Mormonism Revisited – Program 1
|By: Ed Decker; ©1984|
|Is the Jesus of Mormonism the same as the Jesus of the Bible? Can men become gods?|
Jesus in Mormonism
Tonight on The John Ankerberg Show we will compare the truth claims of Mormonism with the truth claims of Orthodox Christianity. The claims of each are different. Mormons believe there are many gods, Christians believe there is just one. Mormons believe men can become gods; Christians do not. Christians believe only the Bible is God’s Word. Mormons believe there are other books besides the Bible that are divinely inspired. Mormons believe Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. Christians deny this.
Tonight, we are revisiting Mormonism, as four years ago we interviewed Mormon representatives. A year later, we interviewed the great-great-granddaughter of Brigham Young who left the Mormon Church. For tonight’s program, we invited both Mormons and former Mormons to come and present their views. A formal letter was sent to the head of communications of the Mormon Church and a personal invitation was extended to Dr. Wilford Griggs and Dr. Hugh Nibley, two of the leading scholars in Mormonism. At first, Drs. Griggs and Nibley said they would come, but later they cancelled and declined our invitation to speak to you tonight. But via excerpts from the documentary film, The God Makers, you will hear Mormon leaders present their beliefs. You will also meet Mr. Ed Decker, a man who for 20 years was a Temple Mormon and whose son is currently a Mormon missionary. We will ask Mr. Decker why he changed his mind concerning Mormonism after 20 years. Both Mormons and Christians are hard working, highly respected people. Both are sincere and dedicated in the practice of their beliefs. Our purpose during this series is not to question anyone’s sincerity. Rather, we will attempt to examine the evidence for the religious truth claim being made for purposes of comparison and knowledge. Ultimately, only you can decide which position is true. We invite you to join us.
- John Ankerberg: After those first words I just want to introduce our guest quickly and then we want to get to a portion of the film that we would like you to see tonight. Our guest on stage is Mr. Ed Decker. He has been a Mormon for 20 years. He was actually married in the Temple and he is going to tell us what that was like and some of the things that Mormons believe. But one day he met Jesus Christ, and he’s going to tell us about that encounter and why the Jesus that he met differed from the Jesus that he knew as a Mormon. Ed, we’re glad that you are here tonight.
- Ed Decker: I’m glad to be here also.
- Ankerberg: You opened with this film in Salt Lake City, is that correct?
- Decker: That’s right.
- Ankerberg: And I think without too much further, let’s go right to the first segment. We’re just taking bits and pieces, but I think the film will explain itself. It’s called The God Makers. It’s a documentary on Mormonism. And then we will come back.
[Excerpt from The God Makers]
- Narrator: Salt Lake City, Utah, Mecca of Mormonism, one of the wealthiest and fastest growing religions with over five million members worldwide. To the outside world, the Mormon Church presents a carefully groomed Osmond family image. With an emphasis on family togetherness, an inspiring history and high moral standards, the Mormon Church, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or LDS, turns out tens of thousands of missionaries a year whose goals are to spread Mormonism around the world. Most of them are trained here at Brigham Young University, also known as BYU. To most of us, Mormons appear to be real Christians who live their faith. Dr. Harold Goodman, BYU professor, former Mormon bishop, currently a LDS mission president:
- Goodman: Well, the church encourages the family to be as self-sustaining as possible in their activities starting with the Family Home Evening where the father, who is the patriarch of the family, would gather his family together and there they would have a prayer, an opening song or two….
- Children: I looked out the window and what did I see? Popcorn popping on the apricot tree.
- Grant: We are very much a family-centered church because we believe that strong families make for a strong nation, and strong nations make for a strong world.
- Goodman: The Mormon Church has had a phenomenal growth. In the next 50 years it will be approximated about 70 million people to 100 million people. There are many reasons why this is so. One is the vast missionary program we have over the world, approximately right now 28,000 missionaries and 186 missions.
- Narrator: Thousands of early church members were recruited from Britain and brought over to supplement the church in America during the 1830s. Mr. Brian Grant is the director of public relations for the Mormon Church in Great Britain and Ireland where membership has increased one thousand percent in the last 20 years.
- Grant: I suppose everybody’s idea of a Mormon missionary is of those dark young men who ride around the town on bikes and knock on your doors at inopportune times. In actual fact we have an increasing number of young women serving in the missionary field and also quite a lot of retired couples free of family responsibilities who they, too, want to share the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Goodman: So many people have joined the church, I believe because of the gospel principles that it gives. Understanding and enlightenment of who they are, who they were and what they may become.
- Woman’s Voice: Jim and I came from very strong Christian families. We were introduced to Mormonism through a business partner of Jim’s.
- Man’s Voice: I always had this preconceived idea that a Mormon was somebody who went around dressed in black and had 16 wives, which was not true, of course.
- Woman’s Voice: These people seemed to be Christian. Any people that I had ever been around that were Christian, they had these same attributes. Just kind, good, loving people; family-oriented. All the things they did revolved around their religion.
- Teen’s Voice: People in the Mormon Church, they were all so friendly and they took me in by dances. And all the different kids at school, they were all pushing me on saying, “I am so glad you are going to join the Mormon Church.” They got me into the church through their social program, which was fabulous and the family atmosphere, which mine was broken up. Therefore, I went to it.
- Goodman: The youth are certainly the strength of the church in the future. Consequently, we hold classes for the youth on Sunday, we have athletic events for our youth, we have socials where they would have fun games, dances….
- Narrator: Many of the social events as well as regular church services are held in the chapels which are being built at the rate of two per day around the world. However, the few dozen Mormon Temples serve a completely different purpose. No church services are held here; only secret ceremonies which are reserved for an elite few.
- Goodman: The goal of every Latter-day Saint is to be married as a family unit in the house of the Lord and there receive the sacred blessings that will allow us eventually, if we are worthy, to dwell and be in the presence of our heavenly Father.
- Grant: Not all members of the church go to the Temple. That may be something that would surprise you. But to gain admission to the Temple one has to have what is called a “Temple Recommend.”
- Goodman: He has to receive a satisfactory interview from his bishop and from his Stake President. There he is asked, or she is asked, certain rather penetrating questions about their worthiness, their morality and if he is a full tithe payer. That is the only way that we can be with our heavenly Father. Otherwise, we could not be in His presence.
- Narrator: By going through the Temple and by adhering to various regulations—such as abstaining from tea or coffee, paying a substantial portion of your income to the Mormon Church, and giving free labor to various church-run organizations—the worthy Mormon can become a god himself in the life hereafter, ruling over his own planet with a number of goddess wives.
- Goodman: So you can see why the Temple is so important to the Latter-day Saint; because if he is worthy to go on to the Temple and there receive the sacred ordinances and covenants and keep them, he can eventually grow into becoming a god himself.
- Ankerberg: Ed, what I want to ask you is: Many of us that are not Mormon, we look at that and we say, “Is that what you actually believed? That you can actually, as a man, become a god?” Where do you find that in the Mormon scriptures?
- Decker: Well, I believed it for 19 years of my life and I put together a few references that deal with becoming gods. I think, first, we have to realize that they believe there are many gods. Bruce R. McConkie in Mormon Doctrine says, “Further, as the prophet also taught there is a God above the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” God the Father of Jesus had a father. That’s in his book, Mormon Doctrine. “In the beginning the head of the gods called a council of the gods and there to plan the creation of this world.” That’s what Joseph Smith told us in the History of the Church. “In all congregations when I have preached on the subject of the deity, it has been the plurality of gods.” Joseph Smith, again, in the History of the Church.
- Ankerberg: Okay. So they believe in many gods and yet at the same time, they call it “Christian.” And I think that the representatives of Christianity, namely, the Protestant branches, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, all branches of the Christian church that ascribe to the Apostle’s Creed, would say, “That is not what we call Christian.” Why is it that they call that “Christian”?
- Decker: Well, they believe that is the Christian doctrine. They believe, of course, that they have a prophet at the head of their church who gives them direction and the correct teachings; and that the teachings of the Protestant and the Christian churches have been corrupted, so we have to have new revelation, new information. Again, we realize that according to the Word of God that there is only one God. If we read in Isaiah 43:10, we find out that there was no God before Him. There is no God after Him, and Isaiah says that there is no God on either side of God. Yet, I believed for many years that I could actually become a god even as God is a God.
- Ankerberg: I talked with a Mormon lady today just before we did the program, in fact, quite a few of them. And the thing was, some of them were surprised that the Bible does not say there are many gods out there and the Bible does not say that we can become gods. Didn’t you ever hear that as a Mormon?
- Decker: Well, they used Scripture. They would try to make the Word of God appear to say that. For example, one of the Scriptures that we often used was: “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” [Matt. 5:48] And said, “See, we can become perfect.” That sounded reasonable. In John 10:34 the Scriptures also say, Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees, saying, “Even your own scriptures say, ‘Ye are gods.’” So, therefore, the Scriptures talk about gods, plural gods. It says, “There are gods many and lords many, but unto us there is only one God,” [1 Cor. 8:5-6] meaning the God of this world in the Mormon theology.
- Ankerberg: Okay. We’re going to take some of those verses as we go along. For folks to get an idea of the complete theology of Mormonism, we have an animation here that we are going to show them. And possibly there is one part in here that we need to announce ahead of time and that’s for Mormons that might be just new in their faith and have not heard some of the things that are going to be in this animation, such as what?
- Decker: Jesus and Lucifer being brothers.
- Ankerberg: Okay. What else?
- Decker: And the fact that we are dealing with a God above us who used to be a man, that He lived on an earth just like we did.
- Ankerberg: Okay. What else?
- Decker: God having many wives is another area.
- Ankerberg: Okay. Document the last one.
- Decker: God having many wives: we have a “Mrs. God,” of course. In the Heaven where our spirits were born there are many gods, each of whom has his own wife or wives.
- Ankerberg: Who said that?
- Decker: This was said by Orson Pratt in The Seer, page 37. “The doctrine that there is a mother in heaven was affirmed in all plainness by the first presidency of the Church,” says Bruce R. McConkie. And in the Mormon Church we sang a song about our heavenly mother.
- Ankerberg: We’ll tell a little bit as we go along why at first you might not have heard that as a Mormon, but later on in your development as a Mormon in your faith where you were told about some of these other things. But let’s, first of all, just say that it can be documented, everything that they are going to hear.
- Decker: Every single thing that we speak about tonight is documented.
- Ankerberg: Okay. Let’s go to the movie and let’s see this next section.
[Excerpt from The God Makers]
- Narrator: Before this newly completed Temple in Seattle was closed to all but a select group of Mormons, visitors were given the opportunity to get a glimpse inside. For many of these Mormons who came from thousands of miles away and stood for hours in the rain, this may be the only time they will ever be allowed to enter a Mormon Temple.
- [Interview in the waiting line]
- Interviewer: Tell me who God the Father is to you.
- Answer: He is like you and I, [like] every human being on the face of the earth.
- Interviewer: So was He a man?
- Answer: Yes, He is.
- Interviewer: How did He get to be God?
- Answer: He… He’s perfect in every way.
- Interviewer: So if we are perfect, can we become like God?
- Answer: Yes.
- [Discussion around a table in an office]
- 1st participant: You know the Mormon gods and goddesses as Joseph Smith taught were once upon a time just mere humans just like us and they worked their way up to becoming gods. There are supposed to be billions of these highly evolved humanoids somewhere out in space overseeing their own planet.
- 2nd participant: This sounds like science fiction or Greek mythology. Would you say that the average Mormon believes these things?
- 1st participant: Absolutely. Yes.
- Narrator: Floyd McElveen, author of the best seller, The Mormon Illusion:
- McElveen: They believe that God eternally progressed. That once he was a man and he became God. From that comes their doctrine that all can progress to be gods. For instance, in the Articles of Faith they have this by Talmadge that, “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.” So their whole doctrine flows from this about becoming gods.
- 3rd participant: Again, you have to understand the peculiar belief evolving around the Mormon Temple marriage. They believe that their godhood is tied to eternal exaltation through the marriage and through the family unit.
- Woman’s Voice: The Mormon Church teaches that in order for me to become a goddess, I needed to marry a Mormon man in good standing with the church. Without a husband that could take me through the Temple, I wouldn’t be able to go to heaven and be with my heavenly Father.
- Narrator: According to Mormon theology, husbands and wives who have successfully achieved godhood will be required to populate their own planet by procreating as many spirit children as possible.
- Woman’s Voice: Ever since I was a little girl, I was taught that my primary purpose was to become a goddess in heaven so that I could multiply an earth. And I wanted that. I wanted to be eternally pregnant and look down on earth and say, “That’s mine. I populated that whole earth and all those little babies I had.”
- 3rd participant: We had a little animation done to show the difference between Mormonism and Christianity because Mormonism is so far removed from orthodox Christianity. I would like to show it to you for a moment if you don’t mind.
- Narrator: Mormonism teaches that trillions of planets scattered throughout the cosmos are ruled by countless gods who once were human like us.
- They say that long ago on one of these planets to an unidentified god and one of his goddess wives a spirit-child named Elohim was conceived. This spirit-child was later born to human parents who gave him a physical body. Through obedience to Mormon teaching and death and resurrection, he proved himself worthy and was elevated to godhood, as his father before him.
- Mormons believe that Elohim is their heavenly Father and that he lives with his many goddess wives on a planet near a mysterious star called Kolob. Here, the god of Mormonism and his wives, through endless celestial sex, produced billions of spirit-children.
- To decide their destiny, the head of the Mormon gods called a great heavenly council meeting. Both of Elohim’s elder sons were there: Lucifer and his brother, Jesus. A plan was presented to build planet earth, where the spirit children would be sent to take on mortal bodies and learn good from evil.
- Lucifer stood and made his bid for becoming savior of this new world. Wanting the glory for himself, he planned to force everyone to become gods. Opposing the idea, the Mormon Jesus suggested giving man his freedom of choice as on other planets. The vote that followed approved the proposal of the Mormon Jesus who would become savior of the planet earth.
- Enraged, Lucifer cunningly convinced one third of the spirits destined for earth to fight with him and revolt. Thus, Lucifer became the devil and his followers the demons. Sent to this world, they would forever be denied bodies of flesh and bones.
- Those who remained neutral in the battle were cursed to be born with black skin. This is the Mormon explanation for the Negro race. The spirits that fought most valiantly against Lucifer would be born into Mormon families on planet earth. These would be the lighter skinned people, or “white and delightsome” as the Book of Mormon describes them.
- Early Mormon prophets taught that Elohim and one of his goddess wives came to earth as Adam and Eve to start the human race. Thousands of years later Elohim, in human form, once again journeyed to earth from the star base Kolob, this time to have sex with the Virgin Mary in order to provide Jesus with a physical body.
- Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt taught that after Jesus Christ grew to manhood, He took at least three wives: Mary, Martha and Mary Magdalene. Through these wives, the Mormon Jesus, for whom Joseph Smith claimed direct descent, supposedly fathered a number of children before he was crucified.
- According to the Book of Mormon, after his resurrection Jesus came to the Americas to preach to the Indians who the Mormons believe are really Israelites. Thus, the Jesus of Mormonism established his church in the Americas as he had in Palestine. By the year 421 AD the dark-skinned Indian Israelites, known as Lamanites, had destroyed all of the white Nephites in a number of great battles. The Nephites’ records were supposedly written on golden plates and buried by Moroni, the last living Nephite in the Hill Cumorah.
- Fourteen hundred years later, a young treasure seeker named Joseph Smith, who was known for his tall tales, claimed to have uncovered these same gold plates near his home in upstate New York. He is now honored by Mormons as a prophet because he claimed to have had visions from the spirit world in which he was commanded to organize the Mormon Church because all Christian creeds were an abomination. It was Joseph Smith who originated most of these peculiar doctrines which millions today believe to be true.
- By maintaining a rigid code of financial and moral requirements and through performing secret Temple rituals for themselves and the dead, the Latter-day Saints hope to prove their worthiness and thus become gods. The Mormons teach that everyone must stand at the final judgment before Joseph Smith, the Mormon Jesus and Elohim. Those Mormons who were sealed in the eternal marriage ceremony expect to become polygamous gods in the celestial kingdom, rule over other planets and spawn new families throughout eternity.
- The Mormons thank God for Joseph Smith who claimed that he had done more for us than any other man, including Jesus Christ. The Mormons believe that he died as a martyr, shed his blood for us so that we too may become gods.
- Ankerberg: Alright, Ed, you not only believed that for 20 years but you actually taught it. What I would like to know is, what changed your mind? What was the evidence?
- Decker: Well, I dealt with the Jesus in Mormonism, who was my elder brother. He was a Jesus that was one of the sons of God. He was a son of God. And when people began to challenge me, Christian friends began to tell me that there was a different Jesus, that there was a Jesus who was God the Son, eternally God, and that He died on Calvary for me and my sins, I had to wrest with it. I had to deal with it and it was a struggle to get into the Word and to let the Word of God show me that Jesus really was God the Son. And the discovery that even though I believed that He suffered for me in Gethsemane and there unconditionally paid for my sins, I found out that He took all the laws and ordinances that were against me, as you read about it in Colossians 2:14, and He moved them out of the way and He nailed them to the cross. I had to keep coming back to two things: the blood of Christ shed for me and the cross of Calvary. They wouldn’t let me go. I had to keep coming back to it. In Mormonism we don’t deal with it. We don’t have crosses. We take our communion with Wonder Bread and water. We don’t deal with the blood and we can’t deal with the cross.
- Ankerberg: Actually they don’t really believe what Christ did on the cross covers their sin. It just takes care of Adam’s….
- Decker: It gives me physical resurrection only so that I may be judged for my works.
- Ankerberg: And then they believe that you can work out your own salvation?
- Decker: Then, depending upon what I did at the Temple, then it determines whether or not I receive celestial exaltation and receive my many wives and go out into godhood.
- Ankerberg: Is there any one verse that kind of stands out in your mind now that maybe a Mormon that is listening in would look up?
- Decker: I think that perhaps Colossians 1:21-22 is one that I had to deal with so much. It says that I, Ed Decker, who was sometimes apart from God because of my wicked mind and wicked life, I am now holy and unreprovable before God, not because of what I have done, but because of the blood shed at Calvary’s hill.
- Ankerberg: Okay. Next week we are going to go into this area of what you were striving to do to become a god and you are going to answer the question, “Why is it that for Mormons a Temple Marriage is so vitally important to your becoming a God?” And you will tell us what you actually did next week.
- Decker: Right.
- Ankerberg: I hope everybody will tune in and we will see you then.