I recently received an email containing an essay about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The email had a Subject of “Here’s the real truth about Mormanism!!!” Aside from the misspelling of Mormonism, the essay itself was polite and non-inflammatory. It tried to explain in simple terms the history and doctrine of the LDS Church. The essay gave a lot of correct information about the LDS Church, but it did make incorrect statements about the Church, and I’m posting excerpts from the essay so I can correct the misstatements. Quotations from the essay are marked with >>> and are italicized.
The essay begins by describing several parallels between Mormonism and Islam. I’m not sure why those parallels are described, because the essay didn’t draw any conclusions about the parallels. Possibly the author ( who was not identified) is trying to create a “straw man”, such that persons who believe that Islam is false will conclude, due to the parallels, that Mormonism is also false.
>>>After Smith’s murder in the religion’s headquarter town of Nauvoo, Illinois in 1844.
Joseph Smith was killed in the neighboring town of Carthage, not in Nauvoo.
>>>Mormons believe in open canon and the living prophets words are considered more reliable in a sense than either the words of a dead prophet or the 4 standard works.
I am not aware of statements by a Church president that the words of a living prophet are more reliable than the words of a dead prophet or the four books of scripture in the standard works. I referred to statements by a Church president, because he is the only one who can establish Church doctrine. If other General Authorities make statements that disagree with statements by the Church presidents, those General Authorities are speaking their own opinions. The essay did clarify its statement with the following:
>>>The difference between the writings of the former prophets and the teachings of the living prophets is that the living prophet can address changing circumstances which allows for doctrinal clarification. This is based on the belief that the Lord reveals things to the prophets on a divinely set time table when He feels that it is time for them to know.
I think that quotation from the essay is correct, and it is referring to policies or practices of the Church. This concerns the differences between eternal principles and current policies or practices, a topic that I need to address in an essay at sometime. I think the latter quotation is correct, but it doesn’t justify the statement that the words of living prophets are more reliable than the words of dead prophets, including the prophets in the scriptures. That statement is just too general to be made without additional clarification and limitations.
>>>Prophets are not considered infallible and Joseph Smith himself was noted for being the author of what turned out to be many false prophesies
The essay didn’t give examples of false prophesies by Joseph Smith, so I can’t comment on it. In reading statements critical of the Church, we need to be wary of statements that are given without examples, historical documentation, etc.
>>>With their belief in open canon and the weight placed on the words of the living prophets, some of these doctrines have changed over the years and many more may be altered.
The author of the essay didn’t give an example of a doctrine that has changed, so I will give one. For almost 50 years, some men in the Church practiced polygamy, and polygamy was an official doctrine of the Church. The practice of polygamy was stopped in 1890. Polygamy is not an eternal principle, it is a practice. Principles do not change but practices and policies do change as conditions warrant such changes. If polygamy is not a principle, then what is the principle behind it? Eternal marriage, that a man a woman can be sealed together for eternity! Today, polygamy is not practiced but the principle of eternal marriage is in effect. During Brigham Young’s time, polygamy was practiced, and the principle of eternal marriage was in effect. Two other examples are tithing and the law of consecration. The law of tithing is in effect today but at some future time will be replaced by the law of consecration. What is the principle behind those two laws? Charity, the pure love of Christ in which we give, through love, service to others. Sharing our money with those in need is one way of giving service. When critics of the Church accuse the Church of changing its doctrine, you have to understand if those criticisms refer to practices or policies, which can change, or to eternal principles which will not change.
>>>The Bible and the Book of Mormon differ on the effects of the fall as recorded in the book of Genesis. The Bible says that Adam and Eve sinned by their disobedience and because of that, God cast them out of the Garden of Eden – a negative event. The Book of Mormon offers a different explanation for the outcome. It states that what Adam and Eve did was a good thing as it was the first step to a joyous and happy life. Rather than acknowledging that the act of disobedience committed was a serious sin, LDS teaches that the scriptures say that the fall was a necessary step in the plan of life and a great blessing to us all – a positive event.
LDS believe that Adam and Eve disobeyed God and because of that were cast out of the Garden. This transgression created a separation between the whole human race and our Father in Heaven. We also believe that their disobedience was a good thing and a necessary step in the Father’s plan for our progress. It’s hard for non-members to understand that disobedience to God can, in some cases, have positive benefits to us. Adam and Eve transgressed by partaking of the fruit. They were punished be being made mortal and by being banished from the Garden. The statement in the essay that the banishment from the Garden was a negative event is a statement or perspective made by people who interpret the story in Genesis in a negative way. Adam and Eve were told that they would have to toil all the days of their lives, a negative condition to some people. To LDS, however, that is a positive statement, for it is through work that we learn self discipline, we gain integrity, we have opportunities for service to others, and so on.
>>>LDS Church leaders have taught God the Father and Mary engaged in a physical relationship in order to produce the body of Jesus. For example, Bruce R. McConkie wrote of Christ: “There is nothing figurative about his paternity, he was begotten, conceived, and born in the normal and natural course of events, for he is the son of God, and that designation means what it says.”
LDS do believe that Mary conceived through the power of the Holy Ghost and bore the literal Son of God. However, this does not require or imply that there was a physical relationship between Mary and our Heavenly Father. There are thousands of people living today who were conceived via in vitro fertilization, that is, fertilization without intimate contact between the father and mother. For further information about the conception of Jesus, click the following link http://www.14lds.com/begat.htm As a side note, I would like to remind the author of the essay that it doesn’t matter what LDS Church leaders have said about topics that aren’t clearly explained in the scripture or through modern revelation. Unless they are the Church president and are defining Church doctrine, they are just speaking their own opinions about matters not clearly explained by the Lord.
>>>Some say that Jesus’ plan was chosen over Lucifer’s but the LDS explanation is that Jesus’ plan was actually what God had already decided on and changing that to another path was never an option.
The story that is given in Moses and Abraham (in the P of GP) states that the Father presented His plan and then asked who would be the Redeemer,. Two spirit children responded, Jesus and Lucifer who became known as Satan. Lucifer said he would be the Redeemer and not one soul would be lost (Moses 4:1), and since he had done it, he wanted the glory of the Father. Jesus said he would do it the Father’s way and the glory would be to the Father (Moses 4:2). So, Jesus never had a plan. The Father had a plan, and Lucifer had a plan.
>>>Mormonism is a polytheistic religion. The most famous of all Mormon aphorisms is “As man is now God once was: as God is now, man may become”.
I think is is misleading to say that Mormonism is a polytheistic religion. Yes, we believe the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate entities, because the Bible teaches that. So, in a way that is a form of polytheism. However, we also believe that there is one Godhead, comprised of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and that the three are perfectly united in all they do and say. To say that Mormonism is a polytheistic religion implies that we believe in more than one god in a way similar to the ancient Greeks and Romans: a god for this, a god for that, and a god for the other. We don’t believe that. We believe that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are separate, divine beings who are perfectly united in one Godhead.
>>>In Mormonism a distinction is drawn between the Holy Ghost and the Holy Spirit. As LDS Apostle Marion G. Romney stated, “The Holy Ghost is a person, a spirit, the third member of the Godhead” (Ensign May 1977, 43-44). The sixth LDS prophet, Joseph F. Smith explains that the Holy Spirit is not a person but rather an impersonal force. (Mormon Doctrine, McConkie, pp. 752-753).
We use the term “Holy Spirit” in two different contexts. We use it to refer to the Holy Ghost who is a spirit personage. We also use it to refer to the “light of Christ”, an influence that is with everyone born into our world and which gives us our conscience. The statements by Elder Romney and Pres. Smith are referring to these two contextual uses of the term, “Holy Spirit”.
>>>Mormons worship the Father in the name of the Son but do not refer to either as ‘God’. They refer to Jesus Christ as Jehovah, a separate and distinct being than the Father who is referred to as Elohim. These names are used to differentiate between the two.
It is true that in general Latter-day Saints use the term “God” to refer to the Father, and we use titles of Jesus Christ, e.g. Messiah, the Christ, the Redeemer, to refer to the Savior. We refer to the Holy Ghost as the Holy Ghost, which is the phrase used in the King James version of the Bible. However, all LDS believe that the Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Holy Ghost is God; they are not one personage but are in one Godhead. To us, the word “God” refers to any member of the Godhead. We recognize that Jesus, as Jehovah, was the God of the Old Testament.
>>>Mormons do not believe in a physical Zionism, they define it as a spiritual purification of the heart, not as a restoration of the tribes of Israel.
We do believe in a physical Zionism. The 10th Article of Faith states, “We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the new Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent;…” Joseph Smith didn’t specifically include it in that Article of Faith, but we believe that the old Jerusalem will be reestablished in the old world by the Jews. That Article of Faith is referring to a physical Zionism. In addition, we believe, in a figurative way, that Zion is where the pure in heart are gathered, regardless of the physical location of those people. We thus use the term “Zion” in two contexts.
>>>They maintain that the promises and blessings said to be bestowed on Israel at the end of days is no longer the inheritance of Israel but is now bestowed on the LDS church.
We believe that LDS are part of the house of Israel, and that we will share, but not exclusively, the blessings with the rest of the house of Israel.
>>>Although Mormons believe in the divinity of Jesus as the Saviour and refer to themselves as the only complete and true church on the earth, many of their doctrines as outlined above do not agree with Orthodox Christian teachings.
That’s right, many of our doctrines are different from those taught by orthodox Christian churches. The question, then, is who is right? I’ve discussed this in detail in my online book in the chapter on the Savior’s church, so I won’t elaborate on it here.
>>>Therefore, this particular religion is a FALSE, Christian-cult religion that completely contradicts many important truths of the original Holy Word of God — the Holy Bible!
The author of the essay is assuming that because we have beliefs that are different than the orthodox churches, our beliefs are different from the Bible. The author is ignoring the possibility that the orthodox churches may have beliefs that disagree with the Bible. In my online book, I compare LDS teachings with the Bible, and I believe our teachings agree with the Bible.
>>>Jesus Christ IS the Son of God and God in human flesh, and He DID die on the cross for the sins of humanity and was raised from the dead on the third day. You CANNOT make it to Heaven without accepting Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, no one can reach the Holy Father EXCEPT through His Son, Jesus Christ! There is NO other way about it! You cannot go around Christ, you must go through Him and accept the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We LDS agree 200%!!!
The author of the essay concludes by referring to statements of Jesus to beware of false prophets, to beware of churches who have teachings different than the Bible. I would agree! It’s true that some teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints differ from the teachings of orthodox Christian churches, but this does not imply that the LDS teachings are false, for the the problem is, I believe, in the different teachings of the orthodox Christian churches! I leave my testimony that the early Christian church did become wicked, and that God withdrew his Priesthood authority from those groups. I witness that God restored his church and Priesthood power to Joseph Smith! I encourage all to kneel in humble prayer and to ask, in the name of Jesus Christ, for help in finding his truth! I witness that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ, that we must accept him as our savior and redeemer if we are to be cleansed by his blood and return to the presence of our Father in Heaven.