Mormonism has historically claimed to be an advanced form of Christianity based on new (“latter day”) revelations to modern prophets. The ‘latter day’ revelations of the Book of Mormon have been rejected as false teachings by Christian churches which regard Mormonism as a non-Christian cult. While there is a great variety of teaching between Christian Churches, the bottom line has always been the original Hebrew and Greek text of the Bible as interpreted ‘in all times and in all places by all people. Mormonism is based on a distinctly different revelation and spiritual authority with a different understanding of God, Jesus, forgiveness and eternal spiritual life.
1. Religious and Spiritual Authority
Christianity recognizes the 66 books of the Bible as the primary source of authority for religious and spiritual teaching. These books were agreed to after vigorous debate in the First and Second Centuries as being reliable and divinely inspired. In the Bible, Jesus (Matthew 7.15; 24.11; 24.24 and Mark 13.22) warns believers of the danger of false prophets to come. Christians are clearly told to wait only for the personal return of Jesus in the End Time (Mt. 2.64; Mk. 14.62; 1 Thess. 5.23; 2 Thess. 2.8; 1 Peter 1.13 and Revelation 22.20.
Mormonism recognizes both the Bible and the Book of Mormon as authoritative teachings, with the later considered more reliable (History of the Church, vol. 4, p.461). The Mormon Articles of Faith also limit Biblical authority to what is “properly translated” – meaning they can (and have) developed incompatible theologies of God, Jesus, Forgiveness and Salvation. It is unlikely that those who claim this ‘mistranslation’ have either seen or would have been able to translate the earliest Hebrew and Greek manuscripts of the Bible in the Bodleian and Vatican Libraries in Oxford and Rome.
Before examining these differences we need to take a critical look at the credibility of the Book of Mormon as a historical document. Unlike the Bible which is a collection of writings by over 50 very distinguished authors, going back to 500 years before the Birth of Christ; the Book of Mormon was written by one individual, Joseph Smith, whose occupation in the US Census was listed as “Treasure Hunter”. Only two other witnesses claimed to have seen the golden tablets he discovered, which were translated from “Ancient Egyptian” into English behind a sheet. The fact that linguistic scholars have never heard of a language called “Ancient Egyptian” suggests fraud. Finally, whereas there are hundreds of archeological sites confirming the existence of ancient cities mentioned in the Bible; no physical evidence has been found on the ground in South America for the vast civilizations claimed in the Book of Mormon - despite modern sub-surface satellite imaging technology.
2. “I believe in God the Father, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth...”
The Apostles Creed is the simplest and most widely agreed statement of Christian Faith. The Apostle Paul warns that false teachers will come (1 Timothy 1.3; 6.2; 2 Timothy 2.14; and 2 Peter 2.1) with new teachings and that all teaching must be compared with the Faith as handed down by the Apostles and recorded in Scripture. The first book of the Bible, Genesis, describes how God created everything, including the heavens from “the waters of chaos”. Mormons are taught a very different story about how:
“God used to be a man on another planet, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 321; Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 613-614; Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 345; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 3 33” (from www.carm/teachings-of-mormonism)
“There are many gods, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 163).”And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light:and there was light," (Book of Abraham 4:3)” (ibid. www.carm)
The implication is that there are many gods on another planet and that God (our God) is not behind creation. This goes way beyond ‘properly translated’ to deny and contradict a basic, clear Christian creedal statement.
3. “I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit...”
While Mormons appear to believe in Jesus as the Son of God and have traditional manger scenes on their webpage indicating orthodoxy; a more in depth review of their documents reveals a very unorthodox female goddess as the mother of Jesus – and that Jesus has guess who as His brother. This is not the same Jesus that Christians worship:
The first spirit to be born in heaven was Jesus, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 129).
Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers and we were all born as siblings in heaven to them both, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 163; Gospel Through the Ages, p. 15). (ibid. www.carm)
4. “The forgiveness of sins.”
The Bible teaches us that Jesus died for the sins of all people to create a new way to personal right-relationship with God. This forgiveness is not automatic. The Bible teaches us to specifically repent and confess sins to another person then to pray to Jesus in faith and ask Him to forgive us:
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
While the Mormon website (www.mormon.org) does recognize Jesus Christ as the one who died for the sins of all people in a general way, and speaks of our human need for repentance and change of behaviour; there is no apparent provision for the “Confession and Absolution” ministry which has been central to all Apostolic Christian churches in all places and at all times. There is in contrast an apparent (un-Biblical) Mormon assumption that individuals can confess to themselves and manage their own forgiveness. This is of course like putting the fox in charge of protecting the henhouse, or as Roman Catholic clergy put it so gracefully, ‘a deficient faith’.
5. “The life everlasting”
The Bible teaches that those who believe in Jesus Christ and ‘put their whole trust in Him’ as personal saviour can be baptized into His spiritual kingdom, receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit and inherit eternal spiritual life. While Mormons do clearly depend on (their) Jesus as Saviour, they also require and apparently over-emphasize good works as an essential part of the path to salvation. This appears to contradict the basic Christian doctrine of salvation ‘by grace alone’. (See Talmage, James Articles of Faith p. 92)
Mormonism is heavily focussed on Baptism and does appear to baptize ’in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost’ – the traditional Christian words. The problem is we cannot be sure this is the same Biblical Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Mormonism does include an invocation of the ‘Holy Ghost’ and recognition of the work of the Holy Spirit in guiding individuals. There are three serious problems with Mormon Baptism practice:
a. There is no renunciation of evil, which has been the third basic element in Christian Baptism. Many people are shocked to find that exorcism before baptism has always been the Christian norm and continues on in mainline Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Churches.
b. The Mormon practice of baptizing or even re-baptizing the dead (including Jews) by proxy, without their consent; is inconsistent with Jesus’ Biblical teachings on love, free will and individual responsibility.
c. The Mormon practices of aggressive evangelism, re-baptizing Christians and denying the validity of baptisms in Christian Churches separates Mormons from inclusion in the worldwide Christian community.
Mormon worship is quite similar in terms of regular Holy Communion or Eucharist. They do this as a sacrament of re-commitment and covenant renewal that results in a strengthening of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the person. Being admitted to Holy Communion is a sign of membership and can be used to temporarily exclude (excommunicate) individuals known to be in a state of serious un-forgiven sin. The major departure from mainline Christianity is the use of water instead of wine, which is based on another ‘quirky’ prophecy’ (see Talmage, Articles of Religion, p. 139)
Mormon teachings on the afterlife are very detailed, complex and different from the Biblical accounts. Their teaching on ‘celestial marriage’ for example contradicts the teaching of Jesus in Luke:
33 Now then, at the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?” 34 Jesus replied, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage,
“The central purpose of our more than 130 holy temples is to unite families for eternity. When a man and woman are married in a temple their marriage will not end at death but can last forever.” (www.mormon.org)
The bottom line is that Mormonism is not teaching the Jesus Christ of the Bible but rather a different ‘Jesus Christ of the Later Day Saints’.