I was on my way to visit a former official of the Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) for the first time. He was becoming interested in studying our message as a result of attending some special meetings that we had been holding in Salt Lake City. Mormons normally do not attend other meetings except from curiosity. The first question he asked me when I arrived was, "Where is Zion?"
To most people this question is of little significance, but to him it was important, for he had left Europe to come to Zion in this country to do temple work for himself and for his dead loved ones. He found that several ideas regarding Zion were here, including one to the effect that Zion was the Church in Utah. He knew that Joseph Smith had at one time received a revelation that Zion was in Jackson County, Missouri (The Doctrines and Covenants, 83:2, 3), which explains why he was perplexed. I showed him some texts in the Bible which state that Zion was a hill in Jerusalem in Palestine, and he was satisfied.
This is an illustration of how seemingly minor questions are sometimes of major importance to individuals. This is true of a number of doctrines held by the Mormon Church, and to convince the members of this faith of the truth as it is in the Scriptures we must sometimes deal with what may appear to be secondary questions.
The First Problem, Establish Confidence in the Bible
The Mormon Church claims to believe in the Bible only so far as it has been translated correctly. What they mean is that they believe in it only so far as it agrees with the revelations and other published works of Joseph Smith.
How can their confidence in the Bible be established in view of this? The easy way to do, this is simply to present some of the amazing prophecies of the Bible and how they have been and are being fulfilled. Daniel 2 and the signs of Christ's coming are excellent, as well as other prophecies relative to our times. In doing this it is well to keep in mind that the Mormon Church tends to be more of a social organization, and its members are hungry for spiritual food. Showing them how to pray and have confidence in God as their Father means much.
Once their confidence in the Bible has been established, the prophecies of Daniel 8 and 9 can be presented. These prophecies automatically become an introduction to one of the most important subjects to a Mormon—the priesthood. They believe that the authority to teach the gospel and baptize is vested in the priesthood, and that this authority was lost after the times of the disciples and remained lost to the world during the Middle Ages. This made it necessary for the various offices of the priesthood to be restored in the last days, and they claim that the Aaronic and the Melchizedek priesthood was restored to Joseph Smith. Consequently, they declare their church is the only true church, for it alone had the Aaronic and the Melchizedek priesthood restored to it.
Do the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods Exist Today?
To explain the prophecy of Daniel 8 automatically involves a clear presentation of the subject of the sanctuary and its services. The main arguments refuting their claim may be summarized as follows:
1. The sanctuary service was symbolic and pointed forward to Christ and His death in our behalf (Heb. 9). It was built after the pattern of the heavenly sanctuary (Heb. 8:1-5). The daily and yearly service should be explained, and why the sanctuary was built the way it was.
2. When Christ died upon the cross He fulfilled the Old Testament sacrificial system which included the sanctuary, its services, and the priesthood that ministered in it. Therefore, there was no further need for it.
a. The true temple is in heaven now and not on this earth, and there Jesus Christ is ministering in our behalf as our High Priest and Advocate (Heb. 4:14-16; 8:1-5; 9:6-15, 24; 10:10-14; 1 John 2:1).
b. Jesus Christ fulfilled the Aaronic priesthood so that it no longer exists on the earth today (Heb. 7:11; 10:8-14).
3. Mormons claim that Jesus Christ held the Aaronic priesthood, and gave it to Peter, James, and John, who in turn bestowed it upon Joseph Smith. This was impossible, for Christ never held the Aaronic priesthood since He was not of the tribe of Levi, but was instead of the tribe of Judah (Heb. 7:11-15). Christ therefore never gave them the Aaronic priesthood and the authority they claim they have to teach and baptize.
4. Joseph Smith taught that the offering of animal sacrifices was to be practiced again in "the last time" (History of the Church, vol. 4, pp. 210-212). This is contrary to the Scriptures, for Christ offered up Himself only once, and no additional sacrifices after His death for us are necessary (Heb. 7:22-28; 10:1-10).
5. This church teaches that "all the ordinances and duties" of the Aaronic priesthood are to be restored in the end, which consists of four offices—deacon, teacher, priest, and bishop. The Bible teaches that there were six offices: I. Nethinim (temple slaves) (Ezra 7:7; 2:43; Num. 31:30, 47; Joshua 9:23, 27); 2. singers, including men and women (2 Sam. 19:35; 2 Chron. 5:12; 29:25; Ezra 7:7); 3. porters (doorkeepers) (1 Chron. 16:38; 23:1-5; Ezra 2:40-42); 4. Levites (Num. 3:1-13); 5. priests (Num. 3:1-13); 6. high priests (Num. 35:25; Matt. 26:57). If all is to be restored, why are not the same offices with their same names restored? This is significant, since the church places so much emphasis upon the office and its name.
6. It is claimed that the Melchizedek priesthood was restored to Joseph Smith, and is the greater or higher priesthood. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ alone possesses the true Melchizedek priesthood "for ever" which will never be given to mankind since He retains it as "an unchangeable priesthood" which "passeth not from one to another" (Heb. 7:24, margin; chap. 5:5, 6).
Where Do You Get Your Authority to Teach and Baptize?
This is a common question asked by Mormons of those of other faiths. What is the answer? Since the Aaronic priesthood does not exist since Christ died, and because Christ only holds the Melchizedek priesthood, their claim to exclusive divine authority through such a priesthood to teach and baptize will not stand. Instead, our divine authority for teaching the gospel and baptizing in the name of our Lord was received directly from Jesus Christ while He was here on earth, and has not been lost, but has remained with God's true followers ever since (Matt. 16:18; 28:18-20). Christ said that He would be with those teaching the true gospel of Christ "alway" (Greek, "all the days"), which means "continually" until the end.
This fact is further confirmed by the prophecy of Revelation 12, in which it was foretold that God would have His true church in the wilderness hiding from its persecutors during the Middle Ages. That wilderness church had divine authority to teach and baptize. The true church had not been lost, and neither had the divine commission of our Lord—to teach and baptize—been lost. The only thing which had been lost sight of was the understanding of the great truths of God's Word among the masses of mankind.
Once the truth of the Bible teaching on the priesthood is understood, it is fairly easy for a Mormon to comprehend the other important truths of our message. All that is generally needed regarding the subject of the Sabbath is to present a good typical study on the question, presenting the origin of the Sabbath at Creation, and that it has not been changed by divine authority. Instead, the power of the Middle Ages, called the "great and abominable church" in the Book of Mormon (2 Nephi 6:12), made the change. While it is true that some Mormons go to great lengths to try to justify Joseph Smith's revelations that Sunday is the Sabbath by referring to the Samuel W. Gamble fixed-date theory of the Sabbath, yet most Mormons know little about this, and all that is needed is to present good typical studies on the Sabbath question.
Joseph Smith taught: "God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man." —Quoted in BRIGHAM YOUNG, The Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 3, sermon given April 6, 1844. Brigham Young taught: "When our father Adam came into the Garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body and brought Eve, one of his celestial wives, with him. . . . He helped to make and organize this world. He is MICHAEL, the Archangel, the ANCIENT OF DAYS! about whom holy men have written and spoken—He is our FATHER and our GOD and the only God with whom WE have to do." —Ibid., vol. 1, p. 50. (Italics and capital letters are in the original copy for emphasis.)
The Bible answer to this is found in showing that God is eternal (Ps. 90:2), that the Godhead consists only of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:18, 19), and that these three are separate beings, as shown by each playing a separate part when Christ was baptized (Luke 3:21, 22); and yet they are one in purpose as we are to be one with Him (John 17:21, 22). That there are not many gods but only one God is shown by the following texts: Isaiah 44: 6; 45:5; Mark 12:29; Malachi 3:6. It was Christ who created the world, and not Adam (Col. 1: 14-16; Heb. 1:1-3; John 1:1-3).
God was never a man (Hosea 11:9), and God has always been God (Ps. 90:2; Isa. 43:10; 44:6; 45:5; 46:9). Man will never become God, but will merely be permitted to be with Him and similar to Him in character and purpose (John 17:24; Rev. 21:7; 1 John 3:1, 2). Satan's lie in the Garden of Eden was that Adam and Eve would not die but would be "as gods." He has been telling this same lie ever since.
Did We Exist Before We Came to This Earth?
The following statement by Orson Pratt well summarizes the fundamental belief of the Mormon Church: "In the Heaven where our spirits were born, there are many Gods, each one of whom has his own wife or wives which were given to him previous to his redemption, while yet in his mortal state. Each God, through his wife or wives, raises up a numerous family of sons and daughters; indeed, there will be no end to the increase of his own children; for each father and. mother will be in a condition to multiply for ever and ever. As soon as . his Heavenly inheritance becomes too small to comfortably accommodate his great family, he, . .. organizes a new world, after a similar order to the one which we now inhabit. . . The inhabitants of each world are required to reverence, adore, and worship their own personal father, who dwells in the Heaven which they formerly inhabited."—The Seer, vol. 1, No. 2, Feb., 1853, p. 37.
Brief answers to this doctrine may be summed up as follows:
- Of all who have inhabited this earth, Jesus Christ alone had a pre-existence (Col. 1: 13-16; Heb. 1:1, 2; Job 14:1, 2; 38:4; John 8:23; 16:27, 28).
- Man's first existence as a "living soul" was when God created him from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7). This soul can die (Eze. 18: 4). "None can keep alive his own soul" (Ps. 22:29). The soul of the wicked will finally perish in hell (Matt. 10:28).
- The soul lived as a result of uniting the spirit or power of God with the dust. The words spirit and breath are used interchangeably since they are often from the same Hebrew or Greek words. Examples are: Psalm 104: 29, 30; Job 27:3, margin; James 2:26, margin. The living soul did not occur until this union of the spirit, or breath, occurred with the dust.
- The natural or earthly body occurred first, before the spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:4246). The spiritual body does not exist until after the resurrection of the dead.
Did Adam and Eve Have to Sin?
This church teaches that no children would have been born if Adam and Eve had not sinned. When Eve sinned, Adam and Eve would have been separated so that no children would have been born. God commanded them to multiply and replenish the earth. The Mormon Church says Adam had to disobey God by not multiplying or by eating of the forbidden tree (Dr. J. E. Talmage, The Articles of Faith, p. 68). They say he chose to disobey in the lesser way by eating of the forbidden fruit.
The Bible teaches that as a result of Eve's sin God would "multiply" her "conception" (Gen. 3:16). All God did as a result of sin was to speed up the birth rate to get the reign of sin over more rapidly. Many would be quickly born into the world and given the privilege of choosing to have eternal life. Originally, children would have been born into the world very slowly, and each birth would have been a great event. Notice that children would have been born if Adam and Eve had never sinned, and so Adam and Eve did not have to sin so children could be born and thus populate the world.
Should We Do Work for the Dead?
The Mormon Churcli, teaches that death is only a step to a higher clggree of glory, and thus is a promotion. Their funeral services are virtually graduation exercises.
To present the truth on this subject a simple good, positive study on the true state of the dead is excellent. Since the Mormons believe in baptizing for the dead, marrying for time and eternity, and doing other work for the dead, a few additional points should be observed. These are as follows:
- When a man dies, he returns to the dust and his evil nature cannot be changed (Gen. 3:19; John 5:28, 29).
- Man's evil nature must be changed before he dies. if he is to obtain salvation (Isa. 38:18; Ps. 146:4; Heb. 9:27).
- The dead are unconscious, know nothing, do not love or hate, and cannot hope for the truth of God, which shows it does no good to preach to them, be baptized for them, or do any other kind of work for them (Eccl. 9:5, 6; Ps. 115:17; 146:4; Isa. 38:18).
- No one can redeem another individual, or give a ransom for him (Ps. 49:7).
- The son cannot bear the iniquity of the father, neither can the father bear the iniquity of the son (Eze. 18:20).
- One in life can deliver only his own soul (Eze. 14:14).
- The dead will be judged according to the works they did while alive as recorded in the books of heaven (Rev. 20:12).
Vicarious work for the dead started with the heathen, and not with God's people (see Lev. 19:28; Dem. 14:1; Jer. 47:1, 4, 5; Isa. 65:2-4; Ps. 106:28; Jer. 16:10-13).
Tertullian, prominent Church Father of the second century, tells that the Marcionites, a heretical sect of Christians who existed in his day, "were vainly baptized for the dead."—Against Marcion, bk. 5, chap. 10, trans. in ANF, vol. 3, p. 449. Notice that heretical or offshoot Christians practiced baptism for the dead, but not the true people of God. Chrysostorn, 345?-407 A.d.., tells how this was done by placing a living man "under the couch of the dead," when they would "approach the corpse and talk with him, and ask him if he wishes to receive baptism; then when he makes no answer, he that is concealed underneath saith in his stead that of course he should wish to be baptized; and so they baptize him instead of the departed, like men jesting upon the stage."—Homilies on First Corinthians, 1 Cor. 15:29, in The Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, vol. 12, p. 244.
Are There Three Degrees of Glory?
The Mormons teach that there are three degrees of glory in heaven—celestial for those who become gods; terrestrial for those converted after death and who cannot become gods; telestial, for those who are liars, sorcerers, adulterers, et cetera.
The Bible answer is that there is just one final place for the righteous—the New Jerusalem which will eventually be in the new earth. If we are not saved in this place of glory, we shall be lost (Rev. 20:15; 21:8, 27; 22:15; Heb. 2:2, 3; 10:26, 27; Gal. 6:7, 8). The word celestial in 1 Corinthians 15:40 means "heavenly" in the Greek, and the word terrestrial means "earthly." This text is merely comparing our present, or terrestrial life, with our wonderful life on the resurrection morning, which is celestial, or heavenly.
Has God Called a Modern-Day Prophet?
After being convinced that Joseph Smith was not a true prophet of God, Mormons tend to be skeptical of any other person who makes similar claims. The tests that are most convincing to them are as follows:
- A true prophet will teach all to obey God's commandments (Deut. 13:1-4; Isa. 8:19, 20).
- A true prophet's predictions must come to pass (Deut. 18:22; Jer. 28:9).
- A true prophet rebukes sin (Isa. 58:1; 2 Sam. 12:1-14).
- A true prophet will surely have the qualifications outlined by Paul to Timothy—he will lead a righteous life and be of good report (1 Tim. 3:1-7).
- A true prophet's teachings will be in harmony with other Bible prophets' teachings (1 Cor. 14:32).
- A true prophet will confess that Christ came in the flesh (1 John 4:1-3).
In addition to the above points it must be shown that God has given the work of the prophets as a gift to the New Testament Church. This can be shown by comparing Ephesians 4:11-13 and 1 Corinthians 12, the entire chapter. All of the gifts are to be in the church, including that of the prophet.
God works in a marvelous way to lead those with this background to see the wonderful truths of His Word. It is hoped that this brief summary will be of some help to our fellow laborers throughout the world as they endeavor to help the honest in heart to find Christ as their own personal Saviour.