By Elias Ayala (M.A.T. & Mdiv)
Mormonism is a religion founded by Joseph Smith in the mid-1800’s. In short, it posits that the true message of Jesus was lost in a great apostasy long ago, and that the original message was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith, a man that God the Father, and His Son Jesus appeared to when he was only 14 years old. They revealed to Joseph that the true church was not present on the earth, but rather, needed to be restored through the proclamation of the true Gospel, namely, the message that was to be revealed to him progressively throughout the upcoming years and that can be found in the teachings of the authoritative sources that would later become the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and the Doctrines and Covenants. Of course, the restored message of God includes points of doctrine that are in diametric opposition to the teachings of both the Old and New Testament. However, Mormons believe that the scriptures have been corrupted throughout the centuries such that the original teachings therein have been lost, and the teachings of Mormonism restores. Hence, if the current Bible that we use today agrees with the teachings of Mormonism, then it is accurate, but if there be portions of the Bible that disagree with the the teachings of Mormonism, it is those teachings that God’s revelation to Joseph Smith seeks to correct and restore. There are many problems with the claims of the Mormon religion and there are serious reasons to reject it emphatically. The following article attempts to provide 5 reasons why Mormonism should be rejected:
Reason #1: There is no manuscript evidence for the assertion that the original message of Jesus has been lost.
One can make the claim that the Bible has been corrupted and therefore the message transmitted to us in the New Testament is not the same as originally taught by Jesus and his original followers. However, the manuscript tradition of the New Testament is very solid such that it is commonly understood that the New Testament is the best attested set of historical documents in all of antiquity. Three criteria for historicity can be applied to the New Testament that can bring this fact to bear.
- Bibliographic Test
- In regards to the multiplicity of NT manuscripts, no other ancient literature compares. There are well over 25,000 NT manuscripts in whole or in part, some of which go back very closely to the 1st century; at least more closely than any other competing historical source. The multiplicity of manuscripts allows for comparing and contrasting, and categorizing of manuscripts based upon textual variation and other issues, such that upon analysis, textual critics can get back to the original reading of the NT documents. The variations between the multiplicity of manuscripts are such that 99% of these variations have no bearing as to the meaning of the text, nor do these variations prohibit textual critics to know with a reasonable amount of certainty what the original NT documents contain.
- Furthermore, no other work of antiquity has as early attestation than the NT. The earliest NT fragment we have is P52, which is a portion of John 18. This fragment dates from about 125 AD. Not only are there good reasons to think that the entirety of the NT was completed before the close of the 1st century, there are even earlier sources within the NT itself. For instance, the earliest writings in the New Testament are the writings of Paul, yet there is even evidence of earlier sources within the writings of Paul that predate Paul’s own writings. This is seen most clearly in 1 Corinthians 15, where Paul sites an oral tradition that has been dated within 5 years of the crucifixion.
- External Test
- While the NT documents are the earliest and best sources of information concerning Jesus and the early church, there are also external references to persons, places, and events within the NT. One need only read Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, and others. The external sources for Jesus alone come from Jewish, Greek, and Roman sources and only confirm what the NT provides in more detail.
- Internal Test
- The NT is consistent with itself. It gives evidence of eyewitness testimony and knowledge of Pre-70 (Destruction of the Temple) topology and geography. The authors give evidence of the political climate of the times along with accurate listings of the rulers and those in influence at the time. If one claims that the NT should not be trusted, their case must be made so as to demonstrate why we should consider the NT to be guilty before proven innocent as opposed to the other way around.
In essence, we have a great foundation to trust what the NT says, and no good reason at all to believe that the original NT had anything like what Mormonism teaches in regards to God, Jesus, salvation and other related important issues. Hence, when a Mormon suggests that the NT has been corrupted, and we need Jospeh Smith to recapture the true teachings of Jesus which have been lost, we have every right to demand evidence for this claim.
Reason #2: Mormonism teaches that Father God can be seen
Mormons teach that Joseph Smith saw God the Father. They believe that God has a body of flesh and bones and used to be a man from another planet. However, the Bible teaches that God is a Spirit (John 4:24), and that no man can see God (1 Timothy 6:16). Let us consider the account of when Joseph Smith claimed to have “seen” the Father:
When the light rested upon me, I saw two personages, whose brightness and glory defined all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said, pointing to the other–‘this is my beloved Son. Hear him!’
So we are told that one of the personages point to the other said, “this is my Son”. The problem here is that the scriptures clearly teach that no man can see the Father. Let us consider the following scriptures:
- “I give thee charge in the sight of God, who guickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: Which in his times he shall shew, who is blessed and only potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:13-16)
- “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known”. (John 1:18).
These scriptures flatly contradict the assertion that Jospeh Smith saw the Father. First, notice that John 1:18 says, no one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known. Who has made the Father known? The God who is at the Father’s side. Is John teaching polytheism? No. We are told in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…(Verse 14): “and the Word became flesh”. The Word is Jesus who is identified as God. What is going on here? We know that the scriptures firmly teach that there is but One God in all of existence (Isaiah 43:10); yet, we see most clearly in the New Testament, that Jesus is called God. There is One God, but 3 Persons are called God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. John 1:18 is teaching us that the Word (who is with God, and is himself God) is at the Father’s side. Since we know that the Word in John 1 is referring to Jesus, it follows that Jesus (who is God), is the One who makes the Father known. Take this together with 1 Timothy 6:16 where we are told that no one has ever seen God, nor can He be seen. The point is clear that when the Bible says that God cannot be seen, yet we are also told for instance that the Lord “appeared to Abraham”, or that Moses spoke to God “face to face”, etc. what is going on here are not instances where Old Testament saints are seeing the Father, but rather, they are interacting with the Son. We know this because the Father cannot be seen (1 Timothy 6:16), and it is the Son who makes the Father known. Hence, Mormonism is in error when it teaches that the Father was “seen” by Jospeh Smith.
Reason #3: Mormonism is logically problematic
Mormonism teaches that God used to be a man from another planet who had to earn his godhood. The God of that planet had to earn his godhood as well and hence this process of “eternal progression” has been going on for all eternity past. Mormonism also posits the idea that we can become gods ourselves. However, let us examine this idea of eternal progression. If it is the case that the process of men becoming gods has been going on for an infinite amount of time, there seems to be a problem with the notion of the reality of an actual infinite number of things. In other words, if this process of eternal progression has been going on for all eternity, it would therefore follow that there have been an actually infinite number of instances where someone earned godhood. However, it is impossible to traverse an actual infinite. In mathematics and the philosophy of mathematics, there is a distinction between what is called a “potential infinite” and an “actual infinite”:
- Potential Infinite: refers to the idea of moving closer and closer to an infinite but never actually reaching infinity.
- Actual Infinite: refers to the idea of moving closer and closer to an infinite and actually reaching infinity.
A potential infinite is possible since one can count for forever and never actually reach an infinite, however, it is impossible to reach an actual infinity since this would require the traversing of infinity which is impossible. Logical contradictions would occur if we assume the possibility of either forming an actual infinite by successive addition or having a completed set of an actually infinite number of things. However, it is impossible to traverse an actual infinite, but the Mormon conception of eternal progression of gods assumes the traversing of an actual infinite, therefore it follows then, that the Mormon notion of eternal progression is false. Hence, it should be rejected.
Reason #4: A true prophet points us to Jesus. Joseph Smith boasted he did more to keep the church together than Jesus ever did.
Joseph Smith: “God is in the still small voice. In all these affidavits, indictments, it is all of the devil–all corruption. Come on! ye prosecutors! ye false swearers! All hell, boil over! Ye burning mountains, roll down your lava! for I will come out on the top at last. I have more to boast of than ever any man had. I am the only man that has ever been able to keep a whole church together since the days of Adam. A large majority of the whole have stood by me. Neither Paul, John, Peter, nor Jesus ever did it. I boast that no man ever did such a work as I. The followers of Jesus ran away from Him; but the Latter-day Saints never ran away from me yet”. (History of the Church, vol. 6, p 408-409).
A true prophet with the Spirit of God indwelling within him would not say such things. The Bible teaches that the Spirit of God bears witness of Jesus. Any man or prophet that does not point us to Christ is false. Not only did the Apostles, and the Spirit working through them point men to Jesus, but even in the Old Testament, the prophets pointed people to the promised seed; the One who was coming. The scriptures find their focal point in the Person and work of Jesus Christ, because it is the scriptures which speak of him (John 5:39).
Reason #5: Mormonism teaches a salvation by works
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do,” (2 Nephi 25:23).
Notice that the above reference from the Book of Mormon sounds very much like the Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast”. Mormonism, as well as all the other false cults in the world, teach salvation by human effort. This stands in contradiction to the clear teaching of scripture which says, “But to the one who does not work, his faith will be credited as righteousness” (Romans 4:5).
There are many other reasons to reject Mormonism, but the above list should be more than sufficient to see why it is so problematic.