CORDOVA, Tenn. – Mormons are family oriented, clean-cut and prominent in political and economic circles, fervent in their faith and all-around nice folks. In so many ways one could erroneously assume that Mormons represent just one more facet of fervent evangelical Christianity.
Many would like to think that theological differences between Mormons and evangelical Christians aren’t enough to have any real significance. Sadly, they are badly mistaken.
According to scripture, being nice, family oriented, clean-cut and fervent fulfills none of the requirements to be right before the Lord. Consequently, we can respect Mormons (who call their religion The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) for much of the way they live, but we also need to accept that their understanding of God, Christ, scripture and salvation as well as other matters of faith are outside what scripture teaches.
Here are a few of the highlights of the theological differences between the Mormon belief system and what Southern Baptists and other evangelicals believe, drawing from my book, How to Share Christ with Your Friends of Another Faith:
God: Mormons believe that God is the ruler of our planet. He is the ruler of only this particular planet. He acquired that status over the earth over a progression of time. He has a physical body and flesh.
We Southern Baptists believe that the Bible teaches about only One True God (Deuteronomy 6: 4-6). He is not one of many gods. He is one God in three forms: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Jesus: Mormons teach that Jesus is God’s firstborn spirit son. Jesus, like God, was a human being but attained his godhead status by living an upright life. His death provides for the physical resurrection of all people. This doesn’t mean that on death everyone will go to heaven, but everyone at some point will have an opportunity to be resurrected.
We Southern Baptists believe the Bible teaches that Jesus has always existed (John 1:1) and is one with the Father (John 10:30). He was born of a virgin in a non-sexual union. He is far above the angels (Hebrews 1), including Satan.
The Holy Spirit: Mormons believe the Holy Spirit does not have, as God and Jesus have, personhood in the Trinity. Instead, he is nothing more than a spirit manifestation that is from the Father.
However, we evangelicals believe the Bible teaches that the Holy Spirit is equal to the Father (Acts 5) and has personhood (Ephesians 4:30) in the Trinity (Matthew 28:19-20).
After examining just the differences in belief about God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the evidence is clear that Southern Baptists and Mormons are incompatible in theology. To further study the differences, I recommend www.4truth.net, a North American Mission Board website that succinctly details all of the differences.
Allow your Mormon friend to explain his or her beliefs. Show genuine interest and respect. Then succinctly share your personal testimony about your own personal faith in Christ. Always mention that your friend can have the same experience.
Whenever your conversation moves toward the theological differences between Mormonism and historic Christianity, explain that these are very serious. Start by noting these differences. Then share with your Mormon friend how he or she can experience true salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ. Remember to explain that Jesus is defined by how He is portrayed in the Bible alone, not by any other book.
I cannot think of a greater act of love than taking the time to show individual Mormons how they can know the Truth.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jeff Brawner is chairman of the department of missions and assistant professor of missions, theology and church history at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Cordova, Tenn.)