Are L.D.S (Mormons) Christian?
This is part one of three articles exploring LDS doctrine and it’s compatibility (or lack thereof) with Christian Doctrine and the Bible
This will be the first of three articles that tackles the question “Are Mormons Christians?”
*In this article I will will be referring to those who are commonly known as Mormons as LDS members out of respect for their desire to be called that*
If you have ever encountered an LDS member and spoken to them about faith, you may have left a bit confused. They call themselves Christians, they use a lot of the same words that a Christian would, they believe in God, they believe in Jesus, they read the Bible, etc. Even with all this information, something probably felt off and you may not have been able to put your finger on why that is. This article will look specifically at the LDS doctrine of God the Father to see if they mean the same thing as Christians when they use the word “Father”. There are many angles that I could explore to highlight some of the differences between the LDS doctrine of God and the Christian doctrine of God, but for the sake of brevity of this article, we will only look at a few of these reasons.
*From this point forward the word “God” will be referring to God the Father *
Let’s Hear from Joseph Smith
If you didn’t know, Joseph Smith was the founder of the LDS church back in 1830. He was their first and greatest prophet and he supposedly translated many of their sacred scriptures (the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and much of the Doctrine and Covenants). The following quote is from the King Follet Discourse (1844), one of Joseph Smith’s most famous sermons, performed at the funeral of a fellow LDS member.
“In order to understand the subject of the dead, for consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends, it is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see. These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible…. Here, then, is eternal life — to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one.”
Lorenzo Snow, the fifth president of the LDS faith, agreed with this idea when he taught:
“As man now is, God once was: “As God now is, man may be.” (Church of Jesus Christ, 2012)
There are a few LDS doctrines that we gather from these quotes:
- God was not always God
- God was once a man
- God was created
- There is more than one God
- Man can become a God
- God has changed
I would hope that most Evangelical Christians immediately know where the issues with these claims lie. The great thing is that the Bible speaks clearly on each of these topics.
A Potential Objection:
The LDS Church has had many presidents, prophets, and leaders write on many different topics, but their official canon is the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. The two above quotes are not from the LDS canonical scriptures, so an LDS member could dismiss them as being non canonical and therefore not an official LDS doctrine. There have been many instances of LDS prophets’ teachings being regarded as the prophet “speaking as a man” rather than as a prophet, while this is a somewhat difficult idea to understand and that it allows for any historic doctrine being changed and labeled as a prophet “speaking as a man”, lets grant it for the sake of argument. The King Follet discourse where Joseph Smith said the above quote is directly quoted in the “Becoming Like God” essay in the Gospel Topics Essays on the official LDS website. Here is a quote from the essays explaining their purpose:
“The purpose of these essays, which have been approved by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, has been to gather accurate information from many different sources and publications and place it in the Gospel Topics section of ChurchofJesusChrist.org,”
The King Follet is directly quoted in an official modern day LDS source approved by the First Presidency, so it would seem that the current LDS prophets and leaders affirm its content. But if one still would still like to press the issue of it not being canonical, these ideas are present in the LDS canon as well.
107 And then shall the angels be crowned with the glory of his might, and the saints shall be filled with his glory, and receive their inheritance and be made equal with him.
Doctrine and Covenants 88: 107
The saints will be made equal with God. In his commentary on this section Joseph Fielding Smith (former LDS president) said the following
“[You will] enjoy the same rise, exaltation, and glory, until you arrive at the station of a God.”
(Kent P. Jackson, comp. and ed., Joseph Smith’s Commentary on the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 155.)
With all of this in mind, the view that man can become a god, seems to be a core doctrine affirmed by the historic, and current LDS church.
Let’s Hear from the Bible
There is only One God
We read numerous times in the bible that there is only one God. The Jews were monotheists just like Christians after them. If there were more than one God, God himself would have lied on numerous occasions, which we know is not the case.
“‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the Lord, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me’” (Isaiah 43:10, ESV).
“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god’” (Isaiah 44:6, ESV).
“‘Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me’” (Isaiah 45:21, ESV).
These bible verses show God speaking for Himself through the inspired word of the prophet Isaiah. He declares that there is no other God besides Him, none before Him and none after. This does away with claims 4 and 5 from the LDS faith. Since there are no other gods and none after Him, it follows that man cannot become a god.
LDS members like to either add to these verses by saying “there is no other God that we worship” as the qualifier for their belief in many gods. They also like to cast doubt on the reliability of these verses. When reading the Bible we must allow it to say what it says, and we must allow God to speak for himself without adding to His words. As for the reliability of these verses, in Luke chapter 4 Jesus quotes from the “scroll” of Isaiah, so He was certainly aware of these verses. How can we be sure that Jesus had the same book of Isaiah? Well the Dead Sea Scrolls that were discovered in the mid 1900s included a copy of the book of Isaiah that predated Jesus and it was nearly identical to the book of Isaiah that we had in our bibles at the time and that we have now. Jesus had the same book of Isaiah that we have and He knew about these verses. He would not have quoted a false prophet who misrepresented God to the point of saying that there is only one God if there were truly many. This gives me great reason to trust in the reliability and truthfulness of these verses.
There are many other examples of scripture declaring that there is only one God. A few other references are: 1 Timothy 1:17, Deuteronomy 4:35, 2nd Samuel 7:22, 1st Kings 8:60, Psalm 18:31, and many more.
God has always been God
Something that brings so much comfort to many, myself included, is that God is eternal and unchanging. We can rely on Him and His steadfast love because we can trust Him to remain the same.
“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2, ESV).
“Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba and called there on the name of the Lord, the Everlasting God” (Genesis 21:33, ESV).
I want to point out the meaning of the word everlasting in these verses. Everlasting means lasting forever. As far as you could go back, God was God, and as far as you can go forward, God will be God. He is eternally God. This truth stands against claims 1,2,3 and 6 of the LDS faith because His Word tells us that He always has been and always will be. Some other biblical references for this truth include Deuteronomy 33:27, Revelation 1:8, Isaiah 44:6, John 1:1, and more.
God was not a man and He does not change
The last section deals with the fact that God was not a man. If God was always God, then it is apparent that He was never a man and He doesn’t change. Although we have already disproved these claims, I would like to dive deeper into why the bible emphatically disagrees with them. The Bible goes to great lengths to make sure we know just how different God is from us.
“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19, ESV).
‘“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9, ESV).
“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed” (Malachi 3:6, ESV).
We read that God is not like man, His ways are higher than our ways, He does not lie as we do, He does not change His character nor His mind like we do. He is altogether different than we are. God tells us “You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, ‘He did not make me’; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding?’” (Isaiah 29:16, ESV).
God said that if we regard Him as clay (created man) then we have things upside down. If this is our view of God, then we have missed the mark and are wrong. God is holy, which means that He is separate, individual, and unique compared to the rest of creation. This reality tells us why we cannot trust claims 2 and 6 from the LDS church.
Lastly, I would like to point out the fact that if God really was “as man now is,” then the natural conclusion is that God was once a sinner since all men are sinners. Does that sound right to you? Does that sound like something a fellow Christian would say?
A Potential Objection
LDS writings will often quote Psalm 82:6’s and John 10:34’s usage of “you are gods” in order to defend the position that there are many gods or that man can become a god. Let’s briefly look at the passages
“I said, “You are gods, sons of the Most High, all of you; 7 nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.”” (Psalm 82: 6-7, ESV).
There is some debate over what is being discussed here and in the verses prior. Some take the perspective that the “gods” are angelic beings, others take the perspective that they are the human judges that God appointed to rule and judge the world. The LDS perspective holds that they are literal Gods. Whatever this verse does mean, it cannot mean that the “gods” who are referred to are an actual God because the next verse says that they will die like men. A being equal with God cannot die. So this proof text does not actually support the conclusion that many LDS members think it to.
“The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I said, you are gods’? If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken— do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?” (John 10: 31-37, ESV)
Jesus uses this scripture to argue that Him calling Himself the son of God was not blasphemy, and that if it can be applied to the old testament figures to whom the word of God was given to, it can easily be applied to Him. In this verse, Jesus is quoting Psalm 82, so as long as we understand that Psalm 82 did not mean a “god” in the sense that God is, there is no meaningful objection here.
The 6 claims that we observed from Joseph Smith and Lorenzo Snow are the following:
- God was not always God
- God was once a man
- God was created
- There is more than one God
- Man can become a God
- God changed
Understanding God and His attributes is crucial to loving Him and having a relationship with Him. Think in terms of normal relationships, if we get almost everything about someone wrong, do we really love them? Or just a version of them that we have created in our minds? If this is the god that LDS members worship, then it is hard to call this god the same as the true God that Christians worship. Christians believe in the eternal, unique, and one-of-a-kind God who has always been God, who does not change, and who is separate from all of creation. LDS members believe in a god who is one among many, who was created, who was once a sinner, who changed from man to god, and who was no different than us. These differences may seem trivial to some LDS members, but when you state the differences clearly the point is obvious; we do not believe in the same God. Therefore, we cannot in good conscience agree with LDS members when they call themselves Christians.
So now what? What is the point of this article? First, it is to educate fellow Christians on what LDS members believe. Understanding their beliefs is crucial to reaching them. Second, it is to encourage Christians to evangelize to LDS members. Just because they call themselves Christians, does not mean that they have a gospel that saves. They need a relationship with the true God of the universe who sent Jesus to die on the cross for the sins of man. So pray for these individuals, have a heart of compassion for them and love them well. Third, it is to attempt to call any LDS members to engage the true living God. If this is you and you feel upset or confused, this article is not meant to be an attack, rather it is meant to encourage you to seek the true God of the Bible and to place your faith in Him. If you read the bible and let it say what it says, it disagrees with many LDS doctrines. It is not too late to change your beliefs and be welcomed with loving arms into a relationship with the perfectly loving, all knowing, eternal God who wants to save you from your sins.
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (2012). Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow. LDS.org