Mormons and Evangelicals
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have an uneasy relationship with evangelicals. Both groups are socially conservative and tend to uphold the same values in the public square — both groups are against abortion, and are pro-family. The LDS Church takes a stand against homosexual marriage, and most evangelical congregations do the same. Evangelicals tend to be highly in favor of creationism, while Mormonism allows for the evidence of science to help explain the creation. On social issues, Evangelicals and Latter-day Saints would do well to work together.
That said, there is a growing rift between the two movements for various reasons. The LDS Church has a large missionary program with over 52,000 full-time missionaries serving all over the world. Their message is that after the death of Christ's original apostles, Orthodox Christianity fell into apostasy. (All protestant churches, including Evangelicals, believe this.) LDS missionaries teach that a reformation of orthodoxy was not enough, a complete restoration was needed to restore lost authority and power. The Latter-day Saint message is that, in preparation for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, God has restored His power and authority through heavenly messengers. These messengers are the same people (now resurrected) who held these keys while they served on earth. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is one of only two Christian churches in America still growing, while all the others are losing membership and having trouble retaining their youth. (See Mormon Youth.) The LDS Church has a lay, unpaid clergy. But evangelical ministers and pastors lose income when their members fall away, and this is one reason why they fight to keep their members.
There are about 750 anti-Mormon Evangelical ministries. There are no anti-Evangelical ministries in the LDS Church. Mormon missionaries present their message, and encourage investigators to read the Book of Mormon and pray about the truthfulness of the restored gospel. Investigators are not to join the LDS Church unless they receive personal revelation, a witness that the LDS Church is true. However, the report of the First Vision of Joseph Smith is offensive to Evangelicals. Joseph said,
- "My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.
- "I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof” (Joseph Smith History).
The Evangelical movement was part of the Protestant Reformation, attempting to correct the errors of orthodoxy, but the Protestants kept some of the creeds of orthodoxy, especially the creed that defines the "trinity," as three (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) of one substance, God as a spirit who became the incarnate Christ. Mormons read the same Bible and see Christ praying to His Father, not to Himself. In Stephen's vision, he saw through the Holy Spirit, Jesus at the right hand of the Father. We see the dying Christ on the cross addressing His father as "Daddy" - abba.
One claim of Evangelicalism is that it is the true biblical Christianity, and all other faiths, including the Catholic faith, amount to theological cults teaching false doctrine, and that their followers are condemned to hell. The Protestant movement put Bibles into the hands of the common folk, so that they were not dependent on the Catholic clergy for their doctrine, but could read the Bible themselves and use the holy spirit to help them find meaning. Martin Luther and others reviled the possibility that works were necessary for salvation. Most Evangelicals believe that only belief is necessary for salvation, and that God's grace does the rest. Our good works are done out of gratitude for God's blessings in our life. They accuse Latter-day Saints of believing that they can get to heaven by their works. This is untrue. This is what the Book of Mormon says:
- Wherefore, my beloved brethren, reconcile yourselves to the will of God, and not to the will of the devil and the flesh; and remember, after ye are reconciled unto God, that it is only in and through the grace of God that ye are saved (2 Nephi 10:24).
In the Bible Christ tells us in Matthew 19:17: "...but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." For Mormons, works equal repentance, keeping the commandments, and serving God and our fellowmen.
Because of its concern with keeping commandments and honoring covenants and ordinances, the LDS Church has some tangible goals and patterns that help children, youth, and adults overcome the world. Statistics show that these covenants and patterns work in the lives of Latter-day Saints. One report demonstrated that of the six most socially conservative American states, Utah ranks sixth. But it ranks 34th for teen pregnancy, whereas the first five most socially conservative, with majority evangelical protestant citizens, rank also in the top five for teenage pregnancy rates. The divorce rate of Mormons who marry in Mormon temples is 7%, while the divorce rate for most religious people is 25%, and for others, 50%. Christianity Today author Mark Galli says "It's now pretty much agreed that the evangelical church mirrors the dysfunctions of secular society, from premarital sex stats to divorce rates to buying habits. Much to our dismay, we are hardly a light to the world, nor an icon of the abundant, transformed life."
Who founded the Churches?
One Evangelical claim is that Evangelicalism was established by Christ, whereas Mormonism was founded by Joseph Smith. They assume that Latter-day Saints remain in their prophet's thrall. This is untrue. Mormonism was not founded by Joseph Smith, but he was the first prophet of the Last dispensation of time. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized by Jesus Christ (beginning with His first appearance to Joseph Smith) and heavenly messengers sent by Him.
The Evangelical movement claims to be the only true biblical Christianity, as if of ancient origin. But the Evangelical movement began just shortly before The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was established. Evangelicalism is a Protestant Christian movement which began in Great Britain in the 1730s and gained popularity in the United States during the series of Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century. The LDS Church was established in 1830 in upstate New York in the midst of the second of these great awakenings. Many individuals had come to the conclusion that a restoration of Christ's ancient church was necessary, and many "restorationists" recognized that "Mormonism" was what the holy spirit was leading them toward.
Is Mormonism a Cult?
The anti-Mormon evangelical ministries twist facts about Mormonism to make it sound so weird and unappealing as to affront the faith. Joseph Smith was never convicted of any crime. Mormons do not believe that when they die they get their own planet. Mormons do not practice polygamy. The Book of Mormon does not conflict with the Bible and is of divine origin. Mormons have not added a word to the Holy Bible, nor have they taken a word away. Mormons believe that Jesus Christ was resurrected, and that He will return in like manner; therefore, He is resurrected still. This does not mean that Mormons are not Christians. (For answers to the "50 questions" or the "58 Questions" devised by Evangelicals to trip up Mormons or Mormon missionaries, go to MormonFAQ.com.)
Are Mormons Christians?
Does a church have to be part of mainstream Christianity to be considered Christian? Evangelicals say that is necessary and that Mormons aren't Christians.
- "We Latter-day Saints cheerfully acknowledge — indeed, we proclaim — that our faith isn't part of the traditional Christian mainstream. After all, if it were mainstream there would have been no need for the Restoration or the mission of Joseph Smith.
- "At the same time, we also strongly affirm our Christianity, our faith in Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God and Redeemer who offers humans their only hope of salvation.
- "These two positions — our insistence that we're Christians and our simultaneous denial that we're members of the Christian mainstream — aren't mutually contradictory, because they affirm and deny different things.
- "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints — which some call the Mormon church — declares itself a restoration of New Testament Christianity, distinct from all other types of Christianity but still very strongly asserting the deity and atoning mission of Jesus of Nazareth. While it isn't a branch of the main trunk of creedal Christendom, its roots — like those of that main trunk — emerge undeniably from the soil of early Christianity.
- "Others certainly dispute the Mormon self-understanding, but there can be no dispute that believing Mormons hold it, and that they place all their hope for eternal life in the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
- "That Mormonism is neither Catholic, Orthodox nor Protestant; that Mormons hold distinctive beliefs; that we don't share some of the doctrines of other Christians — these are surely matters of secondary importance when discussing whether or not Mormonism is Christian.
- "Joseph Smith's declaration cannot be recalled too frequently in this context: "The fundamental principles of our religion," he said, "are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it." 
- Mark Galli: "We've Won the Lottery—Now What? The meaning of evangelical scandals—including our own", Christianity Today, July 30, 2009.
- Mormons not Christian? That's a Fallacy, by Daniel Peterson