What is Mormonism? Today, this religion has spread from the United States to more than 160 countries and there are over 17 million Mormons across the world. In this episode of the new series In Plain Sight, Selah Vetter helps Christians understand the confusing origins, beliefs, and impact of Mormons around the world.
Are Mormons just like any other Christian denomination? Do they even believe in the same God?
To understand what Mormonism actually is, we have to go back to the beginning.
Actually, we don’t have to go back that far. Some religions have been around for thousands of years, but Mormonism was founded just a couple of hundred of years ago, not in some foreign land, but right here in the United States.
It all started with a man named Joseph Smith in 1830 in upstate New York.
A few years earlier, Joseph claimed to have received a vision of an angel, Moroni, who revealed to him the location of some engraved golden plates buried in a nearby hill. A few years later, he dug up the plates and translated them into English.
And thus, the Book of Mormon was written. It tells the story of a group of Hebrews who migrated to America around 600 BC. This group broke into two: the Lamanites and the Nephites. Then, the Lamanites defeated the Nephites. But, centuries later, Jesus came on the scene and united the two groups.
The Book of Mormon, along with the King James Bible, the Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price, are the writings that give Mormons insight on their religious history, day-by-day guidance, and understanding of who God is.
God and Man
Mormons believe the Godhead is a tritheism, meaning the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are three separate beings. Both the Father and Son have perfect, physical bodies. The Holy Spirit is without a physical body.
To be clear, that’s not the same as the Trinity. Christians believe that God, the Son, and Holy Spirit are united in one Godhead.
Mormons believe that God the Father was once a man on another planet. By being a good Mormon, he attained the status of God.
Christians believe that the Trinity has been God for all of eternity.
Both believe in the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.
But Mormons believe in a combination of faith and works for salvation and the fate of their future. This includes obeying the laws and ordinances of Christ’s gospel, repentance, and baptism.
Christians know that salvation comes through Christ alone. Nothing we do can redeem us from our sins, only the grace of God can.
In Mormonism, there isn’t heaven and hell, but three different levels of paradise. Most, except those who reject God, will receive some sort of glory in the afterlife. And the faithful can also become gods themselves.
This ties into a big part of Mormonism: the imminent Second Coming of Christ, which will establish a 1,000 year reign of peace.
The world can end any day, and there’s a certain place you want to be when the world ends: New Jerusalem.
Soon after Joseph Smith founded Mormonism, he was on the search to establish Zion, which he thought was to be in the western United States. And he thought Independence, Missouri was it.
So, many of the early Mormons headed there under Joseph’s guidance. But local citizens drove them out of town soon after, so they were led by Brigham Young to Salt Lake City, Utah.
That’s where their headquarters are today, and it’s also where the highest concentration of Mormons live today.
But Christians know being in a certain location or doing certain good works won’t save us in the end or determine our afterlives. Only faith in Christ will unite us with God as his children for eternity.
See, Mormonism uses many of the same words as Christianity, but when you break it down, you start to see some big differences, showing us that Mormonism and Christianity are not the same at all.
Over the past two hundred years, Mormonism has spread from the United States all over the globe to more than 160 countries. Today it’s estimated that there are over 17 million Mormons across the world.
A lot come from families who are already part of the LDS church. Mormonism is often a multi-generational faith, and that’s because family is an important aspect of the religion.
Many, however, are new believers. Missions is a big part of Mormonism because it’s one of those good deeds that can help you have a better status in the afterlife.
If you’re familiar with the Book of Mormon—this time we’re talking about the musical, not the actual book—you’d probably know that, which tells the story of Mormon missionaries in Uganda.
The LDS church has more than 53,000 full-time missionaries around the world, most under the age of 25. Their assignments come from church headquarters.
And their goal is to tell others about these modern day revelations of God and modern prophets …a story that’s so different from many of the other, older religions we’re familiar with today.
And while Mormonism may tell a fascinating story, we have to remember that’s just what it is. It’s a story that can’t bring real hope or salvation because it’s not true.
Christians believe in the triune God—the one that sent His one and only son, Jesus, to die for our sins and defeat death. And only through believing in Christ’s work on the cross and accepting his free grace and mercy, we can find true salvation and redemption.