Mormons consider theirs ‘the only true church,’ the rest mere ‘Creedal Christianity.’ Mormonism has historically sought to distinguish between historic Christianity and ‘the one true church.’ They have done this in a variety of ways, claiming to have restored apostles and prophets; to have restored temple worship; to have restored an open canon; to have restored priesthoods, challenging Christians, ‘Do you have these things? Their in the Bible.’

In more recent decades much has been made to distinguish in people’s minds between ‘the true church’ and what Mormons call, ‘creedal Christianity.’ What is creedal Christianity? Mormon apostle Jeffery R Holland, in an address to law students at Harvard University, explained:

‘We are not considered ‘Christian’ by some, I suppose, because we are not Fourth Century Christians, we are not Athanasian Christians, we are not creedal Christians of the brand that arose hundreds of years after Christ. No, when we speak of ‘restored Christianity’ we speak of the Church as it was, not as it became when great councils were called to debate and anguish over what it is they really believed. So if one means, Greek-influenced, council-convening, philosophy-flavored Christianity of post-apostolic times, then we’re not that kind of Christian. …’ (Read the full address here)

In a typically bombastic sermon in 1982 on the nature of God and our relationship with him, the late Mormon apostle Bruce R McConkie, said of ‘Creedal Christianity’:

‘The creeds of Christendom illustrate perfectly what Lucifer wants so-called Christian people to believe about Deity in order to be damned.

‘These creeds codify what Jeremiah calls the lies about God (see Jeremiah 16:19; 23: 14–32). They say he is unknown, uncreated, and incomprehensible. They say he is a spirit, without body, parts, or passions. They say he is everywhere and nowhere in particular present, that he fills the immensity of space and yet dwells in the hearts of men, and that he is an immaterial, incorporeal nothingness. They say he is one-god-in-three, and three-gods-in-one who neither hears, nor sees, nor speaks. Some even say he is dead, which he might as well be if their descriptions identify his being.

‘These concepts summarize the chief and greatest heresy of Christendom. Truly the most grievous and evil heresy ever imposed on an erring and wayward Christianity is their creedal concept about God and the Godhead! But none of this troubles us very much. God has revealed himself to us in this day even as he did to the prophets of old.’

‘Creedal Christians,’ Mormon apologists and leaders claim, are those misguided believers whose foundation is not the Christ of the New Testament, but the Christ of later Church Councils, creeds and confessions. Mormonism, on the other hand, is a ‘restoration’ of true biblical Christianity. You can read more here about the Mormon contempt for ‘Creedal Christians.’

Church Councils

Let’s first consider church councils. The first church council we know of is the Jerusalem Council, recorded for us in Acts 15. The occasion for the council was the arrival at Antioch of some men from Judea teaching the brothers, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ Acts 15:1

Paul and Barnabas are reported to have had ‘no small dissension and debate with them,’ after which, ‘Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and to the elders about this question.’ vv 2,3

When they came to Jerusalem they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose and said, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.’vv 4,5

Early Church Factions

A couple of things are worth pointing out here. First, there are factions in the early church; there was a ‘Pharisaic’ wing of the church, there was a Pauline/Gentile faction, teaching something very different to the Pharisee party. Many today think those were halcyon days, days that we can bring back if only we had apostles and prophets; Mormons think this.

Certainly, they had apostles and prophets in the first century, but have you read Paul’s letters to Corinth? This is hardly a Christian Idyll, apostles and prophets or not. In Galatians 2:11-21 we read of Paul’s public challenge to Peter, whose sympathies clearly lay with the Pharisee party. This idyll of one homogenous organisation so beloved of the cults is not to be found in the pages of the New Testament.

Creedal Christianity Challenging Error

Secondly, think what the Jerusalem Council was called to consider:

The apostles and elders were gathered together to consider this matter (the claims of the Pharisees and the circumcision party).’ Acts 15:6

Now think how this council proceeded:

And after there had been much debate, Peter stood up…’ v7

I have no doubt the Holy Spirit guided their deliberations, but nobody went into nearby woods to pray. No one came from the secret place claiming revelation on the matter at hand. Their deliberations revolved around what they already knew and understood from the Old Covenant, its promises, and the teachings of Jesus. Peter concludes his remarks:

Therefore, my judgement is that we should not trouble those Gentiles who turn to God…’ v19

The council was called because those of the Pharisee party insisted on imposing Moses on Gentiles coming to faith in Christ. Paul and Barnabas insisted this was wrong teaching, and the council was called to deliberate on this claim and counter-claim. Imagine that, taking counsel together to challenge error on the basis of established truth!


Now, briefly, consider Nicaea in the early 4th century. A presbyter named Arius and his party defended the idea Jesus was not God but was created by God. Athanasius and his party insisted Jesus was eternally begotten of the Father and therefore was God. Nicaea was an attempt to bring the whole church together to obtain consensus. All but two agreed to put their names to the conclusions of the council, summarised in a creed, the Nicene Creed. This sounds remarkably like the Jerusalem Council.

There were seven such councils in church history. None of them were convened because Christians had forgotten what they believed. Such councils are convened in response to an outside threat to the established faith and doctrine of the church. Does this sound familiar? There is a question, councils are called to clarify what is already known, and now we can better explain and defend the established position of the faith.

Creedal Christianity, Creeds, and Confessions

A creed is simply a confession of faith. The first creed is found in Romans 10:9

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.’ cf 1 Corinthians 12:3

Jesus is Lord,’ is an early church creed.

The word ‘creed’ comes from the Latin credo meaning ‘I believe.’ It is a short statement of faith, a concise statement of what is already believed from the Scripture. It is where we get the word ‘credence,’ a word we use today to say we give credence to something, we have reason to believe it is the case. It is where we get ‘credentials,’ described in the online etymology dictionary as:

“letters entitling the bearer to certain credit or confidence,” 1670s, from Medieval Latin credentialis, from credential “belief,” from Latin credere “to believe, trust”

Creeds are not conjecture, best guesses, but scriptural statements of faith put in systematic format. That is what the instructions from the Jerusalem Council were, a statement, a clarification of what was already established truth and practice. Peter says as much:

Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. Now, therefore…we believe we will be saved ’through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.’ Acts 15:7-11

A confession is simply a longer creed, in some protestant circles called a ‘doctrinal statement.’ Both are reformulations in creedal statements of what the written word of God teaches. So-called ‘Creedal Christianity’ is biblical Christianity, the creeds a formulation of Bible truth.

The Mormon Creed

Mormons have their own creed in the form of their Articles of Faith, 13 concise statements beginning with the words ‘We believe.’ There is credo right there. While Christian creeds are considered sub-scriptural, the Mormon Articles of Faith are canonised in the Doctrine and Covenants. Christian creeds are not Scripture but aids to understanding Scripture. They represent confessional Christianity. The Apostle’s Creed confesses:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of the saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.

Creeds, Confessions, and Continuity

Someone was in a discussion with a Mormon and faced the familiar Mormon challenge; either you can show continuity in your church from the first century, or there is need of a restoration; Mormonism claims to be a restorationist church. The Christian asked for help finding evidence of continuity. The answer was simple-the creeds.

Consider Paul’s last letter, written to Timothy. Paul is facing the prospect of martyrdom (2 Timothy 4:6-8) and is anxious he should pass on the most important counsel to his son in the faith, now in his church leadership role. He doesn’t mention apostles and prophets, correct church organisation, church polity. He is anxious for one thing:

You then, my child, be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of any witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.’ 2 Tmothy 2:1,2

Continuity in sound teaching was Paul’s priority, and that continuity is found in the creeds and confessions. I am a biblical Christian because I have inherited the creeds compiled by those who have gone before me, creeds that point me back to the Bible out of which they were formulated.

We need to understand these things if we are going to witness intelligently to the cults. We need to understand them if we are going to appreciate and fully enter into our own Christian heritage, in our great inheritance in the saints that have gone before. Hebrews 11


There is a very helpful article looking at all the creeds at