bible. Secondly, in order to understand what the apostle Paul was saying, you must look closely at the context. The whole context of 1 Corinthians 15 is the resurrection of the dead. At this point in the chapter, Paul is answering the question about what resurrected bodies will be like (v. 35). So he explains that it is quite different from our earthy bodies. Simply read verses 42–44 and you will see the contrast between resurrected and pre-resurrected bodies. There is nothing in the context which speaks of different levels of heaven.

Should We Baptize for the Dead?

The primary verse used by Mormons to support their practice of baptism for the dead is 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 baptized for the dead?" Again, one must take the context into account.

In this chapter, the apostle Paul was countering those in Corinth who denied the resurrection of both Christ and believers (vv. 12–19). When he comes to verse 29, he is showing the inconsistency of those who deny the resurrection of believers — for these same people were doing baptism for the dead. But it is clear that Paul is not referring to either himself or the believers in Corinth in general. Rather, he was referring to the "some" of verse 12. In light of these false teachers, he uses different pronouns in verse 29. Notice he does not say, "Why do we baptize for the dead?" but "Why do they baptize for the dead?" Note the pronouns Paul uses in verses 12–19 and 30 as compared to verse 29. And keep in mind that there is nothing in the context about different heavenly kingdoms. Carefully, and prayerfully show these facts to your Mormon friends.

CONCLUDING REMARKS

Be Prayerful

We are called to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Pray that God would grant you the wisdom you need to clearly and carefully communicate the truth to your Mormon friends (James 1:5).

Be Prepared

While there is no need to try to know everything about Mormon beliefs, history and culture, it can only help if you know some of the basics. This way you can anticipate what they might say. It is even more important for you to know what the Bible teaches. You must spend much time studying the Bible so you may be able to respond to the Mormon distortions and appeals to it.

Be Patient

As you seek to witness to your Mormon friends, don't try to cover too much territory in one sitting. This can lead to a strong defensive attitude and minimal communication. Take your time. Remember 2 Timothy 2:24–26.

Be Persistent

Don't give up. We are in this for the long term. If you get frustrated, take some time off. Pray and ask God to help you in your preparation and understanding. Pray too that he will give your Mormon friend eyes to see and ears to hear the truth of who God is, their need for his salvation, and his provision of the Gospel of grace.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Mormon Literature

  1. Achieving a Celestial Marriage, Student Manual. Salt Lake City, Utah: Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1976, 1992.
  2. Ballard, M. Russell. Our Search for Happiness: An Invitation to Understand the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1993.
  3. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, The Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and The Pearl of Great Price. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1988.
  4. Deseret News 1991–1992 Church Almanac. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News, 1990.
  5. Gospel Principles. rev. ed. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1979.
  6. Hinckley, Gordon B. What of the Mormons? 5th ed. rev. Salt Lake City, Utah: The Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1947, 1954
  7. McConkie, Bruce R. Mormon Doctrine. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1966.
  8. Smith, Joseph. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Joseph Fielding Smith, ed. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book Company, 1976.
  9. Smith, Joseph Fielding. Doctrines of Salvation. 3 vols. Salt Lake City, Utah: Bookcraft, 1954–1956.
  10. Christian Literature

  11. Cares, Mark J. Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons. Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Northwestern Publishing House, 1993.
  12. Larson, Charles M. By His Own Hand Upon Papyrus: A New Look at the Joseph Smith Papyri. rev. ed. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Institute for Religious Research, 1992.
  13. McKeever, Bill, and Eric Johnson. Questions to Ask Your Mormon Friend: Effective Ways to Challenge a Mormon's Arguments without Being Offensive. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Bethany House Publishers, 1994.
  14. Marquardt, H. Michael, and Wesley P. Walters. Inventing Mormonism: Tradition and the Historical Record. Salt Lake City, Utah: Smith Research Associates, 1994. Distributed by Signature Books, Salt Lake City, UT.
  15. Reed, David A., and John R. Farkas. Mormons Answered Verse by Verse. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 1992.
  16. Rhodes, Ron, and Marian Bodine. Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Mormons. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1995.
  17. Tanner, Jerald , and Sandra. The Changing World of Mormonism. Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1980, 1981.
  18.  

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  • October 08, 2010 // 05:03 pm //  # 
    Richard Epler's avatar Richard Epler

    Did Jesus preach the gospel?

    Are people really Christians if they don’t seek out the light of the words of Jesus to know the truth that then sets them free?  His teaching on ‘the truth shall set you free’ was conditional - but how many know this?  Did you?

    “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.  And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free!”  Jesus also said that if we hear His teachings and do not do them, that the life we build will crash in the coming storm.  He said hearing AND doing whatever He taught was what we are charged to do if we believe in Him.  This also goes with His words in the great commission in Matthew, that they (original disciples/apostles) make disciples of Him, baptize them, and teach them to keep His commandments.  See also Acts 3:22,23.  Whoever will not hear whatever that Prophet (Jesus) says shall be cut off from them brethren.

    Whose Church really is really preaching the gospel that Jesus preached?  The true and everlasting gospel preached by Jesus Christ Himself?

  • November 03, 2011 // 04:28 pm //  # 
    John's avatar John

    Wish we’d had this clear comparison back in 1988… all I knew back then were the god makers video - not so effective.

  • March 26, 2012 // 08:38 pm //  # 
    Danae Carlson's avatar Danae Carlson

    I have a close friend that is Mormon, and this really clarified things for me. The chart that shows the differences between Mormonism and Christianity is also very helpful.

  • July 11, 2012 // 08:58 pm //  # 
    Jacqueline's avatar Jacqueline

    IT (the musical)IS NOT FOR LDS MEMBERS, and IT IS NOT FOR BELIEVING CHRISTIANS.NO ONE is aigurng that the musical _is_ good for members or believers.  I read Nelson’s entire review, and my take-away of his review (and others, and the few lyrics I’ve read/heard so far) is that I concur: it is not for believers (LDS or other churches).When I (and I presume others) say it’s not overall a bad thing’ , I mean that it is not anti-Mormon.  It is not bashing the church.  Moreover, to whatever extent it does skewer Mormon culture or traditions, and to whatever extent it does dilute and taint the gospel, Heavenly Father can still use it ( turn it) to good by using it to create interest among non-believers.  None of that should be taken to mean that I think the musical is good or recommended for current believers of any faith.Of course LDS, and any self-professed Christian of any denomination, should shun profanity and blasphemy, and avoid the musical.  However, at the same time, we can’t force our standards on non-believers.  Of course we can exercise our right to freedom of speech and say we disapprove of the profanity and blasphemy.  However, we can’t really expect non-believers and smut-pedlars like Parker and Stone to live up to Christian standards. You can’t blame a skunk for stinking.  And I can’t blame Parker and Stone for selling smut to the smut-consuming segment of the public.  I never could stand to watch South Park, or equally disgusting smutty shows like Beavis and Butthead, King of the Hill, or Family Guy.  They just turn my stomach.I also I think Nelson was right when he wrote that the musical is NOT an attack on the LDS church. I spoke with a former bishop who saw the Tony awards last night, and he said that the publicity the church got from the Tony awards was priceless.I think we gotta keep in mind what Brigham Young said. So, to whatever degree you do think the musical is anti-gospel or anti-church, remember:  Every time you kick ‘Mormonism,’ you kick it up stairs: you never kick it down stairs.  (Journal of Discourses 7:145; Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 351.)Also quoted Related quote by BY., same page:“Every time they persecute and try to overcome this people, they elevate us, weaken their own hands, and strengthen the hands and arms of this people. And every time they undertake to lessen our number, they increase it. And when they try to destroy the faith and virtue of this people, the Lord strengthens the feeble knees, and confirms the wavering in faith and power in God, in light, and intelligence. Righteousness and power with God increase in this people in proportion as the Devil struggles to destroy it.?I believe that the musical is not anti-Mormon , but even if it is, the end result is people are talking about the LDS church; people who would not have otherwise been discussing it. Many missionaries experience such an effect on their mission. The more anti-Mormonism there is, the more interest is generated.

  • September 11, 2012 // 06:50 am //  # 
    Sophia's avatar Sophia

    To not vote for Romney would be to vote for Obama. At least you know clearly who Romney is while one does not know clearly who Obama is. He is whatever gets the vote. He is for homosexuality, he is for Islam and has not stood for Israel. He gives credit and honor to other nations, especially the Arab, Russia, and China, yet he knocks his own country America. He was involved in Liberation Christianity, has a strong Isalmic upbringing, both from his father who is a from Kenya and stepfather who is from Jagarta, Indonesia. Well, to vote for Obama because he claims to be Christian and not to vote for Romney is worse because one doesn’t hide who he is and one does. Duplicity is the word I believe that our current president Obama demonstrates. He asks for the sign of Cross and the name of Jesus to be covered in two or more events. He was the first president not to participate in the Nations’ Day of Prayer. He said we are no longer a Christian nation. How much more do we have to know before we vote intelligently? Both candidates need the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. The wise thing in my opinion is to vote for a new president other than President Obama. Is there a better candidate then let her or he stand up!

  • September 11, 2012 // 08:58 am //  # 
    Tom's avatar Tom

    Many of the above Mormon beliefs sound really strange.  But then the beliefs of other Christian beliefs would also sound very strange to someone who hears them for the first time.  It puts some cred into this bumper sticker:  “A religion is just a cult with more members”

  • September 11, 2012 // 03:22 pm //  # 
    Howard Hatch's avatar Howard Hatch

    I found Mr. Bywater’s review of Mormon history very well done, and accurate.  Aside from his obvious bias and attempt to build his own followers, his critique not too badly done.  But why would he insist on a dead God?  He also negates the resurrection, saying God is only a spirit.  Where does it say Christ shed his tangible body when he went to heaven?  And don’t we all live in a dynamic universe? To insist on a static God, would deny this obvious truth?

  • September 11, 2012 // 03:59 pm //  # 
    Howard Hatch's avatar Howard Hatch

    I should also say I have lived and served as a Christian missionary in Europe and West Africa, on 4 occasions, a total of over 6 years at my own expense.  Growing up as a Mormon I have not only seen it from the inside but lived it.  Read my autobio, “A Mormon Boy’s Life Story” on Amazon Kindle if you want to really understand about Mormonism and how it relates and contrasts with sectarian Christianity.  Most critics say we Mormons are not Christians because we reject the Nicean creed—such mumbo jumbo it can hardly be accepted by any thinking believer.  And what could be more admirable that a Supreme Being whose primary goal and wish for his spiritual offspring is to raise them up to his own level, not keep them as subservient slaves to his will?Jesus himself admitted of man “Ye are gods.” John 10:34 An Asian convert to the Christian faith once said that the power of Christianity lies in its belief in a personal God, a loving Heavenly Father who knows us and with whom we can relate closely in spiritual union.  And didn’t Christ pray that his followers would become one, even as he and his Father were one? John 17:21.

  • September 12, 2012 // 12:46 am //  # 
    Karen Murray's avatar Karen Murray

    Howard, I don’t understand why you call the Nicene Creed “mumbo jumbo”.  Traditional Christianity means belief in a Triune God.  Mormonism rejects that.  Also, Martin Luther helped clarify true Christianity with “saved by Grace alone”, so Mormonism actually is more like Catholicism in that there are things you must “do” to earn your salvation.  By the way, the true Church never disappeared as Joseph Smith claimed.  There has always been a remnant of true believers.  Also, God Himself has stated in Malachi 3:6, “... I am the LORD, I do not change.”  And finally, is your God omniscient?  Wouldn’t He know if there were other Gods around?  Yet the Biblical God states in Isaiah 44:6 “I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.”

  • September 12, 2012 // 06:09 am //  # 
    gray man's avatar gray man

    Karen Murray,
    The reason Howard called the Nicene Creed mumbo jumbo is because of the argument that Mormons are not Christian because they don’t believe in the trinity. The trinity was established at the council of Nicene hundreds of years after Christ died. None of the original apostles agreed with the Nicene Creed, Jesus certainly did not agree. It is equally valid to say that if you believe in the Nicene Creed you are not Christian.

  • September 15, 2012 // 12:57 pm //  # 
    Max's avatar Max

    I have read every word of the above text and all of the comments.  As a committed member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I must say I find my Bywater’s review quite refreshing—although not entirely accurate. 

    I have been engaged countless times in discussions with other “Christians,” Muslims, Buddhists, Hindi s, Atheists and those of no faith at all on the subject of Mormonism.  I am not a young man.  I have had my share of trials and challenges of nearly every description.  It is refreshing to encounter a review of my faith that seeks to encourage respect, honor and compassion regarding one’s beliefs—rather than disrespectful and even toxic criticism of our unique beliefs and that Mormons are not Christian.  I find it a little condescending that Mr. Bywater thinks we Mormons need to be witnessed to as though we are somehow deluded and ignorant or somehow deceived.

    After so many experiences with this attitude, I find a common thread.  It is that those who earnestly seek for eternal truths will eventually be led to the Mormon faith because they are not satisfied to entrench their boots in a rigid position of solidarity with the Nicean Creed, a document upon which even the scholars of the day could not unanimously agree.  Nowhere in the Old or New Testaments is found the doctrine of a Triune God or the concept of the Trinity.  In fact, many of the participants in the Council at Nicea parted ways thereafter in sadness, troubled about the general departure from doctrinal truths taught by Jesus and His disciples.  A great apostasy was indeed evident even then. 

    Disagreement over what books, what truths and what doctrines should be included in the ‘Bible’ (which did not exist at the time in its present form) is in very fact what led to the mass confusion that existed when the 14-year-old boy, Joseph Smith sought answers about which church he should join.

    Since God is the source of all truth, does it not stand to reason that He is also the one to whom we should go for confirmation of our beliefs?  How many of us simply accept what we are taught or the faith with which we were raised?  Is it not naive to think that every “Christian,” although the different sects of Christianity number in the hundreds, is in sole possession of the truth?  How many of you have said to yourselves, “I am absolutely certain that my Pastor is the only man inspired by God.”  If true, how can there be hundreds of Christian denominations—God leading each one as His only authorized earthly vessel—given the fact that each servant has a different interpretation of God’s word?  How is this logical?  How is this possible?  Can you not sympathize—at least a little bit—with the claim of the Mormon who professes to “know” the truth because it is revealed to him/her by the power of the Holy Ghost?  That witness is God’s authorized communication with us.  It is His method of teaching us, comforting us, encouraging us and blessing us with the reassurance that our choices are approved.

    One thing you will find consistently among the nearly 14 million people worldwide who call themselves Mormons…, they feel liberated by the witness of the Holy Ghost that what they have embraced is true.  They believe that the church is not led by a prophet only, but that it is indeed led by the Lord Jesus Christ—yes, the same Jesus Christ you believe in.  He is one and the same.  He is God, He was God, He will always be God and His atonement is our only hope for return to His Father and our Father.

    We Mormons do not need someone to witness to us of the truths of the Bible.  We love the Bible just as you do.  Our love of the Book of Mormon and other modern revelation is evidence of our belief that God continues to be involved in our lives showing evidence of His love and concern for our welfare by working with His authorized servants to guide us.

    One thing is certain.  It is that we are not inclined to get into a Bible-bashing discussion with any of you who feel compelled to “witness” to us.  It is for one reason, and only one.  We know that if you will read the Book of Mormon (every word) and pray sincerely (without bias)to know whether or not it is also God’s word, you will receive a powerful witness of its truthfulness and you too will embrace the Mormon faith—that is of course if you can accept a life of faithful service.

    What is not commonly known among other Christian faiths is that Mormonism, to be fully engaged, requires a level of commitment to which some are not willing or ready to embrace.  The reason we do, is not because we are ‘sheep’ following a cult-like leader, but because we, like millions of others find it to be the most invigorating and uplifting and ennobling experience of this earth life.  We serve and commit because we know it is right—not because we expect to gain something by it.  I personally have never engaged in a conversation with other members of the church over the idea of becoming a god.  It is not our motivating stimulus.  We do what we do, we are who we are because we know it to be true and because we know it is led by the Savior Himself through living prophets.  WE KNOW IT TO BE TRUE.

    When you get into a personal investigation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, you will not only find that what you have always embraced is true, but that it will take on added dimension in light of modern revelation and give you clarity of doctrine about which you might have been previously confused.  We will never suggest you are wrong—as you claim we are.  We simply invite you to bring what you believe and allow God to enhance your understanding and enlighten your mind and bless your life with the light of added truth.

    Seriously, do you think the only humans in the history of man who know the truth exist only in the church to which you belong?  The truth is that God has been teaching and nurturing all men who will listen to Him and obey His laws since the time of Adam.  Today’s ‘Christians’ who believe in the traditional Trinity doctrine cannot be God’s only ‘chosen’ people.  To believe this is contrary to the nature of God.  To know God and His true nature is not only liberating, it also leads to real, genuine love and compassion for those stumbling in darkness.

    I submit that you, like us, can know it to be true.  Rather than witnessing to us about why you think we are wrong or misled, simply invite us to share what we love.  Evaluate it, ponder it, pray about it.  It will be a much more rewarding and exalting experience that way.

  • September 15, 2012 // 10:58 pm //  # 
    Howard Hatch's avatar Howard Hatch

    I like what you wrote Max. Are we related?

  • September 16, 2012 // 12:22 pm //  # 
    Max's avatar Max

    Howard, I am certain we are related since we are brothers in Christ.  I look forward to reading your autobiography.

  • September 17, 2012 // 10:10 am //  # 
    Karen's avatar Karen

    Max, you may have not ever had a discussion with a fellow Mormon about becoming a god, but the doctrine of “eternal progression” IS a doctrine of the LDS church.  Respectfully, I have a hard time with the obvious contradictions of the Mormon faith.  For example, you are promised that Joseph Smith himself will be there to greet you when you arrive in heaven.  But he’s the founder of your religion!  Wouldn’t he already be a god and have his own universe?  Or does he come to visit Yahweh’s universe whenever a good Mormon arrives there?  And if so, then please address the Biblical passages when God Himself says (and I’m paraphrasing) I know of NO other Gods?  How can an omniscient God not know of other gods?

    I do NOT claim that my church is the only true church.  It is Joseph Smith who supposedly received the revelation that he shouldn’t join any church because they were all corrupted, and founded the Mormon church based on that info.  That’s why, I understand, there are Mormons who get baptized for others.  But the Bible IS reliable, and can be trusted, as stated in Bywater’s article.

    I’m concerned that there are many Mormons that do not truly know what the LDS church believes and are being led away from the Truth.

  • September 17, 2012 // 12:13 pm //  # 
    gray man's avatar gray man

    Karen,
    You seem confused about what the Mormon church truly believes.
    Yes, eternal progression is a doctrine of the LDS church, but this is not something that just happens upon death and resurrection. Eternal progress is exactly what it says eternal. It may take billions of years as we measure time to achieve goals in heaven, like becoming like our father in heaven. It is a learning curve…just like mortality. My son did not become a man like me upon turning 18. And of course I am moving forward in my mortal progression just like him.
    Joseph Smith says he will greet us in heaven, just like you will be greeted by your parents, and everyone else who has died. We will still be in heaven after we die. Joseph Smith is not treated any different then anyone else in heaven, we are all equal under Gods eyes. At least until the judgement.
    God the father of the Bible is our God, our Father.Gen 3:22 mentions man becoming like “US” knowing good from evil, Gen 1:26 making man in “our” image. 1Cor 8: 5-6 mentions other gods, but we are not from them. Earlier we talked about the Nicene creed. The Nicene creed is false doctrine. That is one reason Joseph Smith was told other churches corrupted.

  • September 17, 2012 // 01:16 pm //  # 
    Max's avatar Max

    Karen,

    I appreciate your apparent concern regarding Mormons whom you assume might be misled or deceived or don’t understand what the Mormon church really teaches.  I can’t help but be suspicious that you personally have never conducted a careful investigation of our faith. 

    It is one thing to read these blogs or available literature, published by anti-Mormon writers and those with a hostile agenda which is contrary and biased against the Mormon church.  It is an entirely different thing to conduct a sincere investigation of the church by reading the Book of Mormon and the other works of modern revelation, studying with missionaries who have been trained to answer honest questions, attending our worship services, pondering the things you learn, praying for the Lord’s guidance to know whether or not it is true, then (and only then) making an informed decision.

    We could debate endlessly in this blog or even in person about the differences between traditional Christianity and Mormon doctrine and practice.  We would accomplish exactly nothing because your mind is already made up. 

    Just as it is counter-intuitive to think that a Muslim could convert a Christian by simply stating what he thinks Christians believe while comparing it to the Qur’an, similarly, it is ridiculous to assume that you can know for certain what a Mormon believes and embraces as the truth simply by relying on what your pastor or some writer or some movie has presented to you.

    I respectfully reject that you understand what we believe.  My evidence for this assumption are your comments about us—many of which are incorrect—about which you seem to be misinformed.

    Sadly, you are denying yourself and others the joy and fulfillment of what the church has to offer.  You don’t know what you don’t know until you conduct your own unbiased, sincere investigation born of a personal desire to know the real story and to learn in depth the real truths revealed to modern-day prophets.  Also in evidence is that you do not understand the true nature of God if you believe that revelation ceased with the death of Jesus’ apostles.  Why would a loving Heavenly Father do such a thing if, since the time of Adam, he has been communicating regularly with His servants?  The ‘Great Apostasy’ after the death of Jesus is not the first apostasy since the time of Adam. Seriously, why would His children born into the current dispensation be less worthy of His regular communication than those who preceded the Savior?  It is only one troubling aspect of traditional Christianity to deny modern revelation.

    Come, study with us.  Bathe in the light of truth.  It will change your life.  It will introduce you to the true nature of God and His attributes.  You will be fulfilled in ways you have never imagined.  It’s easy.  Just stop a set of nearly 60,000 missionaries you see on the street.  Or, go to lds.org and click on the tab for ‘meetinghouse locator’ to find a congregation near you.  Attend our worship services and other meetings.  Or, call a local Bishop you can find in the phone book.

    You will find that the myriad lies and distortions about the Mormons are exactly that.  We are not ‘secret’ about our beliefs and practices.  Really?  There are 60,000 missionaries worldwide diligently searching for sincere seekers of truth—nothing to hide.  How can that fact be perceived as secretive? 

    No, we are not being led ‘away’ from the truth.  The truth is in us.  We embrace the further light and knowledge the Father promised to share with His children by listening to His counsels through that Still-Small-Voice known as the Holy Ghost.  The truth is contained in the pages of an ancient manuscript called the Book of Mormon.  The truth is unmistakable when delivered by his prophets and apostles and authorized servants—both men and women. 

    You too can experience it.  Please come.

  • September 17, 2012 // 01:43 pm //  # 
    Karen's avatar Karen

    Gray Man and Max,
    I appreciate your responses.  However, neither of you have answered my specific question.  How can an omniscient God not know about other gods populating other universes?  In Genesis, when God says, “Let US make man in OUR image..” that’s God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit taking part in creation together. 

    Max, on the contrary, I have carefully studied the Mormon religion and studied with your missionaries.  The nice young men I studied with could not answer how the Mormon faith can consider themselves “monotheistic” while at the same time teaching the doctrine of eternal progression.  Perhaps you can help me with that one.  There is only one God, all other gods are false.

    Here’s another issue I’m confused about:  How can a Mormon be promised that they will live forever with their family when any daughters they have will be off with their husbands populating their own universes?  And the men (sons) will be divine gods running their own universes?  It doesn’t sound like the family is together AT ALL. 

    It’s these apparent contradictions that lead me to conclude that Mormonism just doesn’t make sense.  Any insights you can provide will be appreciated.

  • September 17, 2012 // 02:08 pm //  # 
    gray man's avatar gray man

    Karen,
    I appreciate your comments. You are a lot like I used to be and to a certain extent still am. Are there answers to all your mormon questions. Nope. At least not at this time. Just like there are unanswered questions with all other denominations of Christianity.
    Christianity requires faith, we are Christians why would we not require faith also?
    I have studied many Christian denominations, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), make the most sense to me.
    Two good books to read are:
    Catholic Roots Mormon Harvest, and,
    Biblical Roots of Mormonism.
    Maybe they can help.
    It is too hard to try to explain all these things through this forum.
    Good Luck, remember all search for truth is good.

  • September 17, 2012 // 02:19 pm //  # 
    gray man's avatar gray man

    Karen,
    I am not blowing you off, if you have sincere questions I will try to answer them, however it can only be limited and consequently maybe unsatisfactory for you do to the constraints of this forum.

    Stephen saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Two separate beings. The Holy Ghost is a spirit. A third being.

  • September 17, 2012 // 02:53 pm //  # 
    gray man's avatar gray man

    Karen,
    Also Jesus makes it clear he is not the Father in Mark 13:32.

  • September 17, 2012 // 06:58 pm //  # 
    Max's avatar Max

    Karen,

    Who does not have unanswered questions?  If you are honest with yourself, you will admit you have unanswered questions about your own faith.  We learn line upon line, precept upon precept until our faith is satisfied with a sure witness of the truthfulness of doctrine which then becomes knowledge and is no longer faith.

    Faith, by definition, is not knowledge.  We read, we hear, we pray, we listen.  The role of the Holy Ghost is to bear witness of the truths of the doctrines of Christ which originate from the Father.  If we open our hearts and minds and clear the clutter which has accumulated in our gospel study by professors of religion and written works that cannot be trusted, we are then prepared to receive further light and knowledge intended specifically for us individually from a loving Father in Heaven.

    Please consider this:  What church (other than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) proves to be exactly the same in every city, every state, every country, every language and every people and has no variation of doctrine?  None, but the Mormon Church.  None, but Mormon doctrine.  How is this possible?  It is possible, not because of printed literature and cult-like following, but because the Lord Jesus Christ Himself leads and directs the affairs of His church and its leaders through divine revelation and regular guidance.  Each member and leader, men and women, seek humbly the guidance of the Lord in all their doings.  We do not lean upon our own understanding.  We seek His divine counsel.  The result of such devotion is astonishing consistency among all congregations and leadership in every location worldwide.  Such would not be possible without divine guidance.

    Why is this important to you?  Perhaps it is not.  But, it should be.  The questions you ask are answered in the process of personal revelation as you seek to clear up perceived contradictions.  They are not contradictions at all (unless the source of your information is in fact misinformation obtained from biased and hostile sources).  They are simply points of interest that seem to be misfit in the big picture.  The problem you and many others have is that the picture to which you have access is not big enough.  When you read every word of the Book of Mormon, from beginning to end, you get a larger picture in your mind.  When you read further revelations given to Joseph Smith and other modern prophets and apostles, you get an even larger picture.  The light of understanding increases and the confusion and suspicion is dispelled.  The Lord speaks peace to your spirit through the vehicle of the Holy Ghost, the comforter.  He reveals to you that what you have learned is true and because it came through the witness of the Holy Ghost, it can be trusted.  We know from countless biblical and modern scripture accounts that men are not as firmly convinced by the visits of angels or even by the voice of God, as they are by the witness of the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost.

    Do you pray?  I’m sure you do.  You seem sincere and certainly you must seek answers from God in your personal prayers.  Perhaps this exchange with Gray Man and Max is the Lord’s way of assisting in your search for truth—answers to your prayers.  What is the point of prayer if personal revelation ceased with Jesus’ apostles?  The process of seeking and receiving answers to prayer is revelation—alive and well—to all of God’s children.  What makes us distinctive is that we claim that modern-day prophets, through restored Priesthood authority, receive revelation for others and indeed for the entire world.  Interpret this not as arrogance, but as miraculous.  The Lord truly loves every man, woman and child who lives or has ever lived on the earth.  Explain that one.  How is that possible?  How is it possible that He can answer every prayer of every person on their knees (or not) in any given moment in time?  There must be millions of simultaneous prayers coming into His ears even now, at this very moment.  How can He answer them all?  Did I say we all have unanswered questions?  This is one of mine.  It does not stop me.  It does not put a chink in my armor.  It does not confuse me.  I take it with the faith of a mustard seed because I have a lifetime of experience with the Lord’s blessings and reassurances that He lives, He loves me and will continue to speak peace to my soul and teach me line upon line, precept upon precept.  I do not doubt because I know His promises have been fulfilled and his blessings are delivered daily.  These experiences make up the foundation of my faith. 

    I do not quibble about how an omniscient God is unaware of other Gods.  It is not true, by the way, that He is unaware of them.  His instruction to us, his children, is to make Him our God and have no other gods before Him.  Until we are greeted by Him at the veil (not by Joseph Smith), we worship Him and only Him.  Information about other gods, other worlds, where they are, how many there are do not add one particle to our faith.

    Karen, you quizzed us:  “In Genesis, when God says, “Let US make man in OUR image..? that’s God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit taking part in creation together.”  If this is true (and it is), how then can three gods be one god as the concept of the Trinity claims?

    Come study with us and learn, among many other wonderful doctrines, that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost and the concept of “oneness” is consistent throughout scripture, ancient and modern, to describe their togetherness of purpose.  The Son will do nothing except authorized by the Father and so on.  It says they are one god, but it does not say they are the same god.  Without the added light of divine revelation, such doctrines are left to man’s interpretation—as is evidenced in the experience of the Counsel at Nicaea.  Joseph Smith’s first vision revealed more than volumes of scripture about the identity, nature, attributes and character of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

    Monotheistic?  All other gods are only false when they divert our attention away from the work of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost—the only gods with whom we must have personal devotion—three separate and distinct gods, one in purpose—one god.  The atonement of Jesus Christ, at its core, leads us back to the Father.  Return to Him is not possible except through the cleansing blood of Christ.  It is not repentance alone that saves us.  It is the blood of Christ.  In this, there is no contradiction, no inconsistency.

    Here is perhaps an over-simplification to consider:  If the Book of Mormon is a real ancient record, was translated by Joseph Smith and is indeed God’s revelation to man (you will know this when you read every word in it), then Joseph Smith is the prophet of the restoration—chosen by God—to usher in the last dispensation of man.  If he is that prophet, chosen by God, then the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His church and is directed by the Savior Himself.  Too simple?  The burden of proof is on you, not on us.

    Families are forever.  Our families here on earth are the model set forth by God the Father characteristic of His heavenly environment.  He is our Father and will conduct the affairs of Heaven and eternity in like manner as he has set forth here on earth.  The eternal unit is a man and a woman, married by the authority of God’s Priesthood for eternity.  Our being ushered into such an incredible existence is not a guarantee simply by becoming a Mormon.  It is dependent on our faithfulness and service to others.  Our children will have marriages of their own and live in their own man-woman units of eternal marriage—according to their faithfulness.  In the eternal realm, we will have family associations just as we do here—dependent on our faithfulness.  Who knows, we might even have Sunday afternoon family dinners—just as we do here.

    Trouble yourself no longer about such things.  Embrace the truths of the restored gospel line upon line, precept upon precept until the brightness of your understanding speaks peace to your heart and brings confidence to your soul in your daily worship.

    Remember, fear is the opposite of faith.

  • September 17, 2012 // 07:06 pm //  # 
    gray man's avatar gray man

    well said Max, I am just a stumbling argumentative bum.

  • September 17, 2012 // 07:06 pm //  # 
    Howard Hatch's avatar Howard Hatch

    Karen, and anyone else in your situation, seeking answers:  I was born in the Mormon Church of a mother converted from the Church of England in Yorkshire, England.  My father’s great-grandfather was the original convert to the Church in New York State.  My great-grandfather, his grandfather, was a member of the Mormon Battalion who marched some 2000 miles to occupy So. Cal. as part of the Mexican/American war which resulted on the acquisition of the western states.  He and many fellow Battalion soldiers were among those who discovered gold in California which led to the great 1849 gold rush.

    Being born in the Church even with a strong heritage doesn’t guarantee conversion, far from it.  My own father resisted church activity until late in life so it’s never a given. So like so many others born in the Church, I had to seek an understanding and witness of my own.  If you want to follow how I got there read my autobiography, “A Mormon Boy’s Life Story” which can be found on Amazon Kindle.  A personal conviction led me to do 4 full time missions at my own expense.  I’ve also served as a bishop, high councilor, Air Force chaplain, elders quorum president, Sunday School President and teacher without ever being paid for my services by the Church.

  • October 03, 2012 // 04:59 am //  # 
    Kevin James Bywater's avatar Kevin James Bywater

    Wow, look at that: I turn my back for a while and a long discussion ensues. And since gray man, Howard Hatch, and Max have come out as defenders of Mormonism, I suppose they deserve a bit of a response. Now, where to begin?

    First, I’ll not bore you by repeating here what was stated in the essay above. If anyone who has commented believes that I’ve misrepresented official LDS doctrine, then I’d be happy to consider the specific charge, along with supporting documentation. There is no virtue in misrepresentation, of course. Then again, from a cursory reading of the comments, it appears that I did a fairly decent job on “getting Mormonism right” all those many years ago.

    Second, I see that some have protested against the doctrine of the Trinity. That is to be expected. But it is a biblical teaching and has been shown to be such time and again. Here I’ll recommend a short piece I’ve written, “Thinking about the Trinity” (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=396), as well as Robert Bowman’s excellent study on the biblical basis for the doctrine (http://irr.org/trinity-outline.html).

    Third, for further discussions of Mormon beliefs, please see the following online essays. I don’t feel compelled to rewrite material for the comments here. I apologize for just providing the links, but I hope they help clarify Mormonism and how it differs so very much from Christianity. On that note…

    On the LDS view of the nature of God, please see, “Mormonism and Lesser Gods” (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=656), and “Mormonism: God was a man who became a god…and so can you!” (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=712).

    On whether Mormons and Christians worship the same God, see, “Do Muslims, Mormons, and Christians Worship the Same God?” (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=561).

    On why Mormonism actually is not Christian, please see, “But I Am a Mormon…Aren’t Christians Mormons Too?” (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=523) and “Learning a Lesson from the LDS Newsroom” (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=163).

    On the LDS teaching regarding the fall of Adam and Eve, see, “Mormonism on the Fall” (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=241) and “Mormon Theology, God, and the Original Catch-22” (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=157).

    For an extensive study of LDS doctrine, with specific reference to their Sunday school manual, “Gospel Principles” (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=757).

    And if you want to know why I write so much about Mormonism, I explain here: http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=612.

    Finally (and I suspect this is what brought many of you here in the first place), I recently contributed to a piece addressing the question of whether a Christian could ever vote for Mormons. In that piece I quickly survey distinctive facets of LDS doctrine, complete with copious footnotes to contemporary, online, Mormon sources. You can read all about it here: http://bit.ly/NBCZR6.

    Cheers!

  • October 03, 2012 // 09:16 am //  # 
    Max's avatar Max

    Dr. Bywater,

    I have read the entire article and all of the comments associated with the “Rapid Response” blog.  I would have commented there, but the comments feature was closed.

    Let me say first that I have never encountered a more open-minded anti-Mormon as yourself.  You really do deal fairly with the issues—although not entirely accurately, nor do you respond to like-minded comments with complete objectivity.  The very fact that your response to our (Gray Man, Howard Hatch and myself)contributions to this comment thread include numerous links to your own articles is evidence that you favor your own opinion.  Is that truly objective?  But, I do admit you try to be fair.

    It is clear to me that you, a fifth-generation Mormon—now “Christian”, are firmly entrenched in a life of providing assistance and information to less-informed, struggling “Christians” through your Summit Ministries commitments.  This includes your analysis of Mormons and other faiths.  What is truly unfortunate is that so many followers of your blogs and articles find themselves in the same condition with you of having been indoctrinated by alternative sources.

    It is astonishing to me that so many would draw conclusions about anyone’s faith based solely upon what they get from enemies and protractors of that faith.  Again, I give you ample praise for dealing fairly with the Mormon faith—as you understand it.  If I understood it as you do, I would feel compelled to offer a “voice of warning” myself.  But, I don’t.

    If you want to become a nuclear physicist, would you seek out advise and education from a botanist or a biologist?  Similarly, if you desire to know more about the teachings of the Mormon Church, why would you rely on information disseminated by non-Mormon and even anti-Mormon sources?  It is like embracing the Republican platform only because it sounds good, having never been exposed to the Democrat platform to know why they are so misguided.  It is not wisdom.

    The toxic opposition to Mormons by those labeling us as a “cult” must consider the root of the word.  A cult can be described as any group whose beliefs differ from yours.  Does that mean that the doctrine of the Trinity (which differs from the teachings of Jesus and the apostles) can render traditional Christianity to be considered a cult?  It is complete absurdity!  It is just silly.

    Additionally astonishing to me is—and some of you who possess some integrity and will accept this description of yourself—that those of you who have not read the Book of Mormon cover to cover (every word) with a sincere desire to know of its truthfulness, are willing to assume a position of authority about Mormon doctrine.  If you have not read the book (an ancient record of scripture which centers on Jesus Christ), prayed sincerely to God for inspiration and/or confirmation of your suspicions, it follows naturally that you cannot establish a position of knowledge or authority in your hostility to the church.

    Jesus said you will know his follower “by their fruits.”  What Mormon do you know personally (besides Harry Reid) who you can truthfully label as “evil?”  Ok, Harry Reid is not evil.  But, he does not well represent the Mormon faith.

    Your vote for a third-party candidate or a non-vote is indeed a vote for Pres. Obama.  If you don’t understand that, you don’t understand our political system in America.  Can a Christian vote for a Mormon?  The very question is born in ignorance and misunderstanding of Mormon doctrine.  There is only one central figure in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It is Jesus Christ (yes, the same Jesus Christ embraced by “Christians”). 

    As for the White Horse prophesy or any other misunderstood rumor, Mitt Romney cannot be the fulfillment of such a prophesy.  Since the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith, the authority and succession of priesthood leadership in the church has always consistently followed the succession of senior apostles.  It is the pattern established by Jesus Christ himself.  Mitt Romney is not and is not ever likely to be included and therefore cannot be that prophet.

    Honestly, it is complete futility to debate these issues with you Dr. Bywater or with anyone else who has not tested our doctrine by the measurement of the Book of Mormon.  It has a converting power within itself.  It is—like the Bible—the word of God and was recorded and delivered by ancient prophets who loved the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel.  There is no book on earth that teaches more clearly the value of the Savior’s atoning sacrifice for mankind.  There is no other doctrinal essay in existence that reveals the true nature of God as clearly.  There is no record in the world that gives more hope and positive encouragement to God’s children to justify faithful obedience to the doctrines of Christ.  “By their fruits ye shall know them.”

    Please, all of you, try to resist the silliness of rejecting Mitt Romney or any other Mormon based solely on how outsiders describe the faith.  Even you, Dr. Bywater, honestly, you reveal yourself by your own claims.  It is clear to me that you have a bias.  I have no way of identifying the reason for that bias, but it seems consistent with others who have left the church—some unreconciled offense perhaps.  Again, I respect you for dealing fairly with most of the issues.  But you are clearly misinformed about some of our doctrine. 

    Readers, please come to the source and learn for yourself.  You will find nothing to fear.  You will find only that you have been misinformed.  You will embrace it as the lifeblood of your earthly existence.  Come out of darkness and enjoy the added light and truth the Lord desires to give you.  We hold sacred truths.  We keep nothing secret.

    If you want to communicate with me directly, here’s my email address:  .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

    Max

  • October 03, 2012 // 10:53 am //  # 
    Kevin James Bywater's avatar Kevin James Bywater

    Max: Well, that was quite a passive-aggressive protest. Yes, that is what it was. Permit me to explain:

    You say I’m open-minded but then accuse me of not being otherwise. You say I’m biased but feign that you are not. My problem is that I point people to what I’ve written (given that I’ve done the work already), and then seek attention to what you have written. And, to top it off, you pull the ultimate Mormon prejudice and insinuate some nefarious motive. You commend and then condemn. That is some rhetorical finesse!

    It would be strange were it not so familiar. I’ve encountered it many times before. But this is a new season. So…

    First, you are barking up the wrong tree when you go on about voting for a third-party candidate, or when you get fussed about the White Horse Prophecy. I’ve advocated for neither of these. You are importing these concerns from elsewhere. Please don’t impute to me things I’ve not said.

    Second, you still have not pointed up anything in what I’ve written that has gotten Mormon teaching wrong. I’ve drawn from LDS sources for official Mormon teaching. If you think I’ve gotten something wrong, then point it out and provide some documentation. But please don’t go on without doing that. Accusations that are not identifiable and fully supported may be deleted from the discussion. Simply put, they are unbecoming and less than virtuous.

    Third, you continue to protest that Mormons are Christians. That is to be expected. But I’ve addressed that at length. You’ve not wrestled with what was written. On why Mormonism actually is not Christian, please see, “But I Am a Mormon…Aren’t Christians Mormons Too?? (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=523) and “Learning a Lesson from the LDS Newsroom? (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=163). And do note that we are only asking that the same principles be applied that the LDS Newsroom applies. That should be fair enough.

    Fourth, I have read the Book of Mormon through, several times. I used to believe it was true. Then God rescued me, drew me to himself, granted me his Spirit, and enabled me to love Jesus even more than I had ever dreamed possible. You may call me anti-Mormon, but I see that as a misnomer. I am someone who is pro-Jesus and who cares about Mormons. You’d just have to ask my Mormon friends and relatives, I suppose. And this is why I’ve written so much about Mormonism (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=612).

    Oh, and finally, to suppose that someone can know about Mormonism only by going to the source is an evasion. I have gone to the source. My essays are fully documented. Indeed, the piece on whether Christians could vote for Mormons had ample documentation illustrating the teachings of the Mormon Church from official church websites (http://bit.ly/NBCZR6). The truth is out. It is accessible. Anyone can click the links, read the documentation, and see for themselves. And that is quite enough.

    Cheers,
    Kevin

    P.S. I’m not “Dr” just yet. But thanks for the compliment.

  • October 04, 2012 // 09:13 pm //  # 
    Max's avatar Max

    Mr. Bywater,

    Guilty as charged.  Well…, sort of.

    If I have offended your sensibilities, I apologize.  I commend you once again for your clarity of thinking and uncluttered rationale.  If you were a college debate coach, I would send my children and grandchildren to be mentored by you—but not about scripture or religion.

    You see, you and I have a fundamental divide in our backgrounds.  You have come from Mormon Church membership and departed into the ranks of innumerable opponents of the faith in a feigned (to use your term) claim to a lofty concern for Mormons—as though we are doomed to banishment to outer darkness unless we repent and embrace your version of historic Christianity—despite our apparent goodness.  The problem with that premise is that “historic” or “traditional” Christianity has its own thorns of confusion created by a long line of revisionists and professors of doctrine who have blurred the lines of clarity left by the apostles who taught the pure doctrines of Christ.

    I, on the other hand, have had ample opportunity to study, debate and engage anti-Mormon intellectuals, elites and even some toxic, rabid fundamentalist “Christians” who all seem to want to “save” me.  It is difficult to be a Mormon without being barraged on a regular basis by opposition.

    By agreeing with you that I poked a little to hard into your ribs, still—although I accept that I was too harsh—I am not diminished.  Let me explain:  You press me to identify what you have said or written which inaccurately represents Mormon doctrine and “point it out and provide documentation” or it must be deleted from the discussion.  The reason that approach is problematic is that as soon as I begin to clarify doctrine which you have misrepresented (and I certainly could), even in great detail, you already have your quiver full of additional arrows with which to continue to wage battle.  It is futility.  It drives away the Spirit of God and blocks inspired revelation.

    You reduce me to the “familiar” Mormon bias you have previously encountered so many times.  You say it with such contempt.  I freely admit that I am biased.  I am certainly not ashamed of it as is evidenced by my many previous comments.  In fact, I am so biased that legions of armed and threatening foes could not shake it from me—even unto death.

    Unyielding devotion is not uncommon among faithful Latter-day Saints.  Where does that come from?  Why are we so determined?

    You and I can agree on many things.  Let us agree on one more very important distinction that joins us together.  We both love and adore our Savior, Jesus Christ (and please, let all detractors put aside the absurd notion that Mormons have a “different” Christ).  During his mortal ministry, Jesus delivered deep and abiding truths which, by their very nature, must have originated with God, the Father.  Jesus is our advocate with the Father and His mission is to refine us and prepare us to return to the Father.  His atoning sacrifice, His cleansing blood, His suffering in Gethsemane and His agony and death on the cross are signs that he descended below all things that He may know from experience how to succor us and communicate with us in our deepest need and despair.

    The notion that revelation ceased with the apostles is just silly.  It is at least counter-intuitive in that we must relegate ourselves to isolation if we cannot establish two-way communication with the Father through Christ.  Why pray at all if we do not believe in revelation?

    So, If we can indeed receive answers to our prayers, why is it so far fetched to believe that He can reveal to us pure truths undefiled by intellectuals and elitists who pretend to know all there is to know about His mind and will?  If God is the source of all truth, would He not be the one to whom we should address our questions and concerns through fasting and prayer?

    Endless debate about the differences in doctrine or comparisons of opposing points of doctrine within scripture is only productive if for the purpose of gaining deeper understanding of the big picture and greater enlightenment.  But it is counter to the nature of God to argue ourselves into oblivion over interpretations of scripture.  Indeed, the Spirit of God withdraws from us and we are left to ourselves in such debates.

    The Lord communicates with us by means of His Holy Spirit.  The role and calling of the Holy Ghost is to witness of the truths in scripture and words delivered by holy prophets, apostles and the Savior Himself.  It is done in quiet tones.  It happens in moments of pondering and prayer and introspection.  We are taught from on High by God Himself after careful preparation in times of reverence and humility.  It certainly does not happen in the presence of debate and confusion and contention.

    When I say, “Come to the source.”  It is this studying, pondering, praying, exercising humility and listening in reverence and introspection of which I speak.  It is sacred.

    Sadly, if it really is true that you have read the Book of Mormon several times, I say it is truly rare that you did not hear that “Still Small Voice of the Spirit” testifying of its truthfulness.  My bias is born in the sure knowledge that it is true.  I only believed it to be true for many years.  Now, I “know” it to be true.  It then follows naturally that all of the connections to it of prophets, apostles, priesthood authority, temples, modern and current revelation, clarification of long-held confusion over Biblical interpretations, doctrines that encourage our hope for a literal return to Him, the nature of God, doctrines about the future of the Church and Kingdom of God and many, many other things have literally been delivered by the Savior, Jesus Christ Himself.

    Jesus Christ is the only God with which we are concerned.  He is literally the Son of God, the Savior of all men.  His atonement is our only path for return to the Father.  It is not repentance alone that brings us back to the Father, but the cleansing blood of Christ.  Without Him, we have no future.  It is not our works that qualify us.  Our works a simply evidence of our devotion to Him.  That is why every member of the Church serves without pay, without collecting contributions, without expectating anything in return.  It is also why the Mormon Church has vast assets—because of faithful tithe payers who pay not by compulsion, but because of gratitude for His blessings and sacrifice in our behalf—gladly and respectfully and reverently.

    I hope we can agree that we should all continue to search for truth.  Truth comes in quiet moments from the Lord Himself.  If any are confused or feel a twinge of doubt about your faith, I commend the Book of Mormon.  That book cannot be said to contradict core, undefiled Christian beliefs in any particular.

    Men, even prominent leaders of the Mormon Church, have made statements and said things that were not in harmony with the truth.  They alone account for their words.  The truth will go forth undefiled as long as it comes from “the source,” God himself through personal revelation.

    Mormons are not “Christians” in the historic identity of Christianity because we reject the doctrine of the Trinity (one God manifest in three different forms).  If that is your greatest stumbling block, it will ever remain.  Study the scriptures in context, open your mind and heart to modern and ongoing revelation and seek guidance through prayer and fasting that He will lead you to further light and knowledge through the witness of the Holy Spirit.

    And, Kevin, please forgive me if I have offended you.  So many lies and distortions abound.  You have not embraced most of them.  I believe you are sincere.  I beg you to try again.

    Max

  • October 05, 2012 // 01:23 am //  # 
    Kevin James Bywater's avatar Kevin James Bywater

    Max:

    I appreciate your sincerity and your tenacity. But decrying what you call “endless debate,” only after accusing me of misrepresenting and misunderstanding Mormonism, yet again is that familiar passive-aggressive maneuver. But not to worry, my tender sensibilities are yet unscathed.

    To my mind, when accusations are made, the accuser, who is making the contention, is obligated to justify the accusation. Hence my request that you identify where I’ve misrepresented or mislead, and then provide documentation that would support your charge. Again, you have demurred doing that. But being contentious in such a fashion is unbecoming, Max. 

    You did protest the charge that the Mormon Church teaches “a different Jesus.” Given that this is a common claim, permit me to explain and justify it. To my mind, there are two ways of approaching this. By way of preface, I imagine both you and I agree that not all things said about Jesus truly honor him. For instance, Jehovah’s Witnesses say that Jesus actually was Michael the Archangel. For another, Muslims affirm his prophethood but deny his deity. But truth is not relative, and falsehoods are not truths.

    So, one way of approaching this point of dispute is to suppose that Muslims, Mormons, and Christians worship the same God. But given that not everything said about God is true, it is possible that some teachings actually are blasphemous; that is, they deny of God what is true or ascribe to him what is false. Even so, it just could be the case that we all have as the object of our words and worship the very same God. It would just be that not all words are true and not all worship is God-honoring. I explored this consideration here: “Do Muslims, Mormons, and Christians Worship the Same God?? (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=561).

    It is just possible that Mormons don’t worship the wrong Jesus, just that what the Mormon Church teaches is wrong about Jesus. Discussions of definitions may be found here: “But I Am a Mormon…Aren’t Christians Mormons Too?? (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=523) and “Learning a Lesson from the LDS Newsroom? (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=163).

    Another approach is to say that, yes, the Jesus of Mormonism is a different and false Christ. You’ve heard this before, of course. And I understand that it rubs you the wrong way. When I was a Mormon, it bothered me too. Then I began to example the Bible and discovered that it is true that what the Mormon Church teaches differs so very much from biblical revelation. (Of course, the essay above established this in some detail.) Further explorations of what the Mormon Church has wrongly said about God, or has said about the wrong gods, may be found here: “Mormonism and Lesser Gods? (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=656), and “Mormonism: God was a man who became a god…and so can you!? (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=712).

    I pointed to these resources above. Here I simply want to remind and note that your contentions have been prayerfully and sincerely considered.

    An essay I have not yet pointed up in our discussion is this one: “Mormonism: Testimony to Another Jesus” (http://bit.ly/Inb7KI). Perhaps that will be clarifying.

    But don’t take my word for it; LDS leaders have said, admitted, even proclaimed that the Jesus of the Mormon Church is not the Jesus of Christian churches. Here are a couple examples, and do notice the publication sources:

    “It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshipped by the Mormons or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints…. We cannot obtain salvation and eternal life by worshipping fake Christs or by living the doctrines and commandments of men.” - Elder Brockbank in Ensign (http://www.lds.org/ensign/1977/05/the-living-christ)

    “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 Fulness 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.” - President Gordon B. Hinckley, 1998 (http://www.ldschurchnews.com/articles/31188/Crown-of-gospel-is-upon-our-heads.html)

    So, please note that it is a legitimate inquiry, and clearly a warranted claim, to say that what the LDS Church teaches about Jesus is radically different from what the Bible and the Christian church teach about Jesus. And you have implied this yourself in your rejection of the Trinity and your advocacy of LDS doctrine. And there is no need to posture Mormons as the victims of vicious persecutors and attackers and detractors. That would be to slip into the passive posture that usually follows on the more aggressive one. 

    Just this week I posted a new essay (one that has been lingering in draft form for a while). Perhaps it will be bring some light: “Headline: Mormon Church Attacks Christian Churches” (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=751). It is a bit of a reality check. To the minds of Christians, the Mormon teaching regarding the great apostasy is not simply offensive to us, it is demeaning and dishonoring to Jesus.

    One final note: Your words about the Trinity actually are misleading - that is, you said it was “one God manifest in three different forms.” But that is not correct. It is not unusual for critics of Christianity to misconstrue the doctrine. The doctrine of the Trinity holds that God is three persons, simultaneously, eternally. While it is not a lengthy piece, would you please take a few minutes to glance at a brief, introductory essay on the doctrine? - “Thinking about the Trinity? (http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=396). A much longer study is Robert Bowman’s outline discussion of the doctrine (http://irr.org/trinity-outline.html).

    As I mentioned above, if you want to know why I write so much about Mormonism, I explain that here: http://www.kevinbywater.com/?p=612.

    Max, I wish you only the very best. I pray that you will come to know the actual truth about the Bible, the glory of God’s grace, his fabulous forgiveness, and the warm embrace of the true Jesus Christ.

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