by Sharon Lindbloom
24 January 2022
On January 13th (2022) David Noyce, managing editor at The Salt Lake Tribune, highlighted an article that had appeared earlier in the month on the Beliefnet web platform. “Latter-day Saints know that outsiders get plenty wrong about their religion,” Mr. Noyce wrote. “The Beliefnet website tries to set some errors right with a recent post debunking a number of myths…”
The article Mr. Noyce referred to was written by Lauren McKeithen and seeks to debunk seven myths about Mormonism, namely,
- Mormons practice polygamy
- Most Mormons are white
- Mormons aren’t Christian
- Mormon women are second-class citizens
- Mormons aren’t supposed to drink caffeinated beverages
- All Mormons live in Utah
- Mormons baptize corpses
This is a lot of ground to cover in an 1,100 word article, so the “debunking” arguments for some points are necessarily short and incomplete. Yet Ms. McKeithen does a fair job of addressing the high points of many of the myths on her list – with one unfortunate exception: the “myth” that Mormons aren’t Christian.
I think this point would be better phrased as “Mormonism isn’t Christian” and that’s how I’ll frame my discussion of this so-called myth. The argument in the Beliefnet article meant to debunk this point (that is, meant to prove that Mormonism is Christian) says in part,
“On Sundays, millions of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints around the world pray in the name of Jesus Christ, receive a bread-and-water sacrament memorializing the body and blood of Christ and discuss Christ’s teachings in Sunday school. Mormons view themselves as Christians. However, many Christian pastors and scholars point to theological technicalities that disqualify them from the mainline tradition. Some evangelicals do not see Mormons as Christians for reasons rooted in antiquated anti-Mormon prejudice.”
The article does not define Christianity, but seems to reduce it down to mere religious engagement that uses the name of Jesus. While mentioning, but giving no thought to, the opinions of “Christian pastors and scholars” who believe Mormonism is not Christianity, unnamed and unexamined “theological technicalities” are blithely dismissed.
In Matthew 7, Jesus addresses the superficial use of His name:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
Like the Mormons mentioned in the Beliefnet article, the people Jesus spoke of viewed themselves as Christ-followers. They did many good deeds in His name. But Jesus didn’t recognize them or their “mighty works.” He called them “workers of lawlessness” and sent them away. Jesus debunked the myth that using His name in religious activities would allow people to enter the kingdom of heaven.
The fact is, to be a Christian, to be reconciled to God, some “theological technicalities” are essential. For example, does it matter what god people may choose to worship? Consider what the Bible says:
“[The carpenter] makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, ‘Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!’ And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, ‘Deliver me, for you are my god!’…No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, ‘Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?’ He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, ‘Is there not a lie in my right hand?’” (Isaiah 44:15-17, 19-20)
Theological technicalities are things that separate false gods from the one true God, and false christs from the only true Savior, Jesus Christ. Not only is it evident by looking at the Bible that the Jesus of Mormonism is different from the Jesus of Christianity, Mormon leaders have also proclaimed this difference. For example, LDS apostle Bruce McConkie wrote:
“And virtually all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ whom they vainly suppose to be a spirit essence who is incorporeal uncreated, immaterial and three-in-one with the Father and Holy Spirit.” (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, 269)
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity, mocked by this LDS apostle, is definitely an essential theological technicality, one that Mormonism resolutely rejects. But in Christianity, this is God. Christian pastor John MacArthur notes,
“If you don’t believe in the Trinity, then you don’t understand who God is. You may say the word ‘God’ but you don’t understand His nature. Second, you couldn’t possibly understand who Christ is—that He is God in human flesh. The Incarnation of Christ is an essential component of the biblical gospel, as John 1:1-14 and many other biblical passages make clear. To deny the Trinity is to deny the Incarnation. And to deny the Incarnation is to wrongly understand the true gospel.”
Jesus knew that there would be false prophets proclaiming false christs. He warned,
“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.” (Matthew 24:23-25)
Jesus gave that warning because theological technicalities matter. Is there salvation in a false god or a false christ? Not according to Jesus, who said,
“And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
Ms. McKeithen’s article says that, while Mormonism may appear “irregular,” Mormons are
“just worshipping God and practicing their religion… As long as you have a pure and everlasting relationship with God, that’s all that matters. The only judgment that people should care about is what they will get from God in the last days. Until then, people should live their lives and continue to practice their religion of choice.”
However, to refrain from judging Mormonism’s “theological technicalities” is to cease to “care about…what they will get from God in the last days.” Jesus never said that people should practice their religion of choice and all would be well regarding eternity. He said we must worship God, and we must worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). Jesus said He is the way, the truth, and the life, the only way to God the Father (John 14:6). In the biblical book of Acts, after the apostle Peter took time to clearly identify Jesus to the “rulers and elders and scribes” in Jerusalem, he said,
“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. 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. Emphasis added.)
Salvation is in only one person–a specific Christ; the true Christ. There is no salvation apart from the true God and the truth of who God is.
Does it matter whether we let Mormonism masquerade as Christianity? It does. Because those that Mormonism causes to follow after a false god will one day say to Jesus, “Lord, Lord,” and will hear Him say in response, “I never knew you; depart from me.”
Tragically, by then it will be too late. But it’s not too late yet. God is holding out His hand with a promise:
“’In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.’ Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:1-2)
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