What is Mormonism?
A Comparative Analysis of Mormonism versus ChristianityBy Mariah Morrissey
Truth is incontrovertible, malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it, but, in the end, there it is.—Sir Winston Churchill
Truth and the Law of Noncontradiction
The purpose of this essay is to demonstrate to the reader that the doctrines of Mormonism and those of mainstream Christianity are mutually exclusive, and therefore fundamentally incompatible. I will state this up front—Mormonism and Christianity cannot both be true. According to Aristotle’s Metaphysics, truth conforms to the laws of logic. These laws form the very basis of all rational thought. These laws are referred to as first principles. One of those principles is called the law of noncontradiction, which states—something cannot be both true and not true at the same time when set within the same context. [i]
As a result of this mutual exclusivity—this fundamental incompatibility of doctrines, Mormons cannot be Christians, and Christians cannot be Mormons.
Gordon B. Hinckley, prior President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (1995-2008), said:
We are Christians in a very real sense and that is coming to be more and more widely recognized… He [Jesus] is the center of our faith and the head of our Church. The Book of Mormon is Another Testament of Jesus Christ and witnesses of His divinity, His life, and His Atonement.[ii]
In response to Fox News host Ainsley Earhardt, who made the statement that “Mitt Romney is obviously not a Christian,”[iii] Joanna Brooks wrote an op-ed piece for the Washington Post, in which she states:
We Mormons view ourselves as Christians. Many Christian pastors and scholars, however, point to theological technicalities that disqualify us from the mainline tradition. Some evangelicals do not see us as Christians for reasons rooted in antiquated anti-Mormon prejudice.[iv]
With all due respect to Ms. Brooks, the argument is not caught up in “theological technicalities,” nor is it “rooted in antiquated anti-Mormon prejudice.” Mainstream Christian views are not intended to be prejudiced against, or to malign Mormons, or any other faith for that matter.
Mormons are wonderful people. Their family ethic is admirable. They make great neighbors, coworkers, and friends. To say that Mormons are not Christians is not anti-Mormon, any more than it would be considered anti-Semitic to say that Jews are not Christians. If Christianity is defined by its doctrines—and it is—then this is simply a statement of fact. And, it is the duty of every Christian to point this out, defend our faith, and proclaim the true Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, as commanded by God (2 Cor 10:5).
The Holy Bible for the Christian versus the Mormon
One of many unbridgeable divides between Christianity and Mormonism is the foundational difference in how we view the Bible. The entire Christian faith is based upon the teachings of the Bible, so, if one rejects its authenticity, divine inspiration and inerrancy, one is also rejecting the Christian faith.
Christians believe that the Bible (39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament books), is the inerrant word of God, written my men under divine Holy Spirit influence. We believe the Holy Bible is the final authority on all matters of faith and practice, because God says so. In other words—it is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:20-21). The Holy Bible also teaches that if anyone adds to His Word, God will add unto him the plagues of Revelation, and if anyone takes away from His Word, He will blot him out of the Book of Life (Rev 22:18-19). Mormonism does both. It takes away from the word of God and also adds to it; therefore, it is a condemned religious system according to God Himself. (Read also Deuteronomy 4:2, 12:32; Proverbs 30:5-6, et al.)
Mormons believe the Holy Bible has been corrupted. They believe that it has been mistranslated, and also that it is incomplete. Because Mormons do not believe the Bible to be the inerrant and divinely inspired word of God, they rely upon additional writings, which they consider to be equal to, or superior to, the writings of the Bible.
These additional writings include: The Book of Mormon, which they believe to be “another testament of Jesus Christ,” the Doctrine and Covenants: A compilation of revelations and writings given since the restoration of the Church began, and The Pearl of Great Price, a selection of revelations, translations, and writings of Joseph Smith.
According to the 8th Article of Faith by Joseph Smith:
We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.[v] (Emphasis added).
Consider these key passages from The Book of Mormon:
Wherefore, thou seest that after the book hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church, that there are many plain and precious things taken away from the book, which is the book of the Lamb of God. (1 Nephi 13:28)
And because my words shall hiss forth—many of the Gentiles shall say: A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible...Thou fool, that shall say a Bible, we have got a Bible and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews?...Wherefore, because ye have a Bible ye need not suppose it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. (II Nephi 29: 3, 6, 10)
Joseph Smith himself stated:
Upon my return from Amherst conference, I resumed the translation of the Scriptures. From sundry revelations which had been received, it was apparent that many important points touching the salvation of man had been taken from the Bible, or lost before it was compiled.[vi]
And also this:
I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors. [vii]
Ezra Taft, while president of the Mormon Church, had this to say:
Unlike the Bible, which passed through generations of copyists, translators, and corrupt religionists who tampered with the text, the Book of Mormon came from writer to reader in just one inspired step of translation.[viii]
James E. Talmage, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-days Saints (1911-1933) states:
There will be, there can be, no absolutely reliable translation of these or other scriptures unless it be effected through the gift of translation, as one of the endowments of the Holy Ghost... Let the Bible then be read reverently and with prayerful care, the reader ever seeking the light of the Spirit that he may discern between truth and the errors of men. [ix]
Finally, Orson Pratt, an original member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of the church (1811-1881), and one of the most outspoken critics of the Holy Bible said this:
Who in his right mind could for one moment suppose the Bible in its present form to be a perfect guide? Who knows that even one verse of the Bible has escaped pollution, so as to convey the same sense now that it did in the original? Who knows how many doctrines and ordinances necessary to salvation may be buried in oblivion in some of the lost books. [x]
Mormons believe that when their founder, Joseph Smith, was just 21-years-old, an angel named Moroni gave him ancient records, written on sheets of gold, much like the tablets of Moses, when given the Ten Commandments. However, Smith was unable to interpret these writings, apparently due to his illiteracy, and lack of education, so they believe God intervened, giving Joseph the ability translate the message to his scribes. After the encounter with the angel Moroni, Joseph did just that, and The Book of Mormon was written over a period of about three months. [xi]
The great Apostle Paul in his letter to the Galatian’s warns:
I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9) (Emphasis added).
Back to the premise of the law of noncontradiction—either the Bible is the inerrant word of God, the final authority on all matters of faith and practice, as Christians maintain, or, it has been corrupted by men, is unreliable, and requires supplemental texts, as Mormons maintain. Those texts, according to Mormons, are equal to—or superior to—the Bible, and were written by Joseph Smith, and various members of the Mormon Church. Both positions cannot be true at the same time. That would defy logic.
Is the Bible Reliable?
Since we have established the fact that Mormons believe the Bible has been corrupted by transmission errors and errors of omission, I think it appropriate to briefly address this concern with a discussion on the manuscript evidence for the Bible, including some information on the methods of transcription and textual criticism in producing God’s love letter to mankind.
What will not be included in this essay, in the interest of time, is the archeological evidence, historical evidence, eyewitness testimony, the unity of Bible narrative amongst its more than 40 authors from wildly different backgrounds and circumstances, written over a span of 1400 years, nor the literal fulfillment of Bible prophecy with 100% accuracy, which is well-documented, even by secular sources. Instead, all of these topics, which further support the divine origin of the Bible, the true word of God, and it’s perfect accuracy, will be set aside, for now.
There is more evidence for the authenticity of the Bible than for any other work of antiquity in human history. There are more than 20,000 manuscripts, written in the first century A.D., that are still in existence today.[xii] There is nothing from the readily accepted works of the ancient world that even compares to this level of evidence. The closest work, advocated by secularist and Christian historians alike, is that of Homer’s Iliad, authenticated with a mere 643 manuscripts.[xiii]
There are numerous writings of the Church Fathers, in the form of books and letters, with over 38,000 quotations of Scripture. From those writings we could reconstruct the entire New Testament with the exception of about 11 verses.[xiv] Countless hours have been spent in cross-checking the manuscripts using the methods of textual criticism—an analytical method used by scholars to determine the authenticity and reliability of ancient manuscripts. The New Testament has been verified as being 99.33% pure, by theologians and secular historians alike, with all inconsistencies deemed inconsequential to the teachings therein.[xv]
The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, with the exception of a few chapters, which were written in Aramaic, the native tongue of Christ Jesus. It was written from about 1400-400 B.C.[xvi] It was copied and preserved by the Jewish scribes who developed very strict, numerical systems, to ensure the accuracy of the text. After completing each page, the numbers of lines, letters, and words were counted, then compared to that of the original. Should any discrepancy be noted, the entire page was destroyed and the scribe had to start the entire page all over again.[xvii]
Finally, the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in the caves at Qumran in 1947, contained a full copy of the Book of Isaiah (among many other discoveries), and that manuscript, the one of Isaiah, was dated to 150 B.C. This is significant in that the previous manuscript of Isaiah in our possession at the time dated to 900 A.D. These two manuscripts, dated about 1000 years apart are identical! Therefore, the Dead Sea Scrolls testify to the authenticity and accuracy of Old Testament manuscript transmission.[xviii]
The Book of Mormon – Manuscript Evidence
Mormons believe that The Book of Mormon contains the history of people living in the America’s between about 600 B.C. and 400 A.D, which was recorded by the prophets. This history was then compiled by a prophet named Mormon, transcribed onto gold plates and given to Joseph Smith at the age of twenty-one.[xix] Although Joseph couldn’t read the plates, and incidentally, those plates have yet to be found, he was able to translate them through divine intervention, and those words were written down by at least three scribes. The original manuscript was written down by Oliver Cowdery in 1829.[xx]
A copy of the original was made by Cowdery and two other scribes for the purpose of printing, and was completed in 1830.
According to the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University:
The printer's manuscript is not an exact copy of the original manuscript. There are on the average three changes per original manuscript page. These changes appear to be natural scribal errors; there is little or no evidence of conscious editing. Most of the changes are minor, and about one in five produce a discernible difference in meaning. Because they were all relatively minor, most of the errors thus introduced into the text have remained in the printed editions of the Book of Mormon and have not been detected and corrected except by reference to the original manuscript. About twenty of these errors were corrected in the 1981 edition.[xxi]
A second addition was produced in 1837 where “hundreds of grammatical changes and few textual emendations were made” in the print version of the manuscript. This edition was eventually sold to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to Mormon historians, today, is it “wholly extant except for two lines at the bottom of the first leaf.” [xxii]
The original manuscript was placed in the “cornerstone of the Nauvoo House” where it suffered water damage, destroying 75% of the text. The remainder is now owned by the University of Utah.[xxiii]
The Essentials of the Christian Faith.
There are a variety of Creeds and Confessions to describe the essentials of the Christian faith which have come into existence over periods of time for a variety of reasons. Although they may not be 100% in accordance, they all give an accurate account of the essentials. Foundationally, it is the Holy Bible, the inerrant word of God that has revealed to Christians the Essentials of the Faith. We believe that all Scripture is self-attesting, and being truth, requires our unreserved submission in all areas of life. The infallible Word of God, the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, is a complete and unified witness to God's redemptive acts culminating in the incarnation of the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible, uniquely and fully inspired by the Holy Spirit, is the supreme and final authority on all matters on which it speaks. It is on this sure foundation that we affirm the Essentials of our faith.[xxiv]
The Articles of Faith of Mormonism
Two years before Joseph Smith died, he wrote a letter to the editor of a local newspaper, John Wentworth, in response to Mr. Wentworth’s query about the Mormon faith. That letter has since been adopted and re-written into the Thirteen Articles of Faith of Mormonism, taught to Mormon children beginning at the age of eight.
Are these Articles, Creeds and Confessions Reconcilable?
Again, the purpose of this essay is to demonstrate the fundamental incompatibility of Mormon and Christian doctrine. I am a born again believer in Jesus Christ (John 3:3), so I am writing from that perspective, therefore I will not be giving an apologetic for the Mormon faith. I often think, when hearing my Mormon friends speak, “We use the same dictionary, but have an entirely different definition on matters of spirituality.” I encourage the reader to look up the Essentials of the Christian Faith, and compare them to the Articles of Faith of Mormonism, and come to your own conclusion. I submit to you, the differences are irreconcilable.
Mutually Exclusive Doctrines: The Trinity, the Deity of Christ, and Salvation by Grace
Christians believe in one God, the sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all things, infinitely perfect and eternally existing in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Mormons reject this doctrine in its entirety. They claim this is a man-made false teaching and use as their evidence that the Bible never uses the word “trinity.” We must gently remind the Mormon that the Bible also never uses the word Mormon, it also never uses the word Bible, and it never mentions the Americas (where all of Mormon history is said to occur), or the prophet Joseph Smith, or the angel Moroni. I find this argument to be very weak.
Although the word trinity is never used in the Bible, the doctrine is clearly taught. Just like I am a daughter, a wife, and a mother; a woman with a body, a soul, and spirit, so is there one God, who has chosen to reveal Himself and His ministry to the world in the form of a Father, a Son, and a Holy Spirit. I won’t belabor the point here, as a cursory search of the Scriptures will point the reader to dozens of Scriptures that support the doctrine of the trinity. Here is just one:
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:19)
The Deity of Christ
Nothing will get under the skin of Mormon more than a Christian telling him or her that they deny the deity of Jesus Christ. Again, same dictionary, different definition.
To the Christian, Jesus is God. We say this, because Jesus said so Himself (John 1:1, 14; 8:58; 10:30, 33). To the Mormon, Jesus is “a” god. Irreconcilable differences, in the view of a mainstream Christian.
To the Christian, Jesus Christ is the living Word, He became flesh through His miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit and His virgin birth. He who is the true God became true man united in one Person forever. He died on the cross, a sacrifice for our sins according to the Scriptures. On the third day, He arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven, where, at the right hand of the Majesty on High, He now is our High Priest and Mediator.[xxv]
In Mormonism, Jesus is a created being, a product of procreation between God the Father and His goddess wife, both of whom, by the way, used to be flesh and blood people from another world. Mormonism also teaches that Jesus is literally the spirit brother of Lucifer, and also of you and me.[xxvi] That is a false teaching, in the view of mainstream Christianity, and the Mormon Jesus is not the Jesus of the Bible.
Salvation by Grace alone—not by works
The Christian believes that salvation is by grace alone, and not by works, lest anyone boast. We believe this, because the Lord our God, through his great Apostle Paul tells us so.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
The last words, spoken by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, while he was perishing under the brutal crucifixion on that old rugged cross were— Tetelestai! Those words echo in the hearts and minds of born again believers of Jesus Christ (John 3:3). This was spoken in His native tongue, the Aramaic language, which literally translates to “it is finished!” Christians not only believe the last words of the Christ, we cling to that promise from God the Son.
Sadly, Mormons believe that the work of Jesus Christ on the cross was not enough to save them. Mormons believe that to gain eternal life, they must add to that atonement by earning their salvation through works.
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. (II Nephi 25:23) (Emphasis added).
My purpose in writing this essay, as previously stated, was to demonstrate to the reader that the Christian faith, just like our Lord and Savior—is the same yesterday, today, and in the future; Jesus is the same, in season, out of season, and forever more (2 Timothy 4:2). There has been no new revelation as Mormons contend. Mormon doctrine is fundamentally incompatible with Christian doctrine. Therefore, Mormons are not Christians.
If you are a Mormon and want to be a Christian, all you have to do is accept the free gift of grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (the Christian Jesus), and you will be redeemed and have eternal life. I pray you do.
[i] Legacy of Truth Ministries. Aristotle’s 1st Principles. By Peter Bocchino, President. http://www.legacyoftruth.org/read.asp?document=8
[iii] Fox Host: Mitt Romney Obviously Not a Christian. By Anugrah Kumar. July 18, 2011. http://www.christianpost.com/news/mitt-romney-obviously-not-a-christian-fox-news-host-says-52430/
[iv] The Washington Post. Five myths about Mormonism. By Joanna Brooks. August 5, 2011. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/five-myths-about-mormonism/2011/08/03/gIQAyIhTwI_story.html
[v] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Articles of Faith. Thirteen basic points of belief to which Mormons subscribe. http://www.mormon.org/beliefs/articles-of-faith
[vi] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Doctrines and Covenants. Section 76. https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/76.94?lang=eng
[vii] BYU. Harold B. Lee Library. Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible (JST). By Robert J. Matthews. http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Joseph_Smith_Translation_of_the_Bible_(JST)
[viii] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Book of Mormon – Keystone of Our Religion. By Ezra Taft. October, 1986. https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1986/10/the-book-of-mormon-keystone-of-our-religion?lang=eng
[ix] We Believe: Doctrines and Principles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. By Rulon T. Burton. Tabernacle Books, Inc., January 1, 2004. Page 73.
[x] The Mormons and their Bible. By Thomas Lamb. Griffith & Rowland Press, 1901. Page 84.
[xi] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Book of Mormon.
[xii] Christian Apologetic and Research Ministry. Manuscript evidence for New Testament superiority and reliability. By Matt Slick. http://carm.org/manuscript-evidence
[xiv] Christian Apologetic and Research Ministry. Mormonism and the Corruption of the Bible. By Ryan Turner. http://carm.org/mormonism-and-the-corruption-of-the-bible
[xv] A Note on the Percent of Accuracy of the New Testament Text. By Norman Geisler. http://www.normangeisler.net/articles/Bible/Reliability/NoteOnPercentAccuracyOfNT.htm
[xvi] Biblica. When was the Bible written? http://www.biblica.com/en-us/bible/bible-faqs/when-was-the-bible-written
[xvii] Bible.org. Transmission. https://bible.org/seriespage/transmission
[xviii] Christian Apologetic and Research Ministry. Has the Old Testament been corrupted? By Ryan Turner. http://carm.org/old-testament-corrupted
[xx] BYU. Harold B. Lee Library. Book of Mormon Manuscripts. By Royal Skousen. http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Book_of_Mormon_Manuscripts
[xxiv] Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics. The Westminster Confession of Faith. http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/
[xxvi] Christian Apologetic and Research Ministry. Hinckley says Mormons Believe in a Different Jesus. By Matt Slick. http://carm.org/hinckley-says-mormons-believe-different-jesus