Are Mormons Christians?

“I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. I believe Jesus died for my sins to save me, so I can go to heaven when I die. I’ve been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost and I believe the Bible is God’s word.”

If someone spoke these words to you, it would be easy to conclude that you are speaking with a Christian. But what if the next thing they told you was:

“I believe Joseph Smith is God’s prophet and the Book of Mormon is God’s word.”

With this statement, we can see how Mormonism starts to differentiate from Christianity. But aren’t they essentially the same? Isn’t Mormonism just another form of Christianity, like Lutherans, Methodists, or Baptists? With nearly 20 million members worldwide, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS) continues to grow, although at a decreasing rate over the last 20 years.

LDS Church Growth Rate 1900-2021

While much of the growth of the Mormon church worldwide can be attributed to missionary outreach, Mormons have historically had higher-than-average birth rates. The LDS church places a strong emphasis on family and conservative values, which is attractive to anyone who sees the culture around them continuing to become more secular and liberal with each generation. For those that are born into the faith, the church is synonymous with family, representing stability and tradition. But whether newly converted to the faith, or born into a family of Latter Day Saints, many Mormons do not know a great deal about Joseph Smith or about the foundational beliefs of the church. So this is what we will attempt to undertake here, starting with an examination of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon faith.

Joseph Smith

Born in Vermont in 1805, Joseph Smith spent his teenage years in western New York during a time period known as the Second Great Awakening. This part of New York was referred to as the “Burned Over District” because religious revivalism and spiritual fervor seemed to set the area on fire. His parents were religious, but they were not members of any particular church. Along with other members of his family, Smith engaged in religious folk magic, which was relatively common in that area. Seer stones and divining rods were some of the preferred instruments that were used in order to locate buried treasure, metal, and water.

Example of a Divining Rod used to find buried water and other objects

In the spring of 1820 at the age of fourteen, Joseph Smith was praying in the woods near his home. A thick darkness gathered around him and he was unable to speak. He then saw a light, and two men appeared; God the Father and Jesus Christ. God the Father said “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!”[1] Then Smith asked which church he should join and Jesus explained that all of the existing churches at that time believed “in incorrect doctrines and that none of them was acknowledged of God as His Church.”[2]

The First Vision, by Del Parson

While the preceding is the official LDS account of The First Vision, there is much controversy surrounding this event. Even though the vision supposedly occurred in 1820, the version above was not published until 1842. A first draft of Joseph Smith’s vision, written in his own handwriting, from 1832 describes a meeting with just Jesus where Jesus expressed anger about the ungodliness of the world, and assured Smith that his sins were forgiven.[3]

Latter Day Saint President and prophet Brigham Young taught “The Lord did not come with the armies of heaven…But He did send His angel to Joseph Smith…and informed him that he should not join any of the religious sects of the day.”[4] Future teachings by church Apostles such as Orson Hyde,[5] Wildorf Woodruff,[6] Heber C. Kimball,[7] John Taylor,[8] and George A. Smith[9] all gave conflicting accounts of the First Vision.

Perhaps in an effort to reconcile the controversy, Joseph Smith is reported to have experienced another vision three years later in 1823. This time, an angel named Moroni appeared to Joseph Smith while he was praying in his bedroom. The angel informed Smith that God had called him to translate ancient golden plates inscribed in a language called “Reformed Egyptian.”

Moroni Appears to Joseph Smith in His Room, by Tom Lovell

The plates had been buried near Joseph Smith’s home by the angel Moroni himself, 1400 years earlier when Moroni was still just a man. After the vision, Smith promptly located the stone box that contained the plates, buried in a hill called Cumorah. When he tried to touch them, he felt a shock go through his hand and the angel would not allow him to take the plates. Every year, on the Autumnal Equinox, Smith would return to the same place and attempt to retrieve the golden plates, but was prevented from doing so by the angel Moroni.

Joseph Smith was staying at the home of Isaac and Elizabeth Hale in Harmony, Pennsylvania during this time, having been hired by Josiah Stowell to search for buried Spanish silver. Smith ended up secretly marrying the daughter of the Hale family, Emma, in January of 1827 since her father did not approve of Joseph Smith or his profession as a treasure hunter. Smith had been arrested the previous year and charged with a misdemeanor for fraud, claiming to be able to locate buried treasure with his “seer stone.” Court documents referred to him as a “glass-looker.”[10]

Seer Stone belonging to Joseph Smith according to churchofjesuschrist.org

In September 1827, Joseph Smith returned once again to the hill Cumorah and this time the angel Moroni allowed him to take the plates. Included were a breastplate and spectacles (called Urim and Thummim) to help him translate the plates since they were written in “Reformed Egyptian.”

Replicas by David Baird, Photograph by Daniel Smith.

Joseph described the plates as measuring “six inches wide and eight inches long, and not quite so thick as common tin. They were filled with engravings, in Egyptian characters, and bound together in a volume as leaves in a book, with three rings running through the whole. The volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed.”[11] Upon retrieving the plates, he had to run three miles through the woods fighting off people who were chasing him.[12] Given the dimensions of the plates, they would have weighed nearly two hundred pounds if they were composed of pure gold, making a run through the woods physically prohibitive.  

The Book of Mormon

Smith began the process of translating the golden plates in 1828 with Martin Harris, a former employer of his father, acting as scribe. Harris’ wife was skeptical of Joseph Smith and the existence of the plates, since no one besides Smith had actually seen them. By June 1828, one hundred sixteen pages of the plates had been translated and Martin Harris convinced Joseph Smith to let him bring the pages home to show his wife. All one hundred sixteen pages disappeared while in their possession. It is believed that Martin Harris’ wife wanted to test the authenticity of the translation by forcing Joseph Smith to reproduce his previous work. Upon learning of their disappearance, Joseph Smith was infuriated. The angel Moroni was also upset and took the golden plates back from Smith, before returning them a few months later.[13]

Joseph Smith rebukes Martin Harris (artist unknown)

Once translation of the plates resumed in April 1829, Joseph Smith used a new scribe, a schoolteacher named Oliver Cowdry, who had heard of the plates from Smith’s family. However, Smith chose to translate different plates rather than the same plates that he had previously translated. Smith apparently did not want to try and reproduce the original translation for fear that the lost pages would be found, and shown not to match his new translation. Instead of the breastplate and spectacles that the angel Moroni gave him, this time Smith would use his trusty seer stone to translate the plates, the same stone he had used in the past to locate buried treasure. 

A description of the translation process is as follows: “Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English.”[14]

Joseph Smith using his seer stone with Oliver Cowdry acting as scribe (artist unknown)

Since the translation process apparently did not directly involve the use of the golden plates at all, it is not clear why Smith had to wait four years until he found the plates in order to begin the translating them. Smith maintained that the Book of Mormon was written word-for-word on the golden plates in Reformed Egyptian hieroglyphics, and that he simply translated them.[15]

If the translation process was indeed word-for-word, it is odd that Smith not only used verbiage from the King James Bible, such as “thee” and “thou,” but also hundreds of verses copied verbatim from the King James Bible.[16] Additionally, Smith’s translation contained Greek words, such as “Christ,” “Christian,” “Bible,” “Synagogue,” “Alpha,” and “Omega.” If the golden plates were written in Reformed Egyptian by Mormon and Moroni in North America, the presence of these distinctly New Testament-Greek terms is indeed puzzling.

Nevertheless, the translation process was finished in June of 1829, and the Book of Mormon was published in 1830. Joseph proclaimed it to be “the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion”[17] and that “there is no error in the revelations which I have taught.”[18] Despite these bold claims, the current edition of The Book of Mormon has undergone 3,913 changes compared to the original version, including spelling, grammatical, word choice, and inserted phrases.[69] The latest edition was published in 1981. As for the golden plates, Smith returned them to the angel Moroni, never to be seen again.

Returning the Gold Plates to the Angel Moroni, by Linda Curley Christensen and Michael Malm

The Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible

After finishing the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith began work on his own translation of the Bible (the Joseph Smith TranslationJST), since he believed the Christian Bible had been corrupted. The Book of Mormon states that  “many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants” have been removed or changed by “that great and abominable church.”[19] His new translation included a prophecy about himself in the book of Genesis, which describes “a seer” whose “name shall be called Joseph, and it shall be after the name of his father.”[20]

Smith also made substantial additions to the book of Isaiah, including more prophecies about himself and the Book of Mormon. 

“And it shall come to pass, that the Lord God shall bring forth unto you the words of a book…the book shall be delivered unto a man, and he shall deliver the words of the book…three witnesses shall behold it by the power of God.”[21]

In total, Joseph Smith added or changed 2,427 verses from the Bible, including the outright removal of the book Song of Songs. In 1947, a complete copy of the book of Isaiah was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Qumran Caves in Israel, dating back to approximately 100 BC.

The Great Isaiah Scroll (replica) on display at the Israel Museum in 2018

When compared to Joseph Smith’s version of Isaiah, none of the changes that Smith made can be found in the ancient copy of Isaiah that was found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Not one word.

Smith never finished his JST bible, and today the LDS church officially recognizes the King James version of the Bible as scripture rather than the Joseph Smith Translation – although they believe the King James version to have been corrupted by the Christian church.

The Pearl of Great Price

In 1835, Joseph Smith purchased some papyrus fragments from a traveling mummy exhibition in Kirtland, Ohio. He believed the papyrus contained the writings of Abraham himself, written in Egyptian hieroglyphics. His translation would become known as the Book of Abraham. Unlike the golden plates of Moroni, the papyrus fragments did not have to remain hidden and were seen by many people. Although thought to be destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, sections of the papyri that Smith used were actually found in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1966 and were acquired by the LDS church. Numerous Egyptologists, Mormon and non-Mormon, set about to translate the fragments and the end result was conclusive; None of the modern translations matched what Joseph Smith had written at all. 

From the official site of the Latter Day Saints, www.churchofjesuschrist.org:

None of the characters on the papyrus fragments mentioned Abraham’s name or any of the events recorded in the book of Abraham. Latter-day Saint and non-Latter-day Saint Egyptologists agree that the characters on the fragments do not match the translation given in the book of Abraham.”[22]

A portion of the papyri used by Joseph Smith as the source for the Book of Abraham

Today, however, the Book of Abraham makes up part of the Pearl of Great Price, one of the four official LDS scriptures.

  1. The King James Bible (although believed to be corrupted)
  2. The Book of Mormon
  3. The Pearl of Great Price
  4. The Doctrines and Covenants

The Doctrine and Covenants is unique in that it contains revelations given to Joseph Smith and other LDS prophets, rather than a translation of ancient documents. The latest entry in the Doctrine and Covenants is from 1981.

Mormon Church History

With the publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830 also came the start of the Mormon Church in upstate New York. Joseph Smith and his translator, Oliver Cowdery, claimed to have been visited by John the Baptist in the woods, who ordained them as Levitical priests.

Upon You My Fellow Servants by Linda Curley Christensen and Michael Malm

With this new power, they were set to start a new, uncorrupted church, with the freshly-published Book of Mormon as its foundation. The church began sending out missionaries to test how the new revelation from God would be received. A man named Sidney Rigdon read the Book of Mormon in fourteen days after being visited by Mormon missionaries and was baptized into the church on November 14, 1830. Rigdon was the minister of a church in Kirtland, Ohio and began converting hundreds from his congregation to Mormonism. He visited Joseph Smith in New York and must have left quite an impression. Soon after the visit, Smith received a revelation from God in December 1830 that he should move the church to Kirtland, Ohio. Sidney Rigdon was also ordained as a high priest and helped Joseph Smith with his personal translation of the Bible. 

While staying with the family of John and Alice Johnson at a farm in Hiram, Ohio in 1832, Smith was tarred and feathered by a mob in the middle of the night. The reason for this attack is unclear but multiple sources have indicated the motivation may have been due to inappropriate relations between Joseph Smith and Marinda Johnson, the sixteen year-old daughter of the family he was staying with.

It is said that Eli Johnson demanded that the prophet be castrated, for he suspected Joseph of being too intimate with his sister, Marinda. But the doctor who had been persuaded to join the mob declined the responsibility at the last moment…[23]

Another account says

“The castration attempt might be taken as evidence that the mob felt that Joseph had committed a sexual impropriety; since the attempt is reported by (Marinda’s brother who became LDS apostle) Luke Johnson, there is no good reason to doubt it. Also, they had planned the operation in advance, as they brought along a doctor to perform it.”[24]

Joseph Smith tarred and feathered (artist unknown)

Despite this, the Mormon church became established in Ohio where Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon started a bank called the Kirtland Safety Society in order to raise money. Eventually, they began printing their own currency, including $3 and $4 bills. When people realized that the money was worthless, there was a run on the bank and a warrant was issued for Smith’s arrest on a charge of banking fraud.[25] With their future in Ohio looking doubtful, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon decided to move the church to Missouri in 1838. 

It was in Missouri that the church would first come to be known as “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” Smith and the church council would expel several of the oldest and most prominent leaders of the church, charging them with apostasy and labeling them as the “dissenters.” Included in this group were Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer who, along with Martin Harris (the original scribe who lost the first one hundred sixteen pages of the Book of Mormon), comprise a group known today as “The Three Witnesses.” These men claimed to have been shown the golden plates by an angel, and a statement from them is included in every Book of Mormon printed since its first publication in 1830.

Testimony of Three Witnesses, included in every Book of Mormon printed since 1830. “And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God.”

Despite being one of the primary witnesses to the golden plates, Joseph Smith called Martin Harris a wicked man.[26][27] Oliver Cowdery had fallen out of favor with Joseph Smith after Cowdery had accused him of engaging in a sexual relationship with a teenage girl who worked as a servant in Smith’s home named Fanny Alger.[28] Cowdery is recorded to have denied the Book of Mormon, according to official LDS publications.[29]

Their time in Missouri would be short-lived, as the local population opposed the influx of Mormons to their state. The Mormons established their own vigilante group, known as the Danites, and in August 1838 the Missouri Mormon War began. The governor of Missouri issued an “extermination order” against the Mormons in October, decreeing that they should be exterminated or driven from the state. On October 31, 1838, after seventeen Mormons were killed in the Haun’s Mill massacre, the Latter Day Saints surrendered to the state militia and agreed to forfeit their property and leave the state.

Haun’s Mill by C.C.A. Christensen

Joseph Smith was brought before a military court, accused of treason, and sentenced to be executed. With Smith in jail awaiting his fate, Brigham Young, a rising leader in the LDS church, organized the exodus of about 14,000 Mormon refugees to Illinois. Aided by the sheriff and several guards, Joseph Smith escaped custody on April 6, 1839 during a prisoner transfer and fled to Illinois.

The Clay County Jail in Liberty, Missouri where Joseph Smith was held from November 1838 to April 1839

Illinois was not as resistant to the Mormons as Missouri had been, allowing them to settle on the banks of the Mississippi River near the border with Iowa, where they established the city of Nauvoo. At one point, this city would become the largest in Illinois – even larger than Chicago at that time.

Nauvoo, Illinois (Photo courtesy of Utah State Historical Society)

It was here that Joseph Smith introduced the doctrine of baptism for the dead [30] and began to reveal his beliefs regarding plural marriage to his closest associates. While there is some dispute regarding the number of official “sealed” wives he had throughout his life, Smith has been linked to forty-eight women besides his wife Emma.[34] These were not only single, adult women, but included a mother and daughter,[31] sisters,[32] girls as young as fourteen,[33] and up to twelve women who were already married to living husbands.[34]

Smith even went so far as to approach men among the Mormon leadership to take their wives as his own. One of the prominent leaders in the church, William Law, was appalled by Smith’s attempt to take his wife and went on to set up an opposition newspaper named the Nauvoo Expositor to expose Joseph Smith as a polygamist.

The only issue ever published by The Nauvoo Expositor, dated June 7, 1844

Smith, now mayor of Nauvoo, declared the press a public nuisance and sent his army, the Nauvoo Legion, to destroy the facilities of the opposition newspaper. Outrage ensued throughout the state and Smith declared martial law in the city of Nauvoo under enforcement of the Nauvoo Legion. The governor of Illinois took notice and had Smith and his brother Hyrum arrested for treason and placed in a jail located in Carthage, Illinois.

Nauvoo Expositor Destruction by Anthony Sweat

Loyalists to Joseph Smith smuggled weapons to him, including guns, in preparation for another jailbreak. But the citizens of Illinois had other plans, and on June 27, 1844, the jail was surrounded by a mob of about two hundred men. Smith and his brother attempted to fight their way out, emptying their weapons and shooting multiple people, but both were ultimately shot to death. Smith’s death was a pivotal moment in the history of the LDS church, where he is widely regarded as a martyr who was killed in cold blood.[70]

The Mob at Carthage Jail (artist unknown)

The church was thrown into disarray without their leader and once again, Brigham Young rose to the occasion and organized another Mormon exodus, this time to the Great Salt Lake Valley, then part of Mexico. By the time the Mormons arrived, the territory known as Utah had come under American control. They founded Salt Lake City, and Brigham Young became Utah’s first governor in 1850.

Sketch of Salt Lake City 1860 (artist unknown)

Young governed the territory as a theocracy, with LDS doctrines taking precedence over Federal laws. The church publicly embraced plural marriage in 1852, and tension grew between the Mormons and the US government. Brigham Young himself had fifty-six wives during his lifetime, several of whom were the widows of Joseph Smith, and included 2 of his own mothers-in-law.[35] Like Smith, Young also took the wives of other men as his own. This practice was deeply rooted in Brigham Young’s beliefs regarding the afterlife.

The only men who become gods, even the sons of god, are those who enter into polygamy.” – Brigham Young[36]

Postcard Depicting Brigham Young and His Wives. Salt Lake City: The Johnson Co., 1906

In 1857, President James Buchanan declared Utah to be in a state of rebellion. The Utah War began as 2500 federal troops were dispatched to remove Brigham Young as governor. Young agreed to step aside in 1858, ending the war. Although no longer governor, Brigham Young remained a prominent figure in Utah until his death in 1877. LDS church president Wildorf Woodruff announced the official end of plural marriage in 1890. In 1893, after 40 years of construction, the Salt Lake Temple was completed. It was the sixth temple built by the church and remains the largest Mormon temple in the world.

Temple Square by William Henry Jackson 1899

Although this is the most famous Mormon temple in existence, Joseph Smith had made a prophecy about another temple that would be built in Missouri. In 1832, he wrote

“Yea, the word of the Lord concerning his church, established in the last days for the restoration of his people…for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion, which shall be the city of New Jerusalem. Which city shall be built, beginning at the temple lot, which is appointed by the finger of the Lord, in the western boundaries of the State of Missouri, and dedicated by the hand of Joseph Smith…which temple shall be reared in this generation. For verily this generation shall not all pass away until an house shall be built unto the Lord”[37]

One generation is generally regarded as forty years, so the prediction by Smith should have been fulfilled by 1872 at the latest. LDS prophet Orson Pratt remained steadfast in his hope that the temple would still be built when, in 1870, he declared:

“The Latter-day Saints just as much expect to receive a fulfillment of that promise during the generation that was in existence in 1832 as they expect that the sun will rise and set tomorrow. Why? Because God cannot lie. He will fulfill all His promises. He has spoken, it must come to pass. This is our faith.”[38]

In 1931, LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith still held out hope that some who were alive in 1832 would see the temple be built:

“I firmly believe that there will be some of that generation who were living when this revelation was given who shall be living when this temple is reared.”[76]

The Temple Lot site, purchased by Bishop Edward Partidge in 1831, remains vacant to this day.

Satellite Image of Independence, Missouri Temple Lot Site (Google Earth 2019)

Beliefs of The Mormon Church

Now that we’ve looked at the early history of Joseph Smith and the church, we will now turn to the actual beliefs of the Mormon religion. The God of Mormonism is one of many Gods in existence throughout the universe who rule their own planets. Regarding these Gods, Joseph Smith said “when I have preached on the subject of the Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods.”[39] Similarly, Brigham Young said “How many Gods there are, I do not know. But there never was a time when there were not Gods.”[40]

Known as Elohim, the Mormon God is the spirit child of another God and his Goddess wife. Elohim gained a physical body when he was born to human parents on another planet. As a human, Elohim lived a good life and proved himself worthy of godhood. As a God, Elohim now lives on a planet near a star called Kolob with his Goddess wives. Mormons refer to Elohim as Heavenly Father. The first spirit child of Elohim and one of his wives was Jesus Christ.

Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother with their son, Jesus Christ in Celestial Kingdom (artist unknown)

Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother would have another child who is now known as the Holy Ghost[41] and also a child named Lucifer who would come to be known as Satan. Elohim would eventually have billions of spirit children, including you and me. In fact, all humans, angels, and demons associated with planet Earth are the spirit children of Elohim and his many Goddess wives. 

Heavenly Mother Watching Over Her Children by Emily Carruth Fuller

A pivotal moment in Mormon history occurred when a great heavenly council meeting was called, which included Jesus and his brother Lucifer. You and I were likely there as well, in our pre-existence. The council agreed on a plan to create the planet Earth, where all the spirit children of Elohim would be given physical bodies and learn good from evil. Lucifer wanted to force all of the spirit children to become Gods while Jesus suggested that they should be given freedom to choose.

Jesus proposing his plan to Elohim at the Great Heavenly Council (The Grand Council by Robert T. Barrett)

A vote was taken and Jesus’ plan was approved. Lucifer was furious and convinced one third of Elohim’s spirit children to revolt. As punishment for their rebellion, Lucifer and his followers would not be given physical bodies. They would be sent to Earth and come to be known as Satan and his demons.

Lucifer and his followers exiled to planet Earth after the rebellion against Elohim (artist unknown)

Elohim’s loyal spirit children who fought against Lucifer would be given white skin, while the spirit children who remained neutral would be given black skin.[42]

Brigham Young taught that Elohim and one of his goddess wives came to planet Earth as Adam and Eve,[43] and that Elohim later had sexual intercourse with the virgin Mary in order to provide Jesus with a physical body.[45][46]

In 1979, LDS President Ezra Taft Benson stated “I am bold to say to you, … Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. He was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost. He is the Son of the Eternal Father![47]

LDS Apostle Orson Hyde taught that Jesus was a polygamist who took multiple wives and fathered children prior to his crucifixion.[48][49]

Jesus with his wives (artist unknown)

After rising from the dead, Jesus would make a visit to North America to preach to the people there. 

But who were these people?

The Book of Mormon teaches that a group of people known as the Jaredites crossed the ocean on eight small wooden barges around the time of the Tower of Babel, approximately 2200 BC. The barges were of supernatural design, capable of being fully submersed, with stone lights inside. God sent a furious wind to blow the barges to North America over the course of three hundred forty-four days.[71] The Jaredite people aboard would be the first humans to ever reside in North America.

Jaredite Vessel – Emanuel Pepis 2006

The Jaredites grew into a civilization of millions that lasted 1500 years before a civil war would wipe them all out. The last survivor was Coriantumr, the king of the Jeredites.

King Coriantumr depicted in Consequences of Two Kings by Brian C. Hailes

In 587 BC, a group of Jews left from Jerusalem and journeyed across the ocean to North America. These were the followers of Mulek, a son of King Zedekiah. Although the Bible says that King Zedekiah’s sons were killed before his eyes by the Babylonians [72], Mulek apparently escaped and fled to North America. Once the Mulekites arrived in America, they found Coriantumr, who lived with them for nine months until his death.

In 600 BC, another group of Jews left from Jerusalem to make the voyage to North America. These were also Jews, followers of a man named named Lehi. Once settled in America, Lehi’s son, Nephi, believed that his brothers Laman and Lemuel wanted to kill him. So Nephi and his followers, the “Nephites,” went into the wilderness while the followers of Laman came to be called the “Lamanites.”

The Separation of the Nephites and Lamanites by Christensen, C.C.A.

The Lamanites, who were previously “white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome,” were cursed with a “skin of blackness” so they would “not be enticing” to the Nephites.[50] The two groups would be at war for centuries until Jesus Christ appeared to them after his resurrection in approximately 33 AD.

Jesus Christ Visits the Americas by John Scott

This event would unite the Nephites and the Lamanites into one nation, and they would live at peace for two hundred years before war between the groups resumed. The Lamanites would completely exterminate the Nephites, leaving a single survivor, a prophet named Moroni. Moroni was the son of Mormon, leader of the Nephite armies, who was killed in the final battle with the Lamanites in 385 AD.

Mormon with his son Moroni depicted in Mormon Bids Farewell to a Once Great Nation by Arnold Friberg

Mormon and his son Moroni had engraved golden plates in a language called Reformed Egyptian with a history of the people who had come to America from the Middle East. In 421 AD, Moroni buried the golden plates in what is now New York and then returned fourteen hundred years later as an angel to show Joseph Smith where to find them.

Moroni (last survivor of the Nephites) Hides the Plates in the Hill Cumorah, by Tom Lovell

Since the Nephites were completely wiped out, Mormons believe that the Lamanites are the ancestors of Native Americans and Pacific Islanders…meaning that they are Jewish. With the advent of genetic testing in the 1980s, it became possible to scientifically verify whether there is a link between the Jews and the first inhabitants of the Americas. Extensive testing of Native American DNA has not shown any link to the Jewish people, as the Book of Mormon teaches. Rather, Native Americans are genetically linked to the people of Asia.

In terms of archaeology, no evidence for the Jerodites, Mulekites, Nephites, or Lamanites has ever been found in the Americas. While the Book of Mormon speaks of horses, elephants, cattle, wheat, steel swords, and silk – these things did not actually come to the Americas until the Europeans arrived more than one thousand years after Moroni buried the golden plates. The Book of Mormon tells us that 230,000 people were killed in the final battle at Hill Cumorah in 385 AD,[xx] yet all attempts to uncover archaeological remnants from this epic battle have been stopped by the LDS church. 

Mormon Prophecies

Another way that we can examine the authenticity of the Book of Mormon is to examine some of the prophecies that it contains. The Bible rightly asks this question:

“How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken? When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken”Deuteronomy 18:21-22

This is a simple, and logical test that we will now apply to the Book of Mormon, beginning with a prophecy from Nephi that was written in 592 BC and translated by Joseph Smith in 1829 AD.

“And after…the twelve apostles of the Lamb…thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church…for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious”[19]

Not only does Nephi claim that the Christian church corrupted the Bible, but also that the Christian church was founded by Satan himself.

“that great and abominable church, which was founded by the devil and his children”[52]

So, in light of this, we should easily be able to find evidence for the corruption of the Bible among the thousands of preserved manuscripts that have been discovered over thousands of years.

Except that we don’t.

What the manuscripts show is the remarkable preservation of the Bible through the centuries. There are, of course, textual variants and scribal errors – which should be expected when thousands of copies are being written by hand – but there is simply no evidence of large-scale corruption. Because these manuscripts were dispersed throughout the ancient world, the possibility of anyone changing them all is essentially impossible. If someone wanted to make a change to a manuscript, they would have to retrieve all of the other copies to change them as well.

Since Nephi claimed that this corruption would take place after the twelve apostles, perhaps we could find evidence of corruption by comparing the Dead Sea Scrolls from 100 BC to the modern Bible. Nearly every book of the Old Testament is represented in the Dead Sea Scrolls, so this is an excellent opportunity to expose corruption of the text if it has indeed occurred. Since any manuscripts found in the Dead Sea Scrolls predate the “great and abominable church[19] by at least one hundred years, they should not be corrupted since the church did not exist when they were written. So what do we find when we compare the Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts to the Bible we have today? 

New Text? Deleted Text? Modified Text? Massive changes?

No.

When compared to modern Bibles, the Dead Sea Scrolls match to an extremely high degree, with no evidence of corruption. So the prophecy from 1 Nephi that predicts the corruption of the Bible[19] is simply not true.

We will now turn to another prophecy from the Book of Mormon, this time from the book of Alma concerning the birth of Jesus. 

And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem[53]

This is clearly a mistake, since Jesus was born in Bethlehem. In the Bible, this was prophesied in the book of Micah (five hundred years before Jesus was born) and confirmed in the books of Matthew[54] and Luke.[55]

“But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” –Micah 5:2

So, if the Bible shows no evidence of corruption and Mormons believe that the Bible is the word of God, as stated by Joseph Smith:

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.[56]

Why does the Bible teach things that contradict Mormonism? 

For instance, the Bible teaches that God is spirit.[57] But Mormonism teaches that “The Father has a body of flesh and bones, as tangible as man’s.”[58]

The Bible teaches that there is one God,[64] and that there were never any Gods before or after Him.[59] But Mormonism teaches that there are many Gods, and that Heavenly Father is the spirit child of another God, who is the spirit child of another God, who is the spirit child of another God, etc. Curiously, the Book of Mormon itself affirms that there is only one God,[73][74][75] but later teachings of the church are clearly polytheistic.[39][40]

The Bible teaches that we are saved by grace through faith.[60] The Book of Mormon says that “it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.”[61]

So what are these things we must “do” in order to be saved?

Mormonism teaches that if we are to reach exaltation, the highest level of salvation, these are the ordinances that a person must complete:[62]

  • Baptism
  • Confirmation
  • Melchizedek Priesthood Ordination (men only)
  • Temple Endowment Ceremony (washing and anointing)
  • Celestial marriage in a temple
  • Sealing ceremony in a temple
  • Keep all the commandments
  • Repent of all wrongdoings
  • Attend church meetings regularly
  • Have family and individual prayers every day
  • Search out dead family members and receive these saving ordinances for them

If you are able to do all of these things, you can go to the highest level of heaven, which is known as the Celestial Kingdom. Only those that go to the Celestial Kingdom have a chance to eventually become a God with their own planet some day. 

Those who don’t make it to the Celestial Kingdom can still go to the Terrestrial Kingdom. Even non-Mormons can go to this kingdom if they are “good.” Jesus visits the Terrestrial Kingdom sometimes, but Heavenly Father does not. 

Atheists and those who are not “good” go to the Telestial Kingdom. The Holy Spirit visits the Telestial Kingdom sometimes, but Heavenly Father and Jesus do not. 

Finally, Outer Darkness is reserved for Satan and his demons…and any Mormons who leave the faith. 

Mormon Kingdoms by The Institute for Religious Research

The Bible teaches that there are only two destinations for all of humanity: 

Heaven or Hell

In the book of Matthew, we get a clear picture of what the final judgment will look like

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’…And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:31-46

The only difference between those in heaven and those in hell is God’s grace. All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.[63] But God made a way for sinners to be saved by sending His Son Jesus, to become a man. The Bible describes this in the book of John 

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” -John 1:14

Jesus has always been God, and didn’t cease to be God when he became a man. As a man, he lived a perfect life, laid down His life as a ransom for sinners, and defeated death by rising from the dead. 

Christianity teaches that by grace, God became a man to save men from their sins.

Mormonism teaches that by works, men can become Gods. 

Only one can be true. The only way to be saved is to repent of your sins and trust in Jesus Christ to save you. 

But which Jesus? 

The Jesus of the Bible or the Jesus of Mormonism? They are not the same.

The Bible teaches that Jesus created all things[65][66] – which would include Satan. Mormonism teaches that Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers, created when Heavenly Father had sex with Heavenly Mother. 

Only one Jesus can save. Only one Gospel can save. 

The Bible tells us that some will be led astray by a counterfeit Jesus and a counterfeit gospel.

“But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.”2 Corinthians 11:3-4

The basic premise of Mormonism is an angel bringing another gospel to Joseph Smith. I will conclude with this verse from the Bible:

“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8

Conclusion

My goal with this post is not to attack Mormons or ridicule their beliefs. Rather, I wish to help people learn more about this religion, and to contrast Mormonism with Christianity. I believe there is only one way to be saved and it is my desire that Latter Day Saints come to know the true Jesus, the only Jesus who can save. If you would like to contact me with questions regarding this post, please click here. You can also email me directly at ullmerboys@gmail.com.

I would also like to offer you a free copy of the book Unveiling Grace: The Story of How We Found Our Way out of the Mormon Church by Lynn K. Wilder. Click here to request your free copy

5 thoughts on “Are Mormons Christians?

Add yours

  1. A man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. If you want to be negative about anything you will never believe it.
    I believe in the LDS doctrine because it makes me feel so good and gives me a peaceful feeling. It brings me closer to my savior.

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  2. If you are going to tell people the supposed truth about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
    Make sure what you are telling is the truth. You are entitled to your own opinion but not your own truth.
    Are Mormons Christian? Look to the name of the Church. Hymn 134
    “I Believe In Christ” sung by saints on a regular basis. “The fundamental principles of The Church is the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, that he died, was buried, and rose again on the third day, and ascended unto heaven; and all things are only appendages to these , which pertain to our religion.”

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  3. Mixing some truths with fiction.
    The Church of Jesus Christ was dismissed by most of the religions of the day anciently. They made all sorts of accusations against Jesus Christ and his apostles. Would you not expect the same thing to happen to the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints?

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  4. Very good article! I knew there were a lot of beliefs that were contrary to the Bible, but I didn’t know how bizarre some of then were…amazing that this religion has lasted as long as it has since it’s totally based on false teachings. The only thing I can think is that the men love the polygamy aspect and so they go along with everything else. Thank you for a kind and truthful look at the Mormon religion.

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