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.
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.