It’s just so weird. Mormon doctrine is full of outlandish claims—Jesus’ visit to America, golden tablets, polygamy, celestial rule etc. But a religion cannot be denied because it is spectacular, or hard to believe. Christianity has often been accused of being unbelievable (Acts 17:32). A religion is not made sensible by being mundane, but by being true. Does Mormonism succeed in being true? No.
Last night I was privileged to sit in my living room and speak with a couple of young Mormon missionaries. They had rung our doorbell the week before but it was late and I asked them to come back another time. In fairness to them I disclosed the nature of my vocation. Undaunted, they returned and shared their hope with me. As my wife fed our kids in the background, I spoke with these pleasant young ladies about their faith. We began by agreeing that our faiths are distinct. Mormonism is not Christianity.
Mormons believe in Jesus. They acknowledge him as the Son of God, the redeemer of this world, and their personal savior. Their vocabulary sounds very much like orthodox Christianity and this leads many to assume that they are simply another Christian denomination. However, while we may use the same words, our meaning is very different. Jesus in Mormon belief is a created being, who progressed into deity. Like Jesus, those who believe can also progress in deity and ultimately rule over other planets. This is not orthodox Christianity. We will never be like Jesus, He is our Lord forever.
We were not saying the same thing differently—our convictions are incompatible. From there our conversation moved to the prophet. I was told that Joseph Smith was the man chosen by God to restore the church of Jesus. Mormons claim that the early Church Councils had perverted Christianity and Smith was called to undo the damage. Guided by an angel called Maroni, he transcribed God’s truth from golden tablets that he had found. This volume that he wrote is called the Book of Mormon and it is the foundational text for the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormon). These young missionaries wanted me to read the book (cover to cover) so that I would believe Smith to be the legitimate prophet of God and then enter into the one true church.
When I questioned the role of Smith I was informed that God has always used prophets to speak with his people. “But how can that be reconciled with the book of Hebrews?” I asked. There we read that Jesus completes and supersedes the roles of prophet, priest, and sacrifice. He is the consummate Word of God and additional revelation is unnecessary. This was a new thought to them, but they maintained their resolve. Once again I was invited to read the book Smith transcribed. I declined. I have read portions of the book and have been unmoved. Its central problem is that it contradicts the Bible. I explained to my guests that I measure my life by the Bible. They responded that their final authority was the Book of Mormon.
At this impasse our time together ended. Before they left, I told them that many young people come to a point of crises where they must embrace their parent’s beliefs for themselves. If they were to experience uncertainty I advised them to seek clarity in the Bible. We closed in prayer and they left. Chaos ensued as we bustled one child off to horse riding and settled the other two into regular routines. As I loved my little ones, my heart hurt for two young ladies who are lost in a lie. I have never prayed for doubt before, but I am now. May God shatter their certainty and in their bewilderment reveal himself in all His loving glory. Like Paul, may they see and believe.