The Best Of Men

As the 17th century English adage goes, “The best of men are men at best,” so it should come as no surprise when a remarkable and admirable person does something stupid. That’s the way I look at it anyway.

So when I learned today that Franklin Graham and his much revered father were instrumental in having Mormonism removed from the list of religious cults on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association’s website, I shook my head. Too bad.

For half a century Billy Graham has stood for one thing–the clear gospel message that all have sinned and come short of God’s glory, and that Jesus died to redeem us from that sin. That’s it. Sermon after sermon, crusade after crusade. He preached the good news night in and night out.

And now, having met with Governor Mitt Romney some weeks before the election, Franklin Graham, according to news reports, promised to do whatever he could to help Mr. Romney’s campaign. And off the cult list came Mormonism.


The fact is, Mormonism belongs on the cult list. One of the worst things coming out of this election–yes, one of the worst!–is this murkiness surrounding Mormonism. Christians need to be clear. Mormons use terms like “son of God” and “atonement” but they mean something very different from what the Bible means by those same terms.

For one thing–and this is something Mormons can’t disguise–this false religion uses extra-Biblical sources to arrive at their beliefs. The Book of Mormon is only one of those. They believe that the leaders of their church also receive utterance which has the same, or more, authority as the Bible–more, because it is more recent. God, they believe, continues to update His revelation.

Mormonism is centered on Jesus Christ and His role as Creator and Redeemer. He is not only the center of Mormon worship, He leads the Church personally through revelation to His prophet (the President of the Church) and by giving the authority to church priesthood-holders to act in His name . . . Mormons wish they had even more scriptures and know that more will be given as they are more worthy to receive them. (excerpt from Mormon Beliefsemphasis mine)

Equally troubling is what Mormons believe about Mankind. We are first spirit born–children of God in a very literal way, offspring of his union with his spirit wives, so when we are born physically we are leaving the father and will one day return to him.

According to Mormon theology, God the Father, Elohim, dwells on a planet with His many spirit wives producing numerous spirit children who await to inhabit physical bodies so that they too may one day ascend to godhood as their parents did. (from “The Mormon Doctrine of Jesus: A Christian Perspective” by Patrick Zukeran, Probe Ministries)

From the Mormon Beliefs website:

For Latter-day Saints, mortal existence is seen in the context of a great sweep of history, from a pre-earth life where the spirits of all mankind lived with Heavenly Father to a future life in His presence where continued growth, learning and improving will take place.

And another explanation from Mormon Beliefs:

Mormon doctrine holds that all people have existed eternally as individual “intelligences,” and then that God the Father created us spiritually, before we came to earth. (emphasis mine)

This idea of Mankind is a contradiction to what the Bible tells us about Creation. It also has major ramifications for what Mormons believe about Jesus. They believe he is simply the first of God’s spirit children. In other words, he is a created being himself.

According to the Mormon view, Jesus is not unique from the rest of mankind. He is simply the firstborn spirit child. The Doctrine and Covenants states, “The difference between Jesus and other offspring of Elohim is one of degree not of kind.”{4} That is why Mormons refer to Jesus as elder brother. (Zukeran)

In addition, Jesus is Jehovah, the one who interacted with man in the events recorded in the Old Testament. Yet he is a distinct person from the Father, not “the fullness of God in bodily form” as Scripture states.

Mormons believe that Jesus Christ has always been a separate person from God the Father. In some ways Christ Himself is our father—He is the creator of the heavens and the earth; He is a father to all those who are born-again; He is one with God the Father in all the attributes of perfection, power, and authority.(Mormon Beliefs – emphasis mine)

In other words, He is not God in the way Christians understand the tri-unity of God the Father, Son, and Spirit.

There’s more, much more. This post barely scratches the surface. But I think it’s enough to illustrate that Mormons believe very differently from Christians on major tenants of the faith.

For a succinct overview of what Mormons believe by an ex-Mormon, visit Recovery from Mormonism.

Published in: on November 13, 2012 at 6:26 pm  Comments (5)  
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Mormons And Jesus

Yesterday I asserted that when Christians speak of Jesus and His work, we mean something decidedly different from Mormons. However, those in that cult would have us think otherwise.

Mormons are Christians. Mormonism is centered on Jesus Christ and His role as creator and redeemer. He is not only the center of Mormon worship, He leads the Church personally through revelation to His prophet (the President of the Church) and by giving the authority to church priesthood-holders to act in His name. Mormons are accused of not being Christians for two reasons: 1) because the Mormon Church has cannonized scriptures in addition to the Bible, and 2) because Mormons believe in “a different Jesus.” These accusations are difficult for Mormons to comprehend. Mormons wish they had even more scriptures and know that more will be given as they are more worthy to receive them. As for a belief in a “different Christ,” Mormons have more information regarding Christ than any other church on earth (from *Mormon Beliefs).

This “more information” is the problem, masked by the use of Biblical language.

From the *Mormon Wiki:

Every converted member of the Church (often referred to as a “Mormon”) holds a firm testimony that Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, and a knowledge that only through His sacrifice in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross can mortal man be saved in the Kingdom of God. Jesus Christ and His teachings are the central focus of all Mormon scripture

Here’s another example:

Our belief in Jesus Christ is absolutely the most important doctrine in the Mormon Church. We believe that He is the Son of God and our Savior and Redeemer (from *True Mormon Doctrine).

From the Mormon Wiki again:

Many anti-Mormons and ex-Mormons attack the Church and claim that it is not Christian, because its teachings about Jesus differ from mainstream, traditional Christian teachings. There are, of course, differences between Mormon doctrine and Protestant and Catholic teachings, just as there are differences among the various Christian denominations. Mormonism teaches that its doctrines were restored to earth by Jesus Himself through living prophets after many centuries of apostasy in the world. Mormonism rejects the various medieval and modern creeds promulgated by the Christian world after Christ’s death, because the Mormon Church has revelations from God Himself about who He is. (Emphasis mine).

So what are those differences that this extra-Biblical revelation gives Mormons? For one thing, Jesus is one of three gods, not a person of the Trinity. From the LDS (Mormon) web site:

Latter-day Saints believe that the simplest reading of the New Testament text produces the simplest conclusion — that the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are separate and distinct personages, that They are one in purpose. We feel that the sheer preponderance of references in the Bible would lead an uninformed reader to the understanding that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are separate beings.

In addition, Jesus was procreated by the father.

The Plan of Salvation teaches that God the Father is the literal father of our spirits, and that as spirits, we lived with Him before we were born with physical bodies into mortal life on earth. Christ was the firstborn of the spirit children of God the Father, and was more intelligent and gifted than all. Christ was chosen to save mankind by working out an infinite and eternal atonement—to come to this earth as the literal Only Begotten Son of God, and to put the whole plan of redemption, salvation, and exaltation in operation (from *Mormon Beliefs).

It’s hard to set aside all the errors in that short paragraph, but I want to focus in this post on Christ. Apparently his work of redemption, according to Mormon doctrine, was only a starting point:

In the Book of Mormon, the sobering realization that no one of us can make it alone is balanced by a consistent statement that the works of men and women, including the receipt of the ordinances of salvation, the performance of duty and Christian acts of service — in short, being true to our part of the gospel covenant — though insufficient for salvation, are necessary (from the LDS web site-emphasis mine).

Need I go on? There is more—much, much more. But here’s the point. When a Christian listens to what Glenn Beck says about his faith, it’s easy to be confused. Here’s what one pastor said about Beck:

I have listened and watched very carefully regarding clues to Glenn’s spiritual condition. I have interviewed several people who have been with him and have talked very specifically with him regarding his own personal salvation. Glenn has said unequivocally that that he relies on the atonement of Jesus on the cross for forgiveness for his sins, and those are almost the exact words. Few people use the term atonement. Glenn did.

I’m sure he did. The problem is, when he uses the word atonement, he doesn’t mean the same thing a Christian does any more than when he says Jesus Christ.

* Link can be found on line.

Published in: on September 10, 2010 at 5:28 pm  Comments (100)  
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So What’s A Spiritual Fight?

I agree with one of the commenters yesterday that this discussion is going in many directions. I think that’s because this Glenn Beck-induced conversation is more complex than first meets the eye.

On one level we have Christians who want to live as God tells us to live and therefore want to be good citizens. Following behind are professing Christians (some genuine, some not) and moralists who want to see America restored to a place of external righteousness where we don’t have to worry so much about gangs and pornography, abortion and homosexuality, drunkenness and divorce, serial killers and rapists.

The problem is, we can do away with all those sins (and I would love it if we did), and still not bring a single person to Christ.

The “fix America” crowd has it backwards. First we “fix” people. Well, we don’t, Christ does. We obey Him and go about making disciples. A natural residual will be a nation more closely aligned to God’s will and His ways. How do people think America got where it was? It wasn’t by a bunch of pagans coming together and forming a government, then deciding they needed God to make it work better.

That’s where we are now. We are a post-Christian culture, run mostly by pagans. How can we expect pagans to act “Christian”? We ought not because they won’t, except those whose religion demands it of them.

Which brings us back to Glenn Beck and the third tier in this confused scenario. Some Christians are critical of a Mormon leading a restoration. (Others apparently object to Glenn Beck himself because of his brash ways—offensive to some, slanderous to others).

Some bloggers have pointed out Beck’s possible conflicted religious beliefs since he came from a Catholic background and converted to Mormonism because of his wife’s (then, girlfriend’s) strong Mormon beliefs.

One of the commenters to yesterday’s post pointed out that there are many divisions of the Mormon church, so, the thinking goes, it’s a little hard to know what Glenn Beck actually believes. Maybe he really is a Christian.

I am not his judge. God alone knows his heart. I can tell you what the Mormon church believes about Jesus and what they believed at the outset about America. From Religion in America (and I apologize in advance for the lengthy quotes):

[Joseph Smith] “retired to the woods” to seek wisdom of God. His prayer was answered by the appearance of two heavenly personages—the Father and the Son—who told him to hold himself apart from the contending denominations … he was guided by the angel Moroni to discover long-buried golden plates which told the story of the Nephites and Lamanites, descendants of a lost tribe of Israel, who had inhabited the American continent centuries before. Among them Christ had appeared after his resurrection and had established the proper church order …

Nor in view of this heritage is it surprising that when young Joseph Smith on October 30, 1830, met with five friends in Fayette, New York, to restore “the Church of Christ in these last days,” he should have chosen the typically Campellite designation of “Church of Christ” for his reincarnation of the ancient order of church life …

The whole biblical setting of the drama of salvation was transferred to an American setting. To the successive declarations of political, economic, diplomatic, and intellectual independence penned by Jefferson, Clay, Monroe, and Emerson was now added a declaration of religious independence. The Old World heritage was declared to be both obsolete and irrelevant, for the restoration of the true church was dependent upon the recovery of an independent American tradition which extended back to the time of the Babylonian Exile and had been validated by the postresurrection appearance of Christ on American shores

In the course of time more distinctive doctrines were elaborated—a plurality of gods, for example, as well as of wives—which set the Mormons further and further apart from the generality of Christians. Adaptations of masonic ritual were introduced, marriage for time and eternity was adopted, baptism for the dead was instituted, and the priesthood of Melchizedek was restored by the miraculous intervention of Peter, James, and John. (pp 190-192, emphasis mine)

These quotes are eye-opening to me. Is it any surprise that a Mormon would want to see America restored, since their foundation was predicated upon America’s importance to salvation? But does a Mormon’s “restoration” look anything like a Christian’s “restoration”? I think not.

But the real issue is what do Mormons believe about Jesus. Already it’s clear they believe a lot that isn’t in the Bible. But next time, hopefully, I’ll take a closer look at why their statements about Jesus and a Christian’s statements can sound so much the same and mean something so very different.

Published in: on September 9, 2010 at 3:53 pm  Comments (5)  
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The Spiritual Fight Is Spiritual

I realize this title is less than profound, but I think it needs to be said because error abounds on both sides of the Christians-and-politics (or Christians-and-patriotism) struggle. As I pointed out yesterday, God clearly states our enemy is not of the flesh-and-blood kind, yet it seems Christians today are determined to fight either liberal politicians or Mormon commentator Glenn Beck.

Remember, Mr. Beck stirred up all this discussion when he led a restoring honor rally at the end of August, one that many evangelical Christians have embraced.

Here are the salient points as I see them.

* America has drifted from its Puritan roots—morally and spiritually.

* Present-day leadership—corporate, labor, governmental—seems uninterested in more than band-aid treatments of gaping wounds.

* Religious groups who hold to similar moral standards—Catholics, evangelicals, Mormons—find themselves more often pushed onto the same side of controversial issues, ones that only became controversial with the rise of liberalism.

* Siding with someone from a different religious persuasion to accomplish a common goal is not wrong. (We do this every time we do business with a non-Christian, whether it is buying groceries, going to a movie, getting our mail from the USPS, or what have you).

* Assuming someone who agrees with my political stance is a Christian, is wrong. Scripture tells us to be on the alert, to be discerning, to keep watch. Assuming a spiritual truth without examining the facts is contrary to these admonitions.

So back to Glenn Beck and his restore honor rally. Christians need to pay attention and not be swept up by platitudes that sound high-minded.

Please note, I love my country. I’ve lived abroad on three occasions and have visited a couple additional continents. I haven’t seen another country I’d rather live in, for all the US’s faults. I suspect most citizens feel the same about their own country.

The thing that troubles me on one hand is the “America is God’s country” talk. God’s country is actually heaven. He has no intention of setting up His kingdom in America. Even when He erases this old earth and establishes a new heaven and a new earth, His chosen city for His throne is the new Jerusalem, not the new Washington, DC.

That’s hard for some American Christians to take.

Conversely, while we’re here, sojourning for the few odd years God gives us, we are responsible to do our best for our country. Lots of verses point to this. We are to obey authority, pray for our leaders, pay our taxes, and I think, by extension, vote—knowledgeably and prayerfully. In other words, it’s not OK for us to stuff cotton in our ears and start humming when someone talks politics.

However, we are to set our minds on things above, not on the things that are on the earth (Col. 3:2). In other words, we should care a lot more about God’s agenda than we do about a politician’s political agenda (whether liberal or conservative).

Where does that leave us in this Glenn Beck debate?

I suggest these points.

* Christians should know what Mormonism is and isn’t. It is a cult with extra Biblical beliefs. It is not a Christian denomination, nor do its members worship the God of the Bible, know His Son Jesus, or have His Holy Spirit.

* Mormons, like Muslims, adhere to a strict moral code, some of which is consistent with the Bible. When a Christian wishes to fight for the life of the unborn or preserve the meaning of marriage or a variety of other moral issues, teaming up with Mormons may occur.

* Teaming up with Mormons to pray for a restoration of our nation is wrong. What Mormons mean by that is vastly different from what a Christian means, just as a Mormon saying he believes in Jesus is vastly different from what a Christian means.

More on this next time.

Published in: on September 8, 2010 at 5:07 pm  Comments (15)  
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Where’s The Fight?

Two little points of interest (to me, anyway 😉 ) before I get started. I am planning to change my blog template. 😯 I mention this for the benefit of long-time readers. I don’t want you to think you’ve inadvertently come to the wrong site when your browser opens to a page with a different look.

Second, I’m trying to get used to the capitalization rule change for titles listed in the Chicago Manual of Style, sixteenth edition. I only glanced at it, but if I understood it right, all words in a title are now capitalized (which is what Word does already). Feels wrong to me, looks wrong, but I’ll get used to it.

Now to the subject at hand. As I see it, false teaching among Christians is on the rise, and at the same time opposition to Christianity is on the rise. Unfortunately, some believers react to these circumstances the same way a person without Christ would react: either by hiding away or by going on the attack (and some manage to do both.)

The interesting thing is, the “attack Christians” don’t seem to have a clear idea who the enemy is, possibly because these brothers and sisters have become enamored with Egypt and don’t really want to leave for the Promised Land. They believe Egypt was once upon a time that idyllic place, and their job is to restore it to its lost glory.

As you may have surmised, I’m specifically talking about Christians who recently responded to a call for renewal of honor by Fox News commentator and Mormon, Glenn Beck. Yes, he was joined by a host of evangelical spokesmen, but apparently he was the catalyst and the leader of the recent rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C.

I’ve read two articles that take strong positions, quite different from each other, and both make me think we are missing the fight.

On one hand, believers who joined with Glenn Beck in this call for renewal of honor in America are missing the fight because, for all intents and purposes, they want to see America become the land of promise.

Please don’t misunderstand. I believe strongly that a Christian has the responsibility to be a good citizen. Because we live in a democracy in America, regular citizens have more put on our shoulders as far as being informed and making decisions about our elected officials. We should do all we can to choose wisely and well. We should want to see godly leaders in power. We should want our leaders to pass godly laws.

But fighting those of opposing views is not the fight we should be focused on.

On the other hand are the Christians who see a Mormon leading the way, and they fire shots off the bow against that false religion.

Please don’t misunderstand. Mormonism is a false religion—one I plan to talk about more in the next few days.

But fighting Mormonism or Glenn Beck is still not where the fight is.

Ephesians tells us what we need to know:

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
– Eph 6:11-12 (emphasis mine)

Clearly, our struggle is not against liberals, specifically liberal politicians. And it is not against the Mormon Glenn Beck.

Our struggle is against the enemy of our souls, the devil. We’re supposed to wise up and ferret out his schemes. We’re supposed to be on the alert. We’re supposed to stand against him.

So here’s my alert. To the one side, America is not our home, it’s our place of sojourn. We’re passing through. We mustn’t fight so hard for America that we stop fighting against Satan. And a second caution—we need to know what our bedfellows believe.

To the other side, the Glenn Becks who would like to “normalize” Mormonism and get it accepted as part of Christendom are lost sinners, to be loved like any lost sinner, not bashed or mocked or ignored. That they have high moral standards should not fool us into thinking they are saved, but neither should their beliefs cause us to rant against them or treat them with disrespect.

In short, we must not be fooled by Mormonism or about Mormons. Happily, I’ve read a number of blog posts today that seem to understand this. May their tribe increase.

Published in: on September 7, 2010 at 4:28 pm  Comments (18)  
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