During the 1820s, religious fervor swept through
upstate New York, which became known as the "burned-over district," a
reference to the many religious and reform movements emanating from
the region. In the midst of the religious excitement, an
unsuccessful treasure-seeker named
Joseph Smith received visions from God and founded a new religion:
Mormonism, or the Latter Day Saints. Today, Joseph Smith's
visions, and especially the
first vision, the substance from which came the
Book of Mormon, remain the theological core of the LDS Church.
Joseph Smith himself called his Book of Mormon "the most correct of
any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion," insisting that a
person "would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by
any other book." (Source)
Gordon B. Hinckley, the current Prophet and
President of the LDS Church, explains Smith's role in the foundation
of his religion in this manner:
"That becomes the hinge pin on which this
whole cause turns. If the First Vision was true, if it actually
happened, then the Book of Mormon is true. Then we have the
priesthood. Then we have the Church organization and all of the other
keys and blessings of authority which we say we have. If the First
Vision did not occur, then we are involved in a great sham. It is just
that simple." (New York Rochester Missionary Meeting, July 12,
1996.) (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 227)
President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in
the First Presidency of the LDS Church, further
notes the centrality of Joseph Smith to the Mormon faith:
"May we incorporate into our own lives the
divine principles which [Joseph Smith] so beautifully taught."
Hinckley and Monson's exaltation of Joseph Smith
reflect a basic tenet of the Mormon faith: salvation, in the LDS
Church, entails bearing testimony to the truth of Joseph Smith's
visions, otherwise known as the Book of Mormon.
In short, Joseph Smith and his Book of Mormon are
clearly the very foundation of the LDS Church. In fact, Joseph
Smith teaches that the LDS Church is the only truth faith, and
that Christianity is a false religion:
"18 My object in going to inquire of the Lord
was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which
to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as
to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in
the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had
never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should
19 I was answered that I must join none of
them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said
that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those
professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their
lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the
commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the
20 He again forbade me to join with any of
Joseph Smith's claim that Christianity is an
"abomination" unto God, and that true believers would remain separate
from Christians, is critical. Because Christianity was a false
religion, God established the true church, the LDS Church, through
Smith. Mormons to this day, as noted above, testify that Joseph
Smith's vision is true.
But in the past few decades, something rather odd
has happened within the LDS Church. While unwavering in their
claims to the truth of Joseph Smith's visions and teachings, Mormons
now claim that they are Christians.
Plainly, contemporary Mormons cannot have it both
ways. To claim to be Christian is to deny the visions and
teachings of Joseph Smith, the cornerstone of the Mormon faith.
In addition, apart from the historical problems
inherent in claiming Mormonism is Christianity, Mormonism cannot
possibly be a Christian faith, for
polytheism is the
theological framework of the LDS Church.
In Joseph Smith's words, there are "a
plurality of gods" and individual males who faithfully follow
can themselves become gods in the afterlife.
Mormons today publicly downplay the polytheistic
nature of their faith. Their public discomfort over polytheism
is such that even Gordon Hinckley, in a Time magazine cover story
(August 4, 1997)
publicly denied Joseph Smith's teachings on the subject.
Hinckley's public denial of Smith's teachings is problematic enough,
but even more odd is that the LDS Prophet and President, by denying
the polytheistic nature of his faith, denied the very reason why
Mormon temples exist: to assist Mormon males on their transition
"mortality into the eternal realms." Otherwise known as "eternal
progression," this core doctrine of the LDS Church (and the reason
Mormon temples exist) pertains to the manner in which a faithful
Mormon male may ascend to the
become a god and
rule over his own planet in the afterlife
here to read more about LDS "exaltation").
In conclusion, is the LDS Church part of the
Christian faith? According to the testimony of Joseph Smith, the
answer is no. In addition, the polytheistic theological basis of
the LDS faith precludes any possibility of Mormonism being Christian,
as polytheism is diametrically opposed to monotheism.
Although Mormons are bent on convincing the world
they are Christians, the bizarre theology of the Mormon church is
increasingly coming under public scrutiny, of which the latest chapter
is Mitt Romney's quest for the presidency of the United States of
America. Romney, a Mormon bishop, is
hesitant to discuss his Mormon faith. And perhaps his
with good reason.
1. Most of the reference
links above are provided from official Mormon or Mormon-friendly
sites. If you wish to explore more about the Mormon faith, you
may wish to delve deeper into these referenced websites, particularly
2. Technically speaking, LDS is "monarchial polytheism,"
otherwise known as "henotheism." The belief in many gods but worship
of one god has existed since ancient times, when some polytheists
recognized the existence of many gods, but either worshipped one (of
the many) and/or recognized one (of the many) as superior to the
others. In addition to LDS, ancient Egyptians, Assyro-Babylonians and
the Indo-European pantheons (among others) were "monarchial
polytheists" or "henotheists." Christians have never been considered
either "monarchial polytheists" or "henotheists."