Now, you may ask, why would these people in Utah need missionaries to "reach out" to them? Aren't they Christians too? Sadly, no. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or LDS) is not one "of those churches" that teach Biblical truth. The LDS teaches doctrine that is much different from Biblical Christianity. It is called Mormonism.
Since the tendency for most of us is to shy away from certain types of people because they're different or because we don't understand them, I thought it would be interesting to learn and share it here. But first, let me try to explain what it is not. Earlier I said it wasn't Christian. According to Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, "the reason Mormonism is not Christian is because it denies one or more of the essential doctrines of Christianity." But even more important, the early Mormons had adamantly denied any association with Christianity referring to it "as a perfect pack of nonsense." So it's not like I'm attacking this particular religion. Mormons, themselves, have declared their disassociation from Christianity.
This disassociation, then, raises another question. Why are Mormons today denying their own assertions that they are not Christians? It would seem like that they would want to reaffirm their position on doctrinal issues. But recently, in my own experience, I have heard or read statements from Mormons professing just the opposite.
Going back to Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, they state that "Mormons do not like it when their Church is labeled a cult by Christians. This bothers them and they want desperately to be accepted as Christian by the Christian community. The Mormon church spends a great deal of time and money on public relations with the aim of portraying a loving, family-oriented, non-condemning Christian denomination. But Christians react to this and cite the great differences in doctrine between Mormons and Christians and continue to pronounce the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a non-Christian cult.
Now the question is, "If the LDS are not Christians, what are they? Who are they?" That depends, obviously, on whether you believe the Latter-Day Saints' version of who they claim to be. The LDS refer to themselves as Mormons. Some of them, for reasons stated earlier, identify themselves as Christian. In any case, they believe that ""While many Christian Churches teach portions of the gospel, [they] alone offer all the knowledge necessary to become Christlike and receive the fullness of salvation."
The thing that you have to ask yourself, though, is what are the similarities and differences between the LDS and evangelical-type Christian churches? The similarities are few as they believe in God, Jesus, Mary, and heaven and hell to name a few (though the definitions of each differ greatly). Aside from the label of Christian, there really is not a lot in which the LDS and "other" Christians could find as commonalities.
But the differences are many. Too many to list in fact. Though they believe in a god, they also believe that this god has a wife. They call them the Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. They also believe, according to gotQuestions.org, that the Heavenly Father was once flesh and bone, perhaps Adam himself, which would allow them to conclude that God would indeed be the Father of Jesus. For Christians, God is the only true God. He always has been, always is, and always will be. He is the Alpha and the Omega. As biblebelievers.com states, "'For I am the LORD, I change not...' How could this be true if God was once a man? Genesis 1:1 states that God existed "in the beginning" before man was ever created. John 4:24 states that God is a "spirit," and Jesus tells us in John 1:18 that no man has seen God at any time. Numbers 23:19 says that "God is not a man that he should lie; neither the son of man that he should repent." God has always been God, and no one has ever "become" God."
Christians also believe in the Trinity, whereas God is three persons in One. He is the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. But still one God. This doctrine also differs from what the LDS believe. There are many others and you can read about them at gotQuestions.org and biblebelievers.com. You can see for yourself the several differences they point out.
But it's not just Christians that go as far as differentiating themselves from the LDS. The LDS make a distinction as well. On the website called Light Planet, which is written by religious scholars and advocates of religious tolerance, it lists out some of those differences. In answering "How is LDS theology different from other Christians?" it states, "As biblical scholar W. D. Davies once pointed out, LDS doctrine can be described as biblical Christianity separated from hellenized Christianity, a conjunction of first-century Judaism and Christianity," as referenced by the Encyclopedia of Mormonism. The LDS also states, "Latter-day SaintsChalcedon and elaborated upon by subsequent theologians and councils--that God is three coequal persons in one substance or essence. They do not believe it, because it is not Biblical."
For more on what the LDS or Mormons believe, you can check out exmormon.org, which has been written by an ex-Mormon. It has some of the highlights of what the LDS believes through his own experiences and observations. But the purpose of this blog goes slightly beyond exposing the LDS as a religion apart from Christianity. It is also meant to show the danger of being caught up into what many consider to be a cult.
Calling the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints a cult isn't taken lightly. The word cult already conjures up images of recent groups in history that ended badly. So to understand why the LDS can be considered a cult, we need to understand what a cult is. So what is it? Clarifying Christianity identifies cults by, but not limited to:
A group of people who seem well informed, but ignore the Bible, change it’s message, or add their own beliefs to the Bible’s message. Although these groups may accuse others of being cults or false religions, these groups are actually the cults themselves. They alter the true foundation, which is the Bible. And they present an alternative foundation, separate from the Bible.
Another aspect of these groups, according to cultwatch.com, recognizes cults can take the form of brainwashing or mind-control. While I do not believe a Christian that has the indwelling of the Holy Spirit can be taken over in this fashion, I do believe there is a measure of caution to be taken when confronting the Mormon religion. Mormons are a close-knit group of people that mainly teach their doctrines in a well-contained environment. This can be evidenced by what little information the LDS leadership is willing to release to those outside their circle. They're cautious and meticulous about who they bring into their circle as well. They use missionaries for this purpose. Once they're certain about who is sincere in following the LDS leadership, they begin with some basic doctrines that teach and determine the level of commitment of the follower. It then becomes a process where the potential member is asked to live by the beliefs and standards of the LDS, often using guilt and fear in the process.
The concern at this point, then, is being able to explain to people the dangers of being involved or influenced in the doctrines of the LDS. Fortunately, God's Word gives us guidance in this area when dealing with such false teachings or false prophets. Isaiah 44:24-26; Jeremiah 14:14; Matthew 7:15; Matthew 24:10-12; Matthew 24:24; 1 Timothy 6:3-4; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 4:1. Joseph Smith was a false prophet and misconstrued God's Word. Among the many other differences, one of the main doctrines of the LDS clearly contradicts the Bible by teaching salvation by works (or by some automatic means) whereas in the Christian faith, believers know that salvation is by faith alone.
8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.
For a person who is seeking God, some of what the LDS offers can be enticing. But if they are explained the differences between Christianity and the LDS, this person can make an informed decision. They need Christians to clearly and articulately communicate the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. It is only with prayer and God's guidance and direction can we bring the Truth to a seeker of God. Thank God for those that He has sent and I thank God for those missionaries who took God's message of hope and salvation to a lost people last week. May we all have the courage and conviction to do the same.