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Differences between Mormonism and Christianity

With the increased discussion and political interest surrounding Mormonism, this is an excellent opportunity to share with your friends the differences between Mormonism and Christianity.   I found this article from Sean McDowell insightful, it was originally published in the Biola Magazine, Summer Edition, 2012 and is used with their permission.   The author is Sean McDowell, the head of the Bible Department at Capistrano Valley Christian Schools.  You can find him online at seanmcdowell.org.

What are the Key Differences Between Mormonism and Christianity?

By Sean McDowell

Mormonism is everywhere. The Republican nominee for president is a Mormon, there is a play on Broadway about the Book of Mormon and the LDS Church has launched a multimillion-dollar ad campaign called “I’m a Mormon.” In light of the recent interest in Mormonism, it will be helpful to compare and contrast some of the key differences between Mormonism and Christianity.

Mormonism puts a heavy burden of works on its followers. Although there are some passages that talk about grace and free salvation (2 Nephi 31:19; 1 Nephi 2:4; Mosiah 26:40), the overwhelming emphasis in the Mormon scriptures is on earning salvation through obedience to commandments and refraining from sin. For example, Alma 5:27 says, “Have ye walked, keeping yourselves blameless before God? Could ye say, if ye were called to die at this time, within yourselves, that ye have been sufficiently humble?” The next passage says you must be entirely stripped of pride or you cannot meet God.

Moroni 10:32 says, “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind, and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you.” God may have provided an opportunity for salvation through the death of Jesus, according to Mormonism, but you have to keep all the commandments and follow all the ordinances to reach the highest level of heaven. The onus is on you. This seems in sharp contrast to the grace-filled message of the Bible (Eph. 2:8–10; Titus 3:5; John 6:29) where works stem naturally from a recognition that we have been saved.

The view of faith in the Mormon scriptures differs from the Bible. Alma 32:17 says, “Yea,there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe. Now I ask, is this faith? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for if a man knoweth a thing he hath no cause to believe,for he knoweth it.” In other words, faith involves believing something we do not know.If we knew it, there would be no need for faith.

But the Bible proposes a different relationship between faith and reason. Knowledge is not the opposite of belief, as the Mormon scriptures suggest. Rather, the Bible presents a view of faith that is based upon what we do know. Jesus healed the paralytic so the people would know that he has the authority of God (Mark 2:10). As Biola professor J.P. Moreland often says, faith involves trusting what we have reason to believe is true.

I suspect the reason the Book of Mormon has this view of faith and knowledge is that the Mormons’ claims cannot be investigated. The cities mentioned in the Book of Mormon have not been located (i.e. Zarahemla), the gold plates cannot be examined and Book of Mormon “historical sites” cannot be excavated in the same way biblical sites can be. When there is no convincing external evidence corroborating a belief, it must be based upon experience, feeling and blind faith. This may be the view of faith in the Book of Mormon, but it is decidedly not the biblical view (see John 20:30–31).

There are many more differences between Christianity and Mormonism (some more central than others). Consider a few beliefs of the LDS church:

Humans have the potential to achieve godhood if they follow Mormon teachings. In his King Follett speech, Joseph Smith Jr. said, “Here then is eternal life — to know the only wise and true God; and you have got to learn how to be gods yourselves, and to be kings and priests to God the same as all gods have done before you.”

There is no original sin. The Articles of Faith 2 says, “We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.” This is in contrast to Romans 5, which says death came to all through one man’s sin. This raises the troubling question for Mormons of why Jesus even had to die.

God the Father has a physical body. D&C 130:22 says, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s.”Thus, man is made in the image of the body of God (Moses 6:9). This is in contrast with John 4:24, which says, “God is spirit.”

Much more could be said about salvation, heaven, the Trinity, revelation and the person of Christ. But this should suffice to make the point that, although Christians and Mormons use the same words such as grace, faith, God and sin, they mean very different things by them.


The Pin Oak Principle: Focus on Growth not Failures

There is a type of oak tree called the Pin Oak.  This tree is like most any other oak, except that it keeps its leaves through the winter. In the Fall, the leaves change color and die, but they stay attached to the tree until the new leaves start to sprout.  The new growth pushes out the old dead carcasses.

Sometimes followers of Jesus choose to believe that we can’t change our sinful habits.  But God’s Word says those sinful ways are dead to us.  We are holding onto them like the Pin Tree holds onto dead leaves.  Maybe we should concentrate on growing new habits in line with God’s Word and the old dead habits will fall effortlessly to the ground.  That’s the Pin Oak Principle,  let me know your thoughts.

2 Corinthians 5:17   This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

From Sex Slave to Bond-Servant

Paul in the opening verses of Romans calls himself a bond-servant of Christ.  In early Biblical time, under Mosaic Law, a man that became indebted by borrowing money became the property of the creditor and had to work for his master until the loan was fully paid.

This financial arrangement gave the creditor great power over the debtor.  Some masters were cruel and evil, mistreating their slaves and taking advantage of people under their control. Others were kind and merciful, asking only for a fair days work in exchange for a portion of the debt to be written off.

In the Jewish tradition, at the end of seven years, a slave was set free.  Freed from his debt he could leave and be free from any bondage.

However, some slaves that were indebted to loving masters did not want to leave.  Their slave owners were caring for their needs and providing safety for the slave’s family.  There was security in knowing their household would not go hungry, and they could stay in a warm house, and their children be clothed.  It was these slaves who at the end of the seven years would choose not to leave their master but to become a permanent slave to their master, by choice, a bondservant.

A new bond-slave would go to the tabernacle and a priest would mark the ear of a servant with a hole to signify the willing servant has become a bond-slave to his master forever.  It was a mark that revealed the character of the owner.

As I think about my own life, I rarely think of myself as a bond-slave and I think this is unfortunate because I have made a choice too.

I have found a Master who is all loving, who accepts me, is patient with my flaws and shortcomings, and who blesses me beyond what I deserve.  He has paid my sin debt and set me free.  I in turn have chosen to return to my Master and become His bond-slave.  There is no marking on my body to identify me as His, but my heart has been branded by His crown of thorns and His cross.

As I consider the work Bright Hope is doing to help young women out of sex slavery, the reality of there being modern day, evil slave owners is undeniable.  They force their female slaves into prostitution, get them high on drugs, and destroy their lives.  It sickens me because I know there is another Master who loves, who blesses, who washes away wounds and brings healing, abundant life and eternal salvation.

I often think we are setting these young women free with Biblical counseling and economic independence.  But in reality I am hoping they come to know my Master well enough to experience freedom from sin and make the choice not to leave Him but to join me in becoming a willing bond-slave.

Joy-Filled Moments, Past or Present

C.H.’s abridged list of joy-filled days:

  • On Sunday, I celebrated my 47th birthday; that was a joy-filled day.
  • The adoption days of my two younger children were joy-filled days.
  • The birth of my oldest daughter was a joy-filled day.
  • The day I married Anne was a joy-filled day.

Some joy-filled moments were from my childhood:

  • When got my diploma from Jr. High school, that was a joy-filled moment.
  • When I lost my first tooth in kindergarten, that was a joy-filled moment, or on second thought maybe it wasn’t. I think I was actually scared by that event, but receiving those two quarters from the tooth fairy was a joy-filled moment for sure.
  • When I got straight A’s my junior year of high school, when I learned to ride a two-wheeler, when I first drove my dad’s car, all these provided moments of great joy.

But when I remember that I am a sinner, saved by grace, forgiven for all my failures, and made clean by the blood of Jesus something happens, something unexplainable. When I contemplate grace my list of past joy-filled moments shrinks into insignificance, and my heart bursts open with a present sense of joy.  The joy of salvation isn’t about a memory or something from a time long ago.  No, the joy that grace delivers is always fresh, living in the present, here with me right now.  It is a joy from Jesus and it is available to all who ask.

Live Easter’s joy everyday.

Psalm 92:4 NLT   You thrill me, LORD, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done.

I’m writing today as a contributor to the Christian Writers Blog Chain. Our theme for this month is “Joy.” Christianwriters.com is an excellent place to network if you’re a Christian writer or author. Please visit these other members:

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