False Prophets – The Mormons
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15)
In our day, and on our own Island, false prophets are all around us. It is a familiar sight to see well-dressed younger men or women, usually American, walking the streets in pairs, with a backpack and a badge bearing the name of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). They are missionaries better known to us as Mormons. They warmly introduce themselves as Christians. Their purpose is to engage people in conversation, to seemingly introduce them to Jesus Christ and invite them to their church. As commendable as this may appear to us, when we look a bit deeper, we find that we are actually faced with false prophets who appear in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.
Who are the Mormons?
In 1805, Joseph Smith was born in Vermont in the United States and moved to New York as a child. He attended Presbyterian and Methodist churches. In 1820, the fifteen year old Smith found himself confused as to who was right and who was wrong, amongst the various denominations. In his Pearl of Great Price, he later wrote, “the Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavouring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others. Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?”
In response to reading James 1:5, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God,” which he said came with power to him, he withdrew to a wooded area near his home to pray for wisdom from God on this matter. He claimed that when praying for wisdom on this matter, he experienced a vision in which he asked God which of the denominations he should join. However, he claimed to have been forbidden to join any of them, as they were all corrupt.
In 1823, Smith said that he was visited by an angel named Moroni, who told him that he had been chosen by God for a great work. The angel also told him about a book with inscriptions written on golden plates. This book had supposedly been buried with the Urim and Thummim of the Old Testament. Smith claimed to have found this book and, using the Urim and Thummin, translated the golden plates with assistance from his associate Oliver Cowdery. He published a translation in English in 1830 as The Book of Mormon. In the same year, he founded a church, which he called the Church of Christ. In 1838, he changed the name of the church to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Smith gained many dedicated followers throughout his lifetime. He died in 1844 at 38 years of age at Carthage Jail, Illinois. He had been arrested for treason against the state of Illinois. He was suspected of inciting a riot after he endorsed the destruction of the printing presses belonging to a newspaper who criticised him for polygamy and other controversial teachings. As he was awaiting trial, an armed mob stormed the jail, where Smith was shot a number of times before falling out of a window. Nowadays, there are thought to be around 17 million Mormons throughout the world, with the headquarters located in Salt Lake City in Utah. Mormonism continues to grow, largely due to its missionary efforts.
What do the Mormons Teach?
Mormons believe that, following the death of the apostles, the Church fell into complete apostasy as itlost divine authority and true doctrine. They teach that when Joseph Smith founded the LDS Church in 1830, he restored the true church, which up until that point had been lost. As a consequence, Mormons believe that for almost all of its history, from the time of the apostles until 1830, Christianity was false and without truth. On that basis, Mormonism rejects Church History. In response, we can say that whilst the Scriptures speak of the apostasy of the church, this apostasy is stated as partial and not a complete apostasy, “now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1).
Mormons claim that God is not eternal, rather that he was once a man and that He progressed to deity. Smith stated, “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” (Spiritual Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.345). The Bible clearly rejects such a claim. God did not progress towards deity, He is eternal and He has always been God. “Even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God” (Psalm 90:2).
Mormons deny the trinity and believe that they are three distinct gods. This contradicts Scripture, which teaches that there is one God (Deuteronomy 4:35), who exists in three persons (Matthew 28:19, John 1:1, Acts 5:3-4).
Moreover, Mormons believe that there are thousands of gods besides. They teach that humans can progress towards deity and become gods. The former Mormon President, Lorenzo Snow stated, “as God is now, man may become.” This false promise goes back as far as the Garden of Eden whereby, being forbidden of God to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the serpent’s false promise of deity led to the fall of man. “In the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). The notion of man somehow progressing towards deity is quite clearly contrary to Scripture, “before me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after me” (Isaiah 43:10).
Mormons believe that Jesus is God, eternal and Saviour. They accept as true the accounts of His life in the Gospels and that He gave Himself to death on the cross as a sacrifice. They even declare Christ to be the head of the Church. Though they use language which is very familiar to us, once you delve a bit deeper, it becomes quite apparent that the Jesus of Mormonism is not the Jesus of the Bible. According to Joseph Smith, Jesus was an eternal spirit, who along with his brother Lucifer, became incarnate, in order to be tested and become a god. Therefore, Mormon theology teaches that Jesus is, “God the Second, the Redeemer.” Mormons have taught that the incarnation was as a result of a physical relationship between God the Father and Mary. Again, this contradicts the Scripture, which teaches that Christ’s human nature was conceived in Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20).
Mormons teach that the purpose of Christ’s death on the cross was not to make atonement for sin, but to guarantee the resurrection of all people. Scripture, on the other hand, clearly teaches the atonement, “for this is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
In Mormon theology, the idea of salvation is complex as they give many different meanings to the word ‘salvation.’ Essentially, someone who has a relationship with Christ is saved if they are obedient, where the gift of the Holy Spirit is conditional upon our continued obedience. On that basis, Christ’s atonement isn’t deemed sufficient in Mormonism, therefore it is a works based religion. Again this contradicts the scriptural teaching that salvation is not based upon our works (Ephesians 2:8-10) and that the Holy Spirit cannot be lost, as the Holy Spirit seals the believer until the day of redemption (Ephesians 1:13).
Mormons do not believe that the Bible is inerrant (without error) or that it is sufficient without their own additions to it. They believe in continuing revelation, affirming the supposed inspiration of the book of Mormon and other writings. Mormons believe that they can receive authoritative interpretations and new revelations. In reality, the canon of Scripture closed with the death of the last apostle. The Bible is complete, Scripture is sufficient and nothing should be added or taken away from it (Revelation 22:18-19).
In terms of heaven, Mormons teach that there are three kingdoms in glory, with the particular level attained depending on your level of faithfulness. Aside from these three levels, they teach that there is a place called the outer darkness, set aside from the devil and his angels and those who have committed the unforgiveable sin. Some have suggested that the unforgiveable sin is apostasy from Mormonism. Yet, whilst there are degrees of reward in heaven, the Bible never states that there are different levels of heaven. Believers will go to be with the Lord and will be united with fellow believers from all ages. In the Old Testament, when a believer dies, he was said to have been, “gathered to his people” (Genesis 25:8; Numbers 20:24). In the New Testament we read that God “raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:6). There is no hint of varying levels of heaven, although there may be different degrees of communion with all believers.
Practical and Spiritual Considerations
The idea of witnessing to a false prophet can be quite intimidating, particularly when we meet them as missionaries whose purpose is to gain converts to a cult. In addition, have you ever met a Mormon missionary who is anything but warm and respectful in the way that they conduct themselves? We may also know Mormons locally and may fear that our witnessing to them may result a broken relationship.
How then can we reach out to Mormons with the Gospel? As we have considered above, it is important to know what they believe and to be able to articulate a Biblical response to their beliefs. In doing so, we ought to speak to them directly, but graciously and prayerfully, in the knowledge that they are without Christ, in spiritual darkness, and heading towards a lost eternity.
Some of us well remember, in our own congregation back in 2018, when two Mormon missionaries attended our evening service, following meeting one of our church members in the town during the week. Their intention may have been to infiltrate the church, but whatever their intentions were, they came under the sound of the Gospel. As providence would have it, our previous minister, whilst working through a series on Matthew, had reached the text (See Here) that evening, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). He preached directly and even listed a number of false churches by name, which included the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Neither of them got up and left at that point. In fact, they both remained after the service and chatted with the congregation. Eternity will tell if the Lord saw fit to bless that service to the good of their souls. What better way to reach Mormons, than to bring them under the sound of the Gospel and to in turn remember them at the throne of grace?