One day, several years ago, a Mormon coworker handed me a booklet on Mormonism. I respectfully took the booklet and said I would read it.
I have worked side by side with Mormons for 20 years. I admire their hard work and integrity. I have grown to respect and love them, and have many fond memories of them. Our love and friendship was mutual, even though we understood that we held different beliefs. At times they felt their beliefs were the same as mine. But they’re not.
After I read my coworker’s booklet, I wrote him a letter. I have condensed that information here. I want to share it with you, too, if you are a Mormon. Quotations below, other than Bible quotations, are from the booklet. According to it, and my friend, they are Mormon beliefs. I want to represent them accurately.
Because I care, I will be candid, as I was with my friend.
I have many concerns about what Mormons believe. This discussion is by no means exhaustive.
The booklet I read said, “Jesus taught…that revelation from God was the rock on which He would build His Church.” It is not “revelation,” as such, that is the rock on which Jesus builds His Church, but the revelation as to who He is: “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” as reflected in the testimony of Peter in Matthew 16:13-18. Jesus Christ Himself is the foundation and corner stone of the Church He is building (see I Corinthians 3:11; Ephesians 2:19-22; I Peter 2:6,7; Acts 4:10-12).
Mormons believe that during “the Great Apostasy,” a period that began soon after the martyrdom or death of the first-century apostles, “the gospel as established by Jesus Christ was lost.” And even though Martin Luther and John Calvin “tried to reform the churches…Christ’s gospel could not be returned to its original form.”
Though at times suppressed, the gospel was not lost. This claim directly contradicts the Bible. Jesus said, “My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35). In a reference to the gospel, shortly before he was beheaded, Paul the Apostle wrote, “The word of God is not bound” (II Timothy 2:8,9). The gospel would not lose its power when he was gone. Jesus said, “I have other sheep” among the Gentiles. “I must also bring them” into the fold (John 10:16). He revealed in His prayer to the Father that the other sheep “will believe on [Him] through their word,“ that is, the apostles’ gospel (John 17:20). When the apostles were gone, the gospel would continue to be effective, and would actually be the means by which the “other sheep” were saved. In Revelation the gospel is referred to as “the eternal gospel” (Revelation 14:6), reflecting what Jesus said about his words, that they would never pass away. And so, Paul writes, “Unto [God] be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations without end” (Ephesians 3:21). There is no age in which God is not glorified in His true Church.
Jesus did not stop working because “priesthood authority” was “taken from the earth” during this “Great Apostasy,” as the booklet claims. Priesthood authority was not taken from the earth. Jesus remained and continues to remain, eternally, our high priest, and forever holds all power and authority over earth (Matthew 28:18; Hebrews 10:19-22). And He said, “I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Contrary to the word of Jesus, Mormons believe the gates of hell did prevail for some 1700 years (that is the lion’s share of time from then till now), until Joseph Smith appeared. So, according to them, for the better part of two millennia, God Himself was rendered powerless after His apostles were gone and early Christians began “drifting” from what Jesus and His disciples taught.
Even though Mormons claim that “the Church of Jesus Christ was led by God and not by men,” in reality they believe it has depended upon men. (But this is precisely why the Church has endured, even through its darkest hours: because it was not left to men.)
According to Mormon belief, after 1700 years, Joseph Smith received the lost “priesthood authority,” authority that Christ had had all along; which was never lost. The booklet claims that John the Baptist “conferred on him the Aaronic Priesthood.” But the Bible teaches that when Jesus died on the cross the Aaronic Priesthood became obsolete. The Mosaic Law, with its sacrifices administered through Aaron’s line, was done away when Christ, the true sacrificial Lamb, took away sin on the cross (John 1:29; Hebrews 9:24-26; 8:8-13). This was obvious to all when the veil in the temple was supernaturally ripped in two (Matthew 27:50,51). It was John the Baptist’s mission to point others to Jesus (see John 1:7,15,29,36). The book of John teaches that “the Law [including the priesthood of Aaron] was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17), contrasting the two and celebrating Christ and the gospel over the old Mosaic/Aaronic covenant. Why, then, would John the Baptist come back to confer the Aaronic priesthood on Joseph Smith, a priesthood that had been rendered obsolete by the very One he had introduced to Israel? He would be undermining his own God-given mission and purpose, which was to point men to Christ and His grace and truth, which superseded the Law of Moses (see Galatians 3:9,23-25; 5:4; Hebrews 7:22; and Hebrews 8-10 and II Corinthians 3). He would be turning back to the Law and bring disgrace on the work of Christ. We can also see by this that Joseph Smith would not, in fact, be restoring the gospel, but the Law: indeed, “another gospel” (see Galatians 1:6-9).
The booklet went on to say that “Peter, James, and John later appeared to Joseph Smith and conferred on him the Melchizedek Priesthood.” Yet, according to the Bible, Jesus is the only priest who will ever hold this office. Unlike the priesthood of Aaron, which was passed from one priest to another when they died, the Melchizedek priesthood is not conferred on anyone else. Hebrews 7:24 says that Jesus holds the position permanently. He’s not taking applications for a replacement or co-regent. After all, He is the Son of God who died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead. Why would Joseph Smith, or anyone else, receive such a singular, privileged position, that is possessed by Christ alone? Not even Peter or Paul had that! Hebrews 7:28 says “the word of the oath [‘you are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek,’ v.21]…has perfected the Son forever.” There is no need for any other person, much less a mere human, to take upon himself the Melchizedek priesthood. It is perfected in Christ forever! Why would Peter, James, and John feel a need to confer this priesthood (which is nontransferable) on Joseph Smith, if Christ filled the position perfectly? Who would be more aware of this reality than they?
How could Joseph Smith even imagine himself to be a priest after the order of Melchizedek? According to Hebrews 7:1-3, the priest who fills this position is without father or mother and has no beginning of days or end of life, like the Son of God. Could pride be an issue here (Isaiah 14:13,14)? Beware of anyone who says, “I will be like the Most High.”
I would like to point out something else related to this matter. Who would be more aware of the genealogy of Joseph Smith than Mormons who search out genealogies? And yet the Bible teaches that no one who has a genealogical record has any legitimate claim to the Melchizedek priesthood. The Greek word ἀγενεαλόγητος, “without genealogy,” is used in reference to Melchizedek in Hebrews 7:3. Only the Son of God, who has no beginning of days, can hold this position and truly be “after the order of Melchizedek.”
Though the Mormon Church claims that the Church of Jesus Christ should be led by God and not by men, as I pointed out earlier, there is a great stress in the Mormon Church on being led by men.
God lost His first apostles and early Christians, and His gospel, and seemed helpless to do anything about it until Joseph Smith, a man, “restored” the gospel 1700 years later. Today, men, who are referred to as “living prophets and apostles,” lead the Mormon Church. The President of the Church, known as “the chosen prophet of God today,” the “First Presidency,” the highest governing body, with its associated Church Councils and Boards, and “the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles” hold the “priesthood authority” that was held by prophets and apostles from previous times. Below them are state presidents and localized bishoprics. Martin Luther, who, according to the booklet, was without priesthood authority, even though he championed the Biblical teaching of the priesthood of all believers and was himself a priest, challenged this type of human dominion in the Catholic Church. The Pope, a man in St. Peters, along with a hierarchy of men called bishops, presumed to be the successors of the apostle Peter and dictated the teachings that were to be followed by the people, leading many astray from the truth. Jesus, the first to “overturn the tables” and “clear the temple,” confronted this same sort of religious establishment in His day. The Jewish tribunal known as the Sanhedrin, a composite of Pharisees and Sadducees, religious figureheads who laid down the rules of belief and practice the Jews were to follow, were actually keeping the people from entering the kingdom of God (Matthew 23:13). They often exalted their own traditions over God’s Word (Mark 7:1-13). What the Mormon leadership is doing is nothing new. It is not the New Testament model for the Church of Jesus Christ (see Luke 22:24-26; Matthew 23:8; I Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-24; 1:22,23; 4:15; Colossians 1:18; 2:18,19).
It should come as no surprise that in Mormonism there is a stress on man. After all, according to Mormon teaching, man becomes God; God the Father was once a man who, to this day, “has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” (LDS D&C 130:22). This plainly contradicts what the Bible says about God (see Numbers 23:19; I Samuel 15:29; 16:7; Job 9:32; 10:2-6; Psalm 50:21; 90:2; Ezekiel 28:1-9; Hosea 11:9; Malachi 3:6; Matthew 16:23; John 3:13; 4:24; 10:33; Romans 1:22,23; 3:4; I Corinthians 2:11; II Corinthians 12:2,4; Galatians 1:1; Hebrews 8:1,2). To the contrary, the Bible teaches that God, in His Son Jesus, has become man! (see Matthew 1:18-23 and John 1:1-14)
We must follow the teachings of the Bible alone (John 10:1; Revelation 22:18,19; Proverbs 30:6; Isaiah 8:20). All other voices are the voices of strangers (John 10:3-5). The Book of Mormon and other Mormon texts are no exception.
If they do not teach the Word of God, as it is written in the Bible, men will lead us astray (Jeremiah 50:6; Isaiah 9:14-16). It does not matter what visions they may claim to have seen (Jeremiah 14:14; 23:16; Ezekiel 12:24; Galatians 1:8). Even if they are called “prophets” (Jeremiah 23:21; notice Matthew 24:11).
God will not lead us astray (Romans 3:4). As we read the Bible, He Himself is our teacher (see Matthew 23:10; I John 2:27; I Thessalonians 4:9; John 6:45; Colossians 2:8; I Corinthians 2:4,5; Hebrews 8:10,11). Any man, whose words do not agree with what He says in the Bible, misleads.
Joseph Smith is a perfect example of this. He claimed that the Father and Jesus appeared to him. The booklet says, “Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.” Yet the Bible says plainly that no one has ever seen God the Father (John 1:18; 5:37; 6:46; Colossians 1:15; John 4:24; I Timothy 1:17; 6:16; Exodus 33:17-23).
The things that Joseph Smith claims become a “strange voice” in the light of the Bible. He is “weighed in the balances and found wanting” (Daniel 5:27). Can one follow a man like this, or commit themselves to a Church that abides in his shadow?
It is safer to put our trust in God’s Son, Jesus Christ, than in man, or even a church, and to cling to the truth as it is given to us in the Bible. For “the truth will set you free.” Jesus said, “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). He says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.” (John 14:6) Be sure that you know Him as your personal Savior from sin. He has risen from the dead and is alive forever! “These things are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you might have life through His name” (John 20:31).
We have life through faith in Jesus. Please understand that you cannot be justified, or made right with God, by keeping the Law. You can only be made right with God by believing in Jesus. That’s why He died on the cross. If we can be justified by keeping the Law, Jesus’ death is pointless. But we cannot. See for yourself what the Bible says. Paul wrote, “Man is not justified by the works of the Law, but through faith in Jesus Christ. We have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ, because no flesh [no one] will be justified by the works of the Law” (Galatians 2:16; also see Galatians 3:9-11). You may think you can, but you cannot keep the Law perfectly. That’s why Jesus’ blood was shed. The blood of Jesus will cleanse you from all your sin and make you pure and holy before God, something you could never be by trying to keep the Law. “In [Jesus] we have redemption/release through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Ephesians 1:7). “The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7). When we believe, Christ becomes our “wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption” (see I Corinthians 1:30).
You can be free from all legalistic burdens! Jesus says to you, “Come to Me, all who are laboring and have become tired and weary, loaded down with heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and considerate, and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls; for my yoke is easy and kind, and my load is light and insignificant.” By contrast, the leaders of the religious establishment in Jesus’ day did not lift one finger to lighten the heavy and complex legalistic load they laid on men, to the sorrow and hopeless frustration of those under their authority. What a breath of fresh air Jesus was and still is today! You can be free and know Him personally. He says, “Learn from Me” personally. Imagine that! We can be in a yoke with Him, like two horses in a harness. That is up-close and personal!
Please understand that Jesus Himself, not a leader in your Church, is your personal mediator with God. The Bible says, “There is ONE mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ” (I Timothy 2:5). There is no need for a hierarchy, in any Church anywhere, to reach God! Jesus came to fill that position! He is the ladder to God (look at Genesis 28:10-12 and John 1:51). He provides all the rungs that are needed to reach heaven. We come directly to the Father through Jesus His Son. “No man comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). “Through Him we have access…to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18). When we know Jesus, the Bible says we can come boldly and directly to God. “Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace in a time of need” (Hebrews 4:16; 10:19).
We don’t need a priest. We have a priest. “We have a high priest [Jesus], who sat down at the right hand of the majesty in the heavens.” He “is ministering [now, for us] in the holy places and the true sanctuary which the Lord set up, and not man” (Hebrews 8:1,2). For “God does not dwell in temples made with hands” (see Acts 7:48-50; 17:24; John 4:20,21,23,24). The Temple in Salt Lake City is no exception. God dwells in us who believe in Jesus. “We are the temple of the living God, just as God has said: I will dwell in them and walk in them and I will be their God and they will be my people” (II Corinthians 6:16). Believers in Jesus, throughout the world and the ages, are being built “into a holy temple” that is “the habitation of God” (Ephesians 2:19-22). “You are the temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in you” (I Corinthians 3:16).
If you are a Mormon, I share this with you as your friend.
©James Unruh 2014 and beyond