(The following is a partial transcript of “The American View” radio show where John Lofton interviewed Hank Hanegraaff, head of the “Christian Research Institute” and host of the nationally-syndicated radio show “The Bible Answer Man.” To hear the entire show, click on this link, please:
Q: Are Mormons Christians?
A: No, they’re not John .They take our language but they pour their meanings into the words. For example, a Christian will believe that God is Spirit but Joseph Smith taught that God himself was once as we are now and is an exalted man and sits on the enthroned in yonder heavens. They hold to a plurality of gods. As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become. In Christianity, Jesus is the self existent Creator of all things. In Mormonism, He is the spirit brother of Lucifer who was conceived in heaven by a celestial mother and then came in flesh as a result of the Father having sex with the Virgin Mary.
Q: Oh, my goodness.
A: So no, they use Christian terminology but they pour decidedly different meanings into the words. It’s not just with the nature of God, although I would say that virtually every single theological heresy begins with the misconception of the nature of God. But if you look at what they believe about heaven they believe something completely different than we do. We believe we are going to stand before God dressed in the spotless robes of Christ’s Righteousness. In other words, we get into heaven not by what we do but by a foreign righteousness that is laid to our account — the righteousness of Jesus Christ. But a Mormon contends that they will appear before heavenly Father dressed in a fig leaf apron and holding good works in their hands. And if you look at their concept of heaven, John, their concept is of a three pronged heaven. You have a celestial heaven and virtually everybody gets to make it there. If you’re a whoremonger or a liar or a vile person you get to the celestial heaven. Then they have a terrestrial heaven and that is for lukewarm Mormons, religious people and for a wide variety of those who accept the Mormon gospel. And then you have the celestial Kingdom and only temple Mormons make it to the celestial Kingdom and in the celestial Kingdom you have three different levels and if you reach the third level of the celestial kingdom then you can become a god of your own planet; in other words you can become for all intents and purposes what Jesus Christ is. And so again I think the point needs to be made — no they use our terminology but they pour their meanings into the words and that’s the whole issue we need to learn to scale the language barrier.
Q: So you think those are the major doctrinal differences?
A: Well, I think those are some of the substantive doctrinal differences. There are many more that could be cited. I mean Mormons do not believe that the Bible is the infallible repository for redemptive revelation. They believe that the book of Mormon is the most correct of any book on earth and it’s the keystone to their religion and we therefore have a sharp difference in terms of what our authority is.
Q: Well I remember early on many years ago running into the first Mormons that I ran into probably coming to my house the only people that ever come to my house are Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses — of course they rarely come a second time. But I think I went to the door with my King James Bible and very quickly they were saying that well we’re Christians too and I thought well then why aren’t you just Christians? Why are you Mormons? Why are you Latter Day Saints? Why do you have all those other books if you’re just Christians Like us?
A: Yeah, John, and I think that’s a good point because you have to remember that in the embryonic stages of the development of Mormonism there is a vision that Joseph Smith the founder of the Mormon church received. And in that vision celestial personages are claiming that all existing churches are wrong, all their deeds are an abomination, all their professors are corrupt and that Smith had been chosen to restore not reform but restore a church that had disappeared from the face of the earth. So, it’s interesting that if you go back to the 1800s or the 19th century, Joseph Smith wanted to make a sharp dichotomy between what he was bringing into existence as a cultic movement and all other Christians. Now the Mormons are saying there’s virtually no difference or distinction between what they teach and what Christianity teaches.
Q: Well, that’s for sure. And that leads me to another question. Years ago there was a financial advisor named Howard Ruff and you probably remember Howard Ruff.
A: I do.
Q: And he was perhaps still is if he’s alive a Mormon and he had a lobbyist in Washington. I can’t remember his name but one day he invited a bunch of us conservative activist types to a lunch. And it was clear that the purpose of the lunch was at some point not immediately he was a little smarter than that was to tell all of us — hey, you know that we’re Christians, Mormons, you know that. And the interesting thing to me was every single person at that lunch who was a Christian in their own way said uh, no, you’re not. And of course in the intervening years I met many other Mormons and every Mormon I’ve ever met desperately wants to be considered a Christian. And I’ve never met a Christian who readily agreed that yeah, Mormons are Christians.
A: It’s becoming all the more common today however, John. I mean there are more and more Christians who are saying that the gap between Christianity and Mormonism can easily be bridged with rhetoric. [They say] the divide, well it’s not wide at all in their view. And I don’t think that they’re taking seriously what Mormonism teaches. Now we’d all be very happy if Mormonism recanted their heresy particularly with respect the nature of God and the person and work of Jesus Christ. But they haven’t done that. What their trying to do is bridge the gap with rhetoric and it is a gap that is so wide and deep it can never be papered over with rhetoric.
Q: Well you said something earlier that I’ve noticed too and that is there are various false religions one of them of course being Mormonism and others that speak very respectfully of Christ. But, of course, they basically believe that He messed up that Christians messed up, they messed up the Holy book —and then the false religion, whether it’s Mormonism or another one, says but we’re here now, we’re here to restore, we’re here to clean up the Christian mess.
A: Well, that’s exactly right and you know this a millennial sect in many ways and they do believe certainly in the embryonic stages of Mormonism – and this has been repeated over and over again — that there’s going to come a time that the Constitution will hang by a thread and then a Mormon will ride in as it were on a white horse and that Mormon will save the Constitution, save the United States and in the process set up a Mormon theocracy in the United States. This white horse prophecy as it so called is something that has been alluded to by many people including Orrin Hatch (Republican Senator from Utah.).
Q: Well that’s another aspect that I hadn’t asked you about and that is that Mormonism believes or teaches basically that these founding documents of our country are pretty much sacred scripture which of course no real Christian could ever believe, correct?
A: I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking there.
Q: The founding documents, The Declaration of Independence, they pretty much consider them almost sacred scripture whereas no Christian could actually consider the founding documents to be sacred.
A: Well that’s exactly right and that’s a good point. We test all things in light of Scripture and hold fast to that which is good. So the final repository for faith and practice in a Christian world view is the word of God and everything then is tested in light of Scripture and we hold fast to that which is good.
John Lofton is reachable at: JLof@aol.com.