Key differences noted between Christian, Mormon doctrines
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (BP)??The Mormons, who call themselves the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter?day Saints, are a major cult but not a Christian church, said speakers during a conference on cults, Sept. 19?21, at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala.
James Walker, formerly was a fourth?generation Mormon and now president of Watchman Fellowship, elaborated on the differences in theology between Mormons and Christians: "The Mormon belief is that God was once a man. As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.
"That is radically different from what we believe," said Walker, a member of Fielder Road Baptist Church, Arlington, Texas.
Mormonism's founder was sharply critical of the orthodox Christian creeds of Christian history, Walker added.
"Joseph Smith, in his first vision ?? which is part of the Mormon Scriptures ?? teaches that the Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him that none of the churches were right and specifically that all of their creeds were not just misinterpreted (but) were an abomination in God's sight," Walker said. "We can agree with Mormons that we have a different view of God. ... We find their description of God to be foreign from what we believe."
Watchman Fellowship, a cult?watching group with offices in Birmingham and other cities, co?sponsored the conference along with Evangelical Ministries to New Religions, based in Birmingham, and Samford's Beeson Divinity School.
Norman Geisler, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary, Charlotte, N.C., told conferees that Mormonism's appeal may be traced in part to the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote of the "death of God," which has become widely assumed in much of the academic world.
"With the 'death of God' came the rebirth of the gods," said Geisler during one of the conference's plenary sessions, which were held at Shades Mountain Baptist Church in Birmingham. "Polytheism is growing like wildfire (and) is a rising religion in the world. It's a great push behind the cults."
Geisler and other speakers alluded to Mormonism's belief in many gods and in the doctrine that men may become gods.
"According to Mormonism, you cannot progress to become a god or a goddess unless you have a body of flesh and bone," said Dan Harting, director of Mount Carmel Outreach in Carmel, Ind.
Mormons use some of the same words and phrases employed by Christians, but their beliefs are quite different, Harting reminded.
"One of the most damaging things in any cult is the terminology difference," he declared. "They will use the same words that we use but pour totally different meanings into them."
Mormons and Christians would both agree with the statement ,"Jesus is the Son of God," but their beliefs about what "Son of God" actually means are sharply divergent, Harting said.
To illustrate his point, he recited the Mormon account of the birth of Jesus: "God was given his own planet. ... He lives on a planet near a star called Kolob. ... God's wife is called Mother in Heaven in Mormonism. God had sexual intercourse with her. She had a spirit baby in nine months. She populated this whole world. So far, that one woman has had 8?9 billion children. ...
"The first spirit baby born was Jesus. So (for a Mormon), Jesus Christ was the spirit offspring of a god and goddess. ...
"Is this the Jesus of the Bible? Good heavens, no."
Furthermore, Harting recounted, Jesus and Lucifer are brothers, according to Mormon theology.
Referring Christians to their own beliefs, Harting asked, "Why did Lucifer get thrown out of heaven? He wanted to make himself equal with God. He can't do that. What's the next best thing? He tries to bring God down to his level."
Cult missionaries also try to get on the same level with persons whom they seek to proselytize, Harting warned.
"They'll come to your door looking for someone who is a little bit ostracized, maybe a little too fat, maybe a little too skinny," he said. "They'll watch the newspapers, and they'll see a divorce. They'll say, 'Let's go over there, because that poor woman or man has got to be hurting.' They don't do it out of nastiness or meanness, but it's their inroad to try and get you out of your church."
A key Mormon strategy for gaining converts is to give prospects a copy of the Book of Mormon and then urge them to pray, Harting said.
"The book is the bait," he explained. "The missionaries ... will say, 'Take this book, and read it. If you don't want to read it, that's OK, but pray about it ?? and you're going to have this warm, wonderful feeling in your bosom, which is the Holy Ghost testifying to the truth of this book."
"So why shouldn't you pray about it?" Harting asked the conferees. "Is that a good test? No, folks, that's a terrible test. ... The man who trusts in his own heart is a fool, according to the Book of Proverbs."
Mormonism also minimizes the importance of Jesus' crucifixion, Harting said. According to Mormon theology, Jesus ?? before his incarnation ?? said, "I will go down (to the earth), and I will sweat blood in the garden of Gethsemane for their salvation ?? and then I'll also go to the cross," Harting said. "There's another mark of a cult; they hate the cross."
Too many Christians simply slam doors in the faces of Mormon missionaries, as well as those of other cults, Harting observed.
"If we don't witness to them, they're going to burn in hell," he warned. "Jesus talks more about hell in the Bible than he does about heaven. So, please, when your Mormon friends come to your door, don't be afraid to witness to them."
Watchman Fellowship maintains an Internet home page at www.watchman.org. Tape recordings of more than 30 workshops during the conference may be purchased by calling toll?free 1?888?871?2858 or e?mail, firstname.lastname@example.org.