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What Do Mormons Really Believe? -Authority

by Dr. D ~ March 17th, 2007

1. Authority is an important issue among the LDS (Mormons). They believe that they are the only true and authorized church of Jesus Christ. They contend that the church started by Jesus went into apostasy and had to finally be ‘restored’ by God himself in 1830.

They believe that they have the only ministry & priesthood which has any authority to officially administer the ordinances and the sacraments of Jesus Christ. The LDS question the authority of all the different Christian denominations and churches.

According to LDS history, Peter, James, and John appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in June 1829 and conferred upon them the Melchizedek Priesthood. They became the first Elders when the church was organized on April 6, 1830. Priesthood members in the Mormon Church today trace their lineage back to one of those first Elders.

2. For Evangelical Christians, authority ultimately resides in the Holy Spirit and the Bible. When one first believes the gospel and accepts Christ, the Holy Spirit comes and dwells within you and makes you part of a Royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) that can enter the holy of holies so to speak, and commune directly with God (Heb. 10:19-23).

Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and even Anglican churches take their episcopal and apostolic traditions and heritage seriously. Church polity and organizational authority resides in the Bishops for these churches. However, it is my contention that real authority has always resided in the Holy Spirit, Apostolic tradition, and the Bible. Even when the Bishops get together to confer, historically and in the present, they always appeal to the Spirit to guide their decisions.

Among the many protestant denominations and independent Christian churches, authority resides in the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and in the written ‘word of God’ -the Bible. Most pastors look back to a call of the Holy Spirit for them to serve. Most churches trace their beginnings to the work of the Spirit. Evangelicals believe that the Holy Spirit continues to direct the Church of Jesus Christ in all of its forms. There is also a sense among many that the Holy Spirit continues to lead and direct changes in the ‘wine skins’ (church organizations) to meet the current needs of the church in different lands, cultures, and generations.

Conclusions: The LDS (Mormons) view authority as resident in their church and an important part of their church identity, and a unique characteristic of their Priesthood. They do not believe that other churches have direct authority from God in the same way even though they may be divinely inspired occasionally.

Evangelical Christians on the other hand, believe that their authority comes directly from the Holy Spirit which guides the path and direction of every Christian and continues to guide the church today. They also believe that the Holy Spirit confirms the authority of the Bible as the standard of truth and the basis for all the traditional doctrines of the Christian faith.

When Evangelical Christians look at the LDS (Mormon) claims of authority, they look at what they consider to be the aberrant doctrines of the Mormons. Then they are convinced that the Mormon Church doesn’t have any real authority from the Holy Spirit, but that their authority and power must come from a different source. From the LDS perspective this is an outrageous and hurtful conclusion.

Anecdotally, I have personally known a number of LDS who have lifestyles that reflect Christ and exhibit love and concern for others that can only come from the Holy Spirit working in their lives. Do the LDS have the authority that they claim to have? I don’t believe so. Nevertheless, Evangelicals need to be very careful with any claims that God is not working in the lives of individual members of the Mormon Church regardless of the doctrines and teachings that most Christians consider heretical or aberrant.            *Top

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4 Responses to What Do Mormons Really Believe? -Authority

  1. David

    This may be the last comment I have time for this morning. Wish I would have discovered your site back when these articles were fresh. As to authority, your statement as to the LDS position is substantially correct, though in this context could definitely drive unnecessary wedges between us. We do not, for example, state that other denominations who call themselves Christian are not Christian. We have always recognized the hand of God in the lives and life purposes of Luther, Calvin, Roger Williams and other reformers, and recognize the great goodness and God’s hand in the lives of so many of those wonderful persons Catholics call saints. I wonder why an Evangelical, as you suggest, would find it necessary to claim Mormons get their authority “from another source,” the implication being quite clear. Why could they not just politely disagree that the LDS authority is as exclusive as Latter-day Saints claim? Well, I guess I know why and it makes me rather sad.

  2. Dr. D

    David, thanks for your thoughtful comments. Please keep on commenting on this site. it is helpful.

    I am trying to fairly represent the LDS beliefs but also the prevailing Evangelical views on this site.

    For better or worse, “From another source” does represent the prevailing Evangelical view toward the LDS Movement.

    It is not my intention to make anyone sad but only to rejoice in the truth and clarify where everyone stands on issues of faith.

    However,I do know how you feel. I spent the last several days researching what folks were saying about my own church and movement online and found 100 or so anti/negative/expose type articles. It was Obvious they had never darkened the door of one of our churches or even read our statement of faith.

    Thanks again for your perspective. It is a challenge and a call for me to do better.


  3. David

    Thanks again for your efforts to be fair and understanding. That for me is sufficient. I don’t expect everyone to agree with everything I believe. I enjoy your site and will try to get back to review some of your other thoughts within the next few days. David

  4. Dr. D

    Your comments are greatly appreciated.

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