Question: “When I see some well known Mormon personalities on TV, or hear them on the radio, I wonder if they really understand what Mormonism is all about. Is it possible to be a Mormon, especially a convert, and not be informed as to the true teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?” (O. in Charlottesville, VA)
My Answer: This is a question that I am asked quite frequently. This especially comes up when a well known Mormon speaks of his belief in Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, and testifies to what a difference there is in his life since coming to faith in Christ. It seems that these individuals might be true Christians. And if so, then obviously they cannot really understand Mormonism, which has a theology that is far removed from the Christian faith.
First of all, allow me to address the matter of these personal testimonies, of Mormons who seem to have a personal relationship with Christ. One of the fundamental things to understand when hearing anyone in a pseudo-Christian cult talk about their faith is that they use Christian language and terminology, but with their own distinctive meanings. For example, when a Mormon says that Jesus is the Son of God, he is not indicating belief in Jesus as the Second Person of the Triune Godhead, one with the Father and the Spirit, God Almighty in the flesh. Instead, he means this very literally. Jesus was actually born in the spirit world as a spiritual son of God. He was also conceived physically by a sexual union between Mary and God the Father (who is a flesh and bone corporeal being). Thus, Jesus is the actual, physical son of God. Then he was resurrected and advanced to become a god. This gives an entirely different meaning to the phrase “son of God.” And it is like that with one doctrine after another. The Mormon uses the same words we do, but the words mean something totally different than what we mean. So don’t be fooled by the language they use, the sincerity of their testimony, or the passion they evidence for their faith.
Now, as for the Mormon’s knowledge of Latter-day Saints theology—the simple answer is yes, it may be possible that an individual could be a member of the LDS Church, attend chapel meetings and Sunday School, and still not understand the teachings of the Church. Possible—but highly unlikely. Indeed, improbable to the extreme! The LDS Church indoctrinates its followers very well. Just visit a Sunday sacrament meeting, hear what is said, listen to the testimonies of the individual Mormons, and you will see that they talk about the essentials of their faith constantly. Mormon children are taught well. They are often drilled on basic doctrine. When Mormon young people are in their teens, they will attend “seminary” every day. This is a time of instruction in Mormon beliefs that they receive in the mornings before going to school. Every week Mormon families will observe Family Home Evening, which involves reading the scriptures, discussion, prayer, and activities to strengthen each family member in the faith. Beginning from birth and throughout his/her life, the Mormon is surrounded with instruction in Mormon doctrine.
But what about the new convert, someone from another faith who becomes a Mormon as an adult? The fact is that they also are well instructed in the faith. If you visit a Mormon Sunday service, called a sacrament meeting (not something I recommend, by the way!) you will probably be invited to attend Sunday School. And as a visitor you will be directed to the “Gospel Doctrine” class. (I know because I have done this.) This is a class especially designed for visitors, inquirers, and new converts. In other words, this class is for the newcomer, the neophyte. This is where you learn from scratch what Mormons really believe. The text for this class is a book entitled Gospel Principles. But, just what doctrines are to be found in this text, and in the Gospel Doctrine class. I have gone through the Gospel Principles book and made a list of distinctive Mormon doctrines found in it. Here is what a person new to Mormonism will learn:
• God is an exalted man
• God has a physical body
• The Father and Son are two separate beings—two different gods
• We were born as spirit children in a place called the First Estate
• The Fall was necessary
• The living Prophet and President of the Church is inspired and speaks for God
• God is the literal father of Jesus in the flesh
• All Christian creeds and churches are an abomination to God
• The LDS Church is the only true church
• The LDS are the true Israelites
• God has restored the priesthoods through Joseph Smith and the LDS Church.
• The two priesthoods are necessary for salvation.
• Baptism is the new birth; and baptism forgives us of our sins
• We can only enjoy eternal life through the sacrifices that we make
• We must work to be worthy of eternal life
• We must obey all of God’s commands to have eternal life
• You can be baptized for the dead
• There are three heavens (but only Mormons go to the third and highest heaven)
• The process of eternal progression—people can go from being born as spirit children, to becoming physical beings, to exaltation as a god.
• Eternal marriage is required for eternal life
• You can become a god
• Once deified you will have your own spirit children
As is evident, the basic and distinctive doctrines that make Mormonism what it is are found here. The false teachings that define LDS theology, and demonstrate that it is indeed a cult, are taught to all those seeking to learn about Mormonism, and to all newly converted Mormons.
Are there clueless Mormons, who really do not know what the LDS Church believes? Maybe. But they would have to be few and far between! Mormons know their faith.