The Central Message of Mormonism

Angel Moroni - EstudioBLAU

Last Friday (April 29, 2011) LDS Deseret News published an article providing tips for successful member-missionary work (as distinct from the formal Mormon missionary program). Because a recent poll showed that 77 percent of Americans aren’t sure if Mormons are Christians or not, “Understanding how the public views us can improve our responses to gospel questions,” the article said.

One of the tips provided was this:

“Ditch the lingo. Gary Lawrence is a respected pollster and adviser to the missionary department. He suggests we use simple terms to which our Christian friends will relate: Use ‘Christianity’ instead of ‘gospel,’ ‘re-established’ instead of ‘restoration,’ and ‘men changed’ instead of ‘apostasy.’”

The next tip offered was similar:

“Stay on message. Only 12 percent of Americans know our central message. It is this: We are the re-established, original Christian church.”

A couple of things here stand out to me.

  • Keeping in mind that these tips are to enable Mormons to do missionary work more effectively (presumably “bring people unto Christ”), notice that Mormons are told to use terms to which Christians will relate. Does this suggest that Christians are the primary unreached people group upon which Mormon proselytizing is focused?
  • Apparently Christians are thought to be unable to relate to (i.e., identify with) the words “gospel,” “restoration,” or “apostasy.” This strikes me as an odd claim, but perhaps the real issue is that Christians understand the words differently than do Mormons. For example, a Christian would be unlikely to substitute the word “Christianity” for the word “gospel,” because to us they don’t mean the same thing. We would never say that Paul had fully preached Christianity (Rom 15:19) or that Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the Christianity of God (Mark 1:14). But if the Mormon Church is seeking to establish itself as a Christian church, for the sake of successful branding, the word substitution might make sense.
  • The stated “central message” of the Mormon Church was a bit of a surprise to me. I would have expected a tip suggesting emphasis on Jesus Christ rather than on the Church, especially with the word substitutions that tend to take the hard edge off of the LDS doctrines of apostasy and restoration. Yet if this is indeed the central message of the Mormon Church right now, that “We are the re-established, original Christian church,” everything here falls into place. Evangelical Christians are the people who are most likely to view Mormonism as non-Christian; hence, the focus on delivering this message primarily to Christians. The phrase “re-established, original Christian church” might sound fairly innocuous to Christians since Christianity has no concept of an earthly “one true church” denomination/organization. Christians might be likely to understand a “re-established, original Christian church” to be referring to a Christian denomination that is conservative and fundamental in its worship and doctrine, “fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the [biblical] apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (Ephesians 2:19-20).

Ditching the long-established Mormon lingo while staying on a nuanced central message certainly has the potential to change the way the public views Mormonism. But let’s be clear: Mormonism itself hasn’t changed.

  • Mormonism does not preach the Gospel as found in the Bible; it preaches a “restored gospel,” in biblical terms, “a different gospel” (Galatians 1:6-8).
  • Mormonism is not built on the foundation of the teachings of prophets and apostles as set forth in the Bible; in Mormonism, latter-day prophets and apostles take precedence over biblical teaching while claiming “designing and corrupt priests” maliciously altered the Bible and took out many of its “plain and most precious” parts.
  • Mormonism isn’t a re-established conservative Christian denomination; its very foundation is based on the assertion that the church Christ built fell into complete apostasy and disappeared off the face of the earth, requiring a total restoration by Joseph Smith.
  • Mormonism does not see itself as a Christian church; it claims to be the only true Christian church while “so-called Christianity” (not “re-established Christianity”) is wrong, corrupt and abominable in God’s sight.

A prominent Mormon Apostle in the 1960s said that “virtually all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ.” Not one to mince (or nuance) words, this LDS Apostle provided the straight-up central message of the Mormon Church.

If only Latter-day Saints today would provide such a candid and forthright declaration by which the public could rightly understand the central message of Mormonism.

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
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20 Responses to The Central Message of Mormonism

  1. The_Hammer says:

    The article says

    “Ditch the lingo. Gary Lawrence is a respected pollster and adviser to the missionary department. He suggests we use simple terms to which our Christian friends will relate: Use ‘Christianity’ instead of ‘gospel,’ ‘re-established’ instead of ‘restoration,’ and ‘men changed’ instead of ‘apostasy.’”

    Give me a break, These guys are really watering down what they believe and really making a mess of things.

    Men Changed, instead of apostasy?

    Any man can change for the better or the worse, Thats worlds apart from a man or better yet a believer Apostatizing from the faith.

  2. The_Hammer says:

    “Stay on message. Only 12 percent of Americans know our central message. It is this: We are the re-established, original Christian church.”

    This is so not true, one problem with this is, the LDS have no evidence from scripture to support this. Then when they encounter us believers who know the truth, they will not talk with us about it, they will make all kinds of excuses and blow us off.

  3. falcon says:

    And the point in the change of vocabulary words is what? Is it to communicate more clearly the doctrines and practices of the Mormon belief system? Or is it to blow a bunch of blue smoke at people who don't know anything about Mormonism, obscuring what the beliefs and practices of Mormonism are?
    For some reason, Mormons have this reputation for being less than honest about their religion. Why is that? We hear accounts of how people join the Mormon church and don't know anything about the most basic of all Mormon doctrines, that men will become gods. Mormons also go to great length to hide their history from their own members. I guess a person has to drink a lot of Mormon milk before they are ready to hear the meat of the matter about Joseph Smith.
    For a church that thinks they're the real deal, they sure try to hide it from people.

  4. setfreebyJC says:

    How odd. All this time I thought they claimed to have the original church embraced by Adam, not Jesus and the Apostles. They just keep on coming up with new stuff, don't they? Whatever might work…

  5. Brian says:

    “For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).

    A very fine article, Sharon. Thanks. I too was interested in the LDS central message described by the Deseret News: “We are the re-established, original Christian church.” By this, it appears the message is themselves.

    Why would this be? If restored laws and "saving" ordinances are the way to eternal life, and the LDS religion is home to these, then it makes perfect sense to preach themselves. For salvation would be found in Mormonism.

    The problem? Salvation is the gift of God, which he offers in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23). Jesus is the Christian's salvation.

  6. Kate says:

    “Stay on message. Only 12 percent of Americans know our central message. It is this: We are the re-established, original Christian church.”

    If mormons were truly Christians, then wouldn't their central message be Christ? Christ's Gospel, Christ's sacrifice on the Cross for all of humanity, Christ's teachings….etc….mormons are so hung up on their multi billion dollar corporation (church) that they completely forget about Christ.

    “Ditch the lingo. Gary Lawrence is a respected pollster and adviser to the missionary department. He suggests we use simple terms to which our Christian friends will relate: Use ‘Christianity’ instead of ‘gospel,’ ‘re-established’ instead of ‘restoration,’ and ‘men changed’ instead of ‘apostasy.’”

    Serious? This to me is flat out lying. What happens when a Christian converts to mormonism after being misled like this? I guess they hope that by the time they figure it out, they will be so deep into that it's near impossible to leave. This passage in Ephesians came to my mind when I was reading this article by Sharon:

    Ephesians 4:14
    "We are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming"

    This seems to me to be nothing more than "trickery of men" and "deceitful scheming."

  7. falcon says:

    I'm kind of wondering if the "original" first century Church had to obscure what they believed in order to secure converts? The early Christians used to get the tar beat out of them and in many cases died horrendous deaths as martyrs for what they believed. They didn't hide it even under the penalty of death. We have a record of the first century Christian Church. The idea that it was lost due to a vast conspiracy is so ridiculous that only the truly diluted would believe such a stupid claim.
    The Holy Spirit would not allow even the gates of hell to prevail against the Church and that includes such enemies of the Christian faith as Mormonism.

  8. Gal 1:7* Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.
    8* But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.
    9* As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

  9. falcon says:

    Deceit is at the very core of Mormonism. We could say it is the foundation of their witness. Joseph Smith was a liar, a prevaricator, a lecherous individual who had no qualms about using his powers of persuasion to seduce the witless plebs who gave themselves over to his demonic fantasy.
    Why wouldn't the leadership of the Mormon church continue this legacy? They just have to keep banging on doors and hitting people up with their lies and eventually the law of averages will get them someone who is susceptible to the Mormon con. Those who are born into Mormonism are conditioned to believe the deceit through systematic brainwashing and the repetition of the five points of the Mormon witness.
    Thankfully, with a couple of key strokes of a computer keyboard, the curious Mormon can get at the truth behind the shell game. I don't think we can be hard enough on the leadership of this cult for what they do to people.

  10. falcon says:

    I'm afraid that Mormons get the idea that if they just spiff-up their presentation that people will be more inclined to buy the message. I just read a post on another blog from a young woman who is dating a Mormon young man and thought she'd better read-up on Mormonism. She basically said she had tears in her eyes from laughing and wondered how anyone could believe this stuff. Her boyfriend had warned her that there were all these lies about Mormonism floating around out there but his warnings didn't have much of an effect on her.
    I was wondering what lies Mormons are referring to regarding their religion? As I became interested in Mormonism years ago and began to study it, I never found the information to be lies. In fact Mormon sources confirm the information. Here's the problem for Mormons, it's not that we don't understand Mormonism, we simply don't believe it. I think Mormons get a little confused on this point. In their twisted way of thinking, if someone doesn't believe it then some how they've been deceived by Satan. That's another flip-flop in the Mormon spiritual narrative.
    So if they just change the vocabulary they think that people will be more open to the Mormon message? Fact of the matter is, the average denominational Christian hasn't a clue what Mormonism is all about. So the change in vocabulary will have little or no effect on roping them in. All people have to hear is the story of Joseph Smith and his magic spectacles and they need not hear any more. I remember thinking, "Are these people serious?" when I heard that claim.
    Knowing Christ in a personal way insulates the believer from cults no matter how the cult presents their message.

  11. Joshua says:

    Fantastic post. This blog continues to cut through all the PR rhetoric that seem to flow non-stop out of the Mormon abyss. I thought it was so funny how that the article discussed in the post even uses the words "Christian" and "Mormon" but not interchangeably. It just goes to prove even moreso that Mormons are NOT Christians.

    Keep it up!

    Joshua

  12. jackg says:

    "Mormonism is not built on the foundation of the teachings of prophets and apostles as set forth in the Bible; in Mormonism, latter-day prophets and apostles take precedence over biblical teaching while claiming “designing and corrupt priests” maliciously altered the Bible and took out many of its “plain and most precious” parts."

    Let's see: a corrupt humanity would take out having eternal sex and becoming gods and leave in the 10 commandments and the punishment of hell for unrepentant sinners? This reasoning makes no sense. What makes sense is that evil, wicked men would try to say the Bible is the result of evil, wicked men, then make up their own religion where they can exalt themselves.

  13. robsmom55 says:

    In a word…..desperate!!

  14. wyomingwilly says:

    Gary Lawrence , adviser to the Mormon Missionary Dept. states that the central message of his
    church is that the Momon Church is the one true church today, the "re-established" original
    church of Jesus etc. I think he's right. That does appear to be the central message of Mormonism.
    It seems to me that Jesus is more of a way-shower in Mormonism, not THE way. Jesus merely
    followed a plan , so did His Father , grandfather, great grandfather etc etc. Mormons follow the same
    plan. For Mormon missionaries , why gamble on talking to much about Jesus, an investigator might
    start asking the wrong questions and end up forcing the missionary to admit Jesus and Satan are
    brothers, as well as some other "unique" doctrines that tend to reduce Jesus' uniqueness. Mormons
    use Jesus as a starting point, then move to "the Church" quickly, this makes it easier to talk about how
    the Mormon church does things right , how it's special etc. This whole scenario is so sad. May the
    Mormon people come to see in Jesus alone their all in all . Heb 7:25

  15. falcon says:

    I recently picked-up the book "Win" by Frank Luntz. He also authored the book "Words That Work". Anyone familiar with Luntz's work with focus groups knows that he specializes in evaluating the words people use to communicate an idea or principal. Certain words are taboo words and tend to turn people off while other words engage people and make them more inclined to accept what is being said. Sales people have known this for years.
    So it looks like the Mormons have found some key words that don't work and they are now avoiding those words by using those words that do work (in their estimation). Here's the problem for Mormons however. At some point people are going to peel back the facade of acceptable vocabulary and understand the concepts behind the words. So we could ask, "Mr. Mormon, when you say 'reestablished', what does that mean?" Mr. Mormon is then going to need to explain why there is a need for a "reestablished" gospel. Only folks who are willing to accept the great conspiracy theory of why Mormonism isn't in the NT will be willing to go any further with the discussion.
    There's an old saying that when stuck with a bad situation you have to "Put lipstick on the pig." Mormonism could use a whole tube of lipstick and some eye shadow for that matter and it's not going to hide the oinker underneath the face paint.

  16. wyomingwilly says:

    Mormons who have the desire to reach out to their non-Mormon friends with Mormonism's
    " central message" don't have an easy job. The reason being that relying on their leaders to
    reveal God's will for this central message, the Mormon gospel , has led often to a "mixed
    message" instead. Claiming to be authorities in Jesus' New Testament Church, Mormon
    apostles once presented their gospel and taught that plural marriage was a part of that gospel.
    It was called by an Apostle as, one of the " most important doctrines" ever revealed. One
    faithful Mormon woman testified that, " It is only our want of knowledge that we do not hail it
    as our greatest gift." It was also proudly proclaimed by faithful followers as possessing the
    gospel in "full". For 2000 years now true followers of Jesus have proclaimed the gospel, the
    central message of their faith. It has been recorded and preserved in the Bible — 1Cor.15:1-4.
    While presenting this gospel to His followers Jesus also had his apostles warn everyone
    of counterfeit gospels. The Mormon gospel , it's central message, is such a counterfeit.
    Rev.2:2; 2Jn 1:9-10

  17. Dale says:

    I try to be as fair and objective when it comes to my LDS friends, but this article had me seeing red. To claim that they are the original Christians who wrote the Bible is disgusting, underhanded and misleading in every way possible.

    How dare they say St. Paul was a Mormon when his teachings, particularly those about marriage, are exactly the OPPOSITE of what the LDS Church teaches. This article filled me with revulsion.

  18. falcon says:

    Mormonism is what happens when people depend on "feelings" as if they are messages from the Holy Spirit confirming truth. Mormons just can't seem to bring themselves to the idea that "revelation" that they have confirmed by feelings/emotions can be created simply by cognition. Mormons would have us believe that the feelings they feel are different, not mere emotions. Mormonism has such a terrible record of constantly changing truth that you'd think these folks would catch on that Mormon truth is as transient as human emotions.
    Playing word games is not going to enhance the Mormon position of a restored or reestablished gospel. There's just too much history regarding the beliefs and practices of the Christian church from the first century to the present day to support any notion of a lost gospel.
    Facts are stubborn things but Mormons are willing to look past facts in order to continue to believe what they feel even if it's wrong.

  19. falcon says:

    It's one of the unflattering truths of human nature that people lie to themselves all the time to support notions that have no basis in reality.
    This idea of the lost gospel is so stupid, inane and ignorant that's it's difficult not to want to take Mormons by the shoulders and shake some sense into them. Hay that's an idea, Mormon Bobble Heads. Unfortunately that's what members of cults become when they are dominated by leadership. The Mormon saying that, "When the leaders speak the thinking is done." is just one such sentiment that serves to control the followers.
    When someone believes that their leaders are receiving messages directly from their god, they have out-sourced their thinking. That's a very bad policy. However that is the attraction, for some, to the Mormon message. You know, "we're special because we have prophets and apostles just like in Bible times." It provides the Mormon with comfort and bragging rights but it's based on a false premise and again, it's cognition produced emotion.
    The chiefs of Mormonism can tinker with the language of their message all they want, but at the end of the day it's the same error filled message, and it's just as unacceptable.

  20. Violet says:

    My mormon friends named their children, Paul, Peter and Christian. Paul's writings. Upon Peter Christ built His church. And Christian. . .

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