Dispelling 5 More Myths about Mormons

Last August, we published a post titled “Dispelling 5 Myths about Mormons.” This week, we address 5 more myths about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Myth #1: Mormons believe in a “different Jesus.”

One myth about Mormons is the notion that we believe in a “different Jesus.” In reality, of course, there is one and only one Jesus Christ. Jesus of Nazareth, whose life, ministry, Atonement, death, and resurrection are recounted in the New Testament, is the center of our faith in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons worship and accept Jesus Christ as King of kings, Lord of lords, Creator of the universe, the promised Messiah, the Son of God, and the Savior and Redeemer of all mankind. Jesus is the “author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2) and “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). We believe His is the only name under heaven whereby mankind can be saved. One distinction in what Mormons believe about Jesus is that we accept the New Testament portrayal of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, as “separate and distinct beings, as all fathers and sons are” (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “Mormonism 101,” remarks to the Harvard Law School, March 20, 2012). Nevertheless, we believe they are one in every other divine, eternal way possible.

Myth #2: Mormons practice polygamy.

It is well known that some Mormons practiced polygamy or “plural marriage” in the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Prophet Joseph Smith and his successor, President Brigham Young, for example, were among the early Mormon leaders who married more than one wife because they believed the Lord commanded them to do so. However, the Church officially began the process of ending the practice of plural marriage in 1890, and since the early 1900s, plural marriage has been strictly prohibited within the Church. Today, despite the caricatures that persist in pop culture, there are no members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints anywhere in the world who practice polygamy.

Myth #3: Mormons believe only Mormons can be saved.

Another myth about Mormons is that we believe only members of our Church can receive salvation and return back to God’s presence. With approximately 15 million Mormons today in a world of over 7 billion people, it would indeed seem provincial if Latter-day Saints excluded 99.8% of the world’s current population from any prospect of entering the kingdom of heaven. In reality, Mormon doctrine teaches that all of God’s children will have the opportunity—either in this life or in the next life—to hear the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and choose whether or not to accept it. Naturally, this means that many people who never associated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in this life will accept the gospel in the next life and thereby receive salvation. Furthermore, it is canonized scripture for Latter-day Saints that “all children who die before [they reach eight years old] are saved in the celestial kingdom of heaven” (Doctrine & Covenants 137:10). One expert demographer has estimated that over 40% of the people who have ever lived on earth did not survive beyond their first birthday (Carl Haub, “How Many People Have Ever Lived on Earth?” Population Today, November/December 2002). For these reasons and others, Mormons fully expect heaven to be crowded with many people who never heard of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during their lifetime.

Myth #4: Mormons are anti-gay or dislike gay people.

Although we believe marriage between a man and a woman is uniquely ordained of God (see The Family: A Proclamation to the World), it is inaccurate to characterize Mormons as being “anti-gay” or hostile toward gay people. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we teach that any sexual relations outside the marriage of a man and a woman are sinful, in part because we believe family relationships are sacred and eternal and that the family is central to God’s plan for His children. At the same time, we also believe that a chief characteristic of Christian discipleship is love toward all of God’s children. Accordingly, the Church emphasizes the importance of treating all people with love, compassion, and understanding—especially people with whom we may disagree on one position or another (see here). The Church has recently been very public in its support of legislation that protects LGBT people from discrimination while also defending religious liberty.

Myth #5: Mormonism is a cult.

From time to time, critics outside The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have characterized the Church as a “cult.” Unfortunately, many of these same critics choose to categorize other major world religions including Catholicism or Judaism as “cults” as well. Cults usually conjure up images of small, isolated groups that withdraw from society in order to follow a charismatic leader. To the contrary, the truth is that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is now the fourth largest church in the United States, with even greater numbers of members outside the U.S. As a church, we are engaged in substantial humanitarian relief projects that assist people of all backgrounds all around the globe, we have more than 80,000 missionaries preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ worldwide, we sponsor more Boy Scout troops than any faith-based organization in America, and we have members serving in the highest ranks of government and military service. Recently, a large national study by the Pew Forum confirmed that Latter-day Saints have a deep faith in Jesus Christ, a high sense of satisfaction with their lives, and give unusually high priority to being a good parent and having a successful marriage.

Nate Sharp is an associate professor in the Mays Business School at Texas A&M University and currently serves as bishop of the College Station 3rd ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He grew up in Holladay, Utah, served a full-time mission for the Church in the Korea Seoul West mission from 1996-1998, and later graduated from Brigham Young University and the University of Texas at Austin. He married Holly Carroll in 2003, and they are the proud parents of five beautiful children.