I remember very well the first thing I ever read about Mormonism. It was an entry in a book called Concise Dictionary of Cults and Religions by William Watson. It had a red and gray design on the cover and I had borrowed it from my aunt after one of my visits to her. I knew that there were at least three or four Mormon students in my sophomore health class in high school, and I was curious about what they believed, so I was somewhat surprised to find an entry on Mormonism in this scary book on “cults.” I took the book to class and read from it to them before class began. I asked them if that was what they really believed. I confess, I laughed. It all sounded bizarre, especially the part about men becoming gods. Not one of my better moments.
I found a copy of the book at the TEDS library recently and re-visited that excerpt on Mormonism. I’ve cited the excerpt here for discussion. Tell me what you think.
Concise Dictionary of Cults and Religions by William Watson. Chicago: Moody Press, 1991. p. 155-156
Official name is Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Background is Spiritualism, Freemasonry, and fundamental Christianity. The Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price are its sources of spiritual authority that guide faith and practice. The Bible is “correct so far as it is correctly translated.” The Book of Mormon is esteemed far more as God’s word.
Mormonism’s view of the Trinity is not the same as that of orthodox Christianity. God “was once as we are now and is an exalted man. The Father has a body of flesh and bone as tangible as man’s.” Every Mormon male can seek to become a god. This doctrine is clearly polytheism. Jesus is one god among many gods; the spirit brother of Lucifer; a polygamist. The Holy Spirit is personage of spirit.
About the doctrine of salvation Mormonism says, “The blood of Christ will never wipe out [sin]. Your own blood must atone for it.” A person is saved by repentance, baptism, faith, and good works. It is not a finished transaction until death; a person can never really be sure of salvation.
The Mormon church is the “true” church. “There is no salvation outside the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” On the doctrine of the virgin birth, it teaches that “Jesus was not begotten of the Holy Ghost.” Practices baptism for the dead so that non-Mormons who have died will have a chance in the spirit world. More than 100 million baptisms have been performed. Maintains the best collection of genealogical records available anywhere.
Founded by Joseph Smith, Jr., in New York State in 1830. By a gradual migration west, the group moved to the Great Salt Lake in Utah under the leadership of Brigham Young. The current president of the church is Ezra Taft Benson. Its Freeman Institute is called the “Moral Majority of Mormons.” A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, by LeGrand Richards, is used as a public relations tool. The Deseret News Press is its publishing division.
The movie and television series Battlestar Galactica was a portrayal of Mormon theology and its ideas of how man came to earth. A pageant called “City of Joseph” is presented annually in Nauvoo, Illinois, depicting Mormonism in a favorable way to a largely non-Mormon audience. The LDS is also prominent in VISN, the Vision Inter-faith Satellite Network.
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Osmond family are some of the more widely known people associated with this cult. The church owns temples and tabernacles all over the world and owns stock in many corporations. Has members in many positions of public office. Currently has more than 20,000 full-time missionaries around the world serving two-year terms. In 1978 a new revelation permitted blacks to be ordained to the priesthood. Since then, the Genesis Group, a “separate but equal” black branch of the church, has been formed with little success.
Other related groups are the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Church of Christ, Temple Lot. Several fundamentalist groups (some practicing polygamy) have spun off: Apostolic United Brethren, the Church of Jesus Christ in Solemn Assembly, the Church of the First Born of the Fulness of Times, and United Order Effort.
These are the sources that the book used or recommended on Mormonism.
Larson, Bob. Larson’s New Book of Cults. Wheaton: Tyndale, 1989. 308-17.
Martin, Walter R. The Kingdom of the Cults. Minneapolis: Bethany, 1985. 166-266.
McDowell, Josh, and Don Stewart. Handbook of Today’s Religions. San Bernardino, Calif.: Campus Crusade, 1983. 64-79.
Passantino, Robert and Gretchen. Answers to the Cultist at Your Door. Eugene, Oreg.: Harvest House, 1981. 87-120.
Robertson, Irvine. What the Cults Believe. Chicago: Moody, 1983, 1991. 29-55.
Starkes, M. Thomas. Cults at the Close of the 80s. Chattanooga, Tenn.: Global, 1987. 17-32.
Tucker, Ruth A. Another Gospel, Grand Rapids: Academie, 1989. 49-92, 389-90.
Decker, Ed, and Dave Hunt. The God Makers. Eugene, Oreg.: Harvest House, 1984.
Martin, Walter R. The Maze of Mormonism. Ventura, Calif.: Regal, 1979.
Tanner, Jerald, and Sandra. The Changing World of Mormonism. Chicago: Moody, 1981.
_____. Mormonism—Shadow or Reality? Salt Lake City: Modern Microfilm, 1987.