Mormonism is Not Orthodox Christianity

Many Christian apologists who answer Mormon doctrine do so on the basis of looking deep into their lesser known beliefs and pointing out that there is some wild stuff going on there. For example, Joseph Smith taught that Methuselah and Abraham used the urim and the thummim as magical telescopes to discover the star Kolob, which is said to be the star nearest to the throne of Elohim. That’s pretty wild stuff right there. But such criticisms are not a solid argument against Mormonism, anymore than arguing that most Flat Earth nutters claim to be Christians.

There are, however, blatant statements in the public instruments of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints which defy biblical orthodoxy. Here I will consider just a small part of what is posted on their main proselytization site, mormon.org. None of this is hidden. It is all posted on their website in plain view. When a Mormon says that he/she is a Christian, you should have reason for pause. The beliefs represented here are at odds – great odds – with the Scriptures themselves. They are reliant not upon the Bible but upon additional “revelations” given exclusively to the Mormons.

I will content myself to address two main areas here. First, the nature of God and man that the Mormons adhere to makes a mockery of the Bible. Second, I will address the Book of Mormon, which is the basis for almost all of the misunderstandings concerning the nature of God and man. The headings provided are the headings on mormon.org.

Home > Beliefs > Godhead

Like him [God] we are divine in our nature and purpose…We are all God’s spirit children.

Like us, Jesus was created in the image of God, the Father, and They both have perfected bodies of flesh and bone.

One of the core tenets of the Mormon religion is that God is and always has been a physical being. To be specific, the creator is Elohim. One of his spiritual children was Yahweh, who eventually came to earth as Jesus to progress to true divinity (Gospel Doctrine, 70). Jesus had to progress to this fulness of deity through the resurrection (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:33).

Understand that the Mormons believe that Jesus enacted the progression as the firstborn of Elohim, but this progression is available to all true believers, since they are also the spiritual children of God. Jesus was simply a volunteer to put the plan into effect (The Mortal Messiah, 1:48-49).

When the Mormons speak about God, they are speaking about Jesus and only Jesus. Joseph Smith made this plain. “The Father has never dealt with man directly and personally since the fall, and he has never appeared except to introduce and bear record of the Son.” (Doctrines of Salvation, 1:27). They disavow any knowledge of Elohim – this distant god – because Yahweh/Jesus is the god of this world.

Home > Beliefs > The Creation and the Fall

Like Adam and Eve, we left paradise to seek progression, and we can return the same way they did.

Mormons believe that human beings are eternal beings who existed before their birth on earth (Doctrine and Covenants 93:29) in a spiritual body. The purpose of coming to earth and taking on physical form is to be transformed into gods. “All men and women are in the similitude of the universal Father and Mother, and are literally the sons and daughters of Deity.” (Doctine and Covenants 77:2)

Adam was the spiritual child of the creator god, specifically he was the archangel Michael. He came to earth, was perfected and then returned to god. This was all part of a plan which God had laid out before his chosen beings (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 209, 511). In other words, in our pre-existing, spiritual state, God summoned all of us together, made a plan for how we could progress to becoming gods; and then set about enacting that plan through our lives on earth.

Home > Beliefs > Book of Mormon

Like the Bible, the Book of Mormon is an ancient record of God’s teachings to His people.

This statement is an obfuscation. The only witness to the Book of Mormon is the copies of the Book of Mormon made available after Joseph Smith “discovered” it and dictated a translation, beginning in 1829. NO ancient versions of the Book of Mormon, even the originals Joseph Smith supposedly translated exist. The only evidence to the existence of this “ancient” book is the testimony of three men – Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris, and David Whitmer. All three men broke later broke with the Mormons. The only authorities that recite their testimonies are, of course, the Mormons.

This is a very different situation from the Bible. The Qumran caves contained 1st and 2nd century BCE copies of much of the Old Testament, and references to every book except Esther. Fragments of the New Testament dating to within a generation of the events described in it have been found and catalogued. There are literally thousands of manuscripts of the ancient books of the Bible, all of which have been studied in-depth by scholars of every conceivable creed. It is, without a doubt, the most studied book in the world.

The audacity to claim ancient origins for something like the Book of Mormon with absolutely no verifiable provenance and no extant ancient copies is a bold statement, which the mormon.org site makes without offering a shred of evidence.

The Book of Mormon is a fundamental part of Jesus Christ’s restored Church on the earth today. [emphasis mine]

The Mormons are a radical restoration movement, something that was quite prominent in the 19th century. These movements claimed that the true church had been lost, and Christianity as it existed was in error. Their leaders, such as Joseph Smith, were therefore given a special revelation to restore the true faith. In Smith’s case, this includes restoring the priesthood of Melchizedek, temple worship, and some rather idiosyncratic beliefs.

Their additional revelation is necessary to support their claims because there is no way to draw their faith or practices from the Bible alone. We are therefore forced to either accept that the Book of Mormon has the authority by which Smith has “restored” the church, or we can reject it. There is no empirical evidence for the acceptance of the Book of Mormon or the restoration, while the Bible’s historicity and continued use is undeniable.

Home > Beliefs > Bible

The Holy Bible is a book of scripture that tells of the Lord’s interactions with His people over the course of 4,000 years. [emphasis mine]

There is a subtly bait-and-switch that occurs in the language of the discussion of the Bible. The website is careful to refer to the Bible as a book of scripture, but then to also refer to all of God’s scripture and they also point out that the Bible serves only as “powerful precedent” for the Restoration of the Church.” What is being done here is simple. The site appears to be talking about the Bible, but it is actually talking about “the four standard works” which contain the full revelation to the church (Doctrine of the Gospel Student Manual, 4-5). These standard works are the King James Version of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price. These three latter documents are the official interpretation of the first.

The Mormons believe that the Bible was altered by the Church. They refer to the period between the death of the apostles and the restoration under Joseph Smith as “the long night of apostasy.” (Doctrine of the Gospel Student Manual, 59) They even hold that Jesus’s work was only a restoration of the true Church (Mormon Doctrine, 133). The corruptions included the addition of philosophy, additions and alterations to the rites of the church and unauthorized changes in organization (Jesus the Christ, 748-749).

The Mormons believe that anyone claiming to follow the Bible but rejecting Mormonism is an apostate. Only their restored Church is valid. The true keys to salvation were given solely to Joseph Smith (Doctrine and Covenants, 110:16, 5:10, 28:2-7); and he has selectively sent the leaders of the Mormon Church to further Smith’s mission (Doctrine and Covenants 138:53-56).

Make no mistake about it. Mormonism rejects all forms of Christianity except their own on the basis of their additional revelation. They reject any church but their own. “Once or twice in a thousand years a new door is opened through which all men must enter if they are to gain peace in this life and be inheritors of eternal life in the realms ahead.” (Bruce R. McConkie in Conference Report, October 1975).

Conclusion

I have not taken the time to reiterate the orthodox Christian view on these matters; but any moderately well-versed Christian will tell you that the teachings on God and Jesus are contradictory to orthodoxy. Likewise, the statements which undermine the authority of the Scriptures should resonate as major errors if you know anything about the orthodox view of the Scriptures.

Reading these statements, all of which come from publicly available sources generated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints themselves, how could anyone say that Mormonism is just another brand of Christianity? At its very core, Mormonism denies two fundamental tenets of orthodoxy: the eternal, triune nature of God and the inspiration of Scripture.

Even if there were no other issues with Mormonism (and there are plenty), these two disagreements set Mormonism outside of the flow of orthodox Christianity.

Don’t get me wrong. Mormons are free to believe whatever they wish. We must respect their right of individual determination and practice of faith; but when Mormons attempt to present their faith as if it is Christianity, they are either ignorant of their own religious leaders’ teachings or blatantly lying. Mormonism simply is not compatible with orthodox Christianity on a fundamental, doctrinal level. Pretending that it is would be folly.

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What Is Normal?

What Is Normal?

(I came across this post while looking for something else. I wrote this in 2007, and I was probably giving “The Word” a fresh listen while getting ready to teach on Ezekiel. Although a lot has changed about me since the days when I wrote it, this still resonated with me.)

Reluctant ride in the middle of the belly of a whale
A wheel on fire in the middle of the sky
Abandoned baby kicking on the side of the road
And a wife has died but you’re denied the right to cry.

[“The Prophet”, The Word, Michael Card]

There is something attractive about the concept of being “normal.” There is a certain security that comes from fitting in and being a part of the accepted. When we find ourselves as “normal,” there is a certain reassurance that it is okay to be who you are, to do what you do.

And then we encounter the prophets. Here were a group of people who operated according to an entirely different set of rules. They lived their lives to the beat of different drummers. At every turn of their lives, people told them that they had no right to say what they said. They were criticized and often tortured for being unusual, being abnormal.

Once I heard someone preach in a chapel service about “the normal Christian life” and one of my students came up to me and asked, “What is normal?” That moment stuck in my head. Is normal really normal? And who decides what normal is anyway?

The Bible is filled with abnormal people. In fact there seems to be a disproportionate number of weirdos in there. Whether it is Elijah wandering around the desert being fed by ravens or Simon Peter seeing visions of sails with animals on it and hearing God talk to him or John the Beloved seeing angels with candlesticks and women clothed in the sun, there are some freaks who contributed to the inspired Word of God.

They were not normal. In fact, they would not be welcomed in most churches – even the wacko, progressive, emerging ones. These guys were cracked.

All of this is for a reason – and not just to prove that acting insane is Biblical. The reality is that God uses diverse people and methods. There is no such thing as a normal Christian or a normal church because God makes us all unique. Our wonderful mishmash of gifts and abilities was God’s idea.

Embracing diversity is a way of embracing a God who is big – REALLY BIG. He is SO big that he transcends our stereotypes, and I mean our stereotypes of each other and of him. We’re really all abnormal, because God is the biggest weirdo of us all. We are diverse because God himself created diversity so we could experience the full spectrum of everything he created for us.

Don’t Give In, part 5

Don’t Give In, part 5

Just Be Cool.

Nothing is less cool than making people conform to something they did not think of themselves. They’re going to respond much better to a form of pastoring that starts with what they want and then builds around them. What is really cool is that we focus more on appearances and feelings. That is cool. Cool is determined by what the people want – what the majority of people expect.

What’s not cool?

  • The Bible, except as something quotable
  • Reverent language
  • Expecting people to think for themselves

What’s cool?

  • Light shows
  • faux hawks and soul patches
  • Feel-good, predictable sermons

It is much cooler to appeal to the lowest common denominator and treat it as exceptional than it is to call people to standards that would clearly require discipline and involvement. It’s simply not possible to be too cool, right? I mean, you don’t wind up looking like an idiot when your objective is coolness, right?

Yep. That sounds good.

[This post, and all in this series, are satirical hyperbole. That means I am making a point by exaggerating the opposite point.]

 

Don’t Give In, part 4

Don’t Give In, part 4

Can we really know anything anyway?

If you listen to what many mainstream scholars are saying, everything about Jesus’ life and ministry is kinda up for grabs. We don’t know that he did stuff or said stuff, and most of Paul’s letters are either misunderstood or not written by him anyway. So, the gospel should really about felt needs and the wants of people.

If that’s the case, then what is really important in ministry is that you make people feel as if they have accomplished something by being “in church”. Ministry is all about adding value and purpose to people’s lives.

Feel People’s Desire for Importance

Stop requiring righteousness or expecting Biblical literacy – redefine what it means to be a follower of Christ in “practical” terms and you will give people a goal that they can not only shoot for, but can accomplish with minimal investment from them

That couldn’t possibly backfire on you, could it? It’s not like people will constantly want more affirmation or expect compromising more and more of my deeply held convictions. They won’t become the all-consuming me-monsters of your universe, will they?

[This post, and all in this series, are satirical hyperbole. That means I am making a point by exaggerating the opposite point.]

Don’t Give In, part 3

Don’t Give In, part 3

There’s no money in real ministry

Sure, you might have the assurance that you are striving to understand the ancient text of the Scriptures and present it to folks so the Spirit of God can use it to transform their lives – but is that skill that will pay the bill?

I mean, do you really want to go through life with just enough to meet your needs? Don’t you want to see the green?

Why should you waste your time on all that stuff that will require you to conform to the Scriptures when you could be making money by giving people what they want? You could have staff people to do all the work for you.

Doesn’t that sound better than all that work studying and being honest will require?

In the end, what is important is you. You work hard. You deserve to get paid. Star athletes get paid. CEO’s get paid. You’re the pastor. You’re like a Heisman winner and a baron of business all wrapped into one. Get the payday you deserve, you superstar of a minister, you!

[This post, and all in this series, are satirical hyperbole. That means I am making a point by exaggerating the opposite point.]

Don’t Give In , part 2

Don’t Give In , part 2

Might as well give people what they want.

Sure.

Most people are bored in most churches.

But if they are going to a traditional, predictable church then at least they know they can depend on the pastor to show up at their house routinely and any time they want to just talk and talk, they can always set up an appointment and he has to listen with a concerned face.

And if they don’t want that kind of church, they can always go find a rock show with a little message at the end that passes for a worship service in some of the newer churches. They can move through life anonymously without any genuine spiritual growth but still tell people that they got a lot out of the worship service.

Who wants someone to challenge them at every turn? And think of all the time you will have on my hands if you don’t have to do all that studying the Scriptures and working in ancient languages?

In fact, you can get plenty of ready-made sermons online. After all, if it is good enough to be preached by some pastor somewhere else, it should be effective in my congregation as well, right?

So, find out what people want from you and just give it to them. It will make everyone a whole lot happier. And in the end, isn’t that what ministry is all about?

[This post, and all in this series, are satirical hyperbole. That means I am making a point by exaggerating the opposite point.]

Don’t Give In, part 1

Don’t Give In, part 1

For years, I have tried to challenge the status quo and call people to do the difficult work of truly living according to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But I have decided there is really no point to it. I have faced too many challenges and resistance, so I have decided to just put my pastoring gig into autopilot. Why?

Well, it works on airplanes, doesn’t it? 

I mean once the pilot gets the plane in the air, he slaps on autopilot and just hangs out with his copilot, right? I have heard that on most flights over about four or five hours, the pilot is generally sleeping anyway. On an average day, air traffic controllers handle over 28,000 flights every day. How many of them crash? That’s right – NONE. Since 2001, there have been five crashes involving commercial planes. FIVE. See, autopilot works great.

Why shouldn’t it work with pastoring? Leading a church isn’t nearly as complicated as flying a commercial plane, right? And the average commercial airliner has more people on it than will hear the average sermon.

So if an autopilot can handle an airliner, why can’t we put the church in autopilot as well?

[This post, and all in this series, are satirical hyperbole. That means I am making a point by exaggerating the opposite point.]