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Defending the Faith: Mormons. The Mormon Church was founded by Joseph Smith Jr. in 1830 Its official name is Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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Defending the faith mormons
Defending the Faith: Mormons

The Mormon Church was founded by Joseph Smith Jr. in 1830

Its official name is

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Joseph Smith (1805-1844) claimed that he established the Mormon church based on revelations he received in 1820, from two persons who came from heaven.

They told him that all Christian religions then in existence were totally corrupt.

His mission was to restore the true religion that had been established by Jesus Christ but which had become totally corrupt soon after the death of the last Apostle.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

In order to fulfill his mission, Joseph Smith claimed that god had made him both a prophet and an apostle.

He was to be an inspired prophet who could communicate Divine Revelation and write Sacred Scripture.

In fact Smith wrote three books which the Mormons claim are part of Scripture:

Book of Mormon

Doctrines and Covenants

Pearl of Great Price

Mormons believe that all church presidents who have succeeded Joseph Smith are also inspired prophets

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Joseph Smith came from a Protestant background primarily Adventism.

He carried over many of the protestant teachings into Mormonism:

Rejection of the Eucharist, the papacy, the Marian doctrines, and the seven deuterocanonical books.

Adventism refers to a religious movement, strong in the 1800s, which was preoccupied with the date of the Second Coming.

Smith in fact predicted that the world would end in 1890.

Mormonism survived this error because it shifted its focus to “total apostasy”

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Defending the Faith: Mormons


Joseph Smith entered the Masons in 1842.

He quickly introduced versions of the Masonic ceremonies into Mormonism.

A study of Mormon rituals reveals many similarities to the rituals of the Masonic order.

Colonial ministers Cotton Mather, William Penn, and Roger Williams speculated that the American Indians might be remnants of the lost tribes of Israel.

Their writings were widely known in Joseph Smith’s time and acted as a basis for his teaching that Palestinian Jews migrated to the Americas centuries before Christ.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Smith taught that these Jews, who came to the new World around 600BC,

established two great nations:

The Nephites and the Lamanites.

Archaeological and historical studies have failed to find any trace of these nations as described in the Book of Mormon

This lack of evidence is a great embarrassment to Mormon historians and archaeologists and may compel them one day to set these this teaching aside.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Although Mormonism differs in many respects from traditional Protestantism, Mormons still hold many protestant beliefs.

To maintain a constructive dialogue with them focus on those non-Catholic beliefs that Mormons share with protestants and refute them using basic apologetics.

This approach will allow you to make effective use of Scripture and the writings of the early Church Fathers.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

When you discuss Mormon doctrines like

celestial marriage and baptism for the dead,

you will not have much common ground because these beliefs are not based on either

Sacred Scripture or Sacred Tradition.

They will cite their own Mormon authorities which we do not accept.


Effective dialogue must be based on authorities which both Catholics and Mormons acknowledge: the bible and the very early Fathers,

especially those who lived during the apostolic age.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

When talking with Mormons avoid two doctrines:

  • Sola scriptura (the Bible alone)

    • Mormons do not accept sola scriptura.

    • They believe in four inspired books

      • The only Bible the Mormons consider valid is the King James Version

    • They believe in continuing revelation as a source of new doctrines

  • Purgatory

    • Mormons believe in a place called “spirit prison”

    • They claim this doctrine to be the same as purgatory when it is in fact quite different

      Insist on dealing with more basic doctrinal issues

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Although we do not accept the Book of Mormon as inspired, it is sometimes helpful to show Mormons that their beliefs are contradicted even by the Book of Mormon.

This will point out inconsistencies within their own belief system.

Be aware!

Mormons use Christian terms

Trinity, God, Resurrection and Heaven

But with different meanings and concepts.

You may think your in doctrinal agreement when you are in complete opposition.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

When you begin to deal with distinctly Mormon beliefs, focus on the

“total apostasy”.

This is the pivotal belief for Mormons, and can be refuted by using

Scripture, history, and reason

Mormons cannot set this doctrine aside and survive as a religion.

If you can show a Mormon that no “universal apostasy” of the Church took place,

The whole basis of their religion collapses.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

The Great Apostasy

Mormons claim that sometime after the death of the last Apostle the catholic Church became completely corrupted.

According to the “corruption theory” the Catholic Church ceased to profess true Apostolic doctrines and began to teach pagan beliefs instead.

They believe this corruption began about 100 AD and was universal by 200 Ad at the latest.

Mormons teach that Christ’s Church completely disappeared from the earth until it was restored by Joseph Smith in 1829

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Sacred Scripture

Christ left a Church that would last until the end of time, and would always faithfully teach the Gospel.

“Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not; for it was founded upon rock. And everyone that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened to a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon hat house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.”

Mt 7:24-27 (KJV)

Is Jesus like the wise man who built His house on rock, or like the foolish man who built his house on sand?

Jesus is like the wise man in the parable; what he builds will not collapse.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Sacred Scripture

Our Lord reinforces the permanence of what he has built by promising that the “gates of hell” will not prevail against his church.

“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Phillipi, he asked his disciples saying, ‘Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?’ And they said, ‘Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some Elias; and others Jeremias or one of the prophets.’ He saith unto them, ‘ But whom say ye that I am?’ And Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Mt 16:13-18 (KJV)

If the Church disappeared, even for a short time,

the gate of hell would have prevailed against it

making Jesus a liar.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Sacred Scripture

Jesus commands us to take disputes involving religious matters to the church.

“Moreover, if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

Mt 18:15-18 (KJV)

This presupposes that the Church will always exist and remain true to her mission. Otherwise we would have to approach a corrupted, pagan church in order to follow Christ’s command.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Sacred Scripture

Jesus indicates that he will be with his church until the end of time.

“Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Mt 28:20 (KJV)

Since Christ promised that He would always remain in His Church, it is impossible for the Church itself to apostatize, to become doctrinally corrupt.

It is impossible for Christ to abandon His Church

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Sacred Scripture

Paul tells us that the Church is ‘the pillar and ground of truth.”

“But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

1 Tim 3:15 (KJV)

Pillar and foundation are both very strong words indicating strength, stability, and permanence.

The Church, the household of god, will be a permanent teacher of truth.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Sacred Scripture

Mormons will cite various Bible passages to support their claim of a “universal apostasy”

Mt 7:15; Acts 20:29; Thess 2:3; and 2 Pet 2:1

These are references to the mass apostasy at the end of tie or those apostasies that characterize all periods of church history.

We agree that there have been and always will be apostasies in the church.

But the Bible nowhere mentions a total apostasy involving Apostolic authority

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Sacred Scripture

is very clear:

The catholic Church has not been,

and cannot ever be,


in her Apostolic authority and teaching

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

The Early Church Fathers

It is important to study the early Church Fathers up to the year 200 AD.

The best known Fathers from this period are

Saints Clement, Ignatius, Justin Martyr, Polycarp and Irenaeus.

The writings of these Fathers are both very well known and well documented.

They begin during the time of the Apostles, and end about the year 200 AD.

Thus they cover the period when, according to the Mormons, a progressive corruption of the Catholic Church and its teachings took place,

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

The Early Church Fathers

When you study these early Fathers, you find that they consistently teach Catholic doctrines.

  • St. Clement (died 80 AD)plainly asserts his authority as Bishop of Rome and head of the Church.

  • St. Clement also describes the Mass as a sacrifice.

  • St. Ignatius, a co-worker of the Apostle John, writes a strong letter around 100 AD, condemning those who reject the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

  • St Justin Martyr, in 155 AD, gives a detailed description of the Catholic Mass.

  • St. Irenaeus, between 180-199 AD, warns that one must follow the Church of Rome in order to follow the Apostolic teaching

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

These Fathers don’t even mention a “great apostasy,” as you would expect them to if it were occurring in their day.

Nor do they feel it necessary to defend against such a charge from those seeking to discredit Christianity.

On the other hand they do mention and defend against many other charges made against the Catholic faith such as the accusation of cannibalism, and the attacks on the Incarnation.

If the early Church were in the midst of a growing apostasy, you would expect to see both the enemies and defenders of the Church commenting on this significant event.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Additional Arguments

  • The Canon of the Bible: The canon of the bible was officially determined by the Catholic Church around the year 400 AD yet Mormons accept as a matter of faith the canon just as the Church defined it.

  • Historical Silence: History books mention all major splits in Church History yet do not mention the “total apostasy.”

  • Burden of Proof Falls Upon the Prosecution: Ask them to prove their claim giving specific facts about the “great apostasy.”

  • Superiority of the New Testament: Mormons believe the NT is superior to the OT yet they would have us believe that the OT which remained for 1300 years

  • A Real Apostasy: John 6 The Gospel of john describes an apostasy by many of the followers of Jesus because they wouldn’t accept His teaching that they must eat his Body and drink his Blood. Why do they follow the apostate disciples by rejecting the Real presence in the Eucharist.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

The Great Apostasy by James Talmage (1909)

Mormon missionaries carry this book and claim that it is scholarly proof of the great apostasy.

  • Edward Gibbon (1737-1794): Best known for his book The Decline and Fall of the roman Empire. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church a scholarly Protestant publication describes his hatred of Christianity in general. He is anything but objective.

  • Joseph Milner (1744-1797): A strong Evangelical protestant living in the 1700s Milner could hardly be called objective towards Catholic history. The same source calls Milner’s work inaccurate and uncritical.

  • Johann von Mosheim (1694-1755): The most objective of Talmage’s sources he describes historical corruption and heresy in the church but nowhere claims “total apostasy.”

  • Eusebius Pamphilus (263-340 AD) A bishop and church historian in his Ecclesiastical History he gives detail accounts of heresies, divisions, and controversies. He also however describes how early councils of the Church effectively refuted these errors and preserved the true Apostolic doctrines.

    Recommend Maxwell Staniforth’s Early Christian Writings

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Continuing Revelation

All orthodox Christians believe that public revelation ended with the death of John, the last Apostle.

This means that there can be no new doctrines, no new scriptures, and no new prophecies after the close of the apostolic age.

There can be no new prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Daniel, who could communicate inspired revelation.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Continuing Revelation

Mormons believe that their Church continues to have prophets who can communicate divine revelation and reveal new doctrines.

They believe that Joseph Smith wrote inspired scripture and that each president of the LDS Church is a prophet..

This like “total apostasy” is a foundational doctrine in Mormonism

God sent His Son at the “fullness of time,” indicating that Jesus will communicate the fullness of God’s Revelation.

“But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son”

(Gal 4:4)

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Continuing Revelation

Sacred Scripture

St. Jude indicates that the full Apostolic teaching has already been delivered to the saints.

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”

(Jude 3)

This verse clearly suggests a completed deposit of faith which Timothy is to safeguard and transmit to successors.

“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.”

(2 Tim 2:2)

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Continuing Revelation

Sacred Scripture

Our Lord tells the Apostles that the revelation He gave them during His earthly ministry, and which the Holy Spirit would clarify and complete, was the fullness of God’s Revelation that they were to teach all men until the end of time.

“And Jesus came an spake unto them saying,”All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”

(Mt 28:18-20)

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Continuing Revelation

Sacred Scripture

This passage tells us that the inspired prophets of the OT, who communicated God’s revelation in an incomplete form, have now given way to the Son of God who has given us the full and perfect Revelation of God.

“The Son is the Father’s definitive Word; so there will be no further Revelation after him.”

(CCC 73)

Jesus is the fulfillment of all prophecy.

“God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son”

(Heb 1:1-2)

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Continuing Revelation

The Early Church Fathers

“You shall not abandon the commandments of the Lord; but you shall keep what you have received, adding nothing to it or taking anything away.”

(Didache, 4, 13; written between 40-140 AD)

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Continuing Revelation

The Early Church Fathers

St. Irenaeus tells us in clear, unmistakable language that the deposit of faith was completed by the Apostles and is safeguarded and transmitted by the Church.

“When, therefore, we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek among others the truth which is easily obtained from the Church. For the Apostles, like rich men in a bank, deposited with her most copiously everything which pertains to the truth,”

(St. Irenaeus, 180-199 AD)

St. Irenaeus was taught by St. Polycarp (a disciple of St. John the Apostle) and is considered the greatest theologian in the immediate post-Apostolic period.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Continuing Revelation

The Early Church Fathers

No Church Father ever taught that new doctrines or inspired Revelations from God were possible after the death of the last Apostle.

“After Jesus Christ, there is no need of further search; nor, after the Gospel, is there any further inquiry. Inasmuch as we believe, we desire nothing further to believe. For beyond what we already have, we believe there is nothing further that we ought to believe.”

(Tertullian, 200 AD)

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

The Plurality of Gods

Mormonism teaches that there are many gods.

They believe that the present gods were once only mortals who became gods through what they call “exaltation.”

Any person now living can also become a god through this same process.

They only have to faithfully keep the mormon ordinances in this life.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

The Plurality of Gods

He temptation to want to be gods has been with the human race from the beginning.

The devil tempted Eve by saying,

“ye shall be as gods”

(Gen 3:5)

The king of Babylon says,

“I will be like the most High”

(Is 14:14)

Roman emperors eventually demanded to be worshipped as gods.

In our own time we have various new age cults promising divinity to their followers.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

The Plurality of Gods

Reason alone tells us that there can be only one God.

Ancient Greek philosophers came to realize that in a universe where all things can be explained through causes, there had to be an Ultimate Cause outside the material universe that caused everything else.

This cause had to be one if it was the final explanation of all that exists.

These same philosophers noted that in the world, efficient affairs always end up being governed by one person. Even in a democracy there is one president, one chief justice, etc.

The universe itself must then be governed by a single being with supreme intelligence and power.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

Sacred Scripture is very clear there is only ONE God

“I am the lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” (Ex 20:2-3)

“Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen; that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.” (Is 43:10)

“I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me” (Is 45:5)

“We know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one” (1 Cor 8:4)

“One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all. (Ep 4:5-6)

“And this is life eternal, that hey might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” (Jn 17:3)

“Hear O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord”

(Deut 6:4)

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

The Early Church Fathers take it for granted that to be Christian is to believe in ONE God.

“For that reason they (the prophets) were persecuted, inspired as they were by His grace to convince the disobedient that there is one God.”

(St. Ignatius of Antioch, 110 AD)

“For the Church, although dispersed throughout the whole world even to the ends of the earth, has received fro the apostles and from their disciples the faith in one God.”

(St. Irenaeus, 180-199 AD)

‘The object of our worship is the One God”

(Tertullian, 197 AD)

No early father taught plurality of gods.

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Defending the Faith: Mormons

The Mormon belief in many gods is even contradicted by the

Book of Mormon

Alma 11:26-31

An Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God? And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God. Now Zeezrom said: Is there more han one God? And he answered, No. Now Zeezrom said unto him again; How knowest thou these things? And he said: An angel hath made them known to me”

(Book of Mormon, 1981 Edition)