Is Mormonism Christian? Part 2
In “,” I laid out the four marks that distinguish a Christian group or denomination. In Part 2 of this series, I will apply these tests to the doctrine of the Mormon church to answer the question, “Is Mormonism Christian?” The Mormon position will be verified with links to the official website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As many people have no idea of the origin of the Mormon church, here is a brief history.
The founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith was born in Vermont in 1805. At the age of 14, Smith had his first vision, in which a supernatural personage informed him that all of Christianity current at his time was a false abomination. Three years later, Smith had a second vision, in which a spirit called Moroni told him of a book of gold plates on which was recorded the history of the former inhabitants of the American continent. Smith supposedly translated the gold plates to produce the Book of Mormon in 1829. The gold plates were never seen by anyone other than Smith. The historical records contained in the book of Mormon have been demonstrated to be false by noted Mesoamerican archaeologists and respected archaeological societies. Thomas Finley in the book “The New Mormon Challenge” summarizes the evidence for the origin of the Book of Mormon. “There is no solid evidence that the Book of Mormon was written by Semites in ancient times. Contrary evidence makes it more likely that the book is a product of Joseph Smith’s time with the KJV strongly influencing it.”
The first mark of a Christian group is that it upholds the unique authority of the Bible and does not add or take away from it. The Mormon Church has four authoritative books: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price, all but the Bible penned by Joseph Smith. Mormonism teaches that the Bible is unreliable and has been corrupted. Therefore Smith “translated” a corrected version of the Bible which introduced thousands of changes into the King James Version. One of the changes was the addition of a prophecy in Genesis foretelling the coming of Joseph Smith. Of course, since the Bible is considered unreliable, the writings of Smith take precedence in the formulation of Mormon doctrine. This will be seen as I look at the next three marks. Mormonism fails the test of being based on the unique authority of the Bible.
The second mark of a Christian group is it’s understanding of God. The Mormon church teaches that God the Father is the supreme god, ruling over other gods. Mormonism teaches that God the Father has a body of flesh and bones. It teaches that God the Father was once a man like us and progressed to become God. Therefore, humans may also become gods by following the Mormon doctrine of eternal progression. Mormonism rejects the Christian Trinitarian concept of God and views the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as separate beings. Suffice it to say that the Mormon doctrine of God is radically different from the biblical view accepted by Christendom.
The third mark of a Christian group is it’s teaching about Jesus Christ. The Mormon Church teaches that Jesus did not always exist, but was begotten from the union of the Father and an unnamed wife. Jesus and Lucifer therefore are considered spirit brothers. Although a recent statement of the Mormon church appeared to reject this, it was deceptive, as an in-depth discussion of Mormon theology on this point indicates. Mormon doctrine actually teaches that Jesus, in His mortal state, was born as a result of sexual relations between God the Father and Mary. According to Mormon theology, Jesus is not to be worshipped in the same way as God the Father, nor to be prayed to. Mormonism fails the test of the third mark of Christianity.
The fourth mark of Christianity is a biblical doctrine of salvation. It must be noted that Mormonism uses Christian terminology but deceptively defines the terms completely differently from Christianity. Mormon doctrine teaches that there is no salvation outside of the Mormon Church. Mormonism speaks of salvation by grace, but examination of Mormon doctrine clearly shows that individual salvation comes by what you do (Mormon baptism, church attendance, good works, worthiness and temple works). The atonement of Jesus’ death according to Mormonism provides the opportunity to earn salvation through personal merit, rather than paying the full penalty for our sins. Thus Mormonism fails the test of the fourth mark of Christianity.
My conclusion is that Mormonism is not Christian. Based on the beliefs of Mormonism, biblical scholars identify the Mormon Church as a theological cult. A theological cult is a group that consistently refers to itself as Christian, yet differs from the fundamental beliefs of Christian orthodoxy. In “” of this mini-series, I will explore how believers should respond to Mormons.