Forgotten Word Ministries
Points of the True Church by James White
|The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints prints a small card that is normally
entitled "Seventeen points of the True Church." At times the front of
the card will read "Does it meet the Test?" Whatever the form, many
Christians have been handed this card. What of its claims? Are the 17
listed points true? Do the claims made by the LDS Church stand the test
of the Bible?
This information sheet will examine, briefly, the claims made by this little card. It is not intended to be an in-depth doctrinal treatise on each point, as the card hardly attempts to be, either. Instead, it is meant to give the Christian reader more background into just what the Mormon Church is claiming, and how this does not in any way reflect the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles as recorded in the Word of God, the Bible. We will follow the outline of the card itself. (Some cards list more or fewer points. This card seems to be the most prevalent).
#1. Christ organized the Church. Ephesians 4:11-14.
This is true. However, we might ask our Mormon friends, since Ephesians 4:11 lists evangelists and pastors, where are these "offices" in the LDS Church? Since "apostles" in the original Greek language refers simply to a "sent one," does it not make sense to understand this to refer to missionaries, the very ones who, like Paul, and Apollos, spread the word concerning Christ throughout the entire known world? Should we not also point out that the very same book here quoted (Ephesians) also says in chapter 3, verse 21, that God would receive glory "in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end"? How does this square with the Mormon teaching that the Church of Jesus Christ disappeared after only a few years?
#2. The true church must bear the name of Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:23.
Exactly how Ephesians 5:23 relates to this is difficult to say. At any rate, the point normally made by Mormons in regard to this is that the name on the letterhead of your church must include the phrase "Jesus Christ." Just how official names are involved in saving someone is again not clear. Biblically, the Church is called the Church of Christ. It is also called the Body of Christ. Does that mean we should make sure the phrase "Body of Christ" is on our letterheads, also? Or is it more consistent to see that the Church as it is expressed universally is the Church of Christ, and the local assembly takes the name that would best describe it - such at the Church at Rome, the Church of the Thessalonicans, the Church at Philippi? The Bible nowhere commands us to attach a specific name to our local congregation. Christians are Christians whether they worship in the same building and in the exact same manner or not.
#3. The true church must have a foundation of Apostles and Prophets. Ephesians 2:19-20.
This, again, is true, as far as it goes. Unfortunately, the LDS Church takes it too far. The Mormons takes this to mean that the true church must have official positions entitled "Apostle" and "Prophet," which, of course, they have. This is not what Ephesians 2:19-20 teaches. First, the context includes verses 21 and 22, and these must be read also. The text actually says that the church is built on a foundation. Stop there. The word "built" as translated in the King James Version translates the Greek participle epoikodomethentes, which, properly syntaxed is translated "having been built." It is an aorist passive participle. It refers to a past action, one that (in this case) has been completed. To say that today we must continue to build the foundation of apostles and prophets is to mis-understand the text.
Next, we would like to point out that the Bible identifies Jesus Christ as the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10-11). The Church is built upon this foundation, and is continually growing unto an "holy temple in the Lord." The question must be asked, how many times does one lay a foundation? If one is continually laying a foundation, how will the house be built? The answer is obvious. The Mormon Church is still trying to lay a foundation that was laid two thousand years ago. Since this is so, it is obvious to see that in this passage Paul is referring to something other than a continuing office of apostle and prophet. The phrase "of the apostles and prophets" is in a genitive construction that can easily give the sense that the foundation of the apostles and prophets is Jesus Christ Himself. This would be completely consistent with Paul's use of themelios (foundation) in other letters. Again we see how examining the actual text of the Bible we can avoid errors such as the kind propogated by the Mormon Church.
One final thing. In the lists of "offices" in the church (e.g., 1 Corinthians 12:28), the "apostles" are placed before the "prophets." Aside from the fact that there were obviously many "prophets" in the Church (rather than the one of the LDS Church), it is clear that the Mormon heirarchy of Prophet then Apostles is backwards, at least Biblically speaking. It is also plain to see that "apostles" (literally, "sent ones") and "prophets" functioned quite differently than the LDS Church believes they did.
#4. The true church must have the same organization as Christ's Church. Ephesians 4:11-14.
This point overlaps with the discussion given above. We have already pointed out that the organization the Mormon Church has forced upon the Bible is not an accurate understanding of just how the ancient church was organized. As examples of this have already been brought up, we will move on to the next point.
#5. The true church must claim divine authority. Hebrews 5:4-10.
The Christian Church does claim divine authority, for each and every believer, male or female, is a king and priest unto God (Revelation 1:6). However, again the LDS Church has forced its own theology upon the Scriptures instead of allowing the Bible to be the guide. Mormon leaders claim to have divine authority in that they have the "Melchizedek Priesthood." Younger men are called to the "Aaronic Priesthood," and at age 18 they can received the Melchizedek Priesthood. Though space does not allow a complete discussion of the topic of the priesthoods, it should be pointed out that the Mormon doctrine falls short of the truth at a number of points:
1) It ignores the fact that there is no distinction made between male and female in their relationship with Christ. This is not to say that in the home God does not ordain a certain order, as He obviously does. However, to claim the stupendous things that the Mormon Church does for its "priesthood" and yet deny those privileges to women (and blacks for 148 years) is certainly outside Biblical teaching.
2) It ignores the fact that the Aaronic priesthood was fulfilled and done away with at the cross of Calvary. When Christ died, the veil in the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The function of Aaronic priests, that of making animal sacrifices and, once a year, going through the veil to offer the atonement for the nation, was finished for all time. The intermediacy of a priesthood was done away with because of the immediate access each believer has to the throne of grace through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. To re-establish an organized, intermediate priesthood as the LDS Church has done, when God has done away with it at the cross, is nothing short of blasphemous! Though it is truly amazing to anyone who has studied the New Testament book of Hebrews, Joseph Smith once wrote, "...it is generally supposed that sacrifice was entirely done away when the Great Sacrifice [i.e., the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus] was offered up, and that there will be no necessity for the ordinance of sacrifice in the future: but those who assert this are certainly not acquainted with the duties, privileges and authority of the priesthood...These sacrifices, as well as every ordinance belonging to the Priesthood, will, when the Temple of the Lord shall be built, and the sons of Levi purified, be fully restored and attended to in all their powers, ramifications, and blessings." (Documentary History of the Church, volume 4 page 211). Again we see the depth of error that can be attained by ignoring the Biblical teachings on a subject.
3) It ignores the Biblical fact that there is but one High Priest (the Mormon Church has many), and only one worthy to hold the Melchizedek Priesthood, that being Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7:24-25). To claim to hold that priesthood is an affront to the person of the Son of God.
#6. The true church must have no paid ministry. Isaiah 45:13, 1 Peter 5:2.
The reader is asked to examine the two references given to gain yet another example of out-of-context reading. Neither passage has anything to do with paid or unpaid ministers. One has to do with Cyrus, king of Persia, and the other with the motivation of the heart of the minister. Also note that the sections of the New Testament that directly address this issue are ignored. Paul clearly taught that a minister had the right to pay in return for his work (1 Corinthians 9:1-14). Paul calls it a "right" of the minister to reap material benefit from those who receive spiritual leadership. It might be pointed out that the leadership of the LDS Church in Salt Lake certainly do not live unrewarded. How does this square with their teaching?
#7. The true church must baptize by immersion. Matthew 3:13-16.
We agree. Again, however, the LDS Church goes beyond what is written and adds to this the ideas that 1) baptism is for remission of sins (when Jesus was baptized, was it for remission of sins? We are forgiven of our sins because of the blood of Christ, not the water of a baptistry, 1 Peter 1:18-21), and 2) that the only persons "authorized" to baptize are those who hold the "Aaronic" priesthood. This error has already been discussed in #5 above.
#8. The true church must bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. cts 8:14-17.
Aside from the fact that it is Holy Spirit, not Holy Ghost, it must be pointed out that again the LDS Church is ignoring the majority witness of Scripture. Laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Spirit occurs only three times in the New Testament: Acts 8:17 as a sign of unity between the Jewish and Gentile believers, Acts 9:17 as an identification of Saul, and Acts 19:6 where the baptism they had undergone was not Christian baptism but the baptism of John. In the vast majority of cases no mention is made of any special ceremony of laying on of hands being necessary for the Holy Spirit to come upon someone. Laying on of hands does show unity and support of an individual, and as such there is nothing wrong with it. But the Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit comes into a person's life at the point of conversion (Romans 8:9, Acts 10:44-48), not at some secondary time later on. If this were not so, then Romans 8:9 would be false, as it identifies the Holy Spirit as that which makes a person Christ's. (see also Ephesians 1:10-14).
#9. The true church must practice divine healing. Mark 3:14-15.
One of the gifts of the Spirit is that of healing (1 Corinthians 12:28). Of course, not all have this gift (v. 29). The actual operation of the gift is seen to be a corollary to prayer, as the special gift of touching someone was of apostolic authority, not present today. We have seen many people healed through the power of prayer in the Christian church, as God still is the great physician, and He still works miracles. However, to claim to have God on a string, and have Him in your control so as to be able to heal anyone, is not Biblical. Even the great apostle Paul had to pray that a close friend would not die, as his gift was for particular uses, not personal gain (Philippians 2:25-30, 2 Timothy 4:20).
#10. The true church must teach that God and Jesus Christ are separate and distinct individuals. John 17:11 and John 20:17.
The true church must first teach that
there is one true God. The number of passages that teach this is
astounding. Just for an example see Deuteronomy 4:35, 39, 6:4, 32:39, 1
Chronicles 16:25-26, 2 Samuel 7:22 (1 Chron. 17:20), Psalm 86:10, Isaiah
43:10, 44:6-8, 44:24, 45:5-6, 46:9, John 17:3, 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 and
so on and so on. Mormonism teaches that there are many, many Gods, while
God denies any such thing (Isaiah 44:8). Hence, Mormonism is off track
right from the start. This is the most basic revelation of God, and when
one misses it, nothing after that will make any sense. It is true that
the Father is not the Son nor is the Son the Father. As far as the above
statement reflects this, it is true. However, the Mormon viewpoint is
that the Father and Son are two separate and distinct individuals, and
hence two separate and distinct gods! (see Teachings of the Prophet
Joseph Smith, page 370). This is completely contradicted by the Bible,
and is based upon the error of polytheism. Mormons cannot understand the
Christian doctrine of the Trinity because they reject the Bible's
teaching of monotheism (one God).