|Letter to a Mormon|
(by Chris Long)
[Note from Chris: This is PART of an actual letter I sent to someone identifying as a Mormon. I pray it will be helpful to you.]
I became a Christian in 1995 at the age of 15, after a very rocky childhood. I became convinced that I was a sinner that needed a Savior and that Jesus Christ was the answer for me. One day, it all culminated and I cried out to Jesus in faith believing that He was indeed the Son of God that loved me so much that He came to this world to pay the penalty for my (and all other humans') sins and I professed my belief in Him. I knew something had changed, though I didn't really know enough to understand exactly what or how - I just knew I was different. Within only a few months, I began realizing that I had real peace in my life and a joy I had never known. I never had peace before or even knew what it was (a person doesn't know what they're missing if they don't know what it is), but I literally changed from the inside out. It even affected things a person wouldn't think of. Whereas my grades in school had been C's, D's, and even F's, when I started school again for my sophomore year, I suddenly started getting all A's - and this trend continued for the rest of high school and college. Once the peace of the Lord was in my life and I was right with my Creator, other things got righted too. And I've never been the same since as I've continued to grow in my knowledge and love of Jesus.
Mormonism as I'm sure you are aware shares a lot of similarities with Christianity and I am aware that many Mormons do consider themselves "Christians" and do incorporate the Bible in their belief system. So I'd like to spend a minute looking at the Bible.
The Bible makes clear that the central issue for mankind is what we do with Jesus Christ. While many belief systems incorporate Jesus and the Bible into their belief system, if Jesus Himself contradicts other beliefs of those belief systems, there is a problem. Somebody is right and somebody is wrong. We want to make sure we're on the right side.
When Jesus Himself, declared "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6 NIV), He either was telling the truth or He was not. Either He is "the way" and that no one has access to God the Father except by going through Jesus, or He isn't. Either He told us the truth or He lied to us. Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil." (John 3:16-18) According to Jesus' own words, those that believe in (thus have faith in) Jesus have eternal life, but that those who do not, are already condemned. In John 3:36, Jesus says "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." By Jesus' own words, Jesus makes the central issue of salvation one about what people do with Him - with Jesus. Jesus talked quite a bit about hell. He made statements such as: "Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28) and speaking of the day of judgment said: "Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Matthew 25:41). In Luke 16:19-31, we see a poignant picture of hell that Jesus describes including using words such as "torment" and "agony". Jesus did not shirk away from the topic of heaven and hell, and His message (which agrees with the rest of the Bible) was quite consistent.
In John 6:28-29, we find this exchange:
28 Then they asked him, "What must we do to do the works God requires?"
In John 6:29-40, Jesus says "And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day."
In John 8:23-26, we find this exchange:
But he continued, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins."
"Who are you?" they asked.
"Just what I have been claiming all along," Jesus replied. "I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is reliable, and what I have heard from him I tell the world."
And a little later in John 10:24-33, we find this:
The Jews gathered around him, saying, "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."
Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one."
Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"
"We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."
In sharing these Scriptures, we see that Jesus made clear that He was God, that there is an "eternal life" that can be had, that there is a "hell" that we are already condemned to, that the way to transfer from being condemned to hell to receiving "eternal life" in Heaven - in being right with God - is through our belief/faith in Jesus (which necessitates us acknowledging and repenting of our sins and looking to Jesus in faith to forgive us of our sins).
In John 3, we find this interesting exchange between Jesus and Nicodemus:
3 In reply Jesus declared, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."
Jesus tells us that there is an experience whereby we become "born again" - not in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense. Later in the Bible in Paul's 2nd letter to the Corinthians, Paul says this: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
When I believed in Jesus Christ at the age of 15 / received God's gift to me in Jesus to pay the penalty for all my wrong, I experienced this "born again" experience. I literally became a "new creation" just as the Bible says above. I passed from death to life by trusting solely in Jesus Christ to save me, along with the peace and joy and love that it brings. Romans 5:1 says "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand."
Jesus Himself as shown above made a whole lot of claims that directly contradict many other teachings out there, even those that love to add Jesus to their religious mix. For instance, many New Agers have co-opted Jesus to merely make Him a great moral teacher with good lessons for humanity about how to love people and that all paths are equally true. Certainly Jesus did teach us great moral things and show us how to love. In fact, we are told in the Bible that "God is love" and that Jesus demonstrated real love for us by dying for us. But, all one has to do is read some of Jesus' own words as shared above, to see that Jesus said much more than just moral lessons - He had a serious message for humanity and made quite clear that it was either God's way or no way, and that God's way involved Jesus.
Using purely logic: all religions can be wrong, but they can't all be right. Because many of them CLAIM to be the ONLY and right way. Jesus Himself said He was the only way. Either He told the truth, or He didn't. Somebody is right, and everyone else is wrong. But they can't "all be right" because Jesus Himself clearly teaches that is not the case. A person could choose not to agree with Jesus and just believe what they want to believe, but a person can't in intellectual honesty say Jesus didn't say such things, which is what many people try to do. They want a Jesus that will tell them they can believe whatever they want to believe and it'll all be okay in the end. That isn't the Jesus of the Bible.
I have chosen to base my life on the Bible.
The Bible is a complete story: it starts in Genesis telling us about the creation of this world and how everything was "good" and how through the sin of Adam and Eve, death and pain and all the horrible things we see in this world were introduced. It goes on to show us through the unfolding of the rest of the Scriptures, God's plan to bring forth a Savior that would save us, the coming of that Savior and the "good news" He had to tell us (which I shared above), Jesus' death and resurrection, how to live in this new "born again" / "Christian" life, and what will happen to this world in the future, and about the final judgment that will occur for those that did not repent of their sins and believe in Jesus. The Bible starts in the beginning of time as we know it in the book of Genesis, and ends in the book of Revelation telling us about the end of time as we know it. It is absolutely complete in and of itself, with a very complete, consistent message from start to finish, even though it was written down by dozens of authors over hundreds of years. There are myriad prophecies for instance relating to Jesus' first coming peppered throughout the Old Testament that were written hundreds and hundreds of years apart, that we see fulfilled in Jesus' first coming in the New Testament a long time later. But the Bible is complete in itself as a revelation to mankind from God that tells a complete story from start to finish. The Bible teaches the centrality of faith in Jesus Christ as the way to have our sins forgiven and be made right with God.
Thus, I have a concern with any religion or religious belief that contradicts this. To make a leap from believing in a complete story from start to finish (that even has a DIRE warning from God at the end of the book of Revelation about adding any words to His), to then believing that somehow 1800 years later some guy all of a sudden got some "additional revelation" is quite the stretch. Not only does it make no sense, but it creates all sorts of other logical problems. For instance, if it wasn't until the 1800's that we really got the full and complete revelation (through the pen of Joseph Smith), then what about the people that lived for the previous 1800 years since Jesus declared what was true and the way to be right with God. Jesus did not hint that there would be a further revelation 1800 years later, in fact, quite the opposite - Jesus talked several times (and we also find similar warnings numerous times in the epistles) that there would be deceivers and those with supposedly further revelations, and to not listen to them/to be "on guard" against them. For instance, Jesus said: "Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am he,' and, 'The time is near.' Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away." (Luke 21:8-9). Also see Matthew 24:24a, 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 2 Peter 2:1-3, 1 Timothy 1:3, 2 John 1:7-10, Revelation 22:18, etc. Plus 2 Corinthians 11:13-15a says: "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness."
So, if the revelation was not "complete" until Joseph Smith came on the scene some 1800 years after Jesus Christ was here, what about all the people that were here between Jesus and Joseph Smith? It just doesn't make any sense at all. Jesus Himself gave a clear message to humanity and He didn't leave any room for people to go adding to that core message 1800 years later. The Bible starts at the beginning of this world and ends at the end of this world. What further "revelation" do we need?
I would encourage you to view the videos at http://www.goodnewsforlds.com/video.html to explore this further. It boils down to "Is Jesus Christ enough for you? Or do you also need a man that came on the scene 1800+ years later that introduced all sorts of other doctrines?)
Theologically Mormons do believe in Jesus Christ and the Bible. But they've added a bunch of other doctrines and books and ideas on top of it. Plus, more recently there has been a real push within Mormon circles to portray themselves as "just another Christian denomination" and certain teachings that maybe used to be emphasized more are not as emphasized now. Thus when talking about salvation it can get tricky because salvation is a heart issue. As already established, the Bible makes clear what is necessary for salvation: a faith in Jesus Christ, which is a gift from God (Ephesians 2:8-9) and this faith necessitates repentance of sins and looking to Jesus and His sacrifice for us to forgive us of our sins. But human beings like to add to that simple Bible message and thus you get all these Christian-sounding/related religious teachings that add to that: it's Jesus Christ PLUS you doing enough good works, it's Jesus Christ PLUS you being a member in good-standing of a certain church, it's Jesus Christ PLUS you doing this or doing that....all these rules and traditions and ideas of men that the Bible doesn't teach. Because salvation is a heart issue that comes down to what each person believes or doesn't believe in their heart, sometimes "labels" can be deceiving: the important thing is that a person is solely trusting in Jesus Christ alone, by faith, for salvation and has been "born again" of the Spirit.
Mormon beliefs shift all the time as they constantly downplay certain things and emphasize others, but in general include/have included the following: salvation is partially based on your works, there's different levels in heaven - including getting your own planet (and in fact, that earth itself is just one of these planets that was populated), you can attain godhood and have children in heaven, God the Father is married and there is a Mother God, Every person was conceived and born in a pre-existent spiritual realm, baptism for the dead, Jesus is the brother of Lucifer, black people are black because of their misdeeds in the pre-existence, and lots more.
Again, a whole bunch of other beliefs that are not in the Bible that were added some 1800 years after Christ because of some supposed "new revelations" God gave.
I would encourage you to really consider what you are resting your hope on and your faith in. Below is some additional information that compares Mormon theology with the Bible.
My thoughts & prayers are with you and I wish you all the best. :)
This is version 1.0 of this document (March 20, 2013).
I Bear You My Testimony
A BRIEF HISTORY OF MORMONISM
Joseph Smith, the founder and first prophet of Mormonism, was born on December 23, 1805, in the town of Sharon, Vermont. According to the official account, when Smith was 14, two persons radiating with light appeared to him, identifying themselves as God the Father and Jesus Christ. From them Smith said he received instructions to join no existing religious groups, for they all were evil in God's sight.
Smith later wrote that on the evening of September 21, 1823, an angel named Moroni appeared to him three times. Each time Moroni told Smith that he was sent from God to reveal ancient gold plates inscribed with the history of the inhabitants of the Americas. With the plates were also two "seer" stones used to translate the characters on the plates. The next day Smith allegedly found the plates buried in a hillside near Palmyra, New York, but he was told that they would be given to him only when he became worthy.
According to Smith's writings, he retrieved the golden plates on September 22, 1827. Smith later began translating the plates using the "seer" stones. From these translations the first edition of the Book of Mormon was published in March of 1830.
Smith claimed that in late 1829 or early 1830, the Apostles Peter, James, and John appeared to him and restored the "Melchizedek priesthood." Ordained with this new authority, Joseph organized his church on April 6, 1830. Several years later a number of Smith's followers led by Brigham Young migrated to Utah and built Salt Lake City. From that desert arose the empire now known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I believed that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God and that the LDS Church was the only true church on earth. You see, I was born into an LDS home. My father's side of the family had been members of the Church for four generations. At the age of eight I was baptized into the LDS church and received the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.
From that early age to adulthood, I was involved in many aspects of Mormon life. I tithed and attended Priesthood, fast and testimony, and Sacrament meetings. I also performed my duty in our Family Home Evening and Home Teaching. 1 even obtained my temple recommend and entered the Salt Lake City temple to perform baptism for the dead.
As my commitment increased, a good friend of mine, who was not a member of the Church, became concerned about me. He had been researching the LDS church and shared some facts I didn't know. I began to wonder about my personal salvation. Although I was in good standing with the Church, I was not sure I was keeping all the laws. I also read in the book of Mormon, "...it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do" (2 Nephi 25:23). As a Mormon, I thought I had been trusting Christ as my personal Savior, but I was really trusting my testimony and my good works for salvation. I finally knelt down and admitted to my Heavenly Father that even on my best days I was not perfect. I, like everyone else, was a sinner (Romans 3:23). It was hard, but I told God I was no longer going to trust in my own good works or any church for eternal life. From that time on, I was going to trust His Son Jesus Christ alone to save me from my sins (Acts 4:12, Ephesians 2:8-9).
A TRUE COMPARISON
Mormonism's doctrines are very different from those in the Bible.
The True God
The god I worshiped as a Latter-day Saint was very different from the God of the Bible. I had worshiped "God the Eternal Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost." The names were right - but the god was wrong.
The god that I worshiped as a Latter-day Saint had a body of flesh and bone (D&C 130:22), was a glorified, exalted man (GTA 1945 p.104), and was one of many gods (MD p576-77). I even learned that the Mormon god has Eternal Wives through whom spirit children are born and these children have the potential to become other gods. (Ibid 576,745; Achieving a Celestial Marriage p132).
However, the God of the Bible does not have a body of flesh and bone. "God is a Spirit...; A spirit hath not flesh and bones." He is not a man who was exalted to godhood. "God is not a man...." (John 4:24, Luke 24:39, Numbers 23:19, Psalm 90:2). The God of the Bible has no wife and stands alone as God (Isaiah 43:10, 44:6, 46:9).
Mormonism teaches that Adam's fall in the Garden of Eden was a "fall upward" that was not sinful, but rather was necessary to propagate the human race (JD V13 p145, V10 p312, Pearl of Great Price - Moses 5:10-12, Doctrines of Salvation V1 p114-15). It also says that man has the potential of becoming God, just as Christ did; man is king of kings and lord of lords in embryo (JD V10 p223, History of the Church V6 p306, D&C 76:50-70, 132:20).
However, the Bible says that Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden caused spiritual and physical death for all persons (Genesis 3:16-24, Romans 5:12-14). Mankind's ultimate goal is not godhood, but rather people have been punished precisely because they thought they could make themselves like God. (Ezekiel 28:1-10).
The True Christ
The Christ of the Bible and the Christ Of Mormonism are two completely different persons.
Mormonism says that before Christ's earthly ministry He was the first spirit child born to the Heavenly Father and Mother (MD p278,590). In fact, Mormonism teaches that Satan [Lucifer] was originally the spirit brother of Christ (GTA p15). Mormonism also teaches that God the Father in His glorified physical body had sexual intercourse with the virgin Mary that resulted in the conception of Christ's physical body (MD p547, JD V1 p51, JD V4 p218).
But the Bible teaches that Christ is the only Eternal God, not the product of conception (John 1:1-2). Satan was originally a created angel who led a rebellion against God in heaven (Ezekiel 28:11-19, Colossians 1:16).
Mormonism says that Christ's blood shed on the cross provides for the universal resurrection of all people. Its effectiveness for cleansing personal sin, however, depends on each person's repentance and good works (Third Article of Faith, MD p62,669). In contrast, the Bible says that the blood of Christ shed on the cross was sufficient for the cleansing and forgiveness of all an individual's personal sin (Colossians 2:13, Romans 8:36-39).
The True Gospel
Before I trusted in Christ as my Savior, I followed what Mormonism taught me about getting to heaven. Its gospel - its message about how to get to heaven - included "all of the laws, principles, rites, ordinances, acts, powers, authorities, and keys necessary to save and exalt men in the highest heaven hereafter (MD p331). So Mormonism's full salvation comes through a combination of faith, baptism in the church, and works (Ibid p669-70, Ensign Nov1982 p61, Moroni 10:32-33, 3 Nephi 27:19, Alma 12:16-18;34:32-35).
The Bible's Gospel message focuses on Christ. When He died for us on the cross, we were forgiven and offered eternal life. To avoid any confusion, the Bible clearly explains that the Gospel does not include laws, or ordinances, or works (1 Corinthians 15:1-8, Acts 10:43, John 3:16, Romans 3:19-24, Colossians 2:16-17, Titus 3:5-7).
Both gospels say they lead to eternal life, but each has its own definition of what that eternal life is. In Mormonism, eternal life is the power to attain godhood and have children in heaven. That can be achieved only through obedience to the Mormon church and having one's marriage sealed in a Temple ceremony by the Mormon priesthood (JD V11 p221,269; MD p411). In the Bible, eternal life is entering into an eternal knowledge of and fellowship with God and is achieved by personal faith in Christ as Savior (John 17:3, Romans 3:21-25,6:23, 1 John 5:11-13).
Mormonism and the Bible teach two different messages about getting to heaven. In fact, they are direct opposites. Both can't be true; I had to choose one or the other. How about you?
I urge you to come to the God of the Bible, the only true God (Deuteronomy 4:35,39) He loves you and sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for your sins. You can find wonderful freedom when you admit to God that you are a sinner and trust Christ alone as your Savior (John 3:16, Isaiah 53:6, Acts 13:39, Romans 10:9-13).
"And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life." (1 John 5:11-12 NKJV).