Please Help Us Keep These Thousands of Blog Posts Growing and Free for All
Delve into our enlightening article, “A Look at Mormonism”, as we unravel the fundamental beliefs and practices of the LDS Church, exploring its distinct theological perspectives, the notion of eternal marriage, and the impact of their missionary work. Immerse yourself in the rich tapestry of Mormon faith and tradition.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, often known as Mormonism, is a significant religious organization that, as of 1960, boasted a membership of over one and a half million individuals. The church has gained recognition across the globe due to the missionary work of its thousands of full-time and part-time members.
Mormonism stands distinct from other Christian sects, specifically Catholicism and Protestantism. The church’s founder, Joseph Smith, staunchly rejected the teachings of these established religious factions, believing that they held no true spiritual value. Mormons pride themselves on this distinctiveness, viewing their faith as a revival of the original church of Christ, which they believe had been lost following the death of the apostles. They argue that the original apostolic foundation was crucial to the existence of the church, more so than the foundational figure of Christ Himself. They believe that Joseph Smith’s visions signified the restoration of this original, apostolic church.
Joseph Smith’s first reported vision occurred in 1820, during which he claimed to have been visited by two celestial beings, identified as God the Father and Jesus Christ. These divine figures supposedly instructed him not to align with any existing church. In 1823, Smith claimed another vision, where a heavenly messenger named Moroni revealed the existence of a book written on golden plates hidden away for safekeeping. Following the instructions of the messenger, Smith supposedly retrieved these plates four years later. This hidden text is what’s now known as the Book of Mormon.
In a subsequent vision in 1829, Smith claimed that John the Baptist visited him, conferring upon him and his associate, Oliver Cowdery, the priesthood of Aaron. They then secretly baptized each other. This claim seems to contradict Biblical teachings, which state that the Aaronic priesthood ended when Jesus Christ abolished the Mosaic law. Smith and Cowdery believed, however, that their visions and experiences granted them the authority to restore Christ’s original church, as outlined in Hebrews 7:11, 12, 18 of the Bible.
VIEWS OF THE SCRIPTURES
While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Mormons, accepts the Bible as the inspired Word of God, they add a caveat: “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” This allows them flexibility to disregard parts of the Bible that don’t align with their teachings. As such, their beliefs and writings often serve as their measure of truth.
Since the King James Version of the Bible was translated, scholars have significantly expanded their knowledge of Biblical languages. The discovery of thousands of ancient Biblical manuscripts has allowed for more accurate modern translations, very close to the original texts. The Bible, therefore, is seen as a reliable guide, complete on its own, without the need for extra-Biblical writings such as those of the Catholic Church or the Book of Mormon.
Like the Catholic Church, which doesn’t view the Bible as the only authority on religious beliefs, Mormons hold other sources in equal esteem to the Bible. This perspective is crucial for religions whose doctrines lack comprehensive Biblical support. Wallace F. Bennett, in his book Why I Am a Mormon, articulates this view: “We recognize the Bible’s limitations as well as its value. We do not ascribe final authority to any of its statements because we believe that God has re-established the authority to speak in his name and has given it again to righteous men.” In the Documentary History of the Church, Joseph Smith, Jr. claimed that the Book of Mormon was the most accurate book on Earth and the foundation of their religion. This stance raises the question, shouldn’t the Bible be the keystone of Christian belief?
Mormons often cite Ezekiel 37:16, 17 to argue that both the Bible and the Book of Mormon were prophesied. They believe that the “two sticks” referred to by the prophet Ezekiel symbolize these two books. However, Ezekiel himself provides a different explanation, associating one stick with Judah and the other with Ephraim, representative of the divided kingdoms of Israel. Ezekiel’s prophecy is about the reunification of these two kingdoms, not about two distinct religious books. Therefore, the Bible itself doesn’t support the claim that another religious text holds equal authority.
CONCEPT OF THE FATHER AND THE SON
Jesus Christ referred to his Father as a spirit in John 4:24. However, Mormons challenge this view, contending that God is not a spirit but a physical being composed of bone and flesh. Joseph Smith, in a 1911 Logan Journal entry, underscored this belief, asserting that God, like humans, is a flesh-and-bone entity. The Holy Ghost, however, is a spirit in Mormon belief. The Mormon interpretation of the trinity, or godhead, is distinct from the Catholic concept; the Mormon trinity is made up of three separate entities that are united in purpose, referred to as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.
Mormons use the Biblical statement that man was created in God’s image as evidence for their belief that God has a flesh-and-bone body. However, this interpretation is not entirely in line with other Scriptural teachings. Being made in God’s image doesn’t imply that humans and God are similar in physical composition. Human bodies were designed for earthly existence, not for life in the spirit realm. This concept is supported by Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:40: “The glory of the heavenly bodies is one sort, and that of the earthly bodies is a different sort.” Humans resemble God because they reflect God’s attributes, not because they share His physical form.
The notion that God and Christ have heavenly bodies of flesh and bone, rather than flesh and blood, doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Bodies of flesh and bone cannot exist without blood, for, as Leviticus 17:11 states: “The life of the flesh is in the blood.” Therefore, a body of flesh and bone would be lifeless. It’s as impossible for a body of flesh and bone to exist in heaven as it is for a body of flesh and blood. This is emphasized by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:50: “Flesh and blood cannot inherit God’s kingdom.”
After his resurrection, Jesus Christ did not possess a physical body when he came before God. As Peter explains, Christ was resurrected as a spirit, not as a material entity. 1 Peter 3:18 reads, “Christ died once for all time concerning sins, a righteous person for unrighteous ones, that he might lead you to God, he being put to death in the flesh, but being made alive in the spirit.” Paul adds to this, saying in 1 Corinthians 15:45, “The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” The physical bodies that Jesus had on earth after his resurrection were materializations similar to those performed by angels on numerous occasions.
The unscriptural conclusion of Mormonism—that God has a body of flesh and bone—has led to the assertion that God was once a man. As Joseph Smith, Jr. claimed in an 1844 edition of Times and Seasons, God was once a human who dwelt on Earth, just as Jesus Christ did. To justify this view, Mormons often resort to their own writings, as the Bible does not provide supporting evidence.
LIFE AND DEATH
Mormonism, like Hinduism and Buddhism, proposes the concept of a continual existence – a spirit that lives before birth and continues to live after death. This belief is predicated on the idea that the human spirit is immortal. Stephen L. Richards, a Mormon leader, explained this view, stating that the spirit of man endures eternally, continually progressing. Anything learned or acquired in life is carried over to the next, and a person’s progression is determined by their moral conduct. Mormons believe that ultimate progression could result in becoming as knowledgeable and powerful as God. James E. Talmage, another Mormon spokesperson, asserts the preexistence of the human spirit, claiming it exists as an intelligent being before the body is formed and continues to exist after bodily decay.
Despite these claims, the Bible does not mention preexistence for all humans. It clearly states that Jesus Christ existed in the spirit realm before his human birth, but it makes no such claims for the rest of humanity. This suggests that if preexistence were a universal truth, the Bible would provide some indication, but it remains silent on this matter.
Mormons often cite John 9:1-3, where Jesus’ disciples ask about a man born blind, to support preexistence. They argue that the disciples’ question implies a belief in the ability to sin before birth. However, Jesus corrected them, asserting that neither the man nor his parents had sinned. This indicates that the disciples’ question is not supportive of preexistence.
In the context of Jacob and Esau, the Apostle Paul supports the viewpoint that existence begins at birth, not before. He stated, “When they had not yet been born nor had practiced anything good or vile” (Rom. 9:11). This would not be possible if preexistence were true. Furthermore, Jesus indicated that humans do not come from the spirit realm as he did, stating, “You are from the realms below; I am from the realms above. You are from this world; I am not from this world.” (John 8:23).
Similarly, the Mormon belief that the human spirit separates from the body at death and continues its existence in a place called “paradise” finds no support in the Bible. The Bible clearly states that the dead cannot think or make decisions. It says, “His spirit goes out, he goes back to his ground; in that day his thoughts do perish” (Psalm 146:4). Since the thoughts cease at death, the spirit cannot be a conscious entity but an impersonal life force. Ecclesiastes 9:5 further clarifies, “As for the dead, they are conscious of nothing at all.” Thus, the hope for the dead lies in resurrection, a reawakening from death to life.
The Mormon interpretation of 1 Peter 4:6 does not align with the biblical context either. The passage reads, “For this is why the gospel was preached even to those who are dead, that though judged in the flesh the way people are, they might live in the spirit the way God does.” Here, the “dead” refers to people who are spiritually dead due to their sins, not physically dead. These individuals are capable of hearing the gospel, thinking, and repenting. The “spirits in prison” to whom Jesus preached were fallen angels, not the spirits of dead people.—Matt. 8:22; Eph. 2:1; 1 Pet. 3:18, 19.
Mormons maintain the belief that marriage persists beyond death due to their assertion that a person’s conscious existence continues after death. They propose that when a wedding ceremony is conducted in a temple by someone with the requisite authority, the union lasts eternally, even beyond death. However, there is no biblical support for this claim.
In contrast to the Mormon viewpoint, the Bible demonstrates that death ends the marital bond. Romans 7:2 states: “A married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is alive; but if her husband dies, she is discharged from the law of her husband.” This implies that she is no longer obligated to her husband after his death. Moreover, Jesus Christ expressed: “In the resurrection neither do men marry nor are women given in marriage, but are as angels in heaven.” (Matt. 22:30) This suggests that they become akin to angels in relation to marriage, meaning they remain single. The concept of singleness among angels was acknowledged by Brigham Young: “They are single, without families or kingdoms to reign over.” Therefore, death essentially ends the marriage bond.
Mormons engage in extensive missionary work to disseminate their beliefs, though unlike Jesus Christ and the Apostle Paul, they do not make missionary work a life-long vocation. Typically, Mormon missionaries are young men in their early twenties who spend around two years in English-speaking countries and two and a half years in countries where English isn’t the primary language. After this brief period, they return home to their normal lives.
While in a country, these missionaries operate in pairs, conducting house-to-house visits. If invited in by a homeowner, they conduct a series of lessons on their church’s beliefs in a friendly manner, with the intention of converting the homeowner to their faith. Although the homeowner may grow accustomed to their company and rely on them for spiritual guidance, these missionaries are not committed enough to stay beyond their prescribed two or two and a half years. Once they leave, the homeowner is passed on to a new set of missionaries, if available.
The sincerity of Mormons in their beliefs is undeniable, yet sincerity does not equate to truthfulness. Truth cannot be determined by personal conviction. Numerous people have claimed to have had visions and to be prophets of God since the apostles’ time. The staunch belief of their followers does not make these individuals’ teachings true. These self-proclaimed prophets often have to declare their own writings as holy scripture to substantiate their teachings, which the Bible does not support. To guard against such deception, one must compare religious teachings with the Bible. It should be used as the benchmark of truth. As per John’s advice, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”—1 John 4:1.
IN CONFLICT WITH CHRISTIANITY
Christian apologists argue that there are several key beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormonism) that conflict with mainstream Christian interpretations of the Bible. It is important to note that these points are areas of disagreement and debate and represent the views of some, not all, Christian groups.
Nature of God: Mormons believe that God the Father has a physical body of flesh and bone, which contrasts with mainstream Christian belief in God as an incorporeal spirit (John 4:24).
Multiple Gods: Mormons believe in the existence of multiple gods, though they only worship God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. This conflicts with the mainstream Christian belief in monotheism, the belief in only one God (Deuteronomy 6:4).
God was once a man: Mormons believe that God the Father was once a man who achieved godhood, while most Christian denominations hold that God is eternal and unchanging (Psalm 90:2).
Pre-existence of souls: Mormons believe in the pre-mortal existence of human spirits, while most Christians believe that human beings’ existence begins at conception or birth.
Post-mortal life: Mormons believe in multiple levels of heaven and that people can progress towards godhood after death, while most Christians believe in a final, unchanging state after the resurrection and final judgement.
Authority and Scripture: Mormons believe that additional scriptures beyond the Bible, such as the Book of Mormon, are divinely inspired and authoritative. They also believe in ongoing revelation through their prophets. Most Christians consider the Bible as the final and complete revelation of God.
Salvation: While both Mormons and mainstream Christians believe in salvation through Jesus Christ, they interpret it differently. Mormons believe that both faith in Christ and good works are necessary for salvation, whereas many Christian groups emphasize salvation by faith alone (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Eternal Marriage: Mormons believe in eternal marriages that continue into the afterlife, while traditional Christian belief holds that marriage does not persist after death (Matthew 22:30).
Baptism for the dead: Mormons practice baptism for the dead, a ritual not practiced and often contested by most Christian denominations.
The nature of Jesus Christ: Most Christians believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, where God is three co-equal persons in one being. In contrast, Mormons view God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost as separate beings united in purpose.