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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Tom Wright on Framing the Debate on Homosexuality

Once again, Tom Wright brings wisdom and reason to a hot topic. Toward the end, he addresses the Enlightenment arrogance of those who say, “We know more about homosexuality” or “We have evolved from the ignorance of the ancient world”. While Wright does not come down on one side or the other in this video, he brings up a lot of points that people refuse to consider in this debate (or rather argument). Chief among the issues worth considering is Wright’s point about differentiation in creation.

Worship Manifesto, post 2

manifesto  (ˌmænɪˈfɛstəʊ) —  , pl -tos -toes
a public declaration of intent, policy, aims, etc, as issued by apolitical party, government, or movement

The Church defines worship in many ways, but none is universal. A liturgy of worship can aid a congregation in worship, but it is ultimately a state of the heart.

Many want to make this a state of complete prostration, others wish it to be conviction while others take it to the extreme of reckless celebration – drunkenness in the experience.

Worship can be found in all of these things, to some extent, but worship’s core is the person of Jesus Christ. At the very core of worship must be the gospel – that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, come to redeem and restore all of creation.

It is not enough to view His work as a punctuation point in the midst of a larger story, to be “saved” and then along the way become “holy.” Worship’s core is the reality that Jesus’ redemption and restoration of creation is ongoing, active and present, and that while there is a personal element to this redemptive work, it is not solely or even primarily focused on the individual.

Worship is knowing that Christ is not simply imminent (overhanging and coming soon) but also immanent (present and active), that the restoration of creation is not just happening in individual hearts and will one day happen in all creation but that the work in the hearts of men and women is one and the same with the work in the creation.

At worship’s core must be the conviction that Jesus is not just my Savior but that he is creation’s Savior, and that the gospel preached to us is not that of the individual but of all things (Revelation 21:5).

Worship Manifesto, post 1

manifesto  (ˌmænɪˈfɛstəʊ) —  , pl -tos -toes
a public declaration of intent, policy, aims, etc, as issued by apolitical party, government, or movement

I am endlessly fascinated by the machinations of the modern church, in our varied attempts to justify our own existence. When we feel that sentiment is pulling toward social engagement, we become activists. When it is pulling toward leadership and programming, we become businessmen. When it pulls toward conversionism, we become evangelists. There is a constant tension in the church, pulling in all directions at once and creating a ministerial schizophrenia that makes us feel as if we are relevant and active while in reality paralyzing us. There are so many competing models and paradigms that there is no longer one focus. And sadly, when we try to reclaim that focus, all too often we simply reframe the competing ideas without accomplishing anything of significance.

Today, we declare that we will center our focus on Jesus – the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2); the Savior, Apostle and Head of the Church (1 John 4:14, Hebrews 3:1Ephesians 5:23, Colossians 1:18; the express Image of the Father (Hebrews 1:3); the Only Begotten Son and the Firstborn of the Resurrection (John 1:18Romans 8:29, Colossians 1:18). And we declare this focus to be worship.

We declare that our intent as the Church of Jesus Christ is to worship God in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24); to be reborn and remade through Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17Romans 8:29Philippians 3:10); to walk in new life (Romans 6:4); and to discover a new, shared vocabulary of worship and praise (Ephesians 5:19Colossians 3:16).

Putting Church in the Blender

When we started the merger process between Grace Baptist Church and Heritage Baptist Church back in 2009, our elders and I did a lot of digging and found few resources to guide us. There just wasn’t much out there on church mergers, and what was out there was overwhelmingly negative.

Despite this, we decided that the Spirit of God was bringing us together, so we pressed on. I can’t even count the number of times I told the congregations, “We don’t know what we’re doing. We’re making this up as we go.” Some might consider that an admittance of weakness. To us, it was just being honest. We were making it up as we went. We were seeking what wisdom we could and being quite deliberate in taking our steps, but we were in undiscovered country.

Two years down the road, we know the things we did well and the things we did not do well. Overall, I thought the elders did an extraordinary job and the congregation was incredibly forgiving as we stumbled toward God’s vision.

Early last year, we were approached to assist in a merger between two congregations in Manchester. Actually, we were approached by a congregation looking for someone to merge with. We offered what we had gleaned from our experience, and over the next few months, we were able to assist them when we could.

A couple weeks ago, both of those congregations voted to what we called a “merger in principle” and they are calling their “blended worship.” I have received emails from their leaders – expressions of celebration as God brings them together. It is a joy to my heart to know that what God has done at Bedford Road can help others in the Kingdom.

Their emails got me thinking. All along, I have been contemplating and working on writing a resource on the subject of blending congregations. I have stopped and started several times. At one point, I have fifty pages written when I stalled out and stopped working. I could not figure out exactly why, but now as I am thinking over things perhaps I have stumbled on it.

I was trying to write as an authority, with the voice of someone who knows answers. In reality, we never knew what we were doing. We were somewhat surprised every time something we did worked. We were humbled to see God at work, because we knew that it could not be our own efforts.

At the same time, we were constantly bucking human authority and challenging trends. We were upstarts, doing something you weren’t supposed to be able to do in a way that had not been tried before. We were inventing structures and rethinking traditions in ways none of us had actually seen done in practice. Everyone around us, people we respected, told us we couldn’t do it. But we did.

That got me thinking that perhaps the problem was the way I was writing the book. Rather than trying to be the new textbook for this stuff, I should be writing it the way we lived it – stumbling and bumbling to keep up with what God was doing. We still haven’t caught up.

Further Meditations on Psalm 29

Ascribe to יהוה, O heavenly beings [sons of God],
ascribe to יהוה glory and strength.
Ascribe to יהוה the glory due his name;
worship יהוה in the splendor of holiness.

The voice of יהוה is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
יהוה, over many waters.
The voice of יהוה is powerful;
the voice of יהוה is full of majesty.

The voice of יהוה breaks the cedars;
יהוה breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of יהוה flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of יהוה shakes the wilderness;
יהוה shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of יהוה makes the deer give birth
and strips the forests bare,
and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

יהוה sits enthroned over the flood;
יהוהsits enthroned as king forever.
May יהוה give strength to his people!
May יהוה bless his people with peace

In our thinking, a voice is simply what you use to speak. In ancient Hebrew the word for voice is קול (qowl). It is a shouted voice – a voice of proclamation. The image I always have in my head is Yul Brynner as Pharaoh in The Ten Commandments.

In the film, Brynner’s character has a speaking voice and a commanding voice. When he makes commands, it is clear that he is not to be questioned – that he believes his authority is absolute.

Reading Psalm 29, it is worth remembering that this “voice of YHWH” is not simply God speaking to us as friends. It is God declaring his nature and his authority. His voice cannot be separated from his nature and existence. It shatters mountains and shakes deserts.

Do not fear the ‘tech’

Thanks be to God, we have here neither free schools nor printing presses, and I hope we will not have any for a hundred years, for education has sent into the world doubt, heresy and sectarianism, and the printing press has propagated, in addition to all these evils, attacks against governments! -Sir William Berkeley (1605-1677), Governor of Virginia

Technology takes time to get use to. There is a bit of a delay between the implementation of something that has tremendous potential and the realization of that potential. Then, there is another delay between the realization of that potential and the integration of it.

Think of how drastically the moveable type printing press changed the world. The Protestant Reformation and the Enlightenment were direct results of the printing press. This change did not happen overnight, and even as the change was happening, there were a lot of people abusing and misusing the new technology.

The same can be said for virtually all technology that changes how we live: the automobile, the jet liner, the telephone, the personal computer, the internet, the mobile device. These technologies are still in their infancy.

When Sir William Berkeley condemned the printing press, it had not yet spurred on the Age of Revolution. It was a century before the American Revolution. Many of the most subversive books of our culture had not yet been written. The printing press had not even begun to open the doors for heresy and sectarianism.

But along with the dangers came the tremendous benefits. The printed book gave millions access to information that had been hidden from them. Knowledge, wisdom, and information flowed freely in a way that we take for granted today, and which is dwarfed by the speed in which we share information now.

People condemned the telephone as dangerous to the family unit. The Internet was immoral and dangerous (parts of it still are!). Translating the Bible into ‘vulgar languages’ was condemned by clergy and monarchs alike. Every invention that has changed the world has been condemned at some point.

Technology itself is not evil. They are tools, and tools are only as good or evil as the hands that wield them. What can be used for evil can also be use for good.