The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, commonly referred to as the Mormon Church, makes the claim that it is the one true church established by Jesus Christ. This is an important question for all those interested in finding the truth and following God’s will. In this article, we will examine some of the key factors to consider when evaluating this claim.
The Mormon Church’s Foundations
The Mormon Church was founded in 1830 by Joseph Smith in upstate New York. Smith claimed to have received a vision from God the Father and Jesus Christ directing him to restore Christ’s true church on earth because all other existing churches had fallen into apostasy. Key events in the establishment of Mormonism include:
- Smith’s alleged First Vision experience in 1820
- Visits from the angel Moroni in 1823 telling Smith about golden plates buried which contained ancient scripture
- Smith’s translation of the Book of Mormon from these golden plates
- Restoration of priesthood authority and keys by visits from John the Baptist, Peter, James and John in 1829-1830
- Official organization of the Church on April 6, 1830
Mormons believe that through Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ restored his true Church with the proper priesthood authority, doctrine, ordinances and organization.
Claim to be Christ’s Original Church Restored
A key aspect of the Mormon Church’s claim to be the one true church is its assertion that:
- After Christ established his Church, it descended into apostasy and lost true priesthood authority and doctrine
- This Great Apostasy necessitated a Restoration of Christ’s original church
- This Restoration occurred through Joseph Smith and the early Mormon movement
As a result, the Mormon Church sees itself as Christ’s original Church restored, not as a new religious movement. It claims to have the same organization, priesthood keys and authority, and basic beliefs and ordinances as Christ’s original church.
Unique Latter-day Scripture
In addition to the Bible, the Mormon Church relies on other scripture believed to have been brought forth through Joseph Smith:
- The Book of Mormon – An ancient record translated by Smith of Jesus Christ’s dealings with peoples in the Americas
- Doctrine and Covenants – Modern revelations received by Smith and subsequent church leaders
- Pearl of Great Price – A collection of Smith’s revelations, translations and writings
Mormons point to the unique scriptural traditions brought forth through Smith as further evidence of Mormonism’s status as Christ’s restored church in the latter days with continuing revelation.
The Mormon Church also places great emphasis on priesthood authority. It teaches that:
- All other churches lack the proper priesthood authority from Jesus Christ
- This authority was restored to Joseph Smith via angelic visitors such as John the Baptist
- Proper priesthood authority and keys are necessary to perform ordinances, lead the church, and act in God’s name
Without this restored priesthood authority, Mormons claim no church can fully represent Christ’s kingdom on earth.
Additional Factors Supporting the “One True Church” Claim
In addition to the above foundational elements, the Mormon Church points to other factors as evidencing its status as Christ’s one true church:
- Its organization mirrors Christ’s original church with apostles and prophets
- Temple ordinances and celestial marriage covenants provide paths to exaltation
- Stress on following Christ’s example in works and actions
- Belief in additional scripture and modern revelation
- A lay priesthood open to all worthy male members
- Rapid growth and spreading to all nations
What Do Other Churches Say?
Of course, many other Christian churches disagree with the Mormon claim to be the one true church. Common critiques include:
- The Mormon Church is not a valid restoration but rather a new religious movement started in the 1800s
- Key Mormon doctrines like exaltation to godhood stray from historical Christian beliefs
- There is no evidence of an apostasy necessitating a restoration
- The Mormon scriptures and prophecies contain historical problems and errors
- Smith’s character and methods in founding Mormonism raise credibility concerns
From the perspective of many Christian churches, the Mormon claim does not stand up to scrutiny. They see grave defects in LDS origins and doctrines.
Scholars have extensively analyzed the Mormon Church’s foundations and evolution. Key academic perspectives include:
- Smith’s First Vision accounts evolved and were not emphasized early on
- The Book of Mormon contains language patterns, themes and other elements from its 1800s setting
- DNA and archeological evidence do not support the Book of Mormon’s ancient historicity
- Smith’s early treasure digging activities inform his later scriptural productions
- The Mormon priesthood development shows signs of evolution rather than restoration
- Temple rituals evolved from Masonic rites Smith was exposed to
For many scholars, such analyses undermine the Mormon claim of being the one true restored church. They see Mormon origins as grounded in the 1800s environment rather than divine restoration.
Role of Spiritual Witness
Mormons frequently cite spiritual witness as key proof that their church is Christ’s one true church. They describe powerful, confirming feelings from the Holy Ghost that Mormonism is right and that the LDS Church has the truth.
However, members of many faiths claim similar spiritual experiences confirming their beliefs and churches. Religious studies show that subjective spiritual feelings alone may not reliably point to absolute truth claims but are open to psychological and cultural influences.
Evaluating the Evidence
In evaluating the Mormon claim to be the one true church, key factors to consider may include:
- Consistency with history – Does the evidence support LDS foundations?
- Scriptural reliability – Do the Mormon scriptures have signs of authenticity?
- Doctrinal coherence – Does LDS doctrine align with or stray from historical Christianity?
- Fruits of the faith – What are Mormonism’s impacts on people and society?
- Spiritual witness – Does one receive an authentic, consistent confirming witness?
Carefully weighing such factors can help determine if the Mormon claim holds up in light of Christ’s true original church.
The Mormon Church makes an exclusive claim to be Christ’s one true church restored in modern times. Upon close examination, many find gaps between this claim and the evidence. Yet for millions of Mormons, spiritual witness confirms this claim. In the end, each individual must evaluate the evidence and determine if the Mormon claim resonates as truth for them.