|Fast Facts on Mormonism|
John Ankerberg, John Weldon
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The Fast Facts on... series combines thorough social and cultural analysis of cults with a comparison of cultic theology to Christianity, and offers one of the best resources for those who interact with cults and cult members on a regular basis. And if Ankerberg and Weldon are correct in their analysis of Mormonism, the number of people who interact with Mormonism or Mormons will likely be very high, very soon. They use an insightful question and answer format to offer all Christians accurate, factual information about one of the fastest growing new religious movements (known to many as cults).
Ankerberg and Weldon (Fast Facts on Defending Your Faith) look at the history and growth of Mormonism, and they take a serious look at the Book of Mormon, one of the primary sources of doctrine in Mormonism. Then they look at contradictions and false prophecies which appear in Mormon literature and doctrine. Then they compare and contrast Mormon theology with Christian theology, and they critique the Mormon claims to be a Christian organization. They also take a look at the state of modern Mormon scholarship and apologetics, and offer a concise doctrinal summary of Mormon beliefs and articles of faith.
|From the introduction|
(to view a footnote, click on its number)
WHY IS MORMONISM SO IMPORTANT?
For the first time ever, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) is now the fifth-largest religious faith in America. It will shortly replace the Church of God as the fourth largest religious body in America.1 It has a global Church membership of 12 million people in 160 nations. Indeed, there are now more Mormons than Evangelical Lutherans, Presbyterians, or Episcopalians. According to the Deseret News Church Almanac, of its nearly 300,000 yearly converts, up to 80 percent are drawn from Protestant backgrounds, meaning that millions of people have abandoned their Christian heritage in favor of Mormonism.
Mormonism is broadly appealing for several reasons, including its emphasis on moral values and its stress upon maintaining strong family relationships. In addition, it offers numerous social benefits to members. In many ways it is by far the most successful among the thousands of new religions founded in the last 200 years.
The need for Fast Facts on Mormonism arises from specific claims made by the Mormon church that have caused widespread confusion concerning the precise nature of Mormonism. For instance, Mormonism claims to represent true Christianity and to believe in the biblical God. It teaches that it trusts in the true Jesus Christ and that He alone is the atoning Savior who died for the sins of the world. Indeed, a recent Barna poll revealed the following surprise information: "In total, 34% of the adults who attend a Mormon church say they have made a personal commitment to Christ that is important in their life today and also say that when they die they know they will go to Heaven solely because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior."2
But is Mormonism truly Christian as is increasingly argued? We hope to clear up this confusion on two fronts. First, we will show that even though Mormon literature frequently uses biblical and Christian terms, they are given entirely different meanings. If the meanings are radically different, it is unlikely that the message is going to be the same. Second, we hope to inform Mormons themselves, who are often unaware of important features of LDS faith, through a sampling of their religion's factual history and teachings.
|The reason for the current confusion stems from the similarity of terminology and the fact that in recent years the LDS church has initiated a powerful campaign to influence millions of people with its message that it is truly Christian. Sophisticated magazine, newspaper, and television ads have reached tens of millions of people with the claims of Mormonism. Multiple full-page newspaper inserts proclaim, "We believe the New Testament Scriptures are true and that they testify that Jesus is indeed the Promised Messiah and Savior of the world." Headlines read, "Mormons believe Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior" and "Mormons testify Jesus is the Christ." These advertisements, also placed in Reader's Digest and TV Guide, include an 800 number that respondents can call to receive a free copy of the Bible and the Book of Mormon, which is boldly advertised as "another testament of Jesus Christ."|
The success of these ads is evident. In 1989, almost 260,000 requests for a free Book of Mormon were received, and 86,000 of those responding wanted missionaries to make a personal visit. In addition, 40 percent of the respondents said they "believed the book was the Word of God" and that "they had a special feeling about it"3 (Some 109 million copies of the Book of Mormon have been published since 1830, according to the official LDS website). By the late 1990s, these television campaigns sometimes ran twice during a one-hour program and had continuing positive responses.
In the new millennium, LDS efforts at conversion have intensified and continue to bear fruit, as evidence by 300,000 new converts per year. Indeed, some 40 percent of the population of the United States has now been personally visited by representatives of the Mormon Church.4
|Half a Billion Mormons?|
The rapid rise in converts is one reason Mormonism should be taken seriously by the evangelical community. Recent dramatic growth projections may be legitimate. According to The New Mormon Challenge: "If one recalculates from 1997 membership figures with the same rate of growth [Rodney] Stark used in his initial  study, Mormonism will have a membership of over 580 million by the end of the [twenty-first] century." Whether or not these projections are valid, Mormonism will continue to have significant growth rates. Further, the 65-70,000 LDS missionaries "make the LDS church the single largest missionary-sending organization in the world." Also, "within the next 50 years the LDS church could easily have a full-time missionary force of 400,000 converting more than 2.5 million people annually…[and] be larger than all Protestant and Catholic missionary efforts combined."5
Of even greater concern, "almost all converts to Mormonism come from a nominal Christian background." Although no scientific studies yet exist, "according to several 'eyeball' estimates I have seen or heard reported, 75-870 percent of Mormon converts come from specifically Protestant backgrounds" and "far more people convert to Mormonism from evangelical churches than vice versa." "Thus, Mormon growth largely depends on the prior success of Protestant and Catholic missionaries. This provides a third important reason why evangelicals cannot afford to shrug off predictions of Mormon growth: Mormon missionaries don't evangelize, they proselytize. Mormonism is a religion that gets its life mostly from preexisting forms of Christianity. The predictions of incredible growth for the LDS church are also predictions of loss for Protestant, Catholic, and, to a lesser extent, Orthodox Churches--with Protestantism sustaining the greatest losses (though that could easily change)."6
In conclusion, Mormonism is a topic the Christian church cannot afford to ignore. The large majority of Mormons are former Christians, nominal or not. It is ironic that the LDS church owes its great success to the previous efforts of dedicated Christian workers who painstakingly "plowed the field," so that LDS missionaries could "pick the fruit.".
If the current LDS membership of 12 million is expected to double in the next 10 years, is there a Christian anywhere who can be unconcerned?
- See the National Council of Churches' 2002 Yearbook of American and Canadian Churches, Eileen Linder, ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002). (return to the text)
- Barna poll, "Religious Beliefs Vary Widely by Denomination," June 25, 2001, www.barna.org. (return to the text)
- The Salt Lake Tribune, January 23, 1990. (return to the text)
- See Joshua Decker, "Marketing Strategies of Mormonism" at www.saintsalive.com/mormonism. (return to the text)
- Francis J. Beckwith, Carl Mosser, and Paul Owens, eds. The New Mormon Challenge (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), pp. 62-68. (return to the text)
- Ibid., pp. 67-68. (return to the text)