Mormons often use common terms that to them have completely different meanings than those used in the Bible or by orthodox Christian churches. Mormons may say they believe in "Jesus Christ," trust in the "scriptures," believe they are "saved by grace," and have been "born-again". They will talk about "eternal life" and things like "heaven," but they rarely explain what they mean when they use such terminology.
Holding back information is especially a problem with Mormons in the mission field. It is not uncommon for Mormon missionaries to purposely refrain from discussing doctrines which clearly separate Mormonism from the usual perception of Christianity. They are well aware that to do otherwise would risk any chance of a return visit. In many foreign countries the local population is at a severe disadvantage. Very few books are printed in their native language which critically examine LDS teachings. In many areas they do not even have a translated set of the standard works. At best they may have a copy of the Book of Mormon (or selections). Since the Book of Mormon does not reflect modern LDS teaching on many critical issues, this only adds to the deception.
Here is an alphabetical list of some of the more important terms and their meanings to a Mormon:
AARONIC PRIESTHOOD : This is called the lesser priesthood, and is usually held by young men starting at the age of 12 to the age of about 18. It is also held for a short time by men who have just become members.
AFTERLIFE : The Mormon afterlife is divided up into four levels. From the lowest to the highest they are: hell, and then three levels of heaven: the telestial, the terrestrial, and the place where God dwells, the celestial (also called the kingdom of God ). The celestial is also divided, the highest level being "exaltation," or becoming a God.
APOSTLES : The Mormon Church claims to have the same organization as the primitive church that Jesus set up. They also have twelve apostles and sometimes use this as a proof of their divine appointment as the one true church. But they actually have fifteen or more most of the time. The general practice has been for a new president, who is also an apostle, to appoint counselors from the Quorum of the Twelve; then the openings left by the president and his counselors are filled, resulting in a total of fifteen.
CELESTIAL KINGDOM : See Heaven.
ELOHIM : The name of God the Father.
EXALTATION : This is becoming a God in the highest level of the celestial kingdom.
ETERNAL PROGRESSION : The teaching that each of us has the potential to become a God just like God the Father did. He was once a man capable of physical death, was resurrected and progressed to become a God. We can take a similar path and get all the power, glory, dominion, and knowledge the Father and Jesus Christ has. We then will be able to procreate spirit children who will worship us as we do God the Father.
GOD : Usually means God the Father. He was once a man like us capable of physical death and he progressed until he became a God. He has a body of flesh and bones, but no blood. Within Mormonism, Gods, angels, people and devils all have the same nature or substance but are at different stages along the line of progression to Godhood.
GRACE - The Mormon concept of grace means making oneself worthy of the grace of God by doing good works in the church, temple, and community.
HEAVEN -The Mormon church teaches there are three levels of heaven (three "degrees of glory"):
- Telestial - where unbelievers go
- Terrestrial - for religious people who aren't Mormons and for Mormons who have not met the requirements of the
- Celestial - for Mormons who have kept ALL of the laws and ordinances of their church. What will the celestial heaven (kingdom) supposedly be like for a good Mormon? He will be a god, he will rule over a planet with his wives and spirit children.
HELL : A place of torment from which the worst of sinners are resurrected (if they repent) into the Telestial kingdom; only a limited number remain in hell forever, - the devil and the demons and apostates who consciously reject and work against Mormonism.
HOLY GHOST : The third member of the Godhead, a personage of spirit, unlike the Father and Son who have bodies of flesh and bones.
JEHOVAH : The pre-incarnate name for Jesus Christ.
JESUS CHRIST : The spirit of Jesus Christ was the first spirit born to God the Father and his wife (Heavenly Mother). He progressed to become a God under the Father. (The Father is also the literal father of Jesus' body in the exact same way we were begotten by our earthly parents.) He now has a body of flesh and bones, but no blood. He is the spirit brother of Satan whose spirit was procreated in the same way as Jesus'. To Mormons, even the atonement of his shed blood is not enough to provide forgiveness of sin and bring eternal life. Stripped of his Deity and demoted to a partial Savior, the Jesus of Mormonism has been robbed of his power and authority. Not only is the Mormon Jesus one who had struggled to achieve his own salvation, he also failed to establish his church. Both in Jerusalem and in the America's where Jesus was supposed to have visited, he attempted to build a group of followers. But in each case, truth was overcome by the alleged early church apostasy into false teaching.
MARRIAGE : The Mormon Church teaches two types of marriage. One ends at death. The other is for "time and eternity." If the couple is married in a Mormon temple by someone with authority it is believed they will stay married in the next life. This kind of marriage is needed if they are to progress, not only as husband and wife, but as God and Goddess.
MELCHIZEDEK PRIESTHOOD : The higher of two categories of ministry in the LDS Church, assigned primarily to seasoned members over the age of 18, males only.
POLYGAMY : The practice of men having more than one wife was started by Joseph Smith in the early/mid 1830's and ostensibly ended in 1890. It is not now sanctioned by the LDS church headquartered in Salt Lake City. Members found practicing it are excommunicated. While the practice was ended, the revelation teaching it is still in Mormon scripture ( Doctrine & Covenants > 132). Some Mormon splinter groups believe the teaching was for eternity and still practice it. These modern-day polygamists (called fundamentalists) number in the 30,000-50,000 range.
PRE-EXISTENCE : The Mormon teaching that our spirits (Mormons and non-Mormons) were procreated in a premortal life by God the Father and our Mother in Heaven, that our spirits were born and raised to maturity before coming to earth to obtain physical bodies, and that the spirit of Jesus Christ was the first one born to our Heavenly parents.
PRIESTHOOD : A category of ministry in the LDS Church open to all worthy males 12 years of age or older, empowering them to act in God's name. Non-Mormons cannot hold the priesthood, hence they have no authority. Men of African descent have only recently (by special correction of the original revelations) been allowed to hold these offices.
PROPHET : The top leader of the Mormon Church is considered not only a prophet but is also a seer and revelator. He has the title "president." He is the only one who can speak for the whole church and receive new revelation for the whole church. When the current prophet dies, the most senior (time as an apostle, not age) of the twelve apostles, the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, becomes the new president. He can appoint counselors, who receive their authority from him.
SALVATION : A word that Mormons qualify in one of three ways: unconditional or general salvation is simply resurrection from the dead, granted to all through Christ's atonement; conditional or individual salvation involves entering the celestial kingdom through works of Mormonism; full salvation means exaltation to become a God as a result of temple ceremonies and other works. The word 'salvation' can have a two-fold meaning: a) forgiveness of sins and b) universal resurrection:
- "There will be a General Salvation for all in the sense in which that term is generally used, but salvation, meaning resurrection , is not exaltation" (Stephen L. Richards, Contributions of Joseph Smith, LDS tract, p.5).
- "All men are saved by grace alone without any act on their part, meaning they are resurrected " (Bruce McConkie, What Mormons Think of Christ", LDS tract, p.28).
The Mormons have several different levels of "salvation".
- General salvation - in Mormon theology, the death of Christ ransoms men from the effects of the fall (Mormon Doctrine, p.62), except for a few sons of perdition who fell with Lucifer. Thus, all mankind will eventually receive general salvation because all men will be resurrected.
- Individual salvation - to obtain individual salvation, the standards set forth by the Mormon church must be met. This comes by grace plus baptism plus works.
- Exaltation - different degrees of exaltation
- Eternal life on the other hand is reserved for the elite few who qualify and are found worthy of this "honor" or "reward" and who will move on to be "exalted." This salvation is in fact the personal "exaltation" or the fast track of the "eternal progression" process in attaining your own self-made status of godhood in order to people your own planet.
SATAN : One of the spirit children of God. As a consequence of their rebellion Satan and his angels cannot have mortal bodies - hence cannot progress.
SCRIPTURES : The Mormon Church has four documents it calls canonized scriptures: the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and the King James Version of the Holy Bible.
SON OF GOD : Along with Jesus Christ, all of us are viewed as the children of God, his literal spirit children. This makes us all - Mormons, non-Mormons, Jesus Christ and Satan - spirit brothers.
SPIRITS : Nonmaterial beings allegedly procreated in the pre-existence by God the Father and his wife. Jesus Christ, and even we ourselves, were supposedly born and raised to maturity as spirits before coming into bodies on this earth. The spirit of Satan was also procreated in this way. This makes Satan and Jesus Christ spirit brothers. Jesus selected a righteous path; Satan selected the opposite.
STANDARD WORKS : The four canonized scriptures (see Scripture above) used by the Mormon Church are called the Standard Works.
TEMPLE : One of about four dozen special (for LDS) buildings around the world in which sacred (to LDS) ceremonies are performed for the living and the dead; off limits to nonmembers and even to Mormons who lack a "temple recommend" from their leaders. Only about 20% of the Mormons qualify to go.
TRINITY : This word is used by Christians to summarize the Biblical teaching that within the one true God is three persons: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Ghost. They share the same nature or substance so that there are not three Gods, but three persons in the one God. Mormons say they also believe in the Trinitarian concept of God. But really what they mean are that God the Father is a God, God the Son is another God, and God the Holy Ghost is a third God and they are "one God" because they are "one in purpose." Mormons often have an incorrect understanding of what Christians mean by the "Trinity." They say Christians believe that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are one person (i.e., Monophysiteism) or that God shows himself as the Father or the Son or the Holy Ghost (i.e. Modalism).
VIRGIN BIRTH : A concept negated by the view that God, a resurrected man with flesh and bones according to Mormon teachings, literally fathered Jesus in the flesh in the same way in which earthly men father their children. Despite the documented position of previous Mormon prophets, presidents, and apostles about the nature of Christ's conception, modern LDS apologists maintain that "Christ was born of a virgin". How can they? By changing the definition of the word "virgin". The reasoning goes like this: since Mary had sexual relations with an immortal man, not a mortal man, the phrase "virgin birth" still applies.
WORD OF WISDOM : The name for the Mormon Church's teaching requiring abstinence from tobacco, alcohol, and hot drinks (tea and coffee).