While there are many reasons why Evangelical Christians of all stripes might disagree with Mormon theology, perhaps the most important of these is Christology and the related matter of soteriology.
I would encourage you to read carefully through the statement at the link below by a practicing Mormon scholar, presented at Harvard Divinity School a few years ago. Here is the link—http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/what-mormons-believe-about-jesus-christ (in order to actually find this page you will need to do a Google Search of ‘What Mormons believe’ and then scroll down to the entry from 2001 when Millet spoke at Harvard. It has been taken down from the Mormon website).
Please note that these views, as expressed by Mr. Millet are not unusual or eccentric, rather they are typical. While it is true that in some respects, Mormons have more disagreements with Catholics and Orthodox Christians than they do with Evangelicals they certainly have major differences with Evangelicals as well. They could not, for example, in good conscious sign a faith statement that the Evangelical Theological Society might present to them for membership in that society. What are these major differences? Here it will be worth listing just a few in this post:
1) Mormons are polytheists, not monotheists. That is, they believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three separate beings, thus denying the essential monotheistic statements of both the OT and NT that God is One.
2) Mormons, thus, not surprisingly, deny the doctrine of the Trinity, calling it an amalgam of Greek ideas with Biblical ideas. Their basic view is that the original doctrine of God and of the ‘priesthood’ and key ideas about sacrifice, and leadership of the NT era were lost, as the church became entirely apostate and needed to be renewed, and that the NT church was not renewed until Joseph Smith came along in the 19th century (who btw, had an interest in Methodism whilst he was in Palmyra N.Y. and apparently took part in some of the revivals in the ‘Burnt Over District’ there in the first part of the 19th century). Mormons see the ecumenical councils which produced the Nicean creed or the Apostle’s Creed or the Chalcedonian creed as in essence contradictory to what Scripture teaches.
3) Mormons believe that even God the Father has, and apparently, needs a body, denying that God in the divine nature is spirit. Indeed they believe that God the Father is an exalted man!
4) Just as they believe that the early church became apostate, they also believe the Bible as we have it is not inerrant or always truthful and trustworthy, even on major issues like Christology, and therefore needs to be supplemented (and corrected) by subsequent prophetic revelation in documents like the Book of Mormon, or even The Pearl of Great Price.
5) in terms of soteriology, Mormons deny the sufficiency of Christ’s death for salvation. They suggest, as the linked article says, that each of us must do all we can and then trust in the mercy of God. In other words, the de facto position is that Mormonism is to a significant degree a works religion even when it comes to salvation.
6) The goal of Mormon soteriology is that we all become as ‘gods’ become both immortal and divine, blurring the creator/creature distinction which was already badly blurred by a theology that suggested that God is actually a sort of uber-human being, with less flaws. One rather familiar teaching is ‘as God was, so we are. As God is, so we shall be’.
I bring this issue up now, because of the general ignorance of the American public about whether or not Mormons are actually Christians or not. If they really embrace the official positions of their religious group, they are not Christians, though they often present themselves as such, for example, calling their meeting places churches sometimes (but notice— no crosses to be found on top, or worn either).
What of course makes this whole deal slippery is that Mormon doctrine is a constantly evolving thing due to a belief in the living voice of prophecy. For example, the head of the Mormon Church in my lifetime corrected what had previously been taught by Mormonism’s original leaders (e.g. Brigham Young) that black people were the descendents of the least favored race of the big three (Shem, Ham, and Japeth), and as such could not become priests in the Mormon church. Not so, any more.
It is of course true that there are Christians who are a part of the Mormon religion. I would call them confused Christians who know neither church history very well (including the history of the origins of Mormonism in America and the actual origin of the Book of Mormon), nor do they know what the NT actually teaches when it comes to things like Christology and salvation and the nature of the Scriptures.
It is typical of groups like the Mormons (any of the branches) or the Jehovah’s Witness that they are actually split offs from some orthodox Christian group, in both cases from Protestantism. Not surprisingly then, they have more in common with Protestants in some respects than they do with Catholics or the Orthodox, except in regard to the matter of an all male priesthood and therefore the nature of worship.
Mormonism certainly is a highly patriarchal religion, modeled more in its praxis on Leviticus than say on what is said in the NT letters about male and female apostles, prophets, teachers, and this also extends to the Mormon view of the physical family which is far from egalitarian in character.
I am not suggesting for a moment that there aren’t many Mormons that would pass the test of being decent and honest and loving human beings. There are. I know some of them. Nor can one fault their zeal for their form of religion, indeed their missionaries often put actual Christian missionaries to shame. Nor would I suggest that these folks are deliberate deceivers of other people. The ones I know are not. They are sincere and committed to Mormonism, and truly believe it is the true religion.
What I would say is that they are deceived about what the Bible really teaches about the nature of God, of Christ, of salvation, and of true humanity, not to mention the nature of the Scriptures which are indeed the sufficient rule of faith and practice for all true Christians and do not require supplements or corrections from Joseph Smith’s works.
Why have I posted this now? Because of the many times I am asked these days, the question– Can Evangelicals vote for Mitt Romney? I have done a previous post, some time ago for Beliefnet about Mitt Romney in regard to his previous campaigns for high office. I will not repeat that here. I think deciding on who to vote for as President should involve a consideration of many different factors, many different pros and cons of the two candidates.
I think each person must make up their own mind who they will vote for, but the point of this post is that such important decisions should not be made on the basis of false assumptions, and particularly not on the basis of false assumptions about a person’s actual religion.
SPOILER ALERT: THINGS YOU SHOULD NOT SAY IN RESPONSE TO THIS POST
1) ‘You’re just prejudiced, you don’t know what you’re talking about, and that’s just your opinion’.
Wrong. These are the facts. I have taught classes on both world and American religions, and what I have said is based either on what Mormons themselves have said about their beliefs, and/or what their source documents say about the same.
2) ‘This is unkind and untimely. Everyone should have the right to their own religious beliefs and should not be criticized for them. If a person wants to call himself a Christian, then he or she must be a Christian.’
Yes…and no. Yes, a person has an American right to freedom of religion. No, a private individual does not get to decide for themselves what is and isn’t true or is or isn’t orthodox Christianity, and that includes me. Christian beliefs need to match up with what the Bible in fact claims, and what the historic creeds and confessions of the church have understood the Bible to say and mean. Furthermore, even if we were talking about genuine Christian groups, no single group has the authority to add additional books to the sacred canon of Scriptures, whether it be the Book of Mormon or something else. The Bible is both the necessary and sufficient revelation of God and God’s character and God’s will. All three great monotheistic religions recognize the Bible or some part of it as God’s Word. None of them recognize the Book of Mormon as the necessary appendix to the Bible.
3) ‘Aren’t we disputing about words and minor issues here.’
No we are not. The attempt to trivialize important theological issues, and make them a mere dispute about words is frankly an insult to the earliest Christians, many of whom died for their monotheistic and Trinitarian beliefs. Yes indeed, it does matter what the content is of your religious belief.
4) ‘But look at all the energy and zeal and earnestness and deep commitment of Mormons. Isn’t that to be commended?’
Yes and no. Zeal that is not according to knowledge does not honor the real God, and is misguided. Sincerity is not the same thing as true faith. A person can be sincerely wrong, indeed badly wrong however convinced they are of what they believe. So, yes some of these traits are commendable, if they are properly directed and guided and serving the God of the Bible and the good of humankind.’
I could go on, but this is more than enough for you to chew on. Think on these things.