Have you seen the film, The Matrix, yet? You really should. I am not a science fiction fan but found it a great action movie with stunning effects and a remarkable plot. It is set in a post-holocaust world, and the Matrix is a computer generated world laid over the real world to give the illusion that all is normal and life goes on when, in reality, the world has been destroyed and people are being manipulated by machines. Things, in other words, are not what they seem.
There is a parallel here with Mormonism. This is illustrated by a statement made by Gordon B Hinckley, current Mormon president, on April 3rd 1999 at the Mormon General Conference:
“I am pleased to report that the Church is better known and better understood. Generally the media have been kind to us. They have dealt honestly with us. There are exceptions, of course, and this we regret. The old images of the past continue to be dragged forth by those who deal in sensationalism and exploitation.” – (reported in May 1999 Ensign magazine. Note that they are not “false” images but “old” images).
Mormonism has been pursuing respectability and acceptance for some time now, and there has been a concerted effort to impose a matrix, or a pre-formed image (one definition of matrix is, a mould in which a type, die etc. is cast), over the top of those “old images of the past.” The church is remarkably successful at this and our concern is that an increasing number of people are joining because of the image and only later discovering the reality underneath. Many ministries have expressed this concern and it is generally recognised that underneath the Mormon Matrix beats the life of a very different world. What is the image that the Mormon Church seeks to project today? What are people seeing and what is behind this Matrix?
Firstly there seems to be an overwhelming concern amongst Mormons to be regarded as Christians. In the April 1998 General Conference Gordon B Hinckley observed,
“there are some of other faiths who do not regard us as Christians.”
Speaking in February 1998 Boyd K Packer, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, gave a message
“… for those who teach and write and produce films which claim that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a Christian church and that we, the members, are not Christians.” – (reported in Speaking Today, April 1998 Ensign magazine).
Official publicity issued to the media for the opening of the Preston, England temple in May 1998 stated:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian denomination, wholly committed to the New Testament account of the birth, life, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of mankind.” – (Introductory Media Pack).
These all indicate that the Mormon hierarchy are anxious that Mormons be seen as Christians amongst other Christians, their church as another Christian church, their creed, like many another, simply an expression of differences on secondary things whilst holding to the same essential truths – just like other Christians. But what is their traditional attitude to these churches with which they are now so anxious to be identified? What is the “old image?”
“I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong…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 1:19)
“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)
John Taylor, third president of the church said:
“We talk about Christianity, but it is a perfect pack of nonsense…Myself and hundreds of the Elders around me have seen its pomp, parade, and glory; and what is it? It is a sounding brass and a tinkling symbol [sic]; it is as corrupt as hell and the Devil could not invent a better engine to spread his work.” – (Journal of Discourses, vol.6, p.167)
Secondly, although they officially declare a commitment to the Bible, in reality they do not trust it because, according to Mormonism this great and abominable church, to which you and I belong, has corrupted the Bible:
“For behold they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.” – (1 Nephi 13:26-27)
The 8th Article of Faith of the church states:
“We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.” (Emphasis added)
In fact the Bible is the only Mormon “standard work” which is not accepted as infallible. Whilst the Book of Mormon is accepted as the infallible book of the restoration, the Bible is seen as the corrupt book of the apostasy, its use limited to those proof texts that can be lifted to ‘prove’ the Mormon creed.
Thirdly, although professing faith in the biblical Jesus, from birth to death and resurrection, they deny key Bible teachings about Jesus.
The Bible states that Mary “was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit,” and “what was conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit,” and that she remained a virgin until Jesus’ birth, for “[Joseph] had no union with her until she gave birth to a son.” – (Matthew 1:18, 20, 25)
Mormonism, however, teaches that Jesus was conceived by literal, physical sexual intercourse between God and Mary. Brigham Young, second president of the church stated:
“The Only Begotten of the Father. (Moses 5:9). These name titles all signify that our Lord is the only Son of the father in the flesh. Each of the words is to be understood literally. Only means only; Begotten means begotten; and Son means son. Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers.” -(Journal of Discourses, vol.4, p 218)
Young also stated:
“Now remember from this time forth, and forever, that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost.” – (Journal of Discourses, vol.1, p.51)
The Bible speaks of “God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness” (Ro.5:17), and also refers to (Ro.4:24), further stating,
“us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead”
“that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We therefore implore you, as Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us. We implore you, on Christ’s behalf: be reconciled to God. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor.5:19-21)
Mormonism, however, teaches the insufficiency of Christ’s atonement:
“Joseph Smith taught that there were certain sins so grievous that man may commit, that they will place the transgressors beyond the power of the atonement of Christ. If these offences are committed, then the blood of Christ will not cleanse them from their sins even though they repent. Therefore their only hope is to have their own blood shed to atone, as far as possible, in their behalf. “- (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vol.1, p.135)
In the Bible Jesus made firm and solemn promises concerning His commitment to his church.
He promised that, “when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth,” (John 16:13) and “I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” (Matt.16:18)
Mormonism, however, is based on the false idea that there was a ‘Great Apostasy,’ or complete falling away from truth shortly after the death of the Twelve Apostles; that the Spirit abandoned the early Christians; that the gates of hell did prevail; and that for nearly two thousand years, until the advent of Joseph Smith, all churches were:
“… wrong… 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.”
“… behold they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men.” – (1 Nephi 13:26-27)
Speaking at the April 1999 General Conference, James E Faust, of the First Presidency said,
“We stand on the brink of the next century. From this vantage point, we need to remember that the most significant events in the last 2,000 years…were the Savior’s Atonement and the restoration of the gospel… These two singular events will continue to be of transcendent importance to mankind as we move forward in time. The past, present, and future pivot on these marvelous divine interventions.”
Here is the true message of Mormonism, the ministry and work of Jesus and that of Joseph parallel and equal in being the most significant pivotal events, and of transcendent importance in the history of mankind. We have been criticised before for claiming that Joseph is as important as Jesus in the Mormon world view. In the doublespeak of Mormonism they have claimed that their faith is Christ-centred, they have projected the image of Christian orthodoxy, whilst at the same time believing that Jesus did not keep his promises of John 16:13 and Matthew 16:18; that Jesus’ work on the cross is inadequate, that God’s word in the Bible is insufficient for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16).
It would be wrong to imagine that the average Mormon can see behind the Matrix. The missionary at your door, your Mormon neighbour, or work mate, is not coming to you thinking “I must present my Joseph centred faith and present it as Christ centred. I must get my friend to dump his Bible in favour of the Book of Mormon.” They believe that what they have is the Christ-centred reality of scripture. That the little ‘doctrine’ they get from their Bible is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. If anything they believe that, far from having less than the truth, they have more truth through the restoration. They are victims of the Matrix, not its operators.
For those people who believe the illusion we want them to know that though the Matrix is an illusion, and the reality behind it a deception, there is a reality that brings freedom – freedom in Christ,
“To the Jews who had believed him Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” – (John 8:31-36)