It’s important to dispel some of the myths about Mormons. You can’t have credibility with others if you don’t know what you’re talking about, or have wrong information. No one likes to be misrepresented. This article is intended to separate fact from fiction.
Myth #1. Mormons have horns.
Fact: Only if they are in marching band or drive working vehicles. NOTE: Myth #1 is meant to be humorous. I read comments on an LDS discussion board by Mormons who were debating whether or not evangelicals really believe this. I have never personally heard anyone seriously believe Mormons have horns. When I was LDS, it was rumored that in some Christian circles there were those who actually believed Mormons have horns; however, I personally have never heard anyone make that assertion. Whether or not this myth was ever circulated as a genuine concern about Mormons, I couldn’t say.
Myth #2. Mormons are polygamists.
Fact: Mainstream Mormons do not currently practice polygamy, although according to their doctrine it is an “eternal principle” which will be practiced (at least by many) in the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom (the highest degree of glory, also referred to as the third heaven in LDS theology).1 Mormons who are found to be polygamists are excommunicated. Some off-shoots from the mainline LDS Church, known as Mormon Fundamentalists, practice polygamy and live probably closer to authentic Mormonism of the 19th Century than the mainline church does.
Myth #3. Mormon missionaries are out there trying to deceive people.
Fact: Missionaries really believe the “gospel” they are preaching. They are not intentionally trying to trick people, as they themselves are victims of deception. They have been taught to “give the milk before the meat;” that is why they only tell people about the doctrines that seem biblical on the surface. Missionaries believe it’s important to first get people into the Church and then the Holy Ghost will prepare them to receive the deeper and more controversial doctrines.
Myth #4. Is it true that Mormons wear magic underwear to protect them from harm?
Fact: Yes and no. No, they are not considered “magic” by LDS, nor are they worn with the same intent as a superstitious person might carry around a rabbit’s foot. Mormons who have gone through the Temple take upon themselves certain oaths and covenants. Part of the covenants includes the requirement of wearing special undergarments for the rest of their lives. They are considered sacred by Mormons. This under-clothing has special marks on them that have particular meaning. The marks on the garments are the same ones used in the Masonic Lodge. Joseph Smith rose to the level of sublime degree as a Freemason before introducing the Temple ceremony to the Mormon people. He modified the rituals learned in Masonry, using the same “signs and tokens,” but re-naming them.2
The garments are a constant reminder to the wearer of the covenants made in the Temple. They are also intended to be a shield against evil. Many stories have circulated over the years of individuals claiming miraculous protection. For example, perhaps in a fire everything was burned except for where the garment covered the person’s body; or the person was in an accident, but the parts of the body covered by the garment were not injured. So yes, Temple-worthy Mormons do wear special underwear covering their torsos; but no, Mormons do not think they are magic; just sacred.
Myth #5. Is it true that Mormons have to get naked during part of their temple ceremonies?
Fact: There was one portion of the ceremony, called “Initiatory” (or washing and anointing), where patrons removed their clothing in private and put on a poncho-type of garment called a “shield.” This poncho covered their bodies, but there were open slits up the sides so that a temple-worker of the same sex could reach underneath and anoint certain parts of the patron’s body with “consecrated oil.” No private parts were touched and everything was modest and above-board. The ceremony was changed in January 2005. Patrons no longer have to be naked under a poncho. They now have a zippered jumpsuit they put on and the only part of the patron’s body touched is the head.
Historically, when washings and anointings were first performed in 1836, and up until 1931, full-sized bathtubs were used for bathing the whole person’s body followed by liberally pouring oil over them. For more information the evolution of the Mormon Temple ceremony over the years, click here for an off-site article.
Myth #6. Is it true that sexual rituals are performed by temple patrons while they are inside?
Fact: No. Several types of rituals or work is done in LDS temple, none of them involving sexual activity. Baptisms, Confirmations, Initiatory sessions, Endowments, and Marriages are performed in behalf of the dead (in other words, by proxy for those who have passed away), except for going through the temple the first time for oneself. The person has his or her own initiatory work done, receives the Endowment, and either immediately after or at a later time gets married or “sealed” their spouse.
Myth #7. I heard Mormons “baptize the dead.” Do they really baptize corpses?
Fact: No, there are not dead bodies in the temples (except for the patrons who fall asleep during the movie) (Lighten up! When I was LDS I often heard Mormons joke about those who fell asleep during the endowment ceremony). “Baptisms for the dead” and other temple ordinances are done by living people in behalf of those who have died. The temple patron “stands in proxy” for the deceased person. Mormon belief is that the individual will have the opportunity to accept or reject the ordinance in “the spirit world.” In other words, just because temple work is done for the deceased, doesn’t mean they have to be Mormons throughout all eternity. They can reject Mormonism in the hereafter and go to a lower kingdom of glory. However, in reality it’s a moot point, because a person has only this life to receive salvation. There are no second chances after death.
Myth #8. Mormons must be crazy to believe all that stuff.
Fact: Actually, Mormons in general are very intelligent people. Among the LDS you will find doctors, lawyers, senators, congressman, scientists, educators, and other highly skilled individuals. You will also find LDS in all economic classes. Religious beliefs do not necessarily equate with intelligence. If someone has been told something all their lives, they’ll most likely believe it is true. A person’s experiences also shape what he or she believes. Spiritual manifestations or metaphysical occurrences can easily lead one to believe they are evidences that something is true. Things happen that cannot be explained from a natural, human understanding. There exist both counterfeit miracles and ones truly from God.
The Bible warns that Satan appears as an angel of light. The person who has a glorious being appear to them is going to base his future beliefs on that experience, not on common sense. Many LDS people have had “supernatural” experiences, such as praying to know if the Book of Mormon is true and getting a burning in the bosom. Or they’ve gone to the Temple and felt “the Spirit” there, so they conclude this is just another proof that Mormonism is true. They really are having genuine experiences! They feel something very real and very powerful. The Bible warns us to “test the spirits” to see if they are of God (1 John 4:1-6). If “the spirit” is telling you something that contradicts what God has already revealed in His word, it is not the Holy Spirit. If the Bible has made clear that Jesus is God in the flesh and always existed as God and you get a revelation that says Jesus is only an angel or Satan’s spirit brother or a Cosmic Conscience or just a good man or great teacher, you can know the revelation is not of God. Mormons, however, have not been taught biblical truth. They have been taught to follow their prophets and test every experience against what their scriptures (Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenant, Pearl of Great Price) and LDS prophets have said.
Remember, Satan is the “god” of this world and he has blinded the minds of people so they cannot see the gospel of Christ. You wouldn’t insult the intelligence of a blind man who stumbles over a chair, telling him he’s stupid for not seeing it. Likewise, it would be wrong to insult the intelligence of someone who has been spiritually blinded; instead we must help him see clearly in light of biblical truth.
Myth #9- Mormons have lots of kids so they can increase their kingdom in the next life.
Fact: Mormons tend to have large families for several reasons. From a doctrinal standpoint, they are being obedient to their leaders and living their beliefs. In Mormon theology, there are billions of spirit children of a heavenly father and mothers (God the Father and his wives) that are waiting to come to earth to gain a physical body. It is believed to be necessary for the eternal progression of these spirits. Mormonism does not teach reincarnation. It teaches that people lived in heaven (a.k.a. “the spirit world”) prior to birth and they are born once into a physical body. After death, the person’s spirit goes either to “spirit paradise” or “spirit prison” depending on whether or not the person died as a Mormon.
Church leaders have taught that faithful Latter-day Saints should welcome into their homes all the children Heavenly Father wants to send. In this way, these spirits will have the opportunity to be born and raised in LDS families rather than in the homes of the non-Mormons. It is not so much that Mormons think they will get a better kingdom in the next life as it is that families are foundational to the LDS concept of the plan of salvation. They see bearing and raising children as a great privilege.
Myth #10- Mormons hate the blood of Jesus so much that they use water instead of wine or grape juice in their weekly communion.
Fact: In the early days of the LDS Church, Mormons–including Joseph Smith, Jr–used fermented wine in the sacrament. The practice of using water instead of wine in LDS communion was made an official church-wide policy in 1912, although some congregations used water long before then. In the Doctrine & Covenants 27:2-4, Smith claimed he received a revelation which said;
For, behold, I say unto you, that it mattereth not what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink when ye partake of the sacrament, if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory—remembering unto the Father my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the remission of your sins. Wherefore, a commandment I give unto you, that you shall not purchase wine neither strong drink of your enemies; Wherefore, you shall partake of none except it is made new among you; yea, in this my Father’s kingdom which shall be built up on the earth.
It isn’t that Mormons hate the blood of Jesus; they are just using water because it was a practice implemented by their leaders almost a hundred years before. In Mormonism, the blood of Jesus is not central to their gospel. From a Christian perspective, we can see that the power and influence behind any practice or religion that minimizes what Jesus did at the Cross is of Satan himself; however, the followers in these groups are deceived by their leaders, who give them plausible reasons for not dwelling on the blood shed by Christ. In other words, Mormons aren’t taking the water thinking about how much they despise Christ’s atoning blood; they are taking the water thinking it represents a new covenant, as they’ve been taught to believe.
Myth #11- Mormons do not believe Jesus suffered on the cross.
Fact: Mormons do not deny that Jesus suffered excruciating physical torture on the cross. They understand his torment and death on a Roman cross as an actual historical event. However, as explained in myth #10 regarding Mormon communion with water, while they believe Jesus died on the cross and that it was a necessary part of the atonement, the significance of the crucifixion is minimized.
Mormon doctrine teaches that Christ took upon himself the sins of mankind in the Garden of Gethsemane. Speaking of Gethsemane, LDS Apostle Bruce. R. McConkie explained;
This sacred spot, like Eden where Adam dwelt, like Sinai from whence Jehovah gave his laws, like Calvary where the Son of God gave his life a ransom for many, this holy ground is where the Sinless Son of the Everlasting Father took upon himself the sins of all men on condition of repentance.
We do not know, we cannot tell, no mortal mind can conceive the full import of what Christ did in Gethsemane. (The Purifying Power of Gethsemane, Ensign April 1985).
The following quote from an LDS teaching manual also affirms their doctrine that the atonement of Christ took place first in the Garden;
The Savior atoned for our sins by suffering in Gethsemane and by giving his life on the cross. It is impossible for us to fully understand how he suffered for all our sins. In the garden of Gethsemane, the weight of our sins caused him to feel such agony and heartbreak that he bled from every pore (see D&C 19:18-19). Later, as he hung on the cross, Jesus suffered painful death by one of the most
cruel methods known to man. (Gospel Principles, 1992, p. 73)
Jesus’s death on the cross did not complete the atonement according to Mormon doctrine;
Jesus had not finished his work when his body was slain, neither did he finish it after his resurrection from the dead; although he had accomplished the purpose for which he then came to the earth, he had not fulfilled all his work. And when will he? Not until he has redeemed and saved every son and daughter of our father Adam that have been or ever will be born upon this earth to the end of time, except sons of perdition [apostates]. That is his mission.” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 1998, p. 87)
Jesus sacrificial death as the Lamb of God is insufficient to redeem us in LDS soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). We must add works and membership in the Mormon Church to qualify for eternal life;
Joseph Smith told us that Jesus was the Christ…Joseph also told us that the savior requires strict obedience to all the commandments, ordinances, and laws pertaining to his kingdom, and that if we should do this we should be made partakers of all the blessings promised in his gospel. (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 1997, p. 37-38)
As you can see, Mormons do not deny Jesus’ death on the cross, but it isn’t emphasized. Likewise, they focus on the resurrection of Christ far more than they do his death. This is due to their misunderstanding of the atonement (see explanation of LDS 3rd Article of Faith, the Atonement, here).
1. (See Doctrine & Covenants 132, Journal of Discourses, vol. 1 p. 316; vol. 6 p 359-360, 362; vol. 11 p. 205, 207, 223-224; vol. 12 p. 92, 312; vol. 13 p 41-42, 167-168, 187-188, 196, 39; vol. 14 pp. 43 – 44; vol. 15 pp. 28, 133 – 134). These references are to show that “Celestial Marriage” was understood by early Mormons to mean plural marriage.
2. See http://www.utlm.org/onlineresources/mormonkingdomvol1ch13masonicinfluence.htm for an excellent article on Joseph Smith’s involovement with freemasonry and its influence on Mormonism.