Out With the Old in With the New
Before 2018 most members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints would not have had a problem with being called Mormon. After all, they were advertising a film called Meet the Mormons, and a series of testimonies entitled: ‘I’m a Mormon’.
In 2018 President Russell Nelson, prophet of the Church, declared that they must no longer use or accept the name ‘Mormon’. He said: “
“The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will. In recent weeks, various Church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so. Additional information about this important matter will be made available in the coming months.”
“While the term “Mormon Church” has long been publicly applied to the Church as a nickname, it is not an authorized title, and the Church discourages its use. Thus, please avoid using the abbreviation “LDS” or the nickname “Mormon” as substitutes for the name of the Church, as in “Mormon Church,” “LDS Church,” or “Church of the Latter-day Saints.”
The church website was renamed: churchofjesuschrist.org
Understanding the Present by Visiting the Past
Mormonism cannot be understood without reference to its founder Joseph Smith.
“Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God, divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no middle ground.” (10th Prophet LDS Church, Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 1:188)
The official first vision account of the LDS church records what allegedly happened when a 15-year-old Joseph went into the woods to seek God:
“My object in going to inquire of the Lord, was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right—and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.’” (Joseph Smith History 1:18–19)
Smith was told that all the churches were wrong as all their creeds were an abomination and all their professors were corrupt. No wriggle room here.
The Book of Mormon, which was published some ten years after the alleged first vision, continues in a similar theme:
“The Angel …said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.” (1 Nephi 14:10)
From it’s earliest days Mormonism has been antagonistic towards mainstream Christianity, and when it’s first missionaries arrived here in the U.K. in 1837, they preached the great apostasy and the need for restoration. They, and they alone, were the true church.
The Old and The New
Many older Latter-day Saints, which of course includes all the church’s leadership, will still think in terms of black and white and believe that they alone are the true church. The younger members though, would be more reluctant to be so dogmatic. For example, Missionaries are less likely to give you a straight answer to a any question.
This is a ‘new’ Mormonism. One which appears less certain and more doctrinally confused. Mormon Missionaries are far more likely to say we are Christians just like you, than we are the true church which you must join. You will hear them say we love Jesus and Jesus is our Saviour, but as Dr Walter Martin said, our response should be ‘which Jesus’?
‘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 11:4)
We are Christians!
For many years now, the Mormons have sought to gain credibility amongst true Christians. The dropping of the name ‘Mormon’ so as to be called ‘The Church of Jesus Christ’ is, I believe, another step along that road.
This began as far back as 1984, when they added the subtitle ‘Another Testament of Jesus Christ’ to the Book of Mormon.
Unsuspecting Christians will allow Mormons to be involved in group community projects, and then have them in the joint photograph. The Mormon church will publish a picture of one of their leaders’ shaking hands with the Pope, or support popular ‘Christian’ projects like The Chosen, all of which gains them credibility amongst the naïve and ill-informed. Mormons want to be seen as sheep.
A History of Trying to Fit in.
Two of the most well-known examples of Mormons trying to fit are connected to Polygamy and to Racism.
A very early Mormon distinctive was polygamy. Their second prophet Brigham Young said:
‘Why do we believe in and practise polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord’s servants have always practiced it. ‘And is that religion popular in heaven?’ It is the only popular religion there, for this is the religion of Abraham, and, unless we do the works of Abraham, we are not Abraham’s seed and heirs according to the promise.’
(Brigham Young, July 6, 1862 Journal of Discourses 9:322)
‘The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter polygamy’ (Brigham Young, August 19, 1866, Journal of Discourses 11:269)
If what Brigham said was truly of the Lord, why did the Lord then change His mind? After pressure from the U.S. government, polygamy was dropped in 1890.
From it’s beginnings in 1830, Mormonism held that black skin was a punishment from God. This was still believed by Mormons in the 1960’s:
But in 1978 God changed His mind again, and black men were no longer seen as inferior and were suddenly allowed to hold the Mormon priesthood. This, of course, was nothing to do with the incredible pressure the church must have felt through the race riots in 1970s America.
In order to survive, groups and organisations believe they need to adapt to the ever-changing environment in which they find themselves. This is the Mormon Church.
The Evolving God of Mormonism
Mormon theology teaches that Heavenly Father is constantly learning, progressing and evolving. Therefore, Mormons are never on solid ground.
Confusion and shifting/contrary teachings are the norm within this group. This of course is far removed from the God revealed in the Bible. Our God is constant, solid and unchangeable.
“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.” (Malachi 3:6)
God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Numbers 23:19)
Because the Mormon God is ever learning, he is prone to change his mind and evolve with culture. This means Mormonism is prone to seek to ‘fit in’ with the world in which it finds itself.
History shows that Mormonism is likely to evolve further as the world changes. As society increasingly accepts sexual liberty, could the Mormon God decide that LGBT+ is now appropriate within the church? Could polygamy make a return?
Young Mormons increasingly find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Should they trust Joseph or Russell?
Extra problems come from their ability to surf the internet. There they find out about their own history, find out about what others believe, find out what they truly believe, and find true Christians seeking to tell them about the freedom found in the Biblical Jesus.
Why do they stay Mormon?
Mormonism is as much a culture as a cult. Because of this there is much to keep them in. Mormonism is very family orientated. To leave could upset/destroy the family unit.
Life is mapped out for young Mormons with a great deal of expectation. Become a Missionary, attend Brigham Young University, get married in the Temple, have lots of children, pay your tithe etc.
Like many who would leave a group wrapped up in culture, the cost can be great.
General Tips on reaching Mormons
- Where possible, use things that will help. Use a KJV; call God Heavenly Father; say LDS rather than Mormon
- Know what you believe and WHY you believe it.
- Ask questions for understanding rather than make statements.
- Focus on GRACE and FORGIVENESS found in Jesus alone.
- Don’t attack Joseph Smith/Prophets (Anti-Mormon)
- Pray for them and love them.
Video Testimony: Real Lives with Micah Wilder – The zealous Mormon missionary who realised he was wrong
Tract for Mormons: A Different Jesus – Tony Brown – 10ofThose.com