Are Mormons Christian?
People often ask, "Are Mormons Christian?" The better question is: “Is Mormonism a Christian religion?” This is more appropriate because it focuses on the teachings of the Mormon Church rather than on the beliefs of an individual Mormon. It also allows us to evaluate Mormonism on the basis of its official doctrine. The Mormon or LDS Church strenuously claims to be Christian. “Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unequivocally affirm themselves to be Christians” (lds.org). This sentiment is echoed by members and missionaries alike.
Claiming to be Christian, however, doesn’t automatically make Mormonism a Christian religion. Many other people and churches make this claim, but are not recognized as Christian by traditional Christian churches. One example would be the Christian Identity Movement affiliated with white supremacy.
The difference between Christianity and Mormonism
The dictionary defines a Christian as “one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ.” In keeping with this commonly held definition, the key to determining whether Mormonism is Christian or not is ascertaining if its teachings are the ones Jesus taught.
One of the bedrock beliefs of Christianity is that the Bible accurately conveys Jesus’ teachings. It is the standard by which all beliefs need to be evaluated. Even a brief comparison of Mormonism with biblical teaching quickly shows how different they are. In many places, Mormonism teaches the direct opposite of what the Bible teaches. (All the quotes are from Mormon scriptures.)
The Bible teaches that we are saved by grace: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Mormonism, on the other hand, teaches: “We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 25:23).
The Bible teaches: “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed” (Genesis 2:8).
Mormonism says: “And the Gods planted a garden, eastward in Eden, and there they put the man, whose spirit they had put into the body which they had formed” (Pearl of Great Price, Abraham 5:8).
On Adam and Eve’s Fall
The Bible teaches that: “Just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people” (Romans 5:118).
Mormonism teaches that: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 2:25).
These are just a few of numerous examples. Not only does Mormonism teach the direct opposite of the Bible in many places, it also has many teachings that contradict biblical teaching. Following are just two examples.
Other Mormon Teachings
Mormonism teaches that people can become gods.
“Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them” (Doctrine and Covenants 132:20).
Mormonism teaches that even people who don’t believe in Jesus will go to heaven.
Mormonism says heaven consists of three different kingdoms of glory. The lowest kingdom is called the telestial. It describes the telestial in this way: “And again, we saw the glory of the telestial, which glory is that of the lesser, even as the glory of the stars differs from that of the glory of the moon in the firmament. These are they who received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus” (Doctrine and Covenants 76: 81-82, emphasis added).
There are many more such examples. The book, Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons, examines Mormonism’s doctrine in depth. Please refer to it for more proofs.
It is obvious that Mormonism and biblical teachings are completely different. Neither are the differences superficial. They penetrate to the very heart and core of a person’s relationship with God. Mormonism teaches a way to heaven which the Bible condemns. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” (Galatians 1:8).
Christians need to be clear on this. And they need to clearly and lovingly discuss it with Mormons. Over the years, we have found an effective way of doing this. To learn more, we encourage you to read the five pillars of our approach.
Plan of Salvation
Plan is an important word in Mormonism. The Bible emphasizes that God gives us salvation; Mormonism emphasizes that God gave us a plan of salvation and puts the spotlight on human effort because people need to work the plan in order to progress.
Mormons progress through their own worthiness
This emphasis on human effort is seen in two important concepts that undergird the LDS plan of salvation. The first is the teaching that people progress only through their own worthiness. For example, even though Mormonism states that Christ’s atonement is central to the plan, a person receives its benefits only through obedience to God’s law. This emphasis on a person’s work is underscored in the Book of Mormon. “For we know that it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).
The concept of agency
The other important concept is “agency” which is the ability to make wise decisions. The LDS manual, True to the Faith, explains: “Your Heavenly Father has given you agency, the ability to choose and to act for yourself. Agency is essential in the plan of salvation…Your use of this gift determines your happiness or misery in this life and the life to come” (p. 12). In order to progress, Mormons must wisely use their agency every step along the way.
The ultimate goal of Mormonism
Before looking at the details of the plan, it is helpful to know that the ultimate goal of Mormonism is exaltation. Exaltation is nothing less than becoming a god. LDS scripture plainly states: “Then shall they be gods” (Doctrine & Covenants 132:20). Christians need to be aware, however, that many Mormons hesitate to state this and instead talk about becoming like God.
The LDS plan of salvation
The LDS plan of salvation begins with a world, called pre-existence, where we lived as the literal spirit children of Heavenly Father and Mother. Those children who wisely used their agency by remaining faithful to Heavenly Father came to earth. Those who unwisely chose to follow Lucifer became demons. Mormon missionaries encourage prospects by saying that their presence on earth shows that they wisely used their agency in pre-existence and thus they have already made significant progress.
Coming to earth is critical because Mormonism teaches that no one can progress to godhood without a body. (Mormon families are often large because it is their duty to provide bodies for the waiting spirit children.) Mormons view earthly life as a time of testing. They can wisely use their agency and show their worthiness by resisting bodily temptations and keeping Mormonism’s many rules: for example, the keeping of a journal, storing up a year’s supply of food, and not drinking coffee and tea.
Critical to their eternal progression is receiving temple ordinances. But admission to the temple, like all things in Mormonism, has to be earned. Only Mormons who strictly adhere to the laws of Mormonism are temple-worthy. In the temple they first go through the endowment ceremony, which teaches the signs necessary for godhood. Marriages for time and eternity are also performed in the temple – another element critical to their progression. There they also “redeem the dead” by being baptized for them.
The spirit world
To understand this last point, we need to fast forward to the spirit world, the next world in Mormonism’s plan of salvation. The spirit world has two parts: paradise and spirit prison. Mormons go to paradise, a place of peace and happiness, where they continue to work. Some go on missions to spirit prison converting non-Mormons. But before those converts can enter paradise, they need to be baptized. But they can’t be baptized in the spirit world because they don’t have bodies. Mormons on earth have to be baptized for them. They also receive endowments and are married for them. In fact, the vast majority of activity in Mormon temples is for the dead. This also explains the importance Mormons place on genealogy work.
The three different kingdoms
On Judgment Day, all people will be raised and judged by their works. Strikingly, almost everybody goes to heaven. Mormonism, however, teaches a heaven consisting of three different kingdoms. The highest is the celestial kingdom, the middle is the terrestrial, and the lowest is the telestial. The celestial kingdom is reserved for very faithful Mormons including those who have attained exaltation. The terrestrial kingdom is for good people. The telestial kingdom is for the worst people; but it is still many times better than earth. Only a few people go to “outer darkness” – the Mormon version of hell. Outer darkness is reserved for apostates (Mormons that leave the church) who openly fight against the LDS Church.
In striking contrast to this complex plan of salvation that is dependent on human work is the Bible’s simple message of the salvation based on Jesus’s work for us. Learning Mormonism’s plan of salvation not only helps us recognize the sharp contrast between the two messages, it also serves as a reminder that Mormons desperately need to learn the truth. May we always speak that truth to them in love.
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Mormons often have unique definitions for Biblical terms. This handy resource can help you better understand Mormon teaching so you don't talk past each other.