Do Mormons Believe the Same as Christians Do?
|By: ATRI Transcript; ©1986|
|Is Mormonism simply another Christian denomination or are there fundamental differences in the Mormon faith that separates it from traditional Christianity? This program transcript from Mormon Officials and Christian Scholars Compare Doctrines provides a glimpse at these doctrinal differences.|
Do Mormons believe the same as Christians do? What is it that separates Mormonism from traditional Christianity?
Dr. John Ankerberg: All right. Now we want to answer the question, “Do Mormons believe the same as Christians do?” The answer is No. And the reason for this is that the Bible is not their final authority. Now I’d like you to listen to two Mormon leaders. First, Mr. Kay H. Christensen, a Mormon leader who is president of a three state area and Mr. Lawrence R. Flake, a Mormon leader who actually trains Mormon missionaries. Then you’ll hear a response to their comments from two Christian scholars, namely Dr. James Bjornstad and then the late Dr. Walter Martin, author of Kingdom of the Cults. I’d like you to listen.
Lawrence Flake: We believe — and again this separates us from traditional Christianity — we believe that there is no logical reason or indeed scriptural reason to indicate that God ceased to speak to man on the earth at the end of the New Testament. In other words, He talked throughout the Old Testament. He talked in the New Testament. Why for 2,000 years has He not spoken to man on the earth? And the message, as President Christensen pointed out, that we share with the world is that He has called again in the Latter Days prophets who can speak for Him and do speak for Him. Their words are recorded then and recorded specifically in the Bible from ancient times, in the Book of Mormon, and also in modern Scripture which we have as the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.
Dr. Walter Martin: I think what we have to recognize here is a fundamental division. Their source of authority is independent of the Scriptures. If the Bible contradicts it, it means nothing to them because their scriptures are the supreme authority. Now, how can you call yourself a Christian if you will not submit yourself to the words of Jesus Christ and to the New Testament documents? That is the finished revelation, once for all delivered to the saints. Besides, in Hebrews chapter one it says that, “God who spoke in times past to our fathers and the prophets has in these days spoken unto us in His Son.” Jesus Christ is God’s last word to man not Joseph Smith, not Doctrine and Covenants, not the Book of Mormon. Jesus Christ. So, we go and test their documents by the New Testament and by the words of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Kay H. Christensen: But the point, again, is there needs to be a place where you can go for the final answer and we’re saying you can go to a prophet. That’s again our invitation.
James Bjornstad: But can the prophet contradict literal words in the Book of Mormon and the Bible?
Christensen: He really doesn’t. And I don’t think you’ll find that.
Flake: We both know that words are just words, and that’s why we have 1,200 churches that use the Bible. They see the same words and they see them differently.
Bjornstad: Certainly there are many Mormon splits that have come from the Church of Christ– Temple Lott, the Reorganized Church, the Strangites, and Bickertonites– and they would all claim the Book of Mormon to some degree. How come, for instance, the Reorganized Church uses the Book of Mormon and you do and don’t come up with the same doctrine?
Flake: That’s an interesting question you bring up about the Reorganized Church, and we might just mention the difference between the Mormon church and the Reorganized Church.
Ankerberg: Please do.
Flake: Basically, our position needs to be understood in the context of all churches as they relate to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We believe that all churches are good to the extent that they teach Jesus Christ and encourage people to follow his teachings. But we believe that he has a specific church that he organized with power and authority and all of the truth within the confines of that church. Our belief is that that church has been restored in its entirety in the latter days. So, the other churches on the earth, including the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, are in our view man made organizations that use the Word of God as they understand it and do a great deal of good for many people but they are not the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints which lives under the inspiration, the direct guidance of revelation to a prophet on the earth.
Bjornstad: Could I just put it another way. The Reorganized Church as far as I know does have a prophet that they claim who actually descends back through Emma Smith to Joseph Smith. If that’s true and they have a prophet that interprets the Book of Mormon and you have a prophet, which one is right?
Flake: Again, it’s a question of each individual praying about that to know themselves.
Ankerberg: It’s not the book itself, though, that directs you to the prophet. In other words, it’s the subjective prayer.
Flake: Well, actually the Book teaches prophets just as the Bible does. Prophets are the last word throughout the Bible. They’re the last word through the Book of Mormon.
Ankerberg: But the Book does not dictate which prophet you go to, the prayer does.
Flake: You go to the living prophet. The prophet that’s alive on the earth today is the one who speaks for God.
Ankerberg: Okay, Dr. Martin. A couple of statements have been made here by our Mormon representatives, and that is namely that the prophets do not contradict Scripture. Then we have this whole question of how they know truth. The prophet speaks and then you feel it in your heart. You go out and pray about it and you feel it’s true in your heart. Let’s talk about it. Does the prophet, the living prophet, ever contradict the Scripture concerning Mormonism as far as you know?
Martin: Oh, absolutely. Take for instance the classic doctrine of the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ. Now the Bible says…biblical Scripture–they say they believe in this…Matthew 1:18, the birth of Jesus Christ took place this way. “Before Mary and Joseph had sexual relations, she was found pregnant by the Holy Spirit.” Now that’s Scripture on the subject. Brigham Young comes back to that and the Mormon church comes back to that and says, “No. He was not conceived by the Holy Ghost. Now, remember this, from this time forth and forever Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost.”
Ankerberg: Where did he say that?
Martin: Journal of Discourses, volume one, page 50 and 51. “Again, when the Virgin Mary conceived the child Jesus the Father had begotten Him in His own likeness. He was not begotten by the Holy Ghost. Christ was begotten of God. He was not born without the aid of man and that man was God. Now, what the Mormon doctrine of the virgin birth was from Brigham Young on down is very clear — that Adam-God or Elohim, whichever one you want, came, overshadowed Mary sexually, had physical intercourse with her, conceived Jesus of Nazareth and that’s how He came into the world. There’s enough material literally to sink a ship on the subject and I could quote it here if we had the time. However, the moment you do that and cite Brigham Young the Mormon church will say, as they have said on the program, “Well, we don’t believe that.”
Well, now here Brigham is the prophet of God, when he speaks he’s authoritative. “We don’t believe that.” Then you quote the Scriptures, “Yes, we believe that but it’s a matter of interpretation.” So, what you’ve really got is a classic case of theological double-think. When you nail the subject on the prophet and the prophet contradicts the Scripture, you move from that immediately to another portion of Mormon Scripture and you evade the issue, you juxtapose them against each other. You can never really ever prove anything because whatever place you’re caught you simply go to the other one.
I say at that juncture, “Stop.” It isn’t a matter of what you feel or subjective prayer, all of this material. It’s a question of whether or not it’s true. And if you tell me I have this witness in myself and I turn to you and say, “But I don’t have that witness.” Who determines whether I’m right or not. In the Reorganized Church they have a living prophet. In the Utah church they have a living prophet. Put them both together and the two living prophets don’t agree with each other. I say “Let’s go back to Holy Scripture.” That’s the only thing that’s ever been proven reliable.
Ankerberg: Now, why have we done this program today? Well we hope that it will help clarify Christianity is absolutely unique and assist you in deciding in whom you will believe.