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The following is adapted from the section on Mormonism (or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) in the ESV Study Bible article on religious cults. The attempt is to be concise yet still accurate. I’ve added questions in bold to break it up a bit.

What do Mormons believe about apostasy and restoration?

Mormons claim that "total" apostasy overcame the church following apostolic times, and that the Mormon Church (founded in 1830) is the "restored church."

What’s the problem with this understanding?

If the Mormon Church were truly a "restored church," one would expect to find first-century historical evidence for Mormon doctrines like the plurality of gods and God the Father having once been a man. Such evidence is completely lacking. Besides, the Bible disallows a total apostasy of the church (e.g., Matt. 16:18; 28:20; Eph. 3:21; 4:11-16), warning instead of partial apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1).

What do Mormons believe about God?

Mormons claim that God the Father was once a man and that he then progressed to godhood (that is, he is a now-exalted, immortal man with a flesh-and-bone body).

What does the Bible teach about the nature of God?

Based on the Bible, God is not and has never been a man (Num. 23:19; Hos. 11:9). He is a spirit (John 4:24), and a spirit does not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). Furthermore, God is eternal (Ps. 90:2; 102:27; Isa. 57:15; 1 Tim. 1:17) and immutable (or unchangeable in his being and perfections; see Ps. 102:25-27; Mal. 3:6). He did not "progress" toward godhood, but has always been God.

What do Mormons believe about the Trinity and polytheism?

Mormons believe that the Trinity consists not of three persons in one God but rather of three distinct gods. According to Mormonism, there are potentially many thousands of gods besides these.

What does the Bible teach about the Triune God?

Trusting in or worshiping more than one god is explicitly condemned throughout the Bible (e.g., Ex. 20:3). There is only one true God (Deut. 4:35, 39; 6:4; Isa. 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:18; 46:9; 1 Cor. 8:4; James 2:19), who exists eternally in three persons--the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:14).

What do Mormons believe about human exaltation?

Mormons believe that humans, like God the Father, can go through a process of exaltation to godhood.

What does the Bible teach about humanity?

The Bible teaches that the yearning to be godlike led to the fall of mankind (Gen. 3:4ff.). God does not look kindly on humans who pretend to attain to deity (Acts 12:21-23; contrast Acts 14:11-15). God desires humans to humbly recognize that they are his creatures (Gen. 2:7; 5:2; Ps. 95:6-7; 100:3). The state of the redeemed in eternity will be one of glorious immortality, but they will forever remain God’s creatures, adopted as his children (Rom. 8:14-30; 1 Cor. 15:42-57; Rev. 21:3-7). Believers will never become gods.

What do Mormons believe about Jesus?

Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was the firstborn spirit-child of the heavenly Father and a heavenly Mother. Jesus then progressed to deity in the spirit world. He was later physically conceived in Mary’s womb, as the literal "only begotten" Son of God the Father in the flesh (though many present-day Mormons remain somewhat vague as to how this occurred).

What does the Bible teach about Jesus?

Biblically, the description of Jesus as the "only begotten" refers to his being the Father’s unique, one-of-a-kind Son for all eternity, with the same divine nature as the Father (see note on John 1:14; cf. John 1:18; 3:16, 18; see also John 5:18; 10:30). Moreover, he is eternal deity (John 1:1; 8:58) and is immutable (Heb. 1:10-12; 13:8), meaning he did not progress to deity but has always been God. And Mary’s conception of Jesus in his humanity was through a miracle of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20).

What do Mormons believe about our eternal destiny?

Mormons believe that most people will end up in one of three kingdoms of glory, depending on one’s level of faithfulness. Belief in Christ, or even in God, is not necessary to obtain immortality in one of these three kingdoms, and therefore only the most spiritually perverse will go to hell.

What does the Bible teach about our eternal destiny ?

The Bible teaches that people have just two possibilities for their eternal futures: the saved will enjoy eternal life with God in the new heavens and new earth (Phil. 3:20; Rev. 21:1-4; 22:1-5), while the unsaved will spend eternity in hell (Matt. 25:41, 46; Rev. 20:13-15).

What do Mormons believe about sin and atonement?

Mormons believe that Adam’s transgression was a noble act that made it possible for humans to become mortal, a necessary step on the path to exaltation to godhood. They think that Christ’s atonement secures immortality for virtually all people, whether they repent and believe or not.

What does the Bible teach about sin and atonement?

Biblically, there was nothing noble about Adam’s sin, which was not a stepping-stone to godhood but rather brought nothing but sin, misery, and death to mankind (Gen. 3:16-19; Rom. 5:12-14). Jesus atoned for the sins of all who would trust him for salvation (Isa. 53:6; John 1:29; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18; 1 John 2:2; 4:10).

What do Mormons believe about salvation?

Mormons believe that God gives to (virtually) everyone a general salvation to immortal life in one of the heavenly kingdoms, which is how they understand salvation by grace. Belief in Christ is necessary only to obtain passage to the highest, celestial kingdom--for which not only faith but participation in Mormon temple rituals and obedience to its "laws of the gospel" are also prerequisites.

What does the Bible teach about salvation?

Biblically, salvation by grace must be received through faith in Christ (John 3:15-16; 11:25; 12:46; Acts 16:31; Rom. 3:22-24; Eph. 2:8-9), and all true believers are promised eternal life in God’s presence (Matt. 5:3-8; John 14:1-3; Rev. 21:3-7).

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36 thoughts on “An FAQ on the Difference between Mormonism and Biblical Christianity”

  1. Truth Unites... and Divides says:

    I like Mormons. Nice folks. Too bad their teachings are so wrong.

  2. Robert Wille says:

    Anthony Hoekema (The Four Major Cults, 1963, pp. 54-56) cites a statement of Brigham Young which appears to suggest that Jesus was the product of the physical union of Adam and Mary. Other LDS leaders have maintained that this is not the case; the ones united were Mary and God the Father.

    1. The apparent confusion is resolved by the fact that Brigham Young believed and taught that Adam was God the Father, son of Elohim, God the grandfather. Mormons today identify Elohim as God the Father.

  3. John says:

    But they sure put on great non-political political rallies…/sarcasm

  4. Stephen Ley says:

    This is very helpful and something that I’ll be referring back to. I’m struck by how wide the differences are. It’s easy to be lulled by the public face of Mormonism into thinking that it’s only a slight variation on orthodox Christianity. Thanks for posting!

  5. Erik says:

    Thanks for the question/answer post Justin. Perfect timing in light of the “Beck Affect” this past week.

  6. Les Benedict says:

    Helpful article. Is there a way one could get the Mormon chapter and verse for their beliefs? In case they would refute this article?

  7. Clarification Dave says:

    I plan to have a copy of this accessible when the Mormons come knocking. I plan to ask them if the Mormon descriptions are accurate and then to proceed with the biblical response.

    1. Ken Symes says:

      You know what’s totally fascinating is how you can actually replace all the Scripture supports above with verses from the Book of Mormon! I’m serious, you really can! For example, the Book of Mormon teaches that God is spirit and not a man become god.

      It’s been a while since I did this exercise, but I was able to proof text almost the entire Apostles Creed, phrase by phrase, from the Book of Mormon.

      All the weird stuff comes in the later writings. I mention this only because if you’re witnessing to Mormons, sometimes it’s easier to start with the Book of Mormon which they trust. Surprisingly, the Book of Mormon is basically sound in its theology, just really wild with its history.

      1. Actually, the Book of Mormon is not “basically sound” in its theology. Its doctrine of God is not Trinitarian, but henotheistic modalism.

  8. Andrew Moody says:

    The OPC magazine New Horizons recently devoted an issue to this topic:

  9. I think it is “Latter-Day”, not “Ladder-Day”. They are not good climbers, but rather they came towards the end of time.

    1. Ben says:

      I think “Ladder Day” is celebrated after Pioneer Day.

  10. bill burns says:

    @craig – +1 However, apparently, some of ‘em climb pretty well (c.f. Beck, Glen) ;0)

  11. Damon Titus says:

    So the Mormon’s idea of the after-life is kind of like credit card cards tiers: Regular, Gold, and Diamond. Neat.

  12. Tim Bailey says:

    Thanks for posting this. As a new resident in Utah I expect to refer to this many times.

  13. Linda Thiel says:

    This is helpful. Thanks. Although can I throw out a question? What approach have you taken when trying to witness the Gospel to the Mormons? I seem to go for the Deity and Eternality of Christ. They are very slippery and afterwards, I usually go straight to the scriptures to get solidification and assurance in the Truth.

    1. R says:

      Get to know them, and let the individual speak her/his beliefs about their religion. Then, address the things they bring up and bring it back to the Gospel. Speak to the person, not to the religion. My two cents. :)

  14. Mark says:

    Thanks, Justin. I am having a discussion at my place on the potential theological problems of supporting Glenn Beck due to the errors of Mormonism. I will point her to this resource which expands on my short comparison chart.

  15. Aaron Shafovaloff says:

    Thanks for posting this, Justin.

    If I may, allow me to point everyone to, where I have done video interviews asking Mormons if they believe that God the Father was once perhaps a sinner before achieving godhood. The bulk of them are on the side of yes. If there one thing that most separates Mormonism and Biblical Christianity, it is that Biblical Christianity has a rock-solid position that God the Father never was a sinner.

  16. Susan M says:

    This explanation sounds very accurate to me. I was in the LDS church for a few years while in college, and these are the things I was taught. Some of the ideas–like God originally being a man–are not mentioned much to non-Mormons, but that is church doctrine. And Mormons who are married in the temple and are faithful to the church will become gods who will give birth to their own spirit children in the afterlife and populate planets of their own.

  17. pastortdmc says:

    When I deal with any cult I take them to Matthew 16:18 and tell them if what they are saying is true then Jesus can’t be sinless and our sacrifice for sin cause he promised perpetuity to his Church. If what the cults r saying is true then Jesus is powerless to keep his promises. Great comparison!!!!

  18. Mark Pickering says:

    The most obvious problem with the FAQ is its representations of Mormon doctrine. None of them is substantiated, and some of them are false. The claim that belief in Christ is not necessary for the resurrection is kind of interesting. Mormons often teach that all will be resurrected, but Mormons teach that this will happen only after the Millennium. Mormons believe hell to be the suffering during this time in which people suffer for their own sins. Mormons believe that after that, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ. So the resurrection won’t happen until people believe in Christ.

    Also, the FAQ falsely states that all Mormons believe grace to be is what gets one a free resurrection. But Mormons also believe God’s grace to be what grants remission of sins and changes one’s heart so that one no longer desires to sin.

    The funniest thing about the FAQ is the Bible passages cited in support of the claims. Some of them just don’t support the claims at all. Most obviously, this is true of the claims about the Trinity. The Bible simply does not support this doctrine, as real theologians will readily admit.

  19. Thank you so much for this guide. It’s clear, concise, and respectful.

  20. gabriela says:

    this is really sad…almost all of the ‘facts’ above are false or misrepresented.

    i’m no longer mormon but my family still is, and i’ve never ever heard such heretical things as those above after years in the mormon church.

    mormons believe that the bible is the word of God, but that revelation was missing from his church until Joe Smith came along and restored this. they believe that salvation is only thru Christ, thru his atonement for our sins – not grace. that we don’t need to blame infants for adam & eve’s ‘transgression,’ but respect them as our earthly parents and worry about our own sins. that life is a lesson we were meant to learn and that after death we continue to progress. that Christ is the son of God but there is only one God. only one. they believe in the holy spirit, but don’t refer to these three as ‘the trinity,’ as there is only one god.

    their biggest digression is that Jesus, after resurrecting, came to the Americas to teach the people here – ergo the book of mormon.

    as a christian, i try to respect varied beliefs, for we all serve the same God. He created us all. judgmental myopia only tears us apart, especially when it comes to Islam nowadays. Mohammad apparently believed in Jesus, and taught that Allah was the same god as that of Moses and Abraham. if God deemed to reveal a way for the arab people to worship him, then who are we to judge? if so, God even sent his same angel gabriel to both Mohammad and Mary – and still we discount fellow believers of the same God, and fight over who’s better or closer to Him.

    Christianity should be based on being Christ-like, not dogma, or else we are no better than the pharisees that believe in the letter rather than the spirit of the law. and even though i dont believe in the mormon religion, i do believe what Christ said is true: by their fruits ye shall know them. And aside from mormon intolerance against 10% of the population, whom God also created (and which is equally present in His animal world), i would say that otherwise, mormons have proven themselves to be true lovers and friends of their fellow men.

    why belittle beliefs? we don’t need to believe the same thing to love one another, do we?

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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