As a Latter-day Saint you are familiar with many theological terms which you’ve learned in Primary, Gospel Doctrine, Elder’s Quorum, Sacrament Meeting, General Conference, et al.. In fact, you’ve most likely heard your Christian friends or Christian radio broadcasts use these same words. It is natural to assume that the words mean the same thing as you have understood them to be. However, consider when you have invited your non-Mormon friend to a special presentation at the stake house or stake center and he thought you were all going out to eat ribeyes! You might be discussing with an LDS friend the number of wards in your community and a non-Mormon overhearing the conversation would assume you were speaking of the electoral division of the city.
There is a special lingo native to any group; be it cultural, national, religious, or otherwise. That makes it completely possible for two people to be speaking the same language yet not be communicating. This article is intended to help you understand what terms familiar to LDS mean to mainstream Christians. The Bible references provided are to give you an understanding of the basis for the following Christian beliefs. The list of scriptures is not exhaustive; just a sampling.
Mormonism: This means God the Father, his son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, each one is an individual god.
Christianity: It means the “Trinity;” three divine Persons who are of the same substance; three persons, but one God.
God or Heavenly Father:
Mormonism: This means an exalted man with a body of flesh and bone who is the literal father of everyone’s spirit.
Christianity: God the Father is Spirit and cannot be seen (Timothy 1:17,Colossians 1:15, Luke 24:39, John 1:18). We become His children by adoption (Romans 8:15, 23; Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5).
Mormonism: Jesus is literally the firstborn of all heavenly Father’s and Mother(s)’ spirit children. He is every individual’s spirit brother, including Lucifer’s and the third of the host of heaven who were cast out. He was born in order to get a body, to redeem man from the effects of sin, and to work out his own salvation as part of The Plan.
Christianity: Jesus is God incarnate. He always existed as God (Philippians 2:6-8, 1 Timothy 3:15-16, John 1:1). He created the universe and everything in it (Colossians 1:16). We become brothers by adoption. He came specifically as a sacrifice for our sins and to redeem us from death and hell.
The Holy Spirit:
Mormonism: The Holy Ghost is a person of spirit. When I was Mormon I was taught that the Holy Ghost would eventually be born and get a physical body, probably during the millennium. The Holy Ghost’s purpose is to indicate truth through a burning in the bosom. He also testifies of the truthfulness of the LDS Church and the Book of Mormon. He guides and directs faithful members of the Church and withdraws from them when they are not living in a worthy manner. According to President Heber C. Kimball, the Holy Ghost is our spirit brother, a son of Heavenly Father (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 5, p 179).
Christianity: The Holy Ghost is more commonly referred to as the Holy Spirit. He is the third Person of the Trinity. He convicts the world of guilt (John 16:8-11), brings glory to Jesus (John 16:14), indwells believers (takes up residence inside the person) and makes the believer a member of Christ’s church (1 Corinthians 6:19, 12:13, Ephesians 1:12-14) regenerates believers (John 6:63, Titus 3:5, Galatians 5:25), bestows spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:3-1), instructs (John 14:26), empowers believers for godly living, comforts, guides, and directs believers.
Mormonism: There are two kinds of salvation; general and specific. General salvation is provided through the atonement—everyone, regardless of personal righteousness, will receive a resurrected body. Specific salvation is earned through obedience to the restored gospel. This is called “exaltation;” that is, living in the presence of Heavenly Father eternally and becoming as he is with the ability to procreate spirit children and organize your own worlds.
Christianity: A common phrase used is “getting saved.” You’ve probably heard a Christian say, “I got saved on (fill-in-the-date).” By this he means the day he put his trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This means he repented of his of sin and asked for salvation. He is trusting completely on Jesus alone, not his own merit, to put him in right-standing with God. Salvation for the Christian is once and for all; a done deal. He has been sealed by the Holy Spirit as belonging to Christ and will live eternally in the presence of the Father and the Son when he dies.
Mormonism: Second-born (or close) spirit son of Heavenly Father. A spirit being that is a spirit brother to all people and to fallen angels (the third of the host of heaven that followed Lucifer).
Christianity: A created being; a Cherub (Ezekiel 28:14). Not a “spirit brother of man,” but a whole different creature in species and nature.