Hear a 13-minute explanation on this topic from Bill and Eric here.
When speaking to our Mormon friends about religious issues, it is not uncommon to hear them tell us, “We’re Christians just like you.” There could be many reasons for a response like this. Perhaps the Mormon with whom you are speaking does not really understand what Christians have believed over the centuries, or it could be that they are not really familiar with the positions of their own church. It could be that because both groups share a desire to live moral lives that this qualifies them as “Christian.” However, this conclusion is refuted by the fact that many religions emphasize wholesome living as a part of their beliefs. Christianity, as a religious faith, is known by its teachings (doctrine) and not necessarily by the behavior of its adherents (though we certainly hope that a Christian’s faith is reflected in their practice).
One thing we have found in most cases is it is very rare for the average Latter-day Saint to fully explain the unique teachings of Mormonism. In the LDS Church it is taught that milk must be given before meat. Since many Mormons know that some of their unique teachings will be questioned by their evangelical acquaintances, they often give an explanation of the LDS faith that is less than precise.
It is difficult to comprehend why Mormons would say they are Christians “just like us” given that the foundation of their church presupposes that all professing Christian churches outside of the LDS Church are in a state of apostasy. Do Mormons who make this claim really think they too are “apostates”? Putting that aside, you need to ask yourself some important questions before automatically accepting the notion that the differences separating Christians from Mormons are insignificant. For instance, if your Mormon friend is really a “Christian just like you,” does that mean you believe:
God was not always God?
Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints taught,
“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” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.345; also cited in Gospel Principles, p.305).
In contrast to this, Psalm 90:2 states, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God..”
God is a glorified, perfected human being with a body of flesh and bones?
According to Joseph Smith,
“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret, if the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345. Also cited in Achieving a Celestial Marriage, p.129).
The Doctrines of Covenants, considered to be scripture by Latter-day Saints, teaches, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” (130:22).
Jesus taught that God the Father was not a man at all. In fact, John 4:24 records Jesus saying, “God is spirit, and they that worship Him, must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”
God is only one among many Gods?
Joseph Smith said,
“I wish to declare I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of the Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods. It has been preached by the elders for fifteen years” (Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.35).
Brigham Young, the second president of the LDS Church, once stated,
“How many Gods there are, I do not know. But there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds, and when men were not passing through the same ordeals that we are now passing through. That course has been from all eternity, and it is and will be to all eternity. You cannot comprehend this; but when you can, it will be to you a matter of great consolation” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:334, October 8, 1859).
However, Isaiah 44:6,8 tells us that the God of the Bible knows of no other Gods. “I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God…Is there a God beside me? Yea, there is no God; I know not any.”
God is married?
Gordon B. Hinckley, Mormonism’s 15th President, once noted in a conference message,
“Logic and reason would certainly suggest that if we have a Father in Heaven, we have a Mother in Heaven. That doctrine rests well with me” (“Daughters of God,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 1991, p.100. This is also cited in The Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p.257).
Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie wrote,
“Implicit in the Christian verity that all men are the spirit children of an Eternal Father is the usually unspoken truth that they are also the offspring of an Eternal Mother. An exalted and glorified Man of Holiness (Moses 6:57) could not be a Father unless a Woman of like glory, perfection, and holiness was associated with him as a Mother. The begetting of children makes a man a father and a woman a mother whether we are dealing with man in his mortal or immortal state” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 516).
Just as there is nothing in Mormonism’s unique scripture that mentions God being married to a “heavenly mother,” there is nothing to imply such a teaching in the Bible either.
Jesus is the spirit-brother of Lucifer?
12th Mormon President Spencer W. Kimball wrote,
“Long before you were born a program was developed by your creators … The principal personalities in this great drama were a Father Elohim, perfect in wisdom, judgment, and person, and two sons, Lucifer and Jehovah.” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp. 32-33).
Since The New Testament claims that it was through Jesus all things were created (John 1:3; Colossian 1:16, 17), it is difficult to assume such a familial relationship. Lucifer is described as an angel and angels, according to Psalm 148:1-5, are created beings, not pro-created beings in a sexual sense.
Jesus is the literal “Son of God” who was begotten naturally by an immortal Father?
In a pamphlet published by the LDS Church First Presidency, it says:
“Jesus Christ is the Son of Elohim both as spiritual and bodily offspring; that is to say, Elohim is literally the Father of the spirit of Jesus Christ and also of the body in which Jesus Christ performed His mission in the flesh, and which body died on the cross and was afterward taken up by the process of resurrection, and is now the immortalized tabernacle of the eternal spirit of our Lord and Savior” (“The Father and The Son; A Doctrinal Exposition by The First Presidency and The Twelve,” June 30, 1916. Reprinted in Articles of Faith, p. 421).
Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie taught that God stepped down from His throne to “join with one who is finite and mortal in bringing forth, ‘after the manner of the flesh,’ the Mortal Messiah” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary, 1:315).
The Bible describes the incarnation of Christ as a miracle known as the Virgin Birth. Mary, the mother of Jesus, became pregnant without the aid of man, mortal or otherwise (Luke 2:35).
Christians are saved by grace coupled with works?
The Book of Mormon teaches in 2 Nephi 25:23, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”
President Spencer W. Kimball said,
“One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation” (12th Prophet Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p.206; also cited in The Book of Mormon Student Manual, religion 121 and 122, 1996, p.36).
Though Christians are saved “unto good works” (Ephesians 2:10), the good works of a Christians do not justify (or make right) the believer before God. The apostle Paul made this very clear when he wrote, “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Grace is given by God only after a person has denied themselves of all ungodliness?
Writing for the Mormon magazine Ensign, BYU professor Clyde J. Williams said,
“The perfect relationship between the atoning grace of Christ and the obedient efforts of mankind is powerfully stated by Nephi: ‘We know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do’ (2 Nephi 25:23). Furthermore, we are invited to ‘come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.’ When we deny ourselves ‘of all ungodliness,’ then and only ‘then is his grace sufficient’ for us (Moroni 10:32)” (“Plain and Precious Truths Restored,” Ensign, October 2006, p.53).
Apostle Bruce McConkie wrote, “And unless men have the agency to choose to do good and work righteousness—and, in fact, do so—they cannot be saved. There is no other way” (The Mortal Messiah 1:406).
However, in his pastoral epistle to Titus, the apostle Paul wrote that a believer’s salvation was
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit.” He went on to write that this great kindness was “shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).
Humans can become Gods?
According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism,
“Logically and naturally, the ultimate desire of a loving Supreme Being is to help his children enjoy all that he enjoys. For Latter-day Saints, the term ‘godhood’ denotes the attainment of such a state—one of having all divine attributes and doing as God does and being as God is” (2:553).
Brigham Young declared,
“The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like Himself; when we have been proved in our present capacity, and been faithful with all things He puts into our possession. We are created, we are born for the express purpose of growing up from the low estate of manhood, to become Gods like unto our Father in heaven. That is the truth about it, just as it is” (Brigham Young, August 8, 1852, Journal of Discourses 3:93).
Historically, such a notion has been considered blasphemous by Christians. Never have Christians taught that mankind has the capacity to become ontologically like God. As God Himself said through the prophet Isaiah, “Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me” (Isaiah 43:10).
Mankind must believe Joseph Smith was a prophet of God in order to get into heaven?
“There is no greater prophet in any dispensation than Joseph Smith… Joseph Smith was a prophet, and all the calumny and aspersion to the contrary cannot controvert that fact. Anyone who has concern for the welfare of his eternal soul should give attention to this message. Every man who has lived since the days of Joseph Smith is subject to accepting him as a prophet of God in order to enter into our Heavenly Father’s presence” (Seventy A. Theodore Tuttle during an April, 1971 general conference address. Reprinted in “No greater prophet: Joseph Smith re-established fullness of true gospel, Church,” Church News, March 17, 2001, p.14).
This concurs with what Brigham Young said in 1859:
“From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are — I with you and you with me. I cannot go there without his consent” (Brigham Young, October 9, 1859, Journal of Discourses 7:289).
The Bible declares that Jesus is the Christian’s living prophet and it is Jesus whom Christians must listen to and obey (Deuteronomy 18:15; John 5:46; 6:44; 7:40; Acts 3:22, 23; 7:37; Hebrews 1:1-2). Judgment has been given to Jesus alone by authority of the Father. “For the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment unto the Son” (John 5:22).
Christianity ceased to exist after the death of the Twelve Apostles?
According to a manual,
“One by one, the Apostles were killed. Because of the persecution, surviving Apostles could not meet to choose and ordain men to replace those who were dead. Eventually, local priesthood leaders were the only ones who had authority to direct the scattered branches of the Church. The perfect organization of the Church no longer existed, and confusion resulted. More and more error crept into Church doctrine, and soon the destruction was complete. The period of time when the true Church no longer existed on earth is called the Great Apostasy” (Gospel Principles, p.105, emphasis theirs).
But Jesus promised to be with His Church unto the “end of the world (or age)” (Matthew 28:20).
The Apostle John is still alive?
Doctrine and Covenants 7:1-3 states,
“AND the Lord said unto me: John, my beloved, what desirest thou? For if you shall ask what you will, it shall be granted unto you. And I said unto him: Lord, give unto me power over death, that I may live and bring souls unto thee. And the Lord said unto me: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, because thou desirest this thou shalt tarry until I come in my glory, and shalt prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people”
BYU Professor Robert Millet noted that not only was the Apostle John still alive, but that “Three “Nephites” mentioned in the Book of Mormon were also living today in a translated state.
“We know from the Book of Mormon (see 3 Nephi 28:6) and from modern revelation (see D&C 7) that John was translated-changed to a terrestrial state so as to no longer be subject to the effects of the Fall, including physical suffering, bodily decay, and death. Like the three Nephites, he is still ministering among the peoples of the earth and will do so until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, at which time he and they will be changed from mortality to immortality (see 3 Nephi 28:8, 27-30)” (Selected Writings of Robert L. Millet: Gospel Scholars Series, p.85).
Jesus never made such a promise. Clearly such a conclusion is based on a misunderstanding that the Gospel of John corrects in John 21:22, 23.
American Indians are “Jewish”?
Joseph Smith said
“that America in ancient times has been inhabited by two distinct races of people. The first were called Jaredites and came directly from the tower of Babel. The second race came directly from the city of Jerusalem, about six hundred years before Christ. They were principally Israelites, of the descendants of Joseph. The Jaredites were destroyed about the time that the Israelites came from Jerusalem, who succeeded them in the inheritance of the country. The principal nation of the second race fell in battle towards the close of the fourth century. The remnant are the Indians that now inhabit this country” (Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons 3:707).
Harold B. Lee, Mormonism’s 11th president, stated,
“The Indians on the American continent are descendants of the tribes of Ephraim, Judah, and Manasseh, we are told by the Book of Mormon. (Omni 15-19; I Nephi 5:14-16.) Their dark skin was a curse put upon them because of their transgression, which in a day to come in their descendants will be lifted and they will become white and delightsome as they accept the Gospel and turn to the Lord” (Decisions for Successful Living, pp.166-167.)
Genetic evidence denies such a connection. Modern data concludes that the American Indians are not of Hebrew ancestry but are instead of Asian descent.
The Garden of Eden was located in Missouri?
Mormon Apostle John A. Widtsoe wrote,
“Latter-day Saints know, through modern revelation, that the Garden of Eden was on the North American continent and that Adam and Eve began their conquest of the earth in the upper part of what is now the state of Missouri. It seems very probable that the children of our first earthly parents moved down along the fertile, pleasant lands of the Mississippi valley. The great floods that have often occurred there make the description in Genesis seem very reasonable indeed. And if the historian saw the flood there, it is not unlikely that the waters covered the highest points or peaks, for there the mountains are but hills” (Evidences and Reconciliations, p.127).
Milton R. Hunter, a Mormon Seventy, stated, “From the foregoing evidence, it is certain that the Garden of Eden was located in America, in what today is known as the state of Missouri and probably the adjacent region” (Pearl of Great Price Commentary, p.109).
The above represents just a small amount of the many contrasting beliefs between Mormonism and biblical Christianity. Our prayer is that you will take the time to carefully study the truth-claims of the Mormon Church and compare them to what the Bible already declares. In doing so you will be better prepared to discern what Mormonism is all about.