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Cults and World Religions

Mormonism



“As god once was, man is. As God is, man may become.”
Lorenzo Snow, President of the LDS 18

Known officially as:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Also known as the LDS

“Mormonism is one of the most effective counterfeits of
biblical Christianity ever devised.” 19
Kenneth Boa

Did you ever get visited by an angel? If you did, how would you act?

If you haven’t, how do you think you would act?

Would you be in awe? And, what if the purpose of the visit was to receive great, new revelation from God? What would you do with it? How would it change your life?

Well, as an example, consider the example of Joseph Smith, Jr. . . .

a man who claimed such a visit, and more!

History

Born on December 23, 1805, in Vermont, Smith followed after his father, a fortune hunter and seeker of buried treasure. His mother was said to have been highly superstitious. Did this affect the young Smith?

When he was 14, Smith claims a visit by none less than God the Father and Jesus. They told Smith not to join any of the denominational churches. This visit occurred at a time when the young man was praying in the woods over his concerns and confusion about all of the different denominations.

Three years later, the angel Moroni visited the teenager. Moroni was the son of Mormon, the leader of a people called the Nephites, a people who lived in America. The angel’s message was to deliver golden plates to Smith on which were written the Book of Mormon. The book was hidden around Palmyra, New York, where Smith was then living. The book had been written in the 4th Century by Mormon. Smith claims to have received the golden plates about four years later (1827). The translating process took about three years. During this period of translation, Smith claimed that he was visited by John the Baptist, who ordained him for the divine work of restoring the true church by preaching the true gospel, a gospel which had been lost from the earth. This true church is the original church of the Apostles from the first century.

The Book of Mormon is the account of people who came from the Middle-East to the Americas. It covers the period of about 600 B.C. to 400 A.D. and tells of the Jaredites, people from the Tower of Babel who came to central America but perished because of their own immorality. It also describes some Jews who fled persecution in Jerusalem and came to America led by a man called Nephi. The Jews divided into two groups known as the Nephites and Lamanites who fought each other.

The Nephites were defeated in 428 A.D. The Lamanites continued and are known as the American Indians. Their red skin was punishment for their having defeated the Nephi. The Book of Mormon is the account of the Nephite leader, Mormon, concerning their culture, civilization, and appearance of Jesus to the Americas. Jesus Himself is said to have come to America following His Resurrection where He performed many miracles, delivered a sermon ala the Beatitudes, and appointed twelve disciples from the Nephi tribe.

After the publication of this book, the group began to grow, but it had a very stormy history. The history is primarily the result of the varied teachings which are so deviant from Christianity. These include a plurality of gods, polygamy, and the theories on the priesthood. While many of these traits attracted members, they also brought a great deal of trouble. Of particular concern in the various societies in which Smith lived, the issue of polygamy created the greatest problems. Smith himself is said to have had twenty-seven wives. Smith and his group were forced to move from New York to Ohio, to Missouri, and finally to Nauvoo, Illinois. There, Smith and his brother were arrested for destroying a printing press which had been used to publish negative comments about the Mormons. A mob broke into the jail, killing both Smith and his brother.

At this point, the church divides into two groups, a fact not recognized by many Americans. The first group was led by one of Smith’s widows. This group returned to Independence, Missouri and are known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They, of course, claim to be the true church and true successor to Smith’s organization. Independence is the city of choice, because this is the spot to which Jesus will return at his Second Coming. The Reorganized church was officially established in 1860 with Joseph Smith III being its first president and prophet.

The other group was led by Brigham Young. They ended up in Salt Lake, founding the city in 1847. Young is said to have had twenty-five wives and became very wealthy. At the time Young arrived at Salt Lake, the territory was still a part of Mexico, although it would shortly be ceded to the U.S. In 1851, President Millard Fillmore appointed Young the governor of the Utah Territory. However, six years later, President James Buchanan had to send US troops into Utah to quiet anti-Mormon protests. This action led to a non-Mormon governor being appointed. 20

By 1860, Mormonism had grown to about 80,000. Its membership would double in the next twenty years. During this time, Utah would grant women the right to vote and Brigham Young University would be founded. Further, Congress would pass the Morrill Act which prohibited plural marriages. The Act would not be enforced in Utah. In 1882, the Edmunds Act is passed imposing very stiff penalties on polygamy. This action drives many of the Mormon leaders into hiding. Five years later, Congress passes the Edmunds-Tucker Act which dissolves the Corporate entity of the LDS. The church property is seized under the terms of this Act. Three years later (1890), all Mormons in the US are disenfranchised, regardless of whether they practiced polygamy or not. This forces the church leaders to issue a Manifesto instructing the members to obey the anti-polygamy laws.

Utah becomes a state on January 4, 1896. Four years later, at the turn of the century, the church claims a membership of 268,000 members.

There are several other books of importance to the Mormon Church besides the Book of Mormon. In 1967 the original Egyptian papyrus from which Joseph Smith claimed to have translated one of these, the Book of Abraham, is “rediscovered.” Experts dispute this claim, finding the work to be a funeral text not related to Abraham.

In 1990, the Mormon church claimed a membership of eight million, with 43,000 full time missionaries in the field. The Temple in Salt Lake City claimed over 4.7 million visitors. By the end of millennium, the LDS claimed a membership of over ten million members in more than 20,000 churches existing in 150 countries. The church claims its membership has doubled every fifteen years since 1945. 21

Why does it grow?

Mormonism is growing because it provides significant benefits. It offers social security – the church always takes care of the needs of its people. It strives to build the family unit and provides many programs for Mormon youth (scouting, recreation, dances). This results in a very low rate of juvenile delinquency. The church challenges its laymen to be actively involved and provides a host of things for them to do. Mormonism is pervaded with the idea that everything practiced in the church is a result of divine revelation. These are appeals the evangelical Christian church ought to have. 22

Doctrines

Like many cults, Mormonism is a blend of elements drawn from various religions, including man’s imagination. There is an eternal progression similar to the Eastern religions whereby man becomes a part of god. As such, the Mormons see Christ as the first man-god, just as the good Mormon will become a man-god. There is progression into Eternity followed by the good Mormon, which is dependent, among other things, on whether one were married in the Temple!

The Mormon’s distort many of the essential doctrines of Christianity.

First, God the Father has a body. Walter Martin quotes Brigham Young: “Adam is our father and our God and the only God with whom we have to do.” 23 And, Jesus is a creation. Christ was created as a spirit child. He is god in flesh, but only "a" god in flesh, one of three gods that comprise the office of the Trinity (Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost). Mormon theology teaches that god used to be a man on another planet, that he became a god by following the laws and ordinances of the god on that world, and that he brought one of his wives to this world with whom he produces spirit children who then inhabit human bodies at birth. The first spirit child to be born was Jesus. Second was Satan, and then we all followed. The Jesus of Mormonism is definitely not the same Jesus of the Bible. Therefore, faith in the Mormon Jesus, is faith misplaced because the Mormon Jesus doesn&t exist.

Salvation is not obtained by Jesus death on the Cross. Instead, forgiveness of sin comes via a cooperative effort with God. Man must be “good” and “follow” the laws and ordinances of the Mormon church to obtain forgiveness. In the Mormon world, salvation also includes universal resurrection as part of the Eternal Progression. Everyone has eternal life. The term salvation is rarely used. Rather the Mormons speak of “exaltation” in which the person is destined to attain the highest degree of heaven after death. As noted, this is a salvation by works. If asked to defend this doctrine, the Mormon would most likely quote from James where he writes “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26).

Mormons have “undermined the authority and trustworthiness of the Bible. The 8th article of faith from the Mormon Church states, ‘We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.’ The interesting thing is that Joseph Smith allegedly corrected the Bible in what is called The Inspired Version, though it is not used by the LDS church. Though they claim they trust the Bible, in reality they do not. They use Mormon presuppositions to interpret it. For example, where the Bible says there are no other gods in the universe (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6,8), they interpret it to mean ‘no other gods of this world.’” 24

An interesting side issue of the Mormon religion is its attitude on Blacks. One of the “benefits” of belonging to the Mormon Church is the ability to ordained as a priest. Blacks historically could not be married in the Temple (thus, preventing them from obtaining the highest level of eternity) and Black men could not become priests. This is because the black skin was a curse from God (the “mark of Ham”). In an “amazing” revelation, this position was changed in 1978 when the LDS issued a proclamation opening the priesthood to Black men.

And, of course, the early issue was that of polygamy. This point really tended to stress the low position of women in the church. The Temple wedding is viewed as a “sealing.” This is not for the benefit of the man, but for the woman, for where the wedding is not “sealed,” the couple will be viewed as divorced in heaven. “Polygamy would presumably not require any other inducement to make it agreeable to certain men; but the women would not naturally find it so attractive. Hence the doctrine that a woman cannot be saved without being “sealed” to a man.” 25

The LDS approaches religion by stressing its many areas of agreement with Christianity. Younger, less mature, Mormons are not taught the “finer” points of doctrine. The foundation must first be laid so that the deeper points of theology may be properly understood. This is brought about, at least in part, because the prophets (president) of the church continue “refine” doctrine. Further, historically, the church leadership has practiced beliefs which have not been communicated or which are denied to the general membership. Historically, the practice of polygamy is a prime example.

In line with many of the cults, the Mormons also have their share of secret rites, rites not even given to all church members. This leads to doctrinal ignorance on the part of many church members who have not been made privy to the sacred nature of Temple rituals and ceremonies. These include oaths, key words, covenants, and the secrets of the priesthood. Only those who have been “temple recommend” learn the true inner workings of the LDS. It is not surprising to learn that the authority of the Mormon church flows from the top downward. The prophet/president holds all the power. Women are excluded from the positions of power. Consider Irvine’s comments:

Its most outstanding manifestation consists in the fact that every Mormon wears on his body an endowment garment, containing figures and symbols of things very vital to him. These garments are bestowed upon the Mormon convert after due discipline in the secret temple ceremonies of the Mormon Church. 26

One of the major problems with determining the doctrine of the Mormon church is the changing nature of the “official” teachings. The canonized scriptures of the Mormon church include the Book of Mormon 27 , Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and the King James Version of the Bible (the “standard works”). However, a variety of official sermons and talks by the President and other top leasers as found in the church teaching manuals, books, magazines, and newspapers may contain what ultimately becomes the rules of practice. The church maintains that the “standard works” are the only source of doctrine, but this is frequently not the case. For example, baptism of the dead is a vicarious exercise strongly carried on by the church, but there is nothing in the Book of Mormon on this practice. In fact, the Book of Mormon clearly teaches that salvation only can be attained in this life.

This is all complicated further by the fact that the President of the church must be obeyed, even if he is wrong!

And, the Book of Mormon has, itself, undergone revisions. For example, consider the following verse from 1 Nephi:

And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of God, after the manner of the flesh.

Now, consider the same verse in the present edition:

And he said unto me: Behold, the virgin whom thou seest is the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh.

Morals, the Writings, and Other Considerations

Doctrines and Covenants is a group of 138 revelations from God. 135 of these were recorded by Joseph Smith, one was added by Brigham Young, and two were added more recently, one in 1890 concerning polygamy and the other in 1978 concerning the role of Black persons in the church.

The Peal of Great Price is a compilation of revisions and corrections to the King James Version of the Bible. The work also contains additional revelations from God and concludes with the 13 Articles of Faith.

To understand the significance of the Mormon writings, consider the following explanation of the Book of Mormon as quoted from other Mormon writings:

The state purpose of the Book of Mormon (in its introduction) is universal: to witness to the world the truth and divinity of Jesus Christ, and his mission of salvation through the gospel he taught. . . The sealed book, the Book of Mormon, is predicted by Bible prophecy and by its own declaration to be a confirming, additional revelation from God of the Messiahship of Jesus Christ, and of the covenants made with their fathers. . . It claims to be part of the new covenant to Israel. 28

Other important works include:

As an example of the types of teachings contained in these documents, the Journal of Discourses teach that God the father actually engaged in sexual activity with Mary in order to impregnate her. Jesus was a polygamist, marrying Mary, Martha and Mary Magdalene at the wedding in Cana. He father many children. It should come as no surprise that the modern Mormon church does not stress these two teachings!

But, skipping the issue of multiple wives, the Mormon church is a very moral church. They stress the preservation of the body, keeping the best health they can, and they avoid tobacco, alcohol, drugs, and the like. They often will avoid tea, coffee, and soft drinks which have caffeine. They tithe faithfully, to the point where the accumulated assets of the church are in excess of $2 billion. 29 The church also has fast offerings where the members contribute the value of two meals on the first Sunday of each month to support and feed the poor. While there is some contention of statistics, Walter Martin cites social statistics of the state of Utah to show that the rates of divorce, child abuse, and teenage pregnancy and suicide are above the national average and climbing. 30 ReligiousTolerance.org disputes these statistics.

Cults, at least, successful ones, produce off-spring. Consider the list of off-spring from the Mormons:

Witnessing to a Mormon

In witnessing to any cult, one must be very careful to understand all of the issues involved. The more deeply a person has become immersed in another religion, the more difficult the task of witnessing. The reason for this is the vast amount of indoctrination the cultist has received. This indoctrination will influence their world views and their views of what are valid arguments and valid pieces of literature. For example, since the Mormons only use the King James Version of the Bible, the use of any other version will undermine the position of the Christian witness.

Further, in most instances one should avoid a debate with the cult member over Scripture or doctrinal positions. While this may ultimately prove to be difficult, most of these verse-by-verse debates become nothing more than ping pong games without a winner. Both sides go home having scored few points. The debate accomplishes little. Consider the advice from one book written for the express purpose of teaching people how to witness to the Mormons.

Can mature Christians who know little or nothing about Mormonism witness to Mormons? We don’t believe it is possible. They will misunderstand what the Mormons are saying or will not be able to pick out their mistakes or their attempts to present only the more palatable aspects of Mormon doctrine or even to misrepresent it. Many times we have heard Christians, who have spoken to Mormon missionaries, tell us, “They believe the same as we do.” 31

This misunderstanding stems from the language issues which have already been discussed and are further highlighted in the pages following this chapter. As in the case of any evangelistic outreach, prayer and preparation are key elements in the approach to a Mormon. A good, complete understanding of the Mormon positions and doctrine are vital. This should all be undertaken in Christian love, for it is the love of Christ shining through the believer which will ultimately reflect the difference between the position of any cult and the true believer of Christ.

In the case of Mormons in particular, it is vital to understand their literature. This becomes a must, and may, ultimately, lead to that verse-by-verse debate discussed earlier. It is best to keep any discussions limited in length – that is, keep them short. Do not overburden the Mormon (or any other cult member) with too many facts and arguments. Be selective and allow the Holy Spirit to perform His Work. The goal here is not to destroy one or more branches of the tree – things represented by particular doctrines – but rather the goal is to topple the tree. To accomplish this, one must cut the trunk as close to the ground as possible. As any one who has brought down a tree of any size using hand saws will know, this is a slow, laborious process.

The verse-by-verse, doctrine-by-doctrine attack will usually fail with the Mormons because the Mormon does not necessarily believe everything Scripture states. The Mormon’s doctrine arises from other sources. Merely showing him a verse from the Bible which contradicts his belief will not cause a change of heart. The Mormon does not have that much faith in the entire written Word. Remember, the Bible is valid only in so far as it is interpreted correctly.

The ultimate goal is to lead the Mormon into a personal relationship with the one true God of the Bible. Keep in mind, he thinks he already worships the one true God. It is up to you to show him that he has a different God, a different Jesus, another gospel, and that he is breaking the first commandment. The strategy is to first undermine the Mormon’s testimony and confidence in the Mormon Church organization—its teachings, official history, unique scriptures (Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price), and biblical mis interpretations. 32

Approach the Mormon with questions you already know the answers to and which cannot be evade by him. Understand that “feelings” are important in the Mormon structure and may be substitutes for facts. Therefore, these may be used to move the Mormon to the true facts. The questions asked should be designed to lead the Mormon to your beliefs, not his. Try and take control of the meeting. Go on the offensive, but in a non-offensive, loving way. Other suggestions would be to:

And, as we stated above, do all of this in a loving manner – as Peter writes, with gentleness, meekness, and the fear of God. Be friendly, do not argue, do not become hostile, do not get angry. Take you path from the example set by Jesus and be a friend ov everyone.

1 Peter 3:15
But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear;

More on Mormonism -- see menu

Footnotes:
18. As quoted in Mormonism in a Nutshell, http://www.carm.org
19. Kenneth Boa, Cults, World Religions and the Occult, USA: Victor Books, 1977, 1990, 85.
20. There were other “black marks” on the Mormon history. Young, in his desire to control Utah, in 1857, ordered Bishop John D. Lee the task of annihilating a wagon train of over 100 virtually helpless, non-Mormon immigrants in what became known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Some twenty years after the event, Lee would be convicted and executed for the event.
21. http://www.religioustolerance.org/lds.htm
22. Boa, 95.
23. Walter Martin, Rise of the Cults, Santa Ana, CA: Vision House Publishers, 1955, 1977, 65, quoting Brigham Young from Journal of Discourses, 1:50.
24. From “Is Mormonism Christian?” at http://www.carm.org
25. John H. Gerstner, The Theology of the Major Sects, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960, 46.
26. William C. Irvine, Heresies Exposed, New York: Loizeaux Brothers, Inc. Bible Truth Depot, 1917, 133.
27. As an aside, one of the interesting issues is the speculation over the origin of the Book of Mormon. Did Joseph Smith, Jr. write it? Consider Braden’s comments: “The most commonly accepted explanation of the book’s origin by non-Mormons is that it was based upon a historic novel written by a Presbyterian clergyman named Spaulding which he intended calling The Manuscript Found in the Wilds of Mormon; or Unearthed Records of the Nephites.” Charles S. Braden, Those Who Believe, New York: The MacMillan Company, 1949, 425.
28. Martin, Kingdom of the Cults, 179, quoting The Book of Mormon by R. K. Salyards, Sr., Herald House, Independence, MO: n.d., pp.13-16.
29. As of 1982, per Martin, Kingdom of the Cults, 167.
30. Ibid, 168.
31. Farkas, John R. and David A. Reed, Mormonism: Changes, Contradictions and Errors, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) 1998, c1995.
32. Reed, David A.; and Farkas, John R., How to Rescue Your Loved One from Mormonism, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House) 1998, c1994. 33. Ibid.

 

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