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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

26 August 2005

Christianity and the LDS

Q: Are Mormons Christian?

A: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or the Mormons) is a religious organization headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah. While there are similarities, there are also many differences between them and the former Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS) of Independence, Missouri (now calling itself Community of Christ) and other, even smaller organizations that have splintered off of one of these.

The LDS is one of the fastest growing religions in the world. Some Christians are ready to welcome them fully into the ranks of Christendom while others are certain that the LDS is completely outside the Christian faith.

Rather than express my opinions, I’ll lay some of the Mormon Church’s basic teachings along-side Biblical Christian teachings and let you draw your own conclusions. Remember that the quotes and summaries are specific to the LDS, although some of them may also be shared by the RLDS and others. Note that in these and many others, Mormons and Christians use the same words. These words, however, often have vastly different meanings.

To be Christian, knowing and believing in Jesus Christ is an absolute. Here’s the LDS understanding of Jesus: He is the first spirit child of Heavenly Father; He is Jehovah; He is the only begotten Son (that is, he is the only child Heavenly Father physically, through sexual intercourse begat on this earth). He is Savior, and as such defeated physical death for all mankind and paid our debt of sin, but patiently awaits repayment from us.

Christianity teaches forgiveness of sins by grace for Christ’s sake. It cannot be earned and is never deserved. The Mormon book Gospel Principles, p. 252, quotes President Spencer Kimball: “To every forgiveness there is a condition. . . . The fasting, the prayers, the humility must be equal to or greater than the sin. . . .” Compare this to the Bible, where we are taught that God forgives freely because Jesus has paid the entire debt already. Neither time nor all eternity could repay God for Jesus’ suffering and death on our behalf.

Regarding God, Mormons teach that Heavenly Father was once a man who has achieved godhood. They teach that he still has a physical body. A common LDS expression is, “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, many may be.” Heavenly Father was conceived by another god in ancient days. Meanwhile, the Bible describes God as spirit and as eternal, without beginning or end.

The Mormon “godhead” is not a Triune God (one God, three distinct persons) but a triumvirate of Gods — Heavenly Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Sharing the Gospel Manual, p. 104 says, “He is not fully like the Father and the Son in that he does not have a body of flesh and bones, He is a personage of Spirit.” And when Mormons speak of the “Holy Spirit,” they don’t mean the same thing as the Holy Ghost, but are thinking more of an impersonal spirit. Under close examination, we see precious little to remind us of the Holy Trinity as revealed in the Bible.

These brief but essential points should show that while the LDS may have “Christ” in their church’s name, they do not have the Christ of Holy Scripture, the Christ of Bethlehem and Calvary, as the object of their faith and their hope for life eternal.

How is it, then, that Christians, who know about total forgiveness of sins and absolute freedom under the Gospel, so often lag behind the Mormons in reaching out to others? Mormons are trained from youth to look to help others and to use times of trouble to befriend “Gentiles” (non-Mormons) and bring them into contact with a church that “cares for them.” This kindness, care, and personal contact is one of the biggest “selling points” for Mormonism.

How much more could we Christians do, as we remember that there is no more debt to be paid, that all sins are forgiven, and that heavenly bliss is secure for all who believe in the God-man Jesus Christ as Savior?

NOTE: For a bit more on Mormonism, see my previous regarding baptism in Christianity and Mormonism.

Send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


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