A recent post discussed Mormonism. Here is a more complete statement of the basic case against Mormonism, and other erroneous Christian-like systems.
Our motivation here is not to badmouth Mormons. Their understanding of social order is apparently traditionalist, and we can therefore work with them to promote or restore a more properly-ordered American society.
But we must also uphold Christ. Mormonism has virtues, but it misses something crucial. Let us not miss the crucial.
Our thesis: Mormonism, while Christianoid (Christian-like), fails to be Christianity, because it fails to deliver the real Christ. And the same is true of the other pseudo-Christian groups.
For the essential element of Christianity is God forgiving all our sins through our repentance and faith in Christ (and because of Who Christ is and what He did.) But this forgiveness requires faith in the real Christ, not a counterfeit. And since the Bible repeatedly warns us to guard against counterfeits, we know they exist. Mormonism, like the other forms of pseudo-Christianity such as Liberal Christianity, does not give forgiveness of sins because it does not deliver the real Christ. Therefore, despite its virtues, it is not Christian.
[Mormonism may accurately be described as Christian in a cultural sense, or in a general sense. But in the crucial sense of offering salvation, it is not Christian.]
The basic problem here is that man has a natural tendency to look for a different savior because he finds the biblical description inadequate:
Some hold that the Christian God is too abstract and complicated, with its Trinity that is one God but three distinct Persons, and its Savior Who is both completely God and completely man. These people want a simpler and more tangible savior, or at least a simpler and more tangible description of the Savior.
Some hold that the imputation of our sins to Christ and of Christ’s righteousness to us is unjust and absurd. These people want a simpler system based on God commanding and us obeying.
Some hold that Christianity, with its justification (God’s declaration of our righteousness) by faith alone demoralizes man by denying him a role in salvation. These people want to earn salvation, either explicitly, through the accumulation of good deeds, or implicitly, through a religion that emphasizes religious activity rather than faith in the Savior.
Some hold that while the Bible contains much ancient wisdom, it is outdated in many ways. These people want a Christianity that retains biblical language but agrees with the spirit of the times.
And some, seeing the bad state of current Christian culture, hold that traditional Christianity is largely a failure. These people want an institutional Christianity that appears culturally successful.
[This objection, unlike those above, is at least based on a true premise. Current Christian culture is in a deplorable state. But this is not a valid reason to contradict the teachings of Christ.]
These objections all miss the mark. Since the Bible is God speaking to us it is adequate to save man, and traditional Christianity does not to be adjusted. The desire to do so can lead to heresy and damnation.
We know that God forgiving our sins is the sine qua non of Christianity for these reasons, among others:
In the evangelistic sermons recorded in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles are summarizing the essential message of Christ. They are speaking to unbelievers, and they have limited time to make their case. They must quickly get to the essential point.
And we read that the essential point is for you to know the most important facts about Jesus, and then to repent, have faith (i.e., trust) in Christ, and be baptized, all for the forgiveness of your sins.
Also, no other religion offers the certainty of the forgiveness of our sins. Nowhere else is it clearly spelled out “Do X, Y and Z, and God will forgive all your sins.” The assurance of the forgiveness of sins is uniquely Christian.
We must also answer the question, “Why become a Christian rather than a member of any other religion? What makes Christianity unique?”
Obviously, Jesus makes Christianity unique, but what’s unique about Jesus? Not that he was a religious teacher, that he gathered disciples, that he founded a religion, or that he suffered what might be called martyrdom. Jesus is unique because he is God the Son, and because his death and Resurrection forgive our sins and make us righteous.
For these reasons, the essential element of Christianity is God forgiving our sins.
And why does Mormonism fail to deliver the forgiveness of sins? Because forgiveness requires the real Jesus. And Mormonism fails to deliver the real Jesus, for these reasons:
The New Testament repeatedly affirms that
Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. [Acts 4:12]
To have salvation, you must have Jesus Christ.
And you must have the real Jesus, not a counterfeit. The New Testament repeatedly warns us not to be deceived by false Apostles, false gospels, and even false Christ. These warnings prove that counterfeits exist, that they fail to deliver salvation, and also that we are capable of knowing them to be counterfeits.
How do we know them to be counterfeits? Scripture identifies the test as fidelity to the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, as recorded in Scripture. Those who contradict what Scripture says about Christ are not giving us the real Jesus.
Theology therefore matters. If Mormonism does not accurately describe the real Jesus (and it doesn’t), then Mormonism cannot save.
To know that the Jesus of Mormonism is different from the real Jesus, you must know about both the real Jesus and the competing savior taught by Mormonism. The basic difference is twofold: Whereas the real Jesus is the eternal Second Person of the Triune Godhead, as described in the Bible, the Mormon Jesus is a created being, not identical to, and inferior to, God the Father. And whereas the real Jesus atoned for all our sins on the Cross, the Mormon Jesus only atoned for some of them. For good summaries of the differences, see here and here. And see here for further quotes from Mormon authorities demonstrating that their Jesus does not atone for all your sins.
There are, of course, many other differences. We only identify the most important here.
[When consulting Mormon sources, one should be somewhat wary. Mormons often strive to express their beliefs in a way that sounds like orthodox Christianity, and it can take some investigation to discover that they have changed the meanings of key concepts.]
We should also mention that at its inception, and for many years afterward, Mormonism claimed that all the existing Christian sects had become corrupt, and that God had chosen Joseph Smith to deliver His message correcting institutional Christianity. Mormonism acknowledged that it had a different Jesus, and it claimed that it had the real Jesus.
In recent years the leadership of Mormonism has apparently decided to downplay the original militant message and to direct its followers, when possible, to present Mormonism as just another Christian denomination. This ecumenism is also in keeping with the spirit of the times, so it comes naturally to most people, Mormons included. But when push comes to shove, Mormons acknowledge their system to be different.
For more theological details, we recommend beginning with “The Kingdom of the Cults,” by Walter Martin. All of the editions do a good job of describing Mormonism and its basic errors; later editions have coauthors.
[The word “cult” is perhaps unnecessarily lurid, but it does express an important truth: There do exist false religions.]
Next, read books presenting Christian theology. These are the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, presented nearly two thousand years ago, and of the Old Testament, which is older still. Then read what Mormon theology, the newcomer, has to say.
And note that both of these basic problems also apply to the other pseudo-Christian bodies, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Liberal Christians. Their Jesus has a different identity from the biblical Jesus (liberals see Him as just a human being and the Jehovah’s Witnesses see Him as a created godlike being), and their Jesus does not atone for all sins. Even if they claimed that he did, their Jesus, not being the real Jesus, cannot atone for sins.
So we need faith in the real Jesus in order to be saved. The reader may ask “How much theological accuracy do we need in order to be saved?”
This is not the right question. There is no clear-cut boundary demarcating the region of salvation, for if there were one then Scripture would have told us. So why take chances? Learn for yourself as much as you can about the real Jesus, by reading the Bible and consulting competent teachers to help you understand it.
And then trust in Him alone for the forgiveness of your sins.