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Beliefs of the LDS Church

Theological beliefs differing
from conventional Evangelicalism

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bullet At the LDS General Conference of 2002-APR-8, President Hinckley said non-Mormons often accuse them of rejecting belief in "the traditional Christ." He acknowledged that the claims have "some substance." That is because the LDS Church's knowledge of the Savior is not based "on ancient traditions," some of which were created by humans. Rather: "Our faith, our knowledge, comes of the witness of a prophet in this dispensation who saw before him the great God of the universe and his beloved Son, the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ." Joseph Smith's vision of the Father and Son provided "certain and unequivocating" knowledge that is the basis of LDS faith, he said. 1,2

bullet Critics maintain while Mormons may use the same vocabulary as mainstream Christians that "they frequently attach radically different meaning to the terms." 3

bullet Many Fundamentalist and other Evangelical denominations regard the LDS Church and other Mormon groups as non-Christian, sub-Christian, Pagan or Gnosticcults rather than a part of the historic Christian faith. They cite such items as:

bullet "secret handshakes, signs and key-words [which] are needed after death for a person to gain entrance into God's presence." 4

bullet The LDS Church's rejection of the historic belief in the Trinity -- the concept of three persons within a single God -- one of the foundational beliefs of historic Christianity.

bullet The LDS Church teaches polytheism: the belief that there are many Gods. 5 Further, they teach that selected humans can become Gods after death. 6 The LDS once taught that "We can become Gods like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation." 7 However, they have apparently modified this teaching in recent years. They now teach: "We can become like our Heavenly Father. This is exaltation." 8

Individual Mormons differ on some matters of belief. Teachings which are not found in the Mormon religious texts or which are not officially recognized by the Church are taught in varying degrees throughout Mormon wards, and believed by individual members. Two reasons for this are: the lack of specialist, trained clergy in the Church, and the lack of official statements on details of doctrine. 'Teachers' are merely members like the 'students' and they share feelings, ideas and testimony. The Church tolerates varied opinions on some minor matters, as long as it is not presented as official church doctrine.

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Specific theological beliefs:

bullet Accuracy of the Bible: In 1991, only 29% of Mormons believe that the Bible is totally accurate, i.e. inerrant. Much higher percentage of the members of other conservative Christian denominations believe that the Bible is totally accurate: (81% of  Pentecostal/Foursquare, 77% of Assembly of God and 70% of non-denominational -- mostly Fundamentalist -- Christian churches.) 9

bulletThe nature of deity: The Mormon faith is polytheistic. It believes that our world has three separate deities: God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Current LDS teaching is that the Godhead is a team of three consisting of:

bullet God and Christ, who are separate deities of flesh and bone. Joseph Smith described a visitation from God and Jesus Christ whose bodies were separate and in human form.

bullet The Holy Ghost (a.k.a. Holy Spirit) is a Spirit Personage, and not of flesh and bone. The Holy Ghost prompts most humans to act morally. The only exceptions are those who are hopelessly degenerate.

bullet The Book of Mormon refers to: "Christ the Son, God the Father and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God" (Alma 11:44). Mormons interpret this passage and various references in the Bible as referring to the three deities being one in purpose and perfection.

bullet Joseph Smith taught that Jesus would return to earth near Independence, MO and establish his millennial kingdom.

bullet Men and women can become gods and goddesses: The ultimate goal of a Mormon is to become a deity through a process of exaltation. This is a remarkable belief that has no parallel in any other Christian denomination or other religion of which we are aware.

bullet In 1840-JUN, the fifth LDS President, Lorenzo Snow, stated: "As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become." 20

bullet Brigham Young, the second prophet and president of the Mormon Church, stated: "The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like Himself." 21

bullet LDS Apostle Bruce McConkie, stated: "Thus those who gain eternal life receive exaltation ... They are gods." 19

bullet Evangelical activist Sandra Tanner publishes a list of quotations from Mormon texts that support exaltation and men becoming Gods. 23

bullet Evangelical theologian James A. Beverley wrote: "Mormons can progress to godhood in the next world through following temple endowment rituals." 22

bullet Original sin: The church teaches that: "Satan tempted Adam and Eve to eat the forbidden fruit, and they chose to do so. This was part of God's plan. Only in this way could God's children progress and become like Him." 10 The general consensus among other conservative Christian denominations is that Adam and Eve chose to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil by exercising their own free will, and that this was in violation of God's wishes and expectations.

bullet Virgin birth: The current official teaching of the church is that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. However, Mormons once commonly believed that God has a body of flesh and bone and actually engaged in sexual intercourse with Mary in order to impregnate her. Some conservative Christian counter-cult groups state, incorrectly, that this is the current official teaching of the LDS. In fact, it was never an official declared church belief. It has not been stressed at the local level in recent years. Many Mormon missionaries have never even heard of the belief. However, the church does still emphasize that Jesus was the son of God the Father and not of the Holy Ghost. More details.

bullet Did Jesus marry? Some early LDS Church leaders taught that Jesus Christ was a polygamist. 11 Orson Hyde implied in his writings that Jesus married Mary, Martha and "the other Mary."  Hyde also believed that Jesus was fathered children. 12 Jedediah M. Grant, another early leader, said that Jews' rejection of Jesus was due to his advocating polygyny.13 According to the Journal of Discourses, (2:82, 2:210 and 4:259) Jesus was believed by some of the early church leaders to have married Mary, Martha and/or Mary Magdelene at Cana, and to have had children. The LDS church currently does not now take a formal position on whether Jesus married. 14

bullet Does God have a wife? According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism: "Latter-day Saints infer from authoritative sources of scripture and modern prophecy that there is a Heavenly Mother as well as a Heavenly Father."She is sometimes referred to as "our Mother in heaven." There is no definitive statement in the Mormon canon of scripture that states this belief directly. 15 Quoting from various authors on the "All About Mormons" web site: 16
bullet "As early as 1839 the Prophet Joseph Smith taught the concept of an eternal mother, as reported in several accounts from that period."

bullet "In 1909 the First Presidency, under Joseph F. Smith, issued a statement on the origin of man that teaches that 'man, as a spirit, was begotten and born of heavenly parents...' "

bullet "We have a mother in heaven. We are the offspring of God. He is our Father, and we have a Mother in the other life as well." Excerpt from Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, Page 191 [Emphasis in original; Lorenzo Snow was a LDS president].


LDS President George Q. Cannon wrote in 1884: "The Mormons believe that...God is a married Being, has a wife at least...that God is an exalted Man, and that we are the offspring of Him and His wife."


Elder John A. Widsoe wrote in "A Rational Theology," Page 69: "Since we have a Father, who is our God, we must also have a mother, who possesses the attributes of Godhood." 

The doctrine is also stated in the LDS Hymn "O My Father:"

"In the heav'ns are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare! Truth is reason; truth eternal Tells me I've a mother there."  

bullet Life after death: Mormons believe that everyone has eternal life. However, they rarely use the term "salvation." Rather they refer to a state of "exaltation" in which the person is destined to attain the highest degree of heaven after death. This is made available to all who believe. But is conditional on a person keeping God's commandments - specifically making and keeping sacred covenants with God through his revealed ordinances. This is based in part on the writings in the New Testament book of James which says that "faith without works is dead." Most other conservative Christians believe that salvation is attained through belief, not good works; they believe that good works are a natural result of having been saved.

bullet Atonement and salvation: The LDS church teaches the atonement: that through Jesus' "...suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross, the Savior atoned for our sins." However, an individual's personal salvation requires both faith in Christ and good works. As the web site states:

"To make His Atonement fully effective in our individual lives, we must have faith in Christ, repent of our sins, be baptized, receive the Holy Ghost, obey God's commandments, and strive to become like Him." 18

Most Evangelicals believe that salvation is based totally on faith, not works.

bullet Nature of Heaven and Hell: A person's final destination after death depends upon their knowledge and belief in Christ, the good works that they have done on earth, their degree of repentance, and the Mormon ordinances that they may have completed while on earth (or vicariously by living members of the Church on their behalf.)

bullet The highest level of Heaven is the Celestial Kingdom. 24 People there are divided into two groups:

bullet The more privileged group consists of LDS couples who have been married in a Mormon temple and thus have had their marriage sealed for eternity, and who have "a testimony of Christ and live a Christian life." 25 The couples can eventually become a God and Goddess. They will have an eternal family and govern it as God governs His family.

bullet Those unmarried LDS members who have led a devout life life can also attain the Celestial Kingdom, where they will be servants to the others. Non-Mormons who have led exceptional lives may also be selected to spend eternity in the Celestial Kingdom provided that they accept the gospel in the interim Spirit World, and have the ordinances of the gospel performed for them vicariously. Some persons who led exceptional lives, were without knowledge of the Mormon teachings, but would have accepted them and acted on them, can also be selected to attain the Celestial Kingdom.

bullet There are also the intermediate Terrestrial Kingdom, which is visited by Jesus but not by God. It is reserved for people who have led honorable and virtuous lives, but have never accepted the gospel as interpreted by the LDS church. This would include many individuals from other Christian denominations and from other religions.

bullet The lowest is the Telestial Kingdom, reserved "... for the murderers and robbers and liars of the world." They will spend time in "spirit prison" (a.k.a. Hell) before being redeemed and entering this Kingdom. This is similar to Purgatory as taught by the Roman Catholic Church.

It is speculated that individuals will learn and progress within the Kingdom to which they are assigned at death. However, they are not allowed to progress to the next higher level. (D&C 76:70-107 and 1 Corinthians 15:40-42)

Individuals who are sinful and wicked while on Earth will spend time in Spirit Prison (a.k.a. Hell, Perdition). They are called "the sons of perdition."

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bullet Baptism by proxy: Through the process of vicarious ordinances, a Mormon's dead, non-Mormon ancestors can be baptized by proxy into the church. They believe that such baptism gives their ancestors the choice to join, or reject, the Mormon faith. This can result in the growth of the Mormon's family in the Celestial Kingdom. The doctrines of eternal families and eternal marriage are closely related to this work for the dead. Hundreds of millions of ancestors have been so processed.

This procedure has generated inter-faith friction. Some Mormons have baptized deceased persons who were not their ancestors. In more than 200 cases, proxy baptisms were held for Holocaust victims and other deceased Jews -- including some famous individuals such as Sigmund Freud, David Ben-Gurion, more than a dozen relatives of Anne Frank, and Ba'al Shem Tov -- the founder of the Hasidic Jewish movement. Aaron Breitbart, senior researcher for the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, commented:

 "These people were born Jews, they lived as Jews and many of them died because they were Jews. They would not have chosen to be baptized Mormons in life, and there is no reason they would want to be baptized by proxy in death."

As a result of a 1995 agreement between the LDS and various Jewish groups, hundreds of thousands of Jewish names have been stripped from  baptismal records. The church still allows present-day Mormons to baptize their Jewish ancestors, even though that would probably be deeply offensive to those ancestors and to most other Jews. 17

bullet The throne of God: They believe that the star "Kolob" is "nearest onto the throne of God" (Pearl of Great Price, Book of Abraham 3:2-4). "Kolob" might have been derived from the Hebrew word for star, which is "kokob". It takes 1,000 years to revolve -- a passage of one day to God.

bullet End of the world: Some Mormons believe that 6,000 years after creation, the final epoch will begin, with wars, famines, earthquakes and much suffering. This will start in our near future. The continents will converge into a single land mass. That would certainly wipe out the shipping businesses and drastically modify airline routes.

Although their theological beliefs differ significantly from that of historical Christianity, Mormons believe that their doctrines were held by the very early Christian church. Although their beliefs are based on modern revelation, they do not feel that any of them conflict with the Bible, except those changed as a result of revelations from God. They feel that all of the doctrines mentioned can be found described, clearly mentioned, or alluded to in the Bible (at least in part).

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. This information was taken from an Internet mailing list. President Hickley's address can be heard at:
  2. Twila Van Leer, "Increased faith, charity urged: Pres. Hinckley affirms role of divine guidance," Deseret News, at:
  3. Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, Bethany House, Minneapolis, MN, (1985), P. 168
  4. "The Temple Endowments Ceremony," at:
  5. Book of Abraham 4:3ff
  6. "Doctrine and Covenants," 132:19-20.
  7. "Gospel Principles," 1981 edition, Page 290.
  8. "Gospel Principles," 1995 edition, Page 320.
  9. "Religious Beliefs Vary Widely By Denomination," Barna Research, 2001-JUN-25, at:
  10. "Preach my Gospel," LDS, Item #36617000 from, Page 49.
  11. "Mormon Polygamy," The Institute for Religious Research, at:
  12. "Journal of Discourses," II, Page 210.
  13. Ibid., I, Page 346.
  14. L.C. Scott, "The Mormon Mirage," Zondervan, (1979), Page 175.
  15. Wilcox, Linda P. "The Mormon Concept of a Mother in Heaven," An essay In "Sisters in Spirit," ed. Maureen U. Beecher and Lavina F. Anderson. Urbana, IL, (1987).
  16. "Mother in Heaven," at:
  17. Bob Mims, "LDS try to end unauthorized work for Jews," The Salt Lake Tribune, 2001-MAY-2, at:
  18. "Atonement," LDS Church, at:
  19. Bruce McConkie, "Mormon Doctrine," Page 237.
  20. Bill McKeever, "As God is, man may become?" Mormonism Research Ministry, at:
  21. Brigham Young, sermon, 1852-AUG-08, Journal of Discourses, 3:93.
  22. James A. Beverley, "The Mormon-Evangelical Divide: Beliefs that set Mormons apart, and evangelicals' response," Christianity Today, 2000-FEB-01, at:
  23. Sandra Tanner, "Mormons Hope to Become Gods of Their Own Worlds Procreating Endless Numbers of Children: Quotes from LDS Leaders," Utah LIghthouse Ministry, at:
  24. "Kingdoms of Glory," LDS Church, at:
  25. "Exaltation (LDS Church), Wikipedia, at: Search for "Exaltation"

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Copyright 1995 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2012-MAY-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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