Replies to 21 Questions Answered About the Mormon Faith

Because of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign raising all kinds of questions about the Mormon faith, the Mormon church has issued “21 Questions Answered About Mormon Faith,” which, in my opinion, do a fine job of carefully avoiding any clear answers of the real questions people are asking about the oddities of Mormonism.

I’m not going to reply to all 21 questions, instead I’ll only highlight a few of the more significant ones from the document.

Q:Why do some call the Church a cult?

A: For the most part, this seems to stem from a lack of understanding about the Church and its core doctrines and beliefs. Under those circumstances it is too easy to label a religion, or other organization that is not well-known, with an inflammatory term like, “cult.” Famed scholar of religion Martin Marty has said, a cult means a church you don’t personally happen to like. We don’t believe any organization should be subjected to a label that has come to be as pejorative as that one.

Actually, the reason Christians consider Mormonism a cult is not because we don’t like them, but precisely because we do understand it’s core doctrines and beliefs and find them to be in contradiction to 2,000 years of Christian orthodoxy. This is why evangelical Christians consider Mormonism a cult. While the term “cult” has been used by various groups in various ways in history, the modern usage of the term has arisen out of evangelical debates against groups which hold to views that evangelical Christians view as heretical – that is, that they believe things that are in contradiction to the fundamental tenants of Christianity. Christians believe that Mormonism is guilty of exactly that. Mormons clearly don’t like being called a cult, but to imply that the reason Christians consider them such is because we simply don’t like them, is to misrepresent the real reasons. For more on this issue, see Al Mohler’s debate with Mormon author Orson Scott Card here. (recommended reading, but listed in reverse order on the page.)

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God?
Q: Does the church believe in the divinity of Jesus?
Q: Does the church believe that God is a physical being?

A: Mormons believe Jesus Christ is literally the Son of God, the Savior and Redeemer, who died for the sins of humankind, and rose from the dead on the third day with an immortal body. God, the Father, also has an immortal body.

All 3 questions receive this same stock answer. In saying that Jesus is “literally” the Son of God, they seem to be implying that Jesus is to be considered the offspring of God, not the eternally existing second person of the Trinity, who is the same in essence and in attributes with the Father and the Holy Spirit. In fact, Mormons are not not even monotheistic. They would be considered polytheistic – they believe in many gods, among whom are Jehovah and Christ, along with many others. They happen to also believe that Lucifer and Jesus were both born as the offspring of God, thus spirit brothers, although only Jesus became flesh. Their concept of God also includes some kind of “immortal” body, something the most ancient creeds of Christians have repudiated as heresy. So, their view of God and Christ are not in harmony with orthodox Christian teaching.

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe its followers can become “gods and goddesses” after death?

A: We believe that the apostle Peter’s biblical reference to partaking of the divine nature and the apostle Paul’s reference to being “joint heirs with Christ” reflect the intent that children of God should strive to emulate their Heavenly Father in every way. Throughout the eternities, Mormons believe, they will reverence and worship God the Father and Jesus Christ. The goal is not to equal them, or to achieve parity with them, but to imitate and someday acquire their perfect goodness, love and other divine attributes.

So, the answer is, “Yes, we do believe that followers can become ‘gods and goddesses’.” The Scripture texts they appeal to in order to support this heretical doctrine are used in complete disregard to standard, well-known, widely-accepted rules of interpretation of Scripture. This again reveals their heretical doctrine of the nature of God, and additionally of the nature of man. Christians believe that when a person believes on Christ for salvation from sin, that the Holy Spirit indwells each believer, giving them a new heart with new inclinations toward righteousness. Christians do not believe that people can become a god in any way, shape, or form. This is another reason they are considered a cult, namely, because they reject the Christian doctrines of God, man, and salvation. The above statement also reveals their approach to salvation: emulating God. That’s another way of saying that your works save you, or at least make you eligible for god status.

Q: Can someone who may never marry in life have eternal marriage?

A: God will not withhold blessings from any of his children who may not have the opportunity to marry in this life.

Mormons believe that marriage is experienced in the eternal state, something Jesus clearly contradicts in Matthew 22:29-30 – “Jesus answered and said to them, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.””

Q: Does the Mormon Church believe Jesus appeared in North America after his crucifixion and resurrection?

A: The appearance of Jesus in the Western hemisphere shortly after his resurrection is described in the Book of Mormon. Mormons believe that when Christ told his disciples in the Bible He had other “sheep” who should receive his message he was referring to those people in the Western Hemisphere.

Christians flatly reject this claim as heretical. Furthermore, Jesus’ reference to “other sheep” in John 10 was to Gentiles, not merely to people in the Western Hemisphere. To interpret it the way Mormons have done is to run against the clearest and simplest of hermenutical principles that take into account the immediate context of Jesus’ words.

Q: If so, when did this happen? And under what circumstances?

A: The appearance of Jesus in the Western hemisphere shortly after his resurrection is described in the Book of Mormon. Mormons believe that when Christ told his disciples in the Bible He had other “sheep” who should receive his message he was referring to those people in the Western Hemisphere.

Again, Christians reject this claim. Paul summarizes Christ’s post-resurrection appearances in 1 Corinthians 15:5-8, where no mention of North American appearances are made: “He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.”

Q: What are or were the “Golden Plates”?

A: The Book of Mormon was translated by Joseph Smith from records made on plates of gold, similar to metal plates that have been found in other ancient cultures. It contained a history of peoples in the Western Hemisphere including an appearance by the Savior to them. As such the Book of Mormon is considered a second testimony of Jesus Christ.

This is yet another reason Christians consider Mormonism a cult. They do not hold to the 66 books of the Bible as the completed canon of Scripture, but include the Book of Mormon as another “testament” of Jesus. This is to again ignore nearly 2,000 years of accepted church doctrine regarding the nature of the canon, and to elevate a text to the status of inspired Scripture which no other group on earth accepts as divinely inspired, apart from them – an important test of canonicity used by Christians from the earliest centuries.

There are many other ways in which Christians differ from Mormons, but these examples serve to demonstrate the essential reasons why Christians consider them a cult. They are not in doctrinal agreement with the rest of the confessing church on the most fundamental points of doctrine. They are not merely a sect of the church who differ in only minor but non-essential ways, but are in fact a cult that teaches what Christians consider to be egregious heresies – heresies that strike at the very nature of God and Jesus Christ, the nature of man, and the way of salvation.

I know from my experience that many Mormons are nice people and wonderful citizens with whom I could find much in common. Mitt Romney may even make a great president, regardless of his Mormon faith. Christians and Mormons may agree on many things, but despite the efforts being made today to minimize the differences, may it be made abundantly clear that we do not share a common faith – the faith once delivered to the apostles and the prophets of Holy Scripture.

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6 Responses to Replies to 21 Questions Answered About the Mormon Faith

  1. mike slater says:

    So, why aren’t other denominations referred to as cults, such as judaism, muslim, hindu, or even catholicism? Of course you would say that technically they are all cults, however, mormonism gets a lot more attention. Isn’t the word cult merely a prejorative term to put down a church you disagree with. So, basically what you are proposing is religious intolerance. Anyone who has a belief that differs from yours should be put down. So from my point of view, anyone who doesn’t believe in mormonism is a cult (according to your definition). So now it’s just a game of he said, she said, right? Silly game, silly word.

  2. Scott W. Kay says:

    Mike,

    Other denominations within Christianity are not referred to as cults for the reasons I pointed out above, namely, that unlike Mormons, they do not deny the fundamental (or essential) tenants of Christianity. The reason Mormoninsm is called a cult and not merely another religion altogether like Judaism, Islam, etc, is because they themselves seek to make themselves out to be an acceptable form of Christianity, which they are not, and which Judaism, Islam, etc. do not try to do.

    The term “cult” is not normally used as a pejorative term by most Christians I have heard use it. It is simply a term that those being referred to do not like being attached to them, precisely because it identifies them as doctrinally aberrant – an accusation they do not want to wear, but nevertheless have rightly earned. Call it “intolerance” if you will, since that is the favorite pejorative term used against Christians who seek to maintain helpful distinctions, but a silly word “cult” is not. It is actually a helpful term used to identify those outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy. That’s how Christians use it, namely, as a categorical term. Mormons can call whoever they want to whatever they want to, it makes no difference. All that matters is whether what you believe is consistent with the clear teachings of Scripture.

  3. Joey says:

    Hey Scott. After glancing around your blog briefly, I’ve determined you seem like a quite normal, reasonable person. I don’t get the need for this article. It seems a bit passive-aggressively aimed at putting down the Mormon faith. As a Mormon, I feel like I can speak for most members of our church when I say that we feel a strange amount of hate being directed our way. Remember, “by their fruits you shall know them.” I find it interesting that your next blog post was about how young adults these days are putting off marriage. In the LDS church, we are well-known for entering into marriage at a young age, having children as God wants us to and raising them in an atmosphere of love of faith. We also dedicate two years of our lives at the age of 19 to preaching the gospel and in serving communities throughout the world. I served the Hmong community in Minnesota for two years from 94-96 and had the opportunity to assist many people, all of whom would tell you that I gave “Christ-like” service, hence making me a follower of Christ.

  4. Jayne King says:

    Hi Scott-

    You are absolutely right that cult is not a silly word. That is why I think that using the term “cult” is needlessly inflammatory. I’m not saying that you personally are trying to be inflammatory, just that I think one should be careful in using that kind of terminology. I was raised LDS (now Christian by the Grace of of God) and would most certainly define mormonism as a false, heretical belief system. However, I do think it falls in with other false religions in that the leadership and its members operate under conventional society (whatever that means.:) Of course, there are small mormon splinter groups who behave in anti-social ways that would earn them this moniker.

    I would also disagree that because they make themselves out to be an acceptable form of Christianity they should then be classified differently from Islam, Judaism, etc. Would you also call a progressive Christian church that refutes the resurrection, virgin birth, etc. a cult?

    You claim that the term cult is not pejorative, but I think you can make a pretty good case that, culturally speaking, the term has a very anti-social, drinking kool-aid in a bunker kind of connotation. Just because you use it categorically, doesn’t mean that others take it that way. There is no better way to shut down a doctrinal discussion with a mormon than to pull that word out. And I guess that would be my main point- that proclaiming the clear teaching of scripture to them is so important that defending a term they find offensive is really counter-productive.

    I totally agree that their biggest beef is simply with being called “doctrinally aberrant” and am in no way trying to say that the deceptive nature of mormon theology (or any false belief system) isn’t a travesty of huge proportions and should simply be ignored.

    I am just trying to offer my thoughts and hope you don’t take this in an argumentative way. Not my intention at all.

    In His joy,

    Jayne

  5. Scott W. Kay says:

    Joey,

    I really think that I have tried to present the differences between Christianity and Mormonism in a reasonable and non-inflammatory way. If you disagree with my perspective, then so be it. I would expect that from a Mormon, but don’t mistake my short attempt to point out the doctrinal differences between us is hate speech.

    Jayne,

    Remember that I was simply responding to the Mormon document on the use of the word “cult” in regard to them, I am not attempting to get in Mormon’s faces and offend them (nor does any Christian I know suggest that we ever do that to them). This was simply an exercise in pointing out that they missed the point as to WHY evangelical Christians consider them a cult. They said it was because we dislike them, and that’s not correct. It’s that they deny central doctrines of Christianity. Thanks for your additional comments, which make great points.

  6. Mormons believe that authentic Christianity vanished a century after Jesus and was restored only through Joseph Smith. Considered a prophet by Mormons, Smith revised— and in his view corrected— large sections of the Bible in the 19th century. The Mormon scriptures include the Old and New Testaments, but also include books containing Smith’s revelations.

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