Over the last few months I’ve been privy to what many people believe about the “Mormons”. I’ve noticed that when someone ends up going off on the Church, they always preface their disgust by saying, “Everyone in the LDS Church is generally really nice and they are good people…but”…and then the laundry list of claims against the Church comes rolling out. I’d like to address 4 of the biggest misconceptions of the Mormon Church in order to chip away at that laundry list. While we can address these misconceptions and set the record straight, the most important thing a person can do is recall Christ’s advice as he delivered the sermon on the mount. He told His hearers that “Ye shall know them by their fruits” (Matt 7:16) but for some reason, when it comes to a Mormon, fruit doesn’t seem to matter. What Jesus is saying in modern English is “You can know if someone is a Christian by the things that they do.”
By being good people and clearing up some big misconceptions, maybe we can make a few more friends…
1. Mormons Think They Can “Work Their Way To Heaven”
It cracks me up every time someone challenges me about why I think my works are going to save me. I don’t think that at all and most members of the LDS Church don’t believe that either. Nowhere in our doctrine does it tell me that I can save myself through my works. What’s even more interesting is that even the Bible is more explicit about performing “works” than the Book of Mormon or any of the other LDS teachings. “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before God” Paul tells the Philippians (Phil 2:12). The entire book of James is really obvious about it (Faith without works is dead)…and honestly, almost every single page in the Bible places us in the role of an active participant as a disciple of Christ. “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” said the Savior in (John 5:17). So does that mean we should also work if Christ tells us to “come follow Him”? Of course!
Mormons believe that it is only in and through the Atonement of Christ that all will be saved. Everyone will be resurrected (1 Cor 15:22) and then be “judged according to our works”(Revelation 20:12) Unless you’re a son of perdition…which will be very rare…you will reach heaven. But right then is where your works start to factor into the equation. We’re saved from death and hell by the grace and mercy of Christ. He in effect brings us to the gate of heaven and says, “now is where I reward people based on their works.(Revelation 22:12) You got to heaven because of Me (Acts 4:12) and only Me… but now you get to live in this mansion because of you. (John 14:2) Lets see how you did!” Then the books are opened and our bodies are glorified to one degree or another. (1 Cor 15:40-42). If we’re really awesome, we’ll reach the third heaven that Paul saw in (2 Cor 12:2-4).
- Do we need to “confess with our mouth the Lord Jesus’? (Romans 10:9) Yep. Is that a verb…a work…or an action… to open your mouth and make that confession? Yep.
- Do we need to repent when we do wrong? For sure. Will we get a good reward in heaven if we don’t repent? No way.
- Do we need to be baptized? Christ said we do in (John3:3-5) So…do we? Is that a work?
In no way do Mormons think they “work themselves to heaven”…but in accordance with the teachings of the Bible…they certainly believe they are “rewarded” according to their works. There are more examples, but at the end of the day, Mormons and other Christian denominations actually agree on the need to work. Unfortunately, some people prefer to hold on to this misconception in order to keep “the Mormons” at arms length and not share a common belief. Lets just agree and be friends!
2. Mormons Are Disqualified From Being Christian Because They Don’t Reverence The Cross
I won’t draw this one out more than I have to but Mormons don’t particularly like to focus on the cross because it reminds them of the cruel, unfair, and inhumane things that bad men did to the Savior. LDS members know what happened on the cross but rather than focusing on an instrument of death, they prefer to point their minds to the sepulcher of life or the empty tomb. Mormons choose to direct their attention toward the living resurrected Christ. It is in no way meant to take away from His sacrifice…rather it is meant to glorify His triumph over that cruel cross.
This misconception is one of many that cause people to accuse the LDS members of not being “true Christians”. Mormons are constantly accused of not believing in the “correct Jesus”…but honestly, Mormons believe in the Jesus Christ found within the New Testament. They believe that He died for our sins and was resurrected, and that He lives today and loves all of us. Literally all of us! Everywhere.
3. Mormons Think They Can Supplant God and Become God Themselves
I wrote a more lengthy explanation in a blog called Do Mormons Really Think They Can Become Like God? and provided a link to a bunch of Biblical passages to support the article but I figured I’d quote a few of the Early Christian Fathers here…known as ECF’s going forward. If you’re not familiar with the ECF’s, they are the close companions and successors of the apostles. Some of them were church leaders when the original 12 apostles walked the earth and some studied directly under the likes of Peter, James, John, and Paul. Some studied under great men who had intimate association with the apostles but nonetheless, they were a lot closer to the action than any other men on earth at that time. They we’re most likely exposed to what happened during the 40 day ministry spoken of in Acts 1 and their teachers were in some cases key officials in Christ’s church during it’s initial expansion in the first century and second century.
Mormons never have and never will believe that they can “grow up and someday supplant God by becoming a God”. No way. Paul said that “there are gods many and lords many…but to us there is but one God, The Father…and one Lord…Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 8:5-6) We will always love and revere Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. They will always be supreme and have dominion over us. Just becoming “a god” or “like god” doesn’t supplant them in the least. Us living to our full potential actually glorifies them further. Look at what the ECF’s say about becoming like God…
Irenaeus, a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John the Revelator said that “we were not made gods at our beginning, but first we were made men, then, in the end, gods.” Henry Bettenson, The Early Christian Fathers: A Selection from the Writings of the Fathers from St. Clement of Rome to St. Athanasius (London: Oxford University Press, 1956), 94. ISBN 0192830090.
Clement of Alexandria said “yea, I say, the Word of God became a man so that you might learn from a man how to become a god.” Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Greeks, 1.
Clement also stated that “…if one knows himself, he will know God, and knowing God will become like God…His is beauty, true beauty, for it is God, and that man becomes god, since God wills it. So Heraclitus was right when he said, “Men are gods, and gods are men.” Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor, 3.1 see also Clement, Stromateis, 23
Even the great Augustine said that “He himself that justifies also deifies, for by justifying He makes sons of God. For He has given them power to become the sons of God. If then we have been made sons of God, we have also been made gods.” Augustine, On the Psalms, 50:2.
…and many more from the men closest to the Church that Christ originally established. Joseph Smith didn’t even have access to the Early Christian Fathers and yet he’s teaching the exact same thing they were while no one else was.
4. Mormons Don’t Believe In The Bible
Couldn’t be farther from the truth. Mormons love the Bible and teach it equally in their Church services and in Seminary and Institutes. Some may believe that Mormons don’t believe in the Bible because they don’t believe that the Bible is infallible. There are undeniable errors in the Bible not because of the apostles or because of Christ, but because all we have is copies of copies of the original manuscript and men’s fallibility and bias to deal with during the various translations.
For instance, Acts 9:7 and Acts 22:9 have Paul describing the exact same event. His accounts completely contradict each other. Do we consider Paul an unworthy apostle or an impostor altogether or do we blame the translators? I would blame the translators. There are many other examples of this sort of thing in the Bible which begs the question of infallibility. If the Bible is fallible in one place…then it can certainly be fallible in another place. What if the translator got it wrong on a really important doctrine? We’d be in trouble right? Hence the need for a prophet to clear up confusion. Mormons definitely believe and love the Bible…but they also understand that it needs to be translated correctly.
I’m really hoping that by clearing up some of these common misconceptions about Mormons, that we can all find common ground and have more tolerance one toward another. I have no doubt that God smiles in heaven when two people from different faiths and backgrounds become friends and respect each others beliefs for what they are and then work together to establish truth.