In part 1, I defined terms and explained why it is important to look at the historical and archaeological accuracy of the Mormon scriptures, the history of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS, or Mormons), and the honesty and character of the founder, Joseph Smith. In part 2, I examined the accuracy of the Book of Mormon, and in part 3 I dealt with the early history of the LDS and Joseph Smith.
My conclusion is that the LDS claims that the Book of Mormon and other LDS writings and teachings were at a par with the Bible and orthodox Christianity are baseless.
Therefore, if the LDS doctrines deviate from the clear teaching and instructions of the Bible, then the Mormons are not Christian, and cannot be accepted into Christian fellowship. I refer you to part 1 of this series for a definition of what Christian fellowship means.
So, let’s take a look at some LDS doctrines, and see whether they are Biblical or not.
In order to keep this post from becoming too long and detailed, I will address the core of the issue: any doctrine that is in opposition to the Biblical understanding of the nature of God and the person and work of Jesus the Christ is false, and those who adhere to that false doctrine are not Christian. While that doctrine may be taught by a sect or religion that has its origins within the Christian tradition, it is nevertheless not Christian in the meaning of having a truth claim that leads to a right relationship with God.
First, compare the LDS doctrine of God to what the Bible reveals.
The Christian doctrine of the nature of God is this: there is one God who always was God and always will be. He is triune in nature – that is, God is one Being in essence, who presents Himself to us in three Persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). A detailed explanation of the doctrine of the Trinity with Scripture references can be found here.
The Mormon doctrine of God is quite different. While the Christian doctrine affirms the Shema (Deut. 6:4), The LDS teaches a polytheistic doctrine. Here are examples from their own official scriptures and prophetic proclamations:
The Book of Abraham, chapter 4 is a retelling of the creation, and throughout the chapter refers to ‘the Gods’ as the agents of creation.
“I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods.” – History of the Church, 6:474; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on June 16, 1844
In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it. – The Teachings of Joseph Smith, Section Six, p.349
Not only is the LDS doctrine of God polytheistic and denies the Trinity, but they believe that God was once a man:
God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,–I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form–like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another. – The Teachings of Joseph Smith, Section Six 1, p.345
In addition to a false doctrine of God, the LDS teachings on the nature of Jesus and the way of salvation is quite different from what is taught in the Bible. Biblical Christianity affirms that Jesus the Christ is eternally God (not a created being as the Mormons teach), conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, was crucified and died to pay for our sins, rose from the dead three days later, and salvation is based on His grace extended toward those who turn from their self-centered sin (repent) and trust in Him.
The Mormons use much of the same terminology, but have a very different view of salvation. Ultimately, it is based on the individual’s good works and ability to continually obey the teachings of the LDS:
“Salvation or redemption from our own sins is not by free grace alone. It requires work.
Grace and works unite to bring salvation. We believe that through the grace of Jesus Christ we are saved. He performed for us those things which we could not do for ourselves, but there are certain requirements in the Gospel of Jesus Christ which we must obey for ourselves which are essential to salvation,” (Joseph Fielding Smith, 10th President of the LDS, Religious Truths Defined, p. 270)
“As these sins are the result of individual acts it is just that forgiveness for them should be conditioned on individual compliance with prescribed requirements — ‘obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel,'” (Articles of Faith by James Talmage, p. 79)
These ordinances include baptism in the LDS church, tithing, and obeying any other directives of the LDS.
In conclusion: LDS doctrine and practice is clearly false and denies core Biblical truths. Therefore, Mormons cannot be considered Christians in the sense that they have been redeemed from the wrath of God; they are still under the penalty of sin and are worshipping a false god. Consequentially, they are excluded from the fellowship of Christians.
How should we treat Mormons? Just like any other lost soul headed for hell. We need to prayerfully and graciously show them God’s love and truth, and firmly but gently correct them when they present false doctrine.
It is quite difficult to pin down ‘official’ LDS doctrine because, especially in the last two decades, the LDS has made an aggressive attempt to present itself as not significantly different from orthodox Christianity and has purposefully misrepresented its teachings to do so.
Below are some additional resources for studying Mormonism:
CARM has enough links to articles and resources to keep you reading for hours, including this concise chart comparing orthodox Christian and LDS doctrine.
An article at What Do Mormons Believe gives an explanation of atonement from the LDS. Unlike most Mormon sites, a careful reading clearly shows their heretical doctrines. A similar article about salvation does the same.
This article at 4truth.net gives a comparison of the Biblical doctrine of salvation and the LDS teaching with many Scripture references and source citations.