Christian Post Reporter, Gabrielle Devenish, has just published a two part article regarding the question “What do Mormons Really Believe?” And the secondary article, “What Do Mormons Believe? Ex-Mormon Speaks Out – Part Two”. In the first article, Devenish opens up with this:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is becoming a hot media topic again after Pastor Robert Jeffress’ recent comments about Mormonism being a “cult” at an event where Mormon presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke at, and also after polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs’ trial and imprisonment.
But with the all the controversy surrounding Mormonism, many are left with the question: What do Mormons really believe?
Interestingly, when asked to outline their beliefs, many Mormons will simply refer you to a higher up, or to their website. Otherwise, many – even former Mormons – remain mum.
“You’ll find that many Mormons who have left the church have ‘thrown the baby out with the bathwater.’ They were deceived once – they don’t want it to happen again. And many tend to be very bitter and angry about religion in general,” Beth, who declined to give her last name, said in an email to The Christian Post.
Beth, who is now a practicing Christian, was formerly a Mormon.
Devenish cites the twelve articles of the Faith that were part of the Wentworth letter, and adopted as our fundamental beliefs. Concluding the article, she goes on to introduce that her secondary article will focus on what a former member of the Mormon faith has to say about these twelve fundamental beliefs. Therefore, we will look at this secondary article and determine if there are any factual information provided, or if there are any misrepresentation of what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe.
In her attempt at interviewing ex-Mormon Beth Johnston, the article provides insight into how misinformed evangelical Christians are of the Mormon faith. Devenish attempts to provide a simple framework of what Latter-day Saint Christians believe, yet, still maintain false assumptions that Mormons are far from being considered Christians. For example, Beth Johnson provides this comment:
“The main difference between Christianity and the LDS is that they don’t believe in grace. And they don’t even use the same terminology – to them, they are Christians, so to accuse them of not being a Christian turns them off. We’re not even speaking the same language,” she said.
The supposition that Latter-day Saints do not believe in Grace, and that we speak a different language is a thoroughly misrepresentation of what is at the heart of the doctrine and faith of the Latter-day Saint religion.
For instance, in the August 2012 New Era Magazine, Brad Wilcox writes the following:
Christ asks us to show faith in Him, repent, make and keep covenants, receive the Holy Ghost, and endure to the end. By complying, we are not paying the demands of justice—not even the smallest part. Instead, we are showing appreciation for what Jesus Christ did by using it to live a life like His. Justice requires immediate perfection or a punishment when we fall short. Because Jesus took that punishment, He can offer us the chance for ultimate perfection (see Matthew 5:48; 3 Nephi 12:48) and help us reach that goal. He can forgive what justice never could, and He can turn to us now with His own set of requirements (see 3 Nephi 28:35).
Thus, we can see that misinformation about what Latter-day Saints believe is going to be problematic within the context of Devenish’s article. The question should arise, if Devenish wants to write an article about what it is Mormons truly believe, why not actually ask members of the Church? The problem with this is that she already made the grave mistake (in her first article) by stating “Interestingly, when asked to outline their beliefs, many Mormons will simply refer you to a higher up or to their website.” This generalized statement is too ambiguous. It does not take into account individual circumstances and contexts where a member of the Church may be asked about what they personally believe in as a Mormon.
Devenish then provides Johnston’s brief remarks on each article of faith. Therefore, the remainder of this article will provide the same brief remarks to Johnston’s and Devenish’s attempt at explaining the fundamental beliefs of Latter-day Saint Christians.
- We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit
Johnston: “Mormons do not believe in the Trinity as we understand it. They believe that God and Jesus were separate physical people who dwelled on the earth … God was Jesus’ father, and both men died. They do have a ‘Holy Ghost’ that is very similar to our understanding of the Holy Spirit”.
MormonApologia: Yes, we do not accept the dominate belief in the evangelical, Protestant, and Roman Catholic construct of the Trinity. This construct of the Trinitarian doctrine evolved over the centuries and were part of various creedal established tenets to redefine particular doctrines and beliefs of a growing political-state religion that evolved from the third Century on. Today, there are some Protestant, Catholic and Evangelical Christians who remain unaware of the development of the Trinitarian Doctrine and how it actually is not a First Century Christian teaching, nor a Biblical Teaching. In fact, most that I have personally engaged in do not realize that the Emperor Constantine recanted his position and opposed the newly adopted Nicene Creed that dominated the first political and religious convergence of third century Christianity. Regardless, the council of Nicea focused on the word homoousious where it is believed that Christ is Consubstantial or of one substance with the Father. A careful reading of the Nicene Creed reveals a peculiar position that many Christians condemn the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ:
We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Again, a careful reading of the Nicene Creed establishes that the Father and Son were viewed as separate beings, but of one substance. Today, the mistake is made that the Father and Son are one substance in that they are the same being (which is the form of Modalism). This spoke against the doctrine of Arianism where the view was that there could only be One God and that therefore Christ could not be considered “God” in this since, and therefore had to be a created being that held a lesser position.
Regardless, the question we must ask ourselves is this: What is the main premise that ought to define any Christian based religion? Barry Bickmore, in his work – Restoring the Ancient Church: Joseph Smith and Early Christianity, provides this observation:
The Bible contains four propositions about God that every Christian denomination must reckon with in its theology. (1) First, is that the Bible contains several strongly monotheistic statements. When Moses says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD” (Deuteronomy 6:4), he means, as the Muslims say, “There is no God but God.” This view also finds support in God’s statement to Isaiah that, “I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” (Isaiah 43:10) This tradition is continued in the New Testament as, for example, when Jesus prayed to the Father he said, “And this is life eternal: that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3)
(2) Second, there is a person called the Father, who is identified as God. The example of Christ’s “high-priestly prayer,” quoted in part above, should be ample evidence of this fact.
(3) Third, there is a person called the Son in the New Testament, namely Jesus Christ, who is called God. Clearly identifying Jesus as “the Word,” John wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)Here Jesus is presented as God, but also as distinct from the Father, hence the phrase, “and the Word was with God.” There are numerous other examples of this throughout the New Testament. For instance, when confronted by the resurrected Christ, Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28) Paul preached to the Church that they should, “Take heed . . . to feed Church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28) Finally, Jesus Christ unequivocally identified himself as Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament when he said, “Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58)
(4) Fourth, there is a person called the Holy Spirit who is identified as God. That the Holy Spirit is God is shown by Peter’s accusation of Ananias, “Why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost? . . . Thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.” (Acts 5:3-4) The New Testament also teaches that the Holy Spirit is a person, distinct from the Father and Son: “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” (John 14:26; see also Acts 13:2)
These are the suppositions critics of the Mormon faith rely on and insist upon reasoning against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, Bickmore addresses a dilemma that comes up when we get into the arena of the Trinity vs. the doctrine of the Godhead of the LDS Faith. This problematic issue is not with Latter-day Saint thinking and understanding, it is with how modern evangelicals have come to understand the Trinitarian doctrine and the limitations it imposes on particular Biblical passages. For the Latter-day Saint, there is more flexibility when it comes to the specific context. As Bickmore points out, if we are asked if we believe in One God, the answer is going to be yes. If we are asked if we believe that Jesus Christ is God, the answer is going to be yes. If we are asked if the Father and Christ are God, the answer is going to be yes. It is in this latter question that generates much confusion because either the Father or Christ cannot hold to the same title as God, since there can only be one God. Yet, many Trinitarians unknowingly slip into the mode of Modalism where they elevate the Father and Christ as the Same being and person, but separate and unique because Christ is God manifested in the Flesh.
The position and relevance of historical data provides a different framework of understanding how the modern Trinitarian doctrine developed, and its origins in Greek Philosophy and Gnostic understanding. Today, many herald the Trinity an Orthodox and Historical doctrine. In a sense, they are correct, but it is only historical and orthodox to the 4th century. Prior to this, the doctrine is nonexistent.
In addition to this, there are many scriptural references where a theophany occurs. Meaning, the appearance of God to humanity occurs where all members of the Godhead appear. The most common known theophany is that of the Baptism of Jesus Christ. Here, we have Christ in the River Jordan with John the Baptist. The voice of the Father is heard, and the Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove upon Jesus Christ. In Revelation, one of the most significant passages is where Christ explains that he sits on the throne with his Father and that those who overcome the world as He [Christ] had overcame, to them will he grant to sit on the throne with Him (See Revelation 3:21). Along with these two passages, we read throughout the Gospels that Christ always distinguishes himself as being separate and distinct from his Father. John 17:5 provides another insight where Christ requests the Father to restore to Him [Christ] the former glory that He had with the Father.
The reality is that while we do not accept the creedal confessions of a Trinitarian viewpoint, or even a modalistic viewpoint, Latter-day Saints still believes that there is a God, who is the eternal Father, and our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ. We also believe and accept that through the Holy Spirit/Ghost, we are able to learn to follow the teachings, counsel, and receive inspiration in our journey through mortal life.
Pertaining to the other issues – specifically in the idea that Mormons believe Christ was a man who lived and died – one has to wonder as to the seriousness Johnston is being taken. Any person who reads the Gospel would conclude that those who believe in the Gospel writers, would inevitably believe the simple fact that Christ was born, lived a mortal life, and died. As for the comment about the Father living and dying, we do not have any additional information. We do know and believe that the Father is a resurrected and glorified being. Any additional information is pure speculation.
The reality is, Christian Post reporter, Devenish gets it wrong by interviewing an Ex-Mormon as to her specific thoughts about the Mormon Faith. This is problematic because what we have just read, pertaining to Johnston’s thoughts, about the first Article of faith truly misrepresents what Latter-day Saints actually believe in.
Therefore, our next featured article will focus on the second Article of Faith, Johnston’s response, and then a proper reflection on what Latter-day Saint Christians believe. This is to ensure that there is a greater understanding of what Mormon’s do believe, compared to what many evangelical Christians tend to think (or in this case, led to believe) about our fundamental doctrines and teachings.