Welcome to the second part of a series in which I am diving into the logical comparison between some of the major world religions and Christianity. A couple weeks ago, I examined Islam’s beliefs and roots.
Next up: Mormonism
You know what they look like: white button-down shirts and black pants on bicycles. Around here, I have yet to see one without a helmet, which I think is impressive. Way to stay safe out there, guys. Mormonism’s stunning growth can be attributed to the call for a two-year evangelistic mission trip by each young adult Mormon. Those guys you see on the bicycles are actually from a different city and are working to complete this adventure. Again, props to them.
Mormonism is especially interesting to me not just because of its missionary mindset, or because I’ve found myself living in two different cities where a Mormon temple has been built (there are currently only 144 of these worldwide), but mostly because of the strange amount of secrecy I’ve caught wind of from this growing world religion.
What a new convert is told to believe is that the Mormon Church is merely the evidence of God restoring the kingdom of Jesus Christ into the world through another divinely-inspired book that agrees with, clarifies, and builds from the scriptures of the Bible. Sounds relatively harmless, right? Christianity practices this same approach of easing new believers into its doctrines, actually. To say the least, it would be a little overwhelming to get the full theological dose of an entire belief system all at once. It makes sense to start with the basics, such as who God is, how we relate to Him, and what our purpose is.
On the surface, and to a seeker or new believer, both Mormons and Christians will give the same basic answers to these questions. The problem is that when a Christian is revealing these answers, he is using a single, original authority and teaching–the Bible. And as a believer matures, the Bible is confirmed to still contain every part of what God calls us to do and believe. It’s all in one, easily searchable place. Christians believe the scriptures of the Bible are without error and (equally important) that they are complete. It even states in the Bible that nothing can be added or taken away from it (Revelation 22:18-19). Jesus himself warned that false prophets would try to lead people astray from His original message, and would actually succeed in some cases (Matthew 24:24).
When a Mormon is revealing these basic, life-altering answers, however, he must first claim the same authority the Christian claims (the Bible), but then also explain why it’s okay to move outside of that authority and claim a separate, “more reliable” authority called the Book of Mormon. He says the two sources teach the same things, which then begs the question why the Book of Mormon is necessary. Why and how does it even exist if it agrees with the Bible, which explicitly says that it is complete? If it’s all the same stuff, they should’ve just called it the NMV Bible (New Mormon Version). To be kept completely separate from the Bible means that it must contain defining differences, which it most certainly does.
If you’re one of the brave souls who have opened your door and talked with these supremely polite and well-mannered young adult Mormons (I’ll discuss why they’re so nice and friendly in a moment), you’ll no doubt hear a lot of talk about Jesus Christ. They will be quick to tell you that Mormonism is actually just the real, newer version of Christianity.
Therefore repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus, and lay hold upon the gospel of Christ, which shall be set before you, not only in this record but also in the record which shall come unto the Gentiles from the Jews, which record shall come from the Gentiles unto you. For behold, this is written for the intent that you may believe that; and if you believe that, you will believe this also; and if you believe this you will know concerning your fathers, and also the marvelous works which were wrought by the power of God among them. And you will also know that you are a remnant of the seed of Jacob; therefore you are numbered among the people of the first covenant; and if it so be that you believe in Christ, and are baptized, first with water, then with fire and with the Holy Ghost, following the example of our Savior, according to that which he hath commanded us, it shall be well with you in the day of judgment. Amen. (Mormon 7:8-10, emphasis mine)
It sounds legitimately close to the Bible. But it’s actually another case, just like Islam, where things get sidetracked quickly. They claim to believe the same thing that Christians do but with a few of what a Mormon might call “current updates” or “clarifications.”
Some of these updates and clarifications that reveal the deeper doctrines of Mormonism, which are often not explained to new believers until much later, are:
- God has not always been “God,” but was rather once a good Mormon man who attained his god-status through righteous living (Mormon Doctrine p.321, “Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith” p.345)
- Any man can also achieve god-status by faith and strict righteous living, including abstaining from coffee and tea. This god-status includes receiving your own planet, which you may populate with your spirit babies just as our god has done with us (Doctrine and Covenants 132:20).
- Christian churches and their creeds are an “abomination” that do not operate with the full message of Christ but rather a version that has many parts missing (1 Nephi 13:28-29)
- The Mormon church is the only true church on earth and all other Christian churches are from Satan and are the “whore of all the earth” (1 Nephi 14:10)
- Not all of the Bible (very conveniently unclear which parts) has been translated correctly (8th Article of Faith)
- Along with the Bible as the word of God (even though it isn’t trusted as fully accurate), there are three other sources that are trusted to be divinely delivered: The Book of Mormon (individually and miraculously translated by Joseph Smith), Doctrine and Covenants (a collection of modern revelations by other prophets), and “The Pearl of Great Price” (said to clarify teachings that are missing from the Bible, including new details about the creation of the universe)
- There are actually four levels of heaven and which level someone goes to depends entirely on what they believe and do in this life (Mormon Doctrine p.348, 2 Nephi 25:23). Oh, and those who go to hell don’t stay there for long.
- Israel will be restored in America, more specifically Missouri (10th Article of Faith)
- Shortly after being resurrected, Jesus also appeared to the Nephites and Lamanites (supposed Native American tribes of that age)
The Book of Mormon
This ninth point gets me into an interesting topic. Where did the Book of Mormon come from? According to Mormon.org, in 600 B.C. a Hebrew prophet named Lehi led a small group of people from Israel to North America, where they created a thriving civilization. Six centuries later, after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to these civilizations (who were waiting for Him just as Israel was, thanks to Lehi). This appearance initiated a series of “latter-day” prophets who testified to His teachings and contributed them to a collection of golden tablets. These are the tablets that a messenger of God revealed to Joseph Smith in 1823-7, who was directed by God’s spirit to translate the strange language of the tablets into English. The book was published and begun its distribution three years later.
It’s already a far-fetched claim that a Hebrew man could have led a group of people to North America from the eastern Mediterranean coast in 600 B.C. It was considered an arduous journey just to cross the Mediterranean Sea in itself in that day and even the tiny Sea of Galilee had presented its difficulties. To cross the Atlantic Ocean would have been a miracle in itself. Even the European pilgrims who sailed to America 2,200 years later barely made it. Columbus, who made the journey a couple hundred years earlier, was seen as a suicidal lunatic and couldn’t even get funding from his native country for his exploration into the western oceans.
But assuming Lehi really did make the trip (I know better than to put something past God), it’s a problem of verification because no record appears of anyone in ancient Israel knowing of any land beyond Europe, Africa and a few parts of Asia. Likewise, no Native American artifact in all of North America resembles any characteristic of Israel, nor of Egypt and Greece for that matter. The civilizations they lived in were completely free of eastern influences and they had developed an entirely different system of beliefs and even tools, separate from Judaism. If a man name Lehi brought a tribe of Jews to modern-day Vermont (where Joseph Smith lived and found the tablets), then the religious beliefs found in Native American tribes would have been similar to what the colonial Europeans who arrived several hundred years later already believed. The natives they met would not have been praying and chanting to mother earth or sun gods if they had a testimonial history of Jesus Christ.
Not to mention, these people groups are mysteriously absent today, and non-Mormon archaeologists have found no record of a people group ever existing that resembles the Nephites and Lamanites. The only thing they seemed to have left behind are these golden tablets, which were only seen by Joseph Smith before he gave them back to the angel messenger.
One would think if a civilization had the ability to create a legible, written language and record a detailed message on a collection of precious metal tablets that would be preserved for a couple thousand years, then more would have survived from their civilization.
Mormon archaeologists try to attribute remnants of the Inca and Mayan empires to the Nephites and Lamanites, but those civilizations were nowhere near the Northeast region of America where the golden tablets were buried and eventually found.
Mormon archaeologists also have no logical answer for why the Book of Mormon claims certain species of animals and plants (such as horses, wheat, and even silk) as native to North America even though it’s been proven that they did not arrive until European settlers brought them about 2,000 years after the Book of Mormon was allegedly written. The best and very ironic explanation I found for how this happened was that the tablets were not translated entirely correctly.
This is different from Christianity, which is actually upheld as mostly irrefutable by outside history and archaeological sources.
The Motivation of Heaven
What I believe provides the main argument that Christianity and Mormonism rest on two completely separate foundations is the Mormon’s idea of heaven and who God is.
A Christian’s motivation for living an obedient life comes down to one main goal. The idea of heaven, our ultimate reward, is to have a restored and perfect relationship with our Creator and to live purposefully and worshipfully forever in His presence. For the devout Christian, it’s not about receiving a crown one day or having all our wildest dreams come true. That’s not how the Bible describes heaven. For the Christian, it’s all about humility before our God. The Bible actually commands it in Deuteronomy 6:4-5, which is what Jesus affirms is the Greatest Commandment: worship the Lord only, loving Him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.
A Mormon’s motivation for living an obedient life (of being so nice and friendly) also comes down to one main goal. Their idea of heaven is to become their own gods, separate from Jesus and God. They view the God of the Bible as a former human man who earned his god-status, and their hope is to one day achieve the same (see number 2 in the updates list above). There is tremendous pressure for a Mormon to live a “good enough” life that warrants the ultimate reward of being worshipped by his own planet’s spirit babies, just as this planet’s god is worshipped by Mormons. Maybe they see Deuteronomy 6:4-5 as one of those verses that was mistranslated or something (8th Article of Faith). And the same must go for all the other places where the Bible references idolatry and is given maximum penalty.
In my humble but confident opinion, Mormonism is a platform of idolatry with a mask of an obscure North American Jesus Christ and imaginary people groups. It’s unoriginal roots and skewed doctrines make it easy to debunk as a knock-off. Self-worship is the exact opposite message of Jesus Christ, and while it’s nowhere near my place to condemn anyone, I think it’s fair to say that the Mormon faith seems like it’s flirting with disaster. It’s impossible to claim agreeance with one set of beliefs while developing an entirely new and different system of doctrines.