Counterfeit forms of Christianity — most notably Mormonism and the Jehovah’s Witnesses — thrive on deception.
This is nothing new. The apostle Paul warned the Corinthians about false prophets who proclaimed “another Jesus … a different Spirit … a different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4).
While Christians should seek to correct the false doctrines of our Mormon and Jehovah’s Witness friends, we might also consider learning from their admirable qualities, including:
(1) Their zeal for witnessing. Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe they have recaptured true Christianity after centuries of apostasy. They not only stand behind their convictions; they put feet to them.
Today, there are nearly 71,000 Mormon missionaries carrying the message of Joseph Smith around the world — at their own expense, or the expense of their families. Meanwhile, Jehovah’s Witnesses boast 8.3 million “publishers” in 240 countries.
They may be faulted for their false teachings, but certainly not for their faithfulness to them.
As Anthony Hoekema has written in The Four Major Cults, “It would appear that the cults are generally pursuing a much more diligent and systematic program of witnessing, both at home and abroad, than are the churches.”
Satan is clever but not original.
He cannot create, procreate, raise the dead, or inspire Scripture. But he can take things God created for good and twist them for his evil purposes.
He is especially proficient in false religions, from Algard Wicca to Zoroastrianism. While the world’s wayward faiths are diverse, the evil one’s fingerprints are on all of them.
To illustrate, let’s look at similar patterns in two very different belief systems: Islam and Mormonism.
It would seem these religious organizations have little in common. Their doctrines and rituals are distinctly different. Yet their claims to truth bear remarkable similarities. Consider six such parallels.
Caught up in the Protestant revivalism of his day, Smith inquired as to which of the Christian denominations he should join. None of them, he was told, because they were all wrong. “The Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight,” Smith later recalled.
Smith was urged to take heart. God would use him to reinstate the true church, which had fallen into complete apostasy after the death of the apostles.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints professes to be the restored true church. Its leaders claim that Joseph Smith faithfully rediscovered proper church organization – that is, the Aaronic and Melchizedek priesthoods – and the true gospel, which was lost due to “designing priests” that removed its “plain and precious” truths.
In short, the LDS Church declares itself the one true church, while all other forms of Christianity remain apostate.
The co-star of National Geographic Channel’s reality TV show, “Snake Salvation,” was bitten on the hand by a rattlesnake as he led services at the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus’ Name in Middlesboro, Ky. He died less than two hours later after refusing medical treatment.
Coots and his followers represent a sect of Christianity that incorporates snake handling into worship, relying heavily on Mark 16:17-18 for support. The beloved pastor, having survived numerous snakebites in the past, is not the first to die in this manner since George Went Hensley introduced snake handling to Appalachian churches in 1910. Coots died the way he lived, faithful to his beliefs.
Some people classify snake handlers like Coots as cultists, but that is neither fair nor gracious. In defending the Christian faith we need to draw a distinction between cults and sects.
Lynn Wilder and her husband were quintessential Mormons.
Lynn had served for 8 years as a professor at Brigham Young University, the flagship school of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Their eldest sons had completed two-year missions assignments, and their daughter was demonstrating a strong faith in the LDS Church’s founder, Joseph Smith.
Then, as Lynn explains it, their world came crashing down. In 2006 their third son, Micah, was only three weeks from completing his two-year mission when he called to report that he was being sent home early in disgrace.
His sin: He read the New Testament and confessed to a roomful of missionaries that the Bible offered a different Jesus than the LDS Church — a Jesus of grace, not works. He professed belief in Jesus and confessed he had found a deep and genuine faith.