Teaching the Differences between Christianity and Mormonism

This blog is a continuation of the series on teaching the differences between Christianity and other major world religions. This blog addresses Mormonism, a common worldwide religion whose claim to be Christian ought to be approached with much skepticism.

Tread Carefully

“The devil is in the details” is an often-used warning that expresses the idea that what you encounter on first blush may hide something quite different. “Read the fine print” is a similar expression. Both are admonitions to take a closer look before committing oneself. What looks good on the outside, on first impression, may be something quite nefarious and dangerous. Consider these two examples: When I counsel couples before marriage, I ask how long they have dated before the engagement. I suggest at least a calendar year before marriage because a person can hide his or her true nature for a long time before revealing who he or she truly is. Tread carefully; you are making a lifetime commitment. Second, before signing a contract, read it slowly and thoroughly, no matter what assurances the other party gives you. Once you sign, it’s legal whether or not you read it and understand it. 

The same sorts of warnings can be applied to Mormonism, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To read literature from this organization, to visit its website, or to talk personally with a Mormon, may at first seem that you have encountered a religion of biblical teachings, family values, kindness, and devotion—one that propounds to be in lockstep with Christianity. This beguiling façade conceals a web of heresy.  

The Differences in View of Higher Power 

Joseph Smith (1805–1844) was from western New York. He claimed to have had an encounter with an angel named Moroni, who gave Smith the location of golden plates. These plates purportedly contained ancient teachings from a prophet called Mormon and were conveniently found on a hill near Smith’s home. Smith claims to have located the teachings, transcribed them, and used them to write the Book of Mormon a month before he founded the church. Mormons claim to believe the Bible, but only as it is used in conjunction with the Book of Mormon, which they believe interprets and corrects the Bible. 

Although Mormons claim to be Christians and to believe in God, they reject the idea of the Trinity, teaching instead that the Father and the Son, Jesus Christ, were previously human beings who were eventually glorified. Yet this stands in direct contradiction to the biblical truth that God is one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is a clear example of Mormon doublespeak. They can claim belief in the Trinity, but actually the Mormon understanding of God is anything but biblical.  

The Differences in Basic Beliefs  

Jesus Christ and His Atoning Work 

According to Mormon teaching, both the Father and the Son were spirits in heaven, but both were conceived by another spiritual being. The Father came to be known as Elohim and conceived Jesus as a spiritual being with one of his celestial concubines. To give Jesus a physical body, Elohim traveled to earth and conceived Jesus in physical form with the Virgin Mary. Confused yet?  

Again, regarding the atoning work of Jesus Christ, Mormons appear as mainstream Christians. They teach that Jesus did redeem the world (but in the Garden of Gethsemane, not on the biblical cross) and that through repentance (which they define as forsaking sin and never repeating it), one can be saved—but this is not what Scripture teaches. Mormons teach that there are four destinies after death. For those who have rejected Jesus Christ and the Gospel, there is hell. For those who have rejected the Gospel but not Jesus Christ, there is a Telestial level of heaven, an existence of temporary suffering without the presence of God and Jesus Christ. The Terrestrial level is for those who accepted Jesus and the Gospel but were not Mormons. Here there is the presence of God, but not in fullness. The Celestial level is the highest level, and it offers the full presence of God and the ability to conceive children. Notice again that this allows Mormons to claim salvation in Jesus, but underneath it is a religion of works.  


Mormons teach that Lucifer was a spirit child of Elohim. Therefore, Jesus and Lucifer were brothers. Lucifer rebelled against Elohim and was denied the ability to take physical flesh. He was cast to earth with his evil cohort. In contrast, Christians believe that God teaches in His Word that Jesus is fully God, eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the flesh of the Virgin Mary. Lucifer was merely a created angel. Now Satan exists in eternal rebellion against God, yet wholly under the Lord’s authority. 

Human Pre-existence 

Mormons teach that Elohim and his concubine of wives conceived countless spiritual beings in heaven. These spirit beings came to earth and took on human flesh. This is in direct contradiction to Scripture, which teaches that human beings are created by God and conceived with soul and flesh simultaneously.  

The Differences in Practices  

Baptism for the Dead 

Mormons have an outstanding heritage of genealogy. Perhaps the main reason for this is the Mormon practice of baptism for the dead. Mormons believe that people cannot enter the kingdom of God without baptism. For this reason, they baptize by proxy those who are deceased. This baptism is offered to the deceased soul, which can accept or reject it. But the Bible teaches that trinitarian Baptism saves and is commanded, but is not necessary for salvation. What’s more, there is no record in the Bible of baptism for the dead. Scripture teaches that immediately upon death, the soul is translated to heaven or hell. The condition is irreversible.  

Abstention from Drugs, Alcohol, Tobacco, and Caffeine 

Mormons follow a strict code of abstention from these substances. To their credit, studies have found that Mormons have longer-than-average life expectancies. While the Bible teaches that we are each to honor our body as God’s creation and the temple of the Holy Spirit, nowhere in God’s Word do we learn that such abstention translates into favor with the Lord.  

The Differences in Worship  


Mormons make a distinction between temples and chapels. While anyone may enter a Mormon chapel, temples are reserved only for Mormons who are actively engaged in the faith. Christians welcome all people to worship in their churches.


Normally a bishop or branch resident leads what Mormons call a “sacrament meeting.” The leader wears a suit, not liturgical vestments. It is important to note that Mormons do not have paid clergy. Instead, members of the congregation share the responsibility of planning and executing this meeting.   


The meeting begins with announcements, a hymn, and extemporaneous prayer, which is offered at the podium. There are no formal readings from Scripture, although the one giving the sermon will include such readings. A communion of sorts follows, which includes water and bread. Immediately after, select members of the congregation come forward to offer instruction based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. There is often a choral piece, then a final hymn, and prayers. 


When teaching the differences between Mormonism and biblical Christianity, stress the following three points:

  • First, direct students to the difference in source for doctrine and practice. The Book of Mormon is a compilation of ideas by one human man, based on golden plates that no one has ever seen. The Bible is the inspired Word of the almighty and eternal God. Its content is a compilation of writings given by God to many men over thousands of years. The Bible is internally consistent and has been attested to by countless Christians over time.   
  • Second, share that Mormonism is an exclusive, deceptive cult. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is expert at presenting an image of godly, wholesome values and clean living. However, it is ultimately a religion of works. While Mormons claim to teach salvation through Jesus’ atoning work, their actual teachings are that eternal destiny is dependent on human efforts.  Mormons teach that baptism is a human work that is even able to save those who have already died. Their teachings of wholesome values are but a mask that hides the organization’s true teachings, which are revealed piecemeal as new members increasingly commit themselves to it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is anything but Christian.   
  • Third, there is no real security of salvation. Jesus is considered to be the offspring of a celestial harem and to be the brother of Satan. Mormons claim that Jesus is the Savior. Yet, according to the church’s teachings, Jesus brings sinners only to a generalized, neutral place of salvation; from there, sinners take over to do good works to try to earn one of four eternal destinies.

Comfort your students in the beautiful reality that salvation is wholly God’s work. The Father created us, the Son redeemed us fully in His death and resurrection, and the Holy Spirit creates and nurtures saving faith. Through this faith, we receive true forgiveness of sins and everlasting life.  


Discover practical witnessing tactics for approaching Mormon beliefs and practices in this easy-to-read booklet.

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Written by

Phil Rigdon

The Rev. Dr. Philip Rigdon and his wife, Jamelyn, live in Kendallville, Indiana, with their two rabbits, Frankie and Buttons. He serves as pastor of St. John Lutheran Church and School in Kendallville. He enjoys writing, running, and playing guitar.

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