The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS; Mormon)

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LDS Plan of Salvation

I’m going to touch on some of the aspects of the LDS plan of salvation. This is their gospel, or their plan of happiness. The plan begins with God, but their God has not always been God. Their God was once a man on another planet, just like we are. Through obedience to the LDS church and gospel, this same plan of salvation, and submission to another God, he has earned his way up to being God of our planet.

The LDS church teaches that all humans pre-existed before our earthly lives as literal spirit children of our Heavenly Father Elohim. In fact, the firstborn spirit child was Jesus. Jesus had another brother named Lucifer. Jesus and Lucifer, before the council of the Gods, presented two conflicting plans of salvation, and Jesus’ gospel got chosen. He got chosen to be the Savior of our world. Because he got chosen, Lucifer got upset and started a war against our heavenly father Elohim. A third of us as spirit children joined on his side, a third sided with Jesus, and a third stayed neutral. The third that sided with Lucifer got cast out of heaven without bodies. This is important because a body, and coming to this earth, is essential to become a God, or become exalted. So those third automatically have their exaltation stunted. They will never progress beyond that point. The third that were righteous were born into good, noble families. The third that were neutral were born into less fortunate circumstances.

Those of us who stayed in heaven wait our turn to come to this earth, and to be born with a human body. The purpose of life on our earth is that it is a time of testing. It’s a time in which we are either going to overcome this world, overcome temptation, overcome our sinful bent toward things, or we’re going to side again with Lucifer.

After this life on earth, we’ve either become perfect, or we have not. We’ve accepted the LDS gospel, or did not receive the LDS gospel. When we die we go to the spirit wold. Everyone goes to one of two places. We either go to Paradise, or we go to Spirit Prison.

The reason why the LDS church has temples is because they do some very important things in them, at least from their point of view. In those temples, they get baptized by proxy on behalf of a dead relative. So they can get baptized in the name of Grandpa Joe, and then Grandpa Joe, in Spirit Prison, has a chance to accept the LDS gospel from missionaries sent from Paradise to Spirit Prison. Grandpa Joe, if he receives the LDS gospel and the baptism done on his behalf by proxy, is now able to enter Paradise, and then start progressing on toward exaltation. Another thing that takes place in their temples is LDS get sealed as families, as husbands and wives, along with their children, for all time and eternity. The Mormon church does not teach that marriage is just until death, but for all time and eternity.

The LDS church teaches that everyone is going to come to a final judgment. The LDS church teaches that Jesus died to overcome physical death for all of us, but in contrast to orthodox Christian teachings, his death only makes it possible for us to achieve exaltation. So they will say we’ve all been saved by grace, but exaltation is a totally different matter. And when they say exaltation, they are talking about their belief in three levels of heaven. The LDS church teaches that everyone is going to go to heaven because Jesus died. It’s just a matter of where they are going to spend that eternity.

The LDS teach there are three levels of heaven. The highest level is the Celestial Kingdom. That’s for those who have completely repented of all of their sins, they have performed all of their covenants that they have made here on earth in the temple and the LDS church. These are the ones who have progressed to the point in which they are ready to become Gods themselves. They will then have their spirit wives and they will give birth to their spirit children, and they will send a Savior to a world, and the whole process will play over again.

Those who didn’t quite make it to the highest level go to the Terrestrial Kingdom. This includes not just LDS people, but all faithful people who are generally good, moral people. They just have not become perfect. They either have not completely repented of their sins, or they have never been a part of the LDS church.

The third and final level of heaven is the Telestial Kingdom. It is for those who we culturally believe “should” go to hell. These are the “horrible” people of the world, i.e. the people who live without law, the people who were murderers or thieves, spent a lot of time in prison, etc… In other words, we determine the level of heaven we will end up in by the law we have been willing or unwilling to keep.

Outer Darkness is a completely separate category. The people who go to Outer Darkness are those who have received the full knowledge of the truth, and then walked away from it. What that translates to is those who were members of the LDS church and left. Sometimes what they mean by this term are those who left and actively fight against the church. Sometimes the term is used to mean people who have gone through the temple and then left the church and fight against the church. Some LDS members want to be more gracious than others. Those who go to Outer Darkness are called apostates and they have been taught that God is through with them.

The Apostasy

The Mormon church teaches that Jesus came to this earth and established his church. When he established his church, it was based upon the concept of priesthood, which is the authority to act on God’s behalf. The authority of the priesthood is actually bigger than God from the Mormon viewpoint. God used to be a man, and became a God, and we’re following in that same pattern. God has to follow the laws of priesthood and other laws that were set in motion far before his existence.

Jesus established priesthood authority and gave us the Scriptures. He passed this authority on to his apostles, then persecution broke out, the apostles died, and priesthood authority was not transferred to others. The priesthood authority was then taken from the earth, which means the true church was taken from the earth. Along with that, the LDS church teaches that plain and precious truths were taken out of the Scripture by malicious scribes who didn’t like certain things that Jesus taught. So the LDS church teaches that a complete apostasy happened on this earth. It happened shortly after the death of the apostles and got progressively worse over time.

Joseph Smith

Apostasy continued to be the state of the church until the early 1800’s, when a 14 year old boy named Joseph Smith went out into the woods during a revival meeting that was happening in his neighborhood. He was praying and asked God which church he should join. His testimony is that God the Father and Jesus appeared to him and said, “All of the churches are an abomination. You shouldn’t join any of them. I’m going to restore the true church through you. One of the ways that I’m going to restore the church is through an angel named Moroni.”

The Book of Mormon

As Smith was praying, the angel Moroni appeared and eventually showed Joseph where some golden plates were buried near his home in upstate New York. Joseph uncovered the plates, and he was given the supernatural ability to translate them. These plates were supposed to be the recorded history of the people that lived in the Americas prior to all of the history that we know about. The LDS church teaches that the Native American Indians came from a group of Israelites who left during the captivity, and they came over to the new world and established a whole new empire.

The father of the family that left was named Lehi. His two prominent sons were Nephi and Laman. Laman was not a good son and Nephi was. Nephi’s descendants became known as the Nephites, and they fought for truth. The Lamanites were the bad seed. Eventually, these two tribes, which were huge kingdoms, fought against each other. The Lamanites completely wiped out the Nephites. The last standing Nephite was a man named Moroni. This is the same Moroni who gave the plates to Joseph Smith.

Joseph Smith told everybody that where the Bible had been corrupted, the Book of Mormon restored all that was lost in the apostasy. He said a man would get closer to God through the teachings of the Book of Mormon than any other book. It was the most correct book on the face of the earth.

The LDS article of faith says, “We believe the Bible to be Word of God, as far as it is translated correctly.” That is followed up with “and we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the Word of God.” What that means is the LDS church teaches the Book of Mormon is pure, untainted, and the most accurate book. At the same time the LDS church teaches that the Bible is not to be trusted because it has been corrupted and tainted.

Something that I need to note is that they don’t word that article of faith correctly. The LDS do not teach that the Bible has been translated incorrectly. They teach that the Bible hasn’t been transmitted correctly. They teach that the original words of the Scriptures haven’t been preserved for us today.

Joseph Smith claimed to be able to translate, and one of the things that he actually did is retranslate the Bible. The finished product is the Joseph Smith Translation, or the Inspired Version, as it’s known by Mormons. The interesting thing is that Mormons still use the LDS published version of the King James Version, which gives reference to the Joseph Smith Translation.

Salvation by works

Even in pre-existence, our coming to earth, and our position in this earth, the geographical place, the time period in which we live, is all based off of works that we did in the pre-existence. We have already earned our place in the here and now. This life is a time of testing. It’s a time in which people are either going to join the LDS church, or reject it. They’re either going to be an active Mormon, or they’re going to be an inactive Mormon. They’re either going to be able to go through the temple and be sealed together with their family for all time and eternity, or they’re not going to be able to do that. People are either going to completely repent of their sins, or they’re not. All of those decisions are going to have an influence in where one will spend eternity.

The LDS church teaches that Jesus died so that everybody could go to a heaven of some kind. That’s what they mean by the term “saved by grace.” Joseph Smith said that even the lowest level of heaven is so great that one would kill themselves to go there right now. In the final judgment, we are going to be judged by which law we have kept, and that will determine which level of heaven where we will spend eternity.

Multiple Gods

The LDS church, even within the Godhead, has multiple Gods because the LDS church teaches God the Father has become our God. Then they have Jesus, who is the Savior of this world, and through his efforts, he has earned his way up to Godhood as well. And then you have this strange figure called the Holy Ghost, who doesn’t have a body yet, which is against Mormon theology because the LDS church teaches that a physical body is essential to become a God, and become exalted. The Holy Ghost has never received a body, but he somehow earned his right to become a God.

It doesn’t make a lot of sense to Christians because LDS talk about Elohim being the one God that we worship, but they also have Jesus and the Holy Ghost that the LDS church teaches are actual Gods. So what they teach is called the Godhead. The LDS church teaches three Gods that we have to do with, one of which we primarily worship because he is our actual father.

But there are infinite numbers of Gods in the universe that we have no idea how many there are. We have no idea who the first God was. We have no concept of that. And there will be an infinite number of Gods after us because we can potentially, if we make it to the Celestial Kingdom, become a God ourselves.

So we are not dealing with a strict monotheistic religion when we talk about the LDS church. We’re talking about a very polytheistic scheme of things, and within our world, and what we have been told about through Scripture, there is a Father, Son and Holy Ghost who are three separate Gods.

LDS God

Body of flesh and bones

Not eternal

Once a man

Not Trinity

Godhead is 3 separate Gods

Worship only Heavenly Father

Not omnipresent

Not omnipotent

Not omniscient

Multiple Gods

Humans can become Gods

Christian God

Spirit

Eternal

Uncreated

Trinity

One God, three persons

Worship Father, Son and Holy Spirit

Omnipresent

Omnipotent

Omniscient

One God

Shares his glory with no other

I also wanted to highlight something about the LDS view of God, because this is something that makes the LDS church so unique and so far removed from Christianity. The Bible, if one were to sum it up, says that God is Spirit, God is eternal, God is Trinity, God is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient, and there is one God. Mormonism teaches that God has a body of flesh and bones, that God is not eternal. He was once a man, just like we are. He is not Trinity. The LDS church teaches the Godhead, that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost are three separate Gods, and God the Father is the one we worship because we are literally his spirit children. Because he has progressed to become a God, and is still progressing, the LDS church does not teach that God is omnipresent because he has a body of flesh and bones. The LDS church does not teach he is omnipotent because he is subject to priesthood authorities and his Heavenly Father, which is greater than him. He is not omniscient because he is still progressing in his knowledge. The LDS church does not teach there is one God. In fact, they teach there are countless numbers of Gods who have gone before the God we worship, as well as the belief that we can potentially become Gods ourselves, which means there could be countless numbers of Gods after us.

Key Historical Markers

In 1820, Joseph Smith claimed that he had his first vision experience. He was attending the revivals that were happening during the Second Great Awakening, and hearing all of the discussion amongst the sects, and the differences between them, and he went out into the woods and claimed that he asked God which church he should join. And then God the Father, and Jesus, both in separate bodies, appeared to Joseph, and answered his question by saying, “You should join none of them. All of their creeds are an abomination.” And that’s where the first inkling that Joseph Smith is supposed to be the vehicle to restore the true church of Jesus Christ to the face of the earth comes in.

1823 is when he claimed to have been visited by an angel named Moroni. Moroni, as we’ve discussed, was the last living Nephite, and he’s the one who buried the golden plates. He is the last author or editor in the Book of Mormon. Then he became an angel, appeared to Joseph Smith, and told him where the golden plates were buried near his home in upstate New York in one of the Native American burial grounds that everybody was so fascinated with.

It wasn’t until 1827 that Moroni gave Joseph Smith permission to access the plates, and in 1829, Joseph Smith claimed to have been visited by John the Baptist, restoring unto him the Aaronic Priesthood. Later on that year, he claimed to have been visited by Peter, James and John, who restored unto him the Melchizedek Priesthood.

In 1830, Joseph Smith published the Book of Mormon and started the Church of Christ, which is what the church was called at the beginning. In 1844, Joseph Smith was martyred according to the LDS. He was killed in Carthage Jail.

Brigham Young doesn’t win control of most of the Mormons until 1845, as there was a power struggle, including William Bickerton, Sydney Rigdon, Granville Hedrick, Joseph Smith III, James Strang and Brigham Young. There were more break-offs from the main group later over the issue of polygamy, which is why there are many different polygamist, or fundamentalist, groups of Latter-Day Saints.

Also, there is the Reorganized Church of Latter-Day Saints, which now has become the Community of Christ. They have become a lot more Christian. They have made a lot of changes in their doctrine, coming much closer to Christianity. This is because they rejected a lot of Joseph Smith’s later visions, and they didn’t follow Brigham Young. They still hold on to the Book of Mormon as Scripture. But the Book of Mormon, as we will see later in this book, is a lot more Christian than Mormon.

There are a lot more splinter groups that are out there. This is why one can’t necessarily label somebody just because they relate to the Book of Mormon or Joseph Smith as a prophet. We need to get to know the individual we are talking to and find out what they believe personally.

Terminology

One of the things that makes it difficult to talk with members of cults is that they often use the same terminology as Christians, but they mean completely different things when they say those terms. With Mormons in particular, it is very easy to walk away after asking a series of salvation and gospel related questions believing that the LDS person we are talking with is saved. However, if one took the time to ask follow up questions as to what that person meant by the terms they used, they would find that a completely different God, Jesus, salvation, heaven, etc… was being discussed. It would be a completely different conversation even though the exact same words were used.

So here is a sample of some key words to be aware of their LDS meanings:

ADAM – The physical father of human beings. Also known as Michael the archangel or the Ancient of Days (Doctrine and Covenants 116).

ATONEMENT – Jesus’ death on the cross which allows for all human beings to be resurrected, and makes salvation possible through repentance of sins and keeping covenants made with God.

AARONIC PRIESTHOOD – The first level of priesthood in the LDS church held typically by Junior High age boys (Doctrine and Covenants 107:1, 6, 10).

BAPTISM – The means by which sins are washed away. Must be performed by a proper priesthood holder, in the right location and in the proper way in order to be effective.

BIBLE – Viewed as Scripture only as far as it is translated correctly. It is taught in the Book of Mormon that plain and precious truths were removed from the Bible. One of four standard works within the LDS church (Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price). The KJV is the official Bible of the LDS church.

BISHOP – The LDS version of a Christian pastor over a local ward. They are to be unpaid.

CELESTIAL KINGDOM – The highest level of heaven where God and Christ dwell, and where one can be exalted to Godhood. One must completely repent of their sins and keep all covenants made within the temple in order to go to this level of heaven.

CHURCH – The LDS church, which is the only true church due to its priesthood authority and structure.

DAMNATION – Differs depending on the person. Some would only refer to Outer Darkness as damnation while others would view damnation as anything less than becoming a God. 

ELOHIM – The name of Heavenly Father.

EXALTATION (ETERNAL LIFE) – Becoming a God.

FALL  – A necessary transgression of Adam allowing human beings to procreate and move toward exaltation.

GOD – A being who has achieved exaltation. The LDS church teaches that there have been an infinite amount of Gods from eternity past and will continue to be for eternity future. LDS will state that Heavenly Father is the only God that they have to do with. (Doctrine and Covenants 130:22-23)

GODHEAD – LDS terminology for the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, which the LDS church teaches are three separate Gods, all of which became a God at some point in time.

GOSPEL – The LDS plan of salvation

HEAVEN – Everybody except for apostate Mormons goes to a level of heaven. The lowest level is the Telestial Kingdom. The middle level is the Terrestrial Kingdom. The highest level is the Celestial Kingdom.

HELL – Temporary holding place for those who are awaiting entrance into the Telestial Kingdom (Doctrine and Covenants 76: 84-85, 106). 

HOLY GHOST (HOLY SPIRIT) – Member of the Godhead. Became a God though never receiving a physical body. One receives the Holy Ghost through the laying on of hands by a proper priesthood holder following baptism.

JEHOVAH – The name of Jesus in the Old Testament.

JESUS – Literal firstborn spirit child of Heavenly Father. Spirit brother to Lucifer and all human beings. Member of the Godhead. Jehovah in the Old Testament. Given the title and role of Savior for this earth.

KINGDOM OF GOD – Celestial Kingdom in heaven. The LDS church on earth.

MARRIAGE – A covenant made between a man and a woman, when performed in an LDS temple by a proper priesthood authority, that lasts for all time and eternity. (Doctrine and Covenants 132:15-20)

MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD – The higher level of priesthood that is held usually by males 18 years or older. (Doctrine and Covenants 107)

PRE-EXISTENCE – Our existence as spirit children in heaven prior to coming to this earth.

SALVATION – General salvation refers to the resurrection of all human beings. Individual salvation must be attained through repentance of all sins and keeping all covenants made to God.

SATAN (DEVIL) – Spirit child of Heavenly Father who lead a war in heaven after his plan of salvation was rejected. Was cast to earth with his followers without a physical body. 

SCRIPTURE – Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price.

TEMPLE – Physical buildings where endowments, sealings, and baptisms for the dead are performed, allowing LDS members who partake and keep these covenants to progress to the Celestial Kingdom. 

TRINITY – The LDS church does not teach the Trinity. They view this as teaching three Gods. The LDS church teaches that the Trinity was created at the Council of Nicea by the apostate church.