Is Mormonism a Cult?

By Vladimir Savchuk | May 2, 2024 | 5 mins

Is Mormonism a Cult?

Mormonism is a huge religion consisting of over 17 million followers globally, 68,000 missionaries, and 173 temples as of 2023.

You’ve likely encountered these very polite, well-dressed individuals preaching and teaching. So do Mormons uphold Christian beliefs or is it a cult?

History of Mormon Faith

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) believes the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, near Independence. Around 600 B.C., an Israelite named Lehi traveled with his family to the Americas. His descendants formed two tribes called the Nephites and Lamanites. Over time, the tribes fought each other.

They also believe that in 33 A.D., Jesus Christ appeared in the Americas and preached to the Nephites. This lead to 200 years of peace before conflict resumed. Later, in 385 A.D., a prophet named Mormon wrote the story of his people on gold plates. After a major battle, Mormon’s son Moroni added to the writings and sealed the plates in 421. These writings became known as the Book of Mormon.

In 1820, Joseph Smith has his first vision. Smith claimed that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him. They told him that all existing churches were false. According to Smith, the Angel Moroni appeared to him and told him about a set of golden plates containing a record of ancient American peoples.

Then in the 1830’s, the book of Mormon was published and the Latter Day Saints organization was founded.

Mormon Doctrine and Beliefs

Mormon Doctrine contains teaching that differ heavily from Christian beliefs. Here are a few of the major ones:

1. Mormonism is Polytheistic

It has many gods, not one like in Christianity. The ‘Father’ of Mormonism is “but one god of many gods” and he has a wife/goddess, the “Heavenly Mother” (Douglas J. Davies, Introduction to Mormonism, 186).

2. Based on Eternal Progression

They believe that everyone is in progression, going from one level of existence to another higher level. That is, God was once a human man just like any human today and He progressed to godhood in the same way that any human today can progress to godhood.

This idea that man can become God is the same lie that was sold to Adam and Eve in the beginning and therefore, Christianity rejects it.

3. Rejects Virgin Birth

Mormonism believes that Jesus was born through physical relations between God and Mary. Christianity teaches that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, and Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus.

4. Rejects Creation Ex-Nihilo

Mormon doctrine states that gods organized pre-existing matter to form the universe, rejecting the Christian belief that God spoke all things into existence and that God created everything out of nothing.

5. Relocate Christ’s Main Work From the Cross to Gethsemane

Mormons emphasize Jesus’s struggle in Gethsemane over His crucifixion as the key act of atonement.

“The great victory was not a substitutionary atonement for our sins, but a psychological struggle against cosmic evil forces which Jesus fought in the Garden of Gethsemane” (Douglas Davies, Introduction to Mormonism, 149).

Christianity believes that the time spent in the garden was important for Jesus, but places an emphasis on the power of Jesus’s death on the cross, His burial, and resurrection. That’s where we believe redemption took place.

6. Heaven Has Three Levels

Salvation and eternal life in Mormon belief depend on a tiered heaven, where one’s level is determined by earthly actions and commitments.

The top tier is the Celestial Kingdom: You have to have been married in a Mormon Temple to get there and a wife’s salvation is based on the husband who has to call her name.

The middle tier is the Terrestrial Kingdom: You get Jesus but not the Father; it’s a lower grade experience; good people go there.

And lastly is the Telestial Kingdom: It is reserved for individuals who “received not the gospel of Christ, neither the testimony of Jesus.” 

In this belief, hell is not eternal.

7. Different Scriptures

Besides the Bible, Mormons regard the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price as their holy scriptures. Christianity has a reliance on the Bible alone.

8. Works-Based Faith

Mormon salvation requires specific actions and rituals, which goes against the Christian belief in salvation by grace through faith.

Mormon salvation has two parts: Resurrection (God provides grace for people to be resurrected) and Exaltation (we have to work for this level of heaven).

Requirements for exaltation to highest level in Celestial Kingdom include:

  • Must be baptized.
  • Must receive the laying on of hands to be confirmed a member of the Church of Jesus Christ and to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
  • Brethren must receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and magnify their callings in the priesthood.
  • Must receive the temple endowment.
  • Must be married for eternity, either in this life or in the next. 

9. Insufficiency of Jesus’s Blood

Mormonism teaches that some sins, like murder, require that the guilty party shed his or her own blood, nullifying the sufficiency in Christ’s blood.

“Man may commit certain sins that – according to his light and knowledge – will place him beyond the reach of the blood of Christ. If then he would be saved, he must make sacrifice of his own life to atone” (Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1979; 93).

10. Does Not Pray to Jesus

In practice, Mormons pray to the Father in the name of Jesus, but not directly to Jesus.

Final Thoughts

Mormonism introduces several doctrines and practices that contradict with Christian teachings. Any belief or teaching that goes against what Jesus, the prophets of the Old Testament, or the apostles taught must be rejected.

If you are Mormon or know someone who is, I encourage you to explore these beliefs critically to understand the profound differences between Mormonism and Christian doctrine. In doing so, may the Lord guide you into all truth.

Read: 11 Ways Christianity and Islam are Different

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