What the LDS Church Says about Traditional Christianity
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often complain about evangelical Christians, and especially evangelical Christian ministries such as IRR, criticizing their religion. To put this matter into perspective, I will document the fact that the LDS Church’s existence is predicated on its criticisms of historic, orthodox Christianity, and that a significant part of what the LDS Church does is to criticize publicly evangelical and other traditional forms of Christianity. In fact, to make this documentation as pertinent as possible, all examples will come directly from the LDS Church’s own official website, lds.org.
Please note that it is not my contention that there is anything wrong with the LDS Church publishing its criticisms of orthodox or evangelical Christian churches and beliefs. To the contrary, they should say what they sincerely think about other beliefs. My point is that there is nothing wrong with people of one religion criticizing another religion. What matters is whether those criticisms are fair and accurate in what they say; in other words, what matters here is truth.
Here is an overview of the main points made in this article. You can click on any of these summary points to go to that part of the article, or you can read through the whole thing.
- The LDS Church intentionally sends missionaries to convert Christians.
- People are ignorant of their own churches’ teachings.
- The Apostle Paul constantly fought against false doctrine.
- The First Vision story, the foundational story of Mormonism, condemns all Christian churches in general and Presbyterianism in particular.
- Christianity, the church, ceased to exist on earth.
- Traditional churches are “so-called” Christian churches and “so-called” Christianity, whereas Mormons are true Christians.
- Apostate Christianity is headed by Satan.
- Orthodox Christianity worships a false god and a false Christ.
- The orthodox view of sin is a false, destructive doctrine.
- Christianity denied or drastically altered the doctrine of the resurrection.
- Salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone is a Satanic deception.
- The Calvinist view of predestination makes God into a monster.
“By divine commandment we are a proselyting church. More than 23,000 missionaries are abroad in the world today, unselfishly giving of their time, means, and talents to spread this message of the Restoration. They are in most nations of the free world. Their message is to all mankind everywhere—to the world of the Catholic, the Protestant, all the so-called Christian world; to the world of the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Muslim, the Jew, the Shintoist, the follower of Confucius—to all people of all races and all creeds.” President Spencer W. Kimball, “The Stone Cut without Hands,” Ensign, May 1976.
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has many beliefs in common with other Christian churches. But we have differences, and those differences explain why we send missionaries to other Christians….” Dallin H. Oaks, “Apostasy and Restoration,” Ensign, May 1995.
Comment: From what I can tell—precise statistics are unavailable—the vast majority of those converted through the LDS Church’s missionaries come from traditional Christian families. This appears to be true even in such places as Africa.
“Most Christian and Jewish sects believe in a God who is a spirit, devoid of passions and without form or body, who fills the universe and yet is not a part of it. Yet despite these official beliefs, our missionaries sometimes find that the ‘difficulty’ in discussing the Godhead with other people is that they often agree so readily with the Latter-day Saint concept of God. Frequently, they are totally ignorant of their own churches’ teachings about God, and therefore do not see the necessity of the discussion.” John A. Tvedtnes, “Children of the Most High,” Liahona, July 1984.
Comment: Mormons are constantly complaining that critics think they know Mormon beliefs better than they do. I certainly don’t claim to know what any individual Mormon believes better than he does. However, if there is nothing presumptuous or arrogant about Tvedtnes claiming to be more knowledgeable about the teachings of other churches than their members, then there is nothing presumptuous or arrogant about critics of Mormonism expressing their understanding of what Mormon doctrine is. Besides, Mormons disagree among themselves about many doctrinal issues. Bottom line: Mormons do sometimes claim to be able to instruct people of other churches regarding what those churches teach.
“Throughout Paul’s ministry, he waged a constant fight against false doctrine.” Robert E. Parsons, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, April 1986.
Comment: I assume if Paul throughout his ministry was constantly fighting against false doctrine, God might call some people to do the same today. Christians who expose the teachings of the LDS Church that they sincerely believe are false doctrines are simply being consistent and faithful to follow the Apostle Paul’s example.
“The Presbyterians were most decided against the Baptists and Methodists, and used all the powers of both reason and sophistry to prove their errors, or, at least, to make the people think they were in error. On the other hand, the Baptists and Methodists in their turn were equally zealous in endeavoring to establish their own tenets and disprove all others…. My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.’ He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, ‘Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off.’ I then said to my mother, ‘I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.’” Joseph Smith—History 1:9, 18-20.
Comment: It is unnecessary to provide quotations documenting the importance of this story in Mormon teaching. It is part of the first missionary lesson. Mormon authorities routinely cite it as the foundational event of the Restoration. Parse the wording of these denunciations as one will, they explicitly claim that all of the churches were “wrong,” that their creeds were an abomination, etc., and that Presbyterianism in particular was not true. Thus, criticizing other churches is basic to the LDS message. For a Mormon to claim otherwise by saying, for example, “We never criticize other faiths,” demonstrates at best ignorance of the LDS Church’s own teaching and at worst deliberate disingenuousness.
“That year of grace, 1820, like the 1,400 years which preceded it, was one in which darkness covered the earth and gross darkness the minds of the people. It was a day of spiritual darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains…. That gospel preached by Paul, and for which Peter died, was no longer proclaimed from the pulpits of Christendom. In short, apostasy reigned supreme; it was universal, complete, all pervading. The religion of the lowly Nazarene was nowhere to be found. All sects, parties, and denominations had gone astray. Satan rejoiced and his angels laughed. Such were the social and religious conditions of the day.” Bruce R. McConkie, “Once or Twice in a Thousand Years,” Ensign, Nov. 1975.
“Here we learn that the Apostles would be afflicted, hated, and put to death for Christ’s sake. Yet the killing of the Apostles was not the cause of the apostasy. Other references clearly teach that Christianity died from an internal wound, the rejection of true doctrine by the members of the Church. Still, the death of those who alone held the authority to lead the Church could only mean the death of the Church itself…. When John left his public ministry, apostleship ceased. Had it been God’s will, others certainly could have been chosen. But clearly it was not. The apostasy did not happen because the Apostles were gone; the Apostles were taken because the apostasy had occurred.” Kent P. Jackson, “Early Signs of the Apostasy,” Ensign, Dec. 1984.
“The period of time when the true Church no longer existed on earth is called the Great Apostasy. Soon pagan beliefs dominated the thinking of those called Christians. The Roman emperor adopted this false Christianity as the state religion. This church was very different from the church Jesus organized. It taught that God was a being without form or substance. These people lost the understanding of God’s love for us. They did not know that we are His children. They did not understand the purpose of life.” Gospel Principles (2009), 92.
“When faith comes it brings … apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, gifts, wisdom, knowledge, miracles, healings, tongues, interpretation of tongues, etc. All these appear when faith appears on the earth, and disappear when it disappears from the earth; for these are the effects of faith.” Gospel Principles (2009), 105-106, quoting Lectures on Faith.
Comment: If you are LDS, try to read these statements from our point of view. Our Christian faith is characterized as gross spiritual darkness. It is said that our churches do not preach the gospel. Supposedly Christians throughout the centuries before Joseph Smith came along did not understand God’s love for them or the purpose of life. The church did not exist on earth. Faith disappeared from the earth. Satan rejoiced in our false Christianity. Do we find such statements offensive? You bet we do. But Mormons have the right to say them and even the responsibility to say them if they sincerely believe them. And we, for our part, have the right and responsibility to speak our mind about the LDS Church.
“Joseph was honest and sincere, devout and intelligent. He had been honestly seeking the true church of God. The large number of so-called Christian sects and the extreme diversity of their teachings demonstrated the confusion that existed in the religious world.” Doyle L. Green, “April 6, 1830: The Day the Church Was Organized,” Ensign, Jan. 1971.
“However, in the centuries past and even now in many so-called Christian communities, a wrong application of this doctrine has led to serious errors and unwittingly to the committing of grievous sins. I refer to the doctrine which proclaims that all who in the flesh have not professed belief in our Lord, or heard of him before death removed them from the earth, are forever damned and without means of escape from the torments of hell. This false conception and application of gospel truth has been a teaching of so-called Christianity from the earliest centuries of our era, but it never was a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” President Joseph Fielding Smith, “Justice for the Dead,” Ensign, March 1972.
“‘And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.’ (Matt. 24:14.) The only question today is, Where is that gospel of the kingdom amid the hundreds of so-called Christian churches upon the earth today? A thinking person would have to look for a restoration of the gospel rather than a continuation of the gospel or a reformation of the gospel, if he accepts the teachings of the Holy Scriptures.” LeGrand Richards, “The True Church—a Missionary Church,” New Era, June 1973.
“Now it is obvious that the Lord would not need to do a marvelous work and a wonder among the children of men if his gospel had remained upon the earth, but he indicates the reason for establishing this marvelous work and a wonder was because they would be teaching the precepts or doctrines of men. That is what one finds today in all of the so-called Christian churches, and that evidences the need of a restoration.” LeGrand Richards, “Was it necessary to the salvation of man to have a falling away from the Church followed by a restoration?” New Era, Feb. 1974.
“Our position among the Christian denominations of the world is unique. We are not affiliated, either directly or indirectly, with any other so-called Christian or non-Christian church. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints does not have, nor has it ever had, any connection or relation with any other church or religious group…. Some have asked, ‘Is your claim of authority more valid than that of other churches?’ Our answer is, ‘Yes. We possess the same divine priesthood power and authority that was held anciently.’” David B. Haight, “The Keys of the Kingdom,” Ensign, Nov. 1980.
“If being a Christian means believing in Christ and accepting him as the Son of God in the full and complete sense; if it means having the true gospel in its everlasting fulness; if it means believing what Peter and Paul believed and finding fellowship in the same Church to which they belonged; if it means feeding the hungry, and clothing the naked, and loving our fellowmen, and keeping ourselves unspotted from the world (see D&C 59:9)—where else shall we find true Christians except among the Latter-day Saints?” Bruce R. McConkie, “Who Hath Believed Our Report?” General Conference, Oct. 1981.
“Such teachings seemed blasphemous in the days of Joseph Smith. It will help us to appreciate their impact if we remember that the Athanasian Creed was then, and so far as I know still is, the generally accepted concept of God held by the so-called Christian world.” Marion G. Romney, “Jesus—Savior and Redeemer,” New Era, 1984.
“The most fundamental doctrine of true Christianity is the divine birth of the child Jesus. It is a doctrine not comprehended by the world, misinterpreted by the so-called Christian churches, and even misunderstood by some members of the true church…. From the time of His heaven-heralded birth there have crept into the Church heresies which are intended to dilute or undermine the pure doctrines of the gospel. These heresies are, by and large, sponsored by the philosophies of man, and in many instances are advocated by so-called Christian scholars.” President Ezra Taft Benson, “Five Marks of the Divinity of Jesus Christ,” New Era, Dec. 1980; Ensign, Dec. 2001.
Comment: It would appear that in the past 25 years or so the LDS Church leadership has been careful to avoid such language as “so-called Christian churches” (although Benson’s speech using this language was reprinted just over ten years ago). But it is very much a part of the LDS heritage (the rhetoric was even harsher earlier in LDS history).
“Of historical and theological significance is the fact that in Paul’s prophecy the church structure survives. But God is not at its head, making that church—following the appearance in it of Satan—no longer the church of God. To say that Satan sits in the place of God in Christianity after the time of the Apostles is not to say that all that is in it is satanic. Indeed, Latter-day Saints should rejoice—as the heavens undoubtedly do—at the great works of righteousness and faith, and the leavening influence on the world, of those whose lives are touched in any degree by Him whose gospel the Saints enjoy in its fulness. Still, ‘the power of God unto salvation’ (Rom. 1:16) is absent from all but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which the Lord himself has proclaimed to be ‘the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth’ (D&C 1:30). Satan’s goal of hindering many of God’s children from returning to their Father’s glory is thus realized. How appropriate, therefore, is Paul’s description of him sitting in the place of God in the church of the apostasía.” Kent P. Jackson, “Early Signs of the Apostasy,” Ensign, Dec. 1984.
“Latter-day Saints hardly need to be told that the father of all apostasy is Satan.” Andrew C. Skinner, “Apostasy, Restoration, and Lessons in Faith,” Ensign, Dec. 1995.
Comment: While Jackson is careful to make the qualification that not everything in apostate Christianity is satanic, his language is about as strong as anything “anti-Mormons” say about Mormonism. Again, if orthodox Christianity is as bad as the LDS Church claims, they should view it as in some sense the work of Satan. I am not criticizing them for saying so. My point is that the divide between orthodox Christianity and Mormonism is just that deep: if they are the true church of Jesus Christ then we must be under the influence of Satan, but if orthodox Christianity is true then Mormonism must be in some sense a deception influenced by Satan. The issue here, again, is which is true?
“I would like to mention one other thing that I think is a creed that is ‘an abomination in the sight of God,’ and I shall mention it but briefly…. There is not time to go into a lot of detail, but their catechism says that their god has ‘no body; he has no parts; he has no passions.’ That means that he has no eyes; he cannot see. He has no ears; he cannot hear your prayers. He has no voice; he cannot speak a word to the prophets. Some of them even say ‘he sits on the top of a topless throne.’ How absurd! To me it seems that their description of the god that they believe in is about the best description of nothing that can be written…. Moses knew that this condition would prevail, because when he went to lead the children of Israel into the promised land, he told them that they would not remain there long but that they would be scattered among the nations and ‘there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.’ (Deut. 4:28.) That is exactly the kind of a god the whole Christian world was worshiping when Joseph Smith had that glorious vision which revealed the true and living God.” LeGrand Richards, “Strange Creeds of Christendom,” Ensign, Jan. 1973.
“There is only one way provided by the Lord for man to gain salvation and eternal life in the kingdom of God and that is by and through the living, personal Jesus Christ, and by knowing and living his commandments. We cannot obtain salvation and eternal life by worshipping fake Christs or by living the doctrines and commandments of men…. The belief that God has no body, parts, and passions is not a doctrine of Jesus Christ or a doctrine of the holy scriptures but is a doctrine of men, and to worship such a God is in vain.” Bernard P. Brockbank, “The Living Christ,” Ensign, May 1977.
“When Joseph Smith had his marvelous vision and saw the Father and the Son, there was not a church in this world that worshipped the God that made the heavens and the earth and the sea and the fountains of water. They worshipped an essence everywhere present, a god without body, parts, or passions. And if he has no body, that means he has no eyes—he cannot see; he has no ears—he cannot hear; he has no voice—he cannot speak. What is there left to worship when you take all of those qualities away?” LeGrand Richards, “The Scriptures Speak,” Ensign, May 1980, 22.
“Knowledge of God is the greatest truth in all eternity. But there must needs be an opposition in all things, and the opposite of the knowledge of God which has come through Joseph Smith is the greatest heresy in the sectarian world. That heresy is that God is a spirit nothingness which fills the immensity of space, and that creation came through evolutionary processes.” Bruce R. McConkie, “This Generation Shall Have My Word through You,” Ensign, June 1980.
“How belittling it is—it borders on blasphemy—to demean the Lord God Omnipotent by saying he is an idol, or an image, or an animal, or a spirit essence, or that he is ever learning but never able to come to a knowledge of all truth….” Bruce R. McConkie, “The Lord God of the Restoration,” Ensign, Nov. 1980.
“There is no salvation in worshiping a false god—neither a cow; nor a crocodile; nor a cedar post; nor even a spirit essence, without body, parts, or passions, that fills the immensity of space.” Bruce R. McConkie, “The Caravan Moves On,” Ensign, Nov. 1984.
“As a child reared in a Protestant home and educated in a parochial grammar school, I vividly recall many occasions when teachers would vainly attempt to explain the mystery of the Trinity. We were told that there were three persons, but not three Gods. The three persons were one spiritual substance, so there could not be three separate beings…. It was hard to fathom a Deity of this nature, let alone love him.” William O. Nelson, “Is the LDS View of God Consistent with the Bible?” Ensign, July 1987.
“The historical abominable church of the devil is that apostate church that replaced true Christianity in the first and second centuries, teaching the philosophies of men mingled with scriptures. It dethroned God in the church and replaced him with man by denying the principle of revelation and turning instead to human intellect. As the product of human agency, its creeds were an abomination to the Lord, for they were idolatry: men worshipping the creations, not of their own hands, but of their own minds.” Stephen E. Robinson, “Warring against the Saints of God,” Ensign, Jan. 1988.
“With the apostasy and the loss of many plain and precious truths that were once part of the gospel (see 1 Ne. 13:26), the true knowledge of God was lost. The surviving fragments of truth were subsequently interpreted into mystery, and those who continued to believe in the basic truths about God were denounced as heretics.” Donald Q. Cannon, Larry E. Dahl, and John W. Welch, “The Restoration of Major Doctrines through Joseph Smith: The Godhead, Mankind, and the Creation,” Ensign, Jan. 1989.
Regarding the First Vision: “In a matter of only a few moments, the damning myth of an impersonal, uncaring, and incomprehensible God was dispelled.” Carlos E. Asay, “One Small Step for a Man; One Giant Leap for Mankind,” Ensign, May 1990.
“Still others searched for Jesus in councils of debate. Such was the historic council held at Nicaea in A.D. 325. There, with the help of the Roman Emperor, the delegates did away in Christendom with the concept of a personal God and a personal Son, the two separate and distinct glorified beings of the scriptures. The creed of Nicaea, the ‘incomprehensible mystery’ of which its originators seemed so proud, precisely because it could not be understood, substituted for the personal God of love and for the Jesus of the New Testament an immaterial abstraction.” President Thomas S. Monson, “The Search for Jesus,” Ensign, Dec. 1990.
“In the process of what we call the Apostasy, the tangible, personal God described in the Old and New Testaments was replaced by the abstract, incomprehensible deity defined by compromise with the speculative principles of Greek philosophy…. In the language of that philosophy, God the Father ceased to be a Father in any but an allegorical sense. He ceased to exist as a comprehensible and compassionate being.” Dallin H. Oaks, “Apostasy and Restoration,” Ensign, May 1995.
“That which is without body or parts is nothing. There is no other God in heaven but that God who has flesh and bones.” Joseph Smith [in 1842 or 1843], in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (2007), 42.
Comment: The LDS Church has been withering in its scornful denunciation of the God of traditional, orthodox Christian churches. The “whole Christian world” during the Great Apostasy was worshiping a “false god” of man’s invention. No one was worshiping the God who made the world during those centuries. Even “basic truths” about God were denied. Of course, the same is true for churches that retain the same view of God today. The God of orthodox Christianity is “nothing,” a “spirit nothingness.” It is an abstraction, not a real person; it is impersonal, uncaring, and unlovable. The orthodox doctrine demeans God and is idolatry. God was dethroned and replaced with man (a criticism that we orthodox Christians find ironic coming from Mormons). This view of God is “the greatest heresy.” By the way, this is all baloney. Orthodox Christians do not worship “nothing”; they do not view God as an impersonal abstraction; they very much view God as a Being who is both personal and caring. I cannot think of anything the most ignorant “anti-Mormons” have said about the God of Mormonism that would be worse, and nothing that would be more far off the mark, than these calumnies against the orthodox view of God. Note also the claims that orthodox Christians worship a “fake Christ”; they did away with a personal Son of God and replaced Jesus with an abstraction. These criticisms of the orthodox view of Christ are just as harsh as evangelical criticisms of Mormonism believing in “another Jesus.” Once again, the issue is which view is true.
“There is no such thing as original sin as such is defined in the creeds of Christendom. Such a concept denies the efficacy of the atonement.” Bruce R. McConkie, “The Salvation of Little Children,” Liahona, April 1977.
“In many churches of the world, a doctrine is taught that men are basically evil; that they are earthy and carnal and devilish, conceived in sin and possessed of a tendency to be wicked. This doctrine holds that the corrupt and evil nature of man must be conquered. It holds out the meager hope that by an extension of grace man may, on occasion, be lifted from his evil, carnal, and groveling state. In simple terms, it teaches that man is, by his very nature, inclined to be bad. That is false doctrine. I could not accept it to be true and still be a successful teacher. The doctrine is not only false; it is also very destructive.” Boyd K. Packer, “Understanding Students,” Liahona, July 1977.
Comment: There’s nothing wrong with Mormons criticizing what they think is “false doctrine.” They should fire away at what they consider false doctrine. We orthodox Christians will do the same. We just ask that Mormons stop claiming or pretending they are not doing it while they are.
“In order to satisfy the Gentiles steeped in Greek philosophy, Christianity had to throw out the doctrines of an anthropomorphic God and the resurrection of the dead, or reinterpret them drastically. Denying or altering the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead is precisely what some Greek Christians at Corinth had done, and Paul responded against them forcefully in 1 Corinthians 15.” Stephen E. Robinson, “Warring against the Saints of God,” Ensign, Jan. 1988.
Comment: Here is more baloney about orthodox Christianity on LDS.org. Orthodox Christianity never threw out the resurrection of the dead, nor did it reinterpret it radically. It has always defended the doctrine that the apostle Paul defended.
“In the few minutes that I have left I would like to mention one or two examples of Satan’s deceptions. We hear constantly that all we have to do is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and we will be saved…. At the present time, people are preaching all over the world that all you need to do is to confess that Jesus is the Christ, but that is not what Jesus said.” LeGrand Richards, “Strange Creeds of Christendom,” Ensign, Jan. 1973.
“There is nothing more important to us—having first discovered who God our Father is—than to know about Christ and the salvation that is in him. The heresy and perversion of this truth is the common sectarian concept that people are saved by grace alone, without works.” Bruce R. McConkie, “This Generation Shall Have My Word through You,” Ensign, June 1980.
“Those who quote such scriptures as the three mentioned in the question above usually do so to argue that faith alone is sufficient to save us. All we need do, they explain, is to confess verbally or mentally that we accept Christ as our Savior…. Those who teach that faith or confession is sufficient for salvation usually teach that those who die without hearing of Christ and having an opportunity to confess faith in his name are consigned to an eternal hell. Justice and the whisperings of the Spirit manifest that such doctrine cannot be true or God could not be a God of mercy and love.” Robert E. Parsons, “I Have a Question,” Ensign, April 1986.
“The doctrine of salvation through faith alone, sometimes called solafidianism, is not a biblical doctrine: there are no instances in the New Testament of the phrases ‘grace alone’ or ‘faith alone.’” Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, “Comparing LDS Beliefs with First-Century Christianity,” Ensign, March 1988.
Comment: In these statements the evangelical doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith in Christ alone comes under assault. It is called one of Satan’s deceptions, a heresy, and a perversion. The doctrine is misrepresented as teaching that mere lip confession or mental agreement with the idea of Christ as Savior is sufficient to save someone. (Saving faith in evangelical theology means a genuine trust and reliance on Christ from the heart that entails genuine repentance, which in turn results in a changed life.) Note the use of solafidianism, which is strictly a pejorative term used by critics of the evangelical doctrine, not a term that evangelicals would ever use.
“The gospel of Christ is the gospel of mercy. It is also the gospel of justice. It must be so, for it comes from a God of mercy, not from a cruel monster, as some religionists still believe and declare:
‘By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death. These angels and men, thus predestined and fore-ordained, are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished.’
Is it not horrible to contemplate that gospel truth has been perverted and defiled until it has become such an abomination?” President Joseph Fielding Smith, “Justice for the Dead,” Ensign, March 1972, quoting the Westminster Confession of Faith.
Comment: Here is an example of an attack on a very specific doctrine of a very specific group of Christians, namely, Calvinists.
The website LDS.org is the official website of the LDS Church. This website makes it clear that the organization (the LDS Church) is targeting Christians for proselytization. It asserts that members of other Christian churches are often ignorant of what their own churches teach. It defends its stance by pointing out that the apostle Paul throughout his ministry was constantly fighting against false doctrine. It quotes the foundational story of the Mormon religious narrative, the First Vision, in which Jesus is quoted as condemning all churches as wrong, as teaching abominations, and as specifically mentioning Presbyterianism as false. It argues that our churches are in spiritual darkness, that we don’t preach the gospel, that we don’t understand God’s love or the purpose of life. It refers to our churches repeatedly as “so-called Christian churches” and asserts that Satan is the real head of apostate Christianity.
According to LDS.org, orthodox Christian churches deny “basic truths” about God, believe in a god that is really “nothing,” an impersonal abstraction that doesn’t care about us, an idol of man’s imagination that demeans and dethrones God and replaces him with man. We worship a fake Christ who is also an abstraction and not the real Jesus of the New Testament. Orthodox Christianity threw out or radically reinterpreted the resurrection of the dead. It teaches “solafidianism,” the doctrine of salvation by grace alone through faith alone, a Satanic deception and perversion of the gospel that (supposedly) tells people all they need to do is mentally or verbally agree with the doctrine and they are saved. Calvinism comes under specific attack as making God into a cruel monster. How God can be a cruel monster if he is an abstract nothingness is unclear.
Is the above litany a full, complete, or even balanced description of the whole contents of the LDS.org website? No, of course not. It singles out those elements of the website that are critical of orthodox Christianity, just as critics of sites like IRR’s commonly refer only to the material critical of Mormonism and ignore all of the positive things that are said about the LDS people. Some may be surprised, however, to see just how much of the LDS Church’s official website contains such critical material (and I have not exhausted that material).
One should also take account of the fact that LDS.org makes quite a number of assertions about orthodox Christian beliefs that are both false and offensive. Furthermore, from an orthodox Christian perspective, the entire website is devoted to promoting a religion that exists on the foundational claim that orthodox Christianity is apostate and is characterized by the negative elements summarized above. Naturally, there is material on the website that has nothing to do with criticizing orthodox Christianity, just as one can find material on IRR’s website that does not criticize Mormonism or any other religion (for example, my lengthy study on the biblical basis of the doctrine of the Trinity, our articles on evidence for God’s existence, etc.). The “weighting” of these different sorts of materials is different, but then our website is not the official website of a religion with over 10 million members.
My point here is not to criticize LDS.org for presenting the LDS Church’s beliefs or to argue that Mormons shouldn’t express criticisms of orthodox Christianity (though they should try to be accurate about us just as we should try to be accurate about them). My point is that there is nothing wrong with looking critically at the beliefs of another religion and even having a website that presents many such criticisms. There is nothing wrong with trying to convince people they are in the wrong church or that they have the wrong God or gospel. That is what the LDS Church is trying to do worldwide, especially with regard to people of Christian backgrounds. That is also what we, in a much smaller way, are trying to do with regard to restorationist religious groups that claim to be the only true Christian church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons in particular. Recognizing the similarities and putting these things in context should lead us to realize that the real issue is simply which religion truly represents the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Rather than taking unnecessary offense at sincere disagreements, we should focus on determining what the truth is about the subjects on which we disagree.