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Ask Columbo Questions

Brett Kunkle

START WITH THE ESSENTIALS Don’t jump in with polygamy, Mormon undergarments, temple rituals, or racism. Instead, stick to the essentials. TWO QUESTIONS TO START WITH 1. Who is God? 2. What is the gospel? Every false religion will deviate from Christianity on these two issues. FIRST TOOL FOR CLEAR THINKING: Columbo Question #1 When your Mormon friend says, “I believe in Jesus,” begin with a probing question like, “Which Jesus do you have in mind?” Your LDS friends will use the same terminology you use. If you don’t start with clarification, though, you’ll end with confusion. SECOND TOOL FOR CLEAR THINKING: Columbo Question #2 Once your LDS friend explains their view of Jesus, ask them, “How did you come to that conclusion?” or, “Why do you believe that?” Columbo #2 will give you their reasons for holding a particular view. Do they think Jesus is a created being because they think the Bible says so? Or is that taught in the Book of Mormon? Once you discover what a Mormon believes and why he believes it, you’re well positioned for a productive conversation. Even though you think their views are false, you are showing them true tolerance. When this kind of tolerance is practiced, it often creates the best context to share the truth with your LDS friends.

More from Mormonism

Clarity before Agreement

Brett Kunkle

ARE MORMONS CHRISTIANS? Is Mormonism merely another branch of the Christian tree? That claim isn't consistent with official LDS teaching. Mormonism’s founder and first prophet, Joseph Smith, prompted by his reading of James 1:5, prayed and inquired of God to reveal which church was the true church. According to Smith’s account, God declares all Christian sects not merely wrong, but corrupt. Mormon doctrine states that shortly after the original apostles died off, the first church had a complete falling away from the gospel, known as the Great Apostasy. Therefore, the Book of Mormon is severe in its judgment, condemning Christianity as “that great and abominable church” and “the whore of all the earth” (I Nephi 22:13), whose founder is Satan (I Nephi 13:5-6). Thus, the Mormon doctrine of the total apostasy of the church and the LDS scriptures’ denunciations of Christianity are incompatible with the claim they are merely another branch or denomination of Christianity. MORMONISM TEACHES CHRISTIANITY IS “ABOMINABLE” According to the Latter Day Saints church, Mormonism is the restoration of true Christianity. All other Christian churches are false churches. When LDS members attempt to soften or even deny these implications, we must simply point them back to their own authoritative sources. APPLICATION Point your Mormon friends to John 17:3 which says eternal life is knowing the one true God. If we have radically different views of God, then one of us is in trouble. If I’m wrong, I'd want to know. That’s why this conversation is worth having.

Mormon View of God

Brett Kunkle

SAME WORDS, DIFFERENT MEANINGS Our eternal destiny depends on getting certain things about God right. This is the implication of John 17:3. So, do Mormons and Christians see God the same way? Mormons believe in God the Father, in Jesus Christ His Son, and the Holy Spirit. Just because Christians and Mormons use the same words does not mean they share the same definitions. Because Mormons and Christians use the same words, labels, and even phrases, our first step is clarification, and our first tool is Columbo Question#1: What do you mean by that? WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT? For example, if you ask your LDS friends who Jesus is, they’ll probably say He is the Son of God. Notice, they have only offered more Christian terminology, another phrase that needs clarification. Respond by asking, “What do you mean by ‘Son of God?’” It may take a lot of questioning before the full Mormon view of God is on the table, so be patient and persistent. Once the Mormon understanding of God is clearly defined, we’ll need to compare it to the Christian view of God revealed in Scripture. This is the next step. HOW DID YOU COME TO THAT CONCLUSION? Ask Columbo Question #2: How did you come to that conclusion? If Mormons and Christians hold mutually exclusive views about God, we need to examine the biblical reasons offered. Does Scripture support the Mormon view or does Scripture uphold the classical Christian view? Rather than start with what we think Mormons mean by “God,” we’ll let Mormons speak for themselves. We’ll draw from three authoritative sources: Mormon scripture, the teachings of Mormon prophets, and official Mormon publications. On the topic of God, LDS authorities are clear: God the Father was once a man before he became God and has a physical body. WHAT MORMONISM TEACHES ABOUT GOD According to Smith, God was first a mere mortal in another world, worshipping and serving his own Heavenly Father. The Doctrine & Covenants tell us, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s...” (130:22). He progressed to godhood and received a glorified body through his obedience to the same gospel principles the LDS church teaches today. For Mormons, the Godhead consists of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, they are not three persons in one God; they are three separate gods. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are just the gods who created and rule this world. Mormon scripture teaches there are other gods with its reference to the “Eternal God of all other gods before this world” (Doctrine & Covenants 121:32). Not only did God the Father worship his god, but also that god worshipped another god. According to Mormon doctrine, you and I can become gods as well. In the final analysis, the Mormon worldview turns out to be polytheistic. According to LDS teaching, Jesus is not the second person of the Trinity. Rather his spirit comes into existence through the procreation of Heavenly Father and our mother goddess. Jesus is the firstborn spirit child of our heavenly parents. According to Mormon doctrine, Jesus and Lucifer are brothers. You and I are also spirit children, making Jesus and Lucifer our elder brothers. As a man, Jesus had to progress to godhood. He was not eternally a god, but became a god. According to Joseph Smith, this was revealed to the apostle John: “And I, John, saw that he [Jesus] received not of the fullness at the first, but received grace for grace. And he received not the fullness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fullness” (Doctrine & Covenants 93:12-13).

Christian View of the Trinity

Brett Kunkle

DO MORMONS AND CHRISTIANS WORSHIP THE SAME GOD? There are a host of characteristics separating the Mormon God and the Christian God. If these deities were identical, they would share all the same essential characteristics. Even a cursory study of LDS theology, however, shows that this is not the case. Mormons and Christians worship radically different Gods. THE ONE TRUE GOD OF THE BIBLE I like James White’s definition in the book, "The Forgotten Trinity," because it’s concise yet precise. Here’s my slightly modified version: “Within the one Being that is God, there simultaneously exists three coequal, coeternal, and distinct persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Each word and phrase is significant. Notice, there are three divine persons—Father, Son, Holy Spirit—in one being, God. Not three beings who are one being. Not three persons who are one person. The Trinity is three distinct persons in one being or one God. Simply put, there is one “what” and three “who’s.” Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist at the same time (“simultaneously”), have always existed together (“coeternal”), and are equally God (“coequal”). Christians don’t merely cite a single verse to prove the Trinity; rather, the Bible overflows with Trinitarian language from Old to New Testament. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share divine attributes. They share divine functions. They share divine names. They each receive worship. Premise 1: There is only one God. Premise 2: There are three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—called God. Conclusion: The three Persons are the one God. ONE GOD, THREE PERSONS First, the Scripture clearly teaches there is only one God. Look at Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 43:10 and 44:6-8, Mark 12:29, and John 17:3. In attempt to reconcile their beliefs with the Bible, Mormons will agree, arguing there is only one God of this world. Notice in his response, the Mormon has modified the message of Scripture. In the book of Isaiah, God does not claim He is the only God of this world. He proclaims, “I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22). Apart from Him, there are no other gods. So if your Mormon friend responds with this objection, ask him, “Can you show me a verse that clearly states there is more than one God?” and put the burden of proof back on him. Second, the Scripture teaches each person is divine in nature. For example, John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In John 10:30, Jesus says, “I and my Father are one,” clearly understood to be a claim to deity when we examine the context. The Apostle Paul echoes this view of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-8. The Holy Spirit is a divine person as well. Acts 5:3-4 equates lying to the Holy Spirit with lying to God. According to 2 Samuel 23:2-3, the “Spirit of the Lord” is the “God of Israel.” Therefore, we conclude Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the one God. Passages like Matthew 28:19 support this conclusion, as Jesus commands us to baptize in the “name,” not names, of the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Ironically, support for the Trinity can also be found in the Book of Mormon, in passages like Alma 11:26-29, Alma 11:44, and Mosiah 15:1-4. Discussing the nature of God is crucial, but point them back to John 17:3 throughout the conversation. Theology touches real life. Remind your LDS friend eternity is on the line. Our answer to “Who is God?” has profound, unalterable consequences for this life and the one to come.