Mitt Romney’s candidacy, and his recent speech in College Station have drawn a lot of attention to the beliefs and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days Saints, or Mormons, to which he belongs, and the question of whether or not it is compatible with Christian beliefs in general, and with conservative, evangelical Christianity in particular.  I’m not going to comment on Romney’s politics.  What has disturbed me about the conversation, though, is the fact that many evangelical Christians do not really seem to know a whole lot about what they themselves believe, and they are not aware of the differences between their own beliefs, and those of Mormons.  They are quite different, and just a basic comparison of their basic beliefs will demonstrate that there are no similarities between the two, and, in fact, their beliefs are very much the opposite of each other. 

I grew up in a predominantly Mormon community, and went to school from first through twelfth grade with a number of Mormons.  Some were friends, but from a fairly early point, I realized that there were major differences between what my family and my church believed, and what the Mormons believed.  Without drawing any conclusions for you, let me illustrate with some major doctrinal points.

First of all, the media has focused attention on conservative evangelicals who reject Romney’s candidacy because he is Mormon.  They’ve trotted out all their favorite buzz words and phrases in their attempt to characterize Christians as being narrow minded and intolerant.  But let’s examine what Mormons think of other Christians, regardless of their denominational affiliation.

“My object in going to inquire of the Lord which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join.  No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself so as to be able to speak, then I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong, and the personage who addressed said that all their creeds were an abomination in His sight; those professors were all corrupt; they draw near to me with their lips but their hearts are far from Me; they teach the doctrines and commandments of men having a form of godliness but they deny the power thereof.

He again forbade me to join any of them; and many other things did he say unto me which I cannot write at this time.”

Those are the words of the founding prophet of the LDS (Mormon) Church, Joseph Smith.  I would say he certainly is an authoritative source on Mormon beliefs.  Mormons do believe, and teach, that they are the only true church on earth, that Joseph Smith “restored” the true church, and that all other denominations are an “abomination in His sight.”  I can attest to that, having known Mormons who directly testified to believing this, as well has having been treated accordingly by other Mormons who would have nothing to do with me because I was not one of them. 

Walter Martin, in his book Kingdom of the Cults, outlines other Mormon beliefs and quotes their authoritative apostles, prophets and sacred writings in support.  Mormons do not believe the Bible is completely authoritative or trustworthy, and they supplement it with three other books which they refer to as “The Standard Works.”  These books include The Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants and The Book of Mormon.  Martin’s quotes from those, along with references to writers and sources that the Mormon Church itself has declared to be authorities on church doctrine, make his claims impossible to refute. 

1.  The Virgin Birth

Mormons believe that God is a glorified and exalted man, with flesh, blood and bone, who appeared as Adam in the Garden of Eden.  According to the Mormon prophet Brigham Young, also an authoritative source on Mormon belief, this “exalted man” of flesh had sexual intercourse with Mary, resulting in the birth of Jesus.  God, according to Young, “was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the Garden of Eden, and who is our father in heaven.”  As far as Jesus is concerned, “He was not begotten of the Holy Ghost.”  (Martin, P. 212)

2.  The Nature of Jesus

“Jesus is the spirit brother of the devil.”  (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4 P. 282 and The Pearl of Great Price, Book of Moses 4:1-4)

According to Mormon Apostle Orson Hyde, in Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4 Pp. 259-260, Jesus celebrated plural marriage to Mary Magdalene, and Lazarus’s sisters Mary and Martha “in order to see his seed before he was crucified.” 

Brigham Young tells us that the sacrifice made by Jesus on the cross in the form of his own blood is ineffective for the cleansing of some sins. (Martin, P. 219) This is the point at which the Mormon doctrine of “blood atonement” was developed, or the belief that some sins can only be atoned for with the blood of the sinner himself.

3.  Salvation

In Journal of Discourses, Vol. 8 P. 61, Brigham Young is quoted as saying that the “all redeeming merits” of Christ the Lord is “nonsense.”  Salvation, in Mormon teaching, according to Brigham Young, comes through “faith in Christ, baptism, obedience to the (Mormon) Church, good works, and keeping the commandments of the Lord which will cleanse away the stain of sin.” 

There is no mention anywhere in Mormon scripture of salvation by grace through faith in Christ. 

B.R. McConkie, one of the Mormon church’s apostles, and considered one of the foremost authorities on Mormon doctrines by the church’s own Council of the Twelve, writes this:

“Christians speak often  of the blood of Christ and its cleansing power.  Much that is believed and taught on this subject, however, is such utter nonsense and so palpably false that to believe it is to lose one’s salvation.  Many go so far, for instance, as to pretend and at least, to believe that if we confess Christ with our lips and avow that we accept Him as our personal Savior, we are thereby saved…Salvation in the Kingdom of God is available because of the atoning blood of Christ.  But it is received only on condition of faith, repentance, baptism, and enduring to the end in keeping the commandments of God.”  (McConkie, What the Mormons Think of Christ, Pp. 27-33)

Those commandments of God includes, according to Walter Martin, “the whole Mormon collection of legalistic observances and requirements.”  At one time, plural marriage was considered one of the most important, and most sacred, requirements for salvation.  But about the same time that Utah wanted to become a state, and federal law prohibited plural marriage, the Mormon prophet declared that God had changed his mind, rendering both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, among many other Mormon prophets, apostles, and church members, adulterers.  There are still Mormons who believe that God didn’t change his mind and that what Smith and Young taught was infallible doctrine. 

4.  Black Skin, and Dark Skin

According to the Pearl of Great Price, Book of Moses, black skin was a curse that God put on Cain for the murder of his brother Abel. 

The Book of Mormon teaches that the Native American tribes are descendants of the Lamanites, an evil people who wiped out the righteous, fair complected Nephites, who were descendants of the lost ten tribes of Israel who made it to North America and to whom Jesus appeared after his resurrection in Jerusalem.  To make a long story short, the Nephites were the authors of the golden plates which Joseph Smith allegedly found and translated into the Book of Mormon.  The dark skin given to the Lamanites was a punishment from God for their destruction of the Nephites, according to Mormon teaching.  (Martin, P. 218)

5.  Recommended Reading

Walter Martin’s Kingdom of the Cults is an excellent, authoritative work on Mormon beliefs, simply because he did his homework, and he supports his claims with quotations from the authoritative writings of the Mormon Church itself.  It is easy to read and understand, and is written from a perspective and purpose of giving Christians a good working knowledge of what Mormons believe. 

Draw your own conclusions about the compatibility of Mormon doctrine with conservative, Evangelical Christianity.

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About LS

I'm 56, happily married for 25 years, B.A., M.A., career educator with experience in education as a teacher and administrator, native Arizonan living in Pennsylvania, working on a PhD and a big fan of the Arizona Wildcats, mainly in football and basketball.

12 responses

  1. Tim Dahl says:

    Ok, Lee.

    I love ya, but this post is waaaaay to long. IMNSHO, you could have divided it up over a period of 3-4 days, and it would be quite readable.

    I’m convinced that I would wholeheartedly agree with whatever you are saying; but… What can I say… I’m visually lazy.

    😉

    Tim Dahl

  2. Lee says:

    Sorry, I intended to try to keep it as short as possible, and focus only on the really essential stuff, but even that, with the necessary documentation, turned into a longer article than I intended. I may still edit it, though its out there now, and maybe we can elaborate through comments.

  3. Chuck says:

    Lee,

    Well put. This is why Jimmy Carter’s leading a “new Baptist” movement touting a “new prophetic voice” and “authentic Baptist witness” is so unbelievable and disturbing to me.

    Consider his simple answer to a very simple question:

    Newsweek: “Do you think a Mormon is a Christian?”

    Carter: “Yes, I do. I have a cousin who is a Mormon and she married one of the Marriott family. I don’t know anyone who’s more devout in their faith than she and her family. I admire them very much.”

    Kaylor tries to cover for President Carter, claiming (with no evidence to support his peculiar interpretation) that Carter’s answer is vague, but not incorrect.

    I don’t buy it. Carter should refute all his plural-sounding statements, or become a learner in his Baptist church, not a teacher. I’m for church autonomy though, so I’ll settle for Carter not being the convener and keynote of a highly-publicized new movement with the name “Baptist.”

    The BGCT should ask Carter to refute Newsweek’s and Rabbi Michael Lerner’s claim of Carter’s outrageous May 2007 statements on Judaism and “Zionists”, or insist Carter take a back seat in the NBC. If neither, the BGCT should send no employees or official representatives.

    The Charles Kimball fiasco with the CLC earlier this year, and now the NBC, makes one wonder just how close pluralism is to being an acceptable view to Mainstream Baptists like Bruce Prescott.

  4. Lee says:

    In other words, according to Carter, his Mormon relative is a Christian because she is sincere in her Mormon faith. He’s in good company among his fellow Baptists if that’s what he believes, because I’ve heard that from many who should know better. You would think, though, that someone who has lent his name to a gathering of Baptists would at least have enough of a working knowledge of theology to recognize a very easily distinguishable cult.

    Of course, if I’m going to take Carter to task for not recognizing that Mormonism is not Christian, I have to take Richard Land to task for knowing that it isn’t, but making allowances for a Mormon politician to advance both his politics and his faith from a Baptist pulpit anyway. Both positions are equally indefensible.

    The high powered letters and publicity that have come out in recent weeks would seem to indicate that registration numbers must be short of what has been anticipated, and somebody is going to get stuck with a lot of empty hotel rooms to pay for.

  5. Chuck says:

    In reference to Land and Romney, I’d have no problem with Carter’s involvement with the NBC if it was touted as something besides Baptist, with all those lofty purposes.

    If they’d just say it’s socio-political in purpose, fine. Fundies like me wouldn’t be mis-identified in the process.

  6. Daniel says:

    Good article, but though Mormon’s aren’t Christians, I’m not sure they are a cult. Too many evangelical Christians identify cults based on theology and not treatment of members. They should reacquire the concept of heresy and heretic.

    The first Mormons were heretics who created a new religion based on Christianity. I don’t think they’ve been a cult for quite some time.

    The Unification Church is a cult as well as heretical because of member’s psychology and leadership styles. Technically, a church with genuine Christian beliefs could become a cult, and that seems to have happened with many of the prosperity gospel television ministries.

    Otherwise, voting for a Mormon is a greater leap for an evangelical than voting for a Catholic, or even for an Orthodox Jew. Mormons begin by dismissing the Bible, much as Moslems did earlier.

  7. Nathan says:

    You ought to ask a Mormon what they believe. Many of your statements are incorrect. Others are very much out of context. Others are accurate, but misunderstood or missing important information.

    The Journal of Discourses is not scripture, nor is it official doctrine. Nor was it ever presented as such. Official Mormon doctrine must be approved by the First Presidency of the Church. The journal is a good example of why such an endorsement is needed. If personal conjecture gets treated as doctrine, confusion results.

    I do not have time to point out all the specific problems with this article. This link
    (link removed by blog owner)
    is enough to point out a few of your inaccuracies.

    Please do your homework before posting an article about this or any church. Giving inaccurate statements about any church does not serve the world. Misinformation is not of God.

  8. Lee says:

    Nathan,
    The problem with asking a Mormon what they believe is that many of those who have not yet been baptized in the temple do not know the official teachings of their church.

    I did, in fact, ask. The Journal of Discourses is quoted as official Mormon doctrine by at least three Bishops, and one former Bishop, of wards with whom I consulted, one here where I live, and three in a stake in Arizona, in the community where I grew up. My position was also confirmed by two elders serving on mission.

    I have deleted your link. This site will not be used in any way to promote false Mormon teaching. The link provided information which did not refute any position I took. The quotations I provided, from Brigham Young, Bruce McConkie, and others, are their verified statements. The Mormon writings and documents which verify this are clearly part of the record of the church. What Mormon authorities could I ask about these things, that are more authoritative than Brigham Young, Bruce McConkie, the Journal of Discourses, the Pearl of Great Price, the Book of Mormon, or several former first presidents? Of course, Mormons change their beliefs and doctrines as the winds blow, so they always have the “out” of current “revelation” superceding previous revelation. But then, the Bible simply calls that the sign of a false prophet.

  9. Tim Dahl says:

    Lee,

    One summer I was a Boy Scout Chaplain. I was over two camps in this capacity; and it was an amazing summer. Part of the experience was made interesting by what was called “Mormon Week.” During this time, I was told that all non-Mormon’s were part of the apostate church. It really made life interesting. Are second in command of the camp was a young lady finishing her masters at Southwest Texas (new name?). The literally ignored her. I’ve never seen a worse case of woman-hating in my life. Did I say that it was an interesting week?

    I agree that most average Mormons don’t really know about their Religion’s beliefs. This definitely held true during Mormon Week. However, there was always someone from the hierarchy there to make sure all the kids were on the straight and true. One thing that I also learned is that Baptists are one of their top conversion groups! You see, what is true about the average Mormon is also true about the average Baptist. It seems that both groups have many nominal (in name only) members.

    Tim Dahl

  10. Blanca says:

    I have read the book of Mormon and first of all they call a child baptism an abomination I think that says it all.
    The person who didn’t have time to read all the article no wonder why you are lost all the answers of your questions are in the Bible “An ignorant person is due to the lack of knowledge” read.

  11. Sarah & Tim says:

    Way to go, Nathan.

    The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as Mormons, can most certainly be classified as Christians — you only have to look so far as the name of the church.

    Rather than focusing on the differences between Christian sects, why don’t we focus on the similarities instead? Christians believe in God. They’re good, God-fearing, law abiding citizens. They strive to be honest in their endeavors. They rely on the Jesus Christ for their salvation and seek to share truth with others.

    Mitt Romney’s religious affiliation should have no sway on his eligibility as a politician. This land was founded on the premise of religious freedom and everyone, politician or private citizen, should have the freedom to worship however they please.

  12. Lee says:

    If you will examine the post above, you will note that in relating the difference between Mormon and Christian beliefs, I quoted Mormon authoritative sources directly in most cases. Mormon prophets of the past left a clear trail of words intended to completely distinguish their movement from Biblical Christianity in just about every facet of doctrine.

    I’ll take them at their word.