I enjoy studying religions. I have been involved in a number over the decades including Catholic, Presbyterian, Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, and Baptist. I have explored Lutheranism, Methodism and Independent/non-denominational sects. Of course, the reason why there are so many thousand denominations is because of differences in Bible interpretation or points of doctrine that are felt to be so critical as to cause schism and formation of new denominations.
And the reason why various sects earn the title of “cult” is simply because they have strayed away from the main stream definition of orthodoxy which primarily relates to how the Godhead is defined, the role of Jesus in salvation, and whether any alternative or supplemental scripture is assumed sacred, meaning critical to the other major components of the faith. The obvious non-orthodox religions that have violated orthodox standards are Jehovah’s Witnesses, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and its permutations, and Christian Science. Each fall short of orthodoxy in a number of ways, but are arguably still legitimately “Christian” in many ways.
Having explored and participated in Mormonism for a few years, I have appreciated many of the qualities of that faith system and its adherents. However, as with any human attempt to understand the things of God, compounded by the fact that I, Human, don’t understand God perfectly, I interpret that that faith system falls short in a number of areas. The Christian less tolerant than I will find a dozen other horribles of Mormonism. But the four most important to me, important to the point of provoking my desire to avoid the practice, are these:
God’s role in creation was limited: My understanding of Mormon teaching of God’s role in creation is that God merely formed pre-existing mass into his creation. He did not create everything – he did not create the formless matter. Who did? Another greater unknown God? The reality is that God is the sole creator of everything, including the formless matter that he formed into his creation.
Disobedience was required by God to enable human progression: My understanding of Mormon teaching of the role of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden is that God required disobedience in order for humans to progress, becoming aware of pain, joy, good and evil. While the orthodox view also has its problems (it appears that God had to implement his Plan “B”, the sacrifice of His Son, to atone for human failure in the Garden), the Mormon version that requires human disobedience of God’s commands in order to progress, is counterintuitive to the character of God, and seems even worse than "Plan “B”.
Second class citizenship in heaven for those not “sealed”: The “sealing” of marriages and other rituals based on certain standards on earth is required to ascend to the highest levels in heaven. While Mormons don’t attach any other criteria except baptism and belief in Jesus Christ to attain heaven, their class system once we get there is very works oriented. I suppose the Mormon system attempts to provide advance information about the level we achieve in heaven, while the orthodox system leaves such placement entirely up to God. I would rather be surprised.
Elements of Mormonism akin to elements of Islam: There are several elements of Mormonism that are eerily similar to Islam. One big one is the arrival of a new prophet (Joseph Smith/Muhammad) who creates new Scripture (Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, Doctrine and Covenants/Qur’an, Sura, Hadith) that reinterprets the Old and New Testaments. Granted, there are many more dissimilarities than similarities. But the similarities I mentioned seem enough to create strange bedfellows between the leadership of the LDS church and leadership of American Muslims. The little bit of research I have done on this indicates that there is about the same degree of misplaced ecumenicalism promoted by Mormons with Muslims as there is promoted by mainline Christian denominations and Muslims. Part of the reason is that the Mormon perception of Muslim persecution is sensitized by their own 19th century persecutions. This sympathy blinds them to the fact the Islamic ties are not in their interest due to the historic, orthodox, and often deceptive disdain of Muslims toward Christians and their use of unsuspecting Christians as pawns to further their own supremacist interests.
My criteria in selecting a new church was seeking messages that not only accurately reflected orthodox Scriptural teaching, but just as importantly, applied it not just to personal lives, but to our culture and politics as well. Part of this application included the comparison and contrast of Christianity with other belief systems such as Islam so that we have a collective understanding of the world around us – making us aware that not all is sweetness and light. Mainline and Mormon denominations continue to remain oblivious.