Mormonism Fails the 3 Point Test: Monotheism

Introduction
 

A friend of mine requested a meeting to discuss Mormonism. Trying to anticipate his many potential questions, I have been formulating in my mind what I consider to be the most important presentation as to why I believe the LDS church to be false, and why I reject the Mormon faith.

There is no doubt that the Mormon people are some of the most kind, respectful, gentle, and loving people I have ever known. However, I must pursue and insist we as Christians look beyond that and understand this religion is false, and false religions cannot save.

The best way to love our Mormon neighbors is to clearly communicate to them that what they believe is not Christian, nor biblical, and therefore, not true. And we must do this with gentleness and respect.

In Search of Authority

Mormon theology is complicated and there are many avenues of discussion that could be had with Mormons, some of them on very academic levels. However, I wanted to be as basic as possible with this blog. What I want to do with this blog is walk people through the 3 most fundamental reasons why I reject Mormonism as a false church, which teaches false religion.

There are many errors that could be discussed, but often times our time with them is short when we begin to bring this up, and so it is important to focus on only the imperatives in those conversations. We must focus on issues most primary.

How does a Christian go about deciding whether a theological issue is primary, peripheral, or tertiary? In other words, by what standard do I as a Baptist tell the Presbyterian they are wrong about baptism, but still welcome them as a Brother, while on the other hand, tell the Mormon that our theological differences are too significant to embrace one another?

The answer is simple: the Bible.

As Christians, if we are going to be consistent with our adherence to Sola Scriptura, we cannot appeal to an authority outside of Scripture to make a determination on these matters.

As a matter of fact, Sola Scriptura is perhaps the biggest issue which separates religions of men and the true religion of God. For if someone is appealing to a different standard, it is obvious we will not come to the same conclusions.

Likewise, if someone is appealing to a false standard, we can expect false conclusions. You should not draw water from a poisoned well, but expect it to be clean when you pour it into your cup.

Mormons have five “ultimate” standards of authority: The Bible (KJV), The Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants, and lastly, the living modern-day Prophet (the church).

Christians have one ultimate standard: the Bible. It makes sense then that our religions are going to look quite different.

As a Christian, I must, as the noble Bereans did, appeal to my standard of Scripture to evaluate another person’s claims, and I believe the Scriptures are perspicuous enough to determine when these claims are in minor error, or in serious error.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means, but here are three biblical necessities for true, saving faith. These three points are doctrines the Bible is clear about, and theology we cannot afford to be wrong about.

It simultaneously serves as a check-list for identifying heresy. And the sad state of affairs is that Mormonism fails every single one.

#1: Monotheism
Joseph Smith meeting with two separate
gods during his “first vision.”

A foundation and bedrock of the Christian faith, especially as it relates to the Trinity, is Monotheism. The Bible not only teaches monotheism, but even teaches it as being an essential for salvation.

Mormonism is a very polytheistic religion, probably more so than any other religion in the world.

In Mormonism there are many gods, not one.

The primary reason for this being their doctrine of exultation. In other words, Mormons believe men can become gods.

One of the most famous pronunciations of this doctrine was from Joseph Smith himself in his famous King Follett Sermon

“In order to understand the subject of the dead, for consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends, it is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how He came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.”

Joseph Smith believed the god we worship was once a man who became god. And that is why Mormonism today teaches that there are many gods, and many more are being added into existence all the time.

In seminary, future LDS missionaries learn the famous phrase,

“As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.”

This phrase was originally given to former LDS prophet and president Lorenzo Snow. Snow was a prophet which means the church believes this to be infallible revelation from God. Thus, the god Mormons worship told the church that men can become gods themselves.

To put it more succinctly, allow the LDS official website to define the doctrine of Exultation themselves (the emphasis belongs to me),

“Latter-day Saints see all people as children of God in a full and complete sense; they consider every person divine in origin, nature, and potential. Each has an eternal core and is ‘a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents.’ Each possesses seeds of divinity and must choose whether to live in harmony or tension with that divinity. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, all people may ‘progress toward perfection and ultimately realize their divine destiny.’ Just as a child can develop the attributes of his or her parents over time, the divine nature that humans inherit can be developed to become like their Heavenly Father’s.

A final and important example would be how Mormons deny the doctrine of the Holy Trinity.

Joseph Smith believed that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit were all three separate gods with their own physical bodies. Obviously this is in clear contradiction with just about every page of Scripture, but that is his testimony, based on a personal experience.

This personal experience is his famous “first vision”. There are many contradictory accounts of this vision, but the LDS church officially recognizes the vision as told by Joseph this way:

“My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.‘”

It is important to realize that Joseph Smith considered protestant theology like my own to be unbelieving abominable, pharisaical, false-doctrine. But that is for another blog.

The point here is that Joseph separated the Father and the Son in an unbiblical way. In case anyone here thinks that his words could be interpreted in a Trinitarian way, here is how the LDS church officially recognizes Joseph’s theology on this issue today,

“…Latter-day Saints are accused of worshiping a ‘different god’ because we do not believe in the traditional Trinity. ‘We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost’ (A of F 1:1) as taught in the New Testament… Jesus didn’t teach the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity. The New Testament writers didn’t have any idea of it. The doctrine itself wasn’t invented until centuries later… Latter-day Saints do believe that God the Father has a physical body.”

Mormons believe god was once a man who became god, they believe men all over the world (and others) are becoming gods, and they believe that the Trinity is actually a Godhead consisting of three separate gods. It could not be more clear that the LDS church is a polytheistic religion. The problem for the Mormon is that monotheism is prevalent throughout both the Old and New Testaments.

The Jewish Shema, a recitation of Deuteronomy 6:4 says,

“Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

There is one God above the heavens, and all other gods are idols (Psalm 96: 5).

For those who engage with the missionaries, perhaps the best place in Scripture to camp would be the book of Isaiah, specifically, chapters 44-46. This is often the first place I begin when lovingly engaging Mormon missionaries, and it is important to begin here for two reasons:

1) These chapters clearly teach monotheism.

2) They do so within the context of refuting pagan idols.

This is key. Not only does Isaiah certainly reveal monotheism (he literally could not be any more explicit about it), but He also does so as a way of distinguishing between true and false religions. In other words, how do we know the Babylonian religion was a false one? At the most basic level, they believe in too many gods; they believe in false gods. Their gods are idols.

Polytheism is a quick and easy way to establish a false religion. Is there any other God? The Creator of heaven and earth answers this question for us emphatically: No, there is no other.

The monotheism of Isaiah makes for a powerful apologetic. The Mormon must now try to reconcile Isaiah’s clear proclamation of monotheism, with the LDS doctrine that there are many gods (some would even say an infinite amount).

The most common response I have heard to these texts is that Isaiah is referring to just the “god of this world.” In effect, to them, Isaiah is not saying there is only one God, but that there is only one god of this world who we worship.

There are two main issues with this claim. The first is that the texts simply do not say that. They quite explicitly and clearly teach only one God exists anywhere.

Isaiah 44: 6-8, “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen. Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.’”

Isaiah 45: 5-6, “‘I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the LORD, and there is no other.’”

Isaiah 45: 18, “For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!): ‘I am the LORD, and there is no other.’”

Isaiah 45: 21, “…And there is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides me.”

Isaiah 46: 9, “…remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me…”

In fact, Isaiah 45: 14 says specifically that the consequences of God’s judging the pagan nation would be their recognition of the one true God, and their repentance of their false ones:

“They will plead with you, saying: ‘Surely God is in you, and there is no other, no god besides him.’”

The second issue with this defense is that Mormons do worship more than one god of this world. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all three separate gods, who interact and rule over this earth, worthy of worship in LDS theology.

These chapters are also very important because their context establish for Christians that LDS polytheism is not a point of minor disagreement among like-minded believers, but a primary doctrine of eternal significance.

Isaiah could never have even imagined considering the Babylonians to be faithful believers on account of the fact that they worship so many idols. Mormonism is a modern-day Babylon in the fact that they too have many gods. And Isaiah would despise that.

James chapters 2 teaches the necessity of works justifying faith claims, and in verses 19-20, the brother of our Lord says this,

“You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”

I understand James is not writing an apologetic against polytheists. The point I am making is that James clearly understands monotheism as a basic, fundamental belief. Satan knows it to be true, Christians know it to be true, but apparently, Joseph Smith missed the memo.

And that is the key issue, that which I began with: Authority. Mormons believe polytheism because of an outside tradition which forces them to. This is admitted by Mormons themselves, the LDS website cited above in regards to exultation, said this after attempting to cite bible passages which teach polytheism:

“These passages can be interpreted in different ways. Yet by viewing them through the clarifying lens of revelations received by Joseph Smith, Latter-day Saints see these scriptures as straightforward expressions of humanity’s divine nature and potential.”

 

Conclusion
What the reference in James above also demonstrates is that monotheism, while a necessary doctrine, is not alone in being necessary for salvation. That is why in the next installation, we will talk about how the LDS doctrine of justification is a false, non-christian belief, and does in fact, sever them from Christ and the eternal life He alone offers. Justification, like monotheism, is a doctrine most fundamental, and one we simply cannot get wrong.

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