Our Mormon friends are opting for a “face lift.” They are attempting to phase out the designation “Mormon Church” (which has a cultic connotation in the minds of many), and so popularize themselves with a more “Christian-like” designation.
In a recent issue of U.S. News & World Report (March 19, 2001), there appeared an article titled, “Don’t call it ‘Mormon’” authored by regular columnist Jeffery Sheler. Sheler noted that the Salt Lake City Church, just the previous week, issued a statement that it no longer wishes to be referred to as “the Mormon Church.”
The Mormons also eschew such abbreviations as “Latter-day Saints Church,” or “LDS Church.” Now, they prefer the lengthy “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” which, they allege, was given to Joseph Smith, Jr., by “divine revelation” in 1838. If a contraction must be used, they will begrudgingly accept “the Church of Jesus Christ,” or simply, “the Church.”
Though the Mormon people may be commended for some admirable qualities (e.g., strong teaching in some areas regarding morals, family values, and benevolent work on behalf of their needy) these conscientious people are egregiously in error on many of their theological positions – so much so that they cannot, in any legitimate sense, be called “the church of Jesus Christ.”
The errors of Mormonism are far too numerous to detail in this brief column. We will, therefore, briefly restrict ourselves to a comment about the Mormon dogma regarding the divine Godhead, (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit).
God, the Father
- The “God” of Mormonism is not eternal. In a speech, called the King Follett Discourse (available in Mormon bookstores), Joseph Smith proclaimed:
“. . . I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea and take away the veil, so that you may see.”
The Bible describes Jehovah as the “eternal God,” who is “from everlasting to everlasting” (Dt. 33:27; Psa. 90:2).
- The “God” of Mormonism is but an exalted man of “flesh and bones” (Doctrine & Covenants 130:22). The Bible teaches that God is spirit (Jn. 4:24), without “flesh and bones” (Lk. 24:39; cf. Mt. 16:17).
- The Mormons identify God with Adam (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, I.50). This notion is absurd. The God of the Bible made Adam (Gen. 2:7; cf. Lk. 3:38).
- The Mormons are polytheists (believing in many gods). Orson Pratt, one of the original “apostles” of Mormonism, wrote: “In the Heavens where our spirits were born, there are many Gods” (The Seer, 37). The Bible explicitly affirms the unity of God (Dt. 6:4; Jas. 2:19).
The “Christ” of Mormonism
The Mormon view of Jesus Christ is equally at variance with the Scriptures.
- Mormonism denies the biblical doctrine of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. This movement teaches that Adam-God had sexual intercourse with Mary, and as a result Jesus was conceived. Orson Pratt alleged that “the virgin Mary must have been for the time being, the lawful wife of God the Father . . .” (The Seer, 158-59).
- Incredibly, Mormonism teaches that Jesus and the devil were once brothers. In a speech, delivered in the Mormon Tabernacle at Salt Lake, “Elder” Andrew Jenson declared:
“Thus we see that Lucifer, the son of the morning, is our elder brother and the brother of Jesus Christ, but he rebelled against God and was cast down from heaven with his angels” (The Desert News, January 21, 1928).
Nothing remotely akin to this is found in the Bible.
- Mormonism contends that Jesus Christ was a polygamist. Brigham Young asserted:
“Jesus Christ was a polygamist; Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, were his plural wives, and Mary Magdalene was another” (quoted by Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, Chapter XXXV).
This is the stuff of fantasy, not Scripture.
The Holy Spirit
Mormon doctrine concerning the Holy Spirit is very confusing. While the Doctrine & Covenants refers to the Third Person of the Godhead as a “personage” (130:22), one of Mormonism’s “apostles” wrote this:
“The Holy Spirit is in a class with magnetism or electricity. He is a divine fluid, composed of material atoms or particles, or in other words an impersonal energy or cosmic force through which God acts” (Parley Pratt, Key to Science of Theology, 1855 edition, p. 29, emp. added).
In later editions, produced more than 25 years after the “apostle’s” death, this passage was removed. Can you imagine altering the writings of an “inspired apostle”?
Still, in the revised edition, the problem is hardly alleviated. In a 5th edition, published in 1891, the “substance” of the Holy Spirit is depicted as “one of the elements of material or physical existence, and therefore subject to the necessary laws which govern all matter” (Salt Lake City: George Q. Cannon & Sons, p. 39; emp. added).
A Final Word
One scholar, Jan Shipps (professor emeritus of history and religious studies at Indiana University), a specialist in Mormon doctrine, has suggested that this latest “change-the-name” ploy on the part of “LDS” officials, reflects an attempt to divorce themselves from the “cult” status – hoping to convince contemporary society that the system truly is “Christian.”
With all due respect, Mormonism is not “Christian” – Mormonism by any other name is still at variance with the teaching of the Bible. It may become increasingly necessary to remind our neighbors that churches of Christ bear no relationship to “the Church of Jesus Christ” of Salt Lake City.