What Must I Do To Be Saved?
Proclaiming the
GOSPEL
in Utah

Mormonism is definitely in the news lately – two of its adherents are running for President of the United States so it was bound to come up eventually. What brought it to the fore was comments by Robert Jeffress, pastor of a Baptist church in Dallas, TX. While introducing Gov. Rick Perry, Jeffress said, “I think Mitt Romney is a good, moral man, but those of us who are born again followers of Christ should prefer a competent Christian.” He added that Mormonism is a cult.

Various candidates were asked what they thought of Jeffress’ comments:

  • Bachman: “We have religious tolerance in this country and we can understand that people have different views on their faith.” (note: she is is a professing Christian)
  • Gingrich: “I think he’s a Mormon and Mormons define themselves as a branch of Christianity.” (note: he is a professing Roman Catholic)
  • Cain: “He’s a Mormon. That much I know. I am not going to do an analysis of Mormonism versus Christianity.” (note: he is associate pastor of a Baptist church)
  • Huntsman, “He [Jeffress] is a moron.” (note: he is a Mormon)

Is Mormonism a Cult?

Each of the other candidates’ comments is interesting in and of itself but here I want to stick to the original lightning rod comment. In order to analyze Jeffress’ comments we must determine a few things: 1) what does it mean to be ‘good’? 2) are Christians distinguished from Mormons? 3) is Mormonism a cult?

What does it Mean to be Good?

Jeffress definitely mis-spoke here, or at least he was being vague in his terminology. If he really believes that Mormons are not Christians and Mormonism is a cult, then it is inconsistent for him to say that Mr. Romney is “good”. Jesus himself said that no one is good but God (Mark 10.18). Further New Testament teaching instructs us that those who have received the imputed righteousness of Christ are also good: Christ is God, in being born again a person receives Christ’s goodness, therefore a born again Christian is “good”.

It would be accurate to describe Mr. Romney as “decent” or “respectable”; no doubt he is kind to his wife and children, doesn’t berate the mail man or indiscriminately kick his neighbor’s dog. All those things make him a decent man but they do not make him “good” before a most holy God.

Are Christians distinguished from Mormons?

Ahh, here is the real controversy! Mormonism began when Joseph Smith claimed to have received visions from God, one of which instructed him that all the churches on the face of the earth were an abomination so Smith needed to re-start the church afresh – eventually called “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”. In so far as today’s mainstream “Christian churches” are similar to the churches of Smith’s day, and in so far as today’s Mormonism is similar to the religious organization that Smith founded, yes, Christians are distinguished from Mormons.

It is beyond the scope of this article to fully explain the continuity between the Christian churches of today and those of Smith’s day. Suffice it to say that then as now the Christian church believes in the Trinity, the sole authority of the inerrant Bible, and other key doctrines.

It is also beyond the scope of this article to fully explain the continuity and discontinuity between the work that Smith began and the present Mormon religion. Suffice it to say that today’s Mormonism does not believe in the Trinity, does not believe the Bible is inerrant, does not believe the Bible is the sole authority, along with other key tenants.

I hope the point is clear. Mormonism is not the same as Biblical Christianity. Now we could debate whether the label Christian should be properly applied to one group or another, but it is noteworthy to observe that only recently has Mormonism tried earnestly to reclaim that title. For decades (over a century and a half) they have been content to say “you Christians” and “us Latter Day Saints”. Only recently have they begun to say “us Christians”.

Is Mormonism a Cult?

Likely this is where Jeffress really ruffles some feathers: the word “cult” is provocative and stirs up emotions. The word often brings to mind images of zombie-like people in robes with shaved heads who blindly follow their leader in a suicide pact. I am certain Jeffress does not think Mormons are like that. However, a more nuanced definition of “cult” may well bear out his ascription of the label to Mormonism.

One helpful definition / framework for determining whether a group is a cult follows the format “Add – Subtract – Multiply – Divide”:

ADD – Does the group add to the Scriptures?

For thousands of years there has been no serious question as to the true content of the Holy Bible, the Scriptures. God entrusted the Jews of Old with the Hebrew Scriptures who transmitted it to the 1st Century Christ followers who, under divine instruction, added the Greek Scriptures we now call the New Testament.

On the other hand, cult groups routinely add to the Scriptures. Mormons add the Book of Mormon, the Doctrines and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. It is plain for all to see that Mormonism ADDS to the Scriptures. The key question is, are they warranted in doing so? The simple answer is, No.

A proper Doctrine of Scripture shows that the Canon was closed for four centuries before Christ, opened again during his earthly ministry, and closed again when Jerusalem was sacked by Rome in 70AD. (See this article on the Doctrine of Scripture)

SUBTRACT – Does the group diminish the deity of any member of the Godhead?

A linchpin doctrine of biblical religion is the Trinity: there is only one God, the living and true God who exists in three persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), of the same substance, equal in power and glory. They are not three Gods; they are one God. God has always been God and is (was & will forever be) fundamentally different than man.

Mormonism teaches that there are many, many gods. Key among them are Heavenly Father and his son, the Savior Jesus Christ who’s brother is Lucifer (Satan). God was once a man and has been exalted to his present position. Mormonism holds out the hope that man can be similarly exalted and become a God.

It should be abundantly clear that a fundamental characteristic of deity – uniqueness – is lost in Mormonism. God is not truly God if there is a plethora (or at least a multiplicity) of Gods. For God to be one among many Gods is to make him a god among gods. This subtracts from his deity. The God of the Bible says he is the one true God, there are no others. No creature, no man, no animal, no angel comes close.

MULTIPLY – Does the group multiply works for salvation?

The terminology gets a bit tricky here. Mormons and Bible-based Christians use the word “salvation” differently. It may be wise to use the term “eternal life” since it is used in approximately the same way in both religions.

The Bible teaches than man obtains eternal life as a gracious gift from God. All men are born in sin and as such are estranged from God. Christ’s death on the cross took the penalty due to his people and Christ’s sinless life achieved perfect righteousness that is given to his people. The result is that his people are forgiven of their sin and have perfect righteousness – thus they are fit for eternal life with God in heaven. Those who are thus saved from their sin and inherit eternal life will definitely do good works out of gratitude for this marvelous gift.

Mormonism teaches that the Atonement of Christ restores all men to a status whereby their actions then determine their worthiness for eternal life. A person who obeys all the ordinances and commandments of the Mormon religion will obtain the best position in eternal life. A person who does not obey them is relegated to a lower position in the next life.

Clearly Mormonism says that the best eternal life requires works; salvation by Christ’s Atonement is not enough. The Bible says works will happen, but they are not required as a prerequisite for being destined to heaven; they are the result of salvation not the cause of salvation.

DIVIDE – Does the group divide members from the Savior by interposition of a hierarchy?

The Bible teaches that the redeemed sinner has access with boldness and confidence. He does not need a ritual or a person to mediate between him and his God.

Mormonism puts a mortal man in the place of God’s voice on earth. Mormonism has constructed an elaborate set of rituals (complete with secret signs) that are necessary for man to get to God.

Satan would gladly have people earnestly seek the “Savior” by listening to this special person and following these special rituals.

Conclusion

By this definition of “cult” we see that Mormonism fits the bill. No doubt there are other definitions whereby Mormonism is not a cult. Therefore I suggest it is better to speak of true and false religion. The religion of the Bible is the one true religion. Mormonism is a false religion because it diverges from key biblical doctrines. I wish Joseph Smith had read his Bible better, then he would have known that verbal innerrant revelation had ceased, there is one God in three persons, salvation is by grace alone, and we have direct access to God by our irreplaceable eternal High Priest: Jesus Christ. Clinging to these truths it is easy to distinguish between genuine religion that brings life and the impostor that leads to death.

Category: Apologetics

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