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I know very little about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints other than that in general they reject traditional Christianity, and think only through their new teaching, can people understand the truth, whatever that is.

What are the central departures that they take from the gospel message believed by Christians from Nicea up until their time in the early 1800s?

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  • Everybody believes their own beliefs are consistent with the first few generations of Christianity. I edited the question slightly as Nicea is a useful boundary beyond which Latter-day Saints are happy to acknowledge that they do not agree with the predominant view. Commented May 20 at 4:55
  • @HoldToTheRod - I accepted the change in title with more explicit dates. Not that I imagine any historical proof that there was a different belief prior to the nicene creed but as I don’t think it really changes the question I don’t mind using someone else’s words.
    – Mike
    Commented May 20 at 9:42
  • thanks for the clarity Commented May 20 at 16:42

4 Answers 4

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What are the main beliefs held by the Mormons that are contrary to the beliefs of the first 1700 years of Christianity?

Some of their beliefs are traditionally viewed a somewhat similar to historical heresies by major Christian denominations such as Catholicism. While other beliefs are historically somewhat unique to Mormonism.

  • They believe in Eternal Marriage

  • They believe that Christ, the Heavenly Father, and the Holy Spirit are separate beings

  • They believe innocent children are born without original sin. Not so unique as this has been historically denied by some Christian denominations. Seventh-day Adventists believe that humans are inherently sinful due to the fall of Adam, but they do not totally accept the Augustinian/Calvinistic understanding of original sin, taught in terms of original guilt, but hold more to what could be termed the "total depravity" tradition. Mormons have historically preached a doctrine of inherited weakness, but not a doctrine of inherited guilt.

  • By deniability of the Sacred Trinity, Trinitarian Christians will say that their baptisms are invalid as one can not baptize using the trinitarian formula if they deny the very reality of the Blessed Trinity. If their baptisms are invalid some Christians may consider them as an Ecclesial Community in lieu of being recognized as a Christian Church. In the canon law of the Catholic Church, an ecclesial communityis a Christian religious group that does not meet the Catholic definition of a "Church".

  • The engage in the belief and practice of baptizing of the dead by proxy which makes Mormons especially mindful of their families, family trees, and their family legacy.

  • They hold that Jesus and Satan are brothers.

  • They believe that God has in specific historical circumstances condoned polygamy (see Jacob 2:27-30).

  • They believe that the planet Kolob exists.

  • They hold some of their members may become gods.

  • Mormonism does not believe scripture consists of the Holy Bible alone but have an expanded canon of scripture that includes the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.

We believe that God the spirits of every person to ever be born on this earth.

Thus, he is our Heavenly Father. Personally, as a father, I want my children to learn to become everything I am and more! I want them to be awesome! So how much more then, would a perfect Heavenly Father, want us to gain all of the blessings and abilities he has? We believe that after this life, we will be resurrected, and that in the thousands of years of eternity it may take us, we can eventually keep improving little by little day by day and eventually become perfect like a God. We believe that’s God’s plan for us. People like to make fun of us about having our own planets and weird stuff, but it’s really a simple belief for us. We believe God’s plan is for us to continually improve for eternity if we are willing. - Source

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    +1 I had no idea about Kolob or eternal marriage and a couple other points. I presume if Jesus and Satan are brothers that they do not see Jesus as Divine and Human, something traditional Christianity sees as necessary to make atonement for sin.
    – Mike
    Commented May 19 at 14:24
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    Baptizing by dead by proxy, the don't baptize dead bodies. Believe polygamy as a principle, don't practice(LDS don't any more), kolob isn't a strong/key doctrine
    – depperm
    Commented May 19 at 19:34
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    @Mr.Bond I have no problems with Heb 9, it just mentions dying once (LDS don't teach otherwise). We don't know what they might decide so we give them an option. They have agency, they chose. They can choose not to accept. It's not authority over the dead, it's extending the possibility of salvation to deceased family members. Being 'baptized for the dead' does not make them a member of the LDS, or indicate they are saved, God will judge, Christ knows the intent of our/their heart
    – depperm
    Commented May 19 at 23:42
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    @Mike FYI Latter-day Saints do believe in the Deity of Christ (it's on the very first page of the Book of Mormon), but do not believe in the hypostatic union. Commented May 20 at 4:38
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    If they see Jesus as divine does that mean he is God without a beginning and equal to the father? Hard to grasp what Jesus is here, especially if a brother of a fallen angel.
    – Mike
    Commented May 20 at 9:35
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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe to be the restored church, so in a sense they don't believe themselves contrary to the Church organized by Christ.

Joseph Smith said

The fundamental principles of our religion is the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, ‘that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended up into heaven;’ and all other things are only appendages to these, which pertain to our religion.

Differences:

  • God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three distinct beings1
  • priesthood power to organize Christ church and perform ordinances of salvation (ordinances do not save an individual, they are steps taken by those striving to return to God)2
  • Latter-day Saints do not accept the creeds, confessions, and formulations of post–New Testament Christianity
  • everyone, no matter their circumstance will have an opportunity to hear/accept the gospel. For many this happens in the spirit world

    Spirits carry with them from earth their attitudes of devotion or antagonism toward things of righteousness (this is not a second chance, this gives everyone a chance)

    • baptisms for the dead and other ordinances are performed by proxy so that if a spirit does decide to accept the gospel, that can have the essential ordinances performed for them
  • little children are innocent and are not baptized until the age of accountability (generally 8 y/o)3
  • marriages, sealed by priesthood authority, are essential for exaltation
  • Latter-day Saints do not believe scripture consists of the Holy Bible alone but have an expanded canon of scripture that includes the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.4
  • After judgement there is not just heaven or hell, instead there are three kingdoms of glory, each better than earth, and outer darkness (peredition)

See also:

1 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/godhead?lang=eng

2 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/priesthood?lang=eng

3 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/baptism?lang=eng#title4

4 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/gospel-topics/scriptures?lang=eng

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  • Thanks for the clarification. When you say they treat God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as three distinct beings. Are any of them, or some of them co-eternal without a beginning? As the three in one concept assumes the divine nature which is uncreated and eternal. Which of these three people are divine from that standpoint? or are all of them according to this view? I read the footnote link (1) and it did not say. This is crucial for accounting the main difference.
    – Mike
    Commented May 20 at 0:01
  • @Mike so there is some potential confusion in using terminology that is similar but has different meaning. In a sense everyone is eternal, in that we are without beginning (LDS believe we started as intelligences, became spirits to Heavenly Father (don't know exact details), and will all live forever after death/resurrection (where we are depends on our choices). The exact details of members of the Godhead are not necessarily specific in regards to pre-mortal time, God is is the Supreme Creator and created heaven and earth and all things in them. cont....
    – depperm
    Commented May 20 at 0:15
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    ...cont His 'creation'/'beginning' is all conjecture. Jesus is the Firstborn of the Father, but not much is said beyond this. The Holy Ghost has even fewer details about his existence, but is a personage of spirit, one could assume he's been a spirit longer as he is a member of the Godhead, but we don't know. The LDS have no doctrine on the Godhead ever not being divine. were they divine as spirits/intelligence? (probably(minimally had the potential)/un-stated). For me personally the three in one doesn't make any sense, so trying to explain in that view is hard for me.
    – depperm
    Commented May 20 at 0:24
  • thanks for the further clarification
    – Mike
    Commented May 20 at 1:35
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I am not answering to be an accepted answer but rather to supplement other answers with focus on material I found in a religious encyclopedia that sheds light on the most important difference, the completely different view of God. Not even remotely like any historical documented Christian view of the past. I am actually quite surprised at the difference.

Cyclopædia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Vols. I-X-A-Z M'Clintock, John; Strong, James

From the encyclopedia an old list of beliefs are stated with the first being:

“We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in his Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost, who bears record of them, the same throughout all ages and forever.

Then the following explanation is provided in words I am able to understand:

The reader will notice that Mr. Pratt does not dwell at any length upon the first article, but simply restates in other words what is embodied in the Confession. Yet this very article has given rise to a most materialistic tendency, developing in some points into pantheism. …The Mormons explain that God was once a man, who has, however, so advanced in intelligence and power that he may now be called (comparatively speaking) perfect, infinite, etc., but that he has still the form and figure of a man; he has even “legs,” as is evident (according to Mr. Orson Pratt’s utterances in sermons, etc.) from his appearance to Abraham; though he has this advantage over his creatures that “he can move up or down through the air without using them.” The following is an extract from one of their popular catechisms bearing on the subject: “Q. 28. What is God? A. He is a material intelligent personage, possessing both body and parts.—Q. 38. Doth he also possess passions? A. Yes; he eats, he drinks, he loves, he hates.—Q. 44. Can this being occupy two distinct places at once? A. No” (Latter-day Saints’ Catechism, quoted in Morm. Illust. p. 43). To the same effect we read in the Mormon Hymn-book (p. 349): “The God that others worship is not the God for me: He has no parts nor body, and cannot hear nor see.” A local residence is assigned to this anthropomorphic deity: he lives, we are told, “in the planet Kolob” (Seer, p. 70, and Millen. Star, xiv, 531). Moreover, as he possesses the body and passions of a man, so his relations to his creatures are purely human. St. Hilary of Poitiers asserts that some Arians attacked orthodoxy by the following argument: “Deus pater non erat, quia neque ei filius; nam si filius, necesse est ut et fæmina sit” (Hil. adv. Const.). The conclusion thus stated as an absurdity in the 4th century the Mormons embrace as an axiom in the 19th. “In mundi primordiis, Deo erat fæmina,” is an article of their creed (Patr. Order, p. 1, and p. 15; also Seer, i, 38, 103). No existence is “created;” all beings are “begotten.” The superiority of the Mormon God over his creatures consists only in the greater power which he has gradually attained by growth in knowledge. He himself originated in “the union of two elementary particles of matter” (Gunnison, p. 49), and by a progressive development reached the human form. Thus we read that “God, of course, was once a man, and from manhood by continual progression became God; and he has continued to increase from his manhood to the present time, and may continue to increase without limit. And man also may continue to increase in knowledge and power as fast as he pleases.” And again: “If man is a creature of eternal progression, the time must certainly arrive when he will know as much as God now knows” (Millen. Star, xiv, 386). This is in strict accordance with the following words of Joseph Smith: “The weakest child of God which now exists upon the earth will possess more dominion, more property, more subjects, and more power and glory than is possessed by Jesus Christ or by his Father; while at the same time they will have their dominion, kingdom, and subjects increased in proportion” (Mill. Star, vol. vi, quoted in Morm. Illust.). An apostle carries this view into detail as follows: “What will man do when this world is filled up? Why, he will make more worlds, and swarm out like bees from the old world. And when a farmer has cultivated his farm, and raised numerous children, so that the space is beginning to be too strait for them, he will say, My sons, yonder is plenty of matter, go and organize a world and people it” (P. Pratt, in Millen. Star, xiv, 663, and Seer, i, 37). This doctrine of indefinite development naturally passes into polytheism. Accordingly, the Mormon theology teaches that there are gods innumerable, with different degrees of dignity and power. It was revealed to Joseph Smith that the first verse of Genesis originally stood as follows: “The Head God brought forth the Gods, with the heavens, and the earth” (Millen. Star, xiv, 455). The same prophet also tells us (ibid.) that a hundred and forty-four thousand of these gods are mentioned by St. John in the Apocalypse. Moreover, “each God is the God of the spirits of all flesh pertaining to the world which he forms” (Seer, i, 38). Young claims that it was revealed to him that the God of our own planet is Adam, who (it seems) was only another form of the archangel Michael: “When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael the Archangel, the Ancient of Days. He is our Father and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do” (from Discourses of the Presidency, in vol. xv, p. 769, preached in the Tabernacle, April 9, 1852). It is curious to observe, from such examples, how easily the extremes of materialism and immaterialism may be made to meet. For here we have the rudest form of anthropomorphism connected with a theory of emanation which might be identified with that of some Gnostic and Oriental idealists. There can be no doubt that, under its present intellectual guides, Mormonism is rapidly passing into that form of practical atheism which is euphemistically termed pantheism. Thus we read in the Washington organ of the presidency that the only thing which has existed from eternity is “an infinite quantity of self-moving intelligent matter. Every particle of matter which now exists existed in the infinite depths of past duration, and was then capable of self-motion” (Seer, i, 129). “There is no substance in the universe which feels and thinks, but what has eternally possessed that capacity” (ibid. p. 102). “Each individual of the vegetable and animal kingdom contains a living spirit, possessed of intelligent capacities” (ibid. p. 34). “Persons are only tabernacles, and truth is the God that dwells in them. When we speak of only one God, and state that he is eternal, etc., we have no reference to any particular person, but to truth dwelling in a vast variety of substances

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    FYI the quoted statements from Young & Pratt are not accepted by the church, they are the opinions of those individuals. Pratt was in fact severely reprimanded in 1865 for sharing his opinion without acknowledging that it was just speculation on his part (see discussion here). To his credit, Pratt publicly apologized and sought to mend his ways. Commented May 20 at 16:45
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    in the planet Kolob is also not doctrine, there is one short scripture and one hymn that reference Kolob (potentially symbolically not literally). practical atheism which is euphemistically termed pantheism none of these terms are used by LDS to describe themselves. Many of the quotes seem out of context and misconstrued to mis-represent LDS
    – depperm
    Commented May 20 at 20:40
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(1) They believe that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three separate beings. Not three persons of the one God.

(2) Adam is Michael the archangel and he is also the "Ancient of days" despite the fact that God in Daniel is referred to three times as the ancient of days.

(3) The LDS claim that Christianity fell into "Apostasy" and it had to be restored according to Joseph Smith, hence the BoM. This in spite of the fact that Jude 3 states, "I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which WAS ONCE FOR ALL DELIEVERED TO THE SAINTS."

(4) If the church did fall into apostasy how do you explain billions of people being saved up until and after Joseph Smith showed up on the scene?

(5) In Mormonism they have numerous "saving ordinances" and covenants and priesthoods and rituals to be followed to earn salvation. The BoM says at "2 Nephi 25:23,"For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, AFTER ALL WE CAN DO." Of course in the Bible Ephesians 2:8-9 states, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; vs9, NOT as a result of works, that no one should boast."

Now, there is a host of other things one could mention, for instance that Jesus is the spirit brother of Satan. And Jesus Christ is the first spirit child conceived and begotten by Heavenly Father and one of Heavenly Father's many wives (commonly referred to as "Heavenly Mother). Please take note, this is only a start of Mormon beliefs.

The following article expands on this:

Comparison Chart — Mormonism and Christianity

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    4 is not a reasonable point unless you have evidence that these billions of people were, in fact, saved.
    – Mary
    Commented May 19 at 3:49
  • Well Mary what would your estimate be? Secondly, how is one saved?
    – Mr. Bond
    Commented May 19 at 4:15
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    The question as written was not about why Christianity is right and Mormonism wrong. It was just about what were the differences.
    – Pere
    Commented May 19 at 13:02
  • @Mr.Bond What makes you think that God has granted us any means to make an estimate? And that His answer to an inquiry would not be, "What concern is it of yours? You follow me."
    – Mary
    Commented May 19 at 14:53
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    Your fourth point is an unnecessary confrontation and has no place as an answer to the question at hand: What are the main beliefs held by the Mormons that are contrary to the beliefs of the first 1700 years of Christianity?
    – Ken Graham
    Commented May 20 at 3:40

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