The Basic Case against Mormonism and Other Pseudo-Christianities

A recent post discussed Mormonism. Here is a more complete statement of the basic case against Mormonism, and other erroneous Christian-like systems.

Our motivation here is not to badmouth Mormons. Their understanding of social order is apparently traditionalist, and we can therefore work with them to promote or restore a more properly-ordered American society.

But we must also uphold Christ. Mormonism has virtues, but it misses something crucial. Let us not miss the crucial.

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Our thesis: Mormonism, while Christianoid (Christian-like), fails to be Christianity, because it fails to deliver the real Christ. And the same is true of the other pseudo-Christian groups.

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For the essential element of Christianity is God forgiving all our sins through our repentance and faith in Christ (and because of Who Christ is and what He did.) But this forgiveness requires faith in the real Christ, not a counterfeit. And since the Bible repeatedly warns us to guard against counterfeits, we know they exist. Mormonism, like the other forms of pseudo-Christianity such as Liberal Christianity, does not give forgiveness of sins because it does not deliver the real Christ. Therefore, despite its virtues, it is not Christian.

[Mormonism may accurately be described as Christian in a cultural sense, or in a general sense. But in the crucial sense of offering salvation, it is not Christian.]

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The basic problem here is that man has a natural tendency to look for a different savior because he finds the biblical description inadequate:

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Some hold that the Christian God is too abstract and complicated, with its Trinity that is one God but three distinct Persons, and its Savior Who is both completely God and completely man.  These people want a simpler and more tangible savior, or at least a simpler and more tangible description of the Savior.

Some hold that the imputation of our sins to Christ and of Christ’s righteousness to us is unjust and absurd. These people want a simpler system based on God commanding and us obeying.

Some hold that Christianity, with its justification (God’s declaration of our righteousness) by faith alone demoralizes man by denying him a role in salvation. These people want to earn salvation, either explicitly, through the accumulation of good deeds, or implicitly, through a religion that emphasizes religious activity rather than faith in the Savior.

Some hold that while the Bible contains much ancient wisdom, it is outdated in many ways. These people want a Christianity that retains biblical language but agrees with the spirit of the times.

And some, seeing the bad state of current Christian culture, hold that traditional Christianity is largely a failure. These people want an institutional Christianity that appears culturally successful.

[This objection, unlike those above, is at least based on a true premise. Current Christian culture is in a deplorable state. But this is not a valid reason to contradict the teachings of Christ.]

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These objections all miss the mark. Since the Bible is God speaking to us it is adequate to save man, and traditional Christianity does not to be adjusted. The desire to do so can lead to heresy and damnation.

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We know that God forgiving our sins is the sine qua non of Christianity for these reasons, among others:

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In the evangelistic sermons recorded in the book of the Acts of the Apostles, the Apostles are summarizing the essential message of Christ. They are speaking to unbelievers, and they have limited time to make their case. They must quickly get to the essential point.

And we read that the essential point is for you to know the most important facts about Jesus, and then to repent, have faith (i.e., trust) in Christ, and be baptized, all for the forgiveness of your sins.

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Also, no other religion offers the certainty of the forgiveness of our sins. Nowhere else is it clearly spelled out “Do X, Y and Z, and God will forgive all your sins.” The assurance of the forgiveness of sins is uniquely Christian.

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We must also answer the question, “Why become a Christian rather than a member of any other religion? What makes Christianity unique?”

Obviously, Jesus makes Christianity unique, but what’s unique about Jesus? Not that he was a religious teacher, that he gathered disciples, that he founded a religion, or that he suffered what might be called martyrdom. Jesus is unique because he is God the Son, and because his death and Resurrection forgive our sins and make us righteous.

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For these reasons, the essential element of Christianity is God forgiving our sins.

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And why does Mormonism fail to deliver the forgiveness of sins? Because forgiveness requires the real Jesus. And Mormonism fails to deliver the real Jesus, for these reasons:

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The New Testament repeatedly affirms that

Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. [Acts 4:12]

To have salvation, you must have Jesus Christ.

And you must have the real Jesus, not a counterfeit. The New Testament repeatedly warns us not to be deceived by false Apostles, false gospels, and even false Christ. These warnings prove that counterfeits exist, that they fail to deliver salvation, and also that we are capable of knowing them to be counterfeits.

How do we know them to be counterfeits? Scripture identifies the test as fidelity to the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, as recorded in Scripture. Those who contradict what Scripture says about Christ are not giving us the real Jesus.

Theology therefore matters. If Mormonism does not accurately describe the real Jesus (and it doesn’t), then Mormonism cannot save.

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To know that the Jesus of Mormonism is different from the real Jesus, you must know about both the real Jesus and the competing savior taught by Mormonism. The basic difference is twofold: Whereas the real Jesus is the eternal Second Person of the Triune Godhead, as described in the Bible, the Mormon Jesus is a created being, not identical to, and inferior to, God the Father. And whereas the real Jesus atoned for all our sins on the Cross, the Mormon Jesus only atoned for some of them. For good summaries of the differences, see here and here. And see here for further quotes from Mormon authorities demonstrating that their Jesus does not atone for all your sins.

There are, of course, many other differences. We only identify the most important here.

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[When consulting Mormon sources, one should be somewhat wary. Mormons often strive to express their beliefs in a way that sounds like orthodox Christianity, and it can take some investigation to discover that they have changed the meanings of key concepts.]

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We should also mention that at its inception, and for many years afterward, Mormonism claimed that all the existing Christian sects had become corrupt, and that God had chosen Joseph Smith to deliver His message correcting institutional Christianity. Mormonism acknowledged that it had a different Jesus, and it claimed that it had the real Jesus.

In recent years the leadership of Mormonism has apparently decided to downplay the original militant message and to direct its followers, when possible, to present Mormonism as just another Christian denomination. This ecumenism is also in keeping with the spirit of the times, so it comes naturally to most people, Mormons included. But when push comes to shove, Mormons acknowledge their system to be different.

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For more theological details, we recommend beginning with “The Kingdom of the Cults,” by Walter Martin. All of the editions do a good job of describing Mormonism and its basic errors; later editions have coauthors.

[The word “cult” is perhaps unnecessarily lurid, but it does express an important truth: There do exist false religions.]

Next, read books presenting Christian theology. These are the teachings of Christ and the Apostles, presented nearly two thousand years ago, and of the Old Testament, which is older still.  Then read what Mormon theology, the newcomer, has to say.

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And note that both of these basic problems also apply to the other pseudo-Christian bodies, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Liberal Christians. Their Jesus has a different identity from the biblical Jesus (liberals see Him as just a human being and the Jehovah’s Witnesses see Him as a created godlike being), and their Jesus does not atone for all sins. Even if they claimed that he did, their Jesus, not being the real Jesus, cannot atone for sins.

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So we need faith in the real Jesus in order to be saved. The reader may ask “How much theological accuracy do we need in order to be saved?”

This is not the right question. There is no clear-cut boundary demarcating the region of salvation, for if there were one then Scripture would have told us. So why take chances? Learn for yourself as much as you can about the real Jesus, by reading the Bible and consulting competent teachers to help you understand it.

And then trust in Him alone for the forgiveness of your sins.

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60 thoughts on “The Basic Case against Mormonism and Other Pseudo-Christianities

  1. Yawn. Bad and biased sources, out-of-context quotes, and old-school bigotry. The only people who think Mormonism isn’t Christian are either not familiar with the New Testament or not familiar with the Latter-day Saints. Neither the previous post nor this one showed a correct understanding of LDS theology.

    I’m not one to pick a fight, but when I read something ignorant, I’ll speak up.

    In regards to unpardonable sins, I suggest a reading of Mark 3., Matthew 12, Luke 12, and so forth. So your second point is wrong. There clearly are sins for which there is no forgiveness.

    Your first point relies on creeds that are not biblical, and are therefore debatable. Jesus Christ is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. He is the Son of God and the Creator of the world. That He is God’s Son, and submits Himself to the will of the Father, is clear in scripture. You can have some silly 4th-century notion of misty three-headed Hellenistic creations, I suppose. I’ll keep my accurate, Biblical view of the Godhead.

    The LDS church is growing because the LDS church is God’s kingdom on Earth. For others reading this post, we invite you to come and see for yourselves. And if you want some examples of the fruits of our faith, we live longer, take better care of our poor, have larger families, and are more educated than other sects.

    To the author, maybe you could check an un-biased source and get your facts right next time.

    • Mormon Zach is passive-aggressive. On the one hand, he “yawns.” On the other hand, he fights.

      He’s also inconsistent. On the one hand, he condemns those who say Mormonism is not Christian. On the other hand, he says Mormonism is correct and I’m wrong.

      As the context shows clearly, the unpardonable sin spoken of in the Bible is attributing the work of Christ to the Devil. But if you repent and have faith, your sins are forgiven.

      The “silly 4th-century notion of misty three-headed Hellenistic creations,” as he calls the Holy Trinity, is based only on what Scripture says. That’s why the Council articulated it. And note that Zach rejects the Trinity, which is biblical teaching.

      As I said, they’re different. Zach doesn’t like how I spoke but he agrees with my ultimate point. Choose this day whom ye will serve.

  2. I have enjoyed reading Bruce Charlton’s text, and have mostly agreed with them. I accept some differences between the views of Christians. But when Charlton said he believes the Mormon view of God as a flesh and bone man, our paths part. We have already many flesh and bone “gods” here in the earth, we don’t need one in the sky, and that view is unbiblical.

    • I like Charlton too, but the guy bans any questioning of Mormonism on his site. If people are not allowed to address their concerns and get honest answers I don’t see how you’re doing anything but preaching to the already converted. I felt the same way about the missionaries I talked to.

    • Ah but God, in Jesus, is flesh and bone. Doesn’t Catholic doctrine hold he returned to Heaven bodily intact? And the trinity holds that Jesus is God, an aspect of God, so God is flesh and bone?

  3. Mormonism has the same premise as Islam: that the sacred texts which are used for our canon Bible are corrupted and Jesus isn’t the son of God. Once you diverge from the authority of the Word and the trinity you are another Abrahamic religion in my opinion. God bless them as many are seekers of the truth.

      • I’ll clarify what I was trying to say. I know Mormons believe that Jesus is the created son of God. They don’t believe in the Godhead a.k.a. the Trinity. So my way of believing that the Word became flesh is different than that of Mormonism. But there is a key pattern for establishing when a new Abrahamic religion emerges, and that is the rejection of the authority of the Word. Once a premise is established that the Masoretic texts, Dead Sea Scrolls, Septuagint, textus receptus and all biblical texts are corrupted or incomplete, and that one needs to venerate another sacred text of clarifications and expansions, then you have a new Abrahamic religion. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. But if that Word is corrupted to you, or incomplete, then you will doctrinize a different “flesh”. I believe in Mormonism that there are people that love God and love Jesus.

      • But there is a key pattern for establishing when a new Abrahamic religion emerges, and that is the rejection of the authority of the Word.

        That is a very interesting theory. For you, was Christianity a new Abrahamic religion vis a vis Judaism? Jesus did not teach and Christians do not generally embrace a “rejection” of the Old Testament. How about Post-Second-Temple Judaism? Is that a new Abrahamic religion vis a vis Judaism? Is the Talmud &c or the ejection of the deuterocanon, or both, enough of a rejection of the Old Testament that a new Abrahamic religion was born?

        If the answer to both of the above is “no,” then what is the relationship between PSTJ and Christianity? If they are different religions, then it seems that the number of Abrahamic religions went up by one without a new one being born. So they are the same religion?

  4. Mormonism is also prone to retconning past beliefs. “Mormons believe what they were told by someone in authority last week” is partly a jest, and partly reflective of the endless revisionism that marks Mormon attachment to presenting a good front/surface and not being interested in depth.

    • You are right in this criticism, but you must see in Mormonism a very living faith. They believe they still receive, as a church, continual and direct guidance from God. So where it could depart from tradition, bad, but where it is a real and constantly fully lived faith, good.

      • They believe they still receive, as a church, continual and direct guidance from God.

        But God would not contradict His Word revealed in the Bible. Since there are malevolent spirits, we must test alleged revelations against Scripture. Real Scripture, that is.

  5. On the title page of the Book of Mormon it states that the Book’s purpose is to “Bring People to Christ” and to remind them of the Covenants God made with their fathers that they in turn must also enter into.

    The Book teaches baptism as a necessary ordinance, that God speaks to man, that prophets write scripture continually as long as God is speaking to man, that faith precedes miracles, that without Christ salvation is impossible.

    While the LDS Church teaches that we must work out our own Salvation through obedience to Covenants, it also states that those covenants are impossible without Christ. He is the center of our religion and the focus of our faith. It is because of Him that we are able to experience the blessings of the Holy Ghost and it is only through Christ that we may some day return to our Father in Heaven.

  6. The only question is whether Mormonism is apostasy or heresy.

    Apostasy: renunciation of a religious faith

    Heresy: adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma

    -definitions courtesy of Merriam-Webster (M-W.com)

    You can be the judge. My vote goes for full-blown apostasy because of the militant stance against traditional Christianity, from where the first Mormons came.

    • No, the hold some heretical beliefs (from an Orthodox and Catholic perspective), but certainly no more than Protestants themselves hold. Protestants were just a more successful and longer-lived “heresy”, so have gained mainstream acceptance.

      • George, that isn’t fair. Which mainstream Protestant group reduces God to a god? — To a local demiurge whose reproductive activity with his celestial spouse provides occasions for eternal spirits to enter into the world of space and time as men and women on earth? Even Mary Baker Eddy’s ideas are not that fascinating!

        A friend of mine and fellow “Whovian” told me that the Salt Lake City public library system has the most Doctor Who novels available anywhere in the country. We reckoned that when one’s religion is science fiction and fantasy, one will be more interested in science fiction and fantasy in general. I always enjoy learning the myths and religions of made up worlds, and as such I like sci fi and find Mormonism very interesting.

      • Regarding the fantastic belief system of the Mormons, Lawrence Auster had (as usual) an incisive comment on Mitt Romney’s emptiness:

        Mormonism consists, at its core, of many ridiculous assertions that no rational person could possibly believe. …in order to be Mormons, [people] have to turn off their rational faculty when it comes to questions of truth.

        This is how Romney could lead a good life personally, yet be so oblivious to the sordid nature of his opponent’s campaign and its incessant—and false—smears of Romney. It explains, in part, how Romney never once veered from his focus on the economy, when there were so many other areas where his opponent was vulnerable.

        On a broader scale, this observation fits how Mormons, focusing on the positive and true aspects of their beliefs (e.g., primacy of the patriarchal family), can be good people, yet are generally unable to articulate higher truths. It is telling that there are so few famous Mormons in any field requiring great intellectual effort. This is not to say there aren’t smart Mormons; there are. However, their faith precludes the pursuit of Truth.

  7. And some, seeing the bad state of current Christian culture, hold that traditional Christianity is largely a failure. These people want an institutional Christianity that appears culturally successful.

    [This objection, unlike those above, is at least based on a true premise. Current Christian culture is in a deplorable state. But this is not a valid reason to contradict the teachings of Christ.]

    Charlton makes this point repeatedly in condemning “mainstream” Christianity. Each time that he raises that point, I want to state, following the old saying, that the problem with Christianity is the Christians, while the problem with Mormonism is Mormonism. Charlton and like-minded individuals may respond that a good tree does not bear rotten fruit, but even a good tree with put forth some nasty crops if it is placed in a cellar with little light or if it is continually malnourished. I am an Orthodox Christian, a member of the Russian Church, and I believe that the Orthodox Church is “the Church.” However, I readily admit the problems that exist among Orthodox Christians. The modern world is explicitly anti-Christian in so many ways, and its hostile, corrupting influence is a severe thorn in Christians’ sides. In the early centuries, the pagan world persecuted the Church, and the Church prevailed. Such is happening again. We often fail to remember all the compromises and the lukewarm folks who betrayed the faith in the early centuries, thinking only of the victorious martyrs. Yet, I wonder what the real numbers were. I assume that many Christians miss the mark in living out the gospel radically, but the Church eventually triumphed over idolatry and wickedness, as it will do so in the future. Every age has its peculiar temptations and occasions for apostasy, and I believe that the current age is the most insane, most depraved period in history. It should not surprise us, then, that so many of the faithful fail — and fail so miserably — at their vocations of discipleship. However, persecution also brings forth martyrs, and that bitter cup in the modern world teems with witnesses. In Orthodox lands, we have seen countless martyrs, confessors, and lifelong strugglers who lived and died for the Lord under the theomachist Communist regimes. In the West, consider the virtuous men and women who have held fast to the Good since the perfidy of modernity exposed its bloody jaws; from the patriots of la Vendée to today, there has been a strong minority of those who have maintained a view of heaven despite the clouds of modern confusion.

    When Charlton points to Rome, the Orthodox, or confessional Protestants with a condemning finger due to the sorry state of their larger societies and of their nominal members, he errs in his sampling. When Mormons fail at being Mormon, they “leave the church” and become, well, Utahns (or the equivalent secular person elsewhere) due to the ostracism factor in Mormonism. That is a model of ecclesial discipline, and it has its advantages and disadvantages. And there are disadvantages — we are dealing with salvation here, and the stakes are quite high. Rome could increase its healthy piety stats if it took a different course, but such heavy handed discipline might jeopardize millions of souls by burning bridges on the Tiber, so to speak. Thus, grievous sinner O’Donnell continues to consider himself Catholic until his death, though he lives worse than a pagan. Yet, his continued affiliation with the Church remains for him a lifeline. The door remains open. What is the “recidivism” rate of Mormon defectors? Outside Mormon majority areas? I bet that Rome’s rates of return are much higher.

    Besides, we are traditionalists, are we not? We are not soulless devotees of the latest fad in social science. We try to avoid tunnel vision, especially in only considering our own age. Charlton mentions fertility as an indicator of who is following the golden path. Right before the Great War, Russian Christians had one of the highest fertility rates in history. I recommend that you read (“Young Russia: The Land of Unlimited Possibilities” from National Geographic in November, AD 1914. Ignorant of what future terrors awaited the empire, the writer predicted that Russia would have six hundred million people by the end of the twentieth century. However, a bloody revolution, a civil war, two world wars, including an invasion, generations of suffering under Communist tyranny and its consequent social and material depravity, and the influences of alien ideologies have reduced the fertility of Russian women to below replacement levels. Is this surprising? Are we really to blame Orthodox dogma and praxis for this? (Fortunately, that decline is starting to reverse!) Moreover, the same Churches that Charlton condemns provided centuries and centuries of healthy societies, thousands of saints, and, in summation, post-classical Western civilization! What has Mormonism given us besides good looking, clean cut blond families with a social ethic that would have been considered normal and unremarkable sixty years ago?

    Everyone on this site pretty much agrees that contemporary society is mad. It is to be expected that Christians who live in this madness will be affected negatively, and we must implement and follow special survival strategies if we are to keep our good sense among the crazies. Forming and living within a counterrevolutionary subculture is one such strategy (the best option, in my opinion), and that is what the Mormons have done. The region of the country under their influence — from northern Arizona to Idaho — is a lovely land mostly populated by hearty WASPs descended from frontier stock. Their governors (their prophet and quorum of the twelve) live in this subculture and rule with its good in mind. However, if we formed a governing body from the men of any Christian group in this region, we would likely get some rather sensible people, too. I suppose that even the Episcopalians in Idaho are solid folks. Then, if these hypothetical rulers only made decisions with this subculture’s denizens in mind, they would probably come up with moral standards and social controlling decisions quite like the Mormons. Rome’s (or Russia’s or Germany’s vel alia) bishops do not have that luxury. Their flocks live in darker places, and the bishops have to keep them in mind and govern accordingly. Nonetheless, where there are counterrevolutionary subcultures among the papists (Society of Saint Pius X, for instance) or the Orthodox (say, ROCOR), you find even more sanity than what you see among the Mormons, just as traditional, healthy lifestyles and local communities are common among Orthodox Jews, Mennonites, traditionalist Lutherans, and so on. As the LDS move toward the mainstream and embrace accommodation for the larger society, they will become more like the Jones. Or, to be more precise, they will be like the Romneys and Huntsmans, only without the wealth, breeding, and industry of those elites. In other words, the average Mormon will resemble the average Methodist more and more. Of course, the Mormons’ wise men may switch course and refortify.

    Rather than looking at such outward statistics, which is more a matter of how much one resists and sets oneself apart from the larger, godless culture (and such ghettoization comes with a cost), Charlton should ask where one can find Christ taught and glorified — where one finds truth, where one finds a path to holiness. In Greek jargon, we seek to unite ourselves with the Lord’s body and thus to become like God (theosis). Is that possible in the LDS? Roebuck argues no. The Church from the apostles to today have argued against heresies that resemble Mormonism in many ways (including Mohammedanism), and it seems reasonable to hearken unto their warnings.

  8. Mr. Roebuck, I am sorry, but please delete this — it didn’t keep the formatting! I wish that there was a “preview” button. Also, I corrected the year of the National Georgraphic article. Sigh . . .

  9. Mormonism is unorthodox by the standards of the Orthosphere, but the reverse is true as well. The Orthosphere is also unorthodox by the standards of Mormonism. One or the other is apostate or heretical. One or the other is erroneous. One or the other fails to reveal the real Christ. One or the other is Christian-like.

    If the Holy Ghost has not confirmed the truths of the latter-day restoration to you, then endless arguments are unlikely to change your mind. On the other hand, if those truths have been revealed to you, the arguments of philosophical adepts, of whatever persuasion, are also unlikely to be convincing.

    • As I said above, the Holy Ghost does not reveal words that contradict biblical teaching. Since there are malevolent spirits, we must test their utterances against God’s Word, the Bible.

  10. Alan is spot on. Mormonism is a counterfeit form of Christianity. People who who think it’s genuine Christianity don’t know what the genuine article looks like.

  11. “There is no clear-cut boundary demarcating the region of salvation, for if there were one then Scripture would have told us.”

    John 20:31 “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

    I don’t mean to sound flippant, but that sounds pretty clear-cut to me.

    • Yes, that’s clear-cut in a basic sense: You have to believe in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God.

      The question is, how much inaccurate belief or just plain unbelief will remove your salvation? The answer to this question is not so clear. So why take chances?

      • Based on Peter’s Sermon in Acts, I think that if one believes by faith in every description of Jesus found in the Bible (the Messiah, the Son of God, the Word made flesh, Lord, Savior, conceived by the Holy Spirit, resurrected from the dead, without sin, etc.) without fully understanding how all of these descriptions harmonize, they will be saved. Otherwise we’re all damned because no one fully understands the Trinity and I bet there’s some aspect of every Christian’s doctrine that is mistaken. The mystery has been made manifest, but we still see through a glass darkly. The crucial point is that nothing should be added or subtracted to the inspired Word of God. Only harmonizations of Scripture should be attempted in good faith, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

        However, you’re right; we cannot judge another’s state of grace. Otherwise Jesus would not need to come to separate the sheep from the goats. The Holy Spirit is the assurance and the deposit of our salvation, and no Christian can with full certainty determine whether someone has the Holy Spirit.

  12. I have the same concern about Mormonism that I think most people do. It was started by a crazy con man. Just read about Joseph Smith. Doesn’t he strike you as a hustler trying to trick people out of their money and get a few more wives for himself. It’s a little hard to go from believing in a faith based on someone like Jesus to believing a faith based on that guy. It doesn’t help that the Book of Mormon is full of nonsense and the history or its writing is rediculous.

    So it just seems like a small religion that people who are already pretty religious self select into. Maybe it has some practices that are worth looking into that help strengthen its community. However, it doesn’t seem like we are going to find the answers in the (totally nonsensicle) Book of Mormon. So you left saying, “they seem to be getting good results, but those good results all seem based on obvious lies.” So which is better social results or the truth? Is it OK to say false things if you think it has some desireable worldly effect? The answer from the Bible seems to be no.

    • Also, keep in mind that progressives make their case that progressivism is all about getting better worldly results by any means necessary (because the eternal doesn’t exist).

    • I used to think that Mormonism was the example of “success does not equal true.” I guess now even Christianity is defined by success. It’s so…American!

      And measuring success by reproduction…isn’t that a pure Darwinian measure? Like populations should never stabilize or go down? It’s the infinite growth fetish. It’s so…American!

      • Well, the bible does say one should “multiply”, and besides that with the population of whites going down dramatically it will is a huge effort to fight this trend. In general the entire west is loosing in population to africa and asia, and the most populous areas become more relevant economically, militarily and even religious as those with too few people. See also this chart: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:World_population_(UN).svg

        Also, if muslims become a majority in any western country then you can expect a Lebanon-like scenario: endless bloody civil war. Looks like a good reason to multiply for me.

  13. What Alan has here advocated is a legalism of belief, i.e., that forgiveness of sins is contingent upon a belief in a Christ defined by specific creedal statements that are not found in the gospels. Any deviation in belief is assumed to create a fatal separation from the person so described, and the description is assumed to be both accurate and definitive. The gospels, in contrast, praise a childlike faith, hardly a picture of theological or philosophical sophistication in belief.

    The elevation of this legalism of belief and the authoritarianism of the churches ultimately led to the persecution of anti-Trinitarians, including the unfortunate Michael Servetus.

    The Sermon on the Mount is all about behavior. The Nicene Creed is all about belief. Which is more representative of authentic Christianity? Which better reveals the mind of Christ? Which is actually the Word of God?

    • Our Lord asked: “Who do you say that I am?”

      A Christian confession of faith answers that question. The orthodox creeds are legitimate extensions, attested by Scripture, of the response, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

      Perhaps if other disciples had answered Him on that occasion, their words would have fallen short of Peter’s confession. This doesn’t mean that our Lord would have dismissed those men forever from His presence, nor do Mr. Roebuck’s comments assert that. The question, though, remains, and some answers are defective, and some are flat wrong. We wish to answer the question rightly, and we rejoice when we can do so in the company of other Christians.

    • It’s not “legalism of belief.” It’s about what Jesus and the Apostles (trained by Jesus) taught.

      It’s not about “defining Christ by specific creedal statements.” It’s about believing and seeking to understand what Scripture says.

      A childlike faith believes what God has said, including where God says to guard against false Christs.

      The Sermon on the Mount is all about behavior.

      One thing it says is “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” So what will you do when you are not perfect, as none of us are? That’s when you will need to trust what God says in Scripture about forgiveness through repentance and faith in the real Christ, not one of the counterfeits.

      • When we’re not perfect, we seek the sacrament of confession and absolution. The perfection (for most of us) is completed in purgatory.
        Jesus really meant it when He said “Be ye therefore perfect.” He wasn’t just invoking the law to drive us to the gospel.

  14. I agree with Bruce B that both belief and behavior are necessary. Christians rejected a complicated Jewish legalism of behavior, but their churches in turn have laid upon their members an increasing number of confusing and legalistic creeds that bear a greater resemblance to sophisticated Greek philosophy and the demands of political necessity than to the simplicity of the Gospels. Which is the presumably sufficient original guide, the Gospels or the Creeds?

  15. Joseph A. believes that Russian Orthodoxy is or represents the true church. While I respect that belief, I don’t share it. He argues quite reasonably that the Russian Church cannot be blamed for the effects of Communist persecution, foreign invaders, and the inroads of Islam, and I agree.

    He credits the success of Mormonism to sturdy WASP stock, sons of Puritans if you will. Puritans are now as scarce as Native Americans in New England. New England’s liberal Episcopalians are descended from WASP stock; indeed, they are the embodiment of the white Protestant establishment. Hedonistic Nevada and the liberal West Coast of the U.S. were settled by very similar stock.

    He credits the success of Mormonism to its leadership looking out for its interests. But every ecclesiastical leader worthy of the name looks out for the interests of his flock.

    Finally, he credits the success of Mormonism to social pressure inside the Mormon corridor in Utah, Idaho, and Arizona. But only about one in six Latter-day Saints lives there. The majority of Latter-day Saints now live outside of the U.S.

    For an alternative hypothesis, see http://archive.org/details/vitalityofmormon00talmrich

    “…we are traditionalists, are we not?” I am very partial to tradition, but that only gets us so far, and Christianity itself had to overcome Jewish traditions. Not all traditions are equally good, and not all traditions reflect the true original. Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants all differ over what is the fully correct tradition. And some Protestants even have used Alan’s argument to claim that Catholic’s worship a different Jesus with negative consequences. It is easy to find that argument with a Google search.

    I agree in the end that the issue is where one can find Christ, the truth, and a path to holiness. I would argue that the Book of Mormon and the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints embody the truth and that path and lead one to Christ. See http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/2-ne/25.26?lang=eng

    While LDS theology is not identical to Russian Orthodox theology, the concept of “theosis” resonates in both traditions as do some aspects of Orthodox liturgy that don’t particularly resemble a Protestant service. See http://www.amazon.com/Great-High-Priest-Christian-Liturgy/dp/0567089428

    • I know that the Mormons I’ve met here in Florida (the ones that are Florida native converts – not those who have moved here) are pretty unremarkable compared to the Utah/Idaho Mormons. My wife saw how many of them behaved (in contrast to their Utah/Idaho brethren) and remarked that they’re really “scraping the bottle of the barrel.”

    • Let me clarify that I do not think that the Russian Church exhaustively manifests the Church. Church is said in many ways. In Orthodoxy, we speak of the Church as the Body of Christ, and we also use the term Church for the local manifestations of the Christian community — the local bishop surrounded by his priests, his deacons, and the faithful under his supervision (I originally typed “failful” mistakenly, but that does characterize the Christian flock to a large extent!). As to the boundaries of the Church beyond the Orthodox Churches, I defer to my ecclesial authorities. However, I personally suspect that the Roman Church participates in or constitutes, perhaps in an ailing way, the Church, as well. There is so much good fruit, clear truth, and consistent, perpetual sanctity among the papists. I do not know the nature of schism (or rather, its bastardized anti-nature), but I doubt that Rome and the non-Chalcedonians are not part of the family. Even (especially!) families have their squabbles and sins.

      With everyone else, though, it seems like their separation is pretty evident. Anglican and confessional Protestants have drifted farther from apostolic teaching and practice as the centuries have passed, where those who hold steadfast to the theological and moral truths of the faith have become ever fewer in number. And even they cling to poisonous errors, as Protestantism is the spiritual side of modernity. As for pious individual Protestants, clearly there is something to their faith. Kristor and Alan here are good examples. I distrust loosey goosey kumbaya ecclesiology, but there is power in the gospel, in the reading and reflection upon the scriptures, in the name of the Lord, and in the external signs of the Church that light the darkness even apart from their proper setting (in the Church). Perhaps, this truth lies behind Augustine’s and the Roman Church’s understanding of validity — whereby there may be sacramental efficacy beyond the visible Church.

      In The Confessions, Augustine writes about the importance of the name Jesus, even in the wildly heretical setting of the Manichees. I think that the same must be true of all fallen away sects. When the Mohammedans show respect toward Mary or when they acknowledge the holiness and authority of Christ, they thereby reap blessings and draw closer to the truth. When the leftist ideologues envision humanity as a family of mutual support and love (and let’s be honest, that does happen), they dip their toes in the river of life. When the young Kristor entered into a state of awareness of God’s presence in bread, he truly witnessed God and the grace of the mysteries, though I do not think that the Anglicans as a group are the Church or that they perform the rites of the Church. I guess that I remain an ecclesial exclusivist who acknowledges the truth that folks like Rahner and Lewis (and Kristor and Charlton) see, though I think that they err in not complementing those insights by solid ecclesiology. “Mere Christianity” is mushy hooey with bits of wisdom.

      Just so, I think that the Mormons truly experience the gifts and benefits that God bestows to the extent that they worship him, though they are extraordinarily confused. Most “mainstream” Christians find odd things to criticize about Mormonism, such as that Jesus preached in the Americas, the Mormons’ ethno-mythical understanding of American Indians and negroes, the three heavens, their history of polygamy, or their special underwear. One even hears denunciation of Mormons’ morality, family centeredness, and patriarchy in some quarters. I find those objections wrong or uninteresting. For me, what is obviously repellent in Mormonism is its pagan theology, wherein God is not God but merely a god. Why, then, should we worship him whom we call “God”? If there is something greater than god, such as the universe in which he is a fellow being with us and whose laws he must follow, then ought we not to worship the universe instead? Mormonism, like crude paganism, requires men to succumb to idolatry.

      What also troubles me about Mormonism is both the widespread ignorance of its basic theology among its members and the widespread disinterest in this theology (and in the phenomenon of the nearly universal ignorance thereof). Mormons just don’t seem to be bothered by fundamental questions, as in the problem of god regression. Mormonism appears therefore a more wholesome form of Epicureanism, which seeks to guide its practitioners to live decently but without any interest in transcendence. God has been transformed into a Big Daddy in the sky, who, along with Big Mommy, rules over our world like benevolent royalty while, presumably, hanging out in the Celestial Kingdom with other deities (which my brother has affectionately named the God Club). Mohammed simplified monotheism for the masses, but Joseph Smith created a religion wholly appropriate for Americans who have no perspicacity outside their daily lives. As another commentator (A Lady) noted, Mormonism is the most essentially American religion.

      As far as the lamentable history of the Puritans’ children, well, I think that their original Calvinist and egalitarian errors have evolved into the chief perversions of American society. Look at the intellectual history of New England since the eighteenth century, and you will find one malady of the spirit after another. Those WASPs have done much to destroy the world. Had they been mediocre or weak folks, they would not have done as much damage. So, I suppose that Mormons were part of this story, yet their own mutations were far more beneficial. I would rather live in a country populated by Mormons than one populated by Unitarians or the average congregants in the United Church of Christ — those religious cultures most directly descended from the Mayflower.

      Like Charlton, I am impressed by how Mormons have semi-corrected many of the problems inherent in the Protestantism of their ancestors. Mormons respect and acknowledge hierarchy, reject iconoclasm, and have some sense of sacramentality, though without decent metaphysical support. Mormons do a fine job in seeing one’s life as the setting of both spiritual warfare and the preliminary taste of paradise rather than a mere test that determines one’s everlasting fate in “real life.” Mormons abandoned the bibliolatry of their forebears, though they kept the mistrust and outright ignorance of the continual apostolic tradition of the Church. In other words, Mormons are extremely fascinating.

      But every ecclesiastical leader worthy of the name looks out for the interests of his flock.

      Surely, Leo could not mean this! Perhaps, he saves the sentence by adding “worthy of the name.” Well, the vast majority (and I do not exaggerate) of the West’s religious leaders are not worthy of the name. They do not govern their institutions with the spiritual or even temporal interests of their flock in mind. They are the vanguards of civilizational ruin.

      Concerning Leo’s point about regional culture, even if most Mormons now live outside of “Zion,” the leadership appears to be from and focused on the Mormon heartland. Mormons elsewhere are colonial outposts, working to transform their new frontier into an extension of the promised land. It is a good strategy. Anyway, perhaps LDS is becoming globalized, but that is not a good sign for its future health. There is an advantage in being raised in Zion.

      As far as traditions, we, of course, are called to follow the tradition handed down to us by Christ through the apostles and not to follow the meanderings and traditions of men. How may we tell the difference? In the early centuries, the Church Fathers defended the gospel and the apostolic tradition while arguing against various heretics who wished to alter the Christian tradition to appease some philosophical or cultural obsession that Christianity offended. When the gnostics claimed special, secret knowledge of Christ, the Fathers pointed to the consistent public witness of the Church in every generation, where they preached the faith delivered to the apostles. Naturally, life is messy, and an examination of Church history is sometimes trying. Consider the history of Origen’s popularity and unpopularity. However, there is a generally clear witness of the Church’s teaching from the first century to today. It is not obfuscated by translations. (And what is it with Mormons and translations? Do they not know that people know Greek? That some Christians have always known Greek? That some Christians still speak Greek [yeah, yeah, it’s not koine, but still!]?) Mormons’ account of a post-apostolic apostasy is as historically ignorant and — not to spare words — stupid as that of the Seventh Day Adventists or fringe Baptists who think that Constantine invented Catholicism. One cannot worship God in spirit and in truth when one’s basic understanding of God and of God’s dealing with man is based on falsehood.

      • “fringe Baptists who think that Constantine invented Catholicism”

        That (mis)understanding is less fringe among the evangelicals than you may think it is.

  16. Joseph A. writes, “I personally suspect that the Roman Church participates in or constitutes, perhaps in an ailing way, the Church, as well.” Some Catholics might argue that the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church “subsists” in the Roman Catholic Church alone. It is not an argument I wish to take sides in, merely to note that even the Orthosphere, which seems to include conservative confessional Protestants as well, is not really a unified place, though it is generally a polite and thoughtful one.

    The “Big Daddy” characterization and terminology is something commonly thrown at all Christians by atheists, and I reject the charge and terminology out of hand.

    That Mormons are particularly ignorant of ecclesiastical history, I would deny. Most Latter-day Saints are not professional church historians by any means, but neither are most Christians. The LDS emphasis on education has led to higher education levels among LDS than in the US population in general.

    There are advantages and disadvantages to living outside of the Mormon geographical core, which core is not to be confused with real core: Zion as the pure in heart (D&C 97:21). Dieter Friedrich Uchtdorf, second counselor in the Church’s First Presidency, was born in what is now the Czech Republic and was raised in Germany (East and West).

    Joseph A writes, “For me, what is obviously repellent in Mormonism is its pagan theology, wherein God is not God but merely a god. Why, then, should we worship him whom we call “God”? If there is something greater than god, such as the universe in which he is a fellow being with us and whose laws he must follow, then ought we not to worship the universe instead? Mormonism, like crude paganism, requires men to succumb to idolatry.”

    Of course, Latter-day Saints utterly reject this characterization. Some laws (say the law of non-contradiction) must be in a sense eternal. God and the idea of goodness must ultimately meet at some vanishing point. The good is good not just because God says it is good. If there were an infinitely powerful being, omnipresent, omniscient, etc., but nevertheless evil and commanding us to do evil while calling it good, that being would not be, could not be God and would not be worthy of worship.

    Classical and conventional soteriology can also be characterized as explaining the atonement in terms of an inflexible and external Platonic principle of justice, as if God could not simply pardon fault. Would an earthly magistrate who insisted on the punishment of an innocent victim to fulfill an external cosmic need for justice or so that the guilty could be pardoned (and who otherwise could not be pardoned) be considered just?

    That Mormonism in its philosophical moments considers these questions and problems and attempts to address them does not make it pagan. It places it squarely within a Christian framework. Mormonism is not a philosophical system, but then again, neither was the religion of the Old and New Testaments. Philosophical arguments are something that may follow in the wake of religion. It is something mortals work at after a revelation, but it should not take the place of, or become more important than, revelation. Philosophy itself is not a saving endeavor, and like the making of books, it is an endless and wearying task. I fear that the Orthosphere tends to appeal to a society of philosophical adepts. To distill philosophical theses out of Mormon theology is to superimpose on it a foreign structure and to engage in speculation beyond its core statements. Likewise to distill philosophical theses out of the Old and New Testaments is a speculative affair and to impose a Greek frame of reference on a Hebrew idiom seems particularly foreign. Why graft Greek philosophy onto Hebrew thought, as if the Messiah and Moses and the Prophets before Him spoke and, more to the point, thought within a classical Greek philosophical framework?

    Joseph A writes: “…those who hold steadfast to the theological and moral truths of the faith have become ever fewer in number” and “…the vast majority (and I do not exaggerate) of the West’s religious leaders are not worthy of the name. They do not govern their institutions with the spiritual or even temporal interests of their flock in mind. They are the vanguards of civilizational ruin.”

    Those are strong statements to be sure and widely shared views in the Orthosphere. Given that, the question is when did such apostasy begin? Did it begin in the 20th Century? With the sexual revolution? Or in the Dark Ages? Or with the Great Schism? With iconoclasm? With the bad Popes? With the Reformation? With the Enlightenment?

    With Luther I hold that Popes and Councils could and did err. The LDS position is that there is not an unbroken tradition from a past golden age to the present, that the tradition was broken (evolved if you will) at multiple points and early on in the process began to go astray. Given the current state of Christianity, this does not seem like a far-fetched position.

  17. George,

    Jesus was send to earth in flesh and bone form, so that we could form relationship with God in human terms. In heaven Jesus is in different form. If you think God or gods normally exist in flesh and bone form, then you must accept many human fragilities and deficiences of humans in God or gods. E.g. news from heaven: “Assassin shot god, he is dead, and now god does not exist anymore”, “God has dementia of old age, so his rule is coming to an end”, God is very limited in his capacities, so he cannot know much about people on earth, he can’t give just judgements, and you can always hide negative things from him, do what you will”. That is preposterous, and consequently that is part of the reason why Mormon religion is, unfortunately, preposterous.

  18. Pingback: My life among the Mormons | The Orthosphere

  19. Pingback: Parent Resources and the Person and Work of Jesus Christ | Northeast Parent Ministry Blog

  20. You contest boldly and explicitly that our duty, responsibility, and blessing is to understand the “right Christ,” and to rely on his grace to save us, I agree. You provide a recipe that contains the irrevocable fact that we need only the Bible for our salvation. (You said, “The Bible is God speaking to us and is adequate to save us.”) And therefore you conclude that any other Jesus that is not found in the Bible is the wrong Jesus. Once again I agree that we must have faith in the right Jesus, who is found in the Bible. You make it clear the Bible is adequate for knowledge about Jesus Christ. The following scripture is from the Bible and it agrees with you as well.

    And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
    (John 17:3)

    It would seem you are an upstanding Christian with many great philosophical ideas that is only trying to help his brothers and sisters by supplying information that doesn’t coincide with your knowledge of the Bible. This is admirable. You contend that the Mormons are clearly off because they don’t believe in the right Christ. For they get their idea of Christ from information that is post-Biblical. It is your idea that religions, literature, and sects created after the death of Christ’s Apostles are not right for obtaining a knowledge of the right Christ. Consequently anything and everything not instituted by God, Jesus Christ, and/or their divinely authorized servants is not desirable for knowing the “true God.”

    My question is simple… If these post-Biblical churches don’t have the “right Jesus” why do you represent a hellish idea founded by people and an organization which was after the death of the Apostles spoken of in the New Testament? I’m referring to the word you used to describe the Godhead. The “Trinity.” This idea is not found in the original Hebrew Old Testament. Nor in the Original Greek New Testament. It was coined by the Catholic Church and defined by them at the council of Nicea. You can find it in the document known as the Nicean Creed. I’m also confused as to why you suggest for your readers other sources of literature which are not found in the Holy Scrpitures.

    If true Christians only use the Bible for their education about God why don’t you?

    I assume your answer is that you’re catholic right? This would be the only possible explanation for your justification in believing ideas not found in the Bible. For they are the ones that contend and believe The church created by Christ and the Apostles never fell into apostasy, which would therefore conclude that the documents and teachings founded by the Catholic Church are just revelations from God that continued throughout history.

    Either way you simply live a contradictory life based solely on ideas you know can’t be true, but justify what can’t be justified by using only the “Bible.” Are you scared of what viewers will think if you simply state the Eternal truths you know to be true? Are you not comfortable saying, ” I simply don’t understand God?” Because you don’t. Not that you care, but I suggest doing what John 14:26 says to do. Maybe than you can convince God you actually believe in him rather than hearing the hellish ideas of what you say is traditional Christianity so many times you start to believe their ideas and even teach them.

    Stop being so caught up in what the world believes and start confronting the the Spirit of God that is so ever present in the lives of those that seek their Father in Heaven.

    God bless you brother.

    • It is your idea that religions, literature, and sects created after the death of Christ’s Apostles are not right for obtaining a knowledge of the right Christ.

      That’s too broad a statement. The Bible is the highest authority, and the only infallible authority, on every subject about which it speaks, but it is not the only authority. Other authorities can be legitimate, if they acknowledge the Bible as the highest authority.

      I assume your answer is that you’re catholic right?

      I’m a Calvinistic Protestant, so I’m not (upper-case) Catholic, but I am lower-case catholic, that is, I hold to the ecumenical creeds as well as the Reformed creeds.

      I’m referring to the word you used to describe the Godhead. The “Trinity.” This idea is not found in the original Hebrew Old Testament. Nor in the Original Greek New Testament.

      This is a common accusation, but it betrays either a lack of knowledge or a rebellious spirit. Although the word t-r-i-n-i-t-y is not found in Scripture, the three statements of the Trinity Doctrine are. Scripture says that God is one, and that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are God, and that these are not three names for the same person, but rather three different persons. It is true that “one substance and three persons” is not exactly found in scripture, but it is consistent with Scripture. It is a likely mechanism for explaining the three statements of the trinity Doctrine.

      Are you not comfortable saying, “I simply don’t understand God?” Because you don’t. Not that you care, but I suggest doing what John 14:26 says to do.

      John 14:26 reads “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

      Scripture says that the Holy Spirit indwells all Christians, but Scripture does not say that Christians need no instruction from teachers, pastors, bishops, theology professors, creeds, catechisms and the like. All these are profitable, if they acknowledge the Bible as the highest authority and if they show proper reverence for the long-established Christian truths.

      • If the bible is the highest authority… Why are you part of a organization created after its time? Why do you comply with its precepts that are not biblical? Your church obviously broke away because they found fault in the Catholic Church. And if they found fault then, how can we assume documents created by them before that are actually biblical? When reading the sources of how they explain the trinity one is fed information not taught in the bible.

        My whole argument is that you have a systematic set of beliefs that don’t coincide with the teachings of the bible.

        One basic example is that the church you attend doesn’t have the same organization as Christ’s New Testament church.

        Was there not an apostasy after the death of the apostles?

        Please explain… Because your contradicting yourself.

      • If the bible is the highest authority… Why are you part of a organization created after its time?

        These two statements are not contradictory. “Highest” does not mean “only.” Christians are allowed to be members of organizations “created after [the Bible’s] time.”

        …how can we assume documents created by them [the Catholic Church, allegedly] before that are actually biblical?

        By comparing them with what the Bible says, and using common sense enlightened, when necessary, by the results of pious scholarship and the teachings of our Fathers in the faith. It’s not that complicated.

        My whole argument is that you have a systematic set of beliefs that don’t coincide with the teachings of the bible.

        Other than the Trinity, you don’t know my beliefs. Yet you scold me. You also don’t appear to know the Bible very well, because you do not acknowledge that the three elements of the Trinity doctrine are taught in the Bible.

        Was there not an apostasy after the death of the apostles?

        There has always been heresy, but there was never a complete apostasy. That’s because as long as the Bible is available for men to read, some learn truly from its words.

        Please explain… Because your contradict yourself.

        I don’t contradict myself. I just say some things you don’t like.

        And you need to explain why you call yourself a Christian, yet refuse to acknowledge the Trinity. If you agree with the Bible that God is one, that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are God, and that these are not three different names for the same person of God, then, by definition, you agree with the Trinity doctrine. Yet you continue to badmouth the Trinity doctrine. Explain yourself.

  21. I’m Mormon just in case you want to start the prejudging here…..

    I Believe in God the Eternal Father,
    Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.
    Jesus is the Son of God and My Savior. Without his Eternal Sacrifice my sins could not be forgiven.

    Do not confuse my active part as discounting the atonement of Christ, you also believe there is something you must do….. Believe and take upon yourself the Name of Christ! If you Murder after accepting Christ are you a follower?

    Probably not, that’s why we say keep the faith, and endure to the end. Then the saviors grace is upon you, it’s not so much what you do as what you fail to do in taking upon yourself his name, ask yourself are you really converted?

    It’s more than saying a few words.

    Bishop Kastner

    • There is nothing in what you say here with which an orthodox Christian would disagree. But Mormonism, when the details are explicitly given, does not supply the real Jesus.

      And then there is also the biblical testimony that good deeds are the result, not the cause, of salvation.

  22. Pingback: Parent Resources on the Person and Work of Jesus | Uprising Parent Ministry Blog

  23. excuse me but I am a Mormon and I find this highly rude and please ask that you actually learn something about my religion before you dare to judge it or compose an article about it

    • The teachings of Mormonism are a matter of public record, and there is nothing rude about citing them and criticizing them. If I haven’t summarized Mormon teachings accurately, then let me know.

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