There are many and significant differences between Christianity and Mormonism. Christians do not build temples (1 Cor.3:17), Mormons do; Christians form an open society whose beliefs and practices are readily accessible (2 Cor.4:2), while Mormons have layers of doctrine, practice and ritual that are hidden except for those initiated into them; Christians do not add to God’s word in the Bible (Dt.4:2;12:32; Rev.22:18), Mormons do; Christians believe in one eternal God (Is.43:10-11), Mormons believe in many gods; Christians regard God as Creator and us his creatures (Gen.1:27), Mormons believe themselves of the same species as God and that God is an exalted man. Yet the Mormon claims to be a Christian.
All this will be alarming to the Christian and cause for great consternation and sometimes loud protestation. On these, and many other distinguishing differences a Christian might legitimately feel moved to challenge the Mormon faith but there is one great difference between the Christian message of the Bible and the message of Mormonism that is of paramount importance. It is this, more than any other distinction, that disqualifies the Mormon from that blessed society of Christians described in the Bible. It is this that our Mormon friends need to hear.
What is a Christian?
A Christian is one who trusts fully in the finished work of Christ on the Cross (Ro.10:9-13), depending wholly on him and not one jot on anything in themselves for salvation (Ro.3:21-28). Someone who has been Born Again (John 3:5-6), who has crossed over from death to life and no longer fears judgement (John 5:24), who has peace with God through faith in Christ and stands in a place of grace and assurance (Ro.5:1-2) and knows free and open access to the Father because of Christ our great high priest, approaching God with confidence (Heb.4:14-16). Someone for whom the journey of faith is a walk of service and sacrifice and who, because of God’s grace, abounds in good works, the fruit of salvation and not the root from which salvation springs (2 Co.9:8).
What is a Mormon?
A Mormon is one who trusts in his own efforts to gain a place with God, who is “saved by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the [Mormon] gospel” (8th Article of Faith) and not by grace. Whose activities and works of service are understood to be the root of his salvation:
“Some degree of salvation will come to all who have not forfeited their right to it; exaltation is given to those only who by active labors (sic) have won a claim to God's merciful liberality by which it is bestowed.” (Articles of Faith, 1977, p.91)
A Mormon is someone who believes that Christ’s work on the Cross is insufficient to atone for all sins, that for certain sins a man must atone for himself:
“Joseph Smith taught that there were certain sins...that man may commit, that they will place the transgressors beyond the power of the atonement of Christ. If these offences are committed, then the blood of Christ will not cleanse them from their sins even though they repent. Therefore their only hope is to have their own blood, shed to atone...on their behalf” (JF Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, vo.1, p.135)
A Christian has a Saviour who saves to the uttermost while the Mormon saviour fails to atone for the uttermost offense no matter that the sinner repents in tears. A Christian, through faith in Christ, stands in life (John 5:24) while the Mormon strives to gain by his own effort the ground on which the Christian stands. This is the great tragedy of the Mormon message, that God’s offer of eternal life as a gift (Rom.6:23) becomes for the Mormon God’s offer of life to those who strive to earn it. A Mormon cannot say with Paul:
“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand, And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” (Rom.5:1-2)
It is this justification, this peace, this access, joy and hope that we seek to share with every Mormon we meet. It is this that every Mormon needs to hear above all else.