Are Mormon Temple Practices Inconsistent with Biblical Beliefs

By: Sandra Tanner, Dr. Lynn Wilder, Michael Wilder; ©2012
In this program, we will look at some of the basic beliefs regarding Jesus as presented in both the Bible and Mormon teachings to reveal the vast differences that exist. As we do, we’ll find the answers to some of the questions generally held about Mormons about Jesus and a clear picture of what the Bible teaches about the biblical gospel and where the Christian’s allegiance must stand.




According to a recent survey, half of all Americans believe Mormonism is a Christian religion, while one third think it is not. This has caused many to ask, are Mormons Christians? How do their beliefs compare with what Jesus and the apostles taught in the Bible? My guests today are three prominent Mormons who have left the LDS Church and become Christians. First, Sandra Tanner, the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon Church.

Sandra Tanner: In June of 1998, Gordon B. Hinckley, who was the president of the church at that time, he said “the traditional Christ of whom they,” meaning the Christians, “speak, is not the Christ of whom I speak.” Now, why isn’t it the same Christ? Because the Christ of the Bible has eternally been God. He’s never been less than he is today. And yet Jesus of Mormonism is one of a whole string of Gods. His father, Heavenly Father, had to earn the right to become a God; Jesus had to earn the right to become a God; Jesus in Mormonism has not always been God. This is something he achieved. It is the goal of every Mormon man to someday achieve godhood the same as Jesus did, the same as Jesus’ father did.
Second, Dr. Lynn Wilder, a tenured professor at Brigham Young University, who authored more than 50 scholarly publications. She left her teaching position in 2008 after becoming a Christian.
John Ankerberg: As a tenured professor at Brigham Young, okay, and being a Mormon for 30 years, do you still believe that the Book of Mormon is the true word of God?
Lynn Wilder: I do not. There are contradictions all over their own scriptures. There are blatant contradictions between the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, even. One says God is spirit, and one says God has a body of flesh and bones. You can’t have it both ways.
And third, Michael Wilder, Lynn’s husband, who worked in the Temple, was a member of the High Council and served in two bishoprics.
Ankerberg: Glenn Beck, Harry Reid, Steve Young, Mitt Romney, Stephen Covey and Orrin Hatch, they’re all Mormons.
Michael Wilder: Yes, they are.
Ankerberg: Okay, so if I ask them the question, can you be a biblical Christian at the same time that you are a Temple attending Mormon, as one of those that gave the Temple Recommend, what would you answer?
M. Wilder: I would say, with my understanding of Christianity now, is that, no, there’s a huge conflict between being a biblical Christian and being a Mormon.
Tanner: It’s a totally different concept of who Jesus is, who man is, who God is, how we fit in the universe, how we get right with God. In Mormonism it all hinges on participation in the Mormon Temple ritual; in Christianity it all hinges on throwing ourselves on the mercy of God and claiming Christ as savior.
We invite you to join us for this special edition of the John Ankerberg Show.

John Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. I have three tremendous guests today. First, Sandra Tanner, the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon Church; and Dr. Lynn Wilder, who has been a tenured professor at Brigham Young University; and Michael Wilder, Lynn’s husband, who was a leader in the LDS church, and held a wide range of leadership roles.
And I’m going to start today with this question: If I asked Glenn Beck, Harry Reid, Steve Young, Mitt Romney, Stephen Covey or Orrin Hatch, who are all Mormons, this question: Can you be a Temple attending Mormon and a biblical Christian at the same time? What would they say? And I’m going to start with Michael, who was responsible for giving out the Temple Recommends to Mormons, to tell us how these men would have to answer this question if they wanted to keep their Temple Recommends. And, Michael, before you answer this question, tell us some of the jobs, the official positions, that you held while in the Mormon Church that make you qualified to answer this question.
Michael Wilder: Yes. My wife and I, we were converts to the church in our early twenties, and we joined the church in October of 1977, which I was given the Aaronic priesthood. Then the next year, because I was faithful and active and did my responsibilities, I received the Melchizedek priesthood. And shortly thereafter I was actually called, as a Ward Clerk, to be part of a bishopric group and served there for many years. And then I was called to be a Ward mission leader, also was a young men’s president, and so forth. And then in 1988 I was called to go be on the High Council of the LDS church and actually held that position for close to nine years thereafter. And at that point, I was given the office, or given the priesthood of High Priest. And that lineage actually goes all the way back to Brigham Young. Again, I was active in the LDS Temple, a Temple Recommend holder for 30 years, taught seminary, worked at the veil in the Temple, and was on two different bishoprics.
Ankerberg: And you also gave the Temple Recommend. What is a Temple Recommend?
M. Wilder: Okay, when you’re in the bishopric, we’re always motivating people to go to the Temple. Where in Christianity you go to the cross, the foot of the cross, in Mormonism you go to the Temple. But you can’t just go to the Temple because you want to go there, you have to be living…. Remember, in Mormonism, it is a law of ordinances and laws that you have to obey. And so, therefore, you have to earn the right to go to the Temple. So I would sit down with people. They would call me up, and it would be at certain times of the month. It would be my responsibility to give people the Temple Recommend questions.
Ankerberg: Alright. Now, I want to come back to our leading question here, is that Glenn Beck, Harry Reid, Steve Young, Mitt Romney, Stephen Covey and Orrin Hatch, they’re all Mormons.
M. Wilder: Yes, they are.
Ankerberg: Okay, so if I ask them the question that I did, can you be a biblical Christian at the same time that you are a Temple attending Mormon, as one of those that gave the Temple Recommend, what would you answer?
M. Wilder: I would say, with my understanding of Christianity now, is that, no, there’s a huge conflict between being a biblical Christian and being a Mormon. You can be a Mormon; you can be a biblical Christian; but you can’t be both at the same time.
Ankerberg: Why?
M. Wilder: Well, the reason is that you start running into the contradictions. For example, one of the Temple Recommend questions I’d ask: “Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel”—and when they define “gospel,” they mean the Mormon gospel—“in these latter days?” So what you’re having to say is that the early Christian churches were all wrong, they fell away, and Joseph Smith had to restore the church. So you have to believe in Joseph Smith and accept him as a latter day prophet.
Ankerberg: And you promised that when you were being interviewed for your Temple Recommend.
M. Wilder: Right. By saying yes to that, you are agreeing with everything that you’ve been taught: you agree that Joseph Smith did restore the church, that he was a prophet, that the Book of Mormon is true, and that any contradictions, as a biblical Christian, Mormonism overrides.
Ankerberg: Okay. What else?
M. Wilder: Then, the second thing, again, in Christianity, you know, our focus is upon Jesus Christ. But you would also be asked this question: “Do you sustain the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a prophet, seer, revelator, and as the only person on this earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys?” And then, also, you have to accept that for the other general authorities and the local authorities also—not as prophet, seer and revelators, what would be The Twelve—but you’d also have to sustain other general authorities and local authorities in the Church.
Ankerberg: Okay. By saying that you do, are you promising? Swearing? What do you call that?
M. Wilder: Well, you will not contradict anything that the prophet says. If they state something, the discussion is over. You have to agree with the teachings. You cannot challenge the doctrine. You cannot question anything about the Book of Mormon; you cannot question anything about contradictions between the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants; contradictions between the Bible and the Book of Mormon or Doctrine and Covenants. You just have to agree with what the leaders say and accept it and march on.
Ankerberg: So when you actually were the one that was responsible for giving these Temple Recommends, you’d go through this list of questions and you’d make the people answer this?
M. Wilder: Yes. They would have to answer “yes,” “yes,” and so forth.
Ankerberg: What else?
M. Wilder: Okay, another question would be interesting: that if you’d been to the Temple, that says, “Do you keep the covenants you’ve made in the Temple?” And they would say yes, without a problem.
Ankerberg: What are the covenants that you make in the Temple? Because most people don’t know what goes on in the Temple.
M. Wilder: Well, there are many, many covenants. But one of the key ones, it’s called the Law of Consecration. And you stand in the Temple and you state this. And somebody would ask you this question: “Do you and each of you covenant and promise before God, angels and these witnesses at this altar, that you do accept the Law of Consecration as contained in the Doctrine and Covenants,…” okay, that would be this book here.
Ankerberg: Okay, one of the scriptures.
M. Wilder: Right. In the Mormon scriptures. “…and that you do consecrate yourself, your time, talents and everything with which the Lord has blessed you or which he may bless you, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for the building up of the kingdom of God on earth and for the establishment of Zion?” So we’re not just making a covenant to Jesus Christ, we are making a covenant or consecration of our time and energy to the organization, to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And you make this, every time you go back to the Temple, you make the same covenants over and over and over.
Ankerberg: Now, going back to the beginning, to even get into the Temple, you had to have this Temple Recommend. And you’re going through this list and you’re saying you are going to have to promise all these things; then you’re reaffirming that when you get into the Temple even a little bit further.
M. Wilder: Right, right.
Ankerberg: Alright, now, where’s the conflict? Why could an evangelical Christian not be a part of that?
M. Wilder: Well, the first thing, if you start looking at just the nature of God, in the Mormon ceremony, you see Jesus and God as two separate beings.
Ankerberg: Two Gods
M. Wilder: Two Gods, okay?
Ankerberg: Yeah.
M. Wilder: The actual doctrine of the LDS church says that God has a body of flesh and bones—this is in Doctrine and Covenants 130 verse 22—and that Jesus Christ also has a body of flesh and bones. Two separate ones. And then you have the Holy Ghost.
So, if you do not accept Joseph Smith’s “restoration of the gospel,” you cannot receive the Temple Recommend. And if you do not receive the Temple Recommend, you will not have the authority or receive the signs and tokens and the instructions of how to live with Heavenly Father. You will not get there; you’re going to go to one of the lower kingdoms. That’s the way it is. So, if you’re a biblical Christian, you’re not going to accept these. If you are a Mormon, you will accept these. And we have a conflict. And they do not teach…. It’s “another gospel” that Paul spoke about in 2 Corinthians. It is another gospel; it’s not the same gospel of Jesus Christ.
Ankerberg: Sandra, what is the plan of salvation? What is this other gospel, briefly?
Sandra Tanner: Well, the other gospel is that every man has the potential to progress to the position of a God, just like our Heavenly Father did. He once was a man on another earth, kept all the rules, and finally made it to godhood. And you, too, could do this. If you join the Mormon Church, become a priest in their religion, go to the Mormon Temple, you too someday could run a world just like God runs this one. And your children on your earth would pray to you just like you pray to Heavenly Father.
Ankerberg: What about women?
Tanner: Well, women are kind of second class in the program. Every God has to have at least one wife to start his world. But the woman’s job is a silent partner. Her job seems to mainly be just to be a mother, to procreate the millions of spirits that have to be born in heaven to start a world. But the husband is the one that has all the authority, all the interesting jobs, if you will. And the mother seems to be relegated to second class. And you see that in the fact that the Mormons rarely talk about Heavenly Mother. That’s the role the Mormon woman today is looking forward to. She may not realize it, but her job later on will be as a silent partner to her husband being a God.
Ankerberg: Alright, we’re going to take a break. When we come back, we’re just starting on “What is the Mormon plan of salvation?” I want you to tell us what it is that you signed up for to progress to become God, and you swore you were going to do it perfectly, alright? Folks, you won’t want to miss this. Stick with us. We’ll be right back.

Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with Sandra Tanner, the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon Church. We’re talking with Dr. Lynn Wilder, who served as a tenured professor at Brigham Young University; and Michael Wilder, her husband, who has served in the hierarchy of the Mormon Church. And we’re talking about this question that we were asking to Glenn Beck, Harry Reid, Steve Young, Mitt Romney, and others that are Mormons: Can you be a biblical Christian and at the same time be a Temple attending Mormon?
And if you’re a Temple attending Mormon, you’re swearing on to these kinds of ideas. The prophet Joseph Smith in the Mormon Church said, “You have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God, the same as all Gods have done before you, namely, by going from one small degree to another, and from a small capacity to a great[er] one;…” Bruce McConkie of the Mormon Church said, “Salvation in the celestial kingdom… is not salvation by grace alone. Rather, it is salvation by grace coupled with obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel,” talking about the Mormon “gospel.” Now, I want to know, what is “general salvation” and what is “individual salvation,” because they are different in the Mormon Church?
M. Wilder: General salvation, again, is the gift of resurrection to all men, all women, whether they believe in Christ or not. It is a gift; they don’t have to work for it, because through Christ’s atonement—his death on the cross and his resurrection—it’s given to everybody.
Ankerberg: So Muslim, Buddhist, …
M. Wilder: Right.
Ankerberg: … atheist, Adolf Hitler, anybody: the fact is, they’re in to the bottom level.
M. Wilder: Right. Right. They’re going to not be cast out to hell forever. Just by being on this earth, they chose to come here, so there must have been some righteousness in the pre-existence. They chose to come here, but they didn’t find Christ here, so they’ll pay a penalty. But when they die and are resurrected, eventually they will be given to one of the three kingdoms.
Ankerberg: So as a Mormon, when I would ask you as a Christian “Do you believe in grace? Do you believe salvation is by grace?”
M. Wilder: No. No, salvation is not by grace. Only the fact that grace is given as a free resurrection. But to receive any of the higher degrees of glory, to get into the terrestrial or the celestial world, it takes more work.
Ankerberg: Alright. What is individual salvation, then? You’ve got this “general,” what’s “individual?”
M. Wilder: Okay. Individual salvation is where, by your own righteous acts, you are now earning a higher kingdom. And if you are really an active Mormon—that means a Temple Recommend going Mormon—then you are working your way to the celestial kingdom to live with Heavenly Father and, again, to start your progression as a God.
Ankerberg: Alright. Now, you’ve got three heavens in Mormonism, that are given in the Mormon scriptures, okay. It’s not in the Bible, but this is Mormon scripture. You’ve got telestial, terrestrial, and then you’ve got celestial. What’s the difference? How do you get to which ones?
M. Wilder: Okay. Well, the lowest kingdom is the telestial. And all this is explained in Doctrine and Covenants 76, so a person could go there and read about them. But that is the lowest kingdom. That’s where the adulterers will go, the liars, the murderers, the bad people—really, really bad people. And some who might believe in Christ, some who do not believe in Christ, they all go there, okay. The people who were basically good people that were fooled by the “doctrine of men”—in other words, fooled by Christianity, like you, okay—…
Ankerberg: Right.
M. Wilder: …you will go to the middle kingdom, the terrestrial kingdom, okay. But Mormons who have been valiant in what they believe, who have gone to the Temple—now many, many Mormons will go to the same kingdom you would go to, supposedly, according to Mormonism—but the active Mormons, the people who really attended the Temple, who did all they could do, paid their tithing according to Doctrine and Covenants 64, where they had fire insurance, where they, you know, really believed in it, then they’ll go to the top kingdom, the celestial kingdom.
Ankerberg: Alright, Sandra, what is the list that you had to do; that you were trying to do; that the Mormon church told you, you need, you must, do these works yourself to get to godhood?
Tanner: In the requirements to get to eternal life, which is different than being saved, you would have to be fully active in the Mormon Church. That full activity is more than just going to church on Sunday. It means taking all the jobs they would assign you—if someone says we want you to teach Sunday School, you do that. But it’s beyond all of those things. It’s that you have to also be active in the Temple ritual. An active Mormon would go regularly to the Temple. And you have to participate in everything in Mormonism; you have to be a full tithe-payer; you have to keep their health code, which means no tea, coffee, alcohol. And so it’s a whole list of participation in the church and a certain standard of living; doing everything you’re asked in the church to do, in order to hope that you can qualify for eternal life. You ask a Mormon, “If you died today would you know that you would have eternal life?”, most Mormons will say, “Well, I hope so, but I’m not really sure. Because who can say I’ve done everything that’s required of me?”
Ankerberg: When you went to the Temple—I find this interesting—when you went, you were required to go to the Temple, okay, periodically. And when you went, what did you do every time you went?
Lynn Wilder: You do baptisms for the dead. You do endowments. You do washings and anointings. And what you do is take names of people that are dead and, in proxy for them, you go through these ordinances. And the idea is, if they didn’t get to hear about Christ or Mormonism in this life, if they didn’t accept Mormonism in this life, they’ll have another chance in the next life. But they have to be physically baptized, and they have to physically go through the ordinances. So I take on their name in proxy, and I go through all of that. And on the other side—since they are now very smart and know that Mormonism is the truth—they will accept it, become Mormon, and then they can progress.
Ankerberg: What are the endowments, for people that don’t know what the endowments are?
M. Wilder: It’s a set of instructions where you are going to receive information to actually “go through the veil.” They don’t believe that the veil has been, per se, ripped open, but you have to have your signs and tokens and proper instructions and proper commandments to actually enter through the veil to be able to go to the celestial kingdom.
Ankerberg: Is the veil like death, so you’re going through death into the celestial kingdom? Is that the idea?
M. Wilder: Yeah, well, actually, when you go through the endowment, you actually go through these three kingdoms; you go to the first kingdom, the telestial…
Ankerberg: So they have got a place there that …
M. Wilder: Then you go to the terrestrial …
Ankerberg: … is labeled this, that, and the other?
M. Wilder: Right. And then finally, when you go through the veil—okay, you work your way through the veil—then you go to the celestial kingdom.
Ankerberg: Okay. So it’s like playacting what you believe in terms of your beliefs.
M. Wilder: Right, right.
Ankerberg: Alright. Now, you did that once. Now, you go back. When you go back to the Temple, what part do you do again?
M. Wilder: You do everything that you….
Ankerberg: You sit through the same thing?
M. Wilder: The same thing, over and over and over again. But you’re doing it for somebody else. You do it the first time for yourself, and then you do it for everything else. Again, what’s done for men can be slightly different than what’s done for women.
Ankerberg: But you don’t get any new information? It’s just doing the same thing again?
M. Wilder: It’s the same….same information.
Ankerberg: It’s like watching a movie: the same thing over and over again?
M. Wilder: Right. Right. Except, over the years, which is interesting, they keep changing the Mormon endowment. I mean, if it was given by revelation to Joseph Smith many, many years ago.… It keeps changing! And the last major change was made in 1990, where they actually took out the death threats. In other words, we used to, when Lynn and I first went to the Temple, we covenant, through the process of slitting our throats, that we would not reveal any of the signs and tokens given to us in this Temple this day. And finally, you know, people felt uncomfortable with that. But we did that covenant for many, many years.
Ankerberg: So they changed that one.
M. Wilder: They took that out.
Ankerberg: We’ve got 30 seconds left. Summarize this in terms of the question. If I asked those fellows, from Glenn Beck, to Mitt Romney, to others, are you a Christian and a Temple attending Mormon at the same time?, what… summarize this. Where do we go with this question? What’s the answer?
Tanner: They would say, “Of course I’m a Christian; I believe in Jesus Christ.” But they have added to the belief in Jesus Christ. And so, to have the highest best that God has for you, you also must have a testimony of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Temple ritual, the Mormon priesthood; you have to consecrate everything you have to the Mormon Church. So, the Mormon would say, yes, I’m a Christian, plus I’m a Mormon. And Christianity and Mormonism will not get you to Heavenly Father’s presence. Only those that are active in the Temple ritual will be in the presence of Heavenly Father. So it’s contrary to everything we read about coming to Christ for eternal life in the New Testament.
Ankerberg: Right. If you’re a Mormon, you can’t say you’re both a Temple attending Mormon and a Bible believing Christian, because you would be denying Joseph Smith’s message of the restored gospel of how to become a God. And if you’re a Christian, you know that no Mormon’s going to make it to godhood, because God says so in Isaiah 43:10. There God says, “You are my witnesses, sayeth the Lord. My servants whom I have chosen, that ye may know, that ye may understand, that ye may believe,” what? “before me there was no god formed. Neither shall there be after me.”
Alright. Now, next week we’re going to continue, and we’re going to look at some more questions. How did the Book of Mormon come into being? And why are Mormons secretly sealed in marriage for all eternity in the Temple? And why do they believe that it’s necessary to baptize for the dead? And finally, what do Mormons do when they find out that Jesus in the Bible denies all of these doctrines? I hope that you’ll join me then.

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