You’re at the park playing with your kids and two conservatively dressed young men are riding their bikes nearby, and you immediately recognize they are Mormon. Thoughts start whizzing through your mind: I hope they don’t come here. If they do, what will I say? Should I engage? I’m trying to spend time with my kids!
Sure enough, they approach your family and there is no way to avoid them. They begin by introducing themselves as Elder Smith and Elder Jones.
At this point, you have a few options: you could politely excuse yourself from the conversation and get back to your kids; you could talk about things you agree on, such as being pro-life and pro-family; you could say, “I’m Catholic and here’s what I believe,” and then ask them what they think.
Another approach is to challenge one of their beliefs, such as their belief about God. Since Mormons believe the Bible is inspired along with their Mormon scriptures, the challenge can take the form of “How can Mormons believe X about God, when the Bible says Y?” Below are a few examples that you can share.
Challenge #1: How can Mormons believe that God the Father has a body when the Bible says God is pure spirit?
In the Mormon book Doctrine and Covenants, a collection of God’s so-called revelations to Joseph Smith, God the Father “has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s” (130:22). But this directly contradicts the Bible. For example, the apostle John teaches that “God is spirit” (John 4:24), and according to Jesus, spirit has no flesh or bone (Luke 24:39). The Bible also teaches that God is invisible (Col. 1:15), which implies God he doesn’t have a physical body. How can God be pure spirit and have a body at the same time?
“But,” one of them may object, “the Bible teaches that God has a body when it says Moses talked to God face to face” (a reference to Exod. 33:11). Not to worry—this no more proves God has a body than Psalm 91:4 proves God is a bird because it says he has feathers and wings: “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust” (KJV). Just as “feathers” and “wings” is metaphorical language meant to teach us about God’s love for humanity, so too the language of Moses speaking to God “face to face” is metaphorical, and is meant to express “the intimacy that Moses had with God.”
Because they believe that God has a body, Mormons teach something else that contradicts the Bible, namely, that the Father does not dwell in man’s heart (Doctrine and Covenants, 130:3). This opposes Jesus’ teaching that he and the Father will make their home with the one who loves him (John 14:23). Jesus’ subsequent teaching on how Christians abide in him as branches abide in a vine (John 15:4-5) suggests that the residence the Father and Jesus will take is within man, which means the Father and the Son will dwell spiritually within man.
God can’t be the author of both the Doctrine and Covenants and the Bible because it would be absurd for God to contradict himself. Therefore, Mormons must choose which set of revelations they are going to believe: they can’t rationally believe both.
Challenge #2: How can Mormons believe in a plurality of gods when the Bible teaches there is only one God?
There are several authoritative Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS) sources that teach Mormons believe in a multiplicity of gods. For example, the Book of Abraham, which is a part of the LDS scriptures called The Pearl of Great Price, ascribes the act of creation to multiple gods: “And they went down at the beginning, and they, that is the Gods, organized and formed the heavens and the earth” (4:1).
The multiplicity of gods is further supported by the Mormon belief that men who faithfully follow LDS teaching will themselves become gods (called “eternal progression”). As the fifth LDS president, Lorenzo Snow, put it: “As man now is, God once was; As God now is, man may be” (Eliza Snow, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow, 46). Joseph Smith taught in his King Follett sermon (a funeral talk he gave in 1844) that men must “learn how to be gods…the same as all gods have done before” them. Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, followed suit: “The Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like Himself” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 3, 93).
If there is one the thing the Bible is clear on, it’s the belief that only one God exists:
- Deuteronomy 4:39: “Know therefore this day, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other.”
- Isaiah 44:8: “Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.”
- Isaiah 44:24: “I am the LORD, who made all things, who stretched out the heavens alone, who spread out the earth—Who was with me?”
- Isaiah 45:5: “I am the LORD, and there is no other, besides me there is no God.”
These passages directly undermine Mormon belief. Since the belief that multiple gods exist contradicts the Bible, the Mormon has to consider whether he will continue to believe two contradictory beliefs.
Challenge #3: How can Mormons believe that God was once a man who became God, when the Bible teaches that God can’t change?
As mentioned above, Mormons believe that God the Father became God. Joseph Smith taught this himself in the King Follettdiscourse: “It is the first principle of the gospel to know for certainty the character of God . . . that he was once a man like us.” But if God once was a man and became God, then that implies God changed. The Bible proves this belief to be false.
Take Malachi 3:6 for example: “For I the Lord do not change.” How could God go from being imperfect to perfect, from being mortal to immortal, and not change? If one of the Mormons retorts, “Oh, but this passage simply refers to God never wavering in his faithfulness to mankind,” then quote James 1:17: “Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”
James makes it clear that there is no change in God the Father.
You could also use Psalm 90:2, which says God is God “from everlasting to everlasting.” If God is God for all eternity, then there never was a time when God was not God; hence there never was a time when he was a man. Even the book of Moroni (the last book in The Book of Mormon) teaches that God “is unchangeable from eternity to all eternity” (8:18). Not only does this Mormon belief contradict the Bible, it contradicts its own scriptures.
End it with charity
There is always a fine line to walk when challenging the beliefs of others. We don’t want to come across as arrogant and triumphalist, but at the same time we want to show the inconsistencies in the opposing belief in order to bring them to the truth. So, the next time you have the opportunity to expose the inconsistencies of Mormon belief, remember St. Peter’s counsel to “do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet. 3:15).
This article was originally published on March 29, 2017 at www.catholic.com.