MormonFAQ/Myths and Questions
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There are many things in the LDS church that are held up to ridicule by professional anti- Mormons and by some of Protestant denominations. Some contain a kernel of truth, but are distorted so as to be virtually unrecognizable to a Latter-day Saint.
Other attacks or claims made by critics are simply false.
In the area of history, many anti-Mormons engage in selective quotation. While the quotes may be technically correct, they may be taken out of context, out of historical context, or taken from sources which have been discredited or are not authoritative.
Mormons refuse to put limits on God's ability to speak to His children. Therefore, a book is not the ultimate authority, and this is true for the Bible as well as for the Book of Mormon. God is our ultimate authority, and we believe he continues to speak to us collectively, through his prophets, and individually. One of the things He has told us is the great value of the Holy Bible for teaching us about Jesus Christ.
There has to be some other authority than the Bible—otherwise, how can we know the Bible is true? We can't believe the Bible just because the Bible says we should. Mormons believe the Bible because God tells them it's true.
Book of Mormon
"DNA Proves the Book of Mormon is false."
Critics tend to opt for the most naive, ill-informed reading possible of the Book of Mormon text, and then cry foul when the Saints point out that they have given much thought to these issues and come to more nuanced conclusions that are more faithful to the Book of Mormon text than the critics' poorly-considered caricatures.
Critics do not provide the "whole story" of the DNA data, and seem to want to use the certainty which DNA provides in modern crime-solving as a springboard to trick the Saints, the media, and investigators into thinking that their historical DNA conclusions are as solid.
In fact, DNA data tells us nothing which we did not already know from archaeological data—at present, the human settlement of the Americas is thought to date thousands of years before the advent of Lehi. Many of these settlers have links to east Asia. None of this is news, and none of it threatens the Book of Mormon's status as authentic history.
But, the critics hope that their listeners will be awed by the banner of DNA science, and conclude that something more impressive is going on. Informed members of the Church have not been persuaded by their tactics, and much has been written to help non-specialists understand the "numerous and complex" issues in the fascinating and valuable science of genetics.
"Mormons deny the deity of Christ:"
On the contrary, Mormons believe firmly in the deity of Christ. We hold that Jesus was Jehovah of the Old Testament (therefore "God") and that he is the literal (spiritual and physical) Son of God the Father. To say that we deny his deity is simply not true. His deity is affirmed in all of the books of scripture we use.
Unique LDS Scriptural Passages affirming the deity of Christ
- Mosiah 15:1 — ...God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
- DC 19:1,16-19 — I am Alpha and Omega, Christ the Lord; yea, even I am he, the beginning and the end, the Redeemer of the world... For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I; Which suffering caused myself, even God, the greatest of all, to tremble because of pain, and to bleed at every pore, and to suffer both body and spirit—and would that I might not drink the bitter cup, and shrink—Nevertheless, glory be to the Father, and I partook and finished my preparations unto the children of men.
"Mormons believe that Lucifer and Jesus are brothers."
This phase is a good example of how critics misrepresent what Mormons believe to attack rather than try to understand the nuances of the faith.
Put in proper context, the belief is that Jesus and Satan, as well as all of us, share the same spiritual Parent: God the Father. This in no way assumes that Jesus and Satan are spiritual equals (just as Cain and Abel shared the same father, but were stark contrasts to one another). We believe that Jesus upheld the Father's plan for us, while Satan rebelled against it and was cast out. At his rebellion, the heavens "wept" (DC 76:26) and he is now the enemy of God, Christ, and every human being. He seeks our misery; Christ seeks to save us, if we will accept Him.
"Mormons believe that they can become gods and rule over their own planets."
This is a mischaracterization of LDS belief. This is a sacred topic that we do not speak of lightly. It is not something that can be explained in short sound bytes. It is not an established doctrine of the Church, but it is a common belief held by the majority of the members that we participate in the creation process and become as God.
The first point to understand is that we don't see God as something that is "Totally Other" or "Totally different" from humanity. We really see him as Our Heavenly Father, in a very literal sense. When this principle is taught in the Holy Bible we completely believe it.
As the Bible tells us, we all have sinned and come short of the glory of God - except Jesus. But, through the Fathers mercy, He promises to give us everything that He has, to allow sit us down on His throne as He has placed Jesus on a throne.
We believe everyone is already divine, in some sense, because they are children of a divine Father in Heaven. The atonement of Jesus Christ gives us the ability to express and develop that divine potential into a divine reality. This mortal earth life is a continuation of the process of developing that potential first begun in the pre-mortal existence where we lived with our Father in Heaven.
In a nutshell, we believe the Father can make us like Him, and since He is divine, we will be too. But, that never means we can supersede Him, or replace Him or Jesus. We will always worship the Father as God. This is something that happens because of the Grace of God, it is not something that we can earn in any sense of the word. It's not meant to be an expression of arrogance, but simply an expression of the wonderful grace available to us all.
We think is says a lot more about God than it does about us.
This is a concept alluded to in the Holy Bible and discussed at some length by the early Church Fathers. A current understanding of these beliefs is a result of continuing revelation from God. Other Christian faiths have rejected modern day revelation and have lost understanding of these principles.
Unfortunately, our critics try to make it sound blasphemous or ridiculous, and hope that they can use sound-byte attacks to convey ideas we don't really believe.
Please feel free to post specific questions to http://www.fairlds.org/contact.php
"Mormons believe that God had sexual intercourse with Mary."
This is not a doctrine of the LDS church. It is believed that Jesus is the literal Son of God, but there is no official stance on the process by which he was conceived.
Some members and leaders have made and do make this assumption, but this is not a doctrine of the Church—such speculation was more common before assisted reproductive techniques (e.g., IVF, "test tube babies," etc.) made it clear that one can be a literal parent without sexual intercourse. The key has always been to defend the idea of God's literal Fatherhood of Jesus; the Church and its leaders always resisted efforts to allegorize or spiritualize this vital doctrine.
"Mormons don't believe in the God and Jesus of the Bible."
Mormons believe in the biblical Godhead (Father, Son, Holy Ghost), rather than in the "Trinity" the way many Christians do. We differ from other Christians in our beliefs about the nature of God, and reject the post-biblical creeds that attempted to define God's nature (Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed, Westminster Confession of Faith, etc.) and merge the essence of the Three into One. We believe that the members of the Godhead are three distinct, ontologically separate beings, who act in perfect unity to carry out the plan of salvation. The Father and the Son, in our belief, have perfect, glorified, physical bodies, while the Holy Ghost has a body of spirit.
"The Mormon God was once a mortal man on another planet."
Many Latter-day Saints infer that because we, as children of God, now live as mortals in this world and have the potential to become gods through the atonement of Christ, that God the Father must have gone through a similar process to be where He is. Early leaders (including Joseph Smith) taught something to this effect. But... it's something about which we know very little, since nothing formal has been revealed to the Church and very little was explained by early leaders. Could it be so? Logically, yes, but we simply don't know very much about it. As far as we are concerned, God the Father has always been our God and always will be, and we leave it at that. Anything else is really just theological speculation—interesting, but not terribly important.
"Mormonism is a cult."
Some of our critics like to use the word "cult" because of its shock value. It is an attempt to equate Mormons with groups like the Peoples Temple group (Jim Jones) or Heaven's Gate, where they make us out to be "Kool-Aid drinkers," swallowing whatever our leaders tell us without question, and this is patently not the way the Church operates. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a legitimate world religion, and has gained the respect of world leaders, political, social, and religious. Theological differences should be no occasion for name-calling or labeling.
"Cult" is simply a word that powerful religions use to call another faith names. Early Christians were labeled as cultists by the Romans. We don't believe name-calling has any place in civil discourse.
"But Joseph Smith said that all churches were wrong, and that they were an 'abomination' in God's sight. Doesn't that sound bigoted?"
Joseph Smith went into the grove at age 14 to ask God "which of all the churches is right, and which should [he] join?" He assumed that the Lord's church had continued on the earth, unchanged through the centuries, and just wanted to know which one it was. What he was told by the Father and the Son in his vision appears to have been a surprising answer to him, that they were all wrong. But what he said was that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight, that the professors (as in professional clergy) were corrupt. That's a far cry from saying that there was nothing good or true or of value in those churches, or that their members were going to hell. God's purpose in the restoration of the fullness of the gospel to the earth was to bring people to a clearer understanding of Him and His Son and their plan for creation. So our message to the world is to bring all you have that is good and true and praiseworthy from your own tradition, and let us see if we can add to it.
"Mormons believe that they are saved through obedience to Joseph Smith."
Not true. Joseph Smith is, to Mormons, no different than Peter, Paul, Moses, or any of the other biblical prophets. He was an imperfect, fallible human being (by his own admission), as were biblical figures (except Jesus only).
Despite being fallible, Biblical figures—like Joseph—were called by God to be prophets. To say that one is a prophet doesn't mean he loses his humanity, i.e., ceases to be who he has become in his upbringing and surroundings. God has always spoken through prophets and apostles, imperfect though they be, and to Mormons it is no different with Joseph Smith or any of his successors.
Christians who find this stance troubling should ask themselves, "Can I, as a Christian, reject Peter [or Paul, or whomever], and still accept Christ?" Since it is through these fallible mortals that we know about Christ, we cannot reject their witness. Likewise, Mormons cannot reject Joseph's witness of Christ.
"What is the view of the Mormon Church on the political process?"
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is neutral in matters of party politics. This applies in all of the many nations in which it is established.
The Church does not:
- Endorse, promote or oppose political parties, candidates or platforms.
- Allow its church buildings, membership lists or other resources to be used for partisan political purposes.
- Attempt to direct its members as to which candidate or party they should give their votes. This policy applies whether or not a candidate for office is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- Attempt to direct or dictate to a government leader.
The Church does:
- Encourage its members to play a role as responsible citizens in their communities, including becoming informed about issues and voting in elections.
- Expect its members to engage in the political process in an informed and civil manner, respecting the fact that members of the Church come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences and may have differences of opinion in partisan political matters.
- Request candidates for office not to imply that their candidacy or platforms are endorsed by the Church.
- Reserve the right as an institution to address, in a nonpartisan way, issues that it believes have significant community or moral consequences or that directly affect the interests of the Church.
"Should someone be disqualified (in the public arena) from holding a high public office, solely on the basis of his/her religion?"
Absolutely not. While the Church itself has a policy of strict political neutrality, members are counseled that "honest men and wise men [women] should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men [and women] ye should observe to uphold..." (DC 98:10), regardless of their religious affiliation. Likewise, people should not necessarily vote for a candidate simply because he or she shares their specific religious faith (or lack thereof).
"Mormons believe you must practice polygamy to be saved."
In the LDS church, plural marriage (or polygamy) was a practice and a belief that was appropriate for its time in the 1840's through the 1890's. In the 1890's the Church ended the practice. They follow a Book of Mormon scripture which states plural marriage is not to be practiced except during times when God commands it.
"Mormons are racists, or have a history of racism in their church."
Mormons have always allowed those of black-African descent to join the Church and worship in the same congregations as everyone else. They also served as Sunday School teachers and in many other callings in the church. Sometime in the mid-19th century, a policy was introduced that denied blacks the benefits of membership in our lay priesthood. This policy was in place until 1978, at which time (then) Church president Spencer W. Kimball announced that the priesthood could be held by any eligible male member. We do not know the reasons for this pre-1978 policy, because there is no recorded revelation given for it. Many have pointed to statements by past Church leaders which, by today's standards, would be considered racist. We would not try to justify statements by our leaders that carried racist connoations. But other Christians who point the "racist" finger at Mormons should certainly not apply a different standard to our past than they do to their own.
For more detailed information on this topic see:
- FAIR's webpage at www.blacklds.org dedicated to black members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
"Mormons don't believe in being saved by grace though faith-only in Jesus Christ."
Mormons believe they are saved by Jesus Christ. Without Christ, it wouldn't matter how many good works or ordinances you did, it would not lead to your salvation. Similarly, it matters not how much you profess Christ if you do not try to follow Him by obedience to what He taught.
"Mormonism is 'exclusive,' that is, if you're not a Mormon, you can't be saved."
Not true, though our view of salvation is different in some ways. We believe in different levels of salvation, stemming from the idea that God will judge us according to our works and award us accordingly. Paul alluded to differences in the glories of resurrected beings, comparing them to the sun, moon, and stars (1 Cor. 15), and coupled with modern revelation (D&C 76, for example), we believe that there are degrees of glory in the hereafter, and that each is a "kingdom of glory," where a degree of salvation is granted through the grace of Christ. In order to attain the highest, people must accept Christ, exercise faith in him, and endure to the end of their lives in faithfulness.
"Mormons wear 'magic' underwear. This is one of their strange, 'out there' beliefs."
It is true that adult members of the Church who have participated in an ordinance in our Temples, called the "endowment," wear a special undergarment. One of the purposes of this garment is to serve as a reminder of the covenants one has made to God. Keeping the covenants made brings with it the blessings of spiritual protection. Anecdotal stories of the garment offering physical protection are sometimes related by members of the Church, and this is, perhaps, where some critics of the Church ascribe the "magic" quality to the garment. However, calling it "magic underwear" only serves to ridicule and sensationalize a belief we hold sacred. It is tantamount to making light of the priestly vestments of other faiths, or the yarmulke of the Jews, or the cross jewelry of another Christian. An added benefit of the garment is that wearing it requires that one also wear clothing that is modest.
"Mormons believe they can be married forever in heaven."
It is not clear why many critics find this idea so offensive. What is so strange, or inappropriate, about the idea that family relationships—the source of our greatest joys—may continue beyond the grave?
This is indeed a core doctrine of the Church. Marriages and families "sealed" by proper authority can last for all eternity, rather than just "till death do you part." Members of the Church take Jesus' declaration to Peter seriously: "whatsoever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven..." (Matthew 16:19).
Unsurprisingly, many non-LDS seem to share a similar hope or belief in continuing family relationships beyond death. It is surprising, though, that critics find this doctrine offensive or "unchristian."
"Mormons believe in being baptized for dead people."
This is another one of those things that, at first glance sounds a little weird, yet, once understood it's not so strange. Our doctrine of baptism for the dead starts with the premise that all are on equal footing before God; that it would be unjust to condemn someone to hell for living at the wrong time or in the wrong place, without ever having a chance hear of Jesus. While Jesus' body was in the tomb, he went and began to teach his gospel to those in the Spirit World, where they have the freedom to accept it or reject it. Baptism, for us, is an earthly ordinance; so we search out the names of our deceased ancestors, and act as proxies for them in the Temple where we are baptized in their behalf. In the Spirit World, they have the freedom to accept or reject this proxy ordinance. To us, it's not about giving them a chance to "become a Mormon" when they're dead; it's about accepting or rejecting Christ and His gospel.
- D&C 128 Where the doctrine is revealed.
- 1 Corinthians:15 Where the practice is at least alluded to by Paul.
- Dr. Krister Stendahl, Swedish theologian, former Bishop of Stockholm (Lutheran), and former dean of the Harvard Divinity School (hardly a light-weight in the Christian world), named this LDS doctrine his "holy envy" of the Latter-day Saints in Between Heaven and Earth, aired on KBYU television beginning in October 2002 ("holy envy" meaning "be willing to find elements in the other religious traditions and faiths that you admire and wish could, in some way, be reflected in your own religious tradition or faith").