Mormonism (Latter-day Saints) is extremely prevalent in our society. It was only recently that I realized how much Mormonism is in our faces without us realizing so. Many influencers and family vloggers are Mormons. The way they speak about their faith is so similar to Christianity that it can be easy to assume that on the surface these social media stars are Christian. However, they are not Christian. Thus, I took a deep dive into what exactly is Mormonism and how does it differ from Christianity.
The official name for Mormonism is the Church of Latter-day Saints (LDS) (Hodge & Patterson, 234). The followers are called Mormons, and the common name, "Mormon," comes from one of the books considered "another testament of Jesus Christ," The Book of Mormon (Hodge & Patterson, 234). The LDS church is global with 150 and counting temples, and three Brigham Young Universities (BYU) in Utah, Idaho, and Hawaii. Their headquarters is in Lake City, Utah (Rose Publishing, 193).
Mormon Church History
Mormonism was founded by Joseph Smith, Jr. In 1820, when Joseph was 14 years old, he was torn about which was the true church: Methodists, Baptists, or Presbyterians (Hodge & Patterson, 233). Using the book of James that says that those who ask God for wisdom will be given it, Joseph went to a secluded spot in the woods and asked God for wisdom about which church to join. When Joseph started to pray, "an overwhelming force bound his body and tongue, and thick darkness enveloped him! Just as he thought he was about to die, a pillar of light descended from heaven delivering him from the power" (Hodge & Patterson, 233). The "Heavenly Father and His beloved son engulfed in light" stood before Joseph (Hodge & Patterson, 233). The son told Joseph that all the denominations are an abomination and not to join their corruption.
Joseph kept living as he was, and sought another revelation three years later, now 17 years old (Hodge & Patterson, 233). The very night Joseph sought another revelation, an angel named Moroni came and told Joe that he would be given a book written on golden plates that "contained the fullness of the everlasting gospel" (Hodge & Patterson, 233). Joseph was to found a new church and "restore the truth to the world" (Hodge & Patterson, 234). This is called "The First Vision," and Roger Patterson notes that this account has changed over time with many variations and discrepancies (Hodge & Patterson, 234). The official version was recorded two decades after the original event.
In 1830, after Joseph received the golden plates from Moroni and translated them into the Book of Mormon, Smith founded the Mormon Church (Hodge & Patterson, 234). Joseph Smith, Jr. quickly gained followers, and soon Mormonism was spreading through missionaries. The urgency to spread the religion came from needing to "restore the gospel" since the true gospel and ordinances were "lost" shortly after the Apostles died, known as the Great Apostasy (Hodge & Patterson, 235). "According to Mormon prophets, after the death of Jesus's original apostles, the Christian church gradually slipped into 'the Great Apostasy'--a complete and universal abandonment of true Christian principles. Though we do not know exactly when this took place, Christian doctrine became thoroughly corrupted, and the priesthood authority necessary to administer key ordinances like baptism and the Lord's Supper was lost" (10 Q&A on Mormonism). This contrasts Jesus's promises that He would build His church and that the "gates of Hell shall not prevail against it" (Matt. 16:18, 28:20) (10 Q&A on Mormonism). Further, 1 Timothy 4:1 stating that some would depart, implies that others would not (10 Q&A on Mormonism). Apostasy is individual and not the whole church ceasing to exist (10 Q&A on Mormonism).
This "restored gospel" is different from the one recorded in the Bible (Hodge & Patterson, 255). "As we look at the Bible, we see that Paul warned the Galatian churches to reject any gospel that came to them, whether from himself or an angel, describing those who would teach a different gospel as damned (accursed) by God (Gal. 1:6-9)" (Hodge & Patterson, 255). The "restored gospel" is even more false and demonic in light of 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 (Hodge & Patterson, 255).
The first LDS community was established in Independence, Missouri, where Smith prophesied that the Garden of Eden and future New Jerusalem would be closely located (Hodge & Patterson, 235). A cornerstone of a temple was placed there, but the Mormons were soon kicked out due to persecution. While Smith was imprisoned, Brigham Young led the growing LDS congregation in establishing Nauvoo, Illinois. When Smith escaped from prison, he became the mayor and military leader, directing the building of a large temple that was completed after his death (killed by a mob). During this time that Joseph Smith proclaimed the doctrines most associated with Mormons: baptisms for the dead and polygynous marriage.
“After Smith’s death, there was a dispute over the succession of leadership“ (Hodge & Patterson, 235). As a result, various sects formed its many church leaders claiming to have authority. The main sect that survives today was led by Brigham Young, and the mainline church was soon established with waves of Mormons settling in Utah (Hodge & Patterson, 236). Since that church establishment, beginning in 1846, there have been further splits over issues, such as the doctrine of plural marriage. These groups are called the Fundamentalist LDS groups (FLDS). They believe that they are “remaining faithful to the teachings of Joseph Smith that were abandoned by the leadership in Salt Lake City” (Hodge & Patterson, 236). Those who moved to Salt Lake were the ones who established the city and the temple that remains today.
Authority & Scripture
Mormons believe that Heavenly Father revealed direction through visions and revelations given to Joseph Smith (Hodge & Patterson, 238). "Joseph Smith understood himself to be the first modern prophet who was to bring the restoration of the fullness of the gospel. As he gradually received revelations through various messengers, he identified these functions as prophet, seer, and revelator" (Hodge & Patterson, 251). The Bible provides two tests to see if a prophet was true. "First, he must represent the true God of the Hebrews; prophets who introduced false gods were to be immediately rejected (Deut. 13:1-3). Second, they were to reject the professing prophets who incorrectly foretold the futire (Deut. 18:20-22). They were also commanded not to add or to take away from the revelations God had given them (Deut. 4:2, Prov. 30:6)" (10 Q&A on Mormonism). Smith did not pass either one of these tests, making him a false prophet.
Smith also claimed that "Peter, Majes, and John appeared to him to confer on him the Melchizedek priesthood" (Hodge & Patterson, 256). Eligibility for promotion to such exaltation occurs through serving as a priest in the temple or as a higher officer (D&C 107) (Hodge & Patterson, 256). However, Hebrews 7 states that only Jesus holds the Melchizedek priesthood (Hodge & Patterson, 256). Stating you have direct access to God through Christ and the Bible is threatening the established order of the Mormon church's priesthood hiararchy (Micah Wilder, 176).
They believe that the God of the Bible is the ultimate authority, yet rely on modern prophets and individual revelation through messengers from heaven (Hodge & Patterson, 238). Mormonism follows four pieces of Scripture that contradict since God has "different rules at different times" (Hodge & Patterson, 238). The revelation the LDS prophets have received over the years also contradict the Bible and all the other pieces of work that they follow (Hodge & Patterson, 251). This is used to justify the various discrepancies in the different literatutre (Hodge & Patterson, 238). Authority is continually changing, which makes following Mormon difficult like a "moving target" (Hodge & Patterson, 238). "Peering in from the outside, it is hard to see anything other than a system that constantly changes to fit new situations in the culture as new 'revelations' are received" (Hodge & Patterson, 238). Additionally, there have been numerous failed prophecies of future events from Joseph Smith and other LDS prophets (Hodge & Patterson, 254). This make these men, including Joseph Smith, false prophets (Deut. 18:20-22), which furthers Mormonism as a false religion. What more can you expect from a religion based on revelation from man? This continual revelation denies the Christian doctrines of inerrancy, sufficiency, and authority of the Bible, which is not the ultimate authority for Mormons (Hodge & Patterson, 239).
The ultimate authority is vested in the current president of the church (Hodge & Patterson, 239). The president is the “head of the church” and is a “modern prophet, seer, and revelator along with the two members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles” (Hodge & Patterson, 236). These modern apostles are in the same form as those who walked with Jesus and are said to "have the keys of the kingdom of God and serve as modern prophets" (Hodge & Patterson, 251). Additionally, there are the Quorum of Seventy, “each with a president, to fulfill different functions of leadership and counsel over various church organizations,” similarly to the Jewish council of elders (Ex. 24L9, Num, 11:16) (Hodge & Patterson, 236, 251). On the micro/local level, presidents preside over bishoprics, who serve wards (local groups) without compensation.
Blacks and the Priesthood
In 1852, Brigham Young established that "men of black African descent (not just dark skin) were not allowed to hold the priesthood, though they could be baptized and cosnidered members" (Hodge & Patterson, 264). This was the case all the way until 1978 (Hodge & Patterson, 264)! Over the course of the years, prophets have also denied temple endowments and marriages to blacks (Hodge & Patterson, 264). The priesthood restriction did not allow them to access temples for saving ordinances (Lynn Wilder, 122).
The justification behind this behavior is that the curse of Cain in Genesis 4:10-15 involves black skin, that the curse on Ham in Genesis 9:24-25 includes black skin, and that Lucifer's followers were cursed with dark skin (Hodge & Patterson, 264-65). None of this is true at all, and it all goes against Christian teaching that all are equal before God in Christ. It does not matter your race or gender. Despite the policies being renounced, the scriptures have not been removed (Lynn Wilder, 129). A minority of Mormons, the fundamentalists, still follow these racist beliefs, despite the current declaration in the D&C (Hodge & Patterson, 265).
Mormon Scripture includes the Bible, The Book of Mormon (BoM), Doctrine & Covenants (D&C), and The Pearl of Great Price (PGP) (Hodge & Patterson, 257). Articles 7-9 of the "The Articles of Faith Creed" address revelation (Hodge & Patterson, 257).
While many Mormons use the KJV of the Bible, the official Mormonism website and literature issued by the church states that the Bible has been corrupted (see Article 8 that states: "as far as it (the Bible) is properly translated") (Hodge & Patterson, 257). They consider the Bible to be corrupt because of faulty copying of original texts in the same language, where corrupt religious leaders either removed important ideas or inserted false teaching (10 Q&A on Mormonism). "While original documents by the hands of biblical authors no longer exist, critical examination of the thousands of available manuscript copies allows us to determine with great accuracy precisely what the original writers wrote. Although no two ancient manuscripts of the Bible read exactly the same, the differences (called 'variants') are essentially minor and do not support radically different religious ideas--such as the Mormon belief that God the father was once a man" (10 Q&A on Mormonism). 2 Timothy 3:16 states: "All Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness." Paul also quoted from the Gospel of Luke (1 Tim. 5:18, citing Luke 10:7), bringing the New Testament into the context of what Scripture is (10 Q&A on Mormonism). God's Word also do not change and is sufficient to accurately convey God's revealed Truth (Isa. 40:8, 55:11).
Part of Joseph Smith restoring the gospel was "translating the Bible," which was done by him rewriting the parts that he thought were incorrect (Hodge & Patterson, 257). This sounds a bit like Progressive Christianity to me. Though never completed, the Joseph Smith's "corrections" were mere attempts to reconcile the Bible to Mormonism (Hodge & Patterson, 257). No other church member ever took up the task to finish Smith's translation of the Bible (Hodge & Patterson, 258). The Mormon church has insisted that the "most reliable way to measure the accuracy of any biblical passage is not by comparing different texts, but by comparison with the Book of Mormon and modern-day revelations" (10 Q&A on Mormonism).
The Book of Mormon is "the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book" (Hodge & Patterson, 258). It comes from the Joseph Smith's golden plates that were found after the angel Moroni gave him the location (Hodge & Patterson, 258). The plates have since been returned to Moroni and are under his watch, so there's no way to confirm or verify them (Hodge & Patterson, 260). Smith also received spectacles that allowed him to translate "by the gift and power of God" and a seer stone (Hodge & Patterson, 258). The translation was not direct but by Smith looking at the seer stone inside a hat and the words would appear to him (Hodge & Patterson, 268).
The original writing supposedly is by two ancient groups and is recorded in Reformed Egyptian (Hodge & Patterson, 259). The first group traveled to Central America after the dispersion at Babel, and the second was a Jewish group who left Israel in 600 BC mixed with Native Americans of North America (Hodge & Patterson, 259). This is where the Mormon belief that Native Americans are genetically Jewish comes from (Hodge & Patterson, 259). The Mormons believe that Native Americans are ancestors of Jews who were cursed with dark skin for disobedience, and that if they followed God, their curse would be removed and their skin would turn back white (3 Nephi 2:12-16) (D&C 49:24) (Hodge & Patterson, 265). This is extremely wrong and incorrect to say the least. Anyway, part of this latter group was the prophet Moroni who buried the gold plates in upstate New York in AD 421 (Hodge & Patterson, 259).
Contrasting to the Bible, the Book of Mormon has no external confirmation and has been contradicted on many levels (Hodge & Patterson, 259). There is no evidence for any archeological or historical details, whereas the Bible can be verified down to its earliest manuscripts (Hodge & Patterson, 259). The Book of Mormon is not published with maps (10 Q&A on Mormonism). "The LDS church cannot locate even one unique Book of Mormon city, and it has failed to provide undisputed proof that the peoples it describes really existed" (10 Q&A on Mormonism). The same applies to animals, weaponry, and plants mentioned, which were not present in the New World during the Book of Mormon (10 Q&A on Mormonism).
Mormon missionaries invite others to read the Book of Mormon and to pray for God to reveal the truth (Hodge & Patterson, 270). "If it is true, God will give you a 'burning in the bosom' and peace of mind that will make all clear" (Hodge & Patterson, 270). This is very subjective and leaves open for Satanic deception (Hodge & Patterson, 270). the Bible teaches us not to rely on feelings but to base everything on His truth, the Bible. Micah Wilder recounts that once he learned how false feelings can be and that the "burning in the bosom" is against Scripture, he started following 1 John 4:1, which states: "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world" (305).
"The Doctrine and Covenants is a collection of divine revelations and inspired declarations given for the establishment and regulation of the kingdom of God on earth in the last days" (Hodge & Patterson, 260). This text consists primarily of revelations given to Smith about "specific points of doctrine as awell as explanations of passages" (Hodge & Patterson, 260). "Most of Mormon doctrine is found in this book as Smith formulated the various teachings over time" (Hodge & Patterson, 260). Later revelation contradict earlier revelation (Hodge & Patterson, 260).
The Pearl of Great Price are later writings added to Mormon doctrine in 1880 (Hodge & Patterson, 260). Writings include the Book of Moses (not from the Bible) and the Book of Abraham, Egyptian papyri translated by Smith in 1835 that fabricates aspects of Abraham's life to validate the existence of Kolob (Abraham 3:3) and pre-existence (Abraham 3:22) (Hodge & Patterson, 260). The papyri were sold by Smith's family in 1856 and were later discovered in a museum in New York in 1967 (Hodge & Patterson, 260). It turned out to be an Egyptian book of the dead (not belonging to Abraham or having to do anything with him) (Hodge & Patterson, 261)! Nevertheless, Mormons still follow this text. The PGP also contains Joseph Smith's history, Smith's translation of the Gospel of Matthew, and "The Articles of Faith," which are fundamental to the Mormon religion (Hodge & Patterson, 261).
Mormonism denies the Christian view of the Godhead. Christianity views God as three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) (Rom. 1:7, John 20:28, Acts 5:3-4) in one God (monotheism) (Deut. 6:4). Mormonism believe there are many gods (polytheism) occupying different sections of the universe (Hodge & Patterson, 240). A more precise term for the Mormon view of the Godhead is henotheistic, meaning they "acknowledge many gods but worship only the gods connected with this planet" (Hodge & Patterson, 240). They do not have a Trinitarian view of God, united in being, rather their godhead is three divine persons united in purpose (Hodge & Patterson, 240-241).
God v. Heavenly Father
The Mormon Heavenly Father (Elohim) was a man created by another god, who was in turn, created by another god (Hodge & Patterson, 241). This contrasts Psalm 90:2, which says that God has always been eternally God. Elohim earned his way to god status through obedience to his spiritual father (Hodge & Patterson, 241). This is called the law of eternal progression, and applies to all spiritual beings in the universe, who can achieve godhood through obedience to the "laws and obediences of the gospel defined by Heavenly Father" (Hodge & Patterson, 241). The fifth president of the Mormon church, Lorenzo Snow, described the law of eternal progression as this: "As man now is, God once was: As God now is, many may be" (Hodge & Patterson, 241). This essentially is saying that men (some say women too) can become god with the same nature as God, which goes against Scripture (Hodge & Patterson, 241). By this law, a man can earn the same privileges and powers of Elohim and the "ability to organize his own planet, where his wives will produce spirit children to continue the cycle of the four stages of existence--premortal existence, mortal life, spirit life, and resurrected life" (Hodge & Patterson, 250). This is different from when the Bible says that Christians are conformed into the image of Christ, which is speaking of godly character and glorification (Rom. 8:28-30) (Hodge & Patterson, 241). Further, Isaiah 43:10-11, 44:6-8 and Deuteronomy 4:35 contrast the idea that God was once man and that man can become god (Hodge & Patterson, 250).
Further, as opposed to God, Mormon Heavenly Father was a man of flesh and blood, not spirit (Hodge & Patterson, 241). According to LDS doctrine (Abraham 3:1-4), Heavenly Father resides on a planet near the star Kolob and is not omnipresent (Hodge & Patterson, 241). Heavenly Father as an exalted, eternal human was explicitly proclaimed by Joseph Smith and is still recognized by his followers (Hodge & Patterson, 241).
Since Heavenly Father is a man, Mormons believe that he has one or more wives whom he created the spirit children with (Hodge & Patterson, 241). These spirit children receive bodies and become humans (Hodge & Patterson, 242). Teachings on Heavenly Mother are limited, and she is not worshipped (Hodge & Patterson, 242). The idea of Heavenly Father having multiple wives is not in official doctrine, but has been taught by many church leaders, including Brigham Young, and it aligns with the principles of polygamous earthly and celestial marriages (Hodge & Patterson, 242).
Jesus v. Jehovah
Mormon Jesus, first and foremost before we discuss anything else, was married (Christianity, Cults, and Religions). Referred to as Jehovah, he is considered the firstborn spirit child of Heavenly Father and Mother, and was born during a period called "preexistence" (Hodge & Patterson, 243). Although Mormonism aligns with the Christian doctrine of Jesus being firstborn over all creation (Col. 1:15), Mormons simultaneously deny that Jesus was the Creator of all things (Col. 1:16) because they believe Jesus was created and did not create other spiritual beings (Hodge & Patterson, 243). Jesus was created with a ton of other spiritual siblings during that preexistent period (Hodge & Patterson, 243).
The Virgin Birth
Mormon prophets also teach another version about Jesus's origin. Brigham Young was the first to teach that Heavenly Father came to Mary in the flesh and not in a supernatural way: "When the time came that His firest-born, the Savior, should come into the world and take a tabernacle, the Father came Himself and favoured that spirit with a tabernacle, instead of letting any other man do it" (Hodge & Patterson, 244). President Orson Pratt later added that at least for the time of the "conception" of Jesus, Heavenly Father and Mary were lawfully married (Hodge & Patterson, 244). "While many modern Mormons would reject the teaching as authoritative, the prophets and leaders of the church proclaim that Heavenly Father had normal sexual intercourse with Mary to conceive the earthly body of Jesus" (Hodge & Patterson, 244). This is not a miracle. This contrasts the biblical teaching that Mary was a virgin (until after she gave birth to Jesus) and conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26-38).
Lucifer & Hell
Lucifer was the second-born, making him brother to Jesus and to the rest of the spiritual beings (Hodge & Patterson, 243). The divide between Jesus and Lucifer occurred when "Jesus offered a plan of testing the worthiness of the spirit children that was favored by Elohim (Heavenly Father) over Lucifer's plan" (Hodge & Patterson, 244). Lucifer wanted to force everyone to be saved, and Jesus wanted people to have free will (Lynn Wilder, 56). As a result, a war was waged in which Lucifer and the spirits who followed him were condemned to exist as demonic spirits until they will be "cast into outer darkness" (the Mormon version of Hell) (Hodge & Patterson, 244, 49). This place is for those who have turned from the faith and have denied Mormonism (D&C 76:30-49) (Hodge & Patterson, 249).
The Holy Ghost & Baptism
Similarly to Christians, Mormons attribute the Holy Ghost as a member of the godhead, but still, nevertheless, deny Him as a person of the Trinity (Hodge & Patterson, 245). In D&C 130:22, it is described as a "spirit that has the form and likeness of a man," the Holy Ghost remains a spirit, and his job is to "work in perfect unity with the Heavenly Father and Jesus to bring about their plans" (Hodge & Patterson, 245; Lynn Wilder, 324). The Holy Ghost is believed to "influence people to do good and protect from spiritual and physical harm" (Hodge & Patterson, 245). The Holy Ghost remains with the person if they remain obedient to the ordinances and commandments of the church (Hodge & Patterson, 245). The Mormon Holy Ghost contrasts with Christianity because besides being a member of the Trinity, Christians receive the Holy Spirit upon becoming saved as a guarantee of their salvation. Those who are in Christ do not lose the Holy Spirit from disobedience.
The Holy Ghost is received after baptism, when a member of the Melchizedek priesthood lays hands on an individual to impart the gift of the Holy Spirit to them (an ordinance of their gospel) (Hodge & Patterson, 245). Baptisms typically take place when a child is 8 years old and can make the choice to follow the church doctrine out of their own "free agency" and are officially held accountable for their sins (Hodge & Patterson, 256; Micah Wilder, 119). It is performed by proper priesthood authority (Hodge & Patterson, 256). Baptism is one of the key parts of the Mormon gospel and is absolutely necessary to enter a level of heaven (Hodge & Patterson, 256).
Mormons believe that humans are spirit children of Heavenly Father and Mother, who live in "pre-existence" until they go through their probation period (Hodge & Patterson, 246). "Behavior in the pre-existence could determine a spirit's lot here on earth" (Lynn Wilder, 45). They believe that it is the role of earthly families to provide bodies for the spirit children to "go through the probationary testing here on earth to determine their worthiness to return to live with Heavenly Father" (Hodge & Patterson, 246). The church encourages large families, starting as soon as possible, in order for the spirit children to enter into their probation on earth (Hodge & Patterson, 269). This is a reason why so many influencers happen to be Mormon. People are interested in watching weddings and (large) families, especially those with young newlyweds or parents.
Like Christians, Mormons believe that man was created in the image of God, but in the literal sense of the human form (Hodge & Patterson, 246). However, there is disagreement within the Mormon church over the nature of the creation of Adam and Eve (Hodge & Patterson, 246). Some early prophets believed in the Adam-God Doctrine, the belief that Adam was Elohim (Hodge & Patterson, 246). In 1976, this doctrine was rejected by President Spencer W. Kimball and other prophets, even though both beliefs are supposedly from God (Hodge & Patterson, 246).
Mormons do not believe in original sin, but in individual disobedience as the source of any loss of reward in the afterlife (Hodge & Patterson, 246). "Mormons acknowledge the consequence of physical death for all of Adam's descendants but not spiritual death" (Hodge & Patterson, 246). Christians believe that all of man is fallen and condemned in Adam (Rom. 5:12-19, 1 Cor. 15:20-28), where as Mormons do believe that humans are at enmity against God, but that man can use free agency "to strive after holiness and to yield to the enticings of the Holy Spirit" (Hodge & Patterson, 246). Completing acts of obedience can just make a person clean and help them to avoid trials (Lynn Wilder, 196, 213). Trials are considered to be given to the weak and full of sin (Lynn Wilder, 196). "The Fall of man is a positive idea in Mormon theology, since without it the spirits could not be tested and learn and progress toward godhead" (2 Nephi 2, Book of Mormon) (Hodge & Patterson, 246).
There are unforgivable sins: blasphemy against the Holy Ghost (denying that the Mormon Church is true once you have declared that it is), adultery the second time, and the shedding of innocent blood (Lynn Wilder, 148). All serious transgressions are reported to the bishop and then told to the stake president (Lynn Wilder, 146). The disciplinary action is based on the sinner's church calling, church activity, gender, and level of sincerity in repentance (Lynn Wilder, 146). Four possible outcomes are no action, formal probation, disfellowship, or excommunication from the church (Lynn Wilder, 146). Excommunication is for "predators who create victims, prominent members who could impact the reputation of the church, or disfellowshipped members who remained unrepentant" (Lynn Wilder, 146). It means that someone is stripped of their church membership/position and baptism (Lynn Wilder, 147). Nevertheless, excommunicated members can attend church but cannot give any talks, partake in sacraments, vote in the rote sustaining of church leaders, wear the protective undergarments, and cannot tithe to ensure not being burned when Christ comes back (Lynn Wilder, 147).
When Micah Wilder told his President that his salvation was in Jesus Christ alone, the President told him he was being deceived and following a path by Satan (Micah Wilder, 254). Mormon salvation occurs only if a person "exercises faith, repents, receives baptism by immersion, and the laying of hands by someone with the proper priesthood authority" (Hodge & Patterson, 248). They believe that they are atoned for their sins through their own obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel (Hodge & Patterson, 247). It is a works-based salvation instead of through the substitutionary atonement through Jesus Christ. Mormons do believe that grace (immortality to all, whether they believe or not) was not through His sacrifice on the cross but during His suffering in the garden of Gethsemane, which was completed on the Cross (crosses are not used in any decor or architecture because it was what killed Jesus (Lynn Wilder, 100)) (Christianity, Cults, and Religions, 10 Q&A on Mormonism). If you want to live with Jesus and Heavenly Father, you have to work your way there (Lynn Wilder, 218). 2 Nephi 25:23 says: "For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do" (emphasis added). Further, Moroni 10:32 states: "Yea, come into Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind, and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you..." (emphasis added). The Mormon version of grace (which goes to level of exaltation) only comes into effect after doing everything you can, including relinquishing all sin, which is impossible (10 Q&A on Mormonism).
Jesus is not enough according to these writings. Mormonism is yet another "Jesus plus" religion. In this instance, it is Jesus + faithfulness to church leaders, Mormon baptism, tithing, ordination, marriage, and secret temple rituals (Christianity, Cults, and Religions). Lynn Wilder recounted: "I was continuously thinking about myself, about how I was being watched by a Father who was testing me to see how I would do" (216). In Christ alone is our hope found. He alone is enough for our salvation. On our own, we could never meet God's standard needed to be in His presence (Rom. 3:19-20,23). The Law was never meant to be a guide but a mirror to show us our sin and need for a Savior. God sent Christ to pay our debt to Him for our sin, and to thus, impute Christ's righteousness to us (Rom. 3:21-28, 5:1-11, 2 Cor. 5:18-21). Jesus took our place and paid for our sins completely (Col. 2:13-14, 1 John 1:9). Our salvation is not based on what we do, but given by the mercy of God (Titus 3:4-5). It is by grace alone though faith alone in Christ alone (Rom. 4:3-8, Eph. 2:8-9). Good works is the fruit and not the root of salvation (Eph. 2:10, Gal. 5:6, James 2:14-26). The offer of grace is extended to all, but it is given to those who believe amd repent. We will still stumble, for we still sin while being saved, but we can repent and turn away from it, knowing our salvation is still covered by Christ.
Heaven & Baptism for the Dead
Many Mormons believe that almost all willl be saved from the punishment of the "outer darkness" (Hell) and will enter into one of the three levels of heaven (D&C 76:31-37, 76:40-45) (Hodge & Patterson, 247). The concept of "three heavens" is a totally taken out of context 1 Corinthians 15:40-41, which in context, is referring to the earthly atmosphere, outer space, and the heavenly realm where God's presence exists (Hodge & Patterson, 248). The Mormon twist on this passage is that the Celestial Kingdom has the glory of the sun, the Teresstial has the glory of the moon, and the Telestial has the glory of the stars (Hodge & Patterson, 248). All of this is reflected in the Mormon temple architecture and decor (Hodge & Patterson, 248).
The highest level of heaven, known as the Celestial Kingdom is where Heavenly Father will be (D&C 76:50-70, 76:92-96) (Hodge & Patterson, 248). To get to Paradise in the Spirit World and be resurrected with a body of flesh in the Celestial Kingdom at the final judgment, one has to have been "obedient to the gospel rules and principles and have participated in rituals in the temple" (Hodge & Patterson, 248). Within the Celestial Kingdom, there are three degrees based on obedience level (D&C 131:1-4) (Hodge & Patterson, 248).
Access to the middle and lower kingdoms (Terrestrial and Telestial) is for almost all people after they esvape Spirit Prison (Hodge & Patterson, 249). Those who are not Mormon, do not escape Spirit Prison, and are not baptized while dead will still enter one of these lower kingdoms after the judgment and resurrection (Hodge & Patterson, 249). The middle kingdom, the Terrestrial Kingdom is for those who are moral during their "probation period" on earth, including Mormons who do not remain obedient (Hodge & Patterson, 249). This kingdom differs from the Celestial kingdom in that those who are in the Terrestial Kingdom have a terrestrial body (instead of celestial) and will receive the presence of the Son but not the fullness of the Father (D&C 76:71-80) (Hodge & Patterson, 249). The Telestial, the lowest level, is for those who reject the Mormon gospel and are wicked; and there will be no god there, yet the "glory surpasses all understanding" (Hodge & Patterson, 249).
Spirit Prision is where those who are not Mormon or are not obedient to the Mormon rules go after death (D&C 138:32) (Hodge & Patterson, 248). Those there are "taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptisms for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, and all other principles of the gospel that are necessary for them to know" (D&C 138:33-34) (Hodge & Patterson, 248). Those who respond get a second chance and will go to the Celestial Kingdom at one of the three levels at the judgment and resurrection (Hodge & Patterson, 248).
"The practice of baptisms for the dead is claimed to be one of the restored elements of the gospel that was lost in the Great Apostasy after the Apostles had died" (Hodge & Patterson, 249). It occurs when one stands in proxy for the dead, so they can be baptized. This gives the dead a chance at the highest level of heaven. Mormons try to justify this ritual through 1 Corinthians 15:29 (Hodge & Patterson, 249). Mormons see genealogical work as a duty and to perform these by proxy baptisms (Hodge & Patterson, 256).
Similarly to Christians, Mormons attend worship service on Sundays (Hodge & Patterson, 236). Instead of the word "churches," Mormons have services in ward chapels, where several wards make up a stake (Hodge & Patterson, 237). Service structure is similar to Christian services in that they both have hymns, communion of water and bread, prayer, and teaching (Hodge & Patterson, 237). Additionally to Sunday services, Mormons also have stake meetings and biannual general conference meetings in Salt Lake City ((Hodge & Patterson, 237).
Ward entrance is different than temple entrance, for while wards are used for Sunday service for anyone, only one in good standing can enter the temple with certain parts of the temple needing a recommendation card, given by the ward bishop (Hodge & Patterson, 237). To earn a temple recommend, one has to pass a worthiness interview with a bishopric, and adults have to pass a second worthiness interview with the same questions but with the stake president (Lynn Wilder, 69). Questions include "whether one sustains the Mormon prophets as the prophet, seer, and revelator and as the only person on the earth who posseses and authorized to exercise all the priesthood keys; whether one is a full tithe payer, keeps the Word of Wisdom, and attends sacrament and other meetings; and whether one is is affiliated with, or agrees with any group or individual whose teaching or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" (Lynn Wilder, 69).
Ceremonies & Polygamy
The temples are primarily used for performing rituals (Hodge & Patterson, 237). These temple ceremonies are only for members who are in good standing (Christianity, Cults, and Religions). One of the main rituals is the endowment ceremony where "doctrines are taught and certain ceremonies performed" (Hodge & Patterson, 237). In the endowment, Mormons are taught handshakes (tokens), arm gestures (signs), and special phrases (key words), which all will be used to pass the "angelic sentinels who guard the way back to the presence of God" (10 Q&A on Mormonism). This typically takes place right before young adults go on their missions or get married (Hodge & Patterson, 237).
Mormons also use the temple to baptize the dead (beginning at age 12) and for the sealing ceremonies (Hodge & Patterson, 267). There is one for families to be sealed "forever families" in the eternal realm, and one for marriages to be sealed to continue in the after life (procreating spirit children and ruling their own world with their earthly family) (Hodge & Patterson, 267; Lynn Wilder, 73). Earthly family unity is instilled through family home evenings where there is teaching and time together and through family prayer (Hodge & Patterson, 269).
For the marriage sealing, men can be sealed to multiple wives incase one of them dies (Hodge & Patterson, 267). This is part of polygamy, considering that the husband would "still be married" to all his wives in the afterlife. Nevertheless, not all Mormons accept or practice polygamy anymore, although many would not consider the sealing to multiples wives (having multiple wives in the afterlife) to be polygamous. The practice by early Mormons is justified by the church that "there were more women than men in the church's early years" (Lynn Wilder, 276). Polygamy began soon after the church was established in 1830 (Lynn Wilder, 277). Between 1852 and 1890 the practice was essential for progression to godhood (10 Q&A on Mormonism). "Joseph Smith had approximately 40 wives, which were either married to him or sealed to him in temple ceremonies to be his wives in eternity if not on earth. At least 14 of these wives were married to other men at the time of the sealing or marriage to Smith" (Hodge & Patterson, 268).
President Lincoln and the Republican Party (formed in 1854) detested this practice, and Congress made it illegal in the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act of 1862 (Lynn Wilder, 277). Utah's statehood was actually witheld until the federal government believed that Mormonism was no longer in the state, which caused polygamy to officially end in 1890 (Lynn Wilder, 278). Many fled to Mexico and Canada to continue the practice (Lynn Wilder, 278). Despite its illegality and sometimes involving child rape, spouse abuse, welfare fraud, and deplorable poverty, people still practice polygamy today, and the state ignores it (Lynn Wilder, 106).
Although men such as Abraham, Jacob, David, and Solomon practiced polygamy, plural marriage was never part of God's creation of marriage. Scriptural support can be found in Genesis 2:24, Mark 10:8, 1 Corinthians 7:2, 1 Timothy 3:2, and Titus 1:6. Further support comes from conflict and drama always arising when those in the Bible stepped outside God's design for marriage.
The temple covenants have changed over time, so not all Mormons have participated in certain rituals that no longer occur (Hodge & Patterson, 267). Mormons are not allowed to talk about details of the temple ceremonies, even to other "temple Mormons" (10 Q&A on Mormonism). For more detail on the different temple ceremonies, I recommend reading Lynn Wilder's Unveiling Grace, in which she discusses them in detail from her firsthand experience having gone through these ceremonies. Further, footage from hidden cameras of the temple ceremonies can be found on YouTube.
"When a Mormon is deemed faithful and eligible to receive the temple endowments, they begin the practice of wearing special undergarments both day and night" (Hodge & Patterson, 266). These garments represent purity and modesty, the covenants made in the temple, and God's protection (Hodge & Patterson, 266). The symbols on the garments represent Smith's connection to Free-masonry (Hodge & Patterson, 266).
Mormons also follow the Word of Wisdom dietary standard (Hodge & Patterson, 268). "In general, the revelation instructs them to avoid alcohol, caffeine, various narcotic and hallucinogenic drugs, tobacco, tea and coffee, and to eat meat sparingly and grains in abundance" (D&C 89) (Hodge & Patterson, 268). Those who follow such a standard are promised blessings (Hodge & Patterson, 268). These dietary standards contrast Paul's teachings to the Galatians and Corinthians warning about false teachers who command people to abstain from certain foods which God gave to be eaten with thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4:3, Col. 2:20-23) (Hodge & Patterson, 269).
D&C 119 orders Mormons to give 10 percent of their income to the church (Hodge & Patterson, 268). Although tithing is also a Christian principle, there is a legalistic twist behind Mormon tithing. Those who do not tithe are deemed unfaithful to church ordinances and not trusting their God (Hodge & Patterson, 268). In a religion where church faithfulness is essential to salvation, this is a big deal. Further, when Mormons fast (no food or water for two consecutive meals for 24 hours), they have to contribute the money they would have spent on those meals as a special offering (Hodge & Patterson, 268).
Missionary work is not essential in Mormonism but is highly suggested (pressured by Mormon culture) and comes with its own benefits "with God" and in the Mormon church (Hodge & Patterson, 264). Males must receive the Melchizedek Priesthood, having the title of "elder," and live a life of purity and according to Mormon principles (Hodge & Patterson, 264). Women must be 19 and are called "sisters" while on their mission (Hodge & Patterson, 264).
It is a two-year commitment where Mormons between the ages 18-25 relinquish the outside world to focus solely on spreading the Mormon gospel while still providing for themselves (Hodge & Patterson, 264). This means there is no contact with the outside world except for handwritten letters to friends once a week, emails (through the Church's email system) to immediate family once a week, and only two phone calls per year to family (Mother's Day and Christmas) (Micah Wilder, 31). There's also very stringent discipline with working 12 hours a day for 7 days a week; going to bed at 10:30 PM and awaking at 6:30 AM; and no TV, computers, magazines, newspapers, movies, or dating (Micah Wilder, 31). They are mainly possession-free, only keeping pictures of loved ones, missionary attire, and study materials (Micah Wilder, 142). Accountability comes in the form of missionaries being partnered: one experienced with one less experienced missionary (Micah Wilder, 53). The rules for a missionary companionship are strict: they could never be separated, which meant eating together, sleeping in the same room, and always being within each others' sight, except in the bathroom (Micah Wilder, 141).
Prospective missionaries have no say in where they are going, rather the prophet and apostles choose through alleged direct revelation from God (Micah Wilder, 33). The first nine weeks of the mission are spent at The Missionary Training Center, where missionaries are "rigorously trained to teach and defend the Mormon faith as a full-time representative of the only true Church of Christ on the earth" (Micah Wilder, 30). Missionaries are given "special power and authority unique to the the upper echelon of their religion" (Micah Wilder, 30). During the mission, there are zone leader conferences, an "instructional gathering of all the zone leaders from across the mission in an intimate forum with President, who would--by divine inspiration--impart direction for missionary work" (Micah Wilder 205). Zone leaders were supposed to just affirm what the President said since the decree came from the apostleship of the church (Micah Wilder, 207). Those who blindly and obediently follow orders are praised and rewarded in special ceremonies (Micah Wilder, 206). Those who do not are chastised by leadership and debased by comrades (Micah Wilder, 206). Micah Wilder addresses the side-effects of such a system: "missionaries were now incentivized to accomplish missionary work either by (1) a fear of punishment or (2) a desire for rewards and man-given glory, expecting to be blessed by God for strict obedience to their priesthood leader, regardless of their motivation" (206). Missionaries also have the added pressure of reaching certain quotas for contacts (Micah Wilder, 210).
What stayed with me most during this research was in Lynn Wilder's Unveiling Grace, where she said that she would have seen the red flags if she read the New Testament. Biblical litera