Monday, September 12, 2016

Are Mormons Christian? A Letter to Fellow Evangelical Elders

* I recently was in a conversation with some elders of another church.  The topic of Mormonism came up and someone asked me why I would engage in evangelism toward Mormons since they "are Christians."  I gave my answer in that context and then followed-up with a letter.  The majority of that letter is reproduced below with the appropriate deletions to cover the identity of the church.  I post this here for its scriptural reasoning and its quotations from Joseph Smith.

... Usually among such evangelicals there is a common theological core which it is recognized the LDS church does not embrace.  You will recall that I briefly mentioned that the LDS teaching regarding God denies monotheism in favor of tri-theism, that LDS teaching denies salvation by grace through faith, and that the LDS church believes in a different Jesus.  These are not minor or secondary issues on which Christians of good will and orthodox belief can and do differ—such as eschatological systems or even the proper recipients of baptism.  Rather, these issues are centrally located in the Christian theological system and cannot be modified in the ways that the LDS church does without ceasing to be Christian.

Why is this important?  The Scriptures give us the requirements for an elder.  One of those requirements is that elders in Christ’s church be those who are “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.  Titus 1.9  Not only must we as elders hold to the truth personally but we must be able to teach the truth and to refute those who teach against the truth.  Failure to upheld these duties brings pain to the church as false teachers are then able to upset whole families (Titus 1.11).  The apostle Paul provides us an example of his fighting for the truth of the gospel in the book of Galatians.  He begins this epistle with forceful words because the truth of the gospel is at stake.

6I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; 7which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!  9As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!  --Galatians 1.6-9

The apostle Paul can also challenge the Corinthian church because they are allowing the preaching of “another Jesus.”

For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted, you bear this beautifully.  –2 Corinthians 11.4

And who is doing this preaching of “another Jesus” and a “different gospel”—“false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11.13).

Just because a group says they are “Christian” or has the word “Christ” in their name (e.g., “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”) does not make them Christian in reality.  We need to examine the teaching of these groups to discern whether they are teaching a false view of God, Christ, or salvation.  When the Mormon religion is examined in this regard it fails to meet the most basic requirements of Christian theism.

Consider the central biblical and creedal teaching regarding monotheism—the belief in one God.  Orthodox Christianity has always affirmed monotheism even as it has confessed the doctrine of the Trinity.  The founding prophet of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, unequivocally denies the doctrine of the Trinity and the monotheism which is crucial to this doctrine.  Consider the following words from Joseph Smith from what is known as the “King Follett Discourse.”

I will preach on the plurality of Gods.  I have selected this text for that express purpose.  I wish to declare I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of the Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods.  It has been preached by the Elders for fifteen years.

I have always declared God to be a distinct personage.  Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and that the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods.  If this is in accordance with the New Testament, lo and behold! we have three Gods anyhow, and they are plural; and who can contradict it?  Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith (Deseret, 1976), 370.

Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God.  I say that is a strange God anyhow—three in one and one in three! … All are to be crammed into one God, according to sectarianism.  Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith (Deseret, 1976), 372.

Not only did Joseph Smith affirm polytheism and deny the Trinity, he also spoke of how God himself was not always God but was a man like us but attained to Godhood.

God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!  That is the great secret.  If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another.  Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith (Deseret, 1976), 345.

…it is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God.  We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity.  I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.

These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple.  It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.  Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith (Deseret, 1976), 345-346.

Joseph Smith argues that God the Father himself had a Father!

If Abraham reasoned thus—If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also.  Where was there ever a son without a father?  And where was there ever a father without first being a son? … Hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also?  I despise the idea of being scared to death at such a doctrine, for the Bible is full of it.  Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith compiled by Joseph Fielding Smith (Deseret, 1976), 373.

These teachings by Joseph Smith are still affirmed today in the official teaching of the LDS church.[1]  These teachings are at radical variance from the Bible’s teaching regarding God.  ...

These are no small matters.  I have only looked at the issue of monotheism and the Trinity but the same massive departure from central truth also is found in the LDS doctrines of Christ and salvation.[2]

I would urge you as elders in the church of God to faithfully hold to the essentials of the faith.  If you as elders and leaders in the church will not affirm and defend the truth then those under your charge will not be properly fed and led.  If you don’t believe that Mormons are in need of the true gospel then your people will erroneously believe the same.  They will not seek to share the real Jesus of the Bible with their Mormon neighbors nor will they pray for the conversion of those caught in the deceptions of LDS teaching.

I know that I have spoken directly and my desire is not to cause offense.  Ultimately the gospel message and the authority of the Word of God are at stake.  If you are willing perhaps we can continue to discuss these matters for our edification and the strengthening of Christ’s church.

For the Gospel,

Richard J. Klaus

     [1] For demonstration of this fact see the recent article by Robert Bowman “Are Mormons Approaching Orthodoxy? A Response to Richard Mouw.”  Online:
     [2] For a short but helpful introduction to these matters please see the article “Is Mormonism Christian?”  Online: