“Good morning, sir. I’m Elder Lamb and this is Elder Sanders. We’re from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and we have an important message for you. May we come in?”
If you let them in, you’ve invited them to begin the process of “discussions,” six canned lessons they’ve been trained to deliver, leading, ideally, to your baptism into the Mormon Church.
They’ll begin by telling you the Heavenly Father has a plan for your eternal happiness. Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith are central figures in this plan of salvation. Both prophets, ancient and modern, reveal the purpose and will of God. The Book of Mormon is additional scripture testifying to the message.
The lessons last about an hour each and are spread over four to six weeks. On their second and subsequent visits, the young missionaries will urge you to repentance, faith in their doctrines, baptism into their church, and moral living. Only their church, they say, can lead you to true righteousness and ultimate salvation. All other so-called Christian churches profess creeds abominable to the Lord and offer only counterfeit holiness (Joseph Smith, History 1:19; found in the Mormon book of scripture The Pearl of Great Price). Shortly after the death of the apostles, Mormons claim, the pure Christian faith was overtaken by false doctrine and vanished totally from the earth. This “apostasy” was reversed and the true Church was restored in 1830 in upstate New York by the boy-prophet, Joseph Smith.
If you live a life obedient to LDS dictates, you can progress to the point of perfection. You will become like God and return to him in his highest heaven. Provided your spouse, children, and parents live equally dedicated lives, you will spend eternity with them as a family.
Requirements for this eventual “exaltation” include living the “Word of Wisdom,” or abstaining from coffee, tea, alcohol, and tobacco; tithing, or paying to the Church one-tenth of your income; fulfilling all Church responsibilities; and dedicating all your energy to spreading the Mormon gospel.
Not an unattractive message, on the face of it. Some spiritual seekers are drawn by the Mormon challenge of sacrificial living and giving. Ignorant of the orthodox Christian teaching on salvation and eternal life, many suffering the loss of a loved one find consolation in the Mormon teaching on eternal families. Culling an occasional spiritual kernel from the Book of Mormon, prospective converts conclude both it and its ecclesiastical publisher present divine truths.
But Mormons, whether missionaries, neighbors, or colleagues, are trained to present only the “milk” beliefs, the bland and less offensive teachings designed to hook the unsuspecting. The “meatier” doctrines are kept for later-much later. Indeed, many faithful members know little or nothing of their Church’s fundamental tenets.
Here are some of them.
1. God the Father is a glorified man, possessing a physical body.
That is, the Almighty Lord was once born of human parents in some other universe. He lived a Mormon way of life, repented of his sins, died, and was eventually raised by his God and installed as God of this world.
Mormons justify this belief by mishandling and misunderstanding such biblical texts as Genesis 1:26-27, Exodus 33:11, Deuteronomy 4:34, Psalms 33:18, and Nahum 1:3. Most of these passages, and others like them, refer to the “arm,” “eye,” and “feet” of the Lord. However, other passages speak of God’s “feathers” and “wings” (Ps. 91:4). Or they refer to him as a “consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24) or a “rock” (Deut. 32:4). In all these examples, the inspired writers simply try to communicate in human words and images the inexpressible power, presence, and love of the infinite God.
Latter-day Saints force the context of Genesis 1:26-27. Since man is made in God’s image, they argue, God must look like a man. Though the Genesis passage states God created man both male and female, Mormons insist that God the Father is a male. The fact is, “the image of God” refers not to some literal correlation of body parts but to the spiritual similarities shared by him with his rational creatures (angels and human beings). In other words, we are made in God’s image because we, like him, can choose and can love. We are endowed with the possibility of such moral and intellectual qualities as holiness, wisdom, and justice. By these, we enjoy spiritual fellowship, even sonship, with the Father and “pattern” of our spirits.
When confronted by Mormons with their belief in an almighty Heavenly Father, ask them about his origins. Was there ever a time he didn’t exist? Was he always God? Did he ever commit sin? (Mormon apostle Bruce R. McConkie taught that the Father “worked out his own salvation by obedience to the same laws” he has since given us. [A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 64]). If he has a body of flesh and bones, where is it? (On a planet near the star Kolob, Mormons maintain. See Abraham 3:3 in The Pearl of Great Price. )
Help Latter-day Saints to see the true nature of God: He is infinite Spirit (John 4:24). A spirit does not have flesh and bones (Luke 24:39). God is not a man, even an exalted one (Num. 23:19; Hos. 11:9). God was always God; he is immortal, and he is all-holy (1 Tim. 1:17). No one can see the “face” of God and live (Ex. 33:20, John 1:18).
2. There are many Gods.
Mormons will tell you they believe in one God whom they call the Heavenly Father. They worship and pray to him alone. But-referring to Genesis 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 8:5-Latter-day Saints insist the ancient Jewish patriarchs and prophets, along with Paul and the other apostles, believed in a plurality of Gods.
If you press them, they respond, “Look, God himself taught Mormon doctrine. See here, God says, ‘Let us make man in our image’ [Gen. 1:26]. He was talking to His Son, Jesus Christ, and the spirit-man, the Holy Ghost. Right there, then, you’ve got three Gods. Those three Gods oversee our universe. The Father is supreme, and the other two are his helpers.”
At first blush, the Mormon apologist has confused three distinct persons of the Trinity with three separate Gods. But it gets worse. Paul, they maintain, knew of other Gods when he wrote to the Corinthians: “For there be [those] that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth (as there be gods many and lords many), but to us there is but one God” (1 Cor. 8:5-6). Therefore, Mormons assert, there are as many supreme Gods as there are worlds. Brigham Young taught that the number of Gods and worlds is uncountable (Discourses of Brigham Young, 22). The LDS Church occupies itself with only the one (or three?) Gods of this world and leave it to inhabitants of other universes to worship and obey their respective Gods.
As for the Genesis citation, no Jewish or Christian commentator sees the least hint of polytheism in the use of the plurals “us” and “our.” While the Hebrew word for God, Elohim, is in plural form, and therefore must be replaced by plural pronouns, the rest of the passage is in the singular: “God created (singular verb) man in his own image.” Various interpretations are consistent with the biblical revelation of monotheism. For example, the Lord may have simply used the “plural of majesty”-rather like a monarch and, until recently, the pope, who often referred to himself as “we.” Or God may have been addressing his heavenly court of angels, who also possessed the image of God in that they were rational beings endowed with knowledge, will, and immortal life. Further, Christians may comfortably conclude the Father was indeed communicating with the Son and the Holy Spirit, who, as mighty God, exist dynamic and creative from all eternity.
Paul did not teach a plurality of Lords and Gods. He merely commented that there are entities that are called gods. Whether he was referring to the crass idols of Zeus or Hermes, or craftier masters such as greed and pride, he-and we-know that men have created and will continue to create other gods and lords, displacing the one true God. We do not merely limit our adoration and service to one God among millions; we don’t, in fact, know of any other God.
You can help the Mormon see the fallacy of multiple infinite beings. While not explicitly presented in the Bible, the doctrine of the Trinity is imbedded in Scripture’s insistence on one only God and its clear teaching that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are persons possessing equal majesty, power, and lordship. They are not united solely in purpose or will, as Mormons assert, but in very being. Read Isaiah 42-45 to find crystallized the ancient Hebrew belief in one God. Christ and his followers confirm monotheism in John 17:3, 1 Corinthians 8:4, Galatians 3:20, and Ephesians 4:6. The Son is called God throughout Christian scripture. See John 20:28 and Hebrews 1:8. Similarly, the Holy Spirit is confessed as God in Acts 5:3-4 and 2 Corinthians 3:17. If the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, yet there is only one God, then only the truth revealed in the Blessed Trinity can explain Scripture’s doctrines.
3. A man can become God.
He can’t become God of this world, mind you, since that position is already filled. But a man who lives as a faithful Mormon in this life, fulfilling all obligations imposed on him by the LDS Church, may progress to godhood in the next life. He will be given his own world to populate and rule, together with his heavenly wife or wives (including, usually, his own earthly Mormon spouse).
Spencer W. Kimball, Mormon prophet during the 1980s, declared to a group of male college students: “Each one of you has it within the realm of possibility to develop a kingdom over which you will preside as its king and God. You will need to develop yourself and grow in ability and power and worthiness to govern such a world with all of its people” (Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, 29). So, having achieved divinity, a man will do for his own creation all that the Heavenly Father has done for him. In turn, he will be worshiped as God by the children he procreates, just as he now adores and obeys God the Father.
Because Mormons see God as an advanced and perfected man, they conclude that their members enjoy a similar progression. They confuse Christ’s admonition to “be perfect” (Matt. 5:48) with “become a God.” In fact, since there is but one God, man’s perfection lies in becoming fully conformed to the divine image in which Adam was created. He is to become a perfect man, aided by the grace brought by the Second Adam, Jesus Christ.
Try to get Latter-day Saints to see that an earthly parent-child analogy cannot apply to our relationship with the Lord. An earthly father’s task is to raise his son to become self-supporting and independent, autonomous in his decisions. It is not so between God and us. We’ll never achieve his status; we’ll never grow apart from him; we’ll always need him. Yes, we shall enjoy fully his communicable attributes of eternal life, love, and goodness. Like a bar of iron, we’ll glow with divine fire (2 Pet. 1:4.) The boundaries between perfect humanity and divine glory may appear blurred. But they won’t be eliminated. We’ll always be his perfected children, never his equal.
When pushed, Mormons will say we can never achieve God’s status, and we’ll never be equal to him. But that’s just an attempt to soften the offense of this doctrine. What they mean is, since the present God has a long head start, we’ll never catch up to him in power and glory. He advances as we do. But a Mormon man, once on the path of progression, may one day arrive at the level God is at now. Then his own sons, becoming Gods in their turn, will push him even further along, into the eternities.
4. Jesus Christ: half-God, half-man.
According to a text published by the LDS Church for use by college-age students, Jesus Christ was “the only man born to this earth half-divine and half-mortal” (The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 10). Mormonism teaches that matter is eternal. That which we call “spirit” is really just highly refined matter. Therefore, God didn’t create from nothing; He merely “organized” pre-existent matter. This includes the “spirit” form of his Son, Jesus Christ, whom the Heavenly Father and one of his heavenly wives created as their first-born. (Lucifer and his minions, together with every other person, were similarly conceived in the heavens, thus making us all Christ’s junior brothers and sisters.)
Two thousand years ago, the Heavenly Father looked with favor upon his daughter, the Virgin Mary. He visited her in his flesh-and-bones male body and had sexual intercourse with her. The result was Jesus Christ in his mortal body. Since Mormons say they believe Mary was a virgin when she conceived her son, LDS theologians have had to redefine the definition of “virgin.” They say a virgin is a woman who has not had sex with a mortal man; since God the Father was by then an immortal man, no loss of virginity occurred, though “normal and natural” intercourse took place (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah, vol. 1, 314; Mormon Doctrine, 546-547). An early Mormon apostle taught that God the Father and Mary were “associated together in the capacity of husband and wife” (Orson Pratt, The Seer, 158-159).
Many Latter-day Saints believe Christ was married and had children. Because marriage is the only way a man can become a God in the next life, should not the Lord have taken a wife (or wives) and shown us how to live worthily? Since the blessings of marriage are crowned by the birth of children, Christ is said to have had several. While such notions were taught openly during the Mormon presidencies of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, the current membership is cautioned not to throw such spiritual pearls before scoffing swine. (See apostle Orson Hyde, Journal of Discourses2:210 and 4:259-260; also, president Jedediah M. Grant, Journal of Discourses 1:346.)
Latter-day Saints will not worship Christ. They are forbidden to pray to him. All prayer is directed to the Father only, in the name of the Son. Because they don’t understand the true nature and persons of God, Mormons confuse the divine and human natures of his Son. For them, Christ must be a lesser God, since he (and the Holy Ghost) were formed by the Father and are subjected to him in all things. Though now Gods, Christ and the Holy Spirit became Gods later than did Heavenly Father and are totally dependent upon him who created them.
Biblical verses supporting the Holy Trinity and the full deity of the three persons are also useful here, to establish that Christ is mighty God from all eternity. He accepted and expects adoration. He received Thomas’s worshipful phrase, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28) without demurral; see also Matthew 2:11 and 28:9, 17; John 9:38; and Revelation 5:14.
Keep in mind that Mormons maintain these doctrines are part of the truth revealed by God in every age to his Church. Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, and all the prophets knew and taught God had a physical body, knew and taught a plurality of Gods, knew and taught that men can evolve into Gods, and knew and taught a subordinate Christ. The same is true for the first apostles chosen by Christ two thousand years ago. Such glorious doctrines were lost, the Mormon Church declares, because the Catholic Church, after having replaced the true Church of Christ, removed many “plain and precious” truths from the scriptures. The world was thus enthralled in the blackness of apostasy until the Lord restored all these teachings to Joseph Smith in 1830.
5. In the Mormon Temple, God gives men all the secrets necessary for salvation.
It is in their temples, Latter-day Saints are told, where the full purity of these restored teachings is revealed. The temple ceremonies, written by Joseph Smith soon after he became a Freemason and containing many Masonic parallels, are said to replicate the rituals performed in the temples of Solomon and Herod.
Only those worthy to enter the temple may return to God after death. About twenty percent of Mormons hold “recommends,” cards permitting them entrance to the temple where the secret ceremonies are performed. The so-called “restored” gospel teachings presented above are emphasized visually in a video. I’ve been through the “endowment” ritual several times. It takes about ninety minutes. The words and actions never vary. The temple patron hears the Gods’ plan for creating the world and mankind. The patron makes “covenants” with the Lord to support the Mormon Church in every way he can. He promises not to speak critically of Mormon leaders and to avoid loud laughter. He promises to live a righteous and faithful life.
Throughout the presentation, the patrons are taught special “signs” and “tokens” consisting of various arm gestures and handc.asps, each having sacred names. Participants also don special clothing and head coverings during the endowment.
Temple attendance is obligatory for ultimate salvation. Even if you live a good, holy, Mormon life, assenting to its doctrines and participating in church activities, after death you cannot enter the presence of God without giving him the same signs and tokens and code names learned in the temple. Since to speak of these outside of the temple walls is forbidden, those who desire eternal life must pay the price to enter the temple. (“Pay the price” is not restricted to cash contributions, though to be temple-worthy you must give the church ten percent of your income, plus additional offerings.)
While a Mormon, I lived a life worthy of the temple. I tried hard to be prepared, praying and often fasting before attending an endowment session. But never did I “feel” the promised “Spirit of the Lord” within its walls or during its banal ceremonies. They were rote, repetitious, lifeless, and even silly. (Some Fundamentalist detractors pretend to uncover bizarre satanic or sexual overtones to the temple rituals. Nothing is further from the truth. Since being purged in 1990 of most anti-Catholic references and threats of disembowelment for revealing their secrets, the temple ordinances are now rather bland and-except for their theology-inoffensive.)
God doesn’t appear to be the focus of temple work. There is practically no prayer as such. Each patron is required to listen to the instructions, learn the signs and names, and repeat them accurately. Since the teachings, signs, and gestures never vary, the ceremony becomes quickly familiar. Those who attend do so in the belief that their performance here will enable those who were not Mormons on earth the chance to become saints in “spirit prison.” Some Mormons even boast of going through three or four sessions a day and thus “saving” three or four dead friends or relatives.
The Mormons who come knocking on your door need to know that God is Lord of all. He has revealed himself fully in his Son (Heb. 1:2), who himself charged his apostles to preach the gospel until the end of time (Luke 10:16; 2 Tim. 2:2; 4:2-4). He does not hide himself from his people, but desires they all be saved. He taught the truth openly (Matt. 26:55, John 8:2) and founded a Church to hand it down to every generation (2 Thes. 2:15, 3:16).
There’s no need for temples to teach us the secret way to salvation. That path was made clear by Christ, the light of the world, and is in every age illuminated by his body, the Catholic Church. Christ’s promises of power and permanence, once made, are irrevocable. (See Matthew 16:18, 28:20; John 14:16, 26; 16:13; Eph. 5:29.) The Church has preserved the purity of Christian faith and life. No “former” truths need be “restored” and secretly “revealed.”
Mormonism attracts largely by holding back its offensive doctrines and leading instead with its strong suit of family values and patriotic devotion. But “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Prov. 14:12). See also 2 Corinthians 11:14: “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.” The “good fruit” of Mormonism is poisoned by counterfeit theology.