Last week it was discovered that when Google search engine users typed, “What is Mormonism?” into the search box, the answer provided was this:
“Mormonism is a religion that denies the deity of Jesus Christ. In this religion, He is demoted to being a mere mortal, a true offspring of Elohim and an equal to Lucifer, another of Elohim’s offspring. According to the Mormon doctrine: ‘Every man who reigns in celestial glory is a god to his dominions.’ “
As you can imagine, Mormons were unhappy about this and felt the answer was a misrepresentation of Mormon doctrine. So Latter-day Saints lobbied for a more accurate answer to the question. Their campaign resulted in a significant change. As reported by Deseret News, the new Google result for “What is Mormonism?” became:
“The doctrines and practices of the Mormon church based on the Book of Mormon.”
As far as I know, Mormons are not protesting this answer – even though it is no more accurate than the initial one quoted above. The problem with the new and improved answer is that the doctrines and practices of the Mormon Church are not based on the Book of Mormon.
For example, take a look at the Mormon Church’s teachings on the nature of God:
- Mormonism says that there was a time when God the Father was not God, but was a mortal man moving toward godhood.
- Mormonism says God the Father, in His current exalted state, has a body of flesh and bone.
- Mormonism says that the God we human beings know is not the only God; He is one of many true Gods (but the only one we need to deal with).
- Mormonism says that God the Father is the literal offspring of another God (who was the offspring of yet another God, etc.).
None of these foundational LDS teachings on the nature of God is found in the Book of Mormon. In fact, the Book of Mormon teaches that God has always been God, that God is a spirit being, and that there is only one true God. Mormonism’s doctrines on God are not based on the Book of Mormon.
What about Mormonism’s “practices”? Consider these basic practices that are very important within the Mormon Church:
- Mormonism says that temple participation is essential to attaining exaltation.
- Mormonism says vicarious baptism for the dead is necessary for those who died without the benefit of LDS baptism.
- Mormonism places great significance in granting all worthy males the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods.
- Mormonism says God disapproves of people drinking coffee and tea.
- Mormonism says that God wants people to continually wear protective “garments of the Holy Priesthood” which are given to them in Mormon temples.
None of these basic LDS practices are found in the Book of Mormon – the book is silent on all of these things. Many of Mormonism’s key practices, therefore, are not based on the Book of Mormon.
So to say Mormonism is “The doctrines and practices of the Mormon church based on the Book of Mormon” is incorrect. But Mormonism is a complex system, difficult to define in a sentence or two. On MRM’s A-Z webpage we avoid defining Mormonism and stick with merely identifying it: The religion of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Of course, we devote most of the rest of the website to providing defining details of what comprises this religion.
Yet I believe there is value in giving interested people a short, accurate, defining answer to the question, “What is Mormonism?” But it’s much easier said than done. I tried, and though my definition is short and accurate, I’m not convinced it couldn’t be better:
Mormonism: A pseudo-Christian religion founded by Joseph Smith in 1830 and continually modified by successive Mormon leaders. Asserting that the Bible was corrupted and all of Christianity apostatized following the deaths of the biblical apostles, Mormonism’s teachings deviate significantly from the central doctrines of biblical Christianity.
There’s probably not one accurate definition that would make everyone happy, but why don’t you give it a shot? What short, defining answer to “What is Mormonism?” would make you happy?