Research of and Discussions within Mormonism: 1

This is part of a collection of the questions and discussions I came up with while researching the claims of Mormonism, reading their books and discussions had with their missionaries.

What is the Gospel (Good News)? This was one of the questions I had asked when meeting with three Mormons one evening. The answer was that Jesus is the Christ and that He atones for our sins. But further questioning revealed that this is a universal claim (pertaining to everyone) in their view. Because of His sacrifice all will have a resurrection but there are three heavens that people would attain to based upon works, efforts, and strivings. So almost like Pelagianism, Arminianism, and the New Pauline Perspective, Jesus makes salvation merely possible by dying on the cross. To actually get into heaven or stay “in good standing” with God is totally up to you and your abilities or works. There was nothing about living a life of gratitude within the grace of God. Like most the other groups mentioned above, grace is dangerous and if we are totally free and 100% righteous due to the substitution of Christ, then they see no point to righteous living in this life. There must be works factored into the equation of salvation for them so as to stir up good works and to maintain discipline.

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19 responses to “Research of and Discussions within Mormonism: 1

  1. NMack

    Hello Brother,

    I have spent a good amount of time reading up on Mormons -my extended family mostly lives in Utah and are temple going LDS (I am not.) It can be rather frustrating speaking with or witnessing to them since, as I am sure you know, they use similar words far out of context or biblical sense. In all my failures, trials and errors in speaking with them, I have found something rather helpful. History.

    Though most Mormons know nothing of their own history, they tend to rely heavily, let me rewrite that: HEAVILY, on a candy-coated history that is taught and reinforced to them on a weekly basis. Behind this poor self-history is an equally poor history of our faith, that of Christianity… the faith old Joe Smith was purported to protest against and even “restore.” It is at this point I have found a most helpful stepping stone. They believe, as many cults and new age movements (and some fundamentalist KJ only Christian folk, sadly) that orthodox, historical Christianity is unknowable. It has been lost, corrupted, defeated, and so now, lo and behold, a restoration has come in purity and truth, all with a shiny new gloss seen only by a subjective faith in arbitrary standards and prophecies.

    They reject the trinity, they reject the Bible. They say otherwise, but they do in reality reject pretty much every orthodox, historical Christian belief. And they know nothing, typically, of real Christian history. They buy into the mainstream and old argument that our beloved doctrines did not exist as they do today prior to Constantine, prior to Rome on a rampage, prior to (insert conspiracy or corruption of your choice.) The same arguments non-believers (and popular authors or film directors) use to cast doubt on the canon are used by Mormons, and even by the first Mormons. It is the foundation of their faith.

    At this point I step on a stone. I tell them of the councils, why they happened and what they were trying to do. I tell them of the early church fathers, many whom write on the trinity, on the 4 gospels, counteracting the gnostics, etc. I work my way back to Paul, and then to the Word from Jesus.

    I do not know if this is proper, but I have found my backward method very helpful in speaking with Mormons. I am not trying to convince them, as if some factual knowledge is all they need, I am simply tearing down strongholds. Every single historical claim is a direct challenge to the foundation of their faith, to the words of their first prophet and every one since. This alone is enough to get many to shut down conversation, which is sad, and they whip out the “your truth/my truth,” subjective line. But as I am going through tidbits of history, I am also speaking of grace, sacrifice, how Jesus fulfilled the Temple/Israel ordinances, how our works are as filthy rags, etc., but all this through historical Christians and in their words.

    If they pick up a history book that is not from LDS officials, if they start reading the NT again in this light, that is enough. The seed was planted.

    • NMack

      A follow up to my previous post:

      I have learned, through experience, to never get into a theological discussion with an LDS that resembles one I would have with say, an arminian or pelagian. I honestly feel bad comparing Arminians and pelagians with LDS, and I do not intend to do so.

      What results, if I do engage in such a way, is a miscommunication, a semantic cat and mouse where there is no cat and the mouse is, in fact, a dog. I tend to avoid this completely, and it pains me to see the youtube videos of well-intentioned evangelicals meeting with mormons, discussing doctrine without definition. It pains me because, having been around mormons a lot, I know that these theological discussions tend to reinforce their beliefs, since they see themselves as having a like-minded but better understanding of us poor, corrupted trinitarians. The truth is sad, and that evangelicals don’t understand this is doubly sad: mormons are not christians who are just in an odd denomination, they are not christians. I would start at that point, as you would for any non-believer who has little to no knowledge of the Christian faith.

      • Hello, and thanks for reading and commenting!

        I agree with your points and will get to some of these in greater detail in future posts. You are very correct in that they are not taught history except through their own filters. They know little about Smith, and anything about the early America’s is oblivious to them. From my discussions they are not even allowed on the internet except for brief supervised periods. From what they have told me, they are not taught apologetics the way any Christian seminary would. Meaning they are not allowed interaction with materials that would teach or challenge Mormon doctrine.

        Also it is different approach from writing about challenges to their positions from when I have them face-to-face. So I hope my tone does not insist that I grill Mormons. I simply ask them questions that I hope will drive them to study, read and pray.

        You are correct in that we may not teach them these “facts” of scripture in order to save them via an intellectual argument. We are to make use of Scripture so as to silence teachings that would raise its head up against God (2 Cor. 10:5).

  2. Hi

    I’m struggling to get the point you are making in your initial post. I am a mormon, and as I understand the gospel (that taught within the Bible), the gospel simply is our salvation through Christ. We are saved by grace.

    However, having been saved, we ought to live the teachings of the gospel. At the end of this life, we will be held accountable for how we have lived ie. we will be judged. That doesn’t mean we have “earned” anything. We have not. We can never earn our salvation or rewards in heaven as these have been freely given to us.

    Perhaps you can clarify for me what you are trying to allege?

    As for your claim that we are “not allowed interaction with materials that would teach or challenge Mormon doctrine.” and we “are not even allowed on the internet except for brief supervised periods”…. please don’t tell me you genuinely think this?..gave me a laugh at least.

    • Hello Dan,

      As far as not being allowed to research other materials goes, it was what I was told in part by the three visiting Mormons, and inferred from their lack of knowledge about the history and life of Smith, the event surrounding the Pearl of Great Price, historic and modern Christian authors and history.

      As for the saved part, what of your life will be judged if Christ paid for all sin? In other words if we are imputed with Christ’s righteousness, we have no works to answer for. He is our substitute for this life. In this manner, our salvation is our justification before God, as if having lived a perfectly sinless life.

      In our daily life, our process of sanctification (becoming more Christ like), we do works of gratitude for what Christ has done on our behalf, but this neither adds to our rank and status, or takes away from our reward of heaven (Luke 17:10).

    • NMack

      Dan…

      You posted: “As for your claim that we are “not allowed interaction with materials that would teach or challenge Mormon doctrine.” and we “are not even allowed on the internet except for brief supervised periods”…. please don’t tell me you genuinely think this?..gave me a laugh at least.”

      I would agree with you, that officially mormons are allowed freedom to learn and seek truth, as there is no formal restriction. A while back there was even an article in Ensign which I recall stated as much. HOWEVER, and here is the crux of the matter, what the LDS officials state and what is the reality in the local wards is an entirely different matter. There is a dominant culture of restriction on free thought throughout the entire mormon culture (this is a judgement call on my part.) This culture spreads from the top down, not from the bottom up. On paper, and in the press, mormon officials talk a good game. The reality is not so. This is understandable, however, as there is much in the mormon history that is rather damaging, and this tendency to restrict thought existed since Joe Smith and was heightened by Young.

      Now there are some at BYU, for example, who are able to write intelligent and critical papers on mormon history, and I hope this trend continues. This is an exception, however, to the rule.

      I have never met a mormon who was not able to use the internet, but I have met many a mormon who did not want to read or even hear contradictory truth claims in fear of losing their standing in a ward, in fear of losing their reputation, in fear of losing their family cohesion, in fear of losing their rewards, in fear of losing their “salvation.” I have never met a temple going mormon who did not fear being labeled a Jack. I have seen mormons weeping over fear of losing “blessings” in “heaven.” I have seen mormons literally cup their ears and yell for me to be quiet as I am simply asking historical questions.

      Now, I know this does not represent all mormons, but I think it represents the culture and reality beneath the gloss.

      • NMack,

        All you have said there could just as easily be directed at Christians in general. I can find many many Christians who appear ‘ignorant’ of what they ought to actually believe.. and if you question them, they may not know the answers! they may not have read sufficiently! – and may not be willing to do so.

        That is also true of Mormons… but it is not because of their being Mormon. It is because of who they are as individuals, and this would remain the case whether they be Methodists, Baptists… even Muslims.

        The church does not restrict reading and research. It rather encourages it. I have read plenty in the past myself – I used to study anti-mormon literature – out of interest, however I hardly have the time for any ‘worthwhile’ study these days, so it’s been a while!

  3. Hi

    Whoever it was that spoke to you certainly gave you the wrong impression about our freedom to research. There are many Mormon apologists who spend their times reading and responding to a variety of topics to do with the church. Many of these are ‘contentious’ issues, and by their nature require an educated response.

    As for the salvation part, can you tell me what you understand the final judgement to be about then – when we are brought before our Saviour?

    • The final judgment will be the final separation of believers from unbelievers; believers passing into eternal life and all others unto eternal separation and punishment hell (Matthew 25:31-33). For unbelievers, all their works condemn them at every turn (Matt. 25:41-46). The works of believers, being covered in the blood of Christ, are acceptable before God and rewarded as pure, only for the sake of Christ, and of grace and mercy are we awarded anything according to our deeds (Matthew 25:34-40; Matthew 20:1-16; Luke 17:10; 1 Corinthians 15:10). In return please provide your understanding of the final judgment.

      I’ll ask a question now. Are all (the whole world) “saved” by Christ’s work on the cross, or just those who have Faith in Him? In short, please define salvation by grace.

      For other readers it should be understood that there is an ambiguity within this chain of discussion going on. Similar words are being used, grace, salvation… and yet Mormons hold to and define them differently than does the Christian. The doctrine of the person and work of Christ, the Trinity and all other teachings are thus systematically affected by these and other definitions.

      • Firstly, you and I both know that Mormons are Christian. We may have differently explanations for some biblical terms than other Christians, but so does every church.

        From what I gather, you believe that the judgement is merely a seperation of believers and unbelievers? Effectively then, the “judgement” is merely one question – “do you believe?” – and I find that to be a wholly ineffective judgement. Jesus himself said (Matt 7:21-23):

        “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

        Thus it is clear that ‘calling on the name of the Lord’ is not itself sufficient for one to enter the kingdom of heaven. The Lord expects those who have faith in him to ‘do the will of his Father’, that is to live the teachings. You may call these “works” or whatever else…

        My understanding of salvation is just that. We are saved by grace. The whole world has been saved through Jesus Christ. The atheists, the Muslims… everyone. The gate has been opened. The sin that bound them down has been removed. Is that it? – job done? not quite. Whilst we are all saved by grace, we are required to ‘do our best’ to live the teachings of the gospel. This is the judgement.

        2 Corinthians 5:10 says:

        “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

        So, going back to what I said at the start. We are saved by grace. That means we are clean enough to enter the kingdom of Heaven. But will we get there?? that is dependent on how we live our life. That is dependent on whether we have done good or bad – and for which Christ will judge us.

        Then, and only then…. may we be fortunate to hear his words allowing us to enter the kingdom of heaven.

      • Sorry, but it is directly on this misconception of salvation and the doctrine of Christ that the whole of Christendom does not accept Mormons to be “Christian” and thus not saved in believing these things. Telling Christians you are one of us is a lie, and honest Mormons know there is a huge gulf of doctrine separating us (as these and future posts are pointing out).

        Your Matt. 7 reference does not support your position. A full exegesis of the passage would confirm that to do the will of God is to obey every command, without exception. This is not possible (the parabolic point Jesus is trying to make.). What is the will of the Father is that we must believe on His Son. This is the theme of the Gospels:

        “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
        – John 20:30-31

        You can’t get much clearer than that. So your appeal to morality and works only condemns you for trying (See book of Galatians). It is not the workings or merits that earn anything. Faith will produce good works, but they never merit anything from God. Doing our best is never good enough; it is a pile of filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6). It is only the gate of faith that has been opened. Clean enough to enter is only to be perfect as God and Christ is perfect, which is why He must substitute Himself for us, and by imputation we can profess to be saints.

  4. Regardless of what you say, I remain a Christian. I believe in Jesus Christ, and know him to be my Saviour. I am not the same a you.. but as I am a Christian, what does that make you?

    As for your understanding that all you have to do is believe… then so be it. But may I remind you that as James said, even the devils believe. Are they saved?

    You play it your way. For me, I will believe, and do the will of my Father. The will of my Father is not merely “belief in Jesus” as you assume, but to do his works. To live the gospel principles. To follow the commandments. I am not perfect, and I will not be 100% obedient, but I will do my best – and that is what is required. Jesus said he was going about doing the ‘will of his father’ – was that to merely believe in himself??

    You choose to believe.
    I choose to believe AND live the gospel teachings.

    At the end of this life, we shall see which one of us was correct in our understanding. On the basis that I will do more than ‘just believe’… I think there’s substantially less risk.

    As for the overall message, it is you that is changing and downgrading the terms of salvation – not the Mormons. Fortunately, most Christians I know and have encountered do not believe salvation to be as you interpret it.

    • An example of other Christians who understand the message of salvation as I have explained above: http://www.teachingtruth.org/bible-articles/doing-the-will-of-the-father.php

    • Within Christian circles there is an understanding of faith as being of Justification and Sanctification unto good works. Christians at times have confused the two and maybe present a mixture of them at times, and yet Mormons take Sanctification and turn it into your justification. This is not acceptable to scripture and all churches I have ever been to and sat under have taught that Faith saves, not including works. Yet as the book of James indicates a living faith will naturally produce works. Mormons take James and all the commandment passages to the neglecting of the faith and belief passages. I have Faith and works, and yet it is only by faith that I am united to Christ. My works do nothing towards my justification.

      Even the website you produced says nothing about the distinction above. The author states, “Did building an ark take away from God’s grace or Noah’s faith? Absolutely Not!!! The instruction to build it was a product of God’s grace and Noah’s compliance was his work of faith.” The building was a product of his faith. So again the belief comes first for full and total justification, and sanctification follows but as children we do not face judgment of them for any penalty of hell or a lower heaven.

      There is simply no comparison with true Christianity and the barely 190 year old Mormonism invented by Smith. You’re clouded in judgment by the books and ideas you have attached to the Bible, and so read into and from the Bible only what you want to hear and not what it really says for hope and faith.

      Lastly you are Mormon (not sure which camp from the split they just had) and not Christian, and the rest of history and scripture testifies to the differences, regardless of your burning bossom feelings. The Mormon Christ is not the Christ of the Bible (triune and singular, no other Gods before or to be after of this or any other worlds). I choose to believe and rest in Christ’s work for my justification, AND I have works that I do not rely on, but perform for God and His people out of gratitude, for a full and free salvation. On the basis that you trust in your works is a direct flaw of the Gospel message, so work all you want. I even admit that you’re a very moralistic and upstanding group, but aside from faith alone for justification, it means nothing. You try to make it seem like I have faith and you have works, and yet your works are void of true and saving faith.

      Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”
      John 6:29

      “But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.”– Galatians 2:17-21

  5. NMack

    manx…

    “Firstly, you and I both know that Mormons are Christian.”
    That brings up the question: What is a Christian? The burden is not on any orthodox Christian to “prove” the teachings of the LDS prophets wrong, the burden is on mormons to prove that Christianity was corrupted or the teachings had to be “restored.” I see zero evidence of this. Rather than get into a debate about what salvation is, etc., though that is crucial, why not state what is it that was lost, corrupted, or miss-taught, that Smith and all the leaders of the LDS restored? It is at this point where a huge chasm exists. This chasm separates Christians from mormons, since the teachings of mormonism is based on said assumption, which contradicts the teachings of the Apostles, of Jesus Himself, and most every early church father.

    • You are right, that does bring up the question – “What is a Christian?”, but your post does nothing to provide an answer to it.

      • NMack

        Manx…

        I am simply asking you what you define as Christian, as well as what was lost or corrupted that Smith and succeeding LDS leaders had to restore? These are simple historical questions, and I am truly interested in your opinion on these matters.
        –NMack

  6. NMack

    Manx…
    —–Also, if you say being a Christian simply means following the teachings of Christ, please define what you take them to mean as well as who you define Christ to be?

    This will help clarify any confusion on my part. Thanks
    –NMack

  7. NMack

    Manx…

    Though you likely have moved on already from this discussion, if you happen to check back again anytime soon please know that this sentence that you wrote above in response to Dr. John saddens me:

    Quote:—–“Jesus said he was going about doing the ‘will of his father’ – was that to merely believe in himself?”——

    This is sad because it shows a lack of knowledge of Who Jesus was, and what He did. I hope that, in truth, you will come to believe in the Jesus who did everything you could not do, who did everything Adam should have done, and who, while we were yet sinners, died for us, not for any other reason that His good pleasure and His purposes, that he may be glorified with the Father and the Spirit. If you are viewing this wonderful fullness of deity in bodily form as simply a man who progressed to said point, that is saddening. It does, in fact, show a works based salvation inherent in mormonism which blatantly contradicts the good news, the gospel, and is anything but Christian.

    Something else to ponder…what was Jesus’ mission? What did He do and why did He have to do it? This goes back to my earlier question, just who, in fact, was this Man? The Old Testament, the New Testament depict a very different Jesus than what Joe Smith and each LDS leader wrote since the 1800s. John, Paul, Peter, Matthew, Luke, Mark, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Moses, Hosea, David, Solomon, all depict a very different Jesus, a very different God than Smith and his offshoots. More importantly, Jesus depicts Himself in His own words and the Spirit depicts Jesus differently than Smith and his offshoots. I am truly sorry, but as Dr. John stated already, mormons are not Christians (even early mormons said this, if you wanted to read your own history for kicks.) As such, mormons are still under Adam, and as such, are still under the wrath of God.

    Christians, however, are no longer under the law, but grace. They are under the blood of the second “Adam”, Jesus. They are under His works, His righteousness, His name. Everything we do is thanks, everything we do is out of love for the One who saved and “worked,” who did the Law perfectly, who took our sin upon his flesh (not the whole world, but those who the Father gave Him,) and suffered the death we deserved. He was raised from the dead because he had no sin, he was truly justified, he truly “worked.” It is because of his grace, his UNMERITED favor of those who are his, that any man is saved. God chooses to give some a saving faith, as a GIFT, so that everything they have, is from God, and nothing is of themselves. This is not a reason for easy believe-ism, but humble face-in-dirt thankfulness, and a willingness to follow even unto death. A Christian is given the gift of faith, faith in Christ’s works and Christ’s justification, faith in Jesus as Lord of the Sabbath, King of Kings, in short…God. He was not a man who did his best and became a God, He always was and always will be God with the Father and with the Spirit as One. There was no God before him, there will never be one after. Christians work because while they were yet sinners, Christ died for them, and sent the Spirit to them so that they could be one with Christ just as he is one with the Father and the Spirit. This never means that man can become God, but that God chose to come down, in the flesh, and redeem those who were His…those who could not and would not save themselves.

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