My wife's friend has been meeting with the missionaries. However, this friend's roommate, who is a member of a local Evangelical Christian denomination, immediately handed her an anti-LDS information guide written by her pastor. To my wife's friend's credit, she didn't read it feeling that it was better to get information about a church from the church itself. Nevertheless, she and her roommates did discuss the contents of the brochure. These anti- tracts, brochures, and pamphlets usually contain similar gross mis-characterizations of LDS belief and doctrine.
#1. (Anti-Claim) Mormons believe in many gods?
LDS believe all that the Bible teaches about God: we believe in God the Eternal Father, in his Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. We believe each of these; the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to each be considered God, yet distinct and separate beings who are one in purpose (John 8: 38, John 17: 11, 21-22). We do not believe in the 4th-century non-scriptural idea of the Trinity; that God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are incomprehensible manifestations of the same being. We believe in what Stephen saw when he looked up into heaven and saw Jesus Christ standing on the right hand of the Father (Acts 7: 55-56). The Eternal Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost constitute what the Bible refers to as the Godhead (Gen. 1: 26, Gen. 3: 22, Eph. 4: 4-6, 1 Cor. 11: 3, 7, Col. 2: 9, 19, Acts 17: 29, Rom. 1: 20, John 14: 9, John 1: 1). Yes, we believe that there are many gods in heaven, but there is only one Heavenly Father.
#2. (Anti-Claim) God was not always God?
LDS believe that God is all-powerful, all-knowing, as well as perfectly merciful, kind, and just. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever and has been God from eternity to eternity. However, confusion stems from a commentary on a teaching of Joseph Smith by Lorenzo Snow, fifth president of the LDS Church, who said: "As man now is, God once was; As God now is, man may be."
President Gordon B. Hinkley expressed that we do not fully understand what Joseph Smith ment when he said that "as man now is, God once was." There are only a few comments about it here and there in all of LDS literature. This doctrine should not be considered mainstream or core doctrine. Because we don't understand exactly what Joseph Smith ment, we try not to speculate on it. However, Joseph Smith was quoted as saying it and there have been a few comments by other presidents of the church with regard to the teaching. So, I will venture to express my feelings on this concept with my imperfect understand of the subject.
Assuming a literal interpretation; believing that God was once like man doesn't mean we believe God wasn't always God. The Bible teaches that "ye are gods and children of the Most High God" (men = gods). Therefore, God has always been a god even if he walked on an Earth as a man. Saying He is something other than god would be like believing that He had once been some other animal, vegetable, or mineral species. Additionally, God has always been the Most High God since no other god ever was, is, or will be our God. And if Jesus Christ can come to Earth and take a body of flesh and still be considered God, then why would anyone have a problem with the teaching that Heavenly Father did as well (Immanuel = God with us).
But, if the Father and the Son took upon them flesh, how could God be considered unchangeable? The same way that Jesus Christ could take upon him flesh and be considered unchangeable. Christ himself said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John 5: 19). God is not a static being, he is dynamic and ever increasing in glory, perfection, majesty, power, and love. He is unchangeable in that he has never changed from His eternal course of progression, His righteousness, and His perfection.
Additional insights on this:
#3. (Anti-Claim) Jesus is not God or was not always God?
This claim stems from LDS acceptance of the Bible teaching of the Godhead. The LDS accept that Jesus (God the Son) is a separate being from Heavenly Father (God the Father). Therefore, some misunderstand LDS doctrine and think that LDS believe Jesus Christ isn't God or only became God after ascending to heaven. This is not so. We believe that Jesus Christ was a member of the Godhead from the beginning at the Great Heavenly Council when the plan of salvation was presented. God the Son was anointed to be the Savior of mankind and is referred to by John as "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13: 8, Isa. 6: 8).
Before coming to Earth, Jesus Christ (God the Son) was known as Jehovah to the Old Testament prophets. Jehovah (God the Son) mediated between God the Father and man because the Father has not delt with man directly since the fall of Adam; except to bare testimony of His Son. Even during Joseph Smith's first vision of God the Father and the Son Jesus Christ, after the Father bore testimony of the Son, Joseph only conversed face to face with Jesus Christ: "and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him" (Luke 10: 22).
#4 (Anti-Claim) Jesus and Satan are brothers?
The Bible teaches that God is the Father of all spirits (Heb. 12: 9). Therefore, God the Father is the spiritual father of all mankind including Lucifer (son of the morning) who fell from heaven and became Satan. However, this brotherhood is only in the same spiritual sense as saying that all mankind are spiritual brothers and sisters of the same Heavenly Father. Jesus Christ and Lucifer were not even close to equals during the Grand Heavenly Council before the creation. Jesus Christ was God the Son and a member of the Godhead with Heavenly Father and the Holy Ghost and was chosen, called, and anointed to be our Savior and Redeemer. Lucifer was an archangel who rebelled against God's plan. John says, Michael the archangel was called to battle against Lucifer in the great war in heaven (Rev. 12: 7). Michael and his angels (us) armed with our faith in and testimony of Jesus Christ; were able to defeat and cast Lucifer out of heaven (Rev. 12: 11).#5 (Anti-Claim) Man can become gods?
LDS don't just believe that we can become gods, we believe that what the Bible teaches that men are gods. The Bible says "I have said, Ye are gods, and all sons of the Most High" (Ps. 82: 6). So, we believe that all mankind are children of God (Acts 17: 28-29). That is, we are the same spiritual species as God. Additionally, the Bible seems to differentiate man from God based on his Fatherhood and not on his Godhood. However, there is only One True God to whom we can turn for salvation, exaltation, and eternal Life. I can't save you, and you can't save me, and we cannot save ourselves. Only God can save us through the grace alone of His Son Jesus Christ. Again, the Bible teaches that all men are gods, but there is only One Heavenly Father and One Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Does believing that men are gods diminish God? No. The Bible continually refers to God as the Holy of holies, God of gods, King of kings, and Lord of lords. He is not just a God of degenerate being or subservient angels. God is the Most High God of glorified, exalted, god-like beings like himself who worship, praise, honor, and adore only Him. Does it give God more glory for him to be the God of fables, or the God of idols, or to be Greatest among lesser beings? Or, does it honor him to realize that he is the Greatest among equals (Josh. 22: 22, Deut. 10: 17, Ps. 136: 2, Dan. 2: 47, Rev. 19: 16). The Book of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price says that the redemption and exalting of man to eternal life is the glory of God. The Bible teaches that God is powerful enough that he can pro-create beings like himself without fear that they will be a threat to his power and dominion. To believe otherwise would limit the power of God.
How does this doctrine fit with many scriptures which say there is only one God? Isaiah says, "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" (Isa. 43: 10). There is nothing in the Bible teaching that "[men] are gods" that is in anyway contradictory to the words of Isaiah. Critics say that if God was once a man then he would have had a Heavenly Father and so on to infinity. So, if no Gods were formed before our God and no Gods will be formed after, how does LDS interpretation stand? Because, men are already "gods en embryo" and infinite beings without beginning or end. There were no Gods formed before or after the Eternal God because the spirits of all men were and are co-existent and co-eternal beings. We have been created sons but we were not created gods. But as Paul states so eloquently, "For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him" (1 Cor. 8: 5-6).#6 (Anti-Claim) "Mormon man-gods will live on their own planet with their polygamist wives and pro-create endless spirit babies?"
I agree, this makes absolutely no sense. Which is the point; isn't it. First off, the Bible teaches that this Earth will become a sea of glass and a celestial inheritance for its righteous inhabitants forever (Rev. 15: 2). Doesn't Christ promise that the "meek shall inherit the Earth." This Earth will be our eternal home.
Second, yes we believe that family relationships will endure into the next life. Talk to someone who has had a near-death experience (I have) and they will likely tell you that they met persons on the other side who they recognized as family and friends. Or you could read the Bible which teaches that although there is no marrying or marriage of angels after this life, men and women can be married on Earth by the priesthood keys given to Peter which bind in heaven what is already bound on Earth (Matt. 16: 19). So, as Paul teaches, "Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord" (1 Cor. 11: 11). Joseph Smith taught that the "same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory" (D&C 130: 2). Our relationships with God and each other are the treasure that we can lay up in store and take with us into the next life.
Now what about this eternal pro-creation business. There really isn't much detail given with regard to what the work of eternity will entail other than statements that redeemed, resurrected, exalted and eternal men and women will participate in the work of creation with God; including pro-creation. Now, what the other side tries to do is create a mental image of endless copulation, conception, gestation, and delivery of 100,000,000,000,000 spirit babies (eternal pregnancy: what a horrible thought). Remember, the spirits of men are eternal and co-existent with God and exalted, resurrected beings will have perfect, glorified, tangible bodies. Therefore, it makes no sense for physical beings to need to gestate or deliver a spirit that has always existed.
I speculate that the act of being created sons of God may only have required our acceptance. And in the same way that Christ's atonement is retroactive, eternal, and extends from eternity to eternity; so our being created sons of God would also be considered eternal. I would remind you that God dwells in what is termed the Eternal Now. Past, present, and future are all present before him. Therefore, time doesn't hold the same limitations that is does to us on Earth (Col. 1: 17).
#7 (Anti-Claim) We are saved by works?
I am happy to agree with our Evangelical friends that it is by the grace alone of Jesus Christ that men are saved. But the LDS baptize. Christ was baptized. And it is by the grace of God that we are baptized. It is by the grace of God that we live and breath. So, what of works? Man can do nothing good of himself. Therefore, good works are a manifestation of the reception of the Holy Ghost within us. Without the justification of the blood of Christ's atonement, God's Spirit could not dwell in us (unholy temples), and the process of purification could not occur. Without the Holy Ghost, we would be left subject to the temptations of Satan and his angels and the carnal appetites of our body. However, we can accept Christ, and receive the Holy Ghost and learn to ignore the temptations of Satan and learn to ignore and control the appetites of the flesh. Although, there will be no Satan in heaven, we will have our bodies, and hopefully we, through the grace of Christ and purification of the Holy Ghost, will have learned to master our bodies such that we will be comfortable to dwell in the presence of God; because we will be like him (1 Jn. 3: 2, Rev. 3: 21).
While it is easy to accept Christ's atonement. It is just as easy to reject Him. Every time we sin we reject Christ and turn away from him. So, we must then exercise faith, confess and repent of our sins, a turn again to receive Christ. Then we are justified by the blood of His sacrifice such that the Holy Ghost can enter into us and we can continue on in the process of sanctification. If we continue in this process to the end of our lives, and endure to the end, then is His grace sufficent for us.
Many have entered into this process without even consciously confessing Christ. The Bible teaches that those who live by truth accept Christ who is the author of all truth (Gal. 3: 6). And although, because of tradition and upbringing and opportunity, do not consciously acknowledge Christ, they spiritually accept Christ which is manifest by their good works. Christ atonement covers those sins done in ignorance and men will be judged according to the degree of light and knowledge with they have received. The Bible foretells that one day every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Christ (Rom. 14: 11).