An Overview of Mormonism Beliefs and Teachings
INFO AT A GLANCE
Name: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon).
Purpose: To evangelize the world with the message of Jesus Christ as interpreted by Joseph Smith and the Mormon church; to baptize the dead for their salvation; for individual members to strive to attain godhood on the basis of personal righteousness and merit.
Founder: Joseph Smith (1805-1844).
Source of authority: Supernatural revelations received by Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and other prophets and presidents.
Revealed teachings: Yes.
Claim: To be the only true church of Jesus Christ on earth.
Occult dynamics: Historically and at present necromantic and spiritistic revelations andother contacts; development of psychic powers interpreted as gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Key literature: Scripture: The Bible, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price; while the revelations of Mormon prophets and presidents are also considered scripture, these are only occasionally added to the canon.
Other authoritative literature: Journal of Discourses (26 volumes of writings by leading early Mormon presidents and prophets and other authorities); Joseph Smith’s History of the Church (7 volumes); Bruce McConkie’s Mormon Doctrine and Doctrinal New Testament Commentary (5 vols.); Joseph Fielding Smith’s Doctrines of Salvation (5 vols.); Answers to Gospel Questions (4 vols.); Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith; and Gospel Doctrine; James Talmage’s Articles of Faith and Jesus the Christ; LeGrand Richards’ A Marvelous Work and a Wonder; Ensign (periodical) conference addresses; and others.
Attitude toward Christianity: Rejecting.
- Convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the Word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will ever have the pleasing reflection that you have been the instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds. Come, then, let us reason together, and try to discover the true light upon all subjects, connected with our temporal or eternal happiness. –Apostle Orson Pratt
God: An exalted physical man; “Elohim” of the Old Testament; a deity “created” (technically, “fashioned”) by the sexual union of his divine mother and father. As an infinite number of gods and earths exist, God the Father of Jesus Christ is creator and ruler of this earth only. He is (in early Mormonism) Adam who fell in the Garden of Eden, which was then located, according to Mormonism, in what is now Independence, Missouri.
Jesus: “Jehovah” of the Old Testament (Moroni 10:54 n.); the first begotten spirit child of Elohim (“God the Father”), who “created” (or fashioned) him by physical sexual union with Mary, one of his wives.
Trinity: Mormonism rejects the Christian Trinity for a belief in henotheism, the worship of one principal God (Elohim) among many. Mormonism is also tri-theistic, stressing three primary earth gods, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, and it is polytheistic, accepting endless additional gods of other worlds.
Holy Ghost: A man with a spiritual body of matter.
Salvation: True salvation in Mormonism is achieved by personal merit and effort with the goal of attaining “exaltation,” or godhood, in the highest part of the celestial kingdom. There one may participate in “eternal increase”; that is, as a god one may beget (or fashion) innumerable spirit children just as Elohim has. All other salvation is considered “damnation,” which to Mormons does include participation in various degrees of glory. Mormonism is almost universalistic, teaching that all will be saved except a very few “sons of perdition.” Some Mormons teach that even these will be saved.
Death: Mormonism teaches that salvation is possible after physical death. Most people apparently go to a “waiting” area and are eventually assigned one of three Principal kingdoms where opportunities exist for advancement, possibly to a higher kingdom, at least according to some authorities.
Heaven and Hell: There are three principal kingdoms of heaven. The celestial heaven is the highest, and below it are the terrestrial and telestial heavens. These constitute various “degrees of glory” and privilege. Personal entrance is based upon individual merit in this life, which is itself based upon individual merit in preexistence. In its most important sense, heaven consists only of three departments in the highest, or celestial, kingdom. Further, true salvation (exaltation or godhood) is found only by those worthy to be granted access to the highest part of the celestial kingdom. Hell is not eternal, but a temporal purgatory. The vast majority who go there will, in their punishment, pay the penalty for their sins, be raised after the millennium and inherit a “degree of glory.” The only category of persons who apparently inherit literal eternal hell are “the sons of perdition,” principally composed of a few apostate Mormons (Mormons who deny their faith) and possibly some adulterers or murderers.
Man: An eternal refashioned spirit intelligence having the innate capacity to evolve intogodhood. Men on earth were first created as spirit offspring of Elohim and his wife through physical sexual intercourse. Thus, men are created or fashioned as preexistent spirits and subsequently inhabit the products of human ‘sexual intercourse (a physical body) in order to attempt to gain exaltation or godhood.
Sin: Mormonism holds a less than biblically orthodox view of sin in that its scriptural content is downplayed in some way. First, the Mormon concept of works-salvation teaches that good works cancel the penalty of sin. Second, its teachings give the Fall a positive role in fostering spiritual growth and maturity.
Satan and demons: Satan is one of the innumerable preexistent spirits created by Elohim and his wife; hence the spirit brother of all men and women, including Christ Himself. Because of his primeval rebellion, he was not permitted to inherit a body as the rest of his brothers and sisters. In essence, Satan and demons once represented potential men and women but are now consigned to live as spirits forever.
The Second Coming of Christ: Mormons speak of the Second Coming of the earth god Jesus, but they have also referred to the Second Coming of the god Joseph Smith (Journal of Discourses).
The Fall: Ultimately beneficial; predestined by Elohim for the spiritual progress and ultimate welfare of all mankind.
The Bible: The Word of God as long as it is translated correctly. Wherever it disagrees with Mormon theology, it is considered incorrect due to textual corruption or false translation or interpretation.
For more information on Mormonism, see the complete chapter in Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs (Harvest House, 1999) and our book Behind the Mask of Mormonism (Harvest House, 1993).