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The following is a brief overview of the beliefs of Mormonism (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) believe, along with what the Bible really teaches, printed among the many articles and resources in the back of the ESV Study Bible (posted with permission).


 

1. 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.”

If the Mormon Church were truly a “restored church,” however, 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; 28:20Eph. 3:21; 4:11-16), warning instead of partial apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1).

2. 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).

However, based on the Bible, God is not and has never been a man (Num. 23:19Hos. 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; 102:27Isa. 57:151 Tim. 1:17) and immutable (or unchangeable in his being and perfections; see Ps. 102:25-27Mal. 3:6). He did not “progress” toward godhood, but has always been God.

3. 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.

However, 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; 6:4Isa. 43:10; 44:6, 8; 45:18; 46:91 Cor. 8:4James 2:19), who exists eternally in three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:192 Cor. 13:14).

4. Exaltation of Humans

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

But 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; 5:2Ps. 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. 8:14-301 Cor. 15:42-57Rev. 21:3-7). Believers will never become gods.

5. Jesus Christ

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).

Biblically, however, the description of Jesus as the “only begotten” refers to his being the Father’s uniqueone-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).

6. Three Kingdoms

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.

But 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. 3:20Rev. 21:1-4; 22:1-5), while the unsaved will spend eternity in hell (Matt. 25:41, 46Rev. 20:13-15).

7. 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.

Biblically, however, 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. 3:16-19Rom. 5:12-14). Jesus atoned for the sins of all who would trust him for salvation (Isa. 53:6John 1:292 Cor. 5:211 Pet. 2:24; 3:181 John 2:2; 4:10).

8. 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.

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


See also the post on the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Here is a video of evangelist Aaron Shafovaloff talking to Mormons in Salt Lake City about whether it was possible God the Father could have been a sinner in a past probation:


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14 thoughts on “The 8 Beliefs You Should Know about Mormons When They Knock at the Door”

  1. steve hays says:

    Helpful overview

  2. Hello, brothers! I am an evangelist in Salt Lake City. I spend Thursdays evenings at the North Gate of Temple Square. If there are any Gospel Coalition likeminded friends in Christ, please come say hi.

    Here is my best effort at helping people understand the theological chasm between Mormonism and Christianity:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyH61ybnPBE

    In summary, when asking, “Was Heavenly Father perhaps a sinful mortal before becoming a God?”, most Mormons say yes. Even those that say no often end up saying yes with follow-up clarifying questions.

  3. Darren Blair says:

    As someone who is an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? I find it disappointing that no effort was made to source any of the statements made about what the author says is the church’s teachings. Why not show actual sources from the church itself – not some third party – that state the theology?

    1. Dan says:

      Darren, which of the points above are incorrect?

      1. Darren Blair says:

        How much time do you have on your hands? It’s a pretty massive list even *after* one discounts the assertions.

      2. Darren Blair says:

        For example, let’s start with #2. John 4:24 is a problematic foundation for this argument, as the RSV and related translations render this in a critically different fashion; the rendering is “God is Spirit”, thereby giving a metaphorical meaning to the verse rather than a literal meaning. If one uses this metaphorical rendering, Luke 24:39 is no defense of the theology. That leaves the assertion that the two cited verses mean that Heavenly Father lacks a body. This is a rather significant assertion, as the two verses simply state that God is not a man… which is actually quite in line with LDS theology, which does indeed hold Heavenly Father as being an exalted being rather than a mere human; Doctrine & Covenants 130 specifically makes this point. . And quite simply, nothing in the two cited verses allows for a “never” aspect.

        The Cliffs Notes version of the theology on Heavenly Father can in fact be found here: https://www.lds.org/topics/god-the-father?lang=eng .

      3. Darren Blair says:

        Also, apologies for taking so long; I’ve spent most of the past few days trying to trouble-shoot a maintenance issue with my car, so my attention has been elsewhere. (Hopefully it was just a bad thermostat…)

      4. Darren Blair says:

        The issue with polytheism collapses when one realizes that the LDS faith takes great pains to differentiate between “God” and “god”, something that too many critics of the church fail to notice. With the latter, the church refers to Psalms 82, in which the lower-case version of the word is used to refer to individuals of exalted status (such as a ruler or other high figure) but who are not actually God himself. This is the context in which “gods” is used. “God” is reserved solely for Heavenly Father himself.

        As far as the LDS concept of the Godhead goes, the belief is that Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are physically separate yet united in essence, purpose, and nature. If you wanted to be technical about it, the term would be henotheism instead of polytheism.

        As it is, the Cliffs Notes version of the theology can be found here: https://www.lds.org/topics/godhead?lang=eng .

        To this, I add one thing. John is pretty clear as to the nature of Jesus’ intercessory prayer (John 17). The KJV rendering, which as I noted argument #2 relies on, has Jesus praying that his followers *literally* know the same degree of unity and oneness that he shares with Heavenly Father. Relying on the “body of Christ” metaphor as a response to this requires rendering Jesus’ clearly literal words as being metaphorical.

      5. Darren Blair says:

        Argument #4 relies heavily on the premise laid out in argument #3, a premise which I showed is not sound.

        So as not to re-tread the same material again, I’ll merely post the Cliffs Notes version of the theology on eternal life and becoming like Heavenly Father:
        https://www.lds.org/topics/eternal-life?lang=eng
        https://www.lds.org/topics/becoming-like-god?lang=eng

      6. Darren Blair says:

        For the theology about Jesus Christ himself, the issue has come up enough that the church recently launched a sub-site specifically to discussing matters.

        Note that due to site traffic and other issues, it may take a bit to load. If it does not, let me know and I’ll find other references.

        http://jesuschrist.lds.org/SonOfGod?lang=eng&_r=1

      7. Darren Blair says:

        #6 and #7 dovetail into each other, so I’ll handle them together. The objections to the church’s teachings on immortality are derived from a misunderstanding as to what the church teaches on the matter.

        The church’s theology is that the physical act of resurrection is actually separate from the spiritual act of salvation. Everyone will be resurrected during the Millennium, but not everyone will enter into Heaven. Remember, there’s still the final judgement to be considered.

        The bulk of the theology about the kingdoms of Heaven does come from latter-day revelation, but traces of it can be seen in the Bible, such as 1 Corinthians 15.

        Cliffs Notes version of the Kingdoms of Heaven:
        https://www.lds.org/topics/kingdoms-of-glory?lang=eng

        1. Darren Blair says:

          On second thought, I probably could have appended this link to the above, thereby addressing #8 as well: https://www.lds.org/topics/salvation?lang=eng .

  4. Darren Blair says:

    For the assertion that evidence of LDS beliefs in the early Christian church is “completely lacking”, I ask what third-party sources you’d accept, as a number of LDS apologists have delved right into that very topic. It’s actually a rather pronounced field of study, which has led to various exchanges over the years concerning what has been discovered and what it means. For example, prominent LDS scholar Hugh Nibley discovered evidence to indicate that vicarious baptism *was* a known practice, something that Paul alludes to in 1 Corinthians; the only question is how wide the scope of the practice was and whether it was officially accepted by the majority -> https://publications.mi.byu.edu/transcript/baptism-for-the-dead-in-ancient-times/ .

    1. Austin says:

      Are you going to address #4? That fact alone makes Mormonism more appalling than any other “common” religion. You have the lowest view of God I’ve ever heard of (that He was once a sinful man), you have the highest view of man that I’ve ever heard of (that we can become God in our own universe), and you teach falsely about Christ.

      Your entire latter revelation was brought about by a conman. Open your eyes to see this, otherwise it would be better for you to tie a millstone around your neck and jump into a lake because you are leading others to hell.

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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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