By Dave Moore
(This originally appeared in the July/August 1997 MCOI Journal)
Many people think The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, a.k.a. Mormon) is just another denomination of Christianity, like Baptist, Evangelical Free, or Presbyterian. In April 1996, the popular CBS television series 60 Minutes correspondent, Mike Wallace, showed the Mormon church in a very favorable light, likening them to just another Christian denomination. The LDS also encourage this association by using many religious terms that Evangelical Christians use, which only adds to the appearance that they are simply another Christian denomination.
In a recent video produced by the LDS church, Mormon missionaries talk to prospective converts using terms many of us would recognize, like “Heavenly Father” and “Jesus Christ.” So then, many people think there is little difference between what the LDS be-lieves and what biblical Christianity believes. But, is this true?? Mormons, themselves, are under no such misconceptions. Ask a Mormon missionary if his church is the only true church and he will usually say yes. So, the important question we should ask is: Is the LDS church REALLY just another Christian denomination OR do they have a completely different gospel than biblical Christianity? Probably the best way of examining differences between the LDS church and historic, biblical Christianity is to determine what each teaches concerning the nature of God. Does the LDS church REALLY believe in the same God the Bible teaches or do they have a different God and other sources of authority that teach them about God? Is the Jesus of the LDS church the same Jesus that the Apostles knew? Is the Mormon view of God the same as what official LDS scripture, the Book of Mormon (BoM), teaches?
Before understanding what LDS believe about God, it is important for Christians to understand the sources from where the LDS receive their doctrine. They DO NOT receive their teachings solely from the Bible. Joseph Smith, founder of LDS, said, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” 1 However, if the Bible contradicts other LDS scriptures, the latter supercede the Bible, as they are considered to “complete” the Bible. Often, when speaking with Mormons, this fact is not completely grasped by Christians who attempt to reason with the Mormons from the Bible.
The following list describes sources of authority for the doc¬trines of the LDS church besides the Bible. These include the Book of Mormon (BoM), The Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants. These, together with the King James Bible, are consid¬ered the “Standard Works.” The BoM was allegedly translated from golden plates by Joseph Smith and is a purported history of a people’s migration to America and how Jesus appeared to them. The Pearl of Great Price is a book that contains revisions of the Bible, sections of Joseph Smith’s history, and the controversial Book of Abraham, which was supposedly translated from an Egyptian papyri. Doctrine and Covenants is a book containing a series of Joseph Smith’s so-called revelations (prophecies) that he claimed he received from God.
The sayings and writings of the presidents of the LDS church, who are considered “living prophets,” are considered scripture and authoritative for the LDS. The first “living prophet” of the LDS church was Joseph Smith. The late LDS prophet, Ezra Taft Benson, stated the following:
“The prophet is the only man who speaks for the Lord in everything,”
“The living prophet is more vital to us than the standard works.”
“The prophet does not have to say ‘Thus saith the Lord’ to give us scripture.”2
The teachings of the living prophets and the standard works of the church constitute “continuing revelation” for the LDS church, thus making the Bible just an additional and incomplete (and incorrect) source of authority for the Mormons.
Comparisons on the Doctrine: The LDS View of God
The LDS view of God is unique among groups claiming to be Christians. Following is a summary of Mormon beliefs about God:
God was once a man, but now is a God.
The LDS Prophet Joseph Smith said the following about God:
“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens ,.. 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 (am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea, and will take away the veil, so that you may see… 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; yea, that God himself the father of us all, dwelt on an earth the same as Jesus Christ himself did.”3
God is one of many Gods who exist
Again, Joseph Smith said:
“In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people it.”4
“I will preach on the plurality of Gods I have se¬lected this text for that express purpose. 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 … Hence, the doctrine of a plurality of Gods is as prominent in the Bible as any other doctrine. It is all over the face of the Bible. It stands beyond the power of controversy … Paul says there are Gods many and Lords many, i want to set it forth in a plain and simple manner; but to us there is but one God – that is pertaining to us; and he is in all and through all.”5
Man can become a God Joseph Smith said:
“Here, then, is eternal life – to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, – namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great one, – from grace to grace, from exaltation to exaltation, until you attain to the res¬urrection of the dead, and are able to dwell in everlasting burnings and to sit in glory, as do those who sit enthroned in everlasting power.”6
According to Joseph Smith and succeeding prophets of the LDS church:
1. God is a contingent being who was at one time not God, but instead, a man.
2. God is a finite being.
3. God is one of many Gods who exist.
4. God is a corporeal being who lives at a particular place in space and time, although his influence is all-persuasive.
5. God is a being who is subject to the laws and principles of a beginningless universe with an infinite number of entities in it.7
The Biblical View of God
Contrast the LDS view of God with what the Bible teaches about the nature of God:
God has always existed as God.
And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you (Exodus 3:14) 8
Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God (Psalm 90:2)
Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and be¬lieve me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no savior (Isaiah 43:10-11)
God is an infinite being
And Abraham planted a grove in Beersheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God (Genesis 21:33)
The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy from before thee; and shall say, Destroy them (Deuteronomy 33:27)
Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting (Psalm 93:2)
I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty (Revelation 1:8)
There is only one God who exists
Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God (Isaiah 44:6)
Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? Ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any (Isaiah 44:8)
I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else (Isaiah 45:5-6)
Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else (Isaiah 45:21-22)
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me (Isaiah 46:9)
God is a non-corporeal being whose existence transcends space and time, who is all knowing and omniscient
God is a Spirit; and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24)
God is not subject to the laws and principles of the creation He made, which is finite
And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail (Hebrews 1:10-12)
As seen from these comparisons, the LDS concept of God is far removed from the biblical description of God. When these differences are pointed out to Mormons (as I have pointed out to Mormon Missionaries who visited ray home), they will often claim that the God described in the Bible is the “one God for this world only,” implying that the scripture isn’t really denying the existence of other gods, A simple reading of the cited biblical texts in context clearly refutes that argument, unless one “reads into the text” something that isn’t there. Mormons will also claim the biblical text is unreliable, in order to reftite what it says about the nature of God. However, the Mormons aren’t always specific about which texts are actually corrupt. They have difficulty explaining why their church continues to use the King James translation as one of the “Standard Works” if parts of it are allegedly corrupt.
The Book of Mormon and God
Joseph Smith said of the BoM:
“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to, God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”9
The LDS hold the BoM as more authoritative than the Bible. Interestingly, the BoM does not teach the plurality of Gods, finite godisim, or other LDS doctrines of God. It teaches something rather different even from Joseph Smith’s previously cited statements. In fact, it teaches something similar to what the Bible describes about God. Many Mormons are surprised to learn this. This contradiction has proven to be a good witnessing tool for Christians when dialoguing with Mormons about the nature of God. The following are some of the more interesting BoM references:
And Zeezrom said unto him; Thou sayest there is a true and living God? And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God. Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God? And he answered no. Now Zeezrom said unto him again; How knowest thou these thing’s? And he said: An angel hath made them known unto me (Alma 11: 26-31)
For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed (3 Nephi 24:6)
For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing? And now if ye have imagined up unto yourselves a god who doth vary, and in whom there is a shadow of changing, then have ye imagined up unto yourselves a god who is not a God of miracles (Mormon 9: 9-10)
And if there were miracles wrought then, why has God ceased to be a God of miracles and yet be an unchangeable Being? And behold, I say unto you he changeth not: if so he would cease to be God; and he ceaseth not to be God, and is a God of miracles (Mormon 9:19)
For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity (Moroni 8:18)
We have seen that the LDS view of God and the biblical view of God are completely different. It has been pointed out that the LDS view even differs from what their own scripture (BoM) teaches about God. Therefore, the LDS God cannot in any way be equated to the monotheistic God of historic, biblical Christianity. God himself condemns teachings like those of Joseph Smith and the LDS Church with the following statement:
And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the Lord thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish (Deuteronomy 8:19)
The Journal would like to thank our newest researcher, Dave Moore. Dave has been a friend of Midwest Christian not reach, Inc. for several years and is a regular member of the Monday night “defend the faith” group meetings. Dave is a manager with the US Postal Service, and has had a longtime interest in apologetics and cults. Dave lives in Carol Stream Illinois with his wife and two daughters.
- The Pearl of Great Price, 1842 ed., p.60 ↩
- Benson, Ezra Taft, 14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet, pp. 1-16,1980 ↩
- Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 3, 1844 ↩
- Journal of Discourses, vol. 6. p. 5, 1844 ↩
- History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 474. 1844 ↩
- Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 4, 1844 ↩
- Beckwith, Dr. Francis J. “Study Notes for Workshop, The Mormon Concept of God: A”Philosophical Analysis’.” 1994 ↩
- All Bible quotes are from the Authorized KJV ↩
- History of the Church, vol. 4, p. 461, 1841, emphasis ours ↩