A 20-item checklist to show how you really do understand Mormonism
By Eric Johnson
One complaint often made against Christians who are critical of Mormonism is that they just don’t “understand” Mormonism. It’s almost as if the Mormon is assuming that a person must be a Latter-day Saint in order to be accurate in any assessement of the religion. When the Mormon makes a statement saying “you just don’t (or can’t) understand,” it might be wise to ask if you could, in three minutes, quickly list some of what you know. If you are in a face-to-face discussion, ask the Mormon to not interrupt as you go through this list. The following are 21 possible points that a Christian could make:
According to Mormonism, what I think I understand is that:
1. God the Father and Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith in 1820, as he was told that all the Christian churches and their doctrines were false (Joseph Smith-History 1:19)–see here;
2. The angel Moroni appeared to Smith in 1823;
3. Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon and published it in 1830;
4. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is based in Salt Lake City and is God’s true church;
5. This church is led by a prophet (Thomas S. Monson) and his two counselors along with 12 apostles; along with the “Seventies,” they are called “General Authorities” and their teachings are considered authoritative;
6. The Bible is true only “as far as it is translated correctly.” However, the Book of Mormon does not have any such stipulation;
8. Water baptism (immersion) is a requirement to become a Latter-day Saint. No other baptism from any other church will do;
9. In order for a faithful Latter-day Saint to receive a temple recommend to attend any LDS temple, a person must be sexually pure, not drink alcohol or smoke tobacco, not drink coffee or tea, and be willing to continually wear special temple undergarments. Tithing is also required;
10. “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become” is a true statement, as explained in the 2013 church manual Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow (chapter 5).
a. God therefore has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s.
b. God also had a mortal existence and once lived on another world as a human.
c. The husband and wife can live together into eternity, having their families and new world in the next life.
d. The only way this can happen is by participating in the endowment ceremony in the temple and being married not just for time but all eternity.
e. My family and others who don’t hold LDS temple recommends would not be allowed to see this wedding ceremony but would have to wait outside the temple.
11. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is not true.
12. What goes on inside the temple, including the ceremonies, are kept private because they are considered sacred;
13. Work done on behalf of those already dead is performed so that these spirits may have a chance in the next life to receive the gospel. Those with fleshly bodies are able to vicariously complete their work for them.
15. Because we chose wisely (Jesus’ plan over Lucifer’s) in “premortality” or the “preexistence,” we were allowed to have bodies and go to earth. One-third of my spiritual brothers and sisters did not choose as wisely and were therefore cast out of heaven, not getting the opportunity to have bodies of their own because of their one sin;
16. In essence, everyone born on this earth gets to go to one of three levels of glory, even Adolph Hitler;
17. Mormons are “saved by grace, after all they can do.”
a. Everyone on this earth (for the most part) gets to go to one of three levels of heaven, which is “salvation by grace,” or “general resurrection
b. Exaltation (individual salvation) comes by works, many works, which are vital for a person who hopes to go to the celestial kingdom.
c. The goal for a faithful Mormon is the top level of heaven, called the celestial kingdom;
18. We must accept latter-day revelation if we hope to understand what God wants for us to believe and do today.
19. You, as a Mormon, cannot claim the promise as made in 1 John 5:13, that we can know that we have “eternal life” (which, in Mormonism, is a reference to “exaltation”);
20. Therefore, if I become a Mormon, I must give up something that I know I have (eternal life with God) for something Mormons don’t know they have (“I think”/”I hope”/”I am trying”).
Please tell me, where do I have it wrong?
Note: Since the items in the above list are taught by the Standard Works and LDS leaders, it is not a strong argument to say that Mormonism cannot be understood just because a person does not belong to this religion.
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