‘Would you like to hear more about the restored gospel?’
This is a question many of the 58,000 missionaries for the Mormon Church (or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) ask people worldwide every day. This 14-million-member-strong movement is getting public attention as Mitt Romney, the losing US presidential candidate for the Republican Party, is a committed member.
In response to the question, ‘Are Mormons Christian?’, a recent article on the Mormon’s publicity site says: ‘Yes. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian church but is neither Catholic nor Protestant. Rather, it is a restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ as originally established by the Saviour in the New Testament of the Bible’.
Is it Christian?
So the question needs to be asked is the Mormon Church a Christian church? Is it bringing the gospel that Christ brought and that we see in the New Testament? Paul gives a harsh warning in Galatians 1.8 about bringing a different gospel. He says: ‘But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!’
I have seen the Mormon Church as my mission field for around 11 years. This started with a religious studies assignment looking at ‘Christian cults’. As I did my research I found that the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses were the largest movements to come from Christianity, yet claim to be the only true churches in the world. I looked at the claims of the Mormon Church with genuine interest to see if I should join. As I compared their claims to the Bible I found a very different story.
Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism said: ‘God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible — I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form — like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man’ (Teachings of the Prophet, Joseph Smith, p.345).
This is one of the biggest issues with the claims of the Mormon Church. They believe that God was once a man as we are. In The Doctrine and Covenants 130.22, which is scripture to them, it says: ‘The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s’.
For Christians this is completely contrary to biblical teaching. Psalm 90.2 says: ‘From everlasting to everlasting You are God’. We see in John 4.24 that God is Spirit. So, to say God the Father was once a man like us and now has a body of flesh and bones in heaven goes well outside the realms of Christian teaching.
I also found another sharp contrast to biblical teaching. In Ephesians 2.8 it says: ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith — and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God’. This is echoed by Jesus in Luke 7.50 when he says to the sinful woman: ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’.
Christianity rests upon the teaching that we are saved by no works of our own; it’s a work of Christ in us. Yet, in the book of Mormon in 2 Nephi 25.23, it says: ‘…for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do’.
These things combined helped me to see that the Mormon gospel was a far cry from the biblical one. Mormons are subject to a long list of expectations if they are to receive their ‘exaltation’ and become gods themselves.
When I came to this realisation, I saw it as the natural progression that I should seek to reach out to these people and show and explain who the biblical Jesus is, and how we can truly know him. For the last three years I have been on mission trips to Utah, an American state that is 68% populated by Mormons. The high point of these trips has been to stand with other Christians witnessing at the Manti Miracle Pageant.
Each year, in small Utah town Manti, the Mormon Church puts on its miracle pageant. This is a very well put together stage show re-enacting their theology and history. Every night of this event, some 14,000 Mormons walk to their seats over an open area where around 200 Christians are there to greet them, and try and engage them in loving discussion about the gospel of Christ.
Dave Mitchell from Florida, who is regularly involved with this, said: ‘I travel 2,254 miles to Manti each summer only because my heart is broken for the Mormon people. They think they know the true God and the true gospel, they are headed for eternal destruction and they don’t even realise it!’
Chip Thompson, resident of Utah (and co-ordinator of this outreach), also says: ‘I love the Manti Pageant outreach for two reasons: 1) it is amazing for the Christian mission teams that come, and 2) it is amazing for the Mormons who are challenged with the truths of God’s word’.
For the local Christians who seek to reach Mormons, this is the high point of the year, as they get to witness to so many lost people in one place. Now, in 2013, this opportunity comes home for those of us in England. The Mormon Church is going to be doing its first-ever pageant outside the US. It will be held in the last week of July, and first week of August 2013 in the grounds of their temple in Chorley, Lancashire. Every night of this, at least hundreds of the 190,000 Mormon members in the UK, as well as possibly others from surrounding countries, will be making their way there.
I can’t help thinking about how great it would be if we could have a number of Christians there each evening, passionate about Jesus and his gospel and wanting to lovingly share this with these great people. Mormons, unlike many non-Christians, believe in Jesus and are seeking to follow him in the way they believe is true. I have found that speaking with people in this position is not something to be fearful of, but, rather, there is a shared desire between us right from the start to follow God as faithfully and truthfully as possible.
If this is something you would like to be involved with, I would love to hear from you.
When they knock on your door
However, you may be thinking: ‘I don’t even know what to say when these guys knock on my door’. My ministry, UK Partnerships for Christ (www.upfc.org.uk) seeks to equip Christians UK-wide (to be able to confidently and lovingly witness to these people) through seminars at your local church, looking at what these groups believe and how we as Christians can have meaningful dialogue with them without having to be Bible experts and certainly not having to be experts in what they believe.
A key verse that has always challenged and encouraged me in this ministry is 1 Peter 3.15: ‘But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect’.
Mormons are a people lost and loved by God, like any other lost person or people group we may feel passionate about. The pageant next year is a great opportunity to show these people that the Christian community cares about them. Please join me in praying for this and please, please make contact with me if this interests you in any way.
(This article was first published in the January 2013 issue of Evangelicals Now. For more news, artciles or reviews, subscribe to EN or contact us for more information.
http://www.e-n.org.uk 0845 225 0057)