LDS packaging often looks and sounds Christian. Here's how to
get beyond the surface and show Mormons the truth.
Last year more than 300,000 people worldwide were baptized as converts into
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). The LDS has one of the
most effective and efficient missionary programs of any religious group in the
world today, with 55,000 missionaries serving in 160 countries. Doubling since
1981, the LDS has a membership of more than 10 million worldwide with about
half of them in North America.
Growth [in LDS membership] in the United States is approximately 5 percent a
year, while overseas it increases at approximately 10 percent. In 1950 there
were only 1 million Latter-day Saints worldwide. Adherents now total
approximately 10 million, with forecasts of the number of Mormons worldwide to
exceed 250 million within the next century.
Thus, the LDS presents a major challenge to Christian churches, especially
since many LDS converts are from Christian church memberships.
The mainstay of Mormon growth is its missionary corps. Young men and women
spend up to two years sharing the gospel of Mormonism. Fifteen missionary
training centers dot the globe. The largest is in Provo, Utah.
Many Mormon missionaries were raised in LDS families and were exposed to the
teaching of Mormonism from infancy. The budding missionaries attended Mormon
Sunday school, and usually attended early morning "seminary" classes during
At the college level they learn about the great "apostasy" of Christianity,
the appearances of God, Jesus and other biblical figures to Joseph Smith. They
also learn about the distinctive views of Mormonism regarding God, Jesus and
At the missionary training centers, the young missionaries learn to cook,
wash, iron and do other household chores. Most important, they learn how to
present the claims of Mormonism in the most positive and attractive way
Once committed to a Mormon mission, missionaries have no contact with their
families except through letters and two phone calls a year, which can be made
on Christmas and Mother's Day. A Mormon missionary's time and energy is to be
spent zealously seeking converts to the LDS church.
Mormonism is built on the concept that a person must first be baptized by a
priesthood "holder" or an active male member of the church to achieve the
highest level of salvation. That level is the celestial kingdom. Mormonism
therefore practices proselytization, or the conversion of a person, not just to
faith in the Christ of Mormonism but to the Mormon church itself.
In 1950 there were only 1 million Latter-day Saints worldwide.
Adherents now total approximately 10 million, with forecasts of the number of
Mormons worldwide to exceed 250 million within the next
Mormons believe baptism by immersion and other acts are absolutely essential
for converts to become active participants in the LDS church so they may become
faithful and genuine followers of Jesus in this life.
Bible-based Christians believe that faith in Jesus alone saves. While true
believers are members of Christ's universal Body, the Church, they do not have
to join a particular denomination to be fully obedient followers of Christ.
On average, each Mormon missionary leads approximately six people each year
into the ranks of the Mormon Church. The church is working to increase its
number of missionaries. By 2005 to 2010, the Mormon hierarchy hopes to have one
hundred thousand Mormon missionaries active around the world.
The tactics of appealHow is it that
Christians develop an interest in the "fullness of the gospel" as offered by
the LDS church? First, Mormons appeal to people's interests in knowing more
about Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon, they assert, fills in many of the
important gaps in Christ's life_like his visit to the Western Hemisphere to the
tribes of the Nephites and Lamanites. Even though these claims are fallacious,
and contradict all that historians and anthropologists know about the Americas,
Mormon apologists strive to present a strong case for their interpretation of
A second approach often used by the missionaries is to appeal to people's
love for families. Mormons have expended enormous effort in building a
reputation for family values. Mormonism says that, if you are married in their
temples, then your children are sealed to you, and, if the whole family obeys
and serves the church, then they will spend eternity together.
This scenario sounds very attractive to many people. However, it is not
supported in the Bible. In heaven, Christ's church is married to Him; the
divine Groom is forever bonded to His bride, the Christian church, which
constitutes all people who have trusted in Him by faith (Rev. 21:9-27).
Mormonism also appeals to people by offering the possibility of helping
deceased relatives and friends. Mormonism claims that not only the recently
dead, but ancestors as far back as they can be traced, are able to be liberated
from spirit prison. The extensive genealogical studies of the LDS church are
based on their teachings that the dead can be evangelized. But here again,
Mormonism runs up against biblical teaching that tells us that "it is appointed
for men to die once, but after this the judgment." (Heb. 9:27 NKJV). Decision
time for the afterlife is in the present. There are no second chances for
salvation after death.
Another attraction to the LDS church is that [Mormon doctrine teaches] it is
the "one true church." After all, who would want to be a part of a false church
or incomplete fellowship of congregations.
The advocation and promotion of traditional Christian morality, albeit in
Mormon dress, is another point of attraction for non-Mormons. In a confusing
world where some Christian churches tolerate promiscuous and adulterous
relations and even homosexuality, Mormonism is an obviously conservative
alternative. Missionaries themselves project this image. Their clean-cut
personas with short hair, white shirts, and ties are recognized by all.
Mormonism claims that not only the recently dead, but ancestors
as far back as they can be traced, are able to be liberated from spirit
Once part of the organization, the succeeding generations of Mormons from
the families of converts learn the fine points of Mormon theology. These
doctrinal issues include exaltation to godhood, the rites and rituals of the
temple essential to perform for admission into the celestial kingdom, as well
as the unique position of the church regarding Jesus and proxy baptism for the
Generally, the claim of the LDS church to be the one true Church, the fact
that LDS baptism is essential for eternal progression, and questions raised
about the integrity of the Bible are not mentioned by the missionaries to
potential converts. Instead, cautious and encouraging comments are made about
God being our Heavenly Father, Jesus being our big brother, and families
staying together forever. By emphasizing these positive elements, Mormon
missionaries effectively lessen the possibility of rejection by potential
Public relations and financial resourcesThe
LDS church is not only an aggressive, proselytizing church, but it is also a
powerful economic machine. Mormonism teaches that tithing is essential to gain
the celestial kingdom. Tithing, therefore, is a work that contributes toward
achieving a higher level of salvation. Time magazine estimated that in 1996,
$5.2 billion in tithes flowed into Mormon church headquarters in Salt Lake
City, with $4.9 billion coming from American church members. Church authorities
in Salt Lake City direct the funds, helping to construct more than 300 chapels
or ward houses each year and several new temples. The missionary support
enterprise itself receives approximately $500 million dollars each year.
Mormons use high-powered investments to produce an empire of financial
enterprise. Recent estimates calculate that the LDS church produces $5.9
billion a year and contains more than $30 billion in assets. Apart from Mormon
temples and meeting houses, the Mormon empire owns 16 radio stations, one
television station, a daily Salt Lake City newspaper (Desert News), a book
company, and a large agricultural enterprise with one ranch outside of Orlando,
Florida, alone worth $858 million. It also owns and operates Utah's largest
department store chain (ZCMI). These commercial enterprises make Mormonism the
largest religious financial enterprise in the United States outside of the
Roman Catholic Church.
Public perceptionThe public image of the
church is fine-tuned to present the image of Mormonism as the best and most
complete form of Christianity.
While Mormonism tries to soften its critique of Christians, it more
emphatically seeks acceptance as a Christian religion. In 1982 additional words
were added to the Book of Mormon to give it the subtitle Another Testament of
Jesus Christ. The official logo of the church was altered as well in the early
1990s by making the name "Jesus Christ" three times larger than the words "The
Church of" and "Latter-day Saints."
Visitors to Temple Square in Salt Lake City over the last 20 years have
noted a dramatic shift in visitor displays. The emphasis has been taken off
Joseph Smith and the foundation of the Mormon church. Instead, the prominent
murals displayed in the visitors center are biblical paintings featuring the
person and work of Jesus Christ.
Mormons use high-powered investments to produce an empire of
financial enterprise. Recent estimates calculate that the LDS church produces
$5.9 billion a year and contains more than $30 billion in
Visitors are informed that the church emphasizes the person of Jesus Christ
and that Latter-day Saints are folks who have a true and living relationship
with Christ. At the same time church officials declare "We are Christians!" USA
Today promoted the headline "Christian but different," adding: "Members of the
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints say they are Christian but neither
Protestant nor Catholic."
Other public relations emphases within Mormonism include recent attempts to
discourage the use of the term "Mormon." Mormon was allegedly the compiler and
preserver of the Book of Mormon who delivered the "golden plates" to his son
Moroni who later revealed their location to Joseph Smith. The name Mormon has
stuck with the LDS church almost from its inception. Due to the negative
connotation of the word Mormon and its identification with anti-Christian
beliefs, now "Mormons urge use of formal name"--The Church of Jesus Christ of
Is the attempt to redesign the Mormon image working? Well, at least one
evangelical poll, the Barna Report, now shows that up to 26 percent of all
Mormons are genuinely born again. (The Mormon doctrine of baptism and the
subsequent laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Ghost are now
understood and interpreted by Mormons as the new birth.) Even former President
Jimmy Carter has declared that Mormons are Christian in spite of their
nonbiblical views of God, Jesus and salvation.
On the surface, Mormons sometimes look and sound Christian. Mormon leaders
have created a public relations campaign to promote the LDS church as
Christian, and they have a financial empire to support their efforts. For
people who are uninformed about what Mormonism really teaches and what Mormons
truly believe, the LDS campaign will continue to make a positive
The Bible calls on followers of the true Jesus Christ to judge righteously
(John 7:24). We are to draw conclusions that are accurate and based on facts.
All non-Mormons, especially orthodox Christians, should be fully aware of the
facts about Mormonism. Otherwise, they may be unable to respond adequately when
Mormons come knocking on their doors.
This article is excerpted from Mormonism Unmasked by Phil Roberts.
Published by Broadman & Holman, the book is available by calling the
Customer Service Center, 1-800-233-1123 or fax 615-251-5983.
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