A Facebook friend posed an interesting question for debate yesterday that has garnered over one-hundred comments: Are Mormons Christian?
The topic is not without controversy (understatement). I thought I’d take some time to work through the issue here for those who are interested in my take.
What is a Christian?
The term “Christian” was first coined to describe believers in Antioch (Acts 11:26). In Greek, the word literally meant “those belonging to Christ’s party, i.e., Christ followers.” A term distinguishing believers from the Jews and pagan Gentiles.
So, the term ‘Christian’ is meant to differentiate those with certain beliefs, specifically beliefs about Jesus.
What beliefs must one hold to be a Christian? Or, to put it another way, what must someone do to be a believer?
A jailer posed this question to Paul and Silas after God performed a supernatural act (Acts 16). They told him to “believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.” [Presumably, if the head of the house believed something, then his entire household would go along with his beliefs. That's a word to some men out there, but we'll save that topic for a different post. ;)]
What does it mean to “believe in the Lord Jesus?”
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you have known me, you will know my Father too.” - John 14:6-7a
But don’t Mormons believe in Jesus?
The Bible calls us to be on guard for those who proclaim a Jesus, but not the real Jesus in the Bible. Remember Paul’s words to the Corinthians?
But I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treachery, your minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus different from the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit than the one you received, or a different gospel than the one you accepted, you put up with it well enough! ~2 Corinthians 11:3-4
And that’s what we have with religious groups like the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. They claim they believe in Jesus, but when you dig a little deeper and ask a few more questions, you realize they’re proclaiming a different Jesus and a different gospel than the one in the Bible.
The subject of false teaching was a popular one in the early church. Look what Paul wrote to the Galatians:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are following a different gospel – not that there really is another gospel, but there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we (or an angel from heaven) should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell! As we have said before, and now I say again, if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, let him be condemned to hell! ~ Galatians 1:6-9
An angel like Moroni who allegedly gave Joseph Smith 18 golden tablets that comprise the Book of Mormon? A wouldn’t the Book of Mormon be considered a different gospel?
Joseph Smith Receives the Gold Plates, by Kenneth Riley (62012); GAK 406; Primary manual 3-33; Primary manual 4-03; Primary manual 5-11; Joseph Smith—History 1:47–59
Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. ~Colossians 2:8
Human thinking like Brigham Young’s and Joseph Smith’s? Joseph Smith altered the King James Version of the Bible to create his own inspired version, including adding a reference to himself in Genesis 50.
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words; their judgment from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. ~2 Peter 2:1-3
Destructive heresies like teaching that Jesus paved the way to heaven with his resurrection but it is up to people to prove themselves worth of exaltation through their good works? Claims like Jesus is the first “spirit-son” of God and that Lucifer is his brother? Claims that Jesus was begotten through sexual relations between God the Father and Mary in the flesh? Claims like the Book of Mormon is “just another Testament” and that when Mormons die, they can eventually become gods themselves?
Sensuality like polygamy? A belief so essential that they traveled to the territory of Utah to establish their own government?
Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If the person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here. ~1 John 4:1-3
But some argue that Mormons are Christians based on their good works.
So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless. Now someone may argue, “Some people have faith; others have good deeds.” But I say, “How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.” You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?” ~James 2:17-20
Mormonism is compelling. If you know any Mormons, they are the nicest and most helpful people you will ever meet. They will go out of their way to give you whatever they have. They have exceptionally strong family values. They are moral. In fact, I would contend that most Mormons look more Christian than many Christians. So where’s the problem?
“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. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. ~Matthew 7:15-20
You have to look at all their fruit. In teaching contrary to the Bible, they are trying to lead people astray, no matter how well-seemingly.
I mean, think about it. Our enemy is clever. He is the father or lies and full of deceit. He would create a religion that would be attractive. One that looks like what Christianity is supposed to look like. And, yes, I would contend that this angel, Moroni, was Lucifer or one of his minions.
And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will correspond to their actions. ~2 Corinthians 11:14-15
Mormons believe in Jesus and pray to God, so does it really matter if some of the things they believe are wrong?
Yes, it does. Because it is a matter of salvation for them. If you truly care about your Mormon friend (or yourself, if you are reading this and you are Mormon), then it is essential that we recognize Jesus for who He is.
Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate, because the gate is wide and the way is spacious that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. But the gate is narrow and the way is difficult that leads to life, and there are few who find it.“ ~Matthew 7:13-14
Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ ~Matthew 7:21-23
“But who am I to judge whether someone else is saved?”
It’s a great question, backed by plenty of biblical basis:
Who are you to pass judgment on another’s servant? Before his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. ~Romans 14:4
But who is a Mormon’s master? Is it Jesus? The real Jesus?
Do not speak against one another, brothers and sisters. He who speaks against a fellow believer or judges a fellow believer speaks against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but its judge. But there is only one who is lawgiver and judge – the one who is able to save and destroy. On the other hand, who are you to judge your neighbor? ~ James 4:11-12
But are Mormons really believers?
Do not grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be judged. See, the judge stands before the gates! ~James 5:9
Friends, I’m not writing this post to pass judgment on any person, but on false teaching. I’m writing to shed truth on a subject where some Christians are very, very confused. In our society today where truth is relative, Christians are not doing anyone a favor by being inclusive or universal in the name of tolerance.
So what are our options?
1. Treat Mormons as if they are Christians. Let them go their own way. Assume they are saved. Assume that the Jesus they are preaching to the world is the same as the Jesus in the Bible. In other words, do nothing.
2. Treat Mormons as if they are not (or may not be) Christians. Assume they might not be saved. Assume that the tenets of Mormonism are untrue.
Obviously, I prefer option 2. If I’m wrong, and option #1 is the correct one, then what harm have I done?
But if #2 is true, then what harm am I doing?
- I’m allowing someone that does not know God to persist in unbelief.
- I am letting them believe a lie.
- I am letting them propagate that lie to others.
That’s the risk, folks.
Now hear me: I do not think that your average Mormon is the Antichrist. Mormons are following a Christian-like religion because they want to be on the right side of God. They are not atheists or agnostics. These are people who are seeking God and want to follow him.
It is the people that are high in the secret upper echelon of Mormonism that are the true deceivers. And it is our job as Christians to try to rescue the sheep they have stolen.
So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes. But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. ~Ephesians 4:14-15
But don’t take my word for it. Pray to God and search the Scriptures for yourself.
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. ~James 1:5
And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. ~Acts 17:11
Will you join me in prayer?
Father God, we want to know you. We want to have a relationship with the real you. Please make your truth known to us. You already know our hearts. If we are wrong in our beliefs, please open our eyes to your truth so that we might share that truth with others. Free us from the deception of the evil one. In your powerful Son’s name, Jesus, we pray. Amen.