The Problem of Mormon Double Talk
It is not uncommon for people who are seriously investigating the LDS Church or those who are newly baptized members to be confused by conflicting statements made by the LDS Church leaders.
On the one hand Mormons claim to have much in common with evangelical, biblical Christianity. This is especially evident when LDS missionaries are talking to potential converts who come from a strong Christian background, or when LDS Church leaders are speaking in a public forum or giving an interview. This theme (of being just as Christian as any other denomination) has been emphasized to the point that the great majority of Mormons are extremely offended if it is even suggested they are not “Christians” in every sense of the word. They will mention the name of their church, the emphasis they put on Christ, their recognition of the Bible as one of their scriptures, and their strong moral and spiritual commitment as evidence of this point. They also use common theological terms like atonement, redemption, grace, baptism, salvation, eternal life, God, Christ, and Holy Spirit as examples of how “Christian” they are. This appeal has been emphasized to the point that many people, including many Latter-day Saints, fail to understand the historical and doctrinal distinctiveness of Mormonism. This emphasis on commonality can be heard in the question “But Mormons believe almost exactly the same things your church teaches, why can’t you accept us as brothers and sisters?”
On the other hand members of the LDS Church are taught within their own circles that they are part of the only one true church. The LDS Church also teaches that all other churches are part of the great and total apostasy, and that only LDS Church leaders have the priesthood power necessary to perform the ordinances necessary for eternal life. So, for Mormons within the LDS Church system, church ordinances such as baptism, communion, and the laying on of hands to receive the Holy Ghost, when they occur in any place other than the LDS Church, are lacking in spiritual value and can only be rightly done by members of the LDS Church. Therefore, the teaching of the LDS Church leaders has been that there is no salvation outside of the LDS Church. The following is an example of the rhetoric found internal to the Mormon system. It comes from the now deceased Mormon apostle Bruce R. McConkie, who in his doctrinal work on the life of Christ titled The Millennial Messiah writes:
“What is the church of the devil in our day, and where is the seat of her power?... The church of the devil is every evil and worldly organization on earth. It is all of the systems, both Christian and non-Christian, that have perverted the pure and perfect gospel; it is all of the governments and powers that run counter to the divine will; it is the societies and political parties and labor unions that sow strife and reap contention. It is communism; It is Islam; it is Buddhism; it is modern Christianity in all its parts. It is Germany under Hitler, Russia under Stalin, and Italy under Mussolini” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Millennial Messiah [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1982, 6th printing 1986], pp. 54-55).
So, a religious organization that simultaneously assumes postures of both inclusivity and exclusivity is bound to send confusing and mixed messages to both its members and those investigating it. I’ve found that many Mormon people, albeit unconsciously or unwittingly, tend to adopt whatever posture is most convenient at the time, and best serves the purpose of the moment.
Many people who are investigating the LDS Church wonder what happens after being baptized into the LDS church. After baptism there is no graceful way back out of theLDSChurch. Once you become a member, should you leave, you do so with the label of apostate—one who has known the truth and turned your back on it. The fact that you may want to continue your spiritual growth and pursue a relationship with Jesus Christ in another church is largely irrelevant. Before joining, if you are a member of a non-LDS church you are likely to be called a “brother” or a “sister” by LDS people. However, if you join the Mormon church through baptism and then decide on down the road that the many non-Christian doctrines of Mormonism are not for you, and subsequently leave, do not expect the “brother” and “sister” titles to remain in use.
After you join you will be expected to affirm the LDS Church is true, the Book of Mormon is true, and that Joseph Smith is a true prophet, and to develop a growing allegiance to the LDS Church and the men who lead it. You will begin to see that what is of utmost importance is that you remain faithful to the church, and that as long as you are happy and supportive of the organization you are free to hold a fairly wide range of beliefs. However, if you begin to doubt the organization is all that it claims to be, and if you talk with others about those doubts, you will tend to be viewed with suspicion regardless of how strongly you hold to other spiritual beliefs. Should you voice doubts you will likely be reminded that “the Lord will never allow the [Mormon] prophet to lead his church astray,” meaning what the church leadership teaches, all are to follow unquestioningly.
It is unlikely you will find much emphasis on developing a close, personal intimate relationship with Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Nor is it likely you will be encouraged to develop an awareness of areas of internal sin in your life or be encouraged to expose your struggle with sin to others – things like jealousy, pride, manipulation, lust or malice. So, even though these things keep us from achieving a deep relationship with God and other people, the focus will tend to be more on all the external things (tithing, daily prayers, church attendance, charitable deeds) you need to do to be worthy of eternal life and work your way to exaltation in the celestial kingdom, which is synonymous with godhood.
If there is any one point that sets Mormonism apart as non-Christian it is its unbiblical doctrine of God. The God of the LDS Church, according to Joseph Smith and all subsequent LDS Church leaders, was once a man just like us. He continues to have a body of flesh and bones. Jesus Christ is the literal firstborn son to God the Father (Elohim) and a goddess wife, as were we all. God the Father and Jesus Christ both worked their way to godhood in the same way the LDS Church expects its members to do so. On the other hand, the God of the Bible has always existed as God, and has never been a man with a wife or a physical body. You can find other important points of distinction in our “Mormon Belief” article.
Feel free to contact us with any further questions. Mormons are sincere, dedicated, kind people, but the belief system and historical foundations of this organization show it to be unbiblical and therefore not true at its very core.