By Steven Bancarz| I recently accepted a live debate with a Mormon at Cornerstone Church in Arizona to have a dialogue about the main differences between Christianity and Mormonism, a religion founded by Joseph Smith, the author of the Book of Mormon.
We debated things like the nature of Jesus, the Trinity, the Gospel and other prominent issues pertaining to the dialogue of Christianity vs Mormonism. Needless to say, it made for a very interesting and informative discussion.
The video is available at the top of the article, while a transcript to my answers to the questions is posted down below with Scripture references and primary sources.
1) Please explain your beliefs regarding the nature of God and the Trinity
God is eternal, which means God has been God from eternity.
God says “Even from eternity I am He” – Isaiah 43:13
Habakkuk 1:12 says that God is “from everlasting”
In Psalm 90:2 it reads “from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
While the Bible says the Father has always been God, Joseph Smith says “We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.” – Joseph Smith, the King Follet Sermon, LDS.org (1)
Mormonism teaches that the Father was once a regular man like us and then became God. Joseph Smith said: “”God himself was once as we are now”. The Father had biological parents (2) and served a different God (3) on another planet until, through obedience and celestial marriage, he was finally exalted just to Godhood just like we can be.
The Bible says the Father has been God from everlasting to everlasting, Mormonism believes the Father became God a relatively short cosmic time ago.
Another point is that The Father is invisible.
Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15), Jesus says in John 6:46 that “no one has seen the Father”, and 1 Timothy 6:16 it says “no one has ever seen or can see” the Father. Despite this, Joseph Smith claims to have seen the Father
““I saw two personages…standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said, pointing to the other–‘this is my beloved Son. Hear him!’
The Bible renders such an experience impossible. While it’s true that sometimes God is seen in the Old testament, such as when Yahweh let Moses see His back Exodus 33, we know this isn’t the Father because Jesus tells us nobody has seen him. What people saw in the Old Testament was the pre-incarnate Christ being referred to as Yahweh. In Genesis 19:24, it says that “Yahweh rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from Yahweh out of heaven.” Two different divine persons, both called Yahweh. And in the New Testament, Father, Son, and Spirit are all called God.
For example, Jesus is called God in John 1:1… “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In verse 18, it calls Jesus “the only God” who is at the side of the Father. How can Jesus and the Father both be called God if the Bible is clear that there is only one God? The answer is this that one God exists tri-personally.
There is one what, and three whos. One Divine Being or Substance expressed in three co-equal persons. This is known as the Trinity. “God” is a word that describes what Father, Son, and Spirit are by nature. This doctrine has been universally agreed upon by the church for at least last 1700 years, yet Joseph Smith denies the idea of a Trinity and actually likens it to being a giant and a monster. (4)
The Bible reveals one eternal Triune God consisting of three co-equal persons and tells us nobody has seen or can see the Father. Mormonism denies all three of these points and therefore fundamentally disagrees with Christian theology.
2) Did the preincarnate Jesus co-exist with the Father in the beginning as Creator, or did Jesus begin to exist alongside Lucifer?
Mormons will say that Jesus created our universe (5), but they deny that Jesus created everything. According to mormonism, he did not create other spiritual realms like Heaven, other spiritual beings like angels, and he didn’t create YOU. The Jesus of Mormonism began to exist as the spirit-child of our Heavenly Father and one of his wives, who also produced all of us. We are all spirit-brothers with Jesus and Lucifer. This Jesus then created some things after he came into being.
The Jesus of the Bible is eternal and created everything in the beginning as God.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” – John 1:1-3
Colossians 1:16 says: “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.”
Hebrews 2:10 says Jesus is the one “ for whom and by whom all things exist,” Since Jesus created all things, this would mean he created all angels including the ones who fell. There is nothing that was made apart from Jesus Christ.
Mormon apostle George A Canon said: “We are brethren and sisters of Satan as well as of Jesus…Satan is our brother. Jesus is our brother. (6) The problem is, the Bible tells us that Jesus created Lucifer and every other “power, ruler, and authority” as it says specifically in Colossian 1:15.
Mormonism not only denies Jesus as creator of all things in the beginning, it denies Jesus even existed in the beginning. As we mentioned, they think Jesus was God’s first of many spirit children. (7)
This means there was a time when Jesus wasn’t born and other existed before him, but in Colossians 1:17, it says jesus is “before all things”, meaning nothing existed before him. In John 8:58, Jesus said “before Abraham was, I am”, claiming to be the eternal I Am of Exodus 3:14. In Micah 5:2, Jesus is said to be “from the days of eternity” (NASB). In Hebrews 13:8, it says “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” If there was a day when Jesus wasn’t God and didn’t even exist, then he hasn’t been the same.
In Isaiah 6, Isaiah had a vision and saw Yahweh seated on a throne, and he said “my eyes have seen the King, Yahweh of hosts. In John 12, John says that Isaiah actually saw Jesus in this vision.. Isaiah saw Jesus and called him Yahweh, and Yahweh, as we saw in the last point, has been God from from eternity.
The idea that Jesus was created by the Father is a heresy known as Arianism and was condemned at the council of Nicea in 325 AD, and the idea that he created only some things is clearly refuted by Scripture. Jesus created all things in the beginning, including the angels who fell.
3) How do you know the gospel is true?
It depends which “Gospel” you are referring to. The Gospel of Mormonism is not the same Gospel as Christianity. The Book of Mormon teaches: “for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23) Visit the sick, feed the needy, be baptized, obey the commandments, do ALL that you can, and THEN jesus will supply the rest to you through faith. The Bible says we are saved by faith and faith alone even if we have don’t have any works of righteousness.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works,” – Ephesians 2:8-9
“to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works” – Romans 4:5-6
“For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” – Romans 3:28
We contribute nothing to our salvation except the sin that made it necessary. This is why the Bible calls salvation a free gift. If you had to work for it, it wouldn’t be free. You don’t need to bring a laundry list of completed works of righteousness to the foot of the cross in order to make yourself eligible for salvation.
We turn from the direction of our sin to the direction of Jesus, and we put our faith in him. If the faith is a saving faith, it will result in works, but these works don’t contribute to our salvation. Works are the evidence of our salvation, not the cause of it. Saving faith causes us to be born again, and we serve Jesus out of this new spiritual birth of ours.
The idea that you faith saves you AFTER you have done everything you can is a patently false Gospel. Paul, in Galatians 1:8 says:
“But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” Paul was referring specifically to a Gospel that taught salvation by works. Paul tells the Galatains “we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ,” (Gal. 2:16)
By the Bible’s own standard, Joseph Smith (and the angel Moroni who apparently visited him) are under the curse of God for teaching a different Gospel that requires you to work for your salvation. To say you have to work for your salvation is to say the blood of Jesus isn’t enough to cleanse you from all unrighteousness.
The reason we know we are saved by faith is simple. The Bible teaches it to us dozens of times. As jesus said, “whoever believes has eternal life.” – John 6:47
The Bible is the Word of God and it tells us we are saved by faith alone. Thankfully we don’t have to do “all that we can do” before we can be saved because nobody on this planet, including the gentleman across from me, has done all that they can do.
We receive the free gift of salvation by faith alone, and we can have full confidence in this Gospel because God has revealed this to us in His word.
4) Are there many gods or is there only one God?
There are many different “elohim”, but only one God. Elohim is a general Hebrew word that is used in Scripture to refer to God thousands of times, but it’s also used to describe any type of spiritual entity including angels and even demons: ““They [the Israelites] sacrificed to demons [shedim], not God [eloah], to gods [elohim] whom they had not known.” – Deuteronomy 32:17. Demons are called elohim because they are spirit beings. Like demons, Yahweh is also a spiritual being is therefore called elohim.
Because Mormons generally are unaware of how this word is used in Scripture, when they see the word Elohim used to refer the “divine council of gods” in Psalm 82, they figure they must be a whole host of gods. But elohim doesn’t mean “god”, it means spirit being and is used to refers to half a dozen different spiritual entities. Biblical scholar and hebrew expert Dr. Michael Heiser has written extensively on this topic in his best-selling book, the unseen realm.
Yahweh is the ONLY elohim who bears the fullness of the Divine Nature. While it says in 2 Peter 1:3-4 that Christians are “partakers of the divine nature”, it means that believers in Jesus can “escape the corruption of sinful desire” through his promises. One of his promises is to save us from this body of death so we won’t have a corrupt sin nature anymore. This does not mean, however, that we will become the same kind of elohim Yahweh is. Yahweh is the only Elohim who is God.
Mormons believe that Jesus is one God, the Father is one God, the Holy Spirit is one God, making three different gods of our planet. But there are an unlimited amount of Gods for other planets and other universes, and one day we too can become the God of another planet. There are millions of gods before Yahweh and will be millions after yahweh, but Yahweh says:
“I am God, and there is no other;” – Isaiah 46:9
“Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” – 43:10
“Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.” – Isaiah 44:8
Yahweh says he doesn’t even know of another God. If this was an exalted man speaking, he would at least know of his OWN God that he served while he was a man on another planet. He would also know the other two gods of this planet. He would also be aware of the unlimited amount of gods who existed before he did, and the gods that would be formed AFTER him through the process of exaltation.
There is nothing in the text that would allow us to conclude that there are an unlimited amount of Gods, or that this refers to the gods of this planet only. The Bible is clearm, “there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6, and while it’s true we will one day be more like Jesus than we are now, we will never bear the fullness of deity as he does. While there are many different elohim, there is only one God: the tri-personal Yahweh who is not promises us that no other god exists.
5) What was God’s purpose in creating the world? (not included in debate)
It’s important to note that in Mormonism, the Father didn’t actually create anything. Only Jesus alone is believed to have created the world. However, Isaiah 64:8 and Job 33:4 identity the Father and the Spirit as being Creator as well. In Genesis 1:26, God says ““Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” Elohim is used here in the plural, indicating more than one person was involved as the agent of creation. Father, Son, and Spirit all played a role in creation throughout Scripture, not just Jesus.
Not only do they deny that Father and Spirit created our world, they don’t believe Jesus even created anything. All he did was re-arrange pre-existing matter. Mormonism teaches that matter is eternal and that all Jesus did was shift it around, kind of like how we might make sand castles out of sand on the beach. Jesus didn’t really create the world, he simply formed the world out of elements that already existed. (8) Yet the Bible tells us: “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” – Revelation 4:11
All things means all things including matter. Colossians 1:16 tells us that ALL THINGS visible were created by Jesus. The Bible says Father, Son, and Spirit all actually created the world, wheres Mormonism teaches that Jesus alone rearranged pre-existing elements. Furthermore, the Father didn’t technically “create” mankind.
The Father, an exalted man, had sex with one of his many Heavenly wives, and then she begat spirit children that include you, me, Jesus, and Lucifer. Just like your biological father can not really say he “created” your body, the Father in Mormonism did not “create” your spirit. Your spirit was birthed from a pregnant female goddess.
So the real question is, why did Jesus rearrange matter, and why did our Heavenly Father choose impregnate a goddess who begat you?
In Christianity, we believe God actually created the world out of nothing, and did so for His glory:
“Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” – Isaiah 43:6-7
God created the world to display His attributes:
“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
God saved us to demonstrate His own goodness: “God predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace.”
We serve a God who ultimately created the world for Him, made mankind for Him, and saved mankind for Him. He didn’t do it to give us an opportunity to share in some celestial kingdom, or to become a god of our own some day. He created us for His own pleasure, glory, and purposes. All throughout Scripture you see God saving people and performing miracles for His own name’s sake. It’s not all about us and our exaltation, it’s all about Him and His exaltation. God’s motive for creation and salvation is God-centered, not man-centered, and unlike Mormons, we believe Jesus Christ created matter.
6. Will Mormons be in Heaven? (watch end of video debate for response)
Joseph Smith, (Deseret News, Church News, Sept. 19, 1936, p. 2).
LDS President Brigham Young “It appears ridiculous to the world, under their darkened and erroneous traditions, that God has once been a finite being” (Deseret News, Nov. 16, 1859, p. 290).
LDS President Joseph Smith “Our father in heaven, according to the Prophet, had a father, and since there has been a condition of this kind through all eternity, each Father had a Father” (Doctrines of Salvation, 2:47).
Joseph Smith: “Many men say there is one God; the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are only one God. I say that is a strange God. . . . All are crammed into one God according to sectarianism [the Christian faith]. It would make the biggest God in all the world. He would be a wonderfully big God—he would be a giant or a monster” (Teachings, p. 372
Under the direction of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ created the heavens and the earth (see Mosiah 3:8; Moses 2:1). From scripture revealed through the Prophet Joseph Smith, we know that in the work of the Creation, the Lord organized elements that had already existed (see Abraham 3:24). He did not create the world “out of nothing,” as some people believe.
Apostle George Q. Cannon, March 11th, 1894, Collected Discourses, compiled by Brian Stuy, vol. 4, p. 23
Doctrine and Covenants 93:21-23.