Mormonism and Christianity
Dr. Jim Denison
“A cult…is a group of people polarized around someone’s interpretation of the Bible and is characterized by major deviations from orthodox Christianity relative to the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith, particularly the fact that God became man in Christ Jesus” (Walter Martin, The Rise of the Cults).
Unorthodox theology, somewhat related to Christianity
Presents a Jesus different from that of orthodox faith
Claims new truth
Offers new, non-orthodox interpretations of Scripture
Cites non-biblical authority source(s)
Rejects major tenets of orthodox Christianity
Generally develops a changing, often contradictory theology
Strong leadership, usually centered in a single person or group of persons
Almost always offers a salvation by works
Generally makes unsubstantiated prophetic claims
Contemporary Mormonism–“Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”
13 million worldwide in 20,081 wards and branches in 146 countries
4.2 million in all 50 states of America; Canada: 125,000
Missionaries: 46,025 in 95 countries
Fastest-growing “religion” in America
Has quadrupled in less than 50 years
Gained almost 315,000 converts last year
At current growth rates, would number 250 million within a century, larger than any Christian body except the Roman Catholic Church
45% of adherents live outside the U.S. today
The Mormon Church is an $8 billion-a-year corporation. $4 billion contributed by members each year; would rank 110th among the Fortune 500; one of the largest landowners in the U.S.
History of Mormonism
Founder: Joseph Smith, Jr. (1805-1844) founded the Mormon Church. He was born December 23, 1805 in Sharon, Vermont, the fourth of 10 children to Joseph and Lucy Mac Smith. In 1817 he moved to Palmyra, NY. Most of his family soon joined the Presbyterian Church, but young Joseph remained undecided. He saw conflict and strife in all Christian denominations.
He claimed to have visions which led to the founding of the church:
First vision: 1820 (14 years old)–it was revealed to him that no Christian church was right (The Pearl of Great Price 2.18,19).
Second vision: September 21, 1823–Moroni, a heavenly messenger, revealed to him a book on golden plates; finally on September 22, 1927 he was given these plates. The book was translated by Smith and published on March 26, 1830
The church’s founding
The church began on April 6, 1830 at Fayette, New York as the “church of Christ”; the name eventually changed to the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.” The group began to grow and moved to Kirtland, Ohio Expansion engendered opposition with battles fought between Mormons and non-Mormons in Missouri and Illinois.
Smith was imprisoned in Carthage, Illinois with his brother Hyrum for destroying and burning printing presses and newspapers opposing his movement.
On June 27, 1844, a mob of about 200 stormed the jail and killed Joseph and Hyrum Smith; Joseph shot several of the mob members with his gun before his death. The Mormons consider him a martyr for the cause.
The President of the Twelve Apostles, Brigham Young led the group after Smith’s death. They moved westward, and on July 24, 1847, arrived at Salt Lake Valley in Utah. This became their national headquarters
By his death in 1877, there were approximately 150,000 members. Smaller group, descended from Smith, established its headquarters in Independence, Missouri and became the “Reorganized Latter-Day Saints”
Sources of authority
The Bible: “We believe the Bible to be the Word of God in so far as it is translated correctly” (Articles of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Article 8). However, the Book of Mormon claims that a correct translation of the Bible is impossible since the Catholic Church has corrupted it (1 Nephi 13:26b,27). Thus the church depends much more on its other books than on the biblical materials.
The Book of Mormon: “We also believe the Book of Mormon to be the Word of God” (Articles of Faith, Section Eight). Supposedly there is an account of the original inhabitants of America, to whom Christ appeared after his resurrection.
Claims that in early times America was peopled by descendants of Israel
Nephites (a race of righteous white people)
Lamanites (a race of warlike, evil, and dark-skinned people; they are supposed to be the ancestors of the Native American population of today)
Jesus appeared on this continent and founded a group
Mormon, the last leader of the Nephites, supposedly collected the record of his people, and inscribed it on golden plates. It describes reported religious practices of the ancient Americans, including that the Nephites continued their Jewish traditions on this continent, building temples to God, having spiritual revivals, and even establishing a Christian church. Mormon records a post-resurrection appearance of Jesus Christ himself among the Nephite people (3 Nephi 11). Thus the Mormon Church contends that the Book of Mormon is “another testament of Jesus Christ.”
Moroni, the last surviving Nephite (after their destruction by the Lamanites) and son of Mormon supposedly buried the plates in a hill in what later became Manchester County, New York. Joseph Smith supposedly recovered these plates in 1827 when the resurrected Moroni, appearing as an angel, told him where to dig for them; Moroni later took the plates to heaven (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith–History, 1:27-65). The inscriptions were written in a language Smith called “reformed Egyptian” which he was supposedly able to decipher miraculously; he published these inscriptions as the Book of Mormon.
Doctrine and Covenants: a record of 136 revelations concerning some of Mormonism’s distinctive doctrines, such as baptism for the dead and celestial marriage.
The Pearl of Great Price:
“Book of Moses”–roughly equivalent to the first 6 chapters of Genesis
“Book of Abraham”–translation of an Egyptian papyrus
Extract from Joseph Smith’s translation of the Bible