QUESTIONS FROM CHRISTIANS ABOUT MORMONISM
Is Mormonism Christian?
This question can only be properly answered if there is full agreement on how to even define the term "Christian". However, the doctrines of Mormonism do NOT coincide with the doctrines of historic, biblical, and orthodox Christianity. Where nearly all of historic, traditional and "orthodox" Christianity agrees on the fundamental doctrines of the nature of God, the nature of man, the definition and means of salvation...Mormonism's doctrines are very different. Therefore generally speaking, Mormonism is not considered Christian in terms of its doctrine.
In recent decades, however, there has been a very big public relations push on the part of the LDS Church to appear more “Christian.” They have stopped discussing their unbiblical doctrines in public, they have adopted a significant amount of “evangelical” language (though usually with different meanings) and have done a number of things to change their image so that to the casual observer, it would appear to be just another conservative, wholesome, Bible-believing Christian church. This has been the source of a lot of confusion for Christians—and for Mormons, for that matter. They have historically set themselves apart from Christianity, so it is quite a switch for them to now be sidling up next to traditional Christianity. They have done this through a very massive image change, but not through a doctrinal change.
Why is it so important that you keep Mormonism and Christianity separate?
Sometimes it would seem that the whole push to keep Mormonism and Christianity separate is just a petty drawing of lines in the sand. Nothing could be further from the truth. If we examine the core doctrines of Mormonism, they are nothing at all like the core doctrines of Christianity. This is something that many Christians and many Mormons simply don’t know. Casual discussions of matters of faith between Christians and Mormons often lead to both scratching their heads and saying, “I don’t see what the big deal is, it seems like we believe the same thing.” However, it’s like an American and a Briton talking about “football”. They are speaking of two completely different games, but if they are unaware of the differences, the discussion can go quite a ways before they realize that they’re not talking about the same thing.
If Mormonism succeeds in convincing the world that they are just another Christian denomination, then Christians will stop seeing Mormonism as needing the truth about Jesus, plain and simple. They will stop witnessing to them. And our goal is to help make sure this doesn’t happen.
How do Mormons really believe all that stuff in the Book of Mormon?
Before you jump to judge Mormons for believing something bizarre, keep in mind that it has nothing to do with intelligence. The culture of Mormonism creates an environment where faith that goes against reason is seen as noble and virtuous. This type of faith is strong faith, and strong faith is good faith. Many also have an “experience” when they pray about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon or the Mormon Church. It’s usually a powerful emotional response, and they are taught that it is the Holy Ghost confirming the truthfulness of something. Now, it may very well be a spiritual experience, but not all spiritual experiences are of God.
What is this “burning in the bosom” all about?
Mormons place a very high degree of importance on their “testimony” or “spiritual witness” of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon or the LDS Church. In Chapter 10 of the Book of Moroni in the Book of Mormon, it states that if you ponder these things (meaning the Book of Mormon) and ask God with faith and real intent, he will “manifest the truth” of it to you. Elsewhere in the Doctrine & Covenants, it says: “ But, behold, I [God] say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” (D&C 9:8) So what is it? Often it is described as a powerful emotional and/or physiological “spine-tingling” experience. It could also be a genuine spiritual experience, but we know from the Bible that we are to test the spirits to see if they are of God. If Satan himself can appear as an angel of light, then it’s reasonable to conclude that the demonic realm is capable of evoking a positive experience for the purpose of deceiving someone.
While we Christians may have experienced the same “spine-tingling” sensations that we may attribute to the Holy Spirit, we also do not base our faith on these things. Sometimes the feelings may be genuine; sometimes they are not. The “burning in the bosom” is a very dangerous way of determining the truthfulness of something, because it implies that we can always trust what we feel, and we know from the Bible, not to mention from our own life experiences, that this is not the case! What we do trust is what God has told us in His Word and through Jesus. That is the standard of truth in Christianity, not the feelings and sensations of our hearts.
What is the “Baptism of the Dead”?
It is a ritual performed in the temples where people who have died are baptized by proxy into the Mormon Church. The teaching is that people who died before they had a chance to hear the Mormon Gospel will, if they are baptized, have an opportunity to receive the Mormon gospel in the afterlife. This is quite strongly attached to Mormons’ interest genealogy; they do research on their ancestors primarily to baptize them into the Mormon Church, so that they may have the opportunity to share in the spiritual blessings of Mormonism.
What are the temples all about?
The Mormon temples are usually large, ornate buildings where many of the rituals of Mormonism take place, including “temple marriages” and baptisms of the dead. Temple work is seen as necessary for exaltation. Temples are not gathering places for meetings and worship; they are specifically for rituals, and only Mormons who have been deemed worthy may enter the temples. Temples differ from meeting houses (or stakehouses), which function as gathering places for worship services. Temple rituals are not performed there, and meeting houses are open to all Mormons, and visitors as well.
What is the difference between salvation and exaltation in Mormonism?
One thing we need to keep clear is that Mormonism uses many of the same terms as Christianity, but with different meanings. (For more information on this, click here.) In brief, there are two “types” of salvation that Mormonism teaches. Universal salvation is resurrection at the end of the age, which is what Jesus Christ came to give all of humanity, regardless of their acceptance of the gospel. This is usually what Mormons mean when they use the term “salvation.” So in a nutshell, the sacrifice of Jesus bought all of humanity the right to have an afterlife. But the type and quality of the afterlife you have is up to you and your own efforts, both here on Earth and in the afterlife.
Sometimes called “individual salvation,” or “eternal progression,” exaltation is the process by which a person may achieve godhood--if they are worthy and have gone through all the proper procedures. While some of the work of exaltation occurs after death, there are certain things that must have happened during one’s life on Earth to even qualify you for the path to godhood.
Do Mormons really believe they can become gods?
As a rule, this teaching doesn’t make its way into the public arena very much, but this is still the teaching and the doctrine of Mormonism. Mormons who are worthy, who have met the requirements (including a temple marriage, obedience to the laws of Mormonism and ordinances of the Church) may become gods themselves, just as God is a god. Those who have not met those requirements will be awarded a lesser degree of glory.
Do Mormons believe that God was once a man?
This is another teaching that they don’t like to discuss because it is particularly offensive to Christians. Nevertheless, this doctrine was unambiguously taught from the time of Joseph Smith, and this doctrine has not been repudiated in any way. It is summed up in a couplet that was promoted by Lorenzo Snow, the fifth president of the LDS Church: “As Man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.”
What about the “three heavens” of Mormonism?
Mormonism teaches three heavens, the Celestial, the Terrestrial, and the Telestial. The Celestial heaven is the highest, and it is itself divided into three levels, the highest being achieving Godhood. Only worthy Mormons are allowed into the Celestial Kingdom, those who have embraced and lived out the precepts of Mormonism. (Some allowance is made for those who never had an opportunity to hear about Mormonism in earthly life, but have an opportunity to accept it and prove themselves worthy in the hereafter; see "Baptism of the Dead".)
The Terrestrial Kingdom is reserved for those good and decent people who nonetheless rejected the Mormon gospel; and the Telestial Kingdom is for those who are wicked.
Little is taught about the exact nature of the lower levels of Heaven, but in general, they are viewed as varying degrees of paradise, but not nearly on the same level as the Celestial. Heavenly Father is the ruler of the Celestial; Jesus of the Terrestrial; and the Holy Ghost oversees the Telestial. Also, little is taught about how "good" is good enough for the Terrestrial Kingdom, or how "wicked" one has to be for the Telestial Kingdom; it is presumed that God is the arbiter in this case.
Mormonism also teaches about a place called “Outer Darkness” which is the Christian equivalent of “Hell”, and is reserved only for the truly despicable of the world—the Hitlers, for example—and those who apostatize from the Mormon Church.
There are a number of other elements to the Mormon concept of afterlife and its cosmology in general; it can seem rather confusing (because it is), and is difficult to sum up in a single paragraph! In fact, there is often disagreement among Mormons as to the exact nature of Mormon cosmology. However, the above is a fairly simplified reduction of how it has been taught from official sources. Click here for a graphic illustration and a more thorough explanation of the Mormon concept of the afterlife.
What’s the deal with polygamy and Mormonism?
Polygamy began as a revelation by Joseph Smith, and was perpetuated throughout the time of Brigham Young and several subsequent Church presidencies, until 1890, when the practice was officially stopped. There are many, including many Mormons, who are not aware that the practice of polygamy was a matter of doctrine, not just a social practice. It was taught that the highest level of exaltation was not possible without polygamy, or “plural marriage” as it was usually called. A man could not become a god unless he had more than one wife.
Today the offensive nature of polygamy to the culture at large has meant that this particular teaching is not discussed much, and when the Church’s polygamist past is discussed, it’s generally referred to as a social practice, and on a very limited scale, a way of caring for the unmarried women and widows. (This is patently false, and there is an abundance of historical records demonstrate this.) The irony is that while the practice was banned and prohibited, the doctrine behind it was never repudiated. The mainline LDS Church generally gets around this by saying that polygamy will be practiced in the afterlife. However, this does not satisfy the demands of the doctrine itself.
It is because of this that many Mormon fundamentalists and fundamentalist groups have returned to the practice of polygamy (particularly in Utah and the surrounding areas). They are practicing polygamy because they are following the teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and believe that it is essential to their salvation and exaltation.
How many different types of Mormon Churches are there?
This is actually quite an interesting question, considering that Mormonism by and large looks at the denominationalism of Christianity as evidence of its corruption and apostacy. However, there are actually quite a few different churches that trace their roots back to Joseph Smith and his "restoration". Probably the largest of these (after the mainstream LDS Church) is what was formerly called the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or RLDS), though they have recently changed their name to "Community of Christ." They reject many of the doctrines of " Utah Mormonism", including polygamy, eternal progression, and a number of others.
Of particular interst, though, are a large number of "Fundamentalist Mormon" groups that exist, primarily in Utah and the Intermountain West, which hold to the original teachings of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and are most famous for their practice of polygamy. The Fundamental Latter-day Saints (FLDS) is the largest of these groups, and is led by Warren Jeffs, who has recently made news by his capture following a time on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted list. The FLDS, and other similar groups, argue that the mainstream LDS Church has gone apostate because of their rejection of certain practices like polygamy, and argue that they are being faithful to the original revelations.
What has been the typical Mormon response to your videos and ministry?
As you might imagine, reactions have been across the spectrum, ranging from angry, hateful messages to expressions of appreciation. Mormons who fully embrace their faith will generally see our materials as "anti-Mormon" propaganda, and as a result, will not watch any of it. Many have been told by their church leaders not to view it, and still others are afraid to watch it—afraid of challenging their faith, or afraid of what others might say if they were “caught” with it. The majority of the Mormons who specifically request the video are already either secretly or openly struggling with doubts about the teachings of their church. For some it may be the first seeds of doubt that start them on their journey to discovering the truth, for others, it may be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel's back. Even more encouragingly, we are hearing reports of seeking and questioning Mormons who have come to know the true Jesus Christ through the use of this video as a witnessing tool, and this, of course, is our chief goal, and the thing that makes it all worthwhile!