When it comes to analyzing a belief system to determine whether or not it is true, it is often best to first evaluate for what does not ring true. Since every belief system is ultimately based on a foundation of faith, there are some things which simply can’t be objectively dealt with on the affirmative side. Ultimately we do have to affirm something as positively true, but starting our search from the negative side can often save a lot of time and effort. If we can find things that are definitely not true, then the entire system is not true, no matter what kind of positive assertions are made. We must be careful using this approach, though, because many people will assert an untruth without objective evidence simply because they are looking for reasons to discredit another point of view. Antagonists to our own Christian faith frequently try to use this tactic employing faulty evaluation techniques. We must be sure that when we discount something, it is based on solid evidence.
Mormonism is a belief system which fits into the Theistic worldview. More specifically, it is a cult which is a spin-off from Christianity. In this article we will begin with a very brief look at the history and beliefs of Mormonism, then dig into the issues which show why it does not represent objective Truth.
The Mormon church, also referred to as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS), was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. Smith grew up in western New York where most of his family joined the Presbyterian church. But the strife and tension he witnessed between the various Christian denominations of his day greatly disturbed him. Through a dramatic personal experience, during a Christian revival, he sought guidance from God as to which church was the true one.
In 1820, at age 15, Joseph claimed to have received a vision where he was visited by God the Father and God the Son and told not to join any church because they were all corrupt. He claimed that, in the vision, God revealed he would use Joseph to bring forth the true church. This vision became the basis for the founding of the Mormon Church.
Joseph had a second vision in 1823. In this one, the angel Moroni told him that God had a work for him to do. The angel then revealed a book to Joseph which was written on gold plates. It was said to be written in “Reformed Egyptian” and had to be translated from that language into English. He was told that the book contained a sacred history written by ancient Hebrews in America and engraved on gold tablets. Joseph was given the location of the tablets and told to translate the text using the “Urim and Thummin,” a set of seer stones. Joseph would put these into a hat, then put his face into the hat. As he looked, the interpretation of the tablets would appear to him.”
Joseph claimed to have been visited several other times by heavenly messengers who ordained him to the true priesthood and reveled further knowledge of the gospel. Many of these revelations are published in one of their other books of scripture, Doctrine and Covenants..
The number of Smith’s followers gradually grew and the group decided to move to Kirtland, Ohio. In Ohio they received strong opposition and persecution because of their unorthodox beliefs. There were frequent fights with the non-Mormons and Smith soon found himself imprisoned, along with several other of his leaders. Eventually they were driven to Missouri and finally to Illinois, where they organized a small army and began building a temple.
Once again the persecution began and a local newspaper began printing anti-Mormon stories. Smith didn’t like that and ordered the press to be destroyed and the paper burned. For this, he was arrested and put in jail. Then, on June 27, 1844, a mob stormed the jail and shot him to death.
After Smith’s death, Brigham Young took over the leadership of the church and led the members to the Salt Lake Valley in Utah. This became the worldwide headquarters of the Mormon church.
Today they are led by the president of the church who is the anointed successor to Joseph Smith. He is considered to be a “prophet, seer and revelator” and is the one who gives guidance and revelations from God.
By the time of Young’s death in 1877, there were approximately 150,000 members. Today they claim about 10,000,000 members worldwide.
In the last several years, Mormon leaders have tried to make the church seem more mainstream. Until recently they didn’t want to be called “Christians” because of their belief that all of the Christian denominations are wrong. But in the recent times, the LDS church has spent millions of dollars in an intense public relations campaign trying to move the Mormon church into the mainstream of Christianity. They believe that this will provide significant political and economic benefits, and will help their efforts in proselytizing the members of Christian denominations into the LDS church.
Basic Beliefs and Practices
The Mormon church believes that they are the restoration of the true church established by Jesus Christ and that there is no salvation outside of Mormonism. They teach that, after the Apostolic age, the Christian faith was corrupted and no one preached the true gospel from that time until Joseph Smith restored the true teaching in 1820.
Mormonism asserts that the god of earth used to be a human being on another world and became a god by being faithful to the god of his home planet. Upon attaining godhood, he proceeded to populate his new planet with the offspring produced by him and his wife (the woman he had been married to on his home planet).
In his present god-state, he rules over the earth. Even though he is God, he is said to have a body of flesh and bones, though it is an exalted body. As exalted deities, he and his wife have sexual relations and produce spirit children that grow and mature in the spirit realm.
The very first spirit child of earth’s god was Jesus. Later, God’s second child, Lucifer, was born followed by the rest of his spirit children. These spirits eventually come to inhabit the physical bodies of people born on earth. Thus, every human on earth existed in spirit form before coming to earth to enter human bodies.
One of God’s primary concerns for his earthly creation was the salvation of his people. To take care of this problem, he developed a plan. Jesus endorsed the plan, but Lucifer became jealous and rebelled. In his rebellion he convinced a large portion of the spirits in heaven to oppose God with him. As a result, God cursed the rebellious spirits and made them demons.
The remaining spirits sided with God and earned the right to enter human bodies on earth at the appropriate time. They are born in races and locations according to the choices they made in the spirit realm. When God was ready to send a savior to the world, he determined that privilege would go to his first born spirit child, Jesus.
As Jesus lived life on this earth, he got married and had children. At the appropriate time, he suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, then died on the cross to pay for the sins of mankind.
In Mormon theology, both men and women have the potential to become gods. In order to accomplish this, they must first become a good Mormons, pay a full ten percent tithe to the church, follow the laws and ordinances of the church, and be found worthy. At this point, they are allowed to enter the sacred temples and go through special ceremonies that qualify them for godhood.
Those who ultimately achieve the highest level of heaven are permitted to have their own planet and be the god of their own world. In this way, the Mormon system is expanded to other planets.
The Story in the Book of Mormon
The most well known scripture of the Mormon church is The Book of Mormon, even though most Mormon theology does not derive from this book. The Book of Mormon claims to be the history of the inhabitants of the Western Hemisphere from about 2200 BC to 421 AD. It claims that the American Indians are descended from three groups of immigrants who were led by God to America from their original homes in the Near East.
According the text, one group came from the Tower of Babel and the two others came from Jerusalem around 600 BC, just before the Babylonian Captivity. They were led by prophets of God who already had the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Because they already had the gospel, many of the descendants of these immigrants, though not all, were Christians, even before Christ was born in Palestine. The believers and unbelievers fought many wars, the last of which left only degenerate unbelievers as survivors. These were the ancestors of the American Indians. The most important event during this long history was the visit of Jesus Christ to America after his crucifixion. During this visit he ministered to, and converted, all the inhabitants.
Essential Beliefs – What Mormonism believes about God, man and salvation.
Mormons claim to believe in God, his Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost. But the meanings of these terms are different than in Biblical Christianity. Mormonism is polytheistic and the trinity is considered to be three separate Gods: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. They also believe that the universe is inhabited by many other gods who also produce spirit children for their own worlds. In Mormon theology, the god of our planet is believed to have once been a man on another planet who, through self-effort and the help of his own father-god, was appointed by a counsel of gods in the heavens to his high position as the god of planet Earth. Mormonism teaches that through the atonement of Christ, and by an individual’s good deeds and “holy” living, men can one day become gods. Then, along with their “goddess wives,” they will be able to populate their own planets.
Jesus Christ is believed to be the firstborn of our God’s spirit children. He was not born of a virgin, but was the result of a natural sexual relationship between his parents. Jesus is the literal spirit-brother of Lucifer. Mormonism acknowledges the divinity of Christ, but their idea of divinity is very different than the Christian view.
Mormonism distinguishes between the Holy Spirit (an impersonal substance of spiritual “fluid” which is dispensed in varying degrees to individuals) and the Holy Ghost (the third god in the Mormon doctrine of the trinity). The Holy Ghost is endowed with the attributes and powers of deity.
A human being is a preexistent soul before acquiring a body on earth. When a human gives birth in this world, it makes available a human body in which a spirit child (the offspring of our God and his wife in the heavenly realm) can be placed. After being born in the spirit world, a spirit being lives a life in that domain and, at the appropriate time, is placed in a physical body on earth. The location on earth and race that a spirit being takes when sent to earth is based on how life was lived in the spirit world.
Salvation has two parts in Mormonism. The first part relates to Christ’s shed blood on the cross to provide for the universal resurrection of all people. This provided the means for mankind to get forgiveness from the penalty of the fall. Mormons have a very narrow view of hell and consider that nearly all of mankind will be saved at some level.
The church teaches that “eternal life” means becoming a god through exaltation. This allows a person to dwell in the Celestial Kingdom, which is reserved only for perfect sinless married Mormons. Mormons who don’t meet all the requirements for exaltation to godhood enter the Terrestrial Kingdom. Those who have “no testimony of Christ” (non-Mormons) will spend eternity in the Tellestial Kingdom.
The second part of salvation is to achieve forgiveness of personal sins. Individuals will only be punished for their own sin, not for Adam’s fall. As mentioned above, Christ’s shed blood on the cross took care of the problem related to the fall. The blood which Christ shed in the Garden of Gethsemane atones for personal sin. There are also a few other things that are required for full salvation. Besides faith in Christ, good works are required along with water baptism. It is also possible to achieve salvation for one’s ancestors by being baptized for them. Therefore, Mormons avidly pursue genealogical studies and practice baptism for the dead.
Faith Foundation – How does Mormonism answer the seven worldview questions?
1. What is the most fundamental reality? (Ultimate reality)
There are many gods. The god of our world was once a human being on another planet and qualified to become a god himself by faithful adherence to his god’s requirements. Humans on earth can later become a god of their own planet by faithfully adhering to the tenets of Mormonism.
2. What is the nature of our material reality? (Material reality)
Matter is eternal and can never be destroyed. It may be organized and reorganized but not destroyed. Our god created our universe out of this pre-existent matter.
3. What is a human being? (Humanity)
Human beings were pre-existent spirit children who were produced by sexual relations between the god of this universe and his wife. As human bodies become available through the sexual relations of human beings on earth, these spirit children are sent by God to occupy the bodies.
4. What happens to a person at death? (Death)
There are three degrees of glory. At physical death, faithful Mormons go to the Celestial Kingdom. These are the ones who will become gods of their own planets. Mormons who were not faithful go to the Terrestrial Kingdom. These people will inherit terrestrial glory but with certain limitations. They will not be allowed to marry and cannot achieve the state of exaltation. They are allowed to have the presence of the Son, but not the fullness of the Father. Non-Mormons (those who have lived unclean earthly lives) go to the Tellestial Kingdom. All who enter this kingdom will live forever apart from the presence of the Father and of Jesus. There is a hell, but it is only for a very small number of souls who cannot be redeemed.
5. Why is it possible to know anything at all? (Knowledge)
Knowledge is possible because humans are the literal children of God (a being who is capable of knowledge). In that way, humans are beings like their parents.
6. How do we know what is right and wrong? (Morality)
Moral laws are grounded in our eternal divine nature. God is a moral being and, as his prodigy, we inherit that same nature. We know what the good is by the teachings of the Mormon church.
7. What is the meaning of human history? (History)
God created the universe to accomplish his own purposes. Human history is a linear sequence of events during which time individuals have the opportunity to go through a process to become gods.
Authority – Mormons recognize four sacred works and the word of their current leader as the authority foundation for their faith. These authorities include:
1) The Bible, in-so-far as it is translated correctly. This is considered the least valid of their authorities.
2) The Book of Mormon - This is the account of Jesus visiting the original inhabitants of America after his resurrection.
3) Doctrine and Covenants - This is a record of 138 revelations. It contains some of Mormonism’s most distinctive doctrines such as baptism for the dead and celestial marriage.
4) The Pearl of Great Price - This book contains the Book of Moses (roughly equal to the first six chapters of Genesis), the Book of Abraham (the translation of an Egyptian Papyrus that later proved to be fraudulent), an extract from Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible, an extract from Joseph Smith’s autobiography, and the Articles of Faith.
5) The authoritative decrees of the present prophet (highest leader of the church) are also considered to be the revelation of God.
Evidence for the Authority – What evidence is there that Mormonism ‘s authority is valid?
Ultimately, the validity of the Mormon authorities rests on the shoulders of the one who invented the religion. Basically, the claims of truth are the unvalidated assertions of Joseph Smith himself. He claimed that he received visions and other revelations from God, and we have no other choice than to accept his word on that. There is no outside verification. This includes the existence and accurate translation of the gold tablets he claimed to have received. There is no verification other than his claim that they actually existed.
The Book of Mormon, itself, has undergone about 3000 changes since its first edition. This in spite of the fact that Mormons claim it was translated by the power of God, and that God himself affirmed it’s authenticity. Other problematic issues relate to the fact that there is no archeological or any other kind of evidence in the Americas to back up The Book of Mormon and that DNA evidence puts in doubt the teachings about Native Americans having Hebrew ancestry.
The other books which are claimed as authorities are also based strictly on the personal writings or interpretations of Joseph Smith and his successors. There is no other corroborating evidence that can be given to back up the claims or the authority of these writings. Additionally, there is nothing objective to show that Smith’s claims of truth are any more valid than any other religion’s claims. Basically all that exists of the claim for truth is that “it is true because John Smith said it is true.” This lack of corroboration, and the questionable character of Smith himself, leads to the conclusion that Mormonism is not the truth regarding the nature of reality.
The evidence cited above is a very short summary designed only to show that Mormonism does not, even in a small sense, pass the test for accuracy and validity. If you are interested in delving more into this specific topic, there are scores of books which have been written which go into minute detail about the many problems related to the truth of the Mormon faith. Our purpose here is simply to point out that even at a cursory level, using worldview tools, Mormonism can be demonstrated to be not true.
It is certainly possible for people to live their entire lives as if the Mormon faith represents the truth about God and reality – and many people actually do. But they must do it in spite of the evidence.
© 2007 Freddy Davis