Ever since Mitt Romney became the a presidential candidate, the hot media topic these days centers on his Mormon religion, formally called, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Unfortunately, many Christians are unfamiliar with the fundamental differences between the LDS doctrine and historic biblical Christianity. However, when Christian leaders and pastors do not understand even the central differences and thus declare the Mormon faith as a truly “Christian” faith, there is no excuse. This kind of irresponsible thinking and lack of discernment removes the evangelical necessity to the Mormon people.
Demonstrative of this, Richard J. Mouw, President of Fuller Seminary, said in a CNN interview (Oct 9th), that Mormonism is not a “cult.” He further stated: “While I am not prepared to reclassify Mormonism as possessing undeniably Christian theology, I do accept many of my Mormon friends as genuine followers of the Jesus whom I worship as the divine Savior.”
Here we have the president of a recognized Christian learning institution stating that many of his Mormon friends are “genuine followers of the Jesus” whom he worships. Really? Do they actually worship the same Jesus? Did Mr. Mouw examine the basic core teachings of the LDS Church, which all members embrace? Is he really that uninformed as to “essential” LDS doctrines such as the pagan polytheistic notion of many Gods; God as a physical exalted man; men becoming Gods; salvation by works; and the teaching that God the Father had sex with the Virgin Mary (who they believe is the Father’s literal daughter) to produce the physical body of Jesus?
In the same way, recently, Joel Osteen was interviewed on Fox News. In one segment, the host asked Osteen: “Is a Mormon a true Christian?” In which Osteen replied with a smile, “In my mind they are.” However, we should not be surprised at Osteen’s answer. Based on his own teachings and other interviews, it seems that Osteen just does not see the importance of having accurate biblical theology—everyone is good and anything goes.
So there is no misunderstanding regarding the LDS faith, let us briefly look at a few fundamental LDS doctrines that controvert and deny historic Christian doctrine.
Polytheism & Man Becoming God
Aside from the countless theological distortions, the main fundamental difference between biblical Christianity and the LDS doctrine is ontological monotheism, that is, there exists one true God (monotheism) by nature (ontological; cf. Gal. 4:8). The LDS are taught that there exist many true Gods. The basis of this revolves around two distinctive LDS doctrines: Eternal Progression and Exaltation.
Eternal Progression is the alleged progression that man experiences: First, there is man’s “pre-existence” before coming to earth existing in heaven as the literal spirit children of God the Father and one of his wives (what Mormons call, “first estate”), after which they are sent to earth to receive their physical bodies (i.e., mortality), which is called, the “second estate.” Then when people here on earth die, they first go to the “spirit world” to await their final destination, which will be one of the three levels of heavens, the celestial, terrestrial or the telestial, being the lowest. Thus, Eternal Progression is the process from pre-existence to earth then to the final abode, which is one of the three heavens, or hell, if one becomes a “son of perdition.”
Exaltation is the doctrine of man becoming God. LDS Apostle Lorenzo Snow, who later became the fifth President of the Mormon Church, sums up the LDS man-to-God doctrine in a short couplet that has been frequently quoted by LDS leaders: “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may become.” The doctrine teaches then that God the Father was a mere man that had to become a God. Thus, the LDS Church does not hold to the biblical teaching that God the Father (and the Son) existed eternally as God, rather, the doctrine holds to the false notion that God had to become God at a certain point in time by obedience to His Father, back on another planet similar to earth.
President, founder, and so-called Prophet of the LDS Church, Joseph Smith, at the April General Conference called, The King Follet Discourse (which was a funeral sermon of Elder King Follet, with 20,000 attendees) Smith stated to the Mormon people:
I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show what kind of being God was. . . . God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens . . . for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and suppose that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see . . . he [God] was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible. . . .
Here then, is eternal life—to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one. . . . (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 345-347; emphasis added).
Furthermore, Milton R. Hunter, of the First Council of the Seventy said: “Mormon prophets have continuously taught the sublime truth that God the Eternal Father was once a mortal man. . . . He became God” (The Gospel Through the Ages, p. 104).
Even more, in the LDS Booklet: Celestial Marriage–Key to Man’s Destiny, we read: “God was once a man who, by obedience, advanced to his present state of perfection; through obedience and celestial marriage, we may progress to the point where we become like God. . . . God became God by Obedience to Law” (p. 1; emphasis added). Thus, the doctrine of Exaltation clearly results in polytheism—namely, many Gods. Brigham Young, second LDS President and Prophet taught: “There was never a time when there were not Gods and worlds. . . .” (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, pp. 22- 23; emphasis added). Note what LDS Apostle Orson Pratt states:
In the Heaven where our spirits were born, there are many Gods, each one of whom has his own wife or wives which are given to him previous to his redemption; while yet in his mortal state (The Seer, 37-38; emphasis added).
Again, we will reference Joseph Smith since his words are authoritative in the LDS Church. June 16, 1844, just days before he died (he was shot on the 27th), Smith proclaims:
I will preach on the plurality of Gods . . . I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods. It has been preached by the Elders for fifteen years. 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” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 370; emphasis added).
There are literally hundreds of statements made by LDS General Authorities (mostly by LDS Prophets and Apostles) confirming this polytheistic doctrine. The teaching of many Gods sharply opposes the biblical teaching of monotheism. It is an anti-Christian doctrine (cf. Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10; Jer. 10:10-11; John 17:3; Gal. 4:8; 1 Tim. 2:5). In Isaiah 44:6, 8, the LORD states clearly: “I am the first I am the last; apart from Me [singular] there is no God. . . . You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one” (emphasis added). In Isaiah 44:24, the Lord says, “I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself and spreading out the earth all alone” (emphasis added).
LDS Doctrine of the Physical Body of God the Father
Along with the pagan system of polytheism, the LDS boldly claim that God the Father is a physical man! “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible man’s” (Doctrine & Covenants, sec. 130:22). Again, let us cite Joseph Smith on the subject: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man and sits enthroned in yonder heavens. . . .” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345; emphasis added). This again opposes the biblical position that God the Father is an omnipresent invisible spirit who does not have flesh and bones. In contrast to the LDS notion, Jesus says in John 4:24: “God [the Father] is spirit” (John 4:24). And after His resurrection, Jesus clearly defines the nature of a spirit. “A spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have” (Luke 24:39). Hence, the Father is spirit, not a man with flesh and bones as the LDS claim. Further, in 2 Chronicles 6:18, we read: “The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain You” (cf. Jer. 23:24). God says in Hosea 11:9: “I am God and not a man” (cf. Num. 23:19). God the Father is invisible (cf. John 1:18; Col. 1:15; esp. 1:Tim. 1:17; 6:16).
So, are Mormons Christians? Are they “genuine followers of Jesus” as Mouw says? Do we embrace them as fellow Christians as Osteen does? If we merely define a “Christian” as someone who “professes” Jesus Christ as Lord, born of a virgin, died and rose again, and shows love to others, well then, I guess Mormons are true Christians. However, if we apply that definition, then, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Oneness Pentecostals are also true Christians—for they all make this same profession.
Here is the point: Jesus said in John 17:3 that eternal life consists of “knowing” the “true God” and His Son, Jesus Christ. Thus, having accurate knowledge according to Scripture of who God is determines true Christianity. Yes, it is true: “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But the question is: which Lord is it that one is calling on? Which Jesus is it that one addresses as Lord? It does matter in which Jesus one believes (cf. John 8:24). Only the Jesus of biblical revelation is “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20). Only that Christ, the eternal God, second Person of the holy Trinity, is the true Savior.
As seen, the Mormons call on a Lord who was once a man that had to become a God. According to this LDS idea, there is no quality difference between mortal man and Jesus. The only difference being, Jesus is exalted as a God presently, while man must live out his life here on earth hoping for a future exaltation. This is why Mormons refer to Jesus as their “elder brother”—literally. The LDS God is a physical exalted man, one of countless Gods on other worlds—that’s not Christian doctrine.
The LDS teachings presented above only represents a few of many heresies that separate the LDS from true Christianity. The LDS Church rejects the true God of Scripture who is immutable, eternal, and triune. In contrast, the Bible teaches that there is only one eternal God, not many (cf. Deut. 4:35, 6:4; Isa. 43:10; 44:6-8, 24). God has always been God (cf. Ps. 90:2) and Jesus Christ has always been God (cf. John 1:1; Phil. 2:6; Heb. 1:3. 8, 10-12), which the LDS deny. Clearly, the God of the LDS faith does not represent one true God of inspired Scripture—they embrace a false concept of God. Thus, the Mormons are not Christians. So, we must proclaim the true gospel to the LDS missionaries that come to our door and pray that God grants them salvation setting them free from the spiritual bondage of the LDS Church.