Same Words, Different Meanings
A great deal of confusion about whether Mormonism can be considered "Christian" comes from Mormonism's use of terms and expressions that biblical Christianity uses; however, in many cases, Mormonism puts a different "spin" and sometimes applies a completely contradictory meaning altogether. So it is very important to understand what a Mormon thinks when he or she hears a word, versus what a biblical Christian thinks when he or she hears the same word.
What a Mormon Understands
What a Christian Understands
|A common reference to God, who is literally the father of our spirits, of whom we were begotten. To some degree, Mormonism has taught that our spirits were not created by God at all, but that they always existed.
||A term reflecting our intimate relationship with God, who is our Creator. God is spirit.
||The first-born of Heavenly Father, a spirit-brother of Lucifer (Satan) and all humanity; distinguished from the rest of humanity in that he was physically conceived by a union of Heavenly Father and Mary.
||Jesus Christ is God made incarnate, fully God and fully man; one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, co-equal, co-eternal, and co-essential. Through faith in Him alone we are reconciled to Him as our Creator and given eternal life.
||A term that represents the presence of Heavenly Father.
||The third person of the Trinity, co-equal, co-eternal, and co-essential, who dwells in and empowers believers for faith and service.
||A separate and distinct being from the Heavenly Father; a spirit-child of Heavenly Father, and who empowers the believer.
||An archaic term that is interchangeable with "Holy Spirit".
||Mormonism generally rejects the Trinity doctrine as it is traditionally understood, although reference is often made to it according to the Mormon teaching: That Heavenly Father, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are all separate and distinct entities or gods, although they share one purpose.
||The Trinity is one of the defining doctrines of God for biblical Christianity, and reconciles the biblical teaching that God is one; that the Father is God; that Jesus is God; and that the Holy Spirit (or Holy Ghost) is God. For more information on the Trinity doctrine, click here.
||The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which is the only true church on earth today. It is a restoration of the early church, which lost its authority after the death of the apostles.
||Comprised of all true followers of the biblical Jesus Christ, unbroken throughout its history, and not bound by (nor conferred by) any denominational or organizational distinctions.
||Historically, this term generally referred to non-Mormon traditional Christianity (Protestants, Catholics, etc.), though to some degree the opposite was true, in that "true Christianity" was taught to exist only in the Mormon Church, and that other denominations or "sects" were considered apostate.
In recent times, the term is used by Mormons to refer to all churches, LDS included, who profess any kind of association with Jesus Christ, regardless of one's concept of who Jesus Christ is.
|A person who has a true relationship with the authentic Jesus Christ.
Orthodox Christianity rejects the scriptural authority of any non-biblical writing, or non-biblical presentation of the identity of Christ..
||One of the "standard works" of LDS scripture, together with the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. It is the lesser of the four standard works, and is granted much less authority because it is believed to have been corrupted and changed throughout history.
||The only inspired written Word of God, fully authoritative on all matters of faith.
||Salvation is a universal gift (given to all humanity, righteous and wicked alike), but refers only to the resurrection of the body from the dead. This was all that Jesus' death and resurrection provided. This "gift" then is what enables humans to continue the process of exaltation through one's own effort and personal righteousness; those who have faithfully kept the commandments and "gospel precepts", earn the right to eventually become gods. (Salvation is also used in reference to exaltation itself.)
||Salvation is a free gift to all who will accept it, is provided by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and his merit alone (i.e., not by our own worthiness), and refers to salvation from the wrath of God (eternity in hell) and the right to live eternally with Him.
||Grace is poorly-defined in Mormonism; it is said to be received after we have done all we can to be obedient. We receive grace "after all that we can do." It is earned through our faithfulness and worthiness; it is not freely given.
||Grace is the free gift of Jesus Christ to all who will receive it, and is completely and wholly sufficient for salvation (eternal life with God); it is by definition not dependent upon our works or worthiness.
||Faith is an unwavering belief in the truth of the LDS Church, the Book of Mormon, and Jesus Christ (as presented in the LDS scriptures). Faith operates independently of reason, and frequently in direct opposition to reason. Such "blind" faith is often seen as more virtuous, because it does not depend upon facts or evidence.
||Faith is the means by which God enables us to respond to Him, and is in itself a gift of God. When we place our faith in Jesus Christ, we trust him entirely for our salvation.
||The "plan of salvation" by which pre-existing spirits come to be born on earth, are tested throughout life on earth, and eventually are given the opportunity to qualify for exaltation to godhood, through obedience to the Mormon ordinances.
||All humanity is sinful and in need of salvation from the wrath of God; salvation is freely given through faith in Jesus Christ, whose death satisfied God's wrath and whose resurrection grants us the right to live eternally with Him, through no merit of our own.
|The Gift of the Holy Ghost
||The "Gift of the Holy Ghost" is received via the ritual laying on of hands of a worthy administrator, and is conferred only upon those who are deemed, presumably by the Holy Ghost himself, to be worthy and sufficiently righteous. The Gift of the Holy Ghost is, among other things, that which enables a person to believe in the precepts of Mormonism.
||Biblically, this term would is associated with the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit upon conversion, that which empowers all believers; there are also "gifts of the Spirit" which are qualities the Spirit gives a believer to equip and build the Church; the indwelling and the gifts are not dependant upon worthiness or human qualifications; this is given to all believers, and is not conferred by a human ritual or authority.
||Repentance is the willful turning away from a sinful behaviors, and the complete cessation of them, which is a requirement before one may receive the ordinances of the church (including the Gift of the Holy Ghost). It has been taught that attempting to give up a sin, and then later repeating it, brings back all the condemnation from past sins, and puts you back at "square one" of the repentance process. Repentance is by and large dependant upon one's own will and effort, and focuses on behavior, and is not viewed as a fundamental heart-change.
||While "repentance" does to Christian ears entail turning from sin, the deeper and more complete meaning is a turning away from trying to "do it on your own" and turning toward Jesus Christ, who empowers and enables us to live lives pleasing to Him. True repentance is impossible without Jesus Christ.
||Baptism by an authorized priesthood member is a sacrament of the LDS Church that is a necessary component of one's salvation and exaltation.
||Mormons frequently point their finger at the issue of baptism as a divisive issue among Christian denominations, to illustrate how corrupt they have become. While it is true that practices and opinions about baptism vary across denominational lines, all agree that it represents being placed in Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is not merely a sacramental ritual, but rather an expression of the salvation that Jesus has given. Nearly all traditional Christianity agrees that while water baptism is an important event, it is NOT a contributor to one's salvation.
|Baptism of the Dead
||A ritual practiced by members of the LDS Church whereby people who have been dead are baptized by proxy, which offers the dead person, presumably who is in spirit prison, are given an opportunity to believe in the LDS Church and thereby eventually attain some degree of heaven.
||This is neither endorsed nor practiced by orthodox Christianity. The practice itself is mentioned once in passing (in 1 Corinthians 15), but there's nothing to indicate that it was a common practice, let alone a commandment. Paul's language indicates that he personally did not participate in such rituals.
||Heaven is divided into three "tiers" or degrees of glory; the vast majority of all humanity will, depending on his or her worthiness, make it to one of the three levels of Heaven (the highest level being reserved only for faithful Mormons.)
||The dwelling place of God, and the destination of all who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ and His gift of salvation.
||Also known as "spirit prison", a temporary location where non-Mormon or unworthy Mormon spirits, following death on earth, are purified before assignment to one of the degrees of heaven (or in rare cases, to outer darkness). The concept shares some similarities with the Roman Catholic doctrine of purgatory.
||Eternal separation from God (and therefore all that is good), and the destination of all those who have rejected the salvation of Jesus Christ (regardless of lifestyle, morality, or "goodness" on earth.)
||More in line with a biblical Christian's concept of "hell"--a place of eternal separation from God, though reserved primarily for a relatively small handful of Mormon apostates, active opponents of the Church, and committers of other egregious sins.
||A less common term to Christian ears, but generally equivalent to the biblical "hell". However, it would be the destination not of the most egregious of sinners, but rather of anyone who rejects the salvation of Jesus Christ.
||The "fall" of humanity was a necessary step in the "plan of salvation"; without the fall, there could be no procreation, and therefore no earthly dwelling for the pre-existing spirit children, and consequently no opportunity for exaltation.
||The fall was mankind's disobedience of God, and through which sin and death entered the world, necessitating the saving work of Jesus Christ.
||Mankind is basically good (albeit with a capacity for evil), since the very fact that one is on earth indicates that there was some qualification or merit in the pre-existence.
||Mankind is, in its natural state, in a state of rebellion against God, and entirely deserving of his full wrath; yet in spite of this, God in His love became a man, Jesus Christ, to reconcile us to Him.
||Also called pre-mortality or pre-mortal existence, or "first estate"; it is the belief among Mormons that all humans are literal spirit-children of Heavenly Father (and a Heavenly Mother); prior to birth on earth, all humans existed in Heaven. Their degree of worthiness in Heaven dictates whether or not they are worthy to be born on earth; it also dictates the "station" of life into which one is born. This aspect of the pre-existence doctrine is partly responsible for the racist undertones prevalent in historic Mormonism.
||Orthodox Christianity has never embraced the concept of pre-existence in any way, shape, or form. It could be said that the only person who ever pre-existed was Jesus Christ himself.
While there are references to God pre-ordaining people before they were born, there is nothing in the Bible that points to a pre-mortal existence in Heaven.