Mormonism and the Seesaw of Doubt

By: Michael Flournoy

Ask any Latter-day Saint if they believe in Jesus, and you’ll get a long-winded affirmation. They will profess that He is the Son of God, their Savior and Redeemer. They may even get choked up as they express their gratitude for everything He has done for them. They will sound like legitimate Christians, and it’s no wonder, because they sincerely believe that they are nothing less than bonafide, dyed in the wool Christians.

That’s why Evangelicals are written off as arrogant jerks when we claim Mormons believe in a different Jesus. Latter-day Saints balk at that and think, “who are you to decide whether or not we believe in the real Jesus?” The LDS apologetic claims there is only one Jesus, and although some might view Him differently, it’s still the same Person. The time required to unravel this argument will likely outstrip the Mormon’s patience. So in this article, I’m going to explore a different approach by arguing that Mormons are damned either way for one simple reason: they don’t have faith.


Mormons will still think this position is farfetched, but it isn’t something they’ve heard ad nauseum and it’s a fairly straightforward point to defend.


The 4th LDS Article of Faith calls faith the first principle of the gospel. It says:


We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.


In Mormonism, faith is the foundation everything else builds on. They will admit that without faith, all the saving ordinances in the world are pointless. So by pulling out their foundation, we can make the whole structure collapse like a house of cards.


Let’s start by defining faith. It is more than a mere belief in God. James 2:19 says the devils believe and tremble. So if a Latter-day Saint says Jesus is the Son of God, that doesn’t prove anything. Even a demon would say that! Knowledge does not equal faith.


Mormons will happily agree with this and then proceed to incorrectly define faith as an action verb that includes good works. While I was LDS, I wrote that yeast was an essential ingredient in bread, and works were likewise an essential element of faith. It’s not at all uncommon for Mormons to say faith and works are like two scissor blades. One doesn’t do any good without the other.


However, this definition of faith actually goes too far. In Romans 4:5 (ESV) Paul explains salvation through faith. Contrary to LDS opinions, he excludes works by name from the recipe:


And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.


If faith is neither a passive knowledge nor an active obedience towards God, then what is it? In Romans 4:18-22 (ESV), Paul gives us the answer:


In hope [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”


The first part of this passage makes it clear that Abraham had something the demons didn’t: hope. Even though the evidence (his age and Sarah’s barrenness) pointed against it, he still believed God would fulfill His promise. In short, Abraham trusted God.


A Mormon might say, “Okay, so faith is a trust in God. So what? We trust God and that’s why we keep His commandments.” This is simultaneously an intimidating defense, and a passive aggressive counterattack on our faith in God.


Mormons act offended when we question their faith. They accuse us of being unChrist-like and take the moral high ground, perpetuating the myth of their persecution at our hands. But at the end of the day, they have the exact same dogma against Christians. Since we are not working for our salvation, we must not have faith.


To be clear, works are important in both our religions. But Christians work from salvation while Mormons work towards salvation. I would argue that obedience done with the intent of gaining eternal life is actually a symptom of faith deficiency.


Let me explain with an analogy. Imagine that your brother calls and promises he’s going to get an incredible gift for your birthday. Upon hearing this you immediately give him guidance on what you would like to receive. You also offer to help pay for the gift.


Why would you do that? Ultimately, such actions stem from a lack of trust. Either you don’t believe your brother is capable of picking out a satisfactory gift, or you think he can’t afford it. Therefore, he needs you to intervene and take charge. In this pretend scenario it could be argued that instead of believing in your brother, your faith rests in yourself.


Trust works like a seesaw. When one side goes up, the other must go down. There is no equilibrium. When we exalt God, it humbles us, but when we exalt ourselves, we diminish God. That’s why John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)


This isn’t the mindset Mormons have. They are trying to step in and enable God to give them the gift of eternal life through priesthood ordinances like baptisms and temple sealings. These acts of faithlessness are on par with Abraham taking Hagar to wife.


Abraham likely thought he was doing God a favor by proactively providing a fertile womb so His promise would be easier to fulfill. But the blessing wasn’t established through Hagar and all that marriage did was cause drama. In this instance, Abraham had more faith in himself than he did in God.


Now contrast that with the story of Abraham offering Isaac on the altar. This is an event Mormons love to point to as the moment Abraham was justified- by works. In doing so, they miss the whole point of the story. By offering Isaac, Abraham was destroying the means God had provided to fulfill His promise.


Hebrews 11:17-19 (ESV) expounds on this:


By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.


Do you see the significance here? Abraham put to death his faith in the means of the promise and instead trusted the Giver of the promise. His faith was so great that He believed God would fulfill His oath even if he killed Isaac.


When Mormons mock salvation by grace through faith, it’s because they have never experienced real faith. They don’t know what it’s like to trust God because they view obedience as the means by which they become worthy.


Jesus condemns this attitude in Matthew 7:22-23 (ESV):


“On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”


You can almost hear the indignation in this verse, the accusation of these people as they cry, “What do you mean we can’t have salvation? We paid for it, didn’t we?”


The problem with this mindset is it transforms obedience into a currency to enter heaven. And Jesus makes it clear that we “cannot serve God and money (Matthew 6:24).”


That is why Paul excludes works when he describes faith. He is essentially inviting us to sacrifice our own righteousness so we can receive the righteousness of the Promise Giver.


If you’re a Mormon, and you’ve made it this far into the article, let me say a few words to you. You would consider it nonsense for God to create a rock so big that He couldn’t lift it. How is it any different to think He created a church more capable than Him? To claim He needs a church to give eternal life is to claim Jesus is impotent, and therefore, untrustworthy.


If you truly have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, then I challenge you to display the faith of Abraham. Sacrifice the ordinances, priesthoods, temples, and prophets on the altar of your heart. Believe that Jesus will save you, even without the means of eternal life. Believe that He is eternal life.


Do this, and you will be saved. Otherwise you will be found on the left hand of Christ.

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