Poll examines beliefs about Mormonism

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A slim majority of Americans believe Mormonism is a "Christian religion," although a slight majority of white evangelicals who attend church regularly think otherwise, according to a new poll conducted by the Pew Research Center and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life.

The poll found that American adults, by a margin of 52-31 percent, believe Mormonism is a "Christian religion." But among white evangelicals who attend church at least weekly, the data is just the opposite — 52 percent say Mormonism is not Christian.

The study was conducted in August among 3,002 adults. Pew did not release data on the beliefs of all evangelicals across all races. Significantly, people were categorized as evangelical simply by saying they would identify themselves as either being "born-again" or "evangelical."

Robert Bowman Jr., a apologist and an expert on Mormonism, said Mormonism is not a "valid, authentic, faithful expression of the Christian faith." He serves as the manager of the apologetics and interfaith evangelism team for the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.

"From an evangelical perspective, Mormonism is not faithfully or soundly Christian because it deviates from historic, biblical standards of orthodox Christianity," Bowman told Baptist Press in a statement. "For example, Mormonism teaches that God the Father is an exalted Man, that Jesus, angels, and human beings were all the literal spirit offspring of our 'heavenly Father and Mother,' and that the ultimate goal of the Christian life is to become exalted to Godhood ourselves."

By contrast, he said, the Bible teaches that:

• God is not a man (Numbers 23:19) but is transcendent, omnipresent Spirit (1 Kings 8:27; Isaiah 31:3; John 4:24).

• There are no other gods but God and no other gods will be formed in the future (Isaiah 43:10, Isaiah 44:6-8).

• Human beings did not preexist as spirits in heaven before their earthly lives, and the only human who preexisted in heaven — as a spirit — before becoming a man was Jesus (John 3:31, John 16:28).

Evangelicals are not "singling out" Mormonism, Bowman said, but are reaching the same conclusion they reach about such groups as Jehovah's Witnesses and the Unification Church, both of which claim to be Christian but depart from essential biblical beliefs.

"Our intent is to draw attention to the serious differences between Mormonism and biblical Christianity in order that believers may be prepared to share the truth with their LDS [Latter-Day Saints] friends and loved ones," he said.

The Pew poll also found that:

• Sixty-two percent of white mainline Protestants believe Mormonism is a Christian religion, as do 52 percent of Catholics and 43 percent (a plurality) of black Protestants.

• Forty-two percent of Americans who say Mormonism is not a Christian religion say they'd be less likely to vote for a Mormon for president.

• Forty-nine percent of all Americans say they know a "great deal" or "some" about Mormonism, while 51 percent say they don't know much or "nothing at all."