How Does Mormonism Stack Up Against the Bible’s First Verse? - Radical

How Does Mormonism Stack Up Against the Bible’s First Verse?

We are accustomed to sharing the gospel with those who actively oppose the message or who have clear, fundamental distinctions between their beliefs and the Christian faith. But what happens when the person who you are talking with claims to be a fellow believer because he or she believes in God, and that he sent his Son, Jesus, to die on the cross and to rise after three days for the sins of the world?

Scripture cautions us to be on guard against false teachers (2 Peter 2:1) and to “test the spirits” (1 John 4:1). What we see and hear on the surface may not be the true nature of what is underneath.[1]

This is what we find when dealing with LDS (Latter-Day Saints, previously Mormon) beliefs. Many Christians hear their seemingly orthodox claims and move on, accepting them as brothers or sisters of a different Christian denomination. However, when we examine their beliefs, it becomes clear they are not members of a different denomination but of a different religion entirely. 

We could demonstrate this point by pointing to various foundational LDS beliefs (about Christ, sin, salvation, etc.), but we need look no further than Genesis 1:1:  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Based on some of their own authoritative sources, let’s consider how several LDS beliefs stack up against truths derived from the Bible’s first verse. 

One God or Many?

If we begin by asking about the number of deities in the LDS belief system, their founder, Joseph Smith, said the following:  

“I will preach on the plurality of Gods.… I wish to declare I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of the Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods. It has been preached by the Elders for fifteen years.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith)

Moreover, Joseph Smith taught that the three persons of the Trinity were three separate and distinct beings.[2] On the official LDS website, the “Godhead” is described as follows:

“But where Latter-day Saints differ from other Christian religions is in their belief that God and Jesus Christ are glorified, physical beings and that each member of the Godhead is a separate being.”[3]

Creator or Organizer?

Mormons also teach that these separate beings, or gods, did not create the world ex nihilo (out of nothing). Rather, they organized the already existing matter into our known universe. 

“Hence we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos—chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existence from the time He had.” (Joseph Smith, King Follet Discourse)[4]

According to Smith, God himself was created and existed after certain elements of the universe, including spirits (or “intelligences”), which are eternal. 

Unchangeable Spirit or Changeable Man?

In following this logic, Joseph Smith taught that God the Father was once a man on another planet who attained the status of God, presumably through being a good Mormon. In the King Follet Discourse, Smith “unveils” these doctrines.

“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, King Follet Discourse)

“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!” (Joseph Smith, King Follet Discourse)[5]

Many of these doctrines are not found in the Book of Mormon due to Smith’s rapidly evolving beliefs and teachings, but they are nonetheless alive and well in the Mormon church. A common saying within the LDS church, coined by Lorenzo Snow, the Church’s fifth President, is “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.”[6]

Biblical or Heretical?

Now that a few of these LDS teachings are on the table, let’s view them in light of the Bible, which is a part of their Standard Works of Scripture and is still the “word of God” in their system of belief.

When asked what the greatest command was, Jesus cited Deuteronomy 6:4, a confession that every Jew knew by heart: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Mark 12:29). This strict monotheism—the idea that there is only one God—stood in stark contrast to the surrounding nations who worshiped a pantheon of gods. Isaiah makes this point clear in his prophetic preaching:

“You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” (Isaiah 43:10)[7]

If Mormonism is true, then God could not make the claim that there were no gods before him, for he was just a man at one point; nor could he claim that no gods would come after him, for that is the goal of every member of the LDS church.  

Again, Isaiah explains that God alone created the universe.

“I, the LORD, am the maker of all things, stretching out the heavens by Myself and spreading out the earth all alone.” (Isa. 44:24)

And God created the universe, not from organizing a substance that predates even him, but by bringing everything into existence with a word.

“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” (Hebrews 11:3)[8]

God can create out of nothing because he, himself, is uncreated. He can establish time because he alone is timeless. He formed mankind from the dust of the earth, formed the spirit within him, and placed on him the fingerprint of the image of God, because God, himself, is not like man.

“Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2)

“These things you have done, and I have been silent; you thought that I was one like yourself. But now I rebuke you and lay the charge before you.” (Psalm 50:21)[9]

By simply looking at Genesis 1:1, and other verses that unpack its implications, it’s clear that the LDS church rejects the God of orthodox Christianity.[10] Therefore, when sharing your faith with Mormons, do not be fooled by their claims to be spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ. Instead, test them, as John commands us (1 John 4:1), and bring to light their fundamentally different worldview. Point them to the one true God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who alone is eternal, unchanging, and worthy of all worship.

 


[1] Jesus also warns us to beware of “false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).

[2] In his famous First Vision account, Joseph Smith claims that both God the Father and Jesus came to him in physical form: “It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith History 1:17).

[3] www.churchofjesuschrist.org.

[4] In discussing the nature and creation of mankind, Smith makes a bold claim: “But if I am right, I might with boldness proclaim from the housetops that God never had the power to create the spirit of man at all. God himself could not create himself.” (Joseph Smith, King Follet Discourse). In the Book of Abraham 4:1, we also read the following: “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.”

[5] “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God… that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did…” (Joseph Smith, King Follet Discourse)

[6] Salvation in the LDS church is tied to these doctrines of the nature of God (or gods), mankind, and the idea that certain elements predate God and had to be organized rather than created. The goal of the faithful Mormon man is to become a god himself and rule alongside his eternal bride. “Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have call power, and the angels are subject unto them” (Doctrine and Covenants, 132:20).

[7] See also Isaiah 44:8: “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.”

[8] See also Romans 4:17b, where we’re told that Abraham believed in the God “who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.”

[9] See also Hosea 11:9: “…for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst …”

[10] The fundamental truth which the LDS church rejects is that God is God and we are not. We may be conformed more closely to the image of God (Romans 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18), be “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), and “be like him” as we are glorified (1 John 3:2), but we will never share the same divine essence (or ontological status) as God and possess his sovereign authority. Indeed, is this not what the serpent said to Eve when he tempted her to eat the fruit in order to “be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5)?

Jake Galbreath currently serves at Denia Community Church in Denton, Texas, as their high school pastor and young adults coordinator. He is pursuing theological training at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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