By Eric Johnson
On Sunday morning, April 5, 2020–the final day of the spring General Conference--President Russell M. Nelson announced a new “proclamation” called “The Restoration of the Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: A Bicentennial Proclamation to the World.” This is the sixth proclamation issued by church leaders, with the others coming in 1841 (for church members only), 1845, 1865, 1980 and 1995. The 1980 proclamation marked the 150th anniversary of the church’s founding, and the 1995 proclamation dealt with the traditional family.
Below is this new proclamation in boldface type, with our responses following. Because Latter-day Saints are told to read and own this document, it behooves Christian believers to be prepared to respond to these points (1 Peter 3:15-16). Thus, we will incorporate a number of articles already on our website for your research while defining a number of the vocabulary words as typically meant by Latter-day Saints.
The Restoration of the Fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ: A Bicentennial Proclamation to the World
The First Presidency and Council of the Twelve Apostles
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
We solemnly proclaim that God loves His children in every nation of the world.
Response: It is important for the Christian to understand what is mean by “His children” in this sentence. According to Mormonism, all humans once existed as spirit children in the preexistence. Christianity denies the preexistence of spirits. Instead, a person can only become a “child of God” by faith alone (see John 1:12-13; Gal. 3:28).
God the Father has given us the divine birth, the incomparable life, and the infinite atoning sacrifice of His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ.
Response: According to Mormonism, having a chance to be born on this earth was the result of that spirit’s life well lived in the preexistence. It is taught that the “atonement” is available to all people, regardless of faith, and providing the chance to reside in one of the kingdoms of glory. It must be understood, however, that while the words such as “divine birth,” “atoning sacrifice,” and even “grace” are regularly used, the meaning of these terms in the LDS context is different from what the Bible means. According to Mormonism, the atonement (click this link for an introductory article on the atonement) merely paves the way for exaltation in the celestial kingdom, also known as eternal life, and is defined as abiding with one’s earthly family through eternity. To be exalted, then, requires many works, and a Latter-day Saint can never know if he or she has done enough to qualify for this state of glory. For more information on exaltation and eternal life according to Mormonism, click here. Also check out Can Christians be Assured of Their Salvation?
By the power of the Father, Jesus rose again and gained the victory over death. He is our Savior, our Exemplar, and our Redeemer.
Response: What do Mormons mean when they call Jesus their “Savior”? For Christians, Jesus is their Savior because He forgave all of their sins through faith alone. Romans 5:8 says that Jesus died for the believers while they were still sinners. The term “imputation” means that Jesus credits the believer with righteousness that humans can never earn. In Mormonism, Jesus merely paves the way to exaltation. The onus thus is on the back of each individual Mormon. In addition, Jesus is a created being and has not been God from all eternity. While Mormons say Jesus is God, He is a separate god from God the Father. Check out this introductory article on Jesus. And here is another article to show how Mormonism’s version of Jesus is different from what the Bible teaches. Finally, check out Does the Bible really say that Jesus is God?
Two hundred years ago, on a beautiful spring morning in 1820, young Joseph Smith, seeking to know which church to join, went into the woods to pray near his home in upstate New York, USA. He had questions regarding the salvation of his soul and trusted that God would direct him.
In 2020, the LDS Church is celebrating the so-called First Vision of God the Father and Jesus to the 14-year-old Joseph Smith in 1820. However, there are many reasons why this event can be shown to have never taken place, historically. Yet this event is lifted high on the pedestal by LDS leaders, even though the facts contradict its historicity. If the First Vision story as told by Joseph Smith did not happen, then Mormonism is in error. Fifteenth President Gordon B. Hinckley explained the importance of this event,
I would like to say that this cause is either true or false. Either this is the kingdom of God, or it is a sham and a delusion. Either Joseph talked with the Father and the Son, or he did not. If he did not, we are engaged in blasphemy (Conference Reports, October 1961, p. 116).
This is an important issue. Please, research this topic on the First Vision and see for yourself. Here are some articles you can reference to gather more information.
- Crash Course Mormonism: First Vision
- The Resurrection of Jesus and the First Vision Account: Fact or Fiction?
- 8 Questions a Latter-day Saint Needs to Answer about the First Vision
In humility, we declare that in answer to his prayer, God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Joseph and inaugurated the “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21) as foretold in the Bible. In this vision, he learned that following the death of the original Apostles, Christ’s New Testament Church was lost from the earth. Joseph would be instrumental in its return.
Response: Mormonism is not necessary unless there is the Great Apostasy. However, there are many problems with the idea that Christianity died and thus needed God to resuscitate it through a restoration. Check out this introductory article on this issue. To suggest that Acts 3:21 is a prophecy referring to this “restoration” is taken out of context. It says in the NIV, “Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.” This is certainly a reference to the Gentiles coming into the church, which did not happen until Acts 10. It is a verse that has been twisted, just as others have been (some examples):
- John 10:16: Other sheep
- 1 Corinthians 15:29 and 1 Peter 4:6: Work for the dead
- 1 Corinthians 15:39-42: 3 and 2 Corinthians 12:2: 3 Kingdoms of Glory
We affirm that under the direction of the Father and the Son, heavenly messengers came to instruct Joseph and re-establish the Church of Jesus Christ.
Response: Mormonism stands upon the foundation of Joseph Smith on issues such as the First Vision, the Great Apostasy, and the Book of Mormon, among other issues. If Smith was telling the truth, then he must be believed. However, if he was not telling the truth, his story is false and should be rejected. It is just that simple. First John 4:1 says that Christians are to “test the spirits” and see if a “prophet” is telling the truth. False teachers should not be believed on face value alone. Here are 10 reasons why Christians don’t believe Joseph Smith should be trusted.
The resurrected John the Baptist restored the authority to baptize by immersion for the remission of sins.
Response: One must trust Joseph Smith to believe that John the Baptist even appeared on May 15, 1829 to Joseph Smith to restore Aaronic Priesthood authority. According to Mormonism, water baptism in the LDS Church is required if one hopes to go to the celestial kingdom. However, baptism is a work; the Bible does not teach baptism is something that a believer does to be justified and qualify for eternal life. For an introductory article on Mormonism’s view of baptism, click here. To understand why baptism is not a requirement for salvation, check out this short 3-minute video titled Do We Need Baptism to be Saved? And to understand Mormonism’s view of the priesthood, click here.
Three of the original twelve Apostles—Peter, James, and John—restored the apostleship and keys of priesthood authority.
Response: This event supposedly returned the Melchizedek Priesthood took place in 1829, yet apparently it was not so important to remember the actual date when this occurred!
Others came as well, including Elijah, who restored the authority to join families together forever in eternal relationships that transcend death.
Response: Mormonism is known for claiming that families can live together forever. However, this is not a biblical teaching and it certainly defies logic. For this topic, check out any of these articles:
We further witness that Joseph Smith was given the gift and power of God to translate an ancient record: the Book of Mormon—Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Pages of this sacred text include an account of the personal ministry of Jesus Christ among people in the Western Hemisphere soon after His Resurrection. It teaches of life’s purpose and explains the doctrine of Christ, which is central to that purpose. As a companion scripture to the Bible, the Book of Mormon testifies that all human beings are sons and daughters of a loving Father in Heaven, that He has a divine plan for our lives, and that His Son, Jesus Christ, speaks today as well as in days of old.
Response: Besides the First Vision story, a person must put complete trust in Joseph Smith for the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. Again, however, there are many problems with this scripture. We encourage you to research this and see if the Book of Mormon can stand up to the historical test.
- 10 reasons why the Book of Mormon is rejected as scripture by Christians
- Why Don’t Christians Accept the Book of Mormon?
- Problems with the Gold Plates in the Book of Mormon
- Did the Eleven Witnesses Actually See the Gold Plates?
We declare that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, organized on April 6, 1830, is Christ’s New Testament Church restored.
Response: Here is a rebuttal to a short booklet produced by the LDS Church on the restoration. (Click here) . Was a “restoration” even needed?
This Church is anchored in the perfect life of its chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ, and in His infinite Atonement and literal Resurrection. Jesus Christ has once again called Apostles and has given them priesthood authority. He invites all of us to come unto Him and His Church, to receive the Holy Ghost, the ordinances of salvation, and to gain enduring joy.
Response: There are more than a half dozen words listed in these two sentences that sound Christian, but the way the church defines each of these words is different from how Christians define them. Consider the new church logo that was announced at the Saturday general conference. Why do you think the church decided to use the “Christus” as their new symbol? Of course, everyone can recognize Jesus, so this new logo will go a long way in helping those potential converts with a Christian or Catholic background to let down their guard. Second Corinthians 11:4, however, says that it is possible to have a “false Jesus” that is really no Jesus at all. The new logo is at the right.
We have a website titled Mormonism A-Z. I encourage the reader to go look up any of these words used here and see how Mormonism defines them much differently (including Jesus) as compared to biblical Christianity. Suppose you are a retailer and you are given a $100 bill for payment. Would you accept the payment without running it through several tests? If you don’t, you probably won’t stay in business very long. Eternal life is worth much more than $100, and it’s easy to be wrong with so many false religions out there. As Christians, we should be very cautious when a religious organization claims to be Christian just because the name of Jesus happens to be placed in its title. You should always ask the question, “What do you mean by (Blank)?” This will help you differentiate between Mormonism’s claims versus biblical Christianity. Check out”8 characteristics of a counterfeit Christian church” by clicking here.
Two hundred years have now elapsed since this Restoration was initiated by God the Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Millions throughout the world have embraced a knowledge of these prophesied events.
Response: It is true that “millions of people (more than 16.5 million, according to the church) throughout the world have embraced” Mormonism. Our goal at MRM is to give information describing the other side and hope that the truth will prevail. We do what we do because we care for Latter-day Saints. Please know that there are many former Mormons who left Mormonism–not because they couldn’t handle the rules or had problems sinning, but because they discovered the truth about Mormonism. (Check out some testimonies here.) Our hope is that people will reject Joseph Smith and receive the true Jesus as declared in the Bible.
We gladly declare that the promised Restoration goes forward through continuing revelation. The earth will never again be the same, as God will “gather together in one all things in Christ” (Ephesians 1:10)
Response: Joseph Smith was glorified this past weekend and his accomplishments as well as Russell M. Nelson. Very little glory was given this past weekend to Jesus. The earth will never be the same because of Jesus Christ, not Joseph Smith. Ephesians 1:10 is the second of two biblical passages used in this proclamation, and it too is badly mangled. Unfortunately, Nelson does not present the verse in its context. In the previous verse, he wrote that God had “made known unto us the mystery of his will.” Then, He might gather together in one all things in Christ.” The mystery of his will was already known, Paul said, about how he had “chosen us (Christians) in him before the foundation of the world” (v. 4), that we were “predestined” to be “adopted of children” (not of natural birth!) (v. 5), and that “we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins” (v. 7).
As far as verse 7, the Bible teaches that all sins–past, present, and future–are completely forgiven upon belief. Mormonism does not teach that there is complete forgiveness of sins through the redemption of Christ’s blood. Rather, the sins in Mormonism are kept in a proverbial holding tank. Then, when the Mormon sins the same sin again, D&C 82:7 says, “And now, verily I say unto you, I, the Lord, will not lay any sin to your charge; go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.” The Latter-day Saints who understand their unique scriptures and leaders realize how there is no assurance of salvation and that salvation is based upon the individual to effect exaltation. Ephesians 1:10 stands in condemnation of the Latter-day Saint and is not a foreshadowing of an unnecessary “restoration.”
With reverence and gratitude, we as His Apostles invite all to know—as we do—that the heavens are open. We affirm that God is making known His will for His beloved sons and daughters. We testify that those who prayerfully study the message of the Restoration and act in faith will be blessed to gain their own witness of its divinity and of its purpose to prepare the world for the promised Second Coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
President Gordon B. Hinckley also said,
Each of us has to face the matter – either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the Church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing” (“Loyalty,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May, 2003, p. 60).
These issues are important. What the Church has done with this proclamation is draw the proverbial line in the sand. Either you are for the message presented on Mormonism or against it. There is no middle road. If Joseph Smith was telling the truth, then as it was said, this religion should be followed. All other Christians should not be believed, for as God supposedly told Joseph Smith in the First Vision:
I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof. (Joseph Smith History 1:19)
Verse 20a adds that Smith was forbidden to join any of these churches. While Mormons would like to be identified as “Christian,” this is impossible. (Check out this article for more information.) If you as an Evangelical Christian think Mormonism and Christianity are synonymous, then perhaps you are allowing your friendship with Latter-day Saints to taint your judgment. Should superficial research get in the way of understanding the truth? This proclamation given by Nelson on April 5, 2020 is proof that LDS leaders continue to cling to Joseph Smith and the belief that their religion is truth, regardless of some Christians who may claim that “they are coming our way.” No, they are not, and this proclamation is proof in the pudding.
Christian believers, we encourage you to do your homework and be prepared to talk with your LDS friends and neighbors who accept Joseph Smith and Russell M. Nelson over the teachings of the Bible. There are plenty of tools in sharing your faith effectively with Latter-day Saints. We encourage you to use them.
- Sharing the Good News with Mormons: A variety of ways to better share your faith with your Latter-day Saint friends and family members (book published in 2018 by Harvest House; everyone involved at MRM wrote a chapter!)
- 10 Awesome Bible Verses to Use with Latter-day Saints!
- 10 Awesome D&C Passages to use with Latter-day Saints!
- 10 Awesome Book of Mormon Passages to use with Latter-day Saints!
- Glossary of terms and their differences
- Taking the Offensive without being Offensive: An Evangelism Strategy
- Witnessing with six verses
- 80+ awesome verses to use in apologetics encounters
May the Lord bless you in your endeavor to share truth with the wonderful Latter-day Saint people who need to understand the biblical truth.