Mormon Officials and Christian Scholars Compare Doctrine/Program 5

By: Lawrence Flake, K. H. Christensen, Sandra Tanner, Ed Decker, Dr.

Walter Martin; ©1983

How does the Mormon know truth. What is the Mormon’s source of authority? Basic beliefs of the Mormon church.


Ankerberg: Thanks for being with us this week. We’re talking about the claims of Mormonism and the claims of Orthodox Christianity. We want just a straight comparison and so we are asking the Mormon representatives themselves what they believe. Many people think Mormonism and Christianity are the same. But do you know that Mormons themselves say there is a difference? I’d like you to listen to these representatives as they talk about some of the key differences between Christianity and Mormonism. Please listen.

Excerpt from “Interview with Mormon Leaders”

Christensen: We believe that there is current and there has been additional revelation given to the earth since the restoration of the gospel through the prophet Joseph Smith. So, when we come from this point and say we interpret this to be celestial, terrestrial, telestial bodies, we come from another position, that of other Scriptural references. And that these have come about by revelation to prophets on the earth today. And that’s one of the great messages of Mormonism to the world is that there continues to be revelation coming from God today and it’s recorded.
Ankerberg: How many authorities? In other words, Christians look at the Bible and say, “That’s our authority.” Now we’ve got an authority that interprets the authority. How many other authorities do we have besides the Bible?
Flake: I think the point we could make on that is that we have living authorities. 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.

Ankerberg: Okay. We’re talking, Dr. Martin, with these men and they have said that they take a passage, such as 1 Corinthians 15 concerning celestial bodies and so on, and we want to, first of all, define that exegetically, biblically. After we give that interpretation, which I hope that you’ll give to us, they are saying that they disagree with that, not on the basis of the exegesis that you’re going to do, but from other sources. I wish you would comment. Is it logical that they can do that?
Martin: Well, first of all, it’s perfectly logical, if God wants to, to communicate any time during history. There’s no problem with that at all. We’re not arguing that. We’re saying, “How do we know it’s God communicating?” And the only way we can know if it is God that is communicating is to test all things according to Scripture and hold on to what’s good. When we start testing the doctrine of celestial bodies and terrestrial bodies and telestial bodies, of course, there’s celestial; of course, there’s terrestrial. We don’t have any problem with that in context. The word “telestial,” however, is invented by the Mormons. It doesn’t appear in the Greek at all. They just invented the term, stuck it in there, and tried to make it appear as if this is what 1 Corinthians 15 is talking about.
Ankerberg: It’s not even in English.
Martin: It’s not in English or in Greek. So, that isn’t the problem.
Ankerberg: What does celestial, etc., mean?
Martin: Well, “celestial” would be the heavenly and “terrestrial” would be the things around us on earth, referring to the earth. But 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 1 it says that, “God who spoke in times past to our fathers in the prophets has in these last days spoken unto us in His Son.” [Heb. 1:1-2] 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.
Now, as far as the subject of hell is concerned, which they seem quite concerned with – and I would be concerned also – Christ again flatly contradicts Mormonism. Jesus taught, whether we like it or not, that He would separate the sheep from the goats; the goats on His left hand, the sheep on His right, Matthew 25. And He says, “These [on His left] will go away into everlasting punishment.” [Matt. 25:46] The Greek is explicit, aionion basanisthesontai – punishment, torture, everlasting, never ceasing. [NOTE: Aionion, “eternal,” is used with punishment, kolasin, in Matthew 25:46, and with “torment day and night unto the ages of the ages” [lit.], in Rev. 21:10.] And He is talking about the lost who reject Him and turn away from the truth of the Gospel. Mormonism doesn’t want to face the fact that there is eternal hell, eternal punishment and that God loved us so much that He sent Christ to save us from that.
Mormonism deliberately takes its doctrines and its revelations, juxtaposes them to the Bible and then says, “Our living prophet tells us this is true.” My next question is: Who tests the living prophet? If you’ve gotten rid of the Bible, who’s to say that Kimball is not a representative of the devil, that what we’re getting from him is not satanic and not spiritually divine from God? How do you know?
Ankerberg: Okay, let’s hear what the Mormon representatives would say concerning: Is there a hell? Let’s listen to this conversation.

Excerpt from “Interview with Mormon Leaders”

Christensen: Well, our interpretation of hell and, I think, yours would differ.
Ankerberg: Is there a hell?
Flake: We believe actually in two concepts of hell: one that Christ came to the earth to suffer for the sins of mankind. If we respond to His invitation, then that suffering is efficacious in our behalf. If we don’t respond to that suffering and His invitation, then we’re in a position where we suffer for our own sins. We believe that all mankind will be saved in one of the degrees of glory except for those who become sons of perdition, as you referred, Jim, to the second death. And we believe that that will be the case with some of the people on this earth. But most of them will go to one of the degrees of glory referred to by the apostle Paul.

Ankerberg: Dr. Martin, what would you say when they say their interpretation of hell differs from the orthodox view of hell as presented in the Bible?
Martin: The word “interpretation” is a cop-out. If you take a passage such as this, John 3:36, for instance: “He that believes in the Son has everlasting life,” The Mormon will say to you, “Yes, that’s true.” The next part of the verse says, “He that will not obey the Son will never see life; but the wrath of God continues to abide upon him.” Immediately you’ve got a conflict because, “Well, yes, it does say the wrath of God, but.…” Then you start getting, “That’s your interpretation.” That’s not a matter of interpretation, that’s a clear-cut statement.
I teach interpretation, which is hermeneutics, in seminary. I know exactly what interpretation is. You have to make something plain. That’s the meaning of the word “interpret.” Well, you always take Scripture in its plainest sense. What is the plainest sense of this? “Leave me into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels since the foundation of the ages.” [Matt. 25:41] Mormonism takes the word “interpret” and inserts it any place that it wishes to disagree with biblical theology. And the sad part about it is, Christians don’t see what’s going on.
Ankerberg: Okay. They come back and they’ve got an answer for you, okay? The question comes, another way of knowing truth of whether your statement of how you interpret is true or not. And I think every Mormon, Temple Mormon, and Mormon missionary, and Mr. Decker and Sandra, I think you will agree on this, that when you hear what you have to say, something we haven’t brought up before, I’d like you to listen to the Mormon representatives and how they would advise a person to come to know the truth. Please listen carefully.

Excerpt from “Interview with Mormon Leaders”

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.
Bjornstad: But can the prophet contradict literal words in the Book of Mormon and the Bible?
Christensen: He really doesn’t. 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 Lot, 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 that 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. 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.
Bjornstad: Could I just put it in another way? The Reorganized Church, as far as I know, does have a prophet that they claim directly descends back through Emma Smith to Joseph Smith. That’s their claims. If that’s true and they have a prophet that interprets the Book of Mormon and you have a prophet that interprets the Book of Mormon, 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 throughout the Book of Mormon.
Ankerberg: The book does not dictate which prophet you go to.
Flake: You go to the living prophet. The prophet that is 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; and 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 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, 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, pages 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. Now, there’s absolutely no way to refute that. 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 it’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 the 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.

Excerpt from “Interview with Mormon Leaders”

Ankerberg: Does it make sense to you when Christians say that the proof of sticking with Jesus only and what He says is the historical, grammatical method? And that when the words from the best history and grammar of the time point us in a certain direction, if you can show us from the context or if you can show us from that time period that we ought to define these words differently that we would do so. Up until then we are stuck with those words and we will not budge even if six other people came and said, “Listen, it actually means this.” As long as the words themselves, in their context, from the best grammars we have, say that, then we stick with that, and that the reason that we stick with those words from Jesus is because He actually went into a grave and arose again and gave us the proof that He came forth from the grave.
Flake: Right. The point is that if you’re on words, though, it depends on who looks at them and you know that. It’s not something that’s so clear that every person in the world is going to agree on what those words mean. So the proof is from the Lord. It’s not from your education, your background, your understanding of a set of words, it’s from the Lord. And it’s proof further in mentioning who the prophet is and so forth.
Speaking of prophets in the latter days and prophets in former times, the Savior said, “By their fruits ye shall know them.” [Matt. 7:16] And on that basis we feel that we have a very strong case as we talk about the fruits of living prophets in the latter days. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in 1830 with a membership of six. The Church celebrated its 150th anniversary with 4,500,000 members. We have in the Church the fruits, such as my particular responsibility in the church is to supervise some of the young missionaries. We have 30,000 young men and some young ladies who spend two years of their life at their own expense teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the people of the world.

Ankerberg: Dr. Martin, let me come to you. They go to James and they’ll cite James 1 and say, “But listen, it’s biblical, too. If any man lacks wisdom, let them ask of God.” [Jas. 1:5] A Mormon missionary will come by the house and will simply say, “Listen, the first thing we need to do is we need to pray about this truth and God will confirm it.” And the second thing they do is then they say, “Let’s pray about the fact of these things concerning the virgin birth, that there are many gods, that salvation is eternal progression, and so on.” What would you have to say about that exegetically and the logic that’s involved?
Martin: Well, first of all, there is no logic involved because it’s obvious you should pray for wisdom but you do not pray for something God has already told you. For instance, God says, “Thou shalt not steal.” [Ex. 20:15] So, if you have an opportunity to steal without getting caught, you don’t say, “I’ve got to pray about that to make sure that this is the right thing to do.” God already said, “Do not steal.” So, I can understand praying for wisdom about things, but if something is clearly stated by God as He does in the Scriptures, for instance, to come to Christ, to receive Christ as your Savior, “Ye must be born again,” [John 3:7] I don’t have to say, “I’ve got to pray about whether or not I should be born again.” It’s there. I’m supposed to do that. So, this is totally fallacious. It shifts the focus of authority from what God has said to what I feel, or my prayer life, which is completely false.
Ankerberg: What would say about this thing the proof is, look at how fantastic this is. The Wall Street Journal says they are prosperous. Many of people on Wall Street envy their business capabilities. It’s growing; 30,000 missionaries.
Martin: This is the concept of the proof of your fruits, “By the fruits ye shall know them,” [Matt. 7:16] which happens to be out of context. It’s Matthew 7 and it’s talking about the false prophets who come to you dressed to you like sheep. They’re really wolves underneath. And this context, I might add, is quite apropos.
But take for an example that argument: “Look at all the good works of the Mormon Church; look at the welfare; look at the 30,000 missionaries; look at this; look at that. This proves it’s good fruit.”
I turn around and say, “Look at the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Mormons have 30,000 missionaries; Jehovah’s Witnesses have 480,000 missionaries. The Mormons have a good family life; the Jehovah’s Witnesses have a better statistical family life than the Mormons do. Look at all the good things Jehovah’s Witnesses do for other people, the hours of work they put in, the publications they put out in multiple languages, the millions and millions of hours and tracts and pamphlets. They start more Bible studies in people’s homes than all of the Mormon missionaries combined, the Jehovah’s Witness do. And for that matter, more than all the cults combined, the Jehovah’s Witnesses do.
Ankerberg: Forty million magazines a month.
Martin: Unbelievable! Now, all these things the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization does that dwarfs the Mormon Church in its missionary activity, okay? And the Mormons call the Jehovah’s Witnesses a non-Christian cult. So much for that argument.
Ankerberg: What did Jesus mean, “by their fruit ye shall know them?” [Matt. 7:16]
Martin: He meant that you should test what the person is saying as well as their life. In other words, there are two kinds of fruit in the Bible: the fruit of living and the fruit of doctrine. The Pharisees had perfect doctrine and their lives were corrupt. Jesus said they are false teachers. So, conversely, it’s perfectly possible to have a very fine life and have corrupt doctrines. Either way you’re a false prophet and your fruit is corrupt.
Ankerberg: What Jesus is saying there is, “Listen, it’s not just your works, but your doctrine has got to jibe with my doctrine and the apostles.”
Martin: Absolutely.
Ankerberg: Alright, I want to go to the Mormon representatives for a statement that they made and the Wall Street Journal also quoted them in this. Then I want a final statement from you. Please listen.

Excerpt from “Interview with Mormon Leaders”

Ankerberg: Can you tell us a little bit about the background of the church?
Flake: Yes. As you mentioned, the name of the church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We think that that’s important to point that out because some people don’t understand that Mormons are Christian and so that’s important to us.

Ankerberg: Alright. They are making that statement; the Wall Street Journal is saying that they want to have the reputation, they want to have the knowledge, the status of being associated with other Christians. In light of all that we have talked about, is that possible, Sandra?
Tanner: Well, I can go live in my garage but that doesn’t make me an automobile. And just putting the name of Christ on an organization doesn’t ensure that it’s really Christian. But they make an issue here that the name of the church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I find it strange in their history they haven’t always had that name. When the Mormon Church was founded in 1830 it was just called the Church of Christ. A few years later they changed the name to just Church of the Latter-day Saints and dropped the name of Christ completely out of it. It wasn’t until 1838 that they received their present name. So, for several years in the history of Mormonism they didn’t even have the name of Christ in their church.
Ankerberg: So they would have been apostate because they didn’t have the right name.
Tanner: Right.
Ankerberg: Ed?
Decker: I know there are a lot of Mormons watching and a lot of people who love Mormons like we love Mormons. And God loved me as much when I was Mormon as He loves me today. And it’s not a measure of God’s love that we’re talking about. It’s a measure of our understanding of who Christ is. I wasn’t seeking truth and some great spiritual knowledge when I discovered the real Jesus Christ. When He came across my life and drew me to His bosom, I knew, not because of a burning in my bosom and not because of anything other than the fact that my new Jesus would not conform to the Jesus of Mormonism.” I knew that they were different Jesuses. And I tell you this, the Scriptures say that in the last days they will come with other Christs, other gospels, other spirits, but beware of false teachers. Satan himself could come as an angel of light. [2 Cor. 11:14] We speak these words not because we’re harsh or evil. We speak these words that we’ve spoken because it is truth. And the Lord God says that we must know the truth.
Ankerberg: Okay. Dr. Martin, I almost feel like in these statements that we’re saying here some people might say, “You Christians sound like an exclusive private club that has just excluded, like with a racist law, ‘We’re going to segregate all these because we’re bigoted.’” Are we bigoted by saying, “Mormons are not Christian?”
Martin: No. The truth or falsity of a statement of being a Christian is governed by what Christ taught and what the Word of God says. It isn’t by what church you belong to or what theological perspective you have. The truth is the gospel itself. Now, the gospel is very clear. And Mormonism cannot be Christianity not because I say or because we take a vote on the subject in the Christian church. It can’t be Christianity because it denies the doctrine of God and says that there are many gods. It denies the doctrine of Christ and says He is a god when the Bible says He is God in human flesh. It cannot be Christian because it teaches that the virgin birth is sexual relations between a resurrected God and the Virgin Mary to produce Jesus of Nazareth. It cannot be Christian because it denies salvation by grace alone and adds human works which Paul says destroys the gospel. It cannot be the gospel of Jesus Christ because it’s another gospel, another spirit, another Jesus.
And as Ed pointed out before, we love Mormons. We want them to come to know the real Jesus Christ; but we would be remiss in our function as Christians if we did not tell the whole counsel of God. And the whole counsel of God says, “This is Christianity.” Mormonism is not Christianity. It is polytheistic. It is eternally polygamous and it is thoroughly pagan.
Ankerberg: As another apostle, the apostle Paul, actually said in Galatians 1, what did he say?
Martin: Well, he said in Galatians 1, “If anybody preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you [they already had it] let him be accursed. Even if an angel out of heaven preach any other gospel unto you, count the angel cursed by God.” [Gal. 1:8-9] Well, the angel Moroni brought this gospel and it was not the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Ankerberg: And we submit that in love to folks who are searching for the truth. Examine the evidence. Thank you for being with us and for your thoughts. Good night.


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