Christians and Mormons Do Not Worship the Same God

The central figure of Christianity is Jesus: He is "the reflection of God's glory and the exact imprint of God's very being." (Heb. 1:3 NRSV) In the language of the everyday Joe: to get Jesus wrong is to get God wrong -- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This fact is why we insist that any other religion than orthodox Christianity is a false religion: e.g., Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Taoism (Daoism), adherents of Bahá'í, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christian Scientism, Unitarianism (including Unitarian-Universalism and the beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses), Mormonism and Modalism (including Oneness Pentecostalism), just to name a few. Should any religious sect construct a faulty Person of the Lord Jesus Christ, especially as He is related to the Persons of the Father and the Holy Spirit, as taught in the Christian scriptures, then that sect is utterly divorced from Christianity proper, and teaches, disseminates, and worships another god of its own subjective formation.

How do we know this to be the truth? Jesus Himself quite plainly teaches: "You believe in [the] God [of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob], believe also in me." (John 14:1) This is a very specific God -- the God of the Hebrew scriptures, the God of Israel, and the Father of Jesus Christ. He continues: "I am the way [to the Father], and the truth [objective truth incarnate], and the life [eternal]. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) This statement rules out the vast majority of faith traditions mentioned above. But what about Unitarian religious beliefs (including Jehovah's Witnesses, Unitarian-Universalists, Modalists and Jesus-Only advocates)? Do they not believe in Jesus?

While some of these traditions offer "belief" in Jesus, He is portrayed as merely a man, and not the divine Son of God. Yet, Modalists and Jesus-Only devotees suggest that Jesus is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, guilty of the error of "confounding the Persons," and "dividing the Substance," as noted in the Athanasian Creed, according to which the denial of Trinitarian orthodoxy is the forfeiture of one's salvation. What of Mormonism? Granted, at the outset, someone will deem me as being anti-Mormon. Actually, I am pro-Christian, and am not willing to compromise the ancient Christian faith for the sake of niceness, nor of missional pluralism. Heresy has yet to deliver even one soul from its depravity and the wrath of God by grace through faith in the Jesus Christ of the Christian scriptures. (John 3:36; 8:24, 26, 28) Does Mormonism advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Rom. 1:16, 17)? Will any soul be saved by the door-to-door message of Mormon labors?

An evident strain at relegating Mormonism a Christian sect has been operative over the last decade, most notably during the presidential campaign of Mitt Romney in 2008, when the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) decided, under the direction of the very political Franklin Graham, and for obvious conservative, political reasons, to conveniently expunge Mormonism from cult status on its website. (link/link) The Daily Mail quotes from BGEA regarding cults as any religious sect that teaches "'doctrines or beliefs that deviate from the biblical message of the Christian faith' Examples: Jehovah's Witnesses, Unitarians, the Unification Church, Scientologists and Spiritist." (link) Evidently, because Republican Mitt Romney runs for the presidential office, Mormonism suddenly becomes orthodox, from the perspective of Billy and Franklin Graham.

Dr. Roger Olson notes that Mormonism is ever-evolving. (link) That presents numerous problems. Unlike the once-heretical-turned-orthodox-evangelical The Radio Church of God, founded by Herbert W. Armstrong, changed to the Worldwide Church of God and is now referred to as Grace Communion International, Mormonism has not officially abandoned is heretical teachings. Olson writes: "Still, for purposes of this essay, 'Mormonism' is a shape-shifting tradition difficult to pin down. Even the top scholars of the LDS [Latter-Day Saints] Church at Brigham Young University do not agree one hundred percent about it. There is a sense in which Mormonism is a conversation around a central core with fluid and flexible boundaries. The LDS Church, however, has greater boundaries determined by its present authoritative leaders." (link) Why is this problematic?

Imagine if Christianity remained in flux: Jesus, to some scholars, is divine; others suggest that He is a demi-god; still others suggest that He is an anointed prophet and a Spirit-gifted teacher ("Spirit" referring to God as Father, not the Holy Spirit, the third member of a craftily-imagined trinity). Who holds to the truth on this crucial matter? Let us also suggest that the consensus of ancient Christian documents referred to Jesus as the son of Joseph and Mary of the first-century, not of divine appointment, and was merely a Jewish heretic. How could anyone understand the core nature of Christianity? With all of the dissenting and contrary voices, each of subjective significance, how could persons maintaining contradictions each insist that she is Christian. What is a Christian? What is Christianity? The mere fact that Mormonism can morph into so many variant forms should be a cautionary tell-tale sign as to its anti-established-Christian nature.

In other words, the early Church fathers, from the first century through at least the ninth century, have all agreed as to the nature, divinity, and essence of Jesus Christ as the Son of the only living God of the universe. There are no more questions to ask regarding what pertains to orthodoxy regarding Jesus Christ; the matter was settled centuries ago; orthodoxy has been an established fact for believers of all subsequent ages. Apostolic tradition has been handed down, from generation to generation, and we do well to maintain and defend this apostolic witness -- that of those who walked with, witnessed, and published the story of Jesus -- as to "a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in [our] hearts." (2 Pet. 1:19)

What do Mormons "do" with Jesus? This is the all-important question. For if Jesus is the reflection of God's glory, and the exact imprint of God's very being (Heb. 1:3), then what they think about Jesus will determine if Mormons and Christians worship the same God. But even attempting to answer this question is problematic: We can assess what The Book of Mormon claims, as well as what LDS pastors and laypersons affirm, but also what Mormon theologians confess, though some will disagree, and still maintain difficulty in rendering any semblance of a final conclusion. Still, the attempt is vital, especially since the ultimate salvation of Mormons is also in consideration.

Dr. Harold O.J. Brown, in criticism of Montanism with relevance to the movement being heretical, writes: "A modern parallel appears to be offered by the Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons. The Mormons profess so much of what other Christians consider fundamental Christian doctrine that it is difficult to designate them as non-Christians. Nevertheless, the peculiarities of their doctrine of God in the last analysis place them even further from historic Christianity than the Montanists."1 This, too, is my complaint. If Mormons are merely Christians than why the name Mormon? Believers in and followers of Jesus Christ were not first called Mormon but Christian in the ancient city of Antioch. (Acts 11:26) That may seem a trite remark, especially since Mormons did not exist for yet another seventeen centuries, but there is more than a mere hint at orthodoxy in the remark: believers in and followers or disciples of Jesus Christ are known as Christians, not separate entities as Mormons, or Jehovah's Witnesses -- Christians, even if Christians are secondarily identified denominationally, e.g., Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, Pentecostals, etc.

What necessitates Mormonism being a separate entity from orthodox Christianity? Why the origin of The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ? Could the answer not be founded upon the notion that Mormonism is not actually Christian in nature, even if Mormons adopt many orthodox teachings of Christianity, yet do so with caveats that render them outside the Christian fold?



The Montanists added revelation (perhaps Spirit-inspired illumination) to the already-revealed canon of Christian scriptures (i.e., the New Testament). The Mormons, however, add entirely new revelation to the already-revealed canon of both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. The reason that The Book of Mormon exists is because of an alleged revelation, from an angel purported to be Moroni, to Joseph Smith in the early nineteenth century. The angel informs Joseph where he may find hidden a collection of ancient writings, inscribed on golden plates, and that he would aid him in translating them into English via extraordinary glasses. Some accounts suggest interpretation via seer stones.2 Regardless, the Bible is admitted as being insufficient, incomplete testimonies of the people of God, the economy of God, bringing unto humanity the Word of God.

From the website of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we discover that The Book of Mormon is perceived as "another witness of Jesus Christ and a divinely revealed guide to the purpose-filled life" (link), the latter statement being the direct borrowing of modern, evangelical lingo. From the first paragraph we read: "Does it seem possible that God stopped talking to man after the last page of the New Testament? . . . While many of our questions and struggles are similar to those of biblical times, it only makes sense that a loving God would continue counseling His children with additional messages of hope and wisdom applicable to their lives. The Book of Mormon is exactly that: continued revelation from God that serves as a witness to the truths in the Bible and to the divinity and teachings of Jesus Christ." (link) (emphases added) The Book of Mormon is not merely "inspirational," or instructive, but divine: "God promises us that if we read it with an open heart and an open mind He will reveal to each of us its divinity and its truth through inspiration from the Holy Spirit." (link) (emphases added) Interestingly enough, the LDS site does not grant us insight as to the origins of The Book of Mormon, what necessitated its existence.

For Mormons, the canon is open, and perhaps God will continue to grant further revelation in the future. Orthodox Christians have perpetuated a closed canon since at least the mid-fourth century. Though, truth be told, earlier Church fathers considered divine revelation, in written form, to be a closed issue by at least the late second century.3 What fascinates me most, however, is the obvious claim of Mormons to The Book of Mormon being "another testament" of Jesus Christ, especially in light of St Paul's admonition: "But I am afraid," he writes to the Corinthian believers, "that as the serpent deceived Eve by its cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you accepted, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough." (2 Cor. 11:3, 4) This concerned the apostle deeply, and the deception of receiving "another testament" contrary to the one preached by the apostles ought to concern us, as well.

The issue of continued revelation aside, the inclusion of "the divinity" of Jesus Christ in the statement from the LDS site is curious, especially given the unfortunate fact that some defend the divinity of Jesus while denying His deity: "Although it is common to speak of the doctrine of the divinity of Christ, because the term 'divinity' is often used loosely and does not necessarily imply full deity, the expression 'deity of Christ' is preferable to designate the orthodox doctrine."4 Do Mormons subscribe to the deity of Jesus Christ, the God-Man Son of God, the second member of the Trinity? Oddly enough, Jesus, much like within certain Modalist circles, is eternally God because He is both the Father and the Son and, by necessity, also the Holy Spirit. (Ether 3:14; Mosiah 15:1-14)

There is no Trinity, three separate Persons in one being we call God, rendering Mormonism heretically Unitarian in nature. (3 Nephi 19:22-23) Yet, oddly, the LDS site states: "Jesus was sent by His Father to offer eternal life to all of His children." (link) The language here resembles orthodox Christian teaching, in that the Father is a separate Person and yet God, and that Jesus is a separate Person and yet God. For only a person can "send" another person. This is why Dr. Olson insists that "Mormonism" is as slippery as an eel (my words and not his). Also, consider the following statement, "Each of these Gods, including Jesus Christ and His Father, being in possession of not merely an organized spirit, but a glorious immortal body of flesh and bones." (Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, ed. 1978, 23). (link) Modern Mormons, in their evolution, tend to reject this polytheism.

For an apt example, some Mormons seem Unitarian, others quasi-Trinitarian; while Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other Mormon "prophets" are every category in-between and even beyond the pale. Cult expert the late Dr. Walter R. Martin records the following:

  1. "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." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 349)
  2. "God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345)
  3. "The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's: the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit." (Doctrine and Covenants, 130:22)
  4. "Gods exist, and we had better strive to be prepared to be one with them." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 7:238)
  5. "As man is, God once was: as God is, man may become." (Prophet Lorenzo Snow, quoted in Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel Through the Ages, 105–106)
  6. "Remember that God, our heavenly Father, was perhaps once a child, and mortal like we ourselves, and rose step by step in the scale of progress, in the school of advancement; has moved forward and overcome, until He has arrived at the point where He now is." (Apostle Orson Hyde, Journal of Discourses, 1:123)
  7. "Mormon prophets have continuously taught the sublime truth that God the Eternal Father was once a mortal man who passed through a school of earth life similar to that through which we are now passing. He became God -- an exalted being -- through obedience to the same eternal Gospel truths that we are given opportunity today to obey." (Hunter, op. cit., 104)
  8. "When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is MICHAEL, the Archangel, the ANCIENT OF DAYS! about whom holy men have written and spoken -- HE is our FATHER and our GOD, and the only God with whom we have to do." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 1:50).
  9. "Historically this doctrine of Adam-God was hard for even faithful Mormons to believe. As a result, on June 8, 1873, Brigham Young stated: 'How much unbelief exists in the minds of the Latter-day Saints in regard to one particular doctrine which I revealed to them, and which God revealed to me -- namely that Adam is our father and God.'" (link) (emphasis added)

How many faithful remain among Mormons today in disseminating their founder's religious beliefs regarding God? The LDS website appears as genuinely orthodoxically Christian as the latest edition of Christianity Today. Without doubt some Mormons perceive of themselves, within their Mormon tradition nonetheless, as Christian as any other evangelical. Glenn Beck immediately comes to mind. The man speaks on air like an orthodox Christian. But Mormons and their theology, in a very general sense, are not orthodox -- not in the least, not on paper, and not once one pulls back all the precarious layers that form the core of Mormonism. When Dr. Olson speaks with three Brigham Young University professors, quizzing them concerning the deity of Christ, one claims belief in Jesus' deity, another denies the deity, and the third stares silently at the two professors. (link) That there is confusion and disagreement on this vital issue is quite telling, is it not?

The theological Mormonism of today would hardly be recognizable by its founder and immediate successors. This fact, however, in no sense renders Mormonism in toto a viable sect of Christianity -- even if one considers Mormons like one of their theologians, Robert Millet, who affirms and defends, according to Dr. Olson, "the eternal deity of the Son of God and his [God's] incarnation in Jesus Christ and emphasizes the transcendence, even infinity, of the triune Godhead. He stresses the unity of the three persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit." (link) While these affirmations are orthodox for him personally, they do not baptize monolithic "Mormonism" as orthodox Christianity, at least such will not occur until the LDS and all involved -- all who call themselves "Mormon"-- repent of their Unitarian, polytheistic, or other heresies related to the Trinity, and adopt wholesale the orthodoxy of God, as revealed in Jesus Christ from the ancient Christian tradition.

Such will include a most eager, passionate, total and utter abandonment of The Book of Mormon. They should also denounce their own history, the rank heresies emanating from Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other Mormon "prophets." Whatever teaching that needs to be rejected, so as to conform with the essentials of the Christian tradition, that should be adopted posthaste -- and especially the truth regarding the need for one to be born again, or from above, by the grace of God through faith in the (deified) Jesus Christ of the New Testament. Mormons can have no other Gospel than the Gospel of Jesus Christ as clearly outlined in the Christian scriptures we call the New Testament. We need no other Testament -- only the one we have possessed for nearly two millennia. Until their rank heresies have been abandoned, I will continue to consider Mormons as prime targets for the gracious Gospel of Jesus Christ, and will graciously call the same to belief in the true and living God -- for we do not worship the same God.

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1 Harold O.J. Brown, Heresies: Heresy and Orthodoxy in the History of the Church (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2003), 68.

2 For further details, see Walter R. Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults: The Definitive Work on the Subject, ed. Ravi Zacharias (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 2003), 212-15.

3 By the writing of 2 Peter, the letters of St Paul were already considered equal among the other scriptures (cf. 2 Pet. 3:16). By the turn of the second century, and thereafter, the consensus among the early Church fathers perpetuates the end of divine revelation and Spirit-induced inspiration to be recorded in written form. See A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs: A Reference Guide to More Than 700 Topics Discussed by the Early Church Fathers, ed. David W. Bercot (Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 2003), 599-603.

By the era of St Irenæus (130-202 CE), this Church father already distinguishes between the Old Covenant and the New, without denoting "the collection of authoritative writings" of the latter, as "Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian of Carthage were soon to do." See F.F. Bruce, The Canon of Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1988), 173. Irenæus does, however, perceive the Shepherd of Hermas and Wisdom of Solomon as inspired Scripture.

Milton Fisher underscores the fact that the "first three outstanding church fathers, Clement [d. 99, or 101], Polycarp [69-155 CE], and Ignatius [35-110 CE], used the bulk of the material of the New Testament in a revealingly casual manner -- authenticated Scriptures were being accepted as authoritative without argument. In the writings of these men only Mark (which closely parallels the material of Matthew), 2 and 3 John, Jude, and 2 Peter are not clearly attested." See Milton Fisher, "The Canon of the New Testament," in The Origin of the Bible, ed. Philip Wesley Comfort (Wheaton: Tyndale, 2003), 70. What is most significant here is that the fathers recognize that new revelation is not to be accepted: what the Church collectively possesses is relegated as God's Word in a strict sense. This is why Montanism is considered such a threat to orthodox Christianity. This also explains why Tertullian, a Montanist convert, is not deemed by the Church as a saint proper.

4 Brown, 454, f. 26.

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ABOUT WILLIAM BIRCH

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My name is William Birch and I grew up in the Southern Baptist tradition but converted, if you will, to Anglicanism in 2012. I am gay, affirming, and take very seriously matters of social justice, religion and politics in the church and the state.