When I first learned of the Latter-Day Saints I assumed they were just like other churches I had attended and that denominations didn't matter. I had heard many negative things about the Church.
I was baptized and joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints about 45 years ago. Over these years I have studied the doctrines we teach and attended other churches and studied their doctrines to better understand them.
At a point, I went from being close-minded and mocking to deciding to listen, study their teachings and attend church. There was nothing strange about the Church or its beliefs. They were more biblical and talked about Jesus Christ as much or more than so-called churches professing "biblical Christianity".
Is Latter-Day Saint theology Christian or not? If so on what basis and if not on what basis? Is Joseph Smith a prophet or not? Is the Book of Mormon another testament of Jesus Christ or not?
I find that a simple doctrinal understanding taught in the Book of Mormon demonstrates how classical trinitarian theologians teach the misguided philosophies of men. The Restored Gospel and Church of Jesus Christ make the stronger case for Christ than so-called evangelical Christians do.
The Fall of Adam and Eve
How has traditional Christian philosophy explained one of the better-known stories in the Bible? The Book of Mormon gives doctrinal clarity to it and demonstrates Joseph Smith's calling as a witness for Jesus Christ that the scholars of Christendom have completely overlooked.
The Fall of Adam, as it is called is an event that often gets discussed on a superficial level. Agnostics mock and make jokes about it. Orthodox Bible scholars, theologians, and philosophers heap the blame for suffering and evil on Adam and Eve for heeding the devil.
If a person claims to read the Bible or be interested in theology and doesn't understand what happened in Genesis, how are they to understand the rest of the Bible?
The essays and theological positions of mainstream Christian scholars are available to read on the internet. I have included one example at the end of this essay.
Many if not most theological scholars agree that Adam and Eve did something that God told them not to do. Sin and death were the results of their choice. What then are the differences in how this event in Genesis is understood?
Trinitarian or mainstream scholars teach that God had never before created a world with people on it. They teach that his plan was for Adam and Eve to dwell in the Garden of Eden forever and that the fall was a negative event.
If the fall was negative and not intended to happen then why did God establish the means for the fall? Why have sin, and death enter the world and for the man and woman to be cast out of the garden?
Many of the considerations of philosophers and theologians are speculative declarations with no meaningful insight at all. They would have Bible believers think that God created the very large world and infinite stars and planets only for two people to inhabit a small garden to keep him company for all of eternity. This is the implication of mainstream classical Bible scholarship.
Adam and Eve were innocent before the fall and did not procreate until after. This is evident in their innocence of not being aware that they were naked and the fact that they did not have children before the fall. After the fall the pronouncement of childbearing was placed upon Mother Eve.
Why was the fall necessary and planned and not a sinful rebellion?
The obvious answer should be that if there hadn't been a fall there wouldn't be a Christ. In fact, there wouldn't be any Christians at all or a Bible for that matter? I personally do not understand how this is not plain to any logical thinking, Bible reading person.
Without the fall there would be no need for an atonement or payment for sin and therefore no suffering on the cross or in the Garden. We would not have Jesus's teachings and acts of healing if there had been no fall. There would have been no empty tomb. We would not have been born and there would have been no people to save.
Wouldn't the viewpoint that the fall was a bad thing, or that it was not God's plan actually be the non-Christian perspective? I see a certain irony in the erroneous conclusions of mainstream Christian scholars and philosophers. They don't want to accept the fact that a young boy in upstate New York corrected this gross misunderstanding that had been established by them for millennia.
We are here like we are because God wants us to be. Mortality as a stage of learning with all its hardships is part of who God is. The fall was necessary and is a part of God's eternal plan for the progress of his children.
The world was created and so was mankind to implement the gospel of Jesus Christ so that we could have eternal freedoms. Why do some assume that being captive in a garden paradise, living in eternal ignorance and innocence with the devil forever bothering us would be a preferred state of existence?
Because orthodox professors of theology are interpreting scripture from a philosophical viewpoint using their own wisdom they miss the essential concept that the fall was necessary for God's plan of salvation to take effect.
What is the reason that Christianity exists at all? Does it simply exist because there was an event that occurred called "The Fall"? Did the principles of Christianity exist before that event occurred? Not according to mainstream Christian theologians and Bible scholars. Creedal Trinitarian doctrines teach that the Trinity made up the whole concept of biblical Christianity starting about 6000 years ago and then waited 4000 years to do something about it.
Who caused the fall, Satan or God? Trinitarians would have you believe that Satan was responsible. Yet it God who set the stage for the fall to take place by giving Adam and Eve a choice and allowing Satan to be there to tempt them.
When Adam and Eve partook from the "tree of Knowledge", the Gods (plural) said that man had become like one of them, to know good and evil. The ground was cursed, but it was cursed for their sake, to bless them and teach them to work. It is especially important to notice that God did not say that man had become evil like the devil because of what they had done.
The commandment to not eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge no longer exists on this planet. It was there for one reason only and specific to them. It was God’s way of making the fall Adam's choice and not being forced upon him or Eve.
This event was the means for implementing moral agency, not just for the salvation of God's children but for their exaltation. The opposition that we experience in life is necessary for us to have the agency to make choices and be accountable for them. It is in every sense of the word a testing period.
Eve did what God wanted her to do, that was to open the door to a greater more abundant life with the ongoing opportunity for creation and family life. Adam recognized this as well and followed Eve. According to trinitarian scholars, Adam and Eve should still be in the garden being tempted to eat from the one "bad tree".
If you don't believe our current state of existence is God's will then you are implying that all of existence is the result of Satan's influence and the rebellion of two people and that God is just fighting back with a plan B since man rejected plan A.
God's eternal plan required mortality, death and a resurrection to a glorified incorruptible body. Only Jesus Christ could provide this through his atonement and the power it would give to mankind. Adam and Eve did not have access to the full measure of their potential until after the fall. The new body they and we receive after the resurrection will not be corruptible and will never die again under any circumstance.
The life they enjoyed in the Garden was a static, limited life with no growth or increase. They knew no real joy because they had no sorrow. The immortal body that Adam and Eve had in the Garden was obviously corruptible as death was able to come upon them.
Who then would doubt that God wanted the fall to happen or that Adam and Eve were this world's first Christians? God did reveal the full plan of salvation to them and they rejoiced in the hope of salvation through their Savior.
LDS believe that God created the world because he loved us first because we were his literal children. We lived with him in a pre-earth time period. Trinitarians believe that God created the earth, then man and then imputed a love to the creature that man was.
You, my friend, may have been told that the fall was not a good thing, that it was a rebellious act. This is not congruent reasoning and such thinking makes Jesus a backup plan and a reaction to the fall.
This reasoning puts Satan as the instigator of what can only be considered a plan B by God to deal with what mainstream scholars seem to think was an unintended consequence. Was the fall an intended consequence or not? Clearly, it could not have been.
I am aware that Christian apologists teach that God knew they would fall, which he must if he is all knowing, however, the idea that the fall was a bad thing is still a contradictory position to redemption by Jesus Christ. Teaching that the fall was a mistake or a bad thing or a rebellion that wasn't planned is the anti-Christian position.
I believe and it seems obvious enough that the fall of Adam and the atonement of Jesus Christ go together. We believe that Jesus was always the plan to save mankind and give us eternal life. He always was and is the main plan for our redemption. Trinitarian scholars with their biblical debates cannot explain why the fall was necessary but the Book of Mormon does.
The fall hinges on the concept of moral agency and so does accepting Jesus as our Savior. Trinitarian scholars say that God gave man free will so he wouldn’t be a robot. Based on this statement, free will is still something that God gave to man.
These scholars say God is the "first cause" of all things and that if not he would not be sovereign over all things and if he is not sovereign then he cannot be all powerful. This isn't true, it is their philosophical conclusion.
If God is the first cause of man’s will then he is also the cause of man's choices and sins. This is the logic of Christian scholar-theologians. They like to use the analogy of a robot. This is how their argument goes. A robot was created, it was given free will and now it is supposedly not a robot because it has a will and can choose to love or disobey God? This imputed will can now bring about the condemnation of the soul of the individual. Is this somehow a gift from God?
Biblical apologists in defense of God not being the cause of evil created the free will argument, yet they subscribe to the first cause argument and absolute sovereignty of God. These are incongruent positions with conflicting logic.
The doctrine of moral agency in LDS theology is different from free will and does away with these contradictions. We are eternal beings, with our own will. God did not create it. His intelligence
Our spirit is here in a mortal body as part of a learning process that God governs over with his powers of creation. It is God's will that we are here in a mortal state to learn to subject our will to his will. This is a time of preparation for a glorious eternal life with our families.
Latter-Day Saints believe that Jesus’ atonement was eternal and infinite and extends through all of creation. It was the only way to satisfy the demands of eternal justice. The church doesn't criticize any of the acts of faith of Christian believers but invites all to hear the message of the Living Christ.
The Bible teaches that Satan was a liar from the beginning. He was and is the father of lies and fought against Christ. In the book of John, we understand that Jesus was with God in the beginning and he was God. It should give pause and cause one to ask why lies and misinformation are used to discredit The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as a Christian church.
The Bible doesn’t say God created Satan and gave him free will so he could become evil. Philosophers imputed this idea to cover the theological contradictions that a good and sovereign God would create a place where the existence of evil, injustice, and suffering could be so prevalent.
Evil is an inherent possibility and exists eternally along with the good, otherwise, God would be its creator. There would be no good if there were no evil and there would be no evil if there were no eternally existing laws through which God is sovereign. He cannot be holy by designating himself as holy. He is holy because he has overcome evil and upholds all eternal law.
We teach that Jesus was the only way to God, that he did have to die and Jesus agreed to do it before the world was ever created. Adam and Eve too were chosen before to be our first parents. This was the only way the Father could save us and offer a glorious opportunity of exaltation to his children, those willing to follow Christ and make eternal covenants. It is based on eternal principles and laws. It requires that we be moral agents in a fallen world.
The mainstream philosopher-theologians claim that the Trinity made up the laws, thus forcing people to suffer on earth. It also made up the punishments and created a hell for those creatures that it created out of nothing. Most of which will suffer forever in hell.
The real reason for creation was and is to let us have a learning experience. It requires that we have the means to be liberated from the negative consequences of our sins and death because of our mistakes. Jesus overcame death and sin so we could rise with him. Our earthly suffering and the injustice inflicted by evil people ends at death. It is temporary in that respect.
When we accept Christ his mercy becomes available to us and we won’t have to suffer the full consequences our sins and we can become free beings in eternity. By living his gospel we also find joy in the journey of life, understanding our divine purpose for living, and the nature of our relationship to God.
The reason Jesus could satisfy the demands of eternal justice is that he lived a perfect life. He was not subject to the laws by which sin results because of his perfect obedience. This does not refer to the law of Moses but to eternal laws. All those that receive the gift of his atonement likewise attain that perfection in him.
The Bible teaches that Jesus was foreordained to be the Savior of the world. His Godhood allowed him to give up his life. It was not taken from him. The condition of his mercy is that is we that repent of our sins. Faith in him is what causes us to do this.
Any that have implied that I don’t believe in the Jesus of the Bible that lived on this earth, that he is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, my Savior and Redeemer, and who is also the living resurrected Christ is from a source other than me. That source whatever it may be is a faulty one.
Prophets of God have been called again to preside over the Savior's church. They are the shepherds that lead the flock of Christ. They are chosen by him and have His authority and receive divine guidance for His Church. I invite you to learn more and to know that you are literally a child of God your Eternal Father.
The Latter-Day Saint Story
The term Mormon was intended as a negative connotation used by our early critics. Mormon, however, was a great prophet-leader in the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ so we embraced it for its association.
The actual name of the church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have noticed that many churches that declare Christianity don't even reference the Savior in their names. Many use a name for brand marketing purposes or the name of their founder.
Joseph Smith's search for truth led him to pray for guidance as to which church was the Lord's and which he should join. In the 1820's when he was a young man, just like today, there were a diversity of doctrines from biblical religious teachers that were confusing to him. If there is a universal truth about God, shouldn't there be a church and a faith that represents him and unites all true believers? There was when Jesus was on the earth.
He said God, the Father and Christ appeared to him as an answer to his prayer. He said they were individual beings and that they were glorious beyond description. It was an extraordinary declaration for a boy his age. It brought him criticism and defamation. The pastors of the churches he attended told him this experience was not from God and immediately sought to downplay and discredit his testimony of what happened.
Even though he was only 14 years old, many things took place after that initial experience. He didn't claim to start a new church or reform an old one. Prior to his experience, many reformations had taken place as Christians, biblical scholars and religious professors disagreed with each other. Joseph Smith was told not to join any of the existing churches.
Joseph was told that he would be taught and prepared to restore the authority and organization of the original church of Jesus Christ and establish it again on the earth. He was called to become a prophet of God, an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. His calling is to prepare the world for the second coming of the Savior.
Because Joseph Smith's testimony and the evidence of his prophetic ministry are substantial and convincing in their own right they are attested to by many. While his adversaries have not disproven in any way his claims, they have sought and still seek to discredit him using various forms of misinformation.
Narratives have been developed by his critics regarding events in his life that they spin to demonstrate, at least in their minds that he was a false prophet. If you are not willing to investigate his message from original sources you could be misled by the falsehoods that exist in the volumes of biased information disseminated by his critics.
Shortly after his visit from God, one of the messengers that visited him told him in a prophecy that his name would be known for good and evil throughout the world. Evidence abounds that this prophecy has been fulfilled.
Have you ever prayed to God to know the truth of something? This is the process that makes sense if you are looking for truth in your life. If you are willing to read the Book of Mormon you should ask God if it is true. The book extends a promise and many have received the witness that it is a testament of Jesus Christ.
The doctrinal clarity that the Book of Mormon gives to the Bible as a companion scripture is enlightening and compelling.
The best way to gauge the Christianity of Mormonism is to read the Book of Mormon. It is what it claims to be, a testament of Jesus Christ. Reading it with an open heart and mind it is evident that it was not produced with any other intent than to demonstrate that God loves his children and still communicates with prophets on the earth. It will give you insight as to why Joseph Smith's testimony has spread throughout the world.
Other Notes and Observations
The non-atheist critics of the church would like others to think that Trinitarianism is the viable alternative to the doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The Nicene creed defines what is known as the Trinity, the deity of mainstream Christian philosophers and theologians. This is known as Trinitarianism. This creed is easy to research online if you care to know more about it. Most orthodox Christians use it as their foundational doctrine. Mormons do not and in this sense of the word, we are not orthodox Christians.
Trinitarianism is a theology based on metaphors. We all know the Bible talks about the Father and the Son. In orthodox biblical teachings, these are not really a father or a son except in a figurative sense. The only reason these scholars use the male nouns and pronouns is that the Bible does.
The actual doctrines of mainstream Christianity declare God to be an incorporeal genderless being. As such they have no actual relationship except as imputed to them metaphorically by human scholars and philosophers and their limited wisdom. These scholars will tell you that you are a child of God but it is in a metaphorical sense only. According to them, you are simply a creature creation, not a child.
The most recent seminar against the church that I attended was by a former Mormon, Lynn Wilder. She goes around speaking at evangelical churches about her experience when she was a Mormon and describes her version of Mormonism. She uses her past employment as a BYU professor as credibility for her message and her book "Unveiling Grace." Her approach is typical of the church's critics.
On page 218 of her book she says "For example, Mormonism took the biblical idea "people sin and need a Savior" and twisted it into, "people sin and can be their own savior", referring to her son on the same page, she says, "Josh’s patriarchal blessing said", ”Those who receive you and the message you bring will one day recognize you as a savior on Mt. Zion” She then states, “Mormonism declared that my own son would be recognized as a savior!” She wants you to think that Mormons can be their own savior. We do not believe such a thing.
Those outside the church may not know this or how we use the term. The term “savior on Mt. Zion” comes from Obadiah 1:21 in the Old Testament. She claims that she realized Mormons were wrong as she read the Bible. How did she not discover that non-Mormon Bible scholars use the same term? Not only does she seem ignorant of Mormon teachings, but she also doesn't seem very credible as a biblical scholar that she now professes to be.
In another example, she says she attended an LDS worship service on an Easter Sunday and that none of the speakers talked about Jesus. First, this is highly unlikely. Second, she does not tell readers that the reason LDS members attend sacrament meeting every Sunday is to partake of the sacrament to remember Christ. Her book is full of incomplete and inaccurate comparisons like this.
As I have become familiar with many of the church's critics and their claims I have witnessed that their arguments are often irrational and based on fallacies. If they do use a true event they mix it with their own opinion narratives nuanced to reflect their bias or reference it without the background in which it was spoken, the culture in which it took place or out of context with what we know to be established doctrine.
The misinformation they disseminate has spread substantially over the centuries. Another form of criticism comes in the form of unrealistic expectations and then they opinionate as to why they think Joseph Smith, his successors, and the church do not meet them. These have been in the form of accusations that church leaders have somehow carefully crafted a cover-up of various historical events. These events are recorded in the history of the church and available for study to those that wish to know.
Even with the many negative assertions taking place, the church has grown to over 16 million members with over 30,000 congregations known as wards and branches all over the world. The local congregational ward leaders receive no compensation for their service and all together are a unified worldwide church.
The divisions created by Bible scholar debates in mainstream Christianity are self-evident in the modern-day sectarian churches. Scholars and religious leaders operate their congregations as independent entities for monetary compensation. They claim God no longer speaks through human prophets but that they through human interpretation can tell people from the Bible what God expects.
Some former members declare to be atheists and denounce the church simply for the sake of denouncing it.
In many random conversations over the years, I have noticed a disconnect in mainstream Christian believers from their fundamental doctrines. The average believer goes for fellowship, not doctrinal understanding. The concept of the Trinity is not explainable and many simply dismiss it as not important. They often believe like Mormons do in the corporeal nature of God.
Trinitarianism or mainstream theologians teach that Satan managed to foil God’s main plan to live in the Garden forever. It implies that Adam and Eve, or Satan initiated the need for Jesus to become a Savior. To them, Satan and evil pride caused the fall. Quite the opposite is true. God's love brought about the voluntary fall and the voluntary atonement by the Son of God.
Trinitarianism is comprised of all forms of mainstream or orthodox biblical churches and the theologian-philosophers that teach the doctrines of the Nicene Creed. They teach the traditional trinity of beings of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost existing as one single incorporeal and genderless God.
Mormons believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. These three are separate physical beings of the male gender and together they are one Godhead unified in the holy work of salvation for God the Father's children. We believe that Jesus is the only Begotten Son of the Father in the flesh, that he suffered and died for us and he is our savior and redeemer.
The difference is that in Mormonism humans are actually related to God and have infinite potential to progress. In Trinitarianism, humans are creature creations not related to God in any way but are simply creature creations that are fundamentally flawed and only have limited capacity for progressing in eternity.
Mormons believe in the historical Jesus of the New Testament. We believe the Bible is the word of God. We believe the Father and Son are actually literally related to each other as father and son as the Bible teaches. We believe Jesus is the only begotten Son of God in the flesh. We believe that he suffered and died for us and is our savior and redeemer.
As I have gone through this process over the years I think I came to realize why others don't really understand our teachings about Christ. Generally speaking, quite a bit of inaccurate information has been perpetuated in the Chrisitan community both by critics of the Latter-Day Saints and biblical apologists and their theological analysis.
When the subject of Mormonism comes up in Christian venues, pastors, Bible study leaders, and others use information from these sources that isn't correct. The members of their fellowships assume it is accurate because they trust their preacher or teacher that they hear it from and they believe it and also disseminate it.
When I talk to others about their theology I find a disconnect between what the scholar theologians teach and what the average Christian believer understands about their trinitarian roots as well.
Some Christian theologians say we are not Christians because we believe that there is a literal relationship between God the Father and Jesus Christ, that it is not metaphorical or fictitious like they teach. We also believe that the Father and Son are physical beings and we are created in their image. This places Mormons outside the bounds of some unique definition of what constitutes a Christian.
The traditional Trinitarian scholars teach that there is not an actual father-son relationship in the Trinity because they are incorporeal beings, meaning they don't have bodies. The titles of father and son are metaphorical only as are the male pronouns they use to describe their deity. We can't be created in the image of the Trinity since it does not have one.
Trinitarian scholars also that claim that because Latter-Day Saints have additional scripture like The Book of Mormon-Another Testament of Jesus Christ, and are led by living prophets we aren't really Christians. They claim God no longer speaks to mankind like he did in the Bible.
Professors of classical religious teachings would have others believe that Trinitarianism is the viable alternative to Mormonism because it has a 2000 year history. They can't reasonably rationalize it though because it is a history of division and disagreement regarding doctrines and practices resulting in thousands of sectarian biblical churches.
This manifestation of the apostasy or falling away from the church that Jesus established was prophesied in the Bible. This is what brought about the Church of Jesus Christs of Latter-Day Saints. It is the restoration of Jesus's church, not a reformation of the Catholic church which is what Protestant and Evangelical Trinitarianism is. This restoration is also a biblical prophecy.
The doctrinal agreement in common of these churches is the Nicene Creed. This establishes the basis for all of the creedal or orthodox Christian beliefs about God. Mormons do not hold to this core creed and therefore don't fit the classical or orthodox model of Christianity.