Recently I gave a talk at a college, and afterwards a couple of very nice Mormon guys came up to me, and asked me what I thought of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I knew I only had a few minutes with them, so I tried to hit on some major points to leave them with. I thought I would share some of the points from that conversation with you.
I began by telling them that, if I’m perfectly honest, it’s what’s referred to as a “Christian cult”. They looked shocked, and said, “you think we’re in a cult?” I told them that the word “cult” just means a group that has diverted from the core foundations of a faith, but still claims to be a part of that faith. For example, there are also Islamic cults, where the group has abandoned some beliefs of Islam, and would still call themselves Muslims, but no other group of Muslims would agree that this group is still following Islam.“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints” (or LDS) is also known as Mormonism (some have been trying to distance themselves from the term “Mormon” lately”).
In regards to Mormonism, the group has left behind beliefs that have always been absolutely foundational to the core of Christianity. For example, Mormons deny the Trinity, they deny there is one God, they believe mankind can become gods and rule their own worlds, they believe that the God we know used to be a man just like us, and they believe Jesus is technically humanity’s spiritual brother (and the list goes on). These differences aren’t just minor points of disagreement (like we find between Christian denominations). These differences are so core to the foundations of the Christian faith, that it stops being Christianity. Because of this, no Christian theologian would say that Mormonism is a part of Christianity, which is quite a large problem.
Plurality of Persons = Plurality of Gods?
They then asked about the Trinity, bringing up the case where Jesus is on the cross, and speaks to the Father. They were using this case as an example to show that Jesus isn’t God, because He was speaking to God. I told them that they’re absolutely right to sense the concept of plurality here; in fact, there are other cases of this as well. For example, during the baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of a dove, the Father speaks to Jesus from heaven, and Jesus is in the water being baptized. You have three different persons, all of whom seem to be divine, and yet they are all spoken of as distinct persons. While this does show plurality of persons, it doesn’t imply polytheism (i.e. that there are a multitude of gods). The reason I say it doesn’t show there’s many gods is because there are other places in the Bible that speak of the unity of these persons as being what the word “God” refers to. For example, the word we translate as “God” is Elohim, which is the masculine plural Hebrew word for “god”. Why is the plural word used for God? In English, it would be like saying, “then Gods said to themselves”. It’s actually grammatically incorrect, even in Hebrew, which seems to imply something more is going on. Additionally, in Genesis 1 God is speaking (to Himself?), and when creating mankind God says, “let us make mankind in our image”. Why would God talk amongst Himself? Why would He deliberately use plurality when referring to Himself? In Christianity, even dating back extremely early to the time of the cross (around 110 A.D.), this has been understood as plurality of persons within God. The concept of “God” just means three persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Even further, there are many places where God asserts that He is the only God (Isaiah 46:9 is a good example, also see this site for 28 examples). So while we do see plurality in God, we also see unity in God, which is where the concept of the Trinity comes in. To use the passages that show plurality, and ignore the passages that show unity, isn’t fair to the text. Mormons teach that there are many gods (Mormonism teaches full blown polytheism), which goes against these texts. This concept was discussed, quite thoroughly, during the early years of the Church. Those that taught against this Trinitarian view of God were deemed heretics, and the views were almost entirely abandoned. Mormonism is essentially ignoring Church history, and reviving beliefs that have been deemed heretical since close to the beginning of the Church. Some respond to the concept of God referring to Himself in the plural, and say that this is something called “the majestic plural”. Historically, we see different prominent religious/political leaders referring to themselves in the plural. For example, a king might say, “bring us more grapes!” even though it’s only him that he’s referring to. It’s a way of making the person sound more important. The big problem with this concept applying to Genesis 1, is that the majestic plural isn’t seen in any writing until the 4th century A.D., in other words, roughly two thousand years AFTER the book of Genesis was written, so clearly the author wasn’t using it in that way.
How the Divinity of Jesus Works
After going through the concept of the Trinity, and how that explains the passages they mentioned, I then showed them how this concept applies to Jesus (which is the important thing to bring up). Mormons definitely do believe Jesus is divine, however, as I mentioned, they don’t believe in just one God; they believe there are many, many gods, and Jesus is just one of them. I brought up John 8, where Jesus makes His famous “I AM” statements. In this passage, Jesus isn’t just claiming to be “a” deity, or to be divine in general, but instead, He’s claiming to be I AM, which was the God that spoke to Moses and delivered Israel. When Moses asked God for His name, so that he could tell the Israelites who was sending him, God responds by saying to tell the Israelites, “I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14).
I asked the Mormons I was talking to if they were familiar with the name Y-H-W-H for God, which they weren’t. I asked if they knew the term “Yahweh” to refer to God, which they were vaguely familiar with. I asked if they knew the term “Jehovah” as God’s name, which they said they knew. I told them that all of these things refer to that moment when God declared His name as I AM (in Hebrew it’s four letters, which in English would likely transfer over to YHWH, which when spoken as a Hebrew word would likely sound like “Yahweh”, and there’s an even longer explanation for how English speakers now pronounce it “Jehovah”). The reason this is important, is because Jesus used this concept to apply to Himself. “I AM” doesn’t just refer to being divine; it refers to a specific name for God, the same God that spoke to Moses and delivered Israel from Egypt; the same God that declares there is no other God but Him (Isaiah 45:5). When Jesus, in John 8, uses this term to refer to Himself, He’s saying that He is in fact that same God. Even further, when Jesus says in John 8:24 that “if you do not believe that I am, you will indeed die in your sins”, He’s saying that, unless you believe Jesus is the one that delivered Israel from Egypt, you will die in your sins.In our English translations, the translators have “fixed” the bad grammar for English readers, where in John 8:24 in English Jesus says, “if you do not believe that I am [he], you will indeed die in your sins”. However, in the original Greek, it’s technically grammatically incorrect, because it reads, “if you do not believe that I am, you will indeed die in your sins”. You’ll notice the word “he” is removed in the original Greek. Some English translations will even add the word “he” in brackets, showing that it isn’t part of the original text, and is added just for clarity. The problem with this is that it ruins the point Jesus is making. Jesus is using the term “I AM”, which is the name of God (a.k.a. YHWH, or Yahweh). Later, in the same chapter (John 8:58), English translations will leave it the way it originally was, because it’s so obvious that Jesus is claiming to be Yahweh. In fact, it was so obvious, that the original audience picked up stones to murder Jesus right there on the spot, because He was blaspheming by claiming to be the God that spoke to Moses, the great I AM.
Another place where Jesus presents this idea of He and the Father being one, which implies the concept behind the Trinity, is in John 14:6-11. In this passage, Jesus says He is in the Father, and the Father is in Him. Even further, Jesus says, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” In other words, Jesus is saying that He and the Father are, in some sense, the same thing, even though there is plurality in them. While it’s still confusing to us, at the very least we can recognize from these different passages we’ve looked at that there’s something far more going on than simply Jesus being some other deity. He’s linking Himself to the Father in a way that doesn’t make sense unless something like the Trinity is the truth behind the nature of God. For Jesus to claim to be the I AM, and that if you’ve seen Him then you’ve seen the Father, is incredibly blasphemous, unless Jesus actually is that same God.
To push the point even further, I brought up their concept that Elohim and Jesus are both created gods that used to be regular people that ascended into deity. In Isiah 43:10, it says, “Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me.” And then in Isaiah 44:6 it says, “I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.” In other words, Elohim is the only God there is, there are no other gods, there are no created gods, there were no gods before Elohim, and there will be no gods after Elohim. This completely contradicts the Mormon teaching that we can become gods like Elohim, that Elohim used to be like us, and that Jesus is a created god.
The Attractive Lie Lucifer Tempts Humanity With
To finish my thoughts on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I came back to the idea that humanity can become gods, just like Elohim became a god. This is actually the same sort of lie that Lucifer told Adam and Eve when they fell into rebellion against God (Genesis 3:5). They were told that if they ate of the fruit they would become like God. The sin of pride is an extremely attractive and dangerous sin. This idea that we can all become gods is probably the most prideful temptation Lucifer can offer us, and it’s also the most insulting and blasphemous thing we can believe, because it belittles the Almighty God that created the universe by saying we can become like Him. To teach that we can one day ascend into godhood and become like Elohim is, technically and biblically, a lie from Satan, which the Mormon church is teaching to its adherents.
I told these two young Mormon men all this, while at the same time telling them that I wasn’t trying to be offensive to them, but that I do believe they have diverged from the foundations of Christianity, that they were believing some extremely dangerous things, and that I wanted to help them come back to who Jesus told us He is. They agreed that they didn’t want to be offensive as well, and that this was an interesting conversation. They had to leave (it was getting a little late), so they headed out.