Are LDS Mormons Christians?

About this Episode

Are LDS Mormons Christians? is the topic that will be discussed today on RIOT Podcast, a Christian Discipleship Podcast.

The Church of the Latter-day Saints (LDS) is the fourth largest church in the USA and the fastest growing. The Saints, or Mormons as they are referred to by church outsiders, assert that they are Christian as they believe in the Jesus Christ of the Bible. The question of whether Mormonism is Christian is very relevant to American society at present.

According to a standard dictionary definition of Christians "as believers and followers of Christ", Mormons are Christians. Further, because the majority show universal Christian values such as generosity and forgiveness, the observance of regular worship, and avoidance of “bad” deeds, Mormons seem to act as “Christians”.

However, these observances answer the question of whether Mormons are Christians and not necessarily whether Mormonism and thus the doctrine and beliefs of the LDS Church, are Christian. Jan Shipps, a Methodist and noted scholar of Mormonism, is often asked whether she believes Mormons are Christians and responds with questions whether the question is analytical, analogical, historiographical, or theological and religious.

Today we will do a brief overview of the LDS faith from a theological viewpoint and share differences between Mormons and the mainstream Christian church.

Mormons profess to be Christians and say they believe in the Word of God, however, we have found many of their beliefs that contradict mainstream Christianity. Mormons say they are Christians, but we have found they reject foundational truths from God’s Word, let's unpack a few. But before we do that let's do a quick overview of the LDS faith.

Joseph Smith, who referred to himself as “The Prophet,” founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the mid-1800s. He believed to have seen a vision of God the Father and God the Son, in which they denounced modern Christianity and appointed Smith to reveal and restore “true” Christianity (Articles of Faith, p. 182–185).

Three years later, Smith said that the angel Moroni told him about some golden plates on which the Book of Mormon was written. many believed Smith, and a new “religion” was born. Today, the members of the Mormon Church number in the millions.

The Book of Mormon is purported to be a new revelation, one that Mormons say is part of the new covenant to Israel and “another witness” to the truth of the Bible (History of the Church 4:461, 8th Article of Faith). Aside from the many theological conflicts with the Bible and historical and archeological facts, the writing of the Book of Mormon was shrouded in mystery and we believe offered false claims. For example, Joseph Smith and his associates asserted that Professor Charles Anthon of Columbia University verified the Egyptian characters on the golden plates. However, this same professor wrote a rebuttal letter soon after, saying that he never did any such thing and had, in fact, found the characters to be a hoax. In addition, many verses in the Mormon scriptures have been changed over the years, as the church leaders attempt to cover up something embarrassing in their past and to defend themselves against criticism). These facts alone are enough to cast much doubt on the veracity of the Book of Mormon.

One of the many areas in which Mormons fall short of saving faith is their belief that God is merely an exalted man who earned his position by good works.

Mormons also believe that Jesus was a god, but not God Himself. The belief that God is married is unique to Mormonism. This belief is integral to the Mormon belief in eternal marriage as necessary for exaltation in the afterlife. Mormons argue that beliefs such as celestial heaven are what make the Mormon religion superior because it is “doctrinal consolation” about the afterlife.

Those who follow the Mormon faith also believe that they can attain heaven through works.

With respect to scripture, Mormons differ from traditional Christian groups in that they accept extra books in their canon. In addition to the King James Version of the Bible, they add the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. The Doctrine and Covenants is a compilation of the revelations given to the Priesthood, namely those given to Joseph Smith. The Pearl of Great Price contains a variety of materials with the most notable inclusions being “The First Vision,” which describes in detail the miracle that is the foundation of Mormonism, and the “Articles of Faith,” which outline the beliefs of Mormonism. Although most statements in the Articles would be acceptable to all traditional Christians, the inclusion of statements such as “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God” are uniquely Mormon. Many traditional Christians view this “as far as it is translated correctly” as blasphemous since it puts the importance on Joseph Smith’s revelations and interpretation of the Bible.

The Book of Mormon is the most controversial addition to the canon. It is a supposed record of ancient groups in the Americas and begins with a family moving from Jerusalem, shortly before its destruction, to the New World. The climax of the record is a visit of the resurrected Jesus Christ to the Americas. Although the records, inscribed on gold plates, were lost shortly after this in the fourth century, the burier of the book, Moroni, is said to have returned in the early 19th century as an angel in a revelation to Joseph Smith and led him to the plates. Smith then translated these into English as the Book of Mormon.

The problem with this is the lack of evidence about these golden plates and a message reflective of the times led many critics to believe that the book is a fanciful fabrication.

As shown by the acceptance of the extra-biblical works, Mormons maintain a canon open to further revelation from God.

Mormons seem to believe they are Christian because their first Article of Faith declares their belief in Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God. However, Mormon and traditional Christian doctrine differ on many levels, including scripture, the deification of humans and the nature of God, the triune Godhead, and the path to salvation. Although they showed similar responses to conservative Christians in their views of Literal Biblical Theology and Personally Oriented Values, the differences are too wide to accept them as a commonly known Christian.

Many in the Mormon Church are unaware of the religion's past inconsistencies, amended scriptures, and even the full doctrine of their church. Many Mormons who have discovered these things have left the church and come to true saving faith in Jesus Christ. As Christians, we must treat Mormons with love and understand that they are among those deceived by Satan himself (1 Peter 5:8). Satan’s goal is to distort the truth, produce false assurance of salvation, and extend a deceptive hope of godhood (2 Corinthians 4:4).

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