Do Christians and Mormons worship the same God?
The question may irk our LDS friends, who insist that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restored Church and therefore cannot be distinguished from orthodox Christianity.
What’s more, some LDS leaders shrewdly blur the lines that separate Mormon beliefs from the biblical doctrines evangelicals affirm – sometimes with the help of evangelicals in the name of “dialogue.”
A case in point: How Wide the Divide? – a book by Brigham Young University’s Stephen Robinson and Denver Seminary professor Craig Blomberg.
While both scholars argue their distinct theological views, they acknowledge agreements such as, “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one eternal God.”
Really? Is the doctrine of God true common ground for evangelicals and Mormons? Not so fast.
Five biblical truths
Let’s compare biblical truths about God with the LDS position as stated in its “standard works” – mainly the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants – along with statements from church authorities.
Biblical truth #1: There is one true God, who exists as three distinct, co-equal, co-eternal persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Deut. 6:4; John 10:30; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Peter 1:2).
The LDS position: Early “revelations” to founder Joseph Smith leaned toward modalism, the belief that God is one person who variously manifests Himself as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit (D&C 20:17, 28; 2 Nephi 31:21; Mormon 7:7).
But by 1844 Smith began spreading polytheism. “I will preach the plurality of Gods,” he declared. “I have always and in all congregations when I have preached on the subject of the Deity, it has been the plurality of Gods.”
Today, Mormons profess Elohim, or Heavenly Father, as the God of this universe. Yet they acknowledge the existence of other gods, including Jesus and the Holy Ghost. While this may be understood as polytheism, it’s more accurately henotheism – the exaltation of one god (“Heavenly Father”) among many.
Biblical truth #2: God has eternally been God (Deut. 33:27; Ps. 90:2; Micah 5:2; Heb. 9:14).
The LDS position: Mormons believe God once was a man who evolved into God over eons of time. Joseph Smith taught, “We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea and take away the veil, so that you may see…. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know … that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did.”
Biblical truth #3: God created all things ex nihilo – that is, out of nothing (Gen. 1:1; Neh. 9:6; Heb. 11:3).
The LDS position: Joseph Smith taught the eternality of matter (which existed before God) and that God did not create all things but organized pre-existing matter. In his famous King Follett Discourse, he chided those who believe the biblical record as “unlearned in the things of God” and lacking “the gift of the Holy Ghost.” He concluded, “God had materials to organize the world out of chaos – chaotic matter.”
Biblical truth #4: God is unique; there is no one like Him. He is sovereign over all creation, transcendent, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent (Gen. 17:1; Ps. 139:7-10; Isa. 44:6; Jer. 32:17, 1 Cor. 8:4).
The LDS position: Heavenly Father is typical; that is, he once was a man who progressed to his exalted position as god of this universe. It’s a path that untold gods before him tread, and a path that men who aspire to exaltation will tread far into the future.
Biblical truth #5: God is unchanging; He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8).
The LDS position: God has always changed and continues to change. Stephen Robinson writes in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, “The important points of the doctrine for Latter-day Saints are that Gods and humans are the same species of being, but at different stages of development in a divine continuum, and that the heavenly Father and Mother are the heavenly pattern, model, and example of what mortals can become through obedience to the gospel.”
In summary, while we may allow that evangelicals and Mormons seek the same God, we must ask whether the one true and living God reveals Himself in Scripture or through LDS prophets. Obviously, the answer can’t be both.