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Mormonism’s Gospel Tree

by Sharon Lindbloom
4 April 2024

In recent years The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been working hard at mitigating fallout among its membership that stems from the church’s problematic history. From the publishing of the online explanatory Gospel Topics essays beginning in late 2013, to today’s insistence that LDS church history is not of primary importance to the “restored gospel,” the LDS church has sought to convince concerned church members that, in fact, “there’s nothing to see here” when it comes to church history.

The April 2024 edition of the LDS church’s Liahona magazine presents a current example of the effort to minimize the impact of troubling church history. In an article by LDS Seventy Hugo E. Martinez aimed at “Helping Our Families Walk in Light and Truth,” Mr. Martinez provides an interesting analogy. He writes,

“Youth or young adults…may look at Church history or doctrine and have questions or doubts…

“If you think of the gospel as a tree, the leaves and branches could represent Church history or policies. While important, they do not give life to the tree. The roots, however, anchor the tree in the soil, keep it straight and stable, and absorb water, minerals, and nutrients to strengthen and nourish the whole tree. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are the root of the gospel tree. Without Them, nothing stands or thrives.” (Liahona, April 2024, 14)

Keeping in mind that he’s speaking of the restored gospel (i.e., Mormonism), Mr. Martinez is encouraging members to view the leaves and branches of the “gospel tree” as inconsequential in relation to the health and stability of the LDS church. Instead of fretting over the leaves, he says, look to the root. 

But in this analogy Mr. Martinez overlooks an important fact. If the leaves of a tree are unhealthy, it may indicate that the roots are unhealthy as well. This is what I see in Mormonism.

The leaves on Mormonism’s restored gospel tree include things from LDS church history like changes to the Book of Mormon, altered revelations, contradictory narratives of the First Vision, Joseph Smith’s many plural wives (including teenagers and women married to other men), Brigham Young’s Adam God doctrine, the doctrine of blood atonement, the Priesthood ban, failed prophecies, etc. These are not robust, healthy leaves; they are withered and sickly. They indicate that something is wrong with the tree – that something may be wrong with the root.

And, in fact, from a biblical perspective, this is the case. The root of this gospel tree, identified by Mr. Martinez as Mormonism’s “Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ,” is not only unhealthy, but spiritually toxic. Here’s why.

The Bible reveals the fact that there is but one true God, and He cares deeply that we love and worship Him alone. As I’ve explained elsewhere:

“The very first commandment [God] gave to Moses called for total allegiance to the one true God, the God who brought Israel out of the land of Egypt (Deuteronomy 5:7). He describes Himself as a ‘jealous God’ who will not tolerate the worship of idols (Joshua 24:14-24). He identifies the ‘first and greatest commandment’ as loving Him, the true God, ‘with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ (Matthew 22:37-38). He takes great care in revealing Himself throughout scripture and differentiates His attributes from those of false gods (for example, see Isaiah 44-45). ‘Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised,’ King David sang, ‘and He is to be feared above all gods. All the gods of the people are worthless idols, but the LORD made the heavens’ (1 Chronicles 16:25-26).” (“The Possibility of Idolatry”)

Worthless idols cannot save us from eternal ruin. Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The apostle Peter taught, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you…and there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12). Salvation is dependent on the true Christ — there is no salvation apart from the one true God.

But the God proclaimed by the LDS church is not this one true God of the Bible. Joseph Smith’s doctrines that define the Godhead of the LDS church — having evolved over his lifetime from one, unchanging eternal God to three gods who began as human beings but were later exalted to godhood — is a Godhead that is wholly incompatible with God’s biblical self-revelation. Mormonism’s Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ represent different gods — biblically speaking, false gods — who are in fact worthless idols. 

Therefore, the root of this restored gospel tree is worse than worthless. It has produced a “gospel” devoid of truth that is powerless to save, yet it masquerades as the sole provider of life and light. It makes sense, then, that the leaves and branches of this tree would reflect the poison found at its root.

I agree with Mr. Martinez, that troubling LDS church history is not the ultimate concern when determining the truthfulness of Mormonism. But the church’s history, in the form of withered and sickly leaves, should direct any truth-seeker’s attention to the root of the tree — the toxic root that turns out to be false gods from whence the whole tree grows.

To see Sharon’s other news articles, click here.

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