The Mormon-Evangelical Divide
Beliefs that set Mormons apart, and evangelicals' response.
February 1, 2000
Distinctive LDS Beliefs
1. God the Father and Jesus appeared to Joseph Smith in 1820, calling him to restore the Church of Christ.
2. The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price constitute sacred scripture, along with the Bible.
3. The Father (Elohim) is a distinct God from Jesus (the Jehovah of the Old Testament) and the Holy Ghost.
4. God the Father has a body and has a wife (the Heavenly Mother).
5. Jesus is the literal son of the Father (Elohim) and Mary. Some Mormon leaders contend that there was a sexual union between God and Mary.
6. All humans pre-existed as spirits in heaven. Mormon prophets have taught that those who were unfaithful in the spirit world were cursed to be born on earth with black skin.
7. Sacred temple ceremonies were revealed to Joseph Smith, including baptism for the dead and eternal marriage. Mormons can progress to godhood in the next world through following temple endowment rituals.
Evangelical Christian Response
1. Smith's false prophecies, occult involvement, anti-biblical theology, and polygamy ruin his credibility as apostle-prophet.
2. The Bible alone is the written Word of God. Mormon scriptures contradict clear biblical teaching and cannot be new revelation from God.
3. The triune affirmation of the unity of God in three persons remains Christian orthodoxy.
4. Jesus said in John 4 that the Father is a Spirit. The Mormon notion that God has one or more wives is absolute speculation and reflects an anthropomorphic understanding of God.
5. Matthew and Luke teach that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and Christian tradition has never interpreted this as a sexual act.
6. The Bible nowhere implies that humans pre-exist. Mormon speculations about the curse on black people are rooted in nineteenth-century racist theories believed by early Mormon leaders.
7. Mormon temple ceremonies are not biblical in nature and easily lead to works righteousness.
James A. Beverley, professor of theology and ethics at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto.
See today's related stories on Mormonism, "
A Peacemaker in Provo | How one Pentecostal pastor taught his congregation to love Mormons,"
"Mere Mormonism | Journalist Richard Ostling explores LDS culture, theology, and fans of 'crypto-Mormon' C.S. Lewis," and "Mormons, Evangelicals Tangle Over Web Site."
Books & Culture asked Richard J. Mouw to review How Wide the Divide? A Mormon and Evangelical in Conversation (IVP, 1997). The review, "Can a Real Mormon Believe in Jesus? | A classic evangelical and a classic Mormon look for mutual understanding," appeared in the September/October 1997 issue. [page 11, print only]Francis J. Beckwith, coauthor of The Mormon Concept of God: A Philosophical Analysis, reviewed How Wide the Divide? for Christianity Today. The review, "With a Grain of Salt," appeared in the November 17, 1997 of our print issue.
February 7, 2000, Vol. 44, No. 2, Page 70
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