DALLAS THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY
CHRISTIANITY’S LATTER-DAY COUNTERFEIT: MORMONISM
A PAPER SUBMITTED TO
MR. BILL WATKINS
IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR
ANGELOLOGY & ANTHROPOLOGY
JAMES DANA WALLACE
I was once a prime target for one of Satan’s most masterful stratagems—counterfeit Christianity.
I was 19 and a cook’s helper at Canyon Village in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming when a fiend arranged for me to meet with two friendly, handsome, bright, young missionaries. They were part of a very respectable church, especially in that part of the country, and all the people I knew who were part of their church had been very nice, moral people.
They were Mormons.
I had been a committed Christian for slightly less than a year and witnessed to fellow employees much. However, I was just barely familiar enough with the Bible to debate with my Mormon friends for a period of two hours regarding their contention that Mormonism was the restoration of the many “plain and precious parts of the Gospel” which had been lost from the Bible and true Christianity in the centuries since Christ.
Still, by the time they had completed their multi-media presentation and had presented me with numerous pieces of propaganda, I was thoroughly confused.
I remember wandering aimlessly through the dorm and adjacent parking lot constantly recalling their urgent, sincere pleas to accept my salvation through “authorized” Baptism. I remember questioning my salvation, wondering who really had the truth. And I remember making that first step into a destructive demonic deception when I accepted their challenge to pray the prayer of Moroni 10:4.5, asking God to miraculously reveal the truth to me.
If I had only known then what I know now.
With more than three million converts world-wide and often cited as having the fastest growth rate of any “church” in the U.S., the Mormons have gained a respectability in North America which is unrivaled by any cult with the exception of Roman Catholicism.
Officially “The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints,” the Mormons which are headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah are not to be confused with the “Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” of Independence, Missouri. The smaller Reorganized Church, consisting of only several hundred thousand members is similar to the Utah Church in that Joseph Smith was its founder, but considerably different in that it does not accept the teachings of Brigham Young, the leadership of the Apostles in Utah, celestial marriage or the Utah church’s concept of God’s nature, among other things. There is even a third splinter group, possessing in the vicinity of 30,000 adherents. The Utah church and the Reorganized Church developed in separate directions after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, Illinois in 1844.
The Utah Mormons are unexcelled in missionary zeal, following the prophetic utterance of one of their recent presidents that every Mormon should be a missionary. This was no idle statement as tens of thousands of young adults have been sent around the world on two-year terms as Mormon missionaries.
Adding to the aura of respectability surrounding the cult are the numerous famous personalities who embrace the faith-ranging from TV personalities and football stars to successful politicians—and the successful public relations efforts of the Church itself. The famous Mormon Tabernacle Choir has endeared itself to the hearts of millions for decades. The Mormons have truly been successful in promoting themselves as wholesome and American as Mom, apple pie and the girl next door.
A BRIEF HISTORY
Such a wholesome image is entirely out of character with the Church’s unsavory past, not the least of which was the life of its first prophet and founder, Joseph Smith, Jr.
Born in 1805 to a man best known for his mystical and treasure-hunting exploits and to a woman who held extreme religious views and superstitions, Joseph Jr. made the most of his parents’ unusual foibles.1
Joseph himself got into treasure hunting and was especially fond of using a “peek stone,” a stone with alleged supernatural powers similar to those supposed for crystal balls, to locate lost objects and to tell fortunes. These facts were confirmed by none other than the prophet’s father and mother in separate published pieces in the 19th century, and were confirmed by a former employer of the prophet who loaned the stone to him.2
Further evidence of Smith’s peepstone activities include the original manuscript of an 1826 trial in which Smith was convicted of deceiving Josiah Stowell, an old man, about the presence of hidden treasure on his land—treasure which Smith claimed to have located through his peepstone.3
1Walter R. Martin, The Maze of Mormonism, (Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 1962), p. 20.
2Ibid, pp. 23, 24.
3Floyd C. McElveen, The Mormon Revelations of Convenience, (Minneapolic, Bethany Fellowship, Inc., 1978), p. 59
Smith’s deceptive practices became well-known in New York, so well-known that E. D. Howe, a contemporary of Smith’s, was able to acquire 62 signatures from residents of his hometown of Palmyra to a statement that described Smith as “destitute of . . . moral character . . . famous for visionary projects . . . and addicted to vicious habits.”1
Interestingly, the 1826 conviction occurred six years after Smith claimed to have had his first vision, at the age of 15. While in prayer about which church he should attend, Smith said he was visited by a vision of the Father and Son in which he was instructed not to attend any of them.2
Three years later, in 1823, Smith claimed to have been visited by the angel Moroni, a departed spirit from the ten lost tribes of Israel, who had migrated to North America. It was Moroni who, according to Smith, led him to the golden plates and provided him with the miraculous spectacles through which he eventually translated the “Reformed Egyptian” on the plates into the Book of Mormon. The translation occurred between 1827 and 1829.
Smith and his scribe, Oliver Cowdery, who eventually apostasized, are said to have received the “Aaronic Priesthood” from Peter, John and James in May, 1829. The Book of Mormon was published in 1830 and in April of the same year the Church was officially founded. Numerous conversions took place later the same year in Pennsylvania and the nucleus of the Church moved to Kirtland, Ohio shortly thereafter where the church increased in size to 1,600 over a period of six years.
1Martin, the Maze of Mormonism, p. 31
2Joseph Smith, The Prophet Joseph Smith’s Testimony, (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1970), pp. 4, 5
In 1837 the group hastily moved to Independence, Missouri in order to avoid legal action against Smith by the state of Ohio for actions which the state considered fraudulent. Persecution was great there, so another move was made, this time to Nauvoo, Illinois in 1839. Again, Smith was fleeing from state prosecution.
Smith continued to receive numerous direct revelations from God, and it was in Nauvoo where his revelations took upon themselves a definite pluralistic tone, both in terms of wives and gods. By 1844, shortly after announcing his candidacy for the presidency of the United States,1 Smith had again run afoul of the law. While in jail in Nauvoo, he was lynched with his brother Hyrum by an angry mob, and he sealed his testimony with his blood.
The majority of the Mormons then accepted the leadership of Brigham Young, even though Smith had ordained that his son would be his successor as president of the church—a fact that was confirmed by civil suits in 1880 and 1894.
Notwithstanding, Young led the Mormons west to the territory of Utah in 1846 where they established Sale Lake City. Young ruled the church and the territory for more than thirty years. The doctrines of polygamy and blood atonement were openly practiced during his reign, resulting in many unhappy marriages and murders.2 Young himself had 27 wives, while Smith had managed between 40 and 50 in his short life and had even sealed one of Brigham Young’s to himself for eternity shortly before his death.3
1John Doyle Lee, Mormonism Unveiled or Life & Confessions of John D. Lee, (St. Louis, Royal Publishing Co., 1891), p. 148
2Lee, Mormonism Unveiled, pp. 23-27; 228-289, passim
Successors to the Presidency continue to be regarded as God’s mouthpiece by Mormons. In the face of mounting pressure from government or society, new revelations have been received. Polygamy was banned by prophetic decree in 1890, opening the way for desired statehood for the territory of Utah. The priesthood was opened to blacks for the first time in 1978.
The Godhead and the Father
If a reading of Mormon revelation on the Godhead and on God Himself seems confusing, that’s because it is. Walter Martin sums the confusion up by stating that “Joseph Smith . . . began as a Unitarian, progressed to tritheism and graduated into full-fledged polytheism.”1
The polytheism is evident in the Mormon canon. For instance, the Book of Abraham, 4:1 in The Pearl of Great Price reads:
And then the Lord said: Let us go down. And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth.
Stemming from this doctrine is the concept that God has not always been God, but was once a man who through exaltation became a god—in particular, our god, the god with whom we have to do. We, as men, may progress as he did through exaltation to godhood.
Lorenzo Snow, a former president of the Mormon Church, put it this way: “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.”2
1Martin, The Maze of Mormonism, p. 81
2McElveen, The Mormon Revelations of Convenience, p. 45, citing Lorenzo Snow in the Millenial Star, Vol. 54.
And in keeping with the concept that this god was once a man, he also has flesh and bones: “The Father has a body of flesh and bone as tangible as man’s.”1
Furthermore, Prophet Brigham Young taught that Adam, the first man of Genesis, is our god: “He [Adam] is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do.” This statement, interestingly, is contradicted by the Church’s present prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, thus demonstrating how easily Mormon revelation is contracted by further revelation.2
Mormon theology has made Jesus Christ out to be a god, just as it does the Father, but a lesser god than the Father.
In The Articles of Faith, Herbert W. Talmadge equates the Father with Elohim and the Son with Jehovah of the Old Testament, saying, “Jesus Christ is the son of Elohim, ‘the spiritual and bodily offspring’; that is to say, Elohim is literally the father of the spirit of Jesus Christ and also the body in which Jesus Christ performed his mission in the flesh.”3
Joseph F. Smith, a 19th century church president and prophet wrote of Jesus that “He is greater than the Holy Spirit, which is subject unto him, but His Father is greater than He.”4
1Martin, The Maze of Mormonism, p. 80, citing Doctrine and Covenants, Sec. 130.22
2McElveen, The Mormon Revelations of Convenience, p. 45
3Martin, The Maze of Mormonism, p. 82, citing James E. Talmadge, The Articles of Faith, pp. 466, 467
4Keith L. Brooks, “The Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error,” revised, (Chicago, Moody Press, 1969), citing Joseph F. Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol. I, p. 18
Mormons also teach that Jesus progressed to godhood during His pre-existence. Some sources even claim that during His earthly life Jesus was married and a polygamist.1
Probably the lowest blow to the name of Jesus is the teaching that He, as a pre-existent spirit, was the brother of the devil.2
The Holy Spirit
As already noted in comments on Christ, the Holy Spirit is considered inferior to Christ, who is inferior to the Father. Nevertheless, He is also considered to be a god.3
However, the Holy Spirit does not possess a body, as do the Father and the Son, “but is a personage of Spirit.”4
Though a spirit, “the actual person of the Holy Ghose cannot be in more than one place at a time.”5
Martin states than an eminent Mormon theologian, Parley P. Pratt, further complicated the doctrine of the Holy Spirit when he wrote: “Jesus Christ . . . was filled with the divine substance or fluid called the Holy Spirit.”
1Discourses, vol. 4, pp. 259, 260
2Martin, The Maze of Mormonism, p. 111, citing Pearl of Great Price, Book of Moses 4:1-4
3Ibid, p. 88, citing Talmadge, Articles of Faith, p. 115
4Brooks, “The Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error,” citing Doctrine and Covenants 130:22, 23
5Ibid, citing Talmadge, The Articles of Faith, p. 161, 165
6Martin, The Maze of Mormonism, p. 89, citing Parley P. Pratt, Key to Theology, p. 38
Obviously, from what has already been noted, Mormon theology cannot be reconciled with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity—three persons in one God, each equally deity.
Joseph Smith confirmed this by saying, “Many men say there is one God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are only one God! I say this is a strange God anyhow . . . all are to be crammed into one God.”1
From the foregoing, it can be seen that Mormon theologians area guilty of the common error of creating a god in man’s own image. As Romans 1:22, 23 say, “Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man.”
Mormon dogma on salvation is confusing at best, involving, as it does, universalism, exaltation, contradictions in Mormon revelation, blood atonement (i.e., human sacrifice), and polygamy.
One of the most amazing pronouncements on Mormon soteriology came from Joseph Smith himself. Doctrine and Covenants 132, part of the Mormon canon, reveals that on July 12, 1843 Joseph received a revelation of a new and everlasting covenant, in which he was commanded, “if ye abide not in that covenant, then are ye damned: for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.2 The revelation went on
1Martin, The Maze of Mormonism, p. 81, citing E. F. Parry, Joseph Smith’s Teachings, p. 55 ff.
2McElveen, The Mormon Revelations of Convenience, p. 22, citing Doctrine and Covenants, sec. 132:4
To rewrite the Bible: “Abraham received concubines, and they bore him children: and it was accounted unto him for righteousness.”1 And finally it commanded Joseph’s first wife, Emma, to receive all Joseph’s other wives, said to be 27 at this time, or be destroyed.2 In other words, polygamy had become a requirement of salvation! And this is in spite of the fact that The Book of Mormon, in Jacob 1:15 and 2:24 had called it an abomination.
Interestingly, according to this revelation, most Mormons today are bound for hell!
Another amazing pronouncement on the subject was made by Brigham Young, who regarded all of his own sermons as Scripture.3 Young preached that some sins could not be forgiven without the shedding of blood of the sinner:
There is not a man or woman who violates covenants made with their God that will not be required to pay the death. The blood of Christ will never wipe that out. Hour own blood must atone for it; the judgments of the Almighty will come sooner or later, and every man and woman will have to atone for their covenant . . . All mankind love themselves: and let those principles be known by an individual who will be glad to have his blood shed . . . I could refer you to plenty of instances where men have been
1McElveen, The Mormon Revelations of Convenience, p. 23, citing Doctrine and Covenants, sec. 132:37a
2Ibid, p. 22
3Ibid, p. 27, citing Journal of Discourses, (Liverpool, Eng., F. D. and S. W. Richards, 1854 and Salt Lake City, 1966), vol. 13, p. 95
righteously slain in order to atone for their sons . . . This is loving our neighbor as ourselves; if he needs help, help him; if he wants salvation and it is necessary to spill his blood on earth in order to be saved, spill it.1
Apparently contradicting both Smith and Young, the modern-day church believes in universal salvation, stating: “Mormons believe in universal salvation that all men will be saved, but each one in his own order.”2 Evidently, the major question to be settled in this life is the level of exaltation, or what plain of heaven, each person will reach.3
The Third Article of Faith of the Church, written by Joseph Smith clearly indicates that works are necessary for salvation, though: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel. The Fourth Article indicates what the “first principles” of this obedience include: “Faith in the Lord Jesus Chist . . . Repentance . . . Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins . . . Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”4 Current salvation tracts of the church refer to these as duties that must be performed in this life “to lay a foundation of future exaltation.”5
Furthermore, Mormon missionaries make a big point of the fact that baptism must be performed by men who have received the Aaronic priesthood, and of course, only Mormons have this priesthood.
1Martin, The Maze of Mormonism, p.111, citing Journal of Discourses, Vol 4, pp. 385 ff.
2Ibid, p. 116, citing “Mr. Evans,” Look magazine, Oct. 5, 1954
3Ibid, p. 118, 119
4Joseph Smith, Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, p.
5The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Plan of Salvation, 1978, 17
The Bible and Revelation
“The Bible is the Word of God, written by men,” states one Mormon tract. “But [we] recognize that errors have crept into this sacred work because of the manner in which the book has come to us. Moreover, [we] regard it as not being complete as a guide. Scores of different types of church organization and conflicting interpretations on basic doctrines . . . bear witness to the inadequacy of the Bible.”1
Thus, the Church sees the Bible as inadequate and inaccurate.
“Supplementing the Bible, the Latter-day Saints have three other books,” the tract continues. “These with the Bible constitute the standard works of the Church. They are known as the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.”2
Since Brigham Young was a prophet, and he claimed all his sermons were Scripture as previously noted, Mormons must consider all his teachings as authoritative.
Additionally, revelation continues through each succeeding President or Living Prophet of the Church.
BIBLICAL EVIDENCES OF DEMONIC INFLUENCE
The Bible admonishes believers not to believe every spirit, but to “test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (I John 4:1).
The following is an evaluation of Mormonism based on nine tests of the Spirit prescribed by the Bible.
1Gordon B. Hinkley, elder, What of the Mormons?, publisher not cited, 1970, p.9
2Ibid, pp. 9, 10
Does It Bring a “New” Gospel
In Galatians 1:8 the Apostle Paul warned, “But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed.”
In I Corinthians 15:3, 4 that Gospel is defined as the message that “Christ died for our sins . . . was buried . . . was raised . . . and that He appeared.” Verses one and two state that it is faith in this message that produces salvation.
Mormons clearly fail this test as they categorically deny that faith alone in Christ’s death for our sins is sufficient for salvation.
Does It Encourage Contact with Departed Spirits?
Deuteronomy 18:9-11 forbids calling up the dead.
Mormons practice baptism for the dead. One Church pamphlet tells of departed spirits returning in Revelation during such rites to make known to friends or relatives that they “have accepted the gospel in the spirit world.”1 Again, demonic influence is apparent.
Does It Turn Attention from Centering on Christ?
Revelation 19:10 indicates true revelation centers on Christ.
Mormonism does place emphasis on a Christ in its revelation, but as shown above, the Mormon Christ is clearly not the Christ of the Bible. II Corinthians 11:4 indicates that some may falsely preach another Jesus, and the Mormon church errs in this respect also.
1Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Plan of Salvation, p. 29
Does It Deny the Deity of Christ?
Isaiah 9:6-7, Colossians 2:9, Philippians 2:5-11, John 1:1, 1:14, 8:58, 10:30 and 14:9 and many other verses clearly state that Christ is God. Mormons ultimately deny this, failing yet another test.
Does Prophecy Fail to Come to Pass?
Deuteronomy 18:20-22 claims that a prophet of God’s prophecies should be 100% accurate in their predictions.
Numerous prophecies of Joseph Smith have failed. For example, he prophesied in 1832 that New Jerusalem and its temple would be built in Missouri within a generation in Doctrine and Covenants 84:1-5; that Nauvoo House was to belong to the smith family forever in 124:56-60; that Zion, Missouri would not fall or be moved in section 97; 60; that Zion, Missouri would not fall or be moved in section 97; in 1835 that the coming of the Lord would be in 56 years in History of the Church, volume 2, and that men lived on the moon, according to a journal kept by a devout Mormon contemporary, Oliver G. Huntington.1 All proved to be false, thereby disqualifying Smith as a prophet.
Does It Use Physical Objects as Channels of Divine Power?
Again, Deuteronomy 18:9-11 prohibits divination.
Joseph Smith’s peekstone glasses certainly qualify, if indeed they were used I the translation of the golden plates of Moroni.
1McElveen, The Mormon Revelations of Convenience, pp. 64, 65
Does It Turn Attention Away from the True God to Other Gods?
Deuteronomy 13:1-5 instructs believers to ignore the prophesies of prophets who would lead them astray to other Gods. Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and their followers certainly qualify, as their polytheism has certainly led many astray from the one and only true God of the Bible, as stated in Isaiah 44-46.
Does It Add to the Message of Christ’s Apostles?
As stated in some of the other tests of the Spirit, the Mormon message certainly adds and even changes the message of Christ’s Apostles.
Do Its Prophets Demonstrate by Their Works Their True Nature?
Jesus warned, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:15, 16).
What kind of fruits did the lives of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young bear? Joseph Smith has been shown to be historically a peepstone diviner, a liar, a fraud and an adulterer. Brigham Young, from the testimonies of his 19th wife and one of his bishops, was a lustful adulterer, a robber and a murderer.1 Mormonism’s prophets fail again.
“What of the Mormons?” asks the title of one of their pamphlets. Nine Biblical tests show their faith to be sugar-coated counterfeit Christianity hiding a witch’s brew of demonic spiritual poisons.
1Lee, Mormonism Unveiled, pp. 147. Ff., passim and Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, (New York, Arno Press, 1972), pp. 87, ff., passim
Brooks, Keith L. The Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error. Revised. Chicago: Moody Press. 1969
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A Systematic Program for Teaching the Gospel. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press. 1960
_________. Plan of Salvation. U.S.A.: church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1978
Geisler, Norman L. “Part I: What in the World is the Devil Doing?” Christian Life (January, 1983). 44-47
Green, Doyle L. and Randall L. Meet the Mormons. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Bo. 1967
Hinckley, Gordon B. What of the Mormons? Publisher not cited. 1970
Lee, John Doyle. Mormonism Unveiled or Life and Confession of John D. Lee. St. Louis: Royal Publishing Co., 1891
Martin, Walter R. Kingdom of the cults. Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship. 1965
_______. The Maze of Mormonism. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1962
_______. The Rise of the Cults. Revised and Enlarged. Santa Ana, Vision House Publishers. 1977
McElveen, Floyd C. The Mormon Revelations of Convenience. Minneapolis: Bethany Fellowship, Inc. 1978
Petersen, Mark E. Which Church Is Right? Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press. Year not cited.
_______. Christ in America. Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: 1977
Ricks, Eldin. New Bible Ready Reverence. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co. 1961
Smith, Joseph Jr. The Book of Mormon. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1961
_______. The Prophet Joseph Smith’s Testimony. Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1970
Unger, Merril F. Demons in the World Today. Wheaton: Tyndale House and London: Coverdale House Ltd. 1974
Young, Ann Elize. Wife No. 19. New York: Arno Press. 1972