Tuesday, November 06, 2007

What Mormons believe: Part 6

As in every religion, theology affects practice. When you have the kind of theology that that the Mormons have, it will affect the way you understand salvation, baptism and other church practices.

In terms of "being saved," Mormons use a lot of the same language of Christianity. But when you examine their beliefs a bit closer, it becomes evident that they fall into the trap of "works righteousness." The quote below reveals this:

“Christians speak often of the blood of Christ and its cleansing power. Much that is believed and taught on this subject, however, is such utter nonsense and so palpably false that to believe it is to lose one’s salvation. Many go so far, for instance, as to pretend and, at least, to believe that if we confess Christ with our lips and avow that we accept Him as our personal Saviour, we are thereby saved. His blood, without other act than mere belief, they say, makes us clean…Finally in our day, he has said plainly: “My blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not.” Salvation in the kingdom of God is available because of the atoning blood of Christ. But it is received only on condition of faith, repentance, baptism and enduring to the end in keeping the commandments of God” (What the Mormons Think of Christ, Bruce R. McConkie, [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft,] 1973, 27-33).

What McConkie is saying here is that the foundational belief of Christianity, "you are saved by grace through faith", is "utter nonsense." He says that if you believe that all it takes to be saved is to "confess Christ with our lips and avow that we accept Him as our personal Savior" then we might as well lose our salvation. It's clear from this quote that "faith" in "the blood of Christ and its cleansing power" is not enough for the Mormon to be saved. Instead, there are 4 qualifications that need to be met: 1) faith; 2) repentance; 3) baptism; 4) keeping the commandments "to the end."

You can see that while faith and repentance fit with the Christian view of salvation, Mormons add two kinds of "works." They believe that you must be baptized in order to be saved and that you must "keep the commandments." Here we see the law enter back into their religion. The apostle Paul would mail them a copy of his letter to the Galatians if he were alive today.

For a Christian view of salvation, you can read these passages of scripture: Galatians 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9; 1 John 1:7; Romans 5:9; Romans 10:9-10; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Acts 16:31.

What is even more interesting is the order in which these things must occur. The writings of the Mormon church conflict with themselves on the matter of baptism. Here are two quotes that show this conflict. Both were written by Joseph Smith himself.

1. “All those who humble themselves… and truly manifest by their works that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins, shall be received by baptism into his church.” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:37)

2. “Yea, blessed are they who shall…be baptized, for they shall…receive a remission of their sins…Behold, baptism is unto repentance to the fulfilling of the commandments unto the remission of sins.” (3 Nephi 12:2; Moroni 8:11, The Book of Mormon)

In the first quote from "Doctrine and Covenants," Smith teaches that baptism follows "remission of sins." Good works and remission of sins creates the condition whereby someone is able to receive baptism. In the second quote from The Book of Mormon, baptism comes before remission of sins. Here, remission of sins can happen precisely because someone is baptized. This is just one of many contradictions that can be found in their doctrine and practices.

Along with baptism, a Mormon must try to rise "step by step in the scale of progress, in the school of advancement" by following the commandments and therefore perfecting oneself. The hope is to do this in life and in heaven until one becomes a "god." So their ultimate hope is to earn their way into godhood.

And what is "heaven" for the Mormon? Mormons believe in a resurrection of all men and women into a three-fold heaven. In the sense that they believe everyone will be going to heaven, they are universalistic. But, they believe in a segmented heaven. The three levels of heaven are "telestial," "terrestrial," and "celestial."

The “telestial” level is for "most adults." If you have ignored your spiritual life and lived as the world does, then this level is for you. The next level, called “terrestrial,” is reserved for Christians who have not accepted the Mormon message, Mormons who haven't lived up to their church requirements, and people of other religions who are faithful but have rejected Mormonism. The “celestial” level is reserved for faithful Mormons only and is itself divided into three levels. If one attains the highest of these three levels within the celestial level, one can become a god of one's own kingdom.

Once again, it is clear that Mormon faith and practice is different than Christian faith and practice. Mormons use words like "salvation," "grace," "baptism" and "heaven" but the definition of these words in the Mormon church is much different than how Christians define them. They believe in a universalistic salvation to a heaven that divides people based on their works and their acceptance of Mormonism. Faith in the saving grace offered to us by the blood of Christ is not enough for the Mormon. Baptism and "works righteousness" are prerequisites to being saved.

This is just the kind of "gospel" that Paul warned about when he wrote to the Galatians:
"I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!" (Gal. 1:6-9)

These are strong words from Paul, but we need to hear them when it comes to Mormonism.


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