The answer lies in their beliefs about God, Jesus and salvation
By Cory Anderson
Are Mormons Christians? This question is relevant today.
As we approach the presidential election there are questions over presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith. Some wonder if Mormonism is just another Christian denomination.
TV pastor and author Joel Osteen, who wields significant influence among some Christians, has stated that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) and Mormons like Mitt Romney are Christians because they sincerely claim to be Christians (CNN interview, April 24, 2012.)
Richard Mouw, former president of Fuller Theological Seminary, writes that Mormonism should not be referred to as a cult (Christianity Today, July 25, 2012.)
For these reasons, understanding what Mormons believe is important. Before we delve further into the topic, there are two things to consider.
While the LDS Church uses the title Christian and shares other similar words and phrases with evangelicals, Mormons define these words and phrases differently than we do. Just because someone claims to be Christian and uses Christian terms does not make them Christian.
It is also essential to treat every LDS member individually and to not make assumptions about what they believe. We should never assume the average LDS member knows, understands and believes everything its church officially teaches. However, even though a person does not believe in official LDS doctrine, it does not mean they get the gospel correct and can be classified as a Christian.
With these considerations in mind, I offer three reasons why Mormons are not Christians.
Reason 1: The LDS Church has a false view of the Godhead. The LDS Church believes in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but rejects the doctrine of the Trinity for a belief known as Tritheism (the belief in three separate gods).
This belief is based upon the alleged First Vision of Joseph Smith who claimed to see the Father and Son as two separate personages. While Mormons claim to believe in the Godhead and speak of God being one, they believe the Godhead is one in purpose or function but not in being. In contrast, the Bible teaches that there is one God (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10-11) who eternally exists in three persons (Father, Son and Spirit). These persons are called God (John. 20:28; Acts 5:1-5; 2 Pet. 1:17), are spoken of as co-eternal (Ps. 90:3; Jn. 8:58), co-existent (Matt. 3:16-17) and co-equal (John. 5:18; Phil. 2:6).
In addition to their rejection of the Trinity, the LDS Church believes that the Father was once a man who was later exalted to become God. Lorenzo Snow, the fifth president and prophet of the church, coined this popular couplet: “As man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become.”
For the LDS Church, God did not exist from all eternity as God; he was once a man who became God. God is an exalted man who according to Doctrine and Covenants 130:22 still has “a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s.” Based upon this couplet, if a man is worthy, he also may become a god, just like his Heavenly Father did.
Reason 2: The LDS Church has a false view of Jesus. While the LDS Church makes much of its belief in Jesus, the real issue is what they believe about Jesus. In 2 Corinthians 11:4 the Apostle Paul makes it clear that there are some who believe in a different Jesus than the one he preached.
So what does the LDS Church teach about Jesus? As we have seen, they do not believe Jesus is the second person of the Trinity. They also believe the Father is Elohim (God) and Jesus is Jehovah (LORD) of the Old Testament. So the LDS Church clearly believes in polytheism even though the Bible makes it clear that there is only one God (Deut. 6:4; Isa. 43:10-11).
Third, the LDS Church believes that Jesus is literally the “firstborn” son of heavenly parents. Heavenly Father and heavenly Mother, exalted human beings who still retain their physical bodies, procreated to create Jesus as their literal firstborn son. Millions of other spirit children were born after Jesus, including Lucifer who later turned against Heavenly Father.
Finally, the LDS Church believes that Jesus is also the “only begotten according to the flesh,” which means that Heavenly Father had some sort of intimate relations with Mary so that Jesus is literally begotten by Heavenly Father and Mary.
What do we make of these LDS doctrines concerning Jesus? While the Bible speaks of Jesus being the firstborn (Col. 1:15), the context indicates that Jesus is not created but is the creator and preeminent one over all creation (Col. 1:15-18).
In a similar manner, the New Testament speaks of Jesus as the “only begotten,” but he is never said to be the only begotten according to the flesh. The words “only begotten” are better understood as a reference to Jesus being the unique or one and only son, as in the case of Isaac (Heb. 11:17-18) and David (Ps. 89:27), who were not literally the only begotten or the firstborn sons, yet they were given the status and rights of only begotten and firstborn.
The LDS Church has taken New Testament language concerning Jesus and twisted it by redefining the meaning of words (2 Pet. 3:14-16). The result is belief in a false Jesus who cannot save.
Reason 3: The LDS Church has a false view of the gospel. In order to be a Christian, one must have a clear understanding of the gospel (Gal.1:6-9). So what does the LDS Church teach about the gospel? Two statements from the LDS Church help to explain their view.
First, Article 4 in the LDS Articles of Faith states: “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Clearly, the LDS Church believes in baptismal regeneration. In contrast, both Jesus and the Apostle Paul made a distinction between the gospel and baptism (Luke 23:43; 1 Cor. 1:17; 15:1-7).
Second, in the LDS Articles of Faith, Article 3 states: “We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.” In making such a statement, the LDS Church declares that the atonement of Christ is not sufficient in itself. For the LDS Church salvation is not based purely on works, it also includes faith and grace as 2 Nephi 25:23 in the Book of Mormon says: “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” While the LDS Church believes in grace and faith, they also believe that we need to do all we can do to be saved.
The problem with this view is that Scripture teaches we are saved by faith alone in Christ alone (John 3:16; Acts 15:1-11; Rom. 4:1-12; Gal. 2:15-16; Eph. 2:8-10; Titus 3:4-7). When we come to Christ for salvation the result of conversion is a life of works, but works cannot save (Eph. 2:10). To add any works to the gospel is to distort the gospel resulting in God’s judgment (Gal. 1:6-9).
In conclusion, Mormons are not Christians given that the LDS Church has a different God, Jesus and gospel than that which is taught in the Word of God. As Christians, our dialogues with our LDS neighbors and friends should be full of grace and truth (John. 1:14; Eph. 4:15), while at the same time asking them for clarification about their beliefs. Let us never assume they believe the same as we do just because some of their language sounds Christian. As believers we have a mission to reach every Mormon with the true gospel and pray that they might experience salvation in Jesus Christ alone.
Cory Anderson is lead pastor at Shadow Mountain Church in West Jordan, Utah