WHAT DO MORMON’S MEAN BY THE GOSPEL? Once again, to understand what Mormons mean by the gospel, we need to employ Columbo Question #1, “What do you mean by that?” What specifically do you mean by the words sin, atonement, forgiveness, faith, grace, salvation, and eternal life? Yes, Mormons and Christians use the same Gospel terminology, but they differ widely on definitions. General salvation is not the ultimate goal for Mormons; eternal life is. In Mormonism, eternal life means exaltation. Exaltation means godhood. The ultimate goal of every good Mormon is to achieve exaltation into the celestial kingdom—the highest level of heaven—become a god, and eventually rule your own world. Ask your Mormon friend, “What is the ultimate goal of your religious efforts?” Godhood is the goal. VERY BAD NEWS The gospel is good news, but this good news implies some very bad news: Sin (Romans 3:19-20). We’re made aware of our sin by God’s law, which demands moral perfection. Just a few verses later Paul declares, “all have sinned” and fallen short of God’s standard of perfection (v. 23). We’re all law-breakers and the just price to be paid for our sin is death (Romans 6:23). Is the Mormon gospel the good news of rescue? No. Instead, it echoes the moral demands of the law. According to the LDS scriptures, individual salvation is only achieved through perfect obedience. But as we know, perfection is impossible. Therefore, the “good news” of Mormonism is an “Impossible Gospel.” Ironically, it turns out to be more bad news for Mormons. Of course, Mormons deny perfection is required. In spite of this, most Mormons feel the pressure of perfection because they live under the unattainable demands of their gospel everyday. This gives Christians an effective tool—the Impossible Gospel—to share the good news of the true Gospel with their Mormon friends. THE IMPOSSIBLE GOSPEL The Impossible Gospel approach lets the Mormon scriptures speak for themselves. When it comes to the requirements of the Gospel, most Mormons think if you try your best, God takes care of the rest. They reason, “Nobody can achieve perfection.” The Impossible Gospel, however, shows them that according to their own scriptures, God does not grade on a curve. Instead, His law is a pass/fail test. You either get everything right or you don’t pass. DISCUSS MORMON SCRIPTURE We could use a number of Mormon scriptures to share the Impossible Gospel, but we’ll focus on six here. If possible, have your LDS friends read each passage to you out loud. #1: Moroni 10:32 – “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you....” Point out the if/then phrase in this passage to your Mormon friend. According to this verse, when does God’s grace kick in? Only after you “deny yourselves of all ungodliness.” Next ask, “What would it look like if you denied yourself of all ungodliness?” It means they would have stopped sinning. Finally, let it hit close to home by asking, “Have you denied yourself of all ungodliness?” If he says no, remind him God’s grace cannot be applied until they do so. #2: Moses 6:57 – “Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence...” Mormons usually acknowledge their inability to be perfect, so they appeal to repentance in their scriptures. “If I repent, I should be okay.” Indeed, this verse indicates repentance is a prerequisite to enter the kingdom of God. But lead them into the next Mormon passage by asking, “What is repentance according to the LDS scriptures?” #3: Doctrine & Covenants 58:42-43 – “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” According to this scripture, true repentance is confessing sin and forsaking it. So ask your Mormon friend what it means to forsake a sin. Doesn’t it mean you never return to it again? Yes. To forsake something is to abandon it. Mormon scripture reinforces the requirement of perfection. #4: Doctrine & Covenants 82:7 – “...go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.” This passage is clear. If you continue to sin, your former sins are returned and counted against you. Forgiveness is foreign to this passage. #5: Alma 34:33 – “...therefore I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given to prepare eternity, behold if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.” This verse highlights the urgency of Mormon repentance. You cannot wait. This life is your only shot to accomplish true repentance, the forsaking of all sin. #6: Doctrine & Covenants 25:15-16 – “Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive. And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come. And verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my voice unto all. Amen.” Use this final passage to summarize the Mormon gospel. Ask your Mormon friend to clarify the meaning of “keep my commandments continually.” Follow up by asking if they’ve met this requirement. If they answer yes, ask if they’ve repented lately. Repentance means they’ve broken God’s commandments and therefore, have not kept his commands continually. If they answer no, ask when they’ll achieve continual obedience to God’s commands. Remind them they’ll never reach exaltation until they do so (“except thou do this...”). These questions are meant to open Mormon eyes to the requirement of perfection inherent in the LDS gospel and our inability to meet it. The Mormon gospel requires something unattainable, perfection. But if it’s impossible for a Mormon to “deny himself of all ungodliness,” it’s impossible for him to be exalted in celestial glory. And that’s bad news for your LDS friends. Unfortunately, the news gets worse. Not only are the requirements impossible to uphold, but the Mormon gospel also turns out to be a false gospel. Paul has grim words for those who would proclaim another gospel: "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) Preaching a false gospel is a grave offense and the consequences match it in severity. In love, we must warn our Mormon friends about the gravity of the situation.
Impossible Gospel of Mormonism
Clarity before Agreement
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.
Ask Columbo Questions
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.
Mormon View of God
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).