Is Mormonism Christian?

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The Bible. Image by Alex Grodkiewicz. Adapted for Redemption of Humanity. Used under licence.
The Book of Mormon. Image from Wikimedia Commons. Public domain.

Christian Answer

Introduction

No, Mormonism, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is not Christian. Understandably, this answer may trouble some people. After all, Mormons believe they are Christians, regard the Bible as scripture, and even believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Saviour of the world. How could such a group not be Christian? The reason why Mormonism is not Christian is that it denies central biblical teachings of Christianity, which Christians have believed for the past 2,000 years.

Central Biblical Teachings

There are certain biblical doctrines that one must believe in order to be a Christian; they focus primarily on Christology (who is Jesus) and soteriology (how does one get to Heaven). In order to be a Christian, one has to believe in the biblical Jesus; he is the second Person of the Trinity, of one being with the Father and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19, ESVUK), the only God in all existence (Isaiah 44:8), who created all things from nothing and was never himself created (John 1:1–3, 14). A Jesus who was created, or who is one God amongst many, is not the Jesus of the Bible, and therefore such a Jesus cannot save.

Furthermore, one has to believe in the biblical gospel (message of salvation). The biblical gospel is that Jesus died for all our sins and rose again bodily (1 Corinthians 15:1–4), so that whoever believes in this, and accepts him as their only Saviour (Acts 4:12), will inherit life in Heaven forever by his grace and works alone, without us having to do a single thing to earn it (Ephesians 2:8–10). A gospel which requires one to join a church or group to be saved, or which requires one to follow laws and ordinances to be saved and ascend to godhood, is not the gospel of the Bible, and therefore such a gospel cannot save. As we will see in this article, Mormonism rejects central biblical teachings in both the areas of Christology and soteriology, as well as other important doctrines.

Are All Christian Churches Apostate?

Joseph Smith, Mormonism’s founder, claimed that, in 1820, when he was 14 years old, he had a vision of Jesus Christ and God the Father in the woods of Sharon, Vermont, while praying about which church to join.1 In this vision, Jesus purportedly told him not to join any of the Christian churches, because they were all apostate (i.e. they all fell away from Christian truth).2 Through this and other alleged experiences, Mormons claim that God chose Joseph Smith to restore the true church and gospel,3 both of which were lost in a universal apostasy shortly after the deaths of Jesus’ apostles.4 In 1830, Joseph Smith founded the Mormon Church.5

When one considers the fact, however, that Mormonism was only founded in the 1800s, whereas Christians have been around since the first century AD, this raises several crucial questions. For instance, why would Jesus abandon his followers for 1,800 years when he promised he would be with them always (Matthew 28:20)? Did Jesus really fail in his promise of protecting the church from the gates of Hell for almost two millennia before Joseph Smith finally restored it (Matthew 16:18)? What evidence is there to suggest that every Christian church is apostate, except for the testimony of a single eyewitness? Mormonism was founded upon the claim that all Christian churches are illegitimate and false and that the Mormon Church alone is the true one. This is a valid reason for why Christians, who have been faithfully worshipping Christ for centuries before Mormonism was even founded, have never considered Mormonism to be another Christian denomination, but rather, a cult.6

Is the Bible Alone Scripture? Was It Corrupted?

Christians have always regarded the Bible alone as scripture and believe it is the Word of God. Mormons regard not only the Bible as scripture, though, but also the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants (note that Mormons only use the King James Version of the Bible, because they believe it is the most accurate English translation).7 Mormons teach that the Bible is the Word of God ‘as far as it is translated correctly’ and that some parts of it were changed or corrupted over time from the original message.8 For Mormons, in order to properly understand the Bible and its pure, incorrupt teachings, they must read the additional Mormon scriptures or listen to a Mormon president’s teachings—whose words carry the same authority as scripture in Mormonism.9 Joseph Smith taught that the Book of Mormon is ‘the most correct book on earth’ and, therefore, more correct than the Bible itself.10

There is a clear problem with these claims, though: if a Mormon ever encounters something in the Bible that contradicts Mormon theology or teachings, he or she can simply dismiss it as being a corrupted part and, instead, refer to the other Mormon scriptures or a Mormon president’s teachings. This makes it impossible to verify the claims of Mormonism against biblical teachings and destroys all trust in the Bible, placing it entirely on Mormon scriptures and prophets instead, which alone contain ‘the fullness of truth’. How can Mormonism be considered Christian when it attacks Christian scripture in such a way? Furthermore, how can Mormons claim the Bible was corrupted when Jesus himself said that ‘Scripture cannot be broken’ (John 10:35)?11

How Many Gods Are There?

Mormonism teaches that there are millions of gods and goddesses who rule their own worlds12 and that God the Father has a goddess wife, whom they call the Heavenly Mother.13 Mormonism is, therefore, a polytheistic religion—the belief that more than one God exists. Mormons believe that God the Father himself was once a man on another planet, created by another god;14 he and his wife became the god and goddess of our world by following their god’s commandments.15 Mormonism teaches that all Mormons, likewise, have the ability to become gods and goddesses and to rule over their own worlds, provided they marry in a Mormon temple and follow the teachings of the Mormon Church faithfully.16

In contrast, Christianity teaches that there is only one God in existence and rejects the notions that God the Father has a wife and that humans can become gods. Christianity is a monotheistic religion—the belief that only one God exists, who is supreme over all. In Isaiah 43:10, God said: ‘Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me’. Moreover, the God of the Bible is the creator of all things: ‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honour and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created’ (Revelation 4:11). Creation must have begun at some point, and since the Bible teaches that God created all things, God must have existed forever. Moses said: ‘Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God’ (Psalm 90:2). How can Mormonism be considered Christian when it teaches that millions of gods exist, whereas Christianity teaches that only the God of Scripture exists?

Is God Triune or Not?

Mormons reject the doctrine of the Holy Trinity and teach that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate gods, who are united in purpose, but not being.17 Christians, on the other hand, believe in the Trinity, which teaches that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are co-equal, co-eternal, and one in both purpose and being and, therefore, three Persons in one God. The scriptural justification for this is that the Bible calls the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit God (e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:3; John 20:28; Acts 5:3–4) and, at the same time, teaches that there is only one God (e.g. Isaiah 45:5).

Since the beginning of church history, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity has not only always been a central aspect of Christian belief, but also the primary belief by which Christians have always distinguished between orthodoxy and heresy. As the Athanasian Creed18 states: ‘Whosoever desires to be saved must, above all, hold the catholic19 faith. Whoever does not keep it whole and undefiled will without doubt perish eternally. And the catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the substance’.20 By rejecting the Trinity, Mormons have made a significant departure from historic Christianity.

How Is Jesus God’s Son?

Mormonism teaches that all humans once pre-existed in Heaven before coming to Earth and that God the Father and his wife, the Heavenly Mother, created (and still create) all humans and angels through procreation21—including Jesus Christ and Satan.22 According to Mormons, Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the same way we are: by being created as God’s spirit offspring.23 For Mormons, Christ is special in that he was the heavenly parents’ firstborn spirit child.24

Christians, however, do not believe Jesus is a Son of God, like the Mormons; they believe he is the Son of God (1 John 4:15). The Bible teaches that, in contrast to Jesus, who is God’s only Son (John 3:16), Christians only become God’s sons and daughters when he converts them to the faith through adoption by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14–16); we were, therefore, not once God’s spirit children in Heaven (see also 1 Corinthians 15:42–46). On the other hand, the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is God in flesh, the creator of all things:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1–3)

Jesus Christ is, therefore, God’s Son in the sense that he is fully God by nature, and because he is the creator of all things, Jesus was never himself created; he is God’s natural and eternal Son. To further confirm this, the Bible says Jesus ‘was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God’ (John 5:18). When Mormons say Jesus is the Son of God, it does not mean the same thing as when Christians and the Bible call him the Son of God.

Have Christians Lost the Gospel or the Fullness of It?

Mormons teach that Joseph Smith restored the gospel (from the Greek word euangelion, meaning ‘good news’), which Christians have lost, and that the Mormon Church alone contains the fullness of the gospel. This begs the question, though: how could Christians have ‘lost the gospel’ or ‘the fullness of it’ when the gospel message itself is contained in the Bible, and Christians have always had the Bible? In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul defines what the gospel is:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, … (1 Corinthians 15:1–4)

Here we see the good news (gospel) is that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again from the dead for our salvation. Paul taught that Jesus died for us so that we may ‘live with him’ in Heaven forever (1 Thessalonians 5:9–10) and that we inherit eternal life by grace through faith in Christ, ‘not a result of works’ (Ephesians 2:8–9). Since the very beginning, Christians have always believed in this, so how could Christians have lost the gospel or its fullness?

In contrast, Mormons teach that the ‘Gospel of the Son of God that has been revealed is a plan or system of laws and ordinances, by strict obedience to which the people who inhabit this earth are assured that they may return again into the presence of the Father and the Son’.25 Mormons also teach that exaltation to godhood in the Celestial Kingdom26 is ‘available through the Atonement of Christ, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel’.27 Of course, this gospel—which is polytheistic and based on human works, rather than Christ’s works and grace alone—is not the same as the one Paul taught in the Bible. So, what can we conclude other than that the Mormon gospel is not Paul’s gospel? Paul warned:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8–9)

Conclusion

Not only do all Christian denominations and churches regard Mormonism to be a cult, but Mormonism even rejects basic and fundamental Christian and Bible teachings that Christians have always held. There are many other issues with Mormonism that this article has not discussed, but the conclusion is clear: although Mormonism looks and acts like Christianity, it is not Christian. It is a cult that was founded upon the belief that all Christian churches are corrupt and false and that the Mormon Church alone is the one true religion.

Footnotes

1. R. Philip Roberts, Mormonism unmasked: confronting the contradictions between Mormon beliefs and true Christianity (Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 1998) 28.

2. Roberts, Mormonism unmasked, 28–29.

3. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ‘Joseph Smith,’ Gospel Topics, n.d. Accessed 27 December 2020, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/joseph-smith?lang=eng.

4. Russel M. Nelson, ‘The restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ: a bicentennial proclamation to the world,’ The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5 April 2020. Accessed 27 December 2020, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/the-restoration-of-the-fulness-of-the-gospel-of-jesus-christ/a-bicentennial-proclamation-to-the-world?lang=eng.

5. Roberts, Mormonism unmasked, 33.

6. According to Dr. Charles Braden, a cult is “any religious group which differs significantly in one or more respects as to belief or practice from those religious groups which are regarded as the normative expressions of religion in our total culture” (Martin 2019, 13). Moreover, Dr. Walter Martin says that a cult can be defined as “a group of people gathered about a specific person or person’s misinterpretation of the Bible. … The Mormons, by their own admission, adhere to those interpretations found in the writings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young” (Martin 2019, 13–14).

7. Because most modern English translations of the Bible are based on even earlier, and more numerous, biblical manuscripts than those which the King James Version (KJV) is based on, it is unscholarly to say that the KJV is ‘the most accurate’ translation. Note that while Christians will still say that the KJV is the Word of God, Mormons cannot even say that, because of their belief that parts of the Bible have been corrupted, hence they only believe it contains the Word of God.

8. Bodie Hodge and Roger Patterson, eds., World religions and cults: counterfeits of Christianity (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2015), 257–58.

9. Hodge and Patterson, World religions and cults, 238–39.

10. Walter Martin, The kingdom of the cults: the definitive work on the subject, 6th ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2019), 223.

11. When Jesus said that Scripture cannot be broken in that context, he was teaching the Jews that no part of Scripture can be changed or corrupted, and so they must accept its authority. This refutes the Mormon claim that parts of the Bible have been corrupted by Christians.

12. Roberts, Mormonism unmasked, 46–7.

13. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ‘Mother in Heaven,’ Gospel Topics Essays, October 2015. Accessed 27 December 2020, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics-essays/mother-in-heaven?lang=eng.

14. Martin, The kingdom of the cults, 272–75.

15. Hodge and Patterson, World religions and cults, 241–43.

16. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ‘Chapter 47: exaltation,’ Gospel Principles, n.d. Accessed 27 December 2020, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-47-exaltation?lang=eng.

17. Hodge and Patterson, World religions and cults, 240–41.

18. The Athanasian Creed is an important Christian statement of faith which outlines and explains clearly the doctrine of the Trinity and was written to combat the Arian heresy (Arianism rejects Jesus’ and the Holy Spirit’s deity). Its authorship and date of origin remain unknown (it was named after Athanasius of Alexandria, the 20th bishop of Alexandria in the Copic Orthodox Church, who formulated the Nicene Creed in 325 AD to defend the Trinity), but it is widely accepted by most Western churches and has been used since the sixth century.

19. ‘Catholic’ here means ‘universal’. It does not refer to the Roman Catholic Church.

20. Paul T. McCain et al., eds., Concordia: the Lutheran confessions: a reader’s edition of the Book of Concord, 2nd ed., trans. William H. T. Dau and Gerhard F. Bente (St Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2007).

21. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ‘Chapter 2: our heavenly family,’ Gospel Principles, n.d. Accessed 27 December 2020, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-2-our-heavenly-family?lang=eng.

22. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ‘Premortality,’ Gospel Topics, n.d. Accessed 28 December 2020, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/premortality?lang=eng.

23. Roberts, Mormonism unmasked, 66.

24. Roberts, Mormonism unmasked, 66.

25. Noel B. Reynolds, ‘Gospel of Jesus Christ,’ The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, vol. 1: 556–60 (New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992). Accessed 29 December 2020, https://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Gospel_of_Jesus_Christ.

26. In Mormonism, the Celestial Kingdom is the highest of the three levels of Heaven, in which Mormons are exalted to godhood, rule their own worlds with their spouses, and populate them with spirit children. The Bible does not teach this.

27. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ‘Becoming like God,’ Gospel Topics Essays, February 2014. Accessed 26 December 2020, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics-essays/becoming-like-god?lang=eng.

Reference List

Hodge, Bodie and Roger Patterson, eds. World religions and cults: counterfeits of Christianity. Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2015.

Martin, Walter. The kingdom of the cults: the definitive work on the subject. 6th ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2019.

McCain, Paul T., Edward A. Engelbrecht, Robert C. Baker, and Gene E. Veith, eds. Concordia: the Lutheran confessions: a reader’s edition of the Book of Concord. 2nd ed. Translated by William H. T. Dau and Gerhard F. Bente. St Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2007.

Nelson, Russel M. ‘The restoration of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ: a bicentennial proclamation to the world.’ The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 5 April 2020. Accessed 27 December 2020. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/scriptures/the-restoration-of-the-fulness-of-the-gospel-of-jesus-christ/a-bicentennial-proclamation-to-the-world?lang=eng.

Reynolds, Noel B. ‘Gospel of Jesus Christ.’ In The Encyclopedia of Mormonism, vol. 1: 556–60. New York, NY: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1992. Accessed 29 December 2020. https://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Gospel_of_Jesus_Christ.

Roberts, R. Philip. Mormonism unmasked: confronting the contradictions between Mormon beliefs and true Christianity. Nashville, TN: Broadman and Holman, 1998.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. ‘Becoming like God.’ Gospel Topics Essays, February 2014. Accessed 26 December 2020. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics-essays/becoming-like-god?lang=eng.

———. ‘Chapter 2: our heavenly family.’ Gospel Principles, n.d. Accessed 27 December 2020. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-2-our-heavenly-family?lang=eng.

———. ‘Chapter 47: exaltation.’ Gospel Principles, n.d. Accessed 27 December 2020. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-principles/chapter-47-exaltation?lang=eng.

———. ‘Joseph Smith.’ Gospel Topics, n.d. Accessed 27 December 2020. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/joseph-smith?lang=eng.

———. ‘Mother in Heaven.’ Gospel Topics Essays, October 2015. Accessed 27 December 2020. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics-essays/mother-in-heaven?lang=eng.

———. ‘Premortality.’ Gospel Topics, n.d. Accessed 28 December 2020. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/premortality?lang=eng.

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