The Apostle John commanded Christians to test the spirits (1 John 4:1). The reason, he says, is because many false prophets have gone out into the world. Evil spirits, agents from the devil, are likely to present slight variations and perversions of the pure truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Christians are required to compare every doctrine to God’s Word. If a doctrine does not confess (say the same thing about) Christ, then it is to be rejected (1 John 4:3). One such spirit that needs to be tested is that of Mormonism. Like me, you may personally know some Mormons. They are zealous for their religion and eager to help others find the path that they have found. However, we must not naively accept their claim that they believe in Christian doctrine. We must test the spirits. If the Mormon Gospel is not the Gospel of the Bible, then we have an opportunity to lovingly share Christ with our Mormon neighbors.
While much could be written about Mormonism from a truly Christian perspective (and much has—see, for example, James White’s book, Is The Mormon My Brother?), I want to focus on testing three aspects of Mormon teaching to demonstrate how it is contradictory to the Bible. The three areas for this post are the following: (1) The nature of God, (2) the nature of Jesus Christ, and (3) the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I have tried to remain true to the original writings that are considered the foundation of the Mormon faith (Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants) and the main teachers of Mormonism (Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, among others).
1. The Nature of God
The fifth LDS President Lorenzo Snow said that “as man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.” Brigham Young, the second prophet and president of the Mormon Church, said “The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like Himself…We are created, we are born for the express purpose of growing up from the low estate of manhood, to become Gods like unto our Father in heaven” (Journal of Discourses, Volume 3, Page 93). Mormonism teaches that God was once a man like us and that he became God by going through the same process that we can go through. Furthermore, Mormonism also teaches that there are an infinite number of planets, each with their own Gods, and that our planet happens to have three of these Gods—the Father (Elohim), the Son (Jehovah), and the Spirit.
This idea that God was once a man and that there are many such Gods goes directly against the Bible. The Scripture—i.e. the Bible—claims to be the sufficient and inerrant Word of God. We cannot say that Mormon teaching clarifies or even compliments the Scriptures—rather, they teach something wholly different and contradictory from what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that God, the Creator and Sustainer of everything, is God alone. God declares:
“See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” (Deuteronomy 32:39, emphasis added)
The Bible also teaches this concerning idols and false gods:
But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God and the everlasting King. At his wrath the earth quakes, and the nations cannot endure his indignation. Thus shall you say to them: “The gods who did not make the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under the heavens.” It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens. (Jeremiah 10:10-12)
“And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me.” (Isaiah 45:21)
The God of the Bible is not one of many. He is the one and only Creator and Sustainer of everything. Mormonism teaches a completely contrary understanding of God, declaring that we all can become God. The truth is, Mormonism is the most polytheistic religion in the world.
2. The Nature of Jesus Christ
Mormonism teaches that Jesus, like Satan, is a spiritual child of the Father of this world. In Mormonism, Jesus is only God in the sense that we can all become Gods. Jesus and the Father were once men who lived on earth and only afterwards became Gods. They are only eternal in the sense that everyone’s spirit is “eternal.” In fact, Joseph Fielding Smith, in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith wrote, “I might with boldness proclaim from the house-tops that God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all.” Thus, in Mormonism Jesus is neither Creator nor God in any unique way. However the Bible teaches that Jesus created all created things.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3, emphasis added)
My previous point concerning the nature of God will have implications as to the nature of Jesus Christ because the Bible teaches that Jesus is God. He is not simply a created being. In fact, the Bible says that “by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16). God the Father says this concerning Jesus:
But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.” (Hebrews 1:8, emphasis added)
In the previous verse, as well as in Hebrews 1:10-12, the attributes of the one true God are applied to Jesus. As J. Ligon Duncan puts it, “the attributes of the one, true God of Israel are ascribed freely and without apology to Jesus by the writers of the New Testament.” Jesus is eternal, all-knowing, and all-powerful. Unlike men, he has authority to forgive sins. He is not simply a special man that became a god—as Mormonism teaches we all can—he is both “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). These verses, and many others (which deal with the Holy Spirit as well), show us that the one true God exists as a Trinity—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
3. The Gospel of Jesus Christ
The fact that Mormon teaching alters the nature of God and Jesus clearly has implications on the Gospel (Good News) of Jesus. Consider what the Bible says about the importance of the gospel:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9, emphasis added)
To preach a gospel different from the one that Paul (and the rest of the New Testament writers) preached is a very dangerous thing. Even if Joseph Smith did receive his revelation from an “angel,” as he claimed, it does not mean that his gospel is from the one true God. In fact, the Mormon “gospel” is a different gospel. This is evident not only because the Mormon “Jesus” is a different Jesus from that of the Bible, but also because the way to salvation is different in Mormonism.
President Brigham Young taught that the “Gospel of the Son of God that has been revealed is a plan or system of laws and ordinances, by strict obedience to which the people who inhabit this earth are assured that they may return again into the presence of the Father and the Son” (JD, 13:233). In order to be saved, Mormonism teaches that people must not only repent and believe in the Gospel, but be baptized in water and receive the Holy Ghost by “laying-on of hands.” Mormonism uses language similar to that of the Bible, but it is not talking about the Gospel of the Bible.
The Bible starts with the reality that all mankind has rebelled against God and are lost and guilty in their sin. The true Good News of Jesus is that the one and only God, the Creator of everything that has ever existed, became a man and dwelt among us (John 1:1-14). He was both fully man and fully God and he was sinless. Jesus went to the cross to make atonement for sins. He was the only one capable of doing so because he was both God and man. On the cross (not in the garden, as Mormonism erroneously teaches) he bore the sins of his people (1 Peter 2:24)—Jesus endured the wrath of God for sin. He died and rose again and ascended to heaven. Anyone who repents (turns from their sin) and believes (turns to the true Jesus for salvation) in the gospel is saved. True salvation then results in a life of following and obeying Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit (not riotous living as some claim). Neither baptism nor laying-on of hands is essential to salvation. To add those things to the gospel is to preach another gospel. Being baptized is a command that true believers will submit to because God has changed their hearts.
In testing the spirit behind Joseph Smith’s doctrine, it is manifest that Mormonism confesses a different Jesus. Not only is it a different Jesus than what the historic church believed (of course, a breaking from historic Christianity is the foundation of Mormonism), but it is a different Jesus than the Bible teaches. If you are a Mormon, I hope you will at least consider what I have written and are willing to think about it. Jesus warned that many people would do things “in his name,” and yet not truly know him (Matthew 7:21-23). Mormonism may claim to be about Jesus, but it is not the Jesus of the Bible, and thus, not the true Jesus.
It is vital that we have an accurate understanding of Jesus Christ, based on God’s Word, not my words—or Joseph Smith’s words, or a burning in the bosom, for that matter. If you are willing to think carefully about this—to “gird up the loins of your mind,” as the Scripture says (1 Peter 1:13)—then I urge you to continue to examine the claims of Mormonism by watching Dr. White’s presentation on Mormonism. If the truth is what you are after, then you have no cause for concern.