|An Open Letter to Mormons...
Is Main Street Church anti-Mormon?
The term "anti-Mormon" is thrown around liberally in LDS circles. It is used to describe anything from a concerned neighbor sharing the biblical gospel with an LDS friend, to the hateful words and actions that are sometimes perpetrated against Mormons.
That might be all well and good, but why have you distributed videos that tear down someone else's faith? How can you say that is loving? At best, you're arrogant and ignorant. What makes you think you’re so right?
Main Street Church vehemently opposes the hate speech and perverse actions that some groups (sadly, some of whom call themselves "Christian") have used to badger, mistreat and disrespect the Mormon people. Yet, together with many other ministries to Mormons, we have often been lumped into the same "hate-monger" category, and we are called “Mormon-haters” and all sorts of malicious motives are ascribed to us.
Do we take issue with those LDS teachings that contradict the Bible? Yes, we do. Do we challenges those teachings, and promotes Biblical doctrine? Yes, that is one aspect of our mission.
But are we against the Mormon people? Do we hate them? Absolutely not!
Stop and think for a moment. If we really hated Mormons, why would we want to share the truth of Jesus Christ--a truth that is precious to us--with them? Wouldn't the more hateful thing be to simply smile and watch them walk down the path to destruction?
If you saw that a loved one was about to set sail on a ship that you knew was bound to sink, wouldn’t you try to warn them? Even if it meant telling them something they didn’t want to hear? Or would you shrug and say, “Well, that’s their choice. If it works for them, then all right. Maybe they’ll send me a postcard.”
All of us who believe in Jesus were at one time on the broad path that leads to destruction. We were on a "sinking ship." And by God’s grace and through His love, we have been rescued from that path, and have experienced regeneration and renewal through faith in Jesus Christ. Our only desire is to share that with others! This is a demonstration of the love that God has shown us, not a spirit of contention or antagonism.
Certainly we've been accused of a lot of things...of being contentious, that we only exist to tear down other's beliefs, or that we simply enjoy thinking “we’re right and you’re wrong.”
We say we love Mormons, yet we have produced videos that challenge things that Mormons hold dear. But our aim is not to offend for its own sake; rather, our objective is a biblical one: to "demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God." (2 Corinthians 10:5)
We’re taking information that is already out there—in full view of the world—and making it accessible to anyone who is interested. And more importantly, we’re proclaiming truths that are found, plain as day, in God’s word, the Bible. We certainly can’t take any credit for any of this, so we have no reason to be arrogant, and we strive not to be ignorant.
If you see something in anything we've produced that upsets you, by all means, please investigate for yourself! And then let us know if something we've said is untrue. We encourage people not to take our word for it. We have no interest in propagating lies; we want to proclaim the Truth.
That is our goal...to open the way for the true knowledge of God in Jesus Christ! That you might recognize the errors of Mormonism and embrace the person of truth, Jesus Christ...for your benefit, for your joy, for your eternal salvation! There is nothing more loving that we could possibly do. We are, in a sense, just one beggar telling another where to find food.
All right, all right, let's suppose I do accept that your motives are true, even if misguided. But you are saying that we Mormons need something different...that Mormonism is not even Christian...how can you say that?
These are important questions to ask. First of all, the argument about whether or not Mormons are "Christian" is meaningless until we can agree on what the term "Christian" means. Mormonism, as well as popular culture, tends to categorize anything that references the name "Jesus Christ" in their religion as "Christian."
But why do you insist that we preach 'another Jesus'? What’s so different about ‘your’ Jesus?
However, biblical Christianity defines itself by the simplicity of the biblical Gospel--basing salvation (the right to live eternally with God) entirely on the grace and merit of Jesus Christ, by placing faith in Him--and Him alone (not in any other person, institution, or your own personal merit). This is the essence of the gospel, and is repeated throughout the Bible. And because the Bible is the foundation of Christianity, Biblical Christianity also rejects any teaching that claims to supercede or add to the Bible.
This is the simplest definition of orthodox Christianity, and it clearly places Mormonism outside of Christianity. Using the name "Jesus Christ" does not make one a Christian; "For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough." (2 Corinthians 11:4) The apostle Paul is rebuking the church for putting up with false teachings about Jesus Christ. That is a rebuke we take very seriously.
The gospel that is presented in the Bible is the "power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). How could a different gospel not found in the Bible bring salvation? The Bible speaks very strongly about such things: "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!" (Galatians 1:8)
The last thing we want is for ANYONE to be eternally condemned. God himself does not want anyone to perish, but rather that all should repent (2 Peter 3:9). That is His desire for all people, and our desire as well!
First of all, He is not “our” Jesus, as if we had some claim to stake; rather, we belong to Him. Mormons and biblical Christians agree that he was a historical figure, born in Bethlehem (although the Book of Mormon claims it was Jerusalem), lived in Galilee, worked miracles, died on the cross and was resurrected. But the similarities end there. The Book of Mormon gives an additional “history” of Jesus that is not supported in the Bible (or any other historical source). Even the late LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley affirmed that the Jesus of traditional Christianity and the Jesus of Mormonism are different. (1)
But even more to the point, the nature of the Mormon Jesus is vastly different from that of the biblical Jesus. They are not minor differences. According to LDS theology, Jesus is a created being, distinct and separate from God the Father. He is merely an "elder brother" to us, and for that matter, a spirit brother of Lucifer. Even the importance of what He came to do--die on the cross for the complete remission of sins of all who put their faith in Him--is diminished by LDS theology (D&C 18:11-12, for instance). These are hardly small points of contention; these are fundamental, core issues about who Jesus Christ really is, and what He came to do. The biblical picture of Jesus Christ is that He is God--not of God, not a god, but God. The rejection of something so foundational clearly places Mormonism outside of biblical Christianity.
Well, okay, if we go by your definition of 'Christian'...but at least we Mormons don't go around tearing down other peoples' religions.
Not everything said in the history of our church reflects the way things are today," you might say. "Are we to be judged by every careless word spoken by people before us? What about Christianity's own harsh past?
Is that really true? Let us turn the original question about whether or not we are "anti-Mormon" around: Is Mormonism anti-Christian? We could make a very good argument for this.
The Book of Mormon speaks of the great and "abominable" church (1 Nephi 13; 1 Nephi 22, among others). This has historically referred to the Protestant and Catholic churches, in spite of more recent efforts to tone down such language.
The following teachings are embodied in LDS scripture:
All Christian churches are wrong, all their creeds are an abomination before God, and all people who profess those beliefs are corrupt. (Paraphrase, Joseph Smith, Pearl of Great Price, J.S. History 1:19)
Is it any wonder that biblical Christians find LDS teachings and scriptures offensive? Or how about the following concepts that were taught by many of the early apostles:
Christians are "ripening for the damnation of Hell." (Teachings of Joseph Smith, 298)
Both Catholics and Protestants are said to be the "whore of Babylon." (Brigham Young, J.O.D. 16:46, and Orson Pratt, The Seer, 255)
The God of Christianity is described as an idol, and a "loathsome, filthy, debauched, degraded monster." (John Taylor, J.O.D. 6:167)
The trouble is, those "careless words" were spoken by the founding prophets of Mormonism, and were recorded in the Church's documents, and in many cases, the Church's scriptures. These aren't casual, careless remarks.
These quotes place Latter-day Saints in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between accepting these words (and endorsing a clear condemnation of biblical Christianity) or rejecting those words, and thereby rejecting these men as prophets.
Christianity has had its fair share of evil in its history. We make no excuse for that, but biblical Christianity clearly condemns the wrong that is done, even the wrong done in the name of Christ. It simply goes to show that what the Bible says about humanity is true: We are all fallen and corrupt, and in need of Jesus. That's just as true today as it has been for the past two thousand years.
However, as for the LDS Church’s stance on past errors and crimes, there has been no condemnation of erroneous teachings, doctrines, attitudes or actions of past leaders. They hide, make excuses, or ignore them altogether.
By and large the LDS Church has abandoned the public use of strong anti-Christian language, but it is still in the scriptures, it is woven throughout the statements of LDS apostles and prophets, and it is still a part of the fabric of the Church. These can't be easily dismissed.
If you reject some of the prophets' writings or teachings and yet embrace others, what is the standard that you're using to judge one statement as a man's opinion, and another statement as the Word of God? Take, for example, the following:
"We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea...God himself, who sits enthroned in yonder heavens, is a man like us....You have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves." (Times & Seasons, Vol. 5, pp. 613-614; JOD, Vol. 6, p. 3; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 345-346.) And of course, there is Lorenzo Snow's famous quote, "As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become."
These aren't off-the-cuff comments at a dinner party; these have historically been accepted as doctrine. Yet many Mormons are uncomfortable talking about these foundational doctrines in public. President Gordon B. Hinckley has even gone on record as stating that he doesn't know if that doctrine is really taught or not. Do you wonder, then, why many people who know better accuse him of lying?
If it's a true doctrine, then why hide it? No Christian doctrine is ever hidden from view. So why skirt around this fundamental Mormon doctrine? The answer is clear: because to Christian ears, this teaching is nothing short of blasphemy, and completely contrary to any biblical description of the nature of God. The nature of God is a big deal to Christians.
Mormonism's uneasiness about discussing this doctrine causes many biblical Christians to scratch their heads in confusion. On one hand, the LDS Church of late seems bound and determined to sidle up next to traditional Christianity and gain acceptance as another denomination of Christianity. Yet at the same time, they declare themselves to be “the only true Church”. It can't be both ways.
When Christians share the biblical gospel with Mormons, it is often taken as an affront. Yet when Mormon missionaries share the Mormon gospel with Christians, why is this somehow more acceptable?
We believe that all Christian denominations have some good in them. They may have part of the truth. But the LDS Church is the restoration of the True Church. That’s what the missionaries want to tell others about.
We do not question the motives of the missionaries themselves; they are presumably acting in what they believe is the best interest of their would-be converts. But their message implicitly states that biblical Christianity is, at best, insufficient, right? Otherwise, what would be the need for them to "evangelize" biblical Christians?
You see, a lot of Mormons tend to look at all of this and consider themselves “Christianity-plus”; that they have the basics of Christianity, with some added bonus material. But an honest comparison between orthodox Christianity and Mormon doctrine as it is currently taught by the Church will show that Mormonism is not simply Christianity with a few minor adjustments and some additional things tacked on. It is a completely different--and contrary--entity altogether.
But I have a spiritual testimony, I know these things are true, with a certainty that can’t be diminished by anything else I may hear. I know that the LDS Church is the true Church, and that Joseph Smith is a prophet.
We understand that the spiritual witness is extremely important to Mormons; we know that it is sincere and heart-felt. We know they place a great deal of importance on what their heart tells them. We Christians, however, are taught not to trust our hearts, but rather to test everything against the word of God. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things.” Proverbs 28:26 says, “He who trusts in his own heart is a fool.” Many people have done terrible things with full assurance in their heart that they were hearing from God and doing His will. This is simply to illustrate that what our hearts tell us is not always reliable.
1 John 4 says, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
This means that the standard of what is true is not our own hearts or our feelings; it is the word of God. The Bible makes no requirement that we pray about whether it's true or not, because our belief or (lack thereof) is not what makes it true or not.
Okay, for the sake of argument, let’s put aside the Book of Mormon and all the LDS doctrines. Still, isn’t there something to be said for our healthy lifestyle and solid morals?
Certainly. No one can fault Mormonism’s high moral standards, and the values of healthy living and strong families. If these were the things that earned us salvation, then presumably the faithful Mormons would be ahead of the game. In fact, many of Mormonism’s values are biblically supported. But the idea that these values and behaviors are what earn, or even partially contribute, to our salvation, is completely unbiblical and contrary to the gospel.
It's a mistake to presume that Mormonism is the only place where you can find these healthy lifestyles and solid morals. If such things were the earmark of the One True Church, then it's certainly not enough, because you can find solid morals in many religious systems.
It's also a mistake to presume that Mormonism is free from unhealthy lifestyles and shaky morals. Like all religious systems, it is composed of people, people who are imperfect and who fail.
So it begs the question: What about those LDS members who have struggled with moral failure, or whose families are dysfunctional? Is it that they are not trying hard enough? What’s the solution to those problems? Is it just more effort? More willpower? More faith? More prayer? More discipline? More good deeds? Jesus provides a much different answer to that question than Mormon teaching does.
The pressure to be perfect is quite strong, and if that is not possible, then one must at least appear to be perfect. What kind of lifestyle is that? Is that a characteristic of the one true Church?
Don’t get us wrong—we believe that there is a true Church. But what biblical Christianity means when we speak of the "true Church" is not an organization or an institution, it is not a denomination, and it is often not even visible; it is certainly not focused on any one person except Jesus Christ. It is the whole "body," if you will, of all believers around the world, who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ--the Jesus Christ of the Bible. It is filled with sinful and broken (and forgiven) people, people who will stumble and fall from time to time, but who also invite Jesus to work and change them from the inside out (which He gladly does). It’s not defined by a set of behaviors or rules or do’s and don’ts.
The true Church is not defined by anything except the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Anyone can be a part of that true Church...not by signing a card or uttering a set of words, or promising part of your income, or saying a canned prayer, or performing any kind of ritual, or even pulling yourself up by your bootstraps to change your behavior. You can become a part of the true Church and receive eternal life right now, simply by placing your trust in Jesus Christ, and acknowledging him for who he claims to be.
If you confess with your mouth "Jesus is Lord" and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, then you will be saved. (Romans 10:9). Believe in Jesus, and you will be saved. (Acts 16:30)
It's nothing "magical". But it is very simple. Place your trust and faith in Jesus Christ, and stop trying to be "good enough to qualify" for eternal life. The secret (and really, it is not a secret) is that Jesus Christ is the one who qualifies YOU for eternal life. You can rest on HIS qualifications, not on yours.
The Bible teaches that we will be judged based on our deeds—and frankly, we will all be judged “guilty.” The Bible is clear about that (for example, Romans 3:12; James 2:10). Even the best of our good works aren’t good enough to compensate for our sin. The Bible teaches that all of our "righteous acts" and good works are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).
The difference for believers in the Jesus of the Bible is that He paid the penalty for our sin, so that we don’t have to. We don't have to rely upon our "filthy rag" righteous acts. We don't have to wait and see whether our good will outweigh our bad. Because we know that our “guilty” verdict is already declared, clear as day, but our punishment has been placed on another, on Jesus Christ...He paid the penalty, and we are therefore free of condemnation!
Oh, that's right. You believe in salvation by grace alone, and you think that works are not important.
Yes, we believe that our salvation is entirely and only in the grace of God through Jesus Christ. This does NOT mean that works aren't important. When we place our trust in Christ, we also surrender to Him, and allow him to work in and through us.
Our good works are the evidence of the faith that God has already given us, not the thing that creates faith. Faith by its very nature will produce good works. Good works are the productof salvation, not the cause of it. In fact, James 2:26 says that faith without works is dead. That is absolutely true. But those works are NOT what qualify us for eternal life. It is the gift of eternal life that translates into an outpouring of good works!
And likewise our failures (and we all have them) do not disqualify us. If they did, then no human alive would have any hope whatsoever. But praise God, we have a great hope, and a sure foundation.
The word "gospel" means "good news." And that, my friend, is very good news indeed! Is there any wonder we are so grateful for this gift, and anxious to share it with others?
Learn More about the Biblical Gospel!
For more information on what a relationship with Jesus Christ means, click here. We are also more than happy to share with you one-on-one about stepping out of the fear, uncertainty, and shadows...and into freedom and truth in Jesus Christ.
For a quick reference guide to key scriptures, doctrines and quotes highlighting the distinctives between Mormonism and Christianity, CLICK HERE.
1. Reference: "We Look to Christ" from 172nd Annual General Conference, April 2002