What do Mormons believe? What is Mormonism?

The Mormon Church (also called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or the LDS Church) was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith. It began with an alleged vision he claimed to receive telling him all churches and creeds were an abomination and that he was to begin a new church. Through this and other "visions," Smith's theology developed into a movement that spread from the northeastern United States to Illinois and eventually to Salt Lake City, Utah, home of the current headquarters of the Mormon Church.

The Mormon Church has quickly grown in size and influence. It now reaches more than 200 nations and territories with millions of followers worldwide. Millions of copies of its key book, The Book of Mormon, are distributed each year in multiple languages. Mormons are found in all levels of society and are becoming more prominent in politics. In 2012, the Senate majority leader in the U.S. was a Mormon, as were two Presidential candidates.

While Mormonism shares some beliefs with traditional Christianity, its main teachings depart from biblical truth. For example, Mormonism rejects the idea of a Triune God. Why? Because LDS theology says Jesus was a created being, the result of a "heavenly father" and a "heavenly mother." In addition, Mormon doctrine says that God has a physical body and was a man like anyone else at one time. Further, the Mormon Church teaches eternal progression, through which a man can himself become a god, be "sealed" to a wife (or wives) in a "celestial marriage," and produce spirit children to populate another planet. Mormonism is fundamentally a system of multiple gods, not a single, Triune God as held in biblical Christianity.

Salvation is also much different in Mormon teachings. The Bible presents salvation as a free gift of God obtained by grace through faith. Human works do not contribute to our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). Mormon salvation includes both faith and a series of works. Eternal security (the belief that a person cannot lose his or her salvation) is rejected, since Mormon salvation is based in large part on acts of obedience after an initial faith experience.

Mormons also view Scripture differently. Mormons accept the Bible as inspired (particularly the King James Version), yet they also claim that The Book of Mormon is the Word of God, along with other writings from early Mormonism such as The Pearl of Great Price and Doctrines and Covenants. These books redefine or contradict key biblical doctrines yet are considered authoritative by Mormons.

Finally, Mormonism teaches a view of heaven that differs from what the Bible presents. According to LDS theology, three eternal options exist: the celestial, telestial, and terrestrial kingdoms. Two are based on good works, with the top level (the celestial kingdom) reserved for the most faithful Mormons.

Despite the Mormon Church's rapid growth and influential members, its beliefs are incompatible with historic biblical teaching. As we have seen, Mormonism's core beliefs are far afield of the orthodox Christian faith. The Mormon error affects their view of God, Jesus, salvation, Scripture, and the afterlife.

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