Last Update: 10/2013
The True Church
Mormonism teaches their church is the only true church on the face of the earth. Their doctrine teaches all other churches are an "abomination" and are "of the devil."
Joseph Smith History 1:18-19: "My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. ... I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt..."
1 Nephi 14:10 “And he said unto me: Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth." (emphasis added)
In Mormonism, the LDS church and the "brethren" (prophet and apostles) are everything to the members. The heed to every word uttered from the mouths of their prophet and apostles as if they were direct commands from Jesus himself. Just listen to how central and superior the leaders speak of the LDS church and its leadership:
"Hold to the Church. Do not ever lose sight of the fact that the Church must ever remain preeminent in your lives if you are going to be happy as the years pass. Never let yourselves be found in the position of fighting the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You cling to it and be faithful to it. You uphold and sustain it. You teach its doctrines and live by it. And I do not hesitate to say that your lives will be richer and happier because of that" (Gordon B. Hinckley, "Hold to the Church," Ensign, October 29, 1995).
"Your safety and ours depends upon whether or not we follow the ones whom the Lord has placed to preside over his church. He knows whom he wants to preside over this church, and he will make no mistake. ... Let's keep our eye on the President of the Church" (Harold B. Lee, In Conference Report, October 1970, p. 152–153).
The Bible is clear our hope, our righteousness, our everything lies in Jesus Christ alone as He is the author and finisher of our faith. Jesus is the sole focus of every bible-believing Christian as we as members of His body (the church) now have direct fellowship and a personal relationship with Him through his sacrifice which ushered peace and reconciled us to God by the blood of the cross (Colossians 1:20).
Additionally, Mormons have been taught to believe if their church is not the true church then there is no true church period. This is an obvious psychological technique which uses fear to emotionally manipulate and influence the membership. Questioning anything the church teaches, no matter the methods (e.g. comparing to the bible) or motivation, is expressly prohibited and a very quick way to find yourself in a corrective action meeting with church leadership.
Mormons also teach another proof the LDS church is true is it has the same structure as the first New Testament church. Please see Richard Packham's excellent church comparison at his site which shows just how dissimilar they are.
Additionally, the LDS church has historically published handout cards showing the "Seventeen Points of the True Church." This is how they try to demonstrate the LDS church meets all 17 points listed so they must be considered the only true church. Please visit the responses to these points at MRM.org or AOMIN.org as they examine the claims of the LDS church with regard to the 17 points.
Let’s examine the Bible and see what it has to say about what the true church of Jesus Christ looks like.
First, nowhere in the Bible do we find an apostolic or priesthood succession from the first church as a requirement to be the true church. In Acts 2:1-4 we find the disciples in faith and unity when the Holy Spirit gave birth to the Church when it descended upon them at Pentecost. This is being born again by the Spirit. The only way we can become members of the same Church is by the same process, being born again by the Spirit (referred to as spiritual baptism). Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3:5 we must be born of the water and of the Spirit to see the kingdom of God. Being born by the water is not a water baptism as some may believe, but is referring to a physical birth, something every human goes through. The context of the John 3:3-7 is clear that Jesus is referring to a physical birth based on the question posed back by Nicodemus. Being born of the Spirit is not becoming a member of a particular church or by the laying on of hands by a Melchizedek priesthood holder; it’s becoming a member of a particular body, the body of Christ. We can only be born of the Spirit by believing and trusting Christ's atoning sacrifice alone cleanses us absent our own works. At that very moment we become children of God by spiritual adoption (Galatians 3:26) and are sealed with the Holy Ghost (Ephesians 1:13).
The Bible states many times in various ways Jesus would never let the gates of hell prevail over his church leading to a total apostasy (Isaiah 40:8; Psalms 100:5; Matthew 16:18, 24:35; 1 Peter 1:23-25). How could this statement be true if Jesus’ Church ceased to exist for almost two millennia? So any church who claims the Church needed to be restored from an apostasy is not a part of the first Church which started long ago in Jerusalem at Pentecost. Given the Mormon church claims a complete apostasy, it cannot be traced back to the original church.
What the Bible does provide is many distinguishing characteristics between what the first church (New Testament church) taught and what false teachers taught. The basis for determining the level of “truth” a particular church has is by comparing what the Bible shows was practiced and taught by the New Testament church to the church in question.
One New Testament example is one recorded by Luke in Acts 20:17-38. This is where Paul, for the last time, is speaking with the elders of the church in Ephesus. He tells the leaders he knows dangerous times lye ahead for him, yet he has no fear in laying down his life for the gospel of grace of God (Acts 20:22-24). Paul tells the elders the church belongs to God because He purchased it with his own blood (Acts 20:28). He then provides the leaders with a warning to look after the church because spiritual attacks by false teachers would not only come from the outside, but also from within the church itself (Acts 20:28-30). Paul does not tell the elders to follow the first church to be secure in the truth, but rather he commends us to God and to be secure in “the word of his grace” (Acts 20:32).
Galatians is another book where Paul exhorts our dependence on the word of God instead of founders of movements with additional or restored “truths.” Paul warns not once but twice in Galatians 1:8-9, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” Again, the gospel declares truth should not be determined by teaching from angels or even Paul, but based on whether the gospel being preached is the same gospel that was received (as recorded in the Bible).
In 2 Peter 1:16, Peter tells us what they were tortured for was not based on cunningly devised fables brought forth by false teachers. He goes on to proclaim there is an even “more sure word” to follow than the voice of God, this being the written word of God (2 Peter 1:18-19).
As these examples and many more in the Bible reveal, the biblical standard for determining whether a church is teaching “truth” is demonstrated by how the teachings compare to the infallible word of God, the Bible.
The Body of Believers is the True Church
The Bible speaks allegorically, metaphorically and symbolically throughout. There are many verses written in this figure of speech in describing the true Church of Jesus Christ. The New Testament describes the church as the body of believers in Christ. Each local church has a body of believers who together worship the Lord and all local churches make up the universal church. Christ now dwells within each of the believers as we are described as temples of the living God.
This concept is seen in the gospel as there were many small churches in the beginning as local believers would gather together in worshiping God. This is noted in the church at Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), the church at Nympha’s house (Colossians 4:15), and the church at Ephesus (Revelation 2:1). The members who made up these local churches were apart of something bigger, the body of believers in Christ, the church God purchased with His own blood, the universal church.
Colossians 1:18 “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all [things] he might have the preeminence.”
Colossians 1:24 “Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body's sake, which is the church:”
2 Corinthians 6:16 states “for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in [them]; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
1 Corinthians 3:16 "Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and [that] the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?"
Ephesians 2:19-22 “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner [stone]; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”
So here Paul is saying the apostles and prophets are the foundational stones and Jesus is the cornerstone. Since we are one body together and have the same direct access to God, we are built upon this foundation of the original prophets, apostles and Jesus. Just like the foundation of a house is laid and set once to be built on, the foundation of Jesus’ church is laid and set once with prophets and apostles with Jesus as the cornerstone. This is the reason why there is no more need for prophets, apostles, or temples. The Lord himself has said that he does not dwell in temples made with hands (Acts 17:24) because He dwells within each of His believers. We, the body of believers are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.
Ephesians 4:15-16 “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, [even] Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
Paul tells us to always speak the truth in love not only to believers, but to everyone. Paul likens the church to a person’s body. Just as a physical body is made of various parts which work as a whole, we are spiritual temple where God dwells and is built of various believers who are dependent on each other and make up the church. The church is a temple where the bricks are the people. A house is made of many bricks which are bonded together. We all have been blessed with differing talents (also Romans 12: 4-6) to be used as members of the body of Christ, his Church, to help strengthen the body (believers) and bring others to the fold while glorifying God in all we do.
The Church is the body of believers in Christ and we are likened to a temple in 1 Peter 2:5 “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.”
We are the stones which are cemented together to build up a spiritual house and we are to present ourselves as spiritual sacrifices. We do not have to sacrifice animals in a temple because of Jesus’ sacrifice, so we present ourselves as offerings to do the Lord’s will. As Israel had a single temple to represent a single God, now each Christian is a single temple, each a living stone to be used by God for the building of His spiritual house.
1 Corinthians 12:12-13 “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also [is] Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether [we be] Jews or Gentiles, whether [we be] bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
1 Corinthians 12:27 “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”
This means people do not need to be members of a particular church, denomination, or group, but found in Christ. Everyone resonates to different styles of teaching and various forms of fellowship. God does not tell us to conform to one church or group, but through faith and through the Holy Spirit, He transforms our hearts to the spiritual. The style in which a church goes about to fulfill the Great Commission is not any one in particular as long as it is biblical. Churches will also have various methods in ministering to its communities needs, but this variety is what God uses to meet the needs of the most in need. Sure there are non-essential beliefs Christian denominations debate and even divide over, but the key word is non-essential here. The way people are baptized, time they worship, what they choose to eat and drink, etc. does not change the fact they are believers and does not breech any of the essential doctrines of Christianity.
Paul also points out here we are all baptized into one body. This is not meant to be an initiation rite or ceremony to becoming a Christian. Baptism is a part of becoming a Christian, but not the main idea. Baptism is meant to be a believer’s public declaration to follow Christ. Whereas Mormons are baptized into their church, Christians are baptized into Christ. At baptism, symbolic of the death and burial of Jesus, we are immersed in the water and made dead to sin and our former life, and resurrected to life in Christ for eternity as we are raised from the water. We are declaring we are no longer slaves to ourselves or sin. It symbolizes our unity with all the other believers in Christ.
Ephesians 5:23-30 “For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so [let] the wives [be] to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.”
Paul is stating here the husband is the head of the wife (in a sense of authority and responsibility to lead) like Jesus is the head of His church. Christ is the Savior of the body (the church). This is the model of marriage between the husband and wife as well as between Jesus and His church. In the same sense a husband and wife twain shall be one flesh with the husband leading, Jesus and His church are twain together as we are found in Christ with Him as our unquestioned authority. We are told to love our wives just as Christ loved His church. Jesus loved the world so much He died for everyone, but He has an extraordinary love for his bride (the church). The same can be said for the husband as he can have an ordinary love for everyone, but will have an extraordinary love for his wife. Jesus defines this type of love as an agape love which is self-sacrificing and unselfish.
Jesus cleanses us of all our sin from his finished work on the cross. This is delivered to us from the word of God, and we, the believers in Christ, are washed of water by the word. Baptism is not intended when we are washed of water by the word. The water is the word and the word is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just as a wife is perfectly presented in a wedding to her husband, Jesus cleanses us from all sin and makes his church (we as believers) perfect without spot to be presented to Him as His bride. This will be a glorious day every Christian looks forward to just as we would look forward to the wedding day with our spouse.
The great preacher Charles Spurgeon delivered a sermon in 1886 on this topic where he states, “I ask you to notice what is not always the case with regard to the husband and the wife, that the Lord Jesus loves His church unselfishly. That is to say, He never loved her for what she has, but what she is. No, I must go further than that and say that He loved her, not so much for what she is, but what He makes her as the object of His love. He loves her not for what comes to Him from her, or with her, but for what He is able to bestow upon her! His is the strongest love that ever was, for He has loved unseemliness till He has changed it into beauty!”
In 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21 Paul states: “Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new...For he hath made him [to be] sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”
What an amazing statement Paul declares! Anyone who is found in Christ through faith has now been clothed in the righteousness of Jesus and justified before God as we learn in Romans and Galatians. Jesus ripped the pages from our book of life and inserted His pages so when God sees us, He sees us as righteous. Then the believer is a new creation and in the process of being transformed on the inside by regeneration of the Holy Spirit. This is the process of sanctification. This new creation means we are in the process of change. The living as this new creation is not meant as turning a new leaf over which God alone does for us. Making us a new creation is something God does inside of us and not just for us. Being a Christian is all about what God has done through Jesus Christ for us as sinners and not about what we do for God. If it were, then a Savior was not necessary and Jesus died for nothing (Galatians 2:21).
Jesus said in Matthew 18:16 upon this rock He will build his church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. The rock is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4; Romans 9:33; Psalm 18:2; 62:6-8, 78:35, 94:22; 2 Samuel 22:2) and if the church ever fell into complete apostasy as Mormons claim, then Jesus would have been made a liar. In Acts 20:28, Luke declared:
”Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”
The church belongs to God because it was purchased with His own blood. God did not purchase a physical building with his blood, he purchased you and me.
The Mormon Church makes an exclusive claim to be the only true church, yet the Bible is clear the true church is not an exclusive claim to be had by a particular denomination or church, but the true church is inclusive and found in the hearts of the body of believers in Christ. The teaching of a true church being a religious institution with a specific name, authority, etc. creates conformity of people whose identity lies in its institution, leaders and themselves rather than in Christ alone. Being apart of the body of believers in Christ, my identity, my righteousness and my hope lie completely and solely in Christ and His finished work on the cross.
The true church will never add to or subtract from, but always hold firm in the essential doctrines of Christianity. These being: The deity of Christ (both God and Man); Salvation (eternal life with God) by grace alone through faith alone; the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ; there is only one God (period); and the trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) are three separate persons in one Being.
The Mormon Church (and any others) may claim to be the only true church, but what a church believes and teaches in its doctrines, will define if it is eligible to be a part of the body of believers in Christ’s true church. This claim of any institutionalized religion being the only true church has zero biblical basis and is completely false. It is a teaching which ensnares people in a web of man-made beliefs and doctrines only creating barriers between direct fellowship and a personal relationship Jesus Christ desires. They will keep you on a hamster wheel dangling a false gospel keeping you in the bondage of sin always trying to earn your way. Christ has set free those who believe on Him so they may have rest and peace that we are eternally sealed to Him with the promise of eternal life.
It is clear what the Bible has to say about the true Church of Jesus Christ. The word of God should determine how much truth there is in a particular church. But remember, belonging to a church is important as this is the place we gather together as the body to fellowship and to worship the Lord, but belonging to a church cannot save us. Only believing in Jesus Christ by grace through faith saves us.
THE CROSS UNVEILED