Mormon Gospel Basics

 

The Mormon Gospel

Mormonism attempts to answer the following questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? The answers provided by LDS theology sound very appealing to many people, especially if they are unfamiliar with the biblical gospel. The following is an overview of the Mormon gospel.

Where did we come from? Mormons teach that before we were born—called “the preexistence”–we lived as spirit beings in a heavenly realm with our heavenly parents. Our heavenly parents were God the Father (named “Elohim”) and one of his wives. In other words, each human being was born as a spirit baby to two resurrected people; Elohim and a mother. Since Elohim has an unknown number of wives, we all shared the same father but had different mothers.

Prior to the preexistence we existed as separate entities called “intelligences.” While LDS doctrine does not address what an “intelligence” is, it does say that there were various degrees of progression among the intelligences and that only the best and the brightest progressed to become spirit beings in preparation for mortality. The rest of creation (the earth, animals, plants, insects, all the way down to individual cells that make up the human body), were created spiritually first, from the pool of remaining intelligences before the physical creation.

Life in the spirit world was called the “First Estate,” Where we were tutored by our heavenly parents’ side, learning the way of salvation and growing in wisdom and knowledge. Some spirits advanced more quickly than others, most notably of which was Jehovah (Jesus’ pre-mortal name); our eldest spirit brother and first-born son of heavenly Father and Mother. One day, as the time for the next step in our eternal progression approached, a great family council in heaven was called. God the Father explained we would need a Savior, as all would sin and some would lose their way back to Him. He asked whom he should send.

Mormon teaching says that at that point Jehovah stepped forward and offered to be Savior of mankind; allowing people the freedom to choose whether or not to follow him (free agency) and he would give Heavenly Father all the glory. Jesus knew we needed free will to choose obedience to the gospel in order to prove ourselves worthy of exaltation (godhood).

Lucifer then stood before the council and stated he would go down as savior of mankind and guarantee that not one soul would be lost. He would use coercion to enforce obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, thus assuring that everyone would make it through mortality worthy enough to gain exaltation. There was only one catch; Lucifer demanded all the honor and glory for doing it.

Mormon scripture records that Heavenly Father then said, “I will send the first” (Abraham 3:27, Pearl of Great Price). A great brouhaha followed, with Lucifer rebelling and a war in heaven ensuing, resulting in Lucifer (thereafter known as Satan) and a third of the spirits beings cast out of heaven down to the earth, never to receive mortal bodies.

The preceding leads up to why we are here. Just as we progressed from intelligence to spirit being, according to Mormon doctrine, we advanced as spirit children in degree of how valiant we were, our loyalty, and worthiness. Those who did not follow Satan were said to have “kept their first estate,” qualifying them to be born into mortality to receive a body of flesh. Some of the Father’s children fought so valiantly at the side of Jehovah and Michael (the latter who would come into the world as Adam) that they were chosen to be prophets and leaders down through the ages. One of the most valiant spirits was Joseph Smith, set apart to be the greatest leader (next to Jesus Christ) of all dispensations of time. As LDS scripture attests, “Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, tan any other man that ever lived in it” (Doctrine & Covenants 135:3) 

Spirit children who were not as courageous, but still the cream of the crop, were reserved to be born into faithful Mormon homes in these “Latter Days” (the period of time between Joseph Smith and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ). Those who were valiant in the preexistence, but not stellar enough to make it into an LDS home, were reserved for the Last Days to become converts to Mormonism at some point in their mortal lives. Spirit children who chose the side of Jesus, but did not fight valiantly on his side were sent to earth during less enlightened times. LDS leaders at one time taught that “fence-sitters” were born with dark skin (any non-Caucasians). Nevertheless, every individual keeping their first estate would receive a mortal body on earth, known as the “second estate.”

According to Mormon doctrine we are here to get a mortal body, gain experience, be tested, and progress toward godhood. Where we go after we die depends on several factors. In Mormon theology there are three degrees of glory—or heavenly realms—in which people end up. Essentially, everybody goes to heaven. A person can be as wicked and evil as Hitler and still get a degree of glory that far surpasses anything like this earth. The three main divisions from lowest to highest are the Telestial, Terrestrial, and Celestial kingdoms. Within each division are various levels to which one can attain, however, there is no “kingdom hopping.” In other words, someone in the Telestial Kingdom cannot advance to the Terrestrial or Celestial kingdoms, nor can a Terrestrial being advance to the Celestial kingdom. People in higher kingdoms can visit lower kingdoms, but not vice versa.

The Telestial kingdom is reserved for murderers, blasphemers, liars, adulterers, fornicators, and other lascivious sinners. Those who go to this kingdom must pay for their own sins by suffering the torments of hell for a thousand years during Christ’s millennial reign here on earth. When that period of time is up they come forth in the second resurrection and dwell in the lowest of the heavens for the rest of eternity, enjoying eternal paradise and being ministered to by the Holy Ghost.

The Terrestrial kingdom is reserved for the honorable people of the earth; those who were moral and upright, but rejected the LDS gospel. Latter-day Saints who were lukewarm about their membership in the Church will also be assigned to this kingdom. People attaining the Terrestrial Kingdom will be able to have Jesus Christ minister to them, but will not see God the Father.

“An inheritance in this glorious kingdom [the Celestial Kingdom] is gained by complete obedience to gospel or celestial law…By devotion and faithfulness, by enduring to the end in righteousness and obedience, it is then possible to merit a celestial reward” (Bruce R. McKonkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 116).

To advance to the highest degree of glory within the Celestial Kingdom, one must be married in the LDS Temple by one of the authorized “brethren” holding the Melchizedek priesthood. This allows the couple to achieve godhood, thereby obtaining the ability to create and populate their own worlds. Mormons who lived the gospel and were worthy enough to merit the Celestial Kingdom, but did not make the godhood track (i.e., did not marry), will serve as angels ministering to those who achieve godhood.

The Mormon gospel is very works-based and denies the completed work of grace accomplished on the cross by Jesus Christ. It is almost Universalist in nature, in that everyone—regardless of religion, belief, or behavior–goes to some degree of heaven. The only exception is what Mormonism calls “Sons of Perdition;” those;

[W]ho gain a perfect knowledge of the divinity of the gospel cause [Mormonism], a knowledge that comes only by revelation from the Holy Ghost, and then link themselves with Lucifer and come out in open rebellion…Their destiny, following the resurrection, is to be cast out with the devil and his angels, and inherit the same kingdom in a state where “their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched” (Ibid. p 746).

The goal of Mormonism is to “perfect the saints,” bringing them to a state of exaltation, as they believe God is; an exalted man.

On the other hand, the whole design of the gospel is to lead us onward and upward to greater achievement, even, eventually, to godhood. This great possibility was enunciated by the Prophet Joseph Smith in the King Follet sermon (see Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 342–62; and emphasized by President Lorenzo Snow. It is this grand and incomparable concept: As God now is, man may become! (See The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, comp. Clyde J. Williams, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1984, p. 1.) (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Don’t Drop the Ball,” Ensign, Nov 1994, 46)

Biblical Response

Like all man-centered gospels, whether the prosperity gospel, Emergent Church, seeker-sensitive movement, cults, humanism, etc., Mormonism tickles the ears by putting man in the driver’s seat. False gospels appeal to human pride because they give people the notion they can save themselves or add to their salvation by their own efforts and good works. Biblically speaking, good works should come in response to being saved, not as a prerequisite for being saved. Mormonism also appeals to the pride because it teaches man has an innately divine nature, rather than what the Bible teaches about the total depravity of man.

[E]very inclination of [man’s] heart is evil from childhood. (Genesis 8:21, NIV)

The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. (Genesis 6:5-7)

[F]or there is no one who does not sin (Chronicles 6:36)

Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies. (Psalm 58:3)

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5)

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6, KJV)

In his epistle to the Roman believers, the Apostle Paul masterfully explains sin, the purpose of the moral law (the Ten Commandments), and man’s redemption through Jesus Christ. Every person on this earth is born spiritually dead in trespasses and sin, yet,

“God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”(Romans 5:8)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

No one likes to think of themselves as being depraved by nature. We all like to think of ourselves as “pretty good people.” We compare ourselves to the very worst of mankind; those who rape, plunder, murder, and steal, and because we aren’t that bad, we feel God owes us pardon and is constrained to let us into His kingdom. Nothing could be further from the truth. God is perfectly holy and just by nature. He is so pure that no unclean thing can come into His presence. His very presence would destroy us were we to approach Him in our sinful state.

It doesn’t matter if we have “only” broken a few of the commandments. The fact is we are guilty of breaking all of them. Has there ever been a time in our lives when we did not fail to put Him first, or worship idols (money, fame, career, prestige, material goods, etc.)? Has there ever been a time when we did not honor our parents or tell even one lie or take something (no matter how small) that did not belong to us? Did we never covet another person’s belongings, relationships, or position? Were we always pure in our thoughts? Jesus said whoever looks at another person with lust has committed sexual sin in his or her heart. James the apostle clearly stated, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it” (James 2:10). This idea has been explained with the following analogy; imagine hanging over the edge of a cliff by a chain with ten links, each representing one of the Ten Commandments. Only one of the links needs to break in order to send the person plummeting to his death!

When King David took Bathsheba into his bed he broke almost all the commandments. He put his own desires above God, murdered, committed adultery, lied, dishonored his parents, coveted his neighbor’s wife, and stole what did not belong to him; yet, when confronted by the prophet Nathan, David confessed, “I have sinned against the LORD” (2 Samuel 12:13). He later lamented to God, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4). You see, while we wrongfully impact and hurt others by our sinful actions, it is ultimately against God Whom we sin.

There is no salvation without repentance and receiving Jesus as LORD, recognizing Him as the God of Israel and Son of David. Repentance is the recognition of our guilt before God, our subsequent brokenness over our sin, and then turning from our wicked ways, and turning to God. It doesn’t mean we never stumble, but there should be a clear distinction between the way we lived before being redeemed and the way we live afterward. Our salvation should bear fruit. Over time the Holy Spirit transforms us. As we mature in our walk with God we will begin to hate the things He hates and love those things He loves. Our sin should become more and more abhorrent to us as we develop a hunger and thirst for righteousness.

God truly loved us so much, that He was willing to take on human flesh to provide the means for our salvation. If you do not know Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, will you not consider His offer of salvation? Where you spend eternity depends on it.