Why Do Some People Say Mormonism is a Cult?
Is Mormonism a cult? This question was presented to Mormon Elder M. Russell Ballard, who is a member of the Quorum of the 12 apostles of the Mormon church, as the video above shows. Elder Ballard asserts that the Mormon church is a Christian church, who affirms what he refers to as the basics. Is the Mormon Church really a Christian church that has been misunderstood by people over the years, and is actually the true church? Or is it possible, that the teachings of Mormonism do in fact teach a different gospel about Jesus, deny the true nature of God, and deny other essential doctrines of Biblical Christianity? A person on either side of the argument should desire to know the truth.
As an apostle of the Mormon church, one can assume that M. Russell Ballard is an authority on church doctrines, is well versed in Mormon theology, and speaks with the permission of the Mormon Church on such matters.
So, the purpose of this post will be to compare what Elder Ballard said to what Mormonism teaches, and what the Bible says. If Mormonism is a Christian religion, and we are to search for truth, then we can conclude this is in an effort to find the truth of the matter, and it is right to take and compare the words of a Mormon apostle, to Mormon doctrine, and then the Bible. After all, the 2nd Prophet of the Mormon faith, Brigham Young said, "Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter-day Saints with it and see if it will stand the test" (Brigham Young, May 18, 1873, Journal of Discourses, vol. 16, p. 46.). And Mormonism also teaches that Mormon doctrine and the Bible are in harmony, not contradictory, and so we should easily find harmony between the two.
So let's examine the statements made in the video, compare them, and with an open mind, honestly seek truth.
In the first 16 seconds of the video, is of Mr. Ballard can be heard saying over and over again that the reason people call the Mormon church a cult is due to a lack of understanding, and a characterization of who they are.
So the first question to ask is this: Is it true that those who think of Mormonism as a cult simply misunderstand what Mormonism teaches, and have falsely characterized the teachings of Mormon doctrine as false? Is it possible that some have done this, simply repeating what others have said, without ever studying the matter out on their own? I am sure people have. However, is this the majority? I would say no. There are many people who have taken time to compare the Bible and the teachings of Mormonism and have come to their conclusion through study, and prayer. So while it certainly does happen, I would disagree that this is the reason why people would call Mormonism a cult. Let's continue.
At 30 seconds into the video, Mr. Ballard says he will start by explaining the common basis in which "all Christians" accept, which is this:
- Jesus is the Christ
- He is the Son of God
- He is our savior
- He is our redeemer
- And we love Him
To anyone who hears this, especially those who do not know the doctrines of Mormonism would say that what Mr. Ballard says here sounds very good, and have heard their Christians friends affirm these very truths! And yes, these are absolutely essentials, that is to say if one were to deny any of these very fundamental doctrines, you would not be left with Biblical Christianity, but would be left with something different altogether, something that presents a very different gospel. So, I would agree that these are in part, very essential doctrines of Christianity.
What Mr. Ballard does explain however, is the Mormon doctrines behind those statements, nor does he define the terms of the words he uses. One thing that you must do when you speak with anyone on this subject is define terms. Don't assume when you hear a Mormon friend say they love Heavenly Father, that they mean the same thing a Christian means when we praise our Father in Heaven. Once you realize this, you begin to understand why people do not call Mormonism a part of Christianity. Though Mormonism uses words that we would recognize as "Christian", they have given new definitions to those words. Mormon doctrine does indeed say that Jesus is the Christ. However, it does ALSO say that:
- Lucifer, who is the spirit brother of Jesus, and the son of Elohim (God the father), also had a plan of salvation, which was to force people to serve God. Jesus had a better plan, therefor His plan what chosen, however, Jesus could have had a worse plan, and NOT been the savior.(See Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 1:106).
- Gordon B.Hinckley, former Prophet of the church said himself that, "As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say." (Gordon Hinckley, "We look to Christ," Ensign (Conference Edition) May 2002, p.90)
- Mormonism teaches that the Christ was NOT perfect. "Even Christ himself was not perfect at first; he received not a fullness at first, but he received grace for grace, and he continued to receive more and more until he received a fullness". (Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 1986, p.68. Also see Doctrines and Covenants 93:12-14)
- In fact, one of the members of the Seventies said, "It is true that many of the Christian churches worship a different Jesus Christ than is worshiped by the Mormons or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints". (Bernard P. Brockbank, "The Living Christ," Ensign, Conference Edition, May 1977, p. 26)
Mr. Ballard then says Jesus is the Son of God. However Mormonism also teaches Jesus is NOT the ONLY son of God, but is the only begotten of God "in the flesh".
- LDS.ORG says, "Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God the Father in the flesh."
- Joseph Fielding Smith said, "We worship Elohim, the Father of Jesus Christ. We do not worship Adam and we do not pray to him. We are all his children through the flesh, but Elohim, the God we worship, is the Father of our spirits; and Jesus Christ, his first Begotten Son in the spirit creation and his Only Begotten Son in the flesh, is our Eldest Brother". (Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation 1:106).
- In fact, mormonism teaches that Lucifer, the devil himself, had a plan of salvation. Mormon seventy Milton R. Hunter says, "The appointment of Jesus to be the Savior of the world was contested by one of the other sons of God. He was called Lucifer, son of the morning. haughty, ambitious, and covetous of power and glory, this spirit-brother of Jesus desperately tried to become the Savior of mankind". (Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel through the Ages, p. 15)
- Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie had this to say, "Christ stands preeminent among all the spirit children of the Father. While yet in preexistence he became "like unto God" (Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah: The first coming of Christ, pp. 442-443).
- "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).
- “And Christ was born into the world as the literal Son of this Holy Being; he was born in the same personal, real, and literal sense that any mortal son is born to a mortal father. There is nothing figurative about his paternity; he was begotten, conceived and born in the normal and natural course of events,...Christ is the Son of Man, meaning that his Father (the Eternal God!) is a Holy Man.” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 742)
- "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost. He is the Son of the Eternal Father!" (President Ezra Taft Benson, Come Unto Christ, p. 4)
- "The man Joseph, the husband of Mary, did not, that we know of, have more than one wife, but Mary the wife of Joseph had another husband." (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, 11:268)
- The 12th president of Mormonism, Spencer W. Kimball writes in his book, “The Miracle of Forgiveness”, “And however powerful the saving grace of Christ, it brings exaltation to no man who does not comply with the works of the gospel.” (p. 207)
- In fact, Kimball had much more to say on the doctrine of salvation by grace alone. He writes, “One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation.” (Spencer W. Kimball, The Miracle of Forgiveness, p 206. See also the Book of Mormon student manual Religion 121 and 122, 1989, p. 36.)
- Perhaps, one of the most honest statements made on this doctrine comes through the combined work of Joseph Fielding McConkie, (son of former Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie), and Robert L. Millet. They write, “Indeed, it is only after a person has so performed a lifetime of works and faithfulness – only after he has come to deny himself of all ungodliness and every worldly lust – that the grace of God, that spiritual increment of power, is efficacious”. (Doctrinal Commentary on the Book of Mormon 1:295)
- 2nd Mormon Prophe, Brigham Young said, "How many Gods there are, I do not know, but there never was a time when there were not Gods and worlds, and when men were not passing through the same ordeals that we are passing through. That course has been from all eternity, and it is and will be so to all eternity". (Brigham Young, October 8, 1859, Journal of Discourses 7:333.)
- Claims the Bible is corrupted
- Claims the Bible is in need of restoration
- Claims to be more correct than the Bible, while yet containing false prophecies
- Claims to clarify scripture
- It teaches a deification of man
- Brings god down to the level of a common man
- Teaches a false gospel
- Proclaims a false Jesus
- Asserts itself as a polytheistic religion, and claims monotheistic Christianity has always been polytheistic
In his closing statements, Mr. Ballard feels he has answered why Mormonism is not a cult, and makes an assumption that now even if people do not accept Mormonism as truth, they now know that Mormonism is not a cult, and that they are basically just as "Christian" as anyone else in the world.
For Mr Ballard to assume this is not only false, it also seems deceptive. He should know better than most Mormons, the doctrines his church teaches, and if he does not, he has no business speaking about this topic, especially given his high position of authority in the Mormon church.
If Mr. Ballard would have differentiated between Mormon doctrines, and Biblical Christianity, and presented them as two different beliefs with vastly different doctrinal views of core doctrinal issues, I would not be as critical in my rebuttal to him. However, it is this type of deception that must be addressed and confronted. Since Mormon leaders have decided to change the meaning of beliefs, and definition of words, they have the responsibility to inform people of those changes. Sadly, they do not.
The truth is that Mormonism teaches:
- A plurality of gods
- It deifies man
- It is in error on the doctrine of man
- It is in error on the doctrine of God
- It is in error on the doctrine of sin
- It presents us with a false Christ who is not found in the Bible
I encourage you if you are a Christian to present this evidence to your Mormon friends, with gentleness, and respect, knowing that this is sensitive but also of eternal importance. And if you are a Mormon reading this please research for yourself, and compare these teachings to Biblical Christianity.
(Credit: In Their Own Words, A collection of Mormon quotations, compiled by Bill McKeever)