Mormons believe that in 1820 a young Joseph Smith went into the woods to pray. In answer to that prayer, they believe, Joseph was visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ. Today this is called the First Vision. As Joseph reported this vision (in the version that has since been named “official”), he asked the Deities which sect or church was right, and which one he should join. Joseph wrote,
“I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt…” (Joseph Smith—History 1:19)
Mormonism entered into the religious scene swinging. According to Mormonism’s founding prophet, if you are not a Mormon, your church is wrong, your beliefs are abomination to God, and you and your fellow professing church members are all corrupt.
I wonder if Mormons would see this as an example of “the blessings of faith [that] carry the responsibility of civil and respectful debate” that Mitt Romney has been talking about recently?
Last weekend Dallas Pastor Robert Jeffress publically identified Mormonism as a theological cult. Dr. Jeffress used the term “cult” as a theological classification, not as a pejorative, but that point seems to be lost on Mormons and the mainstream media.
Since Dr. Jeffress’ comments have been made known, Mormons have been vocally decrying his “bigotry,” his “hatred,” and his “fanaticism.” Truthfully, this all too common knee-jerk Mormon reaction grows wearisome.
Mormonism’s very existence is unseverable from the “poisonous language” of its founders and leaders. Why was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints established? Because all existing churches in 1820 were declared wrong–they had abominable creeds and corrupt members professing those creeds. The Mormon Church was established because (it claims) true Christianity had vanished from the earth; it had fallen into complete and total apostasy:
“Every Latter-day Saint knows that following the death of the apostles, Paul’s prophecy was fulfilled, for there were many ‘grievous wolves’ that entered the flock, and men arose ‘speaking perverse things,’ so that the doctrines were changed and the true Church of Jesus Christ ceased to be on the earth. For this reason there had to come a restoration of the Church and a new revelation and bestowal of divine authority. The Church of Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures are, therefore, not responsible for the changed doctrines and unscientific teachings of those times, when uninspired ecclesiastics controlled the thinking of the people.” (Joseph Fielding Smith, Man, His Origin and Destiny, pp. 467)
Consider just a few of the “punches” Mormonism has thrown in its fight against Christianity:
“Christians—those poor, miserable priests brother Brigham was speaking about—some of them are the biggest whoremasters there are on the earth, and at the same time preaching righteousness to the children of men. The poor devils, they could not get up here and preach an oral discourse, to save themselves from hell; they are preaching their fathers’ sermons—preaching sermons that were written a hundred years before they were born.” (Heber C. Kimball, July 26, 1857, Journal of Discourses 5:89-90)
“Should you ask why we differ from other Christians, as they are called, it is simply because they are not Christians as the New Testament defines Christianity.” (Brigham Young, July 8, 1863, Journal of Discourses, 10:230).
“What does the Christian world know about God? Nothing…Why so far as the things of God are concerned, they are the veriest of fools…” (John Taylor, May 6, 1870, Journal of Discourses 13:225)
“I do not wish to say anything in relation to other forms of religion; I do not know that it is necessary that I should do so; but no thinking man can admit that Christianity so-called—I call it a false Christianity, untrue to its name—satisfies the wants of humanity at the present time.” (George Q. Cannon, July 15, 1883, Journal of Discourses 24:185)
“The false and corrupt institutions, and still more corrupt practices of ‘Christendom,’ have had a downward tendency in the generations of man for many centuries. …The overthrow of those ancient degenerate races is a type of that which now awaits the nations called ‘Christian,’ or in other words, ‘the great whore that sitteth upon many waters….” (Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, 1978, p. 106)
“A false Christ…is a false system of worship, a false church, a false cult that says: ‘Lo, here is salvation; here is the doctrine of Christ. Come and believe thus and so, and ye shall be saved.’…We hear the voice of false Christs when we hear the Athanasian Creed proclaim that ‘whosoever will be saved’ must believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are incomprehensible and uncreated, that they form a Trinity of equals, who are not three Gods but one God, and not one God but three Gods, and that unless we so believe we ‘cannot be saved,’ and ‘shall perish everlastingly.’” (Bruce McConkie, The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man, p. 48.)
“False creeds make false churches. There is no salvation in believing a lie. Every informed, inspired, and discerning person is revolted by the absurdities and scripture-defying pronouncements in the creeds of Christendom…” (Bruce R. McConkie, The Mortal Messiah: From Bethlehem to Calvary 1:30. Footnote 2)
“To say that Satan sits in the place of God in Christianity after the time of the Apostles is not to say that all that is in it is satanic…Still, ‘the power of God unto salvation’ (Rom. 1:16) is absent from all but the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which the Lord himself has proclaimed to be ‘the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth (D&C 1:30). Satan’s goal of hindering many of God’s children from returning to their Father’s glory is thus realized.” (Kent P. Jackson, “Early Signs of the Apostasy,” Ensign, December 1984, p. 9)
Given the statements I’ve quoted above, I’m astonished that Mormons cry foul when any Christian declares that Mormonism is outside the theological boundaries of Christianity. Do Mormons really believe it is reprehensibly one-sided for evangelical Christians to use strong language to define the fact that there are vast differences between Mormonism and Christianity? Apparently so; a Mormon calling himself Eichendorff went on record with this non sequitur: “no Latter-day Saint makes a point of condemning the beliefs of Evangelicals.”
Mormons who complain about Christians questioning the theology of Mormonism–protesting against any suggestion that Mormonism isn’t Christianity with cries of “bigotry,” “hatred,” and “fanaticism”—need to take a look at the historical discourse found in their own church. I would like to see Mormons abandon this hypocritical name-calling and (changing sports metaphors here) step up to the plate for real, thoughtful discussion. As Bill McKeever is fond of saying, “If Mormons want to be in the religious Big Leagues they need to knock it off.”