• Joe Harper

Latter Day Saints (Mormon) Ecumenism: Evangelicals Deceived

By Joe Harper

On August 16, 2018 Russell M. Nelson, then President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints of Jesus Christ (LDS), made a statement that the LDS Church was to no longer refer to itself as the Mormon Church but instead must refer to itself only by its official name. Nelson said,

“The Lord has impressed upon my mind the importance of the name He has revealed for His Church, even The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We have work before us to bring ourselves in harmony with His will. In recent weeks, various Church leaders and departments have initiated the necessary steps to do so. Additional information about this important matter will be made available in the coming months.[1]

What was interesting about this development was that the use of the term Mormon has historically been used commonly by Latter Day Saints themselves, which shows that the term has not historically had a negative connotation in LDS circles. The motivation of the statement, if someone is able to look past the supposed appeal to divine revelation, is the goal of continued changing of the perception of the LDS Church to the outside world. The LDS Church has worked hard in recent decades to portray itself to the rest of Christianity as merely another denomination, albeit with some unique distinctives. The LDS Church has also wished to portray itself as moving more towards the “mainstream” of the rest of Christianity. The Church that teaches that its members can achieve Godhood, that God was once a man as we are, that redefines the gospel to be obedience to its teachings (works), and that Jesus Christ is the spirit brother of Lucifer is trying to pass itself off as a Christian Church. This is a deceptive fallacy that is being pushed on Evangelical Christians in particular as part of an ecumenical agenda. A number of examples can be shown to demonstrate this ecumenism. The LDS Church has invited a number of prominent Evangelical leaders to come and speak at the Mormon Tabernacle and Brigham Young University (BYU), including Apologist Ravi Zacharias, Fuller Seminary president Richard Mouw, and Southern Seminary president Albert Mohler.

On November 14, 2004 Ravi Zacharias and Richard Mouw spoke at a joint Evangelical-LDS event at the Mormon Tabernacle. The event was sponsored by the group Standing Together. This organization is an ecumenical organization whose goal is to promote religious dialogue between LDS Church members and Evangelicals. Their mission statement on their website reads,

“Standing Together seeks to be a catalyst for uniting the Utah Christian community through relational efforts of prayer, worship, and strategic evangelism.[2]

The Ecumenical language is immediately apparent. The leader of Standing Together is Greg Johnson. Johnson defines himself as a Christian pastor who was raised in Mormonism and has a passion for promoting dialogue with the LDS Church. He never speaks condemningly of the LDS Church, but his careful language shows his belief that it is a true and legitimate Christian Church. This can be seen from his bio on the Standing Together website. A portion of his bio reads,

“It is because of Greg’s passion for the Body of Christ to be ONE that he has given himself fully to the task of casting vision for unity, prayer, and strategic evangelism within the context of the Utah culture. It is his heart to see the Body of Christ committed to unity that the world might know that the Father has truly sent the Son (John 17:21). Greg has served as an At-Large Board Member of the National Association of Evangelicals since 2008, and was ordained by the Conservative Baptist Church in America in June of 1993.

Greg was raised in the Mormon Church and was born again at a Christian camp just outside of Colorado Springs at age 14. Because of his background in Mormonism, Greg is passionate about building a relational dialogue with members of the Mormon faith, particularly with Mormon leaders and scholars. He facilitates and participates in LDS/evangelical dialogues between university students, scholars, leaders, and with his primary LDS dialogue partner, Dr. Robert Millet of BYU. Greg and Bob released, “Bridging the Divide: The Continuing Conversation Between a Mormon and an Evangelical,” in 2007, and have held 60 public dialogues throughout the US and in Canada and England.[3]

This deceptive ecumenical organization was the same organization that pushed for Ravi Zacharias and Richard Mouw to come and speak at the Mormon Tabernacle. Greg Johnson, alongside BYU faculty member Robert Millet, extended the invitation to Ravi Zacharias. Robert Millet is a prominent LDS apologist who has labored to change the Evangelical perception of the LDS Church. His book A Different Jesus was published by Eerdmans Publishing, a Christian publisher, and was given praise by Evangelical leaders including Richard Mouw. Zacharias stated early in his message that there were some differences between LDS members and Evangelicals and that some of the differences are “very deep,” but he then proceeded to praise the kindness and graciousness of the leadership of the LDS Church and the faculty of BYU. At one point early in his message Zacharias stated,

“We are dealing with the loftiest of all personages, our very own Lord Jesus Christ, whom we follow and before whom one day every knee will bow.[4]

This statement by Ravi Zacharias only served to promote confusion at best by implying that Latter-Day Saints and Christians serve the same Christ, which they clearly do not. Although Zacharias’ message on the sufficiency and exclusivity of Christ was more or less sound, it did not explicitly call out the false teachings of the LDS Church. Zacharias may have said some things which may not be in line with LDS teaching, but he did not directly challenge LDS members to examine the false teachings they believe or exhort them to leave the false “church” which they are a part of, which is in reality a cult. Evangelical addresses of this type only cause confusion and lower the walls of division between Evangelical Christianity and false teachers claiming to promote false religion. Richard Mouw’s statements at this event were even worse than Zacharias’, which showed the clear ecumenical intentions of the event put on in the Mormon Tabernacle. Mouw stated,

“I am now convinced that we Evangelicals have often seriously misrepresented the beliefs and practices of the Mormon community. Indeed, let me state it bluntly to the LDS folks here this evening: we have sinned against you.[5]

Mouw’s statements are nothing more than a broad-brush condemnation of the Evangelical movement which he claims to represents. Instead of calling out the false teachings of the LDS Church, he attacks the faithful Christians who have witnessed to LDS members by faithfully sharing the true gospel with them. Ravi Zacharias would go on to speak at the Mormon Tabernacle a second time in 2014. This event was once again put on by Standing Together. Greg Johnson said at the event,

"Tonight is another night for us to meet … not as warring factions, but as friends. We have significant theological differences. We don't undermine that, but tonight is an opportunity to hear from a great Christian leader to hear about a topic we all care about — freedom of religion.[6]"

Zacharias was introduced by LDS elder and former BYU president Jeffrey Holland. He falsely stated that the Latter-Day Saints and Christians love the same Jesus Christ. He also said,

"While thus standing together, we also stand for our love of and need for the religious freedom that guarantees our right to teach and live by the truths of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.[7]"

This clear ecumenical deception should be extraordinarily alarming to all Christians. The obvious intention is to deceive people into believing the LDS Church is Christian when it is clearly not.

Another prominent Evangelical leader who has engaged in ecumenical relations with the LDS leadership is Albert Mohler, president of Southern Seminary in Louisville Kentucky. Mohler spoke at BYU on October 21, 2013 on the topic of Religious Liberty. In his lecture Mohler did clearly state the difference between Christianity and Latter-Day Saints, but then he proceeds to speak of his friendship with LDS elders. Mohler said,

“I come as a Christian theologian to speak explicitly and respectfully as a Christian—a Christian who defines Christianity only within the historic creeds and confessions of the Christian church and who comes as one committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the ancient and eternal Trinitarian faith of the Christian church. I have not come as less, and you know whom you have invited. I come knowing who you are—to an institution that stands as the most powerful intellectual center of the Latter-Day Saints, the most visible academic institution of Mormonism. You know who I am and what I believe. I know who you are and what you believe. It has been my great privilege to know friendship and share conversation with leaders of the LDS church, such as Elder Tom Perry, Elder Quentin Cook, and Elder Todd Christofferson. I am thankful for the collegiality extended by President Cecil Samuelson at this great university. We do not enjoy such friendship and constructive conversation in spite of our theological differences, but in light of them. This does not eliminate the possibility of conversation. To the contrary, this kind of convictional difference at the deepest level makes for the most important kind of conversation. This is why I am so thankful for your gracious invitation.[8]

While Mohler’s sentences defining historic Christianity and separating it from the LDS Church are clear, the following statements by Mohler speaking of his friendship with the leaders of a false religion is both confusing and unhelpful.

What is ironic about this ecumenism is the historic LDS belief that they alone are the true Church of Jesus Christ and that all other forms of Christianity are apostasy. The LDS Church has historically taught that Joseph Smith’s Church is the restoration of true Christianity in the midst of the great apostasy. The name Latter Day Saints by itself shows this belief that the LDS Church is the true Church in the latter day. Joseph Smith clearly taught this. This is seen in the Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith History 1:18-19,

“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[9].”

LDS leadership is covering up their own teachings and history in order to push this ecumenical agenda. This allows the LDS Church to dupe and draw in people from other branches of professing Christianity who find appeal in the “wholesomeness” and “dedication” they see in the LDS Church compared to their denomination of origin. It is only when they have been thoroughly brought into the LDS Church that they are taught that this Church is the “true Church.”

The truth that the LDS Church is a cult and not a Christian Church is slowly being lost by an Evangelical Church that is becoming more illiterate in both its own historic beliefs and the beliefs of other faiths. Despite countless sound Christian books exposing the LDS Church and its doctrines, there is a growing ignorance of the LDS, which is allowing them to continue their campaign of deception. LDS teachings cannot be examined in detail here, but a few of its false teachings can be pointed out. The most prominent belief of the LDS Church is the doctrine that its most faithful members will achieve Godhood and will reign over their own planet. LDS cosmology has a universe where there are trillions of worlds reigned over by their own Gods. The LDS faith therefore is inherently Polytheistic. They believe that God was once a man like us who achieved Godhood and we can follow in his footsteps. The LDS Church also believes in continuing authoritative revelation which is on par with the authority of the Bible. The Presidents of the LDS Church are considered Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, and their revelations are considered authoritative over the LDS Church. This is a heretical notion which assaults the sufficiency of Scripture. LDS revelations have throughout history contradicted themselves at many different points. The most famous example was over the historic LDS belief in polygamy. The early LDS prophets such as Joseph Smith and Brigham Young taught the doctrine of the practice of polygamy which was practiced by early Mormons. However, when the doctrine was met with opposition from the U.S. government, The LDS President Wilford Woodruff issued a manifesto banning plural marriage. The LDS tries to justify its contradicting revelations with a doctrine of progressing revelation, but this only further shows that LDS Church is a cult which suppresses any questioning of its teachings.

Evangelical partnership with the LDS leadership is giving them legitimacy which allows them to deceive people from Christian Churches and bring them into the LDS Church. The question arises: if these Evangelical Christian leaders are faithfully proclaiming the gospel that condemns the teaching of the LDS Church, then why is LDS leadership inviting these leaders to come and speak at their events? Why are evangelical leaders partnering with the LDS Church to fight for religious liberty or other causes? Are we to partner with one evil in order to fight another? These partnerships are clearly unbiblical and sinful. They are what the Scriptures refer to as unequally yoking together. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 says,

“14 Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15 And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16 And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
17 Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.18 And I will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”

Ephesians 5:10-13 says,

“10 Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. 12 For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. 13 But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.”

These Scriptures, which are not exhaustive, show that we are to maintain clear separation between Christianity and false religion. We are not to have fellowship with darkness but rather reprove it. This does not mean that Christians can never converse with non-Christians or never witness to them or show kindness to them, but regardless, very clear boundaries are to be maintained for the sake of the truth of the gospel. Also, why are Evangelical leaders praising and complimenting these cult leaders instead of rebuking them by calling them wolves in sheep’s clothing? The Scriptures clearly show that God’s true servants are at times to call out the false teachers so that they are not able to continue their deception of those who would be caught in their net. This speaking of the truth is not unloving, which is the claim so often made in our day. Christ called out the false teachers of his day in the Pharisees.

“27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness. 28 Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity. 29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, 30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. 31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. 32 Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. 33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? 34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city.”

Jesus Christ was not afraid to condemn the hypocrisy and iniquity that was before him. He reproved the false religious teachers of his day. He did not praise them or compliment them in order to be “winsome” or to advance his message. Christ would not allow these leaders to continue to deceive others without his rebuke. Would any true Christian have the audacity to condemn Christ for his direct and straightforward speech? Yet today anyone who calls out the ecumenical deception is howled at as unloving for imitating their Lord’s actions in regards to false teachers. Evangelicalism cannot afford to wink at the ecumenical deception that is creeping into their midst and gradually subverting the truth it proclaims. Evangelical leaders participating in ecumenical dialogue with false religions are sinfully yoking together with false teachers who are wolves in sheep’s clothing. These Evangelical leaders need to be called to repent of this sinful action and be held accountable by Evangelicals.

Future Defend Truth Articles will examine LDS doctrine in detail. For a quick reference to the differences between Christianity and Latter-Day Saints, please refer to the Defend Truth gospel tract on LDS. Our next article is LDS Doctrine Examined: Achieving Godhood.




[1] Sarah Jane Weaver, “Mormon” Is Out: Church Releases Statement on How to Refer to the Organization, August 16, 2018, https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/mormon-is-out-church-releases-statement-on-how-to-refer-to-the-organization?lang=eng [2] www.standingtogether.org/vision-misssion-values [3] www.standingtogether.org/greg-johnson [4] Ravi Zacharias at the Mormon Tabernacle 2004 (Entire Program), June 06, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Amun1RBONPw&t=2s 54:35 [5] James White, Is the Mormon my Brother: Discerning the Differences Between Mormonism and Christianity, second edition, P. 3 [6] Morgan Lee, Ravi Zacharias: Popular Christian Apologist Speaks to 3,500 at Mormon Temple; Asks Faiths to Oppose 'Lost Morality' Together, January 20, 2014, https://www.christianpost.com/news/ravi-zacharias-popular-christian-apologist-speaks-to-3500-at-mormon-temple-asks-faiths-to-oppose-lost-morality-together-112985/ [7] Morgan Lee, Ravi Zacharias: Popular Christian Apologist Speaks to 3,500 at Mormon Temple; Asks Faiths to Oppose 'Lost Morality' Together, January 20, 2014, https://www.christianpost.com/news/ravi-zacharias-popular-christian-apologist-speaks-to-3500-at-mormon-temple-asks-faiths-to-oppose-lost-morality-together-112985/ [8] Albert Mohler, Address given at Brigham Young University, October 21, 2013, [9] Joseph Smith, The Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith History 1:18-19

Bibliography

Lee, Morgan. Ravi Zacharias: Popular Christian Apologist Speaks to 3,500 at Mormon Temple; Asks Faiths to Oppose 'Lost Morality' Together, January 20, 2014, https://www.christianpost.com/news/ravi-zacharias-popular-christian-apologist-speaks-to-3500-at-mormon-temple-asks-faiths-to-oppose-lost-morality-together-112985/

Mohler, Albert. A Clear and Present Danger: Religious Liberty, Marriage, and the Family in the Late Modern Age—An Address at Brigham Young University, October 21, 2013, https://albertmohler.com/2013/10/21/a-clear-and-present-danger-religious-liberty-marriage-and-the-family-in-the-late-modern-age-an-address-at-brigham-young-university

Smith, Joseph. The Pearl of Great Price A Selection from the revelations, translations, and narrations of Joseph Smith first Prophet, Seer, and Revelator to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, 2013

Weaver, Sarah Jane. “Mormon” Is Out: Church Releases Statement on How to Refer to the Organization, August 16, 2018 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/church/news/mormon-is-out-church-releases-statement-on-how-to-refer-to-the-organization?lang=eng

www.standingtogether.org


Recommended Reading

1. The Kingdom of the Cults, 6th Edition by Walter Martin

2. Is the Mormon My Brother? Discerning the Differences between Mormonism and Christianity by James R. White

3. The God Makers: A Shocking Expose of What the Mormon Church Really Believes by Ed Decker and Dave Hunt.

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