With Christ at the center of our church and belief system, Mormons share many beliefs with our fellow Christians. Even still, there are several key doctrines that have been received through prophetic revelation that enhance and expand our knowledge of the gospel. Here are five to consider:
Myth #1: Mormons Are Not Christians
Myth #2: Mormon Men Have Many Wives
Myth #3: Mormons Reject The Bible
Myth #4: Mormonism Is A Cult
Myth #5: Mormons Believe They Can Earn Salvation Through Good Works
Unfortunately, this is a myth mainly perpetuated by other Christians who either don’t fully understand our doctrine, or who interpret some of the key differences in doctrinal beliefs as “non-Christian” simply because those beliefs differ from their own.
In reality, Jesus Christ is at the epicenter of everything the church stands for; from its name (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) to every doctrine pertaining to salvation.
Ask key tenets of our faith, we believe:
Indeed, by the standards set by other Christian churches, Mormons qualify to “be saved” without qualification.
Why then, are many people so adamant that we be classified outside of Christianity?
It mainly has to do with a prejudice against additional doctrines that have been revealed through modern-day prophets about salvation, Jesus Christ, the nature of God, scripture, priesthood authority, and so forth. While some of these differences are substantial—and oftentimes jarring to lifelong Protestants—they are all in harmony with both scripture and modern revelation.
One other possible genesis of the “not Christian” myth is the fact that Mormons do not put crosses on their chapels, and indeed, do not feature crosses anywhere in the religion—which is true. What is misunderstood is the reason WHY we don’t feature crosses. We believe that the Atonement of Jesus Christ included his suffering for our sins in the Garden of Gethsemane, his crucifixion, and his subsequent resurrection. While His death on the cross was important, we choose to emphasize the living Jesus Christ—the resurrected Jesus Christ that gives life to us all.
To be perfectly clear on our position, please read and pray about the following testimony of Jesus Christ from a living Apostle, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. While doing so, imagine it being said by any other Christian leader—or even a good Christian friend of yours—and decide if it sounds like the testimony of a true Christian or not:
“Now, to anyone within the sound of my voice who has wondered regarding our Christianity, I bear this witness. I testify that Jesus Christ is the literal, living Son of our literal, living God.
This Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer who, under the guidance of the Father, was the Creator of heaven and earth and all things that in them are. I bear witness that He was born of a virgin mother, that in His lifetime He performed mighty miracles observed by legions of His disciples and by His enemies as well.
I testify that He had power over death because He was divine but that He willingly subjected Himself to death for our sake because for a period of time He was also mortal.
I declare that in His willing submission to death He took upon Himself the sins of the world, paying an infinite price for every sorrow and sickness, every heartache and unhappiness from Adam to the end of the world.
In doing so He conquered both the grave physically and hell spiritually and set the human family free. I bear witness that He was literally resurrected from the tomb and, after ascending to His Father to complete the process of that Resurrection, He appeared, repeatedly, to hundreds of disciples in the Old World and in the New.
I know He is the Holy One of Israel, the Messiah who will one day come again in final glory, to reign on earth as Lord of lords and King of kings. I know that there is no other name given under heaven whereby a man can be saved and that only by relying wholly upon His merits, mercy, and everlasting grace can we gain eternal life.”
Mormons do not practice polygamy, but the myth exists and persists because plural marriage was practiced within the church in the mid- to late-1800’s… and some high profile polygamists who are not affiliated with our church continue to erroneously be called “Mormons” by the media and entertainment industry.
We believe that The Lord’s law of marriage is monogamy unless he commands otherwise to help establish the house of Israel. At various times throughout history, plural marriage has been commanded of the Lord. Many ancient prophets practiced it, including Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon. At other times, the Lord has commanded otherwise.
When the Lord restored His church through the prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord commanded the prophet and some close to him to practice plural marriage. The practice was regulated by the church, and those entering into it had to be authorized and sealed by the priesthood.
The United States outlawed polygamy in the mid 1800’s, and put tremendous pressure on the church do discontinue the practice. President of the Church Wilford Woodruff took the matter to the Lord, and was shown a vision of what would happen if the church were to disobey the law and continue to practice polygamy: the temples would have been taken out of the hands of the church, the leaders would have been incarcerated, and the church would have been significantly debilitated. In response, in 1890, President Woodruff issued a Manifesto pledging his intention to submit to the laws, and to make it a policy of the church to do the same.
Since then, there have been some apostates who have continued to practice polygamy, even though it is strictly prohibited by both civil law and the laws of the church. Some of these individuals have received notoriety in the media, but they are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and their actions and beliefs are not representative of the church.
In summary, Mormons do have a polygamous past that we believe was commanded and sanctioned by the Lord. Many families lived peaceful and happy polygamous lives at a time when the fledgling church was building a foundation in Utah and strengthening its roots. Now that the practice has been abandoned for over 125 years, there is no polygamy in the church whatsoever… although the myth does still persist.
Many people assume that because we believe in the Book of Mormon as sacred scripture, that Mormons must then reject the Bible as the word of God. Nothing could be further from the truth.
While it is true that we have additional scriptures, we believe the Bible is the word of God, and read it regularly and include it in our “standard works” of scriptures. It is one of the pillars of our faith, and a powerful witness of the Savior and of Christ’s ongoing influence in the lives of those who worship and follow Him. The more we read and study the Bible and its teachings, the more clearly we see the doctrinal underpinnings of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.
Those who join this Church do not give up their faith in the Bible—they strengthen it. The Book of Mormon does not dilute nor diminish nor de-emphasize the Bible. On the contrary, it expands, extends, and exalts it. The Book of Mormon testifies of the Bible, and both testify of Christ. (Ballard, 4/07, The Miracle of the Holy Bible)
We used to hear this one a lot, and it still pops up on a fairly regular basis. Most Mormons’ reaction to the accusation of being members of a cult is to immediately wonder what a cult is. The dictionary says a cult is “a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.”
But as far as we (and most people!) are concerned, there is nothing strange or sinister about typical Mormon behavior—going to church, reading the scriptures, praying, loving our families, serving one another, and so forth. In fact, anyone who will simply show up to a typical Sunday service at a Mormon church will see that everything is just about what you would expect at a traditional church.
One thing that some might consider strange is the Mormon temple. There are almost 200 temples worldwide; these are special buildings that worthy church members enter periodically to receive special ordinances that we consider sacred and essential. Temples are not used for weekly congregational church services (in fact, they’re closed on Sundays), and after they are dedicated, non-members are not allowed inside at all.
This leads some to call temples “secret,” when in fact, we consider them “sacred.” There is no mystery or hiding what goes on inside—all Mormon temples are opened to the public for tours after they are built (or heavily remodeled) but prior to being dedicated.
One of the most recent Mormon temples to be dedicated was the Philadelphia Temple; over 100,000 people toured it during an extended open house. Click here to for a video presentation that shows both the inside and outside of the building—it is stunning! Southlake Mormons members generally attend the Dallas Texas Temple, which was dedicated in 1984.
This myth is probably based on observations that Mormons do in fact try to live good, clean lives and follow the commandments. We don’t drink or smoke. We pay a full 10% tithe. We believe that sex outside of marriage is wrong. We render service as much as possible. And a whole host of other “good works” are encouraged. We even attend church for three hours each Sunday!
But we engage in good works as a byproduct of our devotion to Jesus Christ—not as a means to “save ourselves.” Like other Christians, we recognize that salvation is possible only through the grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon affirms this in many places (Moroni 6:4, Alma 22:14, 2 Nephi 31:19), as does the Bible.
But part of the confusion on this issue also stems from a difference in belief about what the afterlife holds. Many Christians believe in binary Heaven or Hell situation, where those who believe in Jesus Christ are saved (go to Heaven) and those who don’t have faith in Jesus Christ are separated eternally from God (go to Hell).
First of all, we believe that those who do not have a testimony of Jesus Christ when they die—whether due to lack of exposure, lack of interest… or even outright rejection—will still have opportunities after death to learn about Jesus Christ, then accept or reject that knowledge. Much of the work we do in the temples is proxy ordinance work that allows those who have passed on to enjoy the blessings of the gospel if they so choose.
We also believe that there are multiple kingdoms of glory available to mankind based on the level of faith and devotion they develop in Jesus Christ. We believe there are three kingdoms: Telestial (lowest), Terrestrial (middle), and Celestial (highest), with the highest kingdom being reserved for those who have fully accepted Jesus Christ, received the necessary ordinances, and valiantly followed his will. These are they who shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever.
From the Mormon perspective, “doing good things” is not a points system whereby one “earns” the highest level of exaltation. Doing good things goes beyond just keeping the commandments (lower law), and requires each person to develop to the ability to hear and obey the Spirit of Jesus Christ (higher law). This leads the humble follower of Christ to do whatsoever things the Lord directs—big and small—and receive “grace for grace.”
We boldly proclaim that the highest level of exaltation—the Celestial Kingdom—is God’s greatest reward to the human family, and is available to anyone and everyone who humbly takes the Spirit as their guide, repents of their sins, and is determined to serve Him at all hazards.