Mormon Officials and Christian Scholars Compare Doctrine/Program 1

By: Lawrence Flake, K. H. Christensen, Sandra Tanner, Ed Decker, Dr. Walter Martin; ©1983
What Do Mormons Believe About God? Mormon Representatives explain which church they think is the true church in the world today and which are apostate?

Introduction

John Ankerberg: Thank you. We’re glad that you joined us tonight. I’m holding a copy of The Wall Street Journal here and it says in the headlines, “Latter-day Saints: The Mormon Church is Rich, Rapidly Growing and Very Controversial.” There were two extensive articles yesterday and the day before in The Wall Street Journal. I’m finding that many people are asking questions about Mormonism.

Tonight we would like to do a program where we let the Mormon representatives explain their own beliefs, state their own claims for Mormonism and then we’re going to respond to those claims. I think we won’t waste any time. I would like you to listen to an interview I had with two representatives: Lawrence R. Flake, a man that trained Mormon missionaries, I believe he trained 200 of them; and then a President of a three stake area, President K.H. Christensen. I would like for us to go first of all to, “What do Mormons believe about God?”

Excerpt from “Interview with Mormon Leaders”

Ankerberg: Was He like John 1:1 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God?” In other words, Jesus always was God. Is that what the Mormon Church holds?
K.H. Christensen: Not exactly.
Ankerberg: Okay. Explain that to me.
Christensen: We believe that certainly there are two distinct individuals, that the Savior indeed had a Father. There is God the Father, if that’s what you want to call Him; and then His Son, Jesus Christ. That’s pointed out rather amply in the New Testament when the Savior would go to His Father in prayer and He would pray to His Father for His disciples and for those who were following after Him. So we believe that there are two distinct individuals in the Godhead. In fact, there’s a third, the Holy Ghost. Those three make up the Godhead but they are not all one, but they are three separate individuals.
Ankerberg: So, you would realize that you’re differing with Orthodox Christian belief right there.
Christensen: We do.
Ankerberg: It sounds like you’re saying three Gods.
Christensen: Yes.
Ankerberg: Okay. Christianity is saying one God in three persons.
Christensen: That’s right. That’s the difference. Yes, that’s a very distinct difference.

Ankerberg: I’d like to come to Dr. Walter Martin from the Christian Research Institute in California. Dr. Martin, these men, Mr. Christensen, has enunciated the fact that Mormon belief differs with Orthodox Christianity on the primary basis of who God is. Would you explain what Orthodox Christians are saying about God and why.
Dr. Walter Martin: Orthodox Christianity is in basic agreement with Orthodox Judaism as to the nature of God, thoroughly monotheistic. And the Lord Jesus Christ was asked the question in Mark 12, about the nature of God and He is the ultimate answer to the situation. And this was the question: “What is the great commandment of the law?” And Jesus said, “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is one Lord.” [Mark 12:28-29] And that was a direct quotation of the shema in Deuteronomy 6:4 which was the emphasis, again, of the oneness, the uniqueness, of the nature of God. Christian theology believes that God is one and that God manifested Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And when John spoke in John 1:1, “the word was God,” he tells us in verse 14 the “Word became flesh.” God became flesh. So the essence of Christianity is monotheism. The difference between Judaism, Christianity, and Mormonism is the difference between monotheism and polytheism. Mormons are polytheists, every bit as polytheistic as the Hindu religion is.
Ankerberg: Would you say this is a small issue?
Martin: I would say this is the core of the whole problem. Because if you’re right in every area of theology and you’ve got the wrong God and the wrong Jesus and the wrong Spirit, you’re wrong enough to lose your soul forever. And, therefore, it is very important. Mormons are constantly talking about the fact that they’re Christian. They believe in the one God. But let’s go back to the basic idea of God, Isaiah 43:10 where the Lord says “You are my witnesses, saith the Lord, my servants whom I have chosen; that ye may know; that ye may understand; that ye may believe: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” Well, no Mormon’s going to make it to godhood because God says so, and God says there’s only one God.
Ankerberg: Okay, let’s go on because I’m sure that there’s so much we can say on that and we will try to intersperse this through the program. But I would like to go back to our Mormon representatives on who they think that Jesus Christ is. Alright?

Excerpt from “Interview with Mormon Leaders”

Dr. James Bjornstad: It’s my understanding of the LDS Church that the beginning of Jesus is similar to the beginning of all of us and that is that He is the procreation as a spirit child of a Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother. Jesus’ uniqueness probably comes in the fact that He is chosen to be the Savior of the world over Satan, but that we all existed in the spirit world which I think the Pearl of Great Price indicates, even that Jesus and Lucifer were brothers in the spirit world.
Ankerberg: Is that true so far?
Christensen & Flake: Yes.
Ankerberg: Okay, just so that we’re on target here.
Christensen: His research is good.
Ankerberg: Okay.

Ankerberg: Alright, we’ve heard what the Mormon representatives have okayed, Mrs. Tanner, in terms of what Dr. Bjornstad was enunciating. Would you please explain for us a little bit more about what that means as far as Mormon theology is concerned, and why it is that Orthodox Christianity differs with some of those points? Give us a kind of a rehash right there.
Sandra Tanner: Well, the Mormons are saying that for our world there is a Heavenly Father who has a wife, the “Heavenly Mother,” and that these two, as resurrected beings, literally gave birth to all these spirit children. And they believe that Jesus is one of the oldest sons and also Lucifer, who becomes Satan; and that these oldest brothers performed in this early home life, they each presented plans on how to run the world and that story on their pre-existence thing. But the difference here is that they are saying that Jesus is part of a number of people that had part in the creation of the world, helping with His Father, whereas Christianity is saying, “No, Christ is the Creator. He is God.” And so that when we look at John 1:1 saying that “in the beginning was the Word, the Word was with the Father, and the Word was God,” so we have Jesus being stated as the Creator. He is there. And it’s all one God, whereas Mormonism is making this conglomeration of the family taking part in this creation process. And it is important to notice that it said both the father and mother in this act of creation.
Ankerberg: When Christians talk with Mormons at this point and we say, “Don’t you realize that we hold that Jesus always was God and did not have a beginning,” and we go to John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” what do they say?
Tanner: Well, they would say He’s one of the “Gods” and that there is only one God for our world and they kind of hedge around it. They believe that God’s got a father who has a father, who has a father. So there are a lot of “Gods,” but they say there is only one God for our world, so that’s where they would try to catch you.
Ankerberg: Alright, Dr. Martin, before we go to the next part with Mormon representatives, is there any one verse that stands out in your mind that stops orthodox Christianity from saying anything further?
Martin: I don’t think I quite understand the question.
Ankerberg: In the sense of can we agree with Mormons? Could we kind of slide over the fence and simply say “Well, Jesus was a spirit child and we could go along with that.” Could we?
Martin: Well, of course we couldn’t, because the minute you say that you are assenting to polytheism, many gods, and God specifically says in the Old Testament, particularly Isaiah 44:6 that He is the first and He is the last and apart from Him there is no God. And when the Mormons are talking about wives, and gods, and having spirit children and things of this nature, this is the direct antithesis of the biblical message. If the Christian doesn’t stop right there and say, “Hey, wait a minute. Jesus said there is only one God. Where did you get all the rest of them from,” you’ll just go right on in a semantic jungle. You’ve got to define the terms.
Ankerberg: Alright. Let’s go to the next spot here, and that is we want to find out from our Mormon representatives what is the future destiny of man? What are the goals? What are we shooting for? What can man become? I want you to listen very carefully.

Excerpt from “Interview with Mormon Leaders”

Bjornstad: Can we become all that Jesus became?
Christensen: Well, the Scriptures tell us that we are supposed to. As you know, in Matthew He says “Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect.” [Matt. 5:48] I don’t suppose the Savior ever gave us those kinds of instructions unless He figured that there was a way whereby that could be done. Now, I don’t suspect that any of us are going to reach that while we’re here yet on this earth but it’s our belief that He gave that instruction that we might progress and prepare for that. Now, when you might reach that or I might reach that or if we do get there, we don’t know.
Ankerberg: When we do reach there what happens?
Christensen: Well, that’s an interesting concept. What does God do then?
Ankerberg: Well, that’s what I’m asking.
Christensen: Then you would be entitled to do the same thing He’s doing.
Ankerberg: Who’s doing?
Christensen: That God is doing.
Ankerberg: Do I become God?
Christensen: If you can prepare for that. But that’s again…
Ankerberg: But, I mean, is that a legitimate goal? In other words, you’re saying that if I progress that eventually I can expect to become God?
Christensen: Yes. Now, that raises a very interesting concept concerning people today. One of the biggest problems we find dealing with people today is frankly a very low image of man. That man is the dust of the earth and he has a hard putting anything together and, you know, man and I’m not really worth very much. We would like everyone to fully know and understand our concept that man, as the Scriptures point out, is just a little lower than the angels, and indeed has the potential of becoming godlike and that he can prepare through an eternal progression stage. And, therefore, we are “just an animal” as President Flake has pointed out. If we could get that message across to people today, what a difference it could make in the way that people think.

Ankerberg: Alright, Mr. Decker, I’d like to know from you, Mr. Christensen is saying that it would change completely the way people think if they would just believe that man can become God. You were a Temple Mormon for 20 years. Is that what you believed?
Decker: Absolutely. In order to become a god you have to be a Temple Mormon. And our whole philosophy, our whole effort was built around the knowledge that we would go to the Temple, take out our endowments, learn the sacred and secret things we needed to know in order to pass by the sentinels to stand before God to be found worthy to become a god ourselves. In the seminar manual on learning on how to go the Temple, we learned that it is God’s job, His calling, is to exalt His children. I believed that “As man is, God once was and as God is, man may become.”
Ankerberg: Okay. For people that are not Mormon, listening, now we read this in The Wall Street Journal, because The Wall Street Journal plainly said, “Mormons have as a goal that man can become a god.” Most people have a very high concept of who God is. What we’re asking is how in the world could you actually believe that you, a man, could become all that God is in the regular definitions of the word?
Decker: Because our prophet, Joseph Smith, taught that we must learn to become gods as all gods have before us and so we prepare for godhood. I believed that I would actually become a god, be given many celestial goddess wives and go off to a planet to celestial glory, become a father in heaven procreating spirit children in another place in another galaxy, and there bring them together on another earth to become gods.
Ankerberg: If I can cut in, though, what about these definitions of God as being omniscient (all-knowing); omnipresent (everywhere at the same time); omnipotent (all powerful)? How in the world could we have different people being all, all, all?
Decker: Well, we were taught in the Temple that was a heresy brought in by the Christians. We were taught that it was a Luciferian doctrine that God is so great that He would fill the whole universe and so small that He would fit into your own heart. I believed that God was another man just like me, who earned His celestial glory through works of righteousness. And if I was a righteous Mormon, member of the Holy Melchizedek priesthood, I would become a god.
Ankerberg: Alright, Sandra, I want to come to you. Do you have any other statements where Mormons are saying they can become gods? For people who might still be skeptical, is that what Mormons really believe?
Tanner: Spencer W. Kimball, who is the Mormon prophet, said in the priesthood session of conference in the October conference of 1975, “Brethren, 225,000 of you are here tonight. I suppose 225,000 of you may become gods. There seems to be plenty of space out there in the universe and the Lord has proved that He knows how to do it. I think He could make, or probably have us help make, worlds for all of us for every one of us 225,000. Just think of the possibilities, the potential. Every little boy that has just been born becomes an heir of this glorious, glorious program. When he is grown he meets a lovely woman.” And it goes on about going to the Temple and then they can go on to their exaltation and be gods.
Ankerberg: So that was the pep talk actually at the convention?
Tanner: Yes.
Ankerberg: Now, Sandra, you also were a Mormon and you defended it bitterly. You fought for it and it was the evidence that brought you kicking and screaming across the line. Wasn’t it a letdown? Wasn’t it a step down to be shooting to become a goddess and now…? As a Christian, you don’t hold that now, do you?
Tanner: No, actually I think there is a wonder that comes into your Christianity when you realize that you can just turn all of the sin that is in your life over to the Lord and that God’s righteousness is what applies now. In Mormonism there is a great burden because you’ve got to strive all the time. If you work at it hard enough, you can become a god. So there is a burden of guilt that lays there on you all the time. You’re not working hard enough. You didn’t do all you could.
Ankerberg: That was lifted when you became a Christian.
Tanner: When I came to the Lord I could turn all that loose and say, “God supplies the righteousness. I don’t have to work it out on my own. I can just trust him for that.”
Ankerberg: Mr. Decker, if I could ask you, what verse in the Bible would suggest that man, his destiny is not to become a god?
Decker: Well, the whole Bible is filled with them and to just try to pick out a specific Scripture: Isaiah 43; Isaiah 44; Isaiah 45.
Ankerberg: Give me a little bit of it.
Decker: God says, “Before Him there was no God formed, after Him there shall be none.” [Isa. 43:10] He said that He didn’t know any brothers and sisters who were god. He said, “Beside me there is no God.” [Isa. 45:5] When He blessed Abraham in Hebrews 6:13 He says He blessed them by His own name “because He knew none greater.” So God doesn’t know about any other gods. So somewhere along the line somebody is wrong.
Ankerberg: Alright, Dr. Martin, this might be a very hard point for some Mormons to get into their mind. Would you give us a little motivation? If a Mormon is looking and saying, “Why would I give up the belief of attaining godhood, of going off and populating my own world, why would I leave that goal and come to the fact that I am a sinner; I can have a relationship with God if I confess my sin and believe in His Son, Jesus Christ, and the work He did at the Cross. Why should I take that path and come down a step or so?”
Martin: Very simply, because Jesus said so. That’s sufficient.
Ankerberg: Where did He say so?
Martin: He said that, “You must be born again.” [John 3:7] He said that you had to come to Him on His terms. He said to the Jews, “You will not come to me that you might have life.” He turned to them and said, “If you believe not that I Am [and He used the divine name for Himself, God’s name – if you don’t believe I Am the eternal God], you’re going to die in your sins,” John 8:58. It’s only sufficient that we recognize it.
In Mormon theology when they talk about gods, they point to Satan as the god of this world. They point to passages of Scripture where gods and goddesses are mentioned. But what they always ignore is the fact that the Bible says there are things that are called “Lord” and called “gods.” “Lords and gods, many in heaven and earth” [1 Cor. 8:5], but “for us one God the Father, one Lord Jesus Christ.” [1 Cor. 8:6] So, we have to face the fact that the reason Mormonism is wrong about this idea of God is not because of what it offers or doesn’t offer, not because of the emotion, not because of all the things that Sandra and Ed have been talking about, but because Christ said so. That’s what makes the difference.
Ankerberg: Alright, I’m reading from The Wall Street Journal here and it says that the Mormon Church stakes a claim that it is God’s only true church. And they make this because they are “founded in 1830 on the claims of divine revelation by Joseph Smith in New York.” Now, we want to find out, is this actually what Mormons are saying? I’d like you to listen to the Mormon representatives concerning which church is the true church on earth.

Excerpt from “Interview with Mormon Leaders”

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, and 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.

Ankerberg: Dr. Martin, you’ve heard what they have said. Do we believe that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the one true church on the earth?
Martin: Well, they maintain this position very strongly. In fact, Joseph Smith said that Jesus Christ personally told him in his first vision that all of the churches were wrong; that all of their creeds were an abomination in God’s sight and all of their professors – that’s the people – were corrupt. In fact, they go even further than that. And I think we should quote them.
The Church is the only true and living church upon the face of the earth. There is no salvation outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. All other churches are entirely destitute of all authority from God and any person who receives baptism or the Lord’s Supper from their hands will highly offend God for He looks upon them as the most corrupt of all people. Both Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the whore of Babylon. (Doctrine and Covenants).
Ankerberg: They’re very courageous in making that claim and they have 30,000 missionaries out there saying that to people all the time.
Martin: Yes.
Ankerberg: What would you advise folks from a biblical standpoint why we don’t agree with that?
Martin: I would suggest that they take note of the fact that Jesus Christ said in Matthew 16 that “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” [Matt. 16:18] Well, if the church disappeared from the earth until Joseph Smith restored it, which is their claim, the gates of hell did indeed prevail. We should test Joseph Smith upon which all of this rests by Deuteronomy 13. He says he’s a prophet of God; the Bible says if a prophet of God, so-called, points you away from God to other gods, that this is a false prophet.
Ankerberg: Mrs. Tanner, isn’t there a claim by the Mormon Church that everything stands or falls on the claims of Joseph Smith?
Tanner: Yes, I don’t have their reference right in front of me, but they would say that you have to accept Joseph Smith to go to the highest heaven and there’s no salvation, meaning exaltation, without Joseph Smith. So they make him part of the gospel. A Mormon might deny that at first, but if you ask them, “Can I get the best that God has for me without accepting Joseph Smith?”, and they’ll tell you “No.”
Ankerberg: Do you have one prophecy that we might start with? We’ll look at some more that Joseph Smith made that might show folks that he gave false prophecy in accordance with Deuteronomy 13 and 18.
Tanner: Well, in 1832 he prophesied that they would build a Temple in Independence, Missouri, and this was supposed to be the Temple that Christ would return to. And he said that that Temple was to be built in “this generation”. Well, the generation of 1832, no matter how long you want to make a generation, has certainly gone by now and the Temple has not been built. The Mormons do own a plot of ground in Independence, but there’s no Temple on it.
Ankerberg: Mr. Decker, as we close this program tonight, if a person is a Mormon and is listening in and would like to come across the line to Jesus Christ’s side, what hope, what would you advise them to do? Because you had to make that difficult decision one day, what would you advise them to do?
Decker: Joseph Smith taught us that no man had done such a work as he. Not even Jesus Christ had done such a work. We were taught that we would have to stand before the judgment seat; that Joseph Smith would be our final judge; that we could not pass into the celestial kingdom without passing by Brother Joseph. And I found out myself that Jesus is “the way, the truth and the light and no man cometh unto God but through Him.” [John 14:6] I found out that He is our way. He stands at the door and knocks, [Rev. 3:20] not Joseph Smith, not a prophet, nobody but Jesus Christ. It is He who makes us holy.
Ankerberg: Alright, next week we’re going to talk about what do Mormons teach about God? Does He have a flesh and bones body? Do Mormons rely solely on the Bible as their sole authority? We’re going to ask the Mormon representatives to comment on that. I hope that you’ll join us.

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