Mormonism – The Latter Day Saints

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (Galatians 1:8-9)

1. Key Facts

1.1 Membership – Total world membership is 9 million. Half of these are in the United States. Their growth rate ranges between 250,000 or 300,000 new baptisms annually; 75.3% of these claim a previous Christian affiliation.
1.2 Missionary Activity – Teenagers are required to volunteer two years of missionary service. Over 40,000 missionaries serve in 200 missions around the world. Each missionary baptizes about six people a year. House to house visitation and proselytizing those within Christian denominations is their major thrust.
1.3 Literature – Over three million copies of the Book of Mormon are distributed annually. Periodicals and commercials offer free copies or videos.
1.4 Wealth – With business and land holdings totaling over ten billion dollars, it is second only to the Catholic church in wealth.
1.5 Mormon Temples – Currently, there are fifty temples worldwide with another dozen in the planning stages. Three important functions are performed in the temples: temple endowment ceremonies (to guarantee entrance to heaven), eternal marriages, and baptism for the dead (living Mormons may be baptized on behalf of the dead). Only selected Mormons may enter the temples.
1.6 Practices
1.6.1 Mormons are asked to tithe one-tenth of their income. No offering plate is passed; the local Bishop is responsible for collecting the tithe.
1.6.2 The following items are forbidden: hot drinks, tobacco (except for treating bruises and sick cattle), and alcohol (except for washing the body). Meat should be consumed sparingly. Coffee and tea are rejected, but hot chocolate is permitted.
1.6.3 Mormons promote large families. Devout Mormons hold “Family Home Evening” on Monday evenings, where families are encouraged to participate in activities together.
1.7 Structure – A local congregation of Mormons is called a Branch (usually about 200 members). A Ward is a local congregation of 200 to 800 members. Above Branches and Wards are Stakes (5 to 12 Wards), Areas (a large geographical district), and the Headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah.
1.8 Government – The Prophet holds the highest rank, and along with two counselors form the First Presidency. They are considered the living oracles of God. Under the First Presidency is the Council of the Twelve Apostles, and the First and Second Quorums of the Seventy. Each member of the Quorums is assigned a geographic area.

2. Mormon History

2.1 The Founder – Joseph Smith, Jr., “The Prophet” (1805-44)

2.1.1 Born – Sharon, Vermont. Moved to Palmyra, New York in 1817
2.1.2 Parents – Born to Joseph and Lucy Smith, inactive Protestants. His father was known to spend great time digging for buried treasures, using peep stones and divining rods. His son, Joseph, joined him. He was also known to mint his own money.
2.1.3 Reputation – “There exists no contemporary pro-Mormon statements from reliable and informed sources who knew the Smith family and Joseph intimately.” The Smiths were regarded as “destitute of character” and were much persecuted as Mormonism grew.
2.1.4 First Vision – In 1820, he claimed that God the Father materialized and spoke to Smith as he prayed in the woods, telling him that all the churches are wrong and that “all their creeds were an abomination in his sight.”
2.1.5 The Golden Plates – Smith claims that an angel named Moroni appeared to him on September 21, 1823. According to Smith, Moroni claimed to be a former inhabitant of America who, shortly before his death, buried some golden plates which recorded the history of the people and the fullness of the gospel. Moroni commissioned Smith to translate the plates from “Reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics” to English using special stones called the Urim and Thummim. The following day, Moroni appeared and took Smith to a hill and showed him the plates. He forbade Smith to remove the plates until 1827. On September 22, 1827, Smith dug up the plates along with the Urim and Thummim.
2.1.6 Priesthoods – In two separate visions in 1829, Smith claims that John the Baptist and Peter, James and John appeared to him and a friend and conferred on them the Aaronic and Melchizedekian priesthoods.
2.1.7 The Book of Mormon – Smith translated the Book of Mormon with the help of his seer stone, instead of using the Urim and Thummim. He reportedly sat behind a curtain and read the translated text to various scribes, including his wife. The Book of Mormon was published in March 1830.
2.1.8 Other Writings – Smith began to “translate” the King James Version to a new version without using the Hebrew or Greek manuscripts. Instead, he used “the gift and power of God.” He continued to receive 135 direct revelations, and he published them in other books.
2.1.9 Founding of the Mormon Church – The church was founded in 1830 in Fayette, New York. After two name changes, they settled on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1834. Strongholds were established, and Mormons began to be persecuted.
2.1.10 Smith’s “Martyrdom” (1844) – Mistrust of Smith and Mormonism multiplied, particularly because of their acceptance of polygamy. When Smith ordered the destruction of an anti-Mormon publication The Nauvoo Expositor, the State of Illinois arrested Smith and his brother. On June 27, 1844, an angry mob stormed the jail. In the gunfight that followed, Joseph Smith was killed.

2.2 The Successor – Brigham Young (1801-77)

2.2.1 In August 1844, Young officially replaced Smith as prophet. Young is held in equal esteem as Smith in the eyes of Mormons.
2.2.2 In 1846, Young announced that the “saints” would abandon Nauvoo, Missouri. He led a brutal trek to the Great Salt Lake Valley. The early Mormons virtually carved an empire out of the barren land. The California gold rush and the opening of the transcontinental railway increased the value of their land..
2.2.3 Young founded the Brigham Young University, and ruled over the Utah Territory until his death in 1877.

3. Theological Beliefs

Mormon Belief Christian Belief
Authority Bible (King James Version), The Book of Mormon (1830), Doctrine and Covenants (1833), and Pearl of Great Price (1851). In addition, the current prophet can give new revelation which can overrule any previous prophet or teaching. The Bible is the very Word of God; the sixty-six books comprising the Old and New Testaments are inspired by the Spirit of God and are therefore wholly without error as originally given by God; and it is our final authority, our only and all-sufficient rule of faith and practice.
God God the Father is an exalted man from another planet like earth. He was begotten of the species of the gods, who existed before him in an infinite series of gods who were once men. He was married, died, and was resurrected to be the god of heaven. He and his goddess wife, Mother God, had millions of spirit-children in heaven. There is one God, who is Creator of all things, holy, eternal, and perfect.
Trinity There are three gods who are perfect in knowledge, power and glory. They have distinct bodies, although the Spirit only has a spirit-body. They are one in purpose, thought, and will. God self-exists in three distinct Persons -the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each of whom is to be honored and worshipped.
Christ Jesus was the firstborn of all other spirit-children, including Lucifer, Adam, and humanity. We believe in the absolute and essential deity of Jesus Christ, and that He eternally dwelt in heavenly glory before being born as a man. He was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, died in the place of sinners to take their punishment for sin, was raised victoriously from the dead, and ascended into heaven. He now intercedes on behalf of Christians and will return triumphantly to the earth again.
Holy Spirit Early Mormons differentiated the Holy Ghost from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a divine influence who bears witness to the truths of Mormonism. The Holy Spirit is truly God and truly a person. His work includes giving new spiritual life to sinners, aiding believers in personal holiness, and comforting those who believe in Jesus Christ.
Man Human beings preexisted as organized intelligences, born of Heavenly Parents. Part of our progression to godhead includes a probationary period on earth. In heaven, a third followed Lucifer, and two thirds followed Jesus. Of those who followed Jesus, one third were less valiant and thus received black skin. Adam transgressed but did not sin. We are not responsible for Adam’s sin. The ultimate goal of humanity is to become a perfected god. Man was directly created by God in the likeness of God, and is not a product of evolution. Man through personal disobedience became a fallen creature, incurring physical death and spiritual death. Every part of human nature has been affected by sin, and all are guilty before God.
Salvation Christ only atoned for Adam’s sin. Our salvation began with Christ’s atonement, but it is completed through human works. Baptism can be applied by proxy to the dead. There are three levels of heaven. Salvation is the free gift of God, neither deserved nor obtained by any work of man, but received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is entirely by the sovereign grace of God through the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ.
Church The original church fell away from the truth after three centuries. Mormonism is the restoration of the true church. It has prophets, apostles, and the seventy, and the authority to act in Christ’s name. The local church is a group of baptized believers, who worship God, help and encourage one another, observe the ordinances, and reach out to their community for Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the Head of the church, and every church has the right under Him to govern its own affairs. The two offices in a church are pastor and deacon.
End There will be a gathering of Israel and great tribulation for the earth. Jesus Christ will personally return to the earth, where He will set up a millennial reign. The righteous will receive one of the three heavenly kingdoms. Those in hell can gain heaven if they repent and obey Christ. Jesus Christ will personally, gloriously, and visibly return to earth. There will be a day of judgment, when the bodies of both the righteous and unrighteous will be raised. The righteous will eternally exist in a state of joy with the Lord; the unrighteous will eternally and consciously endure punishment.

4. Tips on Witnessing to Mormons

  • Mormons believe that Christian denominations are false. Their goal is to win you.
  • Mormons believe their authority comes from the Mormon priesthood. Anyone who has not received the Mormon temple garments has no authority; therefore, you don’t have any authority or ability to teach them.
  • Mormons believe they are “the persecuted church.” They expect persecution.
  • Mormons are encouraged to “bear witness:” “I testify that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and died a martyr for the faith, that the Book of Mormon is true, that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true restored church, and that there is a living prophet upon the earth today.” They will encourage you to pray for this testimony, and to sense “a burning in your bosom” to signify its truth.
  • Mormons reject salvation by grace alone.
  • It is wise to use the King James Version of the Bible, since they respect it. Use the Bible to examine their claims.
  • Define terminology.
  • There is a place for bringing in Mormon history, false prophecies, and obscure doctrines. The goal, though, is not to proclaim the message of the saving grace of Jesus.
  • Sense their openness. Plant the seed, but do not argue. If you sense no openness, consider prayerfully whether to end your conversation.
Selected Bibliography

Martin, Walter R., The Kingdom of the Cults. 5th ed. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1985.
Van Gordon, Kurt. Mormonism (Zondervan Guide to Cults & Religious Movements). Grand Rapids, Zondervan 1995.

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Liberty Grace Church in Toronto. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada