It would be hard to find an American who has not seen one of the commercials presented by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the LDS Church or simply as “the Mormons.” These carefully crafted commercials portray a clean, wholesome, and family oriented religion with the intention of creating the belief that Mormonism is a Christian denomination. Although The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims to be the only true and living Church, it cannot be considered a denomination of Christianity. The world view of Mormonism is completely different than any Christian denomination and it pours foreign definitions into common Christian words like God, Jesus, Salvation, and Repentance. While the use of these words makes Mormonism sound like Christianity, The Mormon definitions of these words betray it to be a completely separate religion.
Within the denominations of Christianity there is unity within our diversity. There are non-essential doctrines (modes of baptism, church government, the roles of women in ministry, etc.) that denominations can agree to disagree upon and then there are the specific doctrines that all denominations of Christianity agree on and which separate Christianity from other religious belief systems. Some of these doctrines include monotheism, the eternal nature of God, the person of Jesus Christ and the finite nature of Man. This list is not exhaustive, but for the scope of this short paper, we will focus on these. Admittedly there are other religions that believe some of these doctrines, but no other religion except Christianity believes them all.
Christians have always believed that there is only one God and that all others are false gods. Both the Old and New Testaments are full of passages detailing this belief. God, the only uncaused cause, created everything else that exists and thus exists outside of creation. He is the only self-existent being, therefore all of creation flows from Him, the only source. God has always existed as God and has never been, nor can be, anything less than God.
Mormonism, on the other hand, teaches that God was once a mortal man who grew up on another planet and earned his right to become a God. This concept is so foreign to Christian minds that I have been accused of making it up. A quick glance of an official LDS Church manual validates my assertion:
God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power was to make himself visible,—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form […] Remember that God, our heavenly Father, was perhaps once a child, and mortal like we our selves, and rose step by step in the scale of progress, in the school of advancement; has moved forward and overcome, until He has arrived at the point where He now is. (Achieving, 129)
If the God of Mormonism was once a man who had to attain Godhood, it is obvious that he was not always God. If he has not always been God, then he is not the source of all things, did not create all things, is himself existent within creation, and subject to another God above himself. Regardless of whether this view of God is correct or not, it certainly cannot be considered part of Christian theology since it is completely foreign to Christian thought. This view of God is so radically different from any view held by denominations of Christianity that it has to be considered something else; something non-Christian.
Not only is the God of Mormonism different than the God believed in by Christians world-wide, Latter-day Saints also admit to believing in a different Jesus Christ. The current prophet and president of the Mormon Church, Gordon B. Hinckley has gone on record and acknowledged this. An LDS owned newspaper states: “In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints ‘do not believe in the traditional Christ.’ ‘No, I don’t. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak” (Church News, 7). Since Hinckley is considered to be a prophet like Moses or Isaiah, is thought to speak for God, and as president of the LDS has the authority to dictate dogma to all latter-day saints, this statement is considered accurate and binding as doctrine for the Mormon Church. Latter-day saints believe that their prophets will never lead them astray.
Christian denominations believe that Jesus Christ has always existed as Deity, as creator, and entered the human experience through the virgin birth. Mormonism teaches that Christ was the first born son of God and his heavenly wife in the spirit world (hence did not always posses Deity), is the spirit brother of Lucifer, won a vote against him to be savior of the world, and was later born on earth as a result of a physical union between God the Father and Mary. These Mormon views are so far apart from the Christian belief that they cannot be seen as related in any way. To even suggest that Jesus and Lucifer are brothers or that God had sex with Mary is blasphemous to the ears of Christians. This theology is closer to the polytheistic pantheon of Greek mythology than it is to any denomination of Christianity. President Hinckley is correct in that they do not speak of the same Jesus Christ.
The nature of Man is one more area where Mormonism takes a dramatically different view. Christians have always believed that Man is a creation of God and as such is a separate species from God. This may sound like an unbelievable doctrine to even question, but what often stuns Christians is the position declared in an official Mormon Church manual:
MEN ARE GODS IN EMBRYO
We Have the Potential to Become like Our Heavenly Parents
Man is the child of God, formed in the divine image and endowed with divine attributes, and even as the infant son of our earthly father and mother is capable in due time of becoming a man, so the undeveloped offspring of celestial parentage is capable, by experience through ages of aeons, of evolving into a God […] Here, then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to an other, and from a small capacity to a great one. (Achieving, 130)
As we can see from this quote, Mormonism’s view of Man’s nature is considerably different from that of Christianity. Christianity teaches that God is separate from Man, Creator and created. Mormonism declares that God and Man are the same species, sort, or kind. Man is less than God in position and authority, but has the potential to become what God is— higher, promoted or, as the Mormons like to assert, exalted. Mormon women are to be regarded as Goddesses who have the privilege of birthing spirit children and doing their part to populate their husband’s planet. In Christianity the difference between God and Man is our nature. The difference between God and Man in Mormonism is degree of advancement. In Christianity God is seen as creator while Mormonism sees him as procreator.
As we can see from the above examples, Christians and Mormons use the same vocabulary; God, Jesus, and Man, but have completely different dictionaries. When a Mormon speaks of God, Christians must ask questions to clarify what is meant by that term. Are they speaking of the ultimate creator or of a being who was once a man and is now exalted to the position of a God? Once a person understands the terminology differences between Mormonism and Christianity, the world view of Mormonism is revealed to be entirely distinct. For lack of a better term, there is no “starter God” within the Mormon world view. The cycle of Gods that procreate spirits, who later become men, who then become Gods who procreate more spirits is endless and has no beginning. This stands apart from a world view that teaches that there is only one being who is eternal, created all things that were created, and is not a part of creation. If this was the only information we had about Mormonism, it would be enough to know that Mormonism and Christianity is a juxtaposition of incongruence.
Before I close, I want to mention that when a Christian deems Mormonism as something other than Christianity, it is not to be understood as an insult to Mormons. In no way am I saying that Mormons are not good, moral, family oriented people. The only thing I am trying to prove is that Mormonism is so vastly different from the traditional Christian belief system, that it cannot be considered a denomination of Christianity. At times Mormons take offense at this stand until I ask them a few questions to explain what I mean. I have asked, “If I denied that your founding prophet, Joseph Smith, was a true prophet, that the Book of Mormon is the Word of God and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one true Church, would you accept me as a Mormon?” In more than ten years of experience as a missionary to Mormons, I have never had a Mormon agree that I could be considered a Mormon while denying those religious tenets. When asked why, the reply is something like, “Why should I accept you as a Mormon, when you deny the fundamentals of our faith?” At that point, I agree with them and rephrase the question. “Why then should Mormonism be considered as a denomination of Christianity when the LDS Church denies the fundamentals of the Christian faith? If Christians can not be accepted as Mormons, then Mormonism cannot be considered a denomination of Christianity.
Achieving a Celestial Marriage, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1976: 129-130.
“Crown of Gospel is upon our Heads.” Church News 20 June 1998: 7.
Achieving a Celestial Marriage, Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1976.
This student manual was written for Members of the Mormon Church in preparation for their temple marriage. It is divided into two parts, the first of which is designed as instruction for singles in courtship who are preparing for their temple marriage. The second part is designed for those already married in effort of strengthening their marriage. Because this is an official Mormon Church manual, it is a great source that clearly presents it’s doctrines and belief system. There is an excellent explanation of their world view on pages 129-132. These four pages can be read on the Evidence Ministries web site at http://www.evidenceministries.org/marriage.php
“Crown of Gospel is upon our Heads.” Church News 20 June 1998: 7.
Church News is a weekly periodical published by the Deseret News in Salt Lake City, Utah. Deseret News is a publishing company owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This 16 page paper reports on different news-worthy items ranging from announcements of LDS Church growth and reports on the tours of the Mormon Tabernacle choir to short devotionals.
Gospel Principles, Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1978.
This official Mormon Church manual is intended for new converts and is sometimes given to those who are investigating the Mormon Church, but have not yet joined. It is written in a step by step fashion that leads the reader through various doctrines and teachings while explaining the world view of Mormonism. The book discusses basic information about the God of Mormonism in the opening chapter and culminates in the final chapter with the doctrine that men can become Gods. It is a valuable tool in showing the non-Christian nature of Mormonism.
McKeever, Bill, Eric Johnson, Mormonism 101—Examining the Religion of the Latter-day Saints, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000
Mormonism 101 was written as a refutation of Mormonism from an Evangelical Christian perspective. McKeever and Johnson have more than 40 years and literally tens of thousands of hours of experience in religious discussions with Latter-day Saints. The book examines key doctrines of Mormonism and then contrasts and refutes them in a point counter/point fashion by use of the Bible. Mormonism 101 is extensively documented and includes close to 500 footnotes.