By Sharon Lindbloom
14 October 2016
Over the years I have encountered many misperceptions that Mormons have about Christians and Christianity. One of note is found in a little book published in 1998 by LDS author Scott Marshall. In an effort to explain the Christian doctrine of the Trinity, Mr. Marshall wrote,
“THE TRINITY CREATION. They believe in the trinity creation. The trinity was voted on in the Council of Nicene hundreds of years after Christ’s death. A bunch of church leaders and government officials got together and voted on ‘who God was?’, and it wasn’t even a unanimous vote. There were about four different versions of God that they voted on. The version that is used by Catholics and Protestants today only won by about a 40 percent margin. Their view of God, as you may know, is that He is like a formless mass of spirit that fills the whole universe and when He comes to earth, part of it breaks off and forms itself into Jesus.” (Scott Marshall, Tracting and Member Missionary Work, 73)
Another idea – and one that is long-lived and widely embraced among Mormons – is that Christians “fight” against the LDS Church out of a fear of “member poaching” that results in lower salaries for individual Christian pastors. This misperception is being promoted in a brand new book by LDS author Christopher C. Sheldon, Donning the Armor of God: The Saint’s Guide to Defending the Faith. Mr. Sheldon encourages members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to read his book to find facts and information that will prepare them for encounters with critics of the LDS Church.
In Chapter 2 (“Anti-Mormon Thinking and Tactics”) Mr. Sheldon explains why critics “would go through all the trouble” of arguing against Mormonism. After stating that Christians believe Mormonism is “a twisting of Christianity,” Mr. Sheldon writes,
“Another reason as to why Christians fight against the Church is a two-part problem. First, they are upset with the fact that we believe ours to be the one and only true church of Christ and that all other Christian teachings are wrong. In this respect it is understandable why Christians are upset with the Church. This statement and belief is threatening to the Christian community. It brings into question and threatens the credibility of Christianity. This leads us to the second problem for Christian denominational leaderships, because preaching is their job and sole source of income. Aside from tithing[,] ministers, pastors and preachers are paid so much money per seat filled in their congregations… Thus, every member lost is money lost.” (8-9)
Though I have never heard of pastors getting paid according to congregational head-count (does Mr. Sheldon think non-Mormon church-goers buy tickets every Sunday?) it’s possible that some church somewhere operates in this way. But without any supporting documentation at all, Mr. Sheldon outlandishly presents this as the norm within Christianity, and puts it forth as a major reason for Christian opposition to Mormonism: “Every member lost is money lost.”
The Mormon Church requires members pay their church 10% of their income (“tithing”) in order to be worthy of Mormonism’s greatest benefits. In that case, it might be fair to say that “every member lost is money lost.” But Christian churches don’t work this way. Pastors don’t require members of their congregations to pay. Most Christian pastors encourage people to consider the instructions for giving found in the New Testament: “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:7); but there is no direct correlation between what a person gives and what a pastor personally receives. The apostle Paul taught, “the Lord commanded that those who proclaim the gospel should get their living by the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14), and so Christians freely support their pastors out of love and in obedience to God’s command. It is wrong to suggest, as Mr. Sheldon does, that Christian pastors oppose Mormonism because they are greedy.
Mr. Sheldon also claims that the Mormon assertion of being the only true church “brings into question and threatens the credibility of Christianity” within the Christian community. For two thousand years people and movements have challenged Christianity in every conceivable way. When Joseph Smith and his new religion came on the scene, his declarations were nothing new. He was not the first to claim to be the leader of God’s only true church, and he was not the last. Christianity isn’t threatened by new religions movements. Jesus warned us that they would come but He didn’t tell us to be afraid of them. Rather, Christians are told to be careful that we are not deceived by false prophets, that we guard and stand firm for the truth, and that we correct our spiritual opponents for the sake of their souls (Matthew 7:15; 2 Timothy 1:14, Ephesians 6:14; 2 Timothy 2:24-26). Mormonism doesn’t threaten the credibility of Christianity. Christians are secure in the truth that, as the apostle Paul said in the face of those who had “swerved from the truth” in his day, “God’s firm foundation stands” (2 Timothy 2:19).
So Mr. Sheldon is wrong. Mormonism is not a threat to Christianity or to the faith of Christians. It is not a threat to the livelihood of Christian pastors. But Mormonism is a threat. And I believe it is this particular threat that motivates Christians and Christian leadership in their opposition to the religion of the Latter-day Saints.
Mormonism threatens the eternal hope of millions of people. It proclaims a false god. It proclaims a false gospel. It proclaims an unattainable eternal future, making spiritual promises that it cannot fulfill. Those who place their faith and hope in Mormonism will never see Heaven because they have rejected God’s merciful and gracious offer of redemption in Christ alone. Often unaware, they have turned from the narrow gate that leads to eternal life, choosing instead the wide gate that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).
It is this threat that compels Christians to challenge the claims of Mormonism. Certainly many Latter-day Saints will disagree with the Christian perspective on the teachings of their religion, but perhaps they may wisely reject faulty arguments like those presented by Mr. Sheldon. It is not money or pride that compels Christians to challenge Mormonism; it is concern for people’s souls.
Christians long for Mormons to know the one true God and be justified by His grace, that they might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7). Therefore, Christians not only speak hard truths to the Mormon people, we also earnestly pray for their salvation.
“If sinners will be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. And if they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees, imploring them to stay. If hell must be filled, at least let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let no one go there unwarned and unprayed for.”
-Christian Pastor Charles Haddon Spurgeon, 1860