By Eric Johnson
Members of the Salt Lake City-based Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) are nicknamed “Mormons” after one of the main characters in the Book of Mormon. According to Mormonism, there are four written scriptures: the Bible (officially, the King James Version), the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C), and the Pearl of Great Price (PGP). In addition, Mormons believe that their church is guided by a living prophet as well as two counselors, twelve apostles, and several “quorums” of the “Seventy.” These men are called “general authorities.”
The church teaches that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to the 14-year-old Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1820, telling him that all the doctrines of the Christian churches “were an abomination in [God’s] sight” because their “professors” had changed the original gospel message (Joseph Smith—History 1:19, PGP). Three years later, Smith said an angel named Moroni directed him to the Book of Mormon’s gold plates that Moroni (as a human) had buried in a nearby New York hill about fourteen centuries earlier.
Claiming that he had the ability to translate the plates that were written in “Reformed Egyptian,” Smith published the Book of Mormon in 1830; it told how ancient Israelites had originally come to the American continent, how Jesus Christ visited the American continent after His resurrection in Israel, and how the dark-skinned “Lamanites” destroyed the white-skinned “Nephites.” After moving his followers to three different states over the course of a decade, Smith was killed by an angry Illinois mob in 1844. Three years later, the second prophet (Brigham Young) led most of the church members west to the Utah Territory.
Mormonism’s strong emphasis on families and moral values makes this religion attractive to many. In fact, the young, cleancut LDS missionaries who spend two years of their lives sharing the LDS gospel message around the world can be quite convincing to many potential converts. Yet while Mormons talk about “God” and “Jesus” as well as “salvation by grace” and “baptism,” they give unique meanings to these words. For instance, Mormonism teaches how:
- God the Father was once a human and has, as D&C 130:22 puts it, “a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s
- the Christian Trinity as well as Jesus being equal to God the Father are incorrect doctrines;
- men can potentially become gods of their own worlds and thus have families that continue into the next life;
- work on behalf of those who are already dead can be performed by living Mormons in one of the LDS temples;
- undergoing water baptism, joining the LDS Church, and getting married in the temple (among other requirements) are necessary to be exalted in the next life.
While there is no doubt that many Mormons are wonderful people, the gospel they follow is much different than what is taught in the Bible. Learning more about the teachings of this religion will allow Christians to become more effective in sharing their faith with the Latter-day Saints.