The fundamental doctrine of Mormonism, on which everything else is based, is that the church established by Jesus and his disciples (the "primitive church") was the "true" church, and that its characteristics, having been established by Jesus and his immediate disciples, were divinely inspired and correct, and that as the church changed over the centuries, and as those characteristics were altered or even completely abandoned, the church lost its divine authority and - largely because of those changes - fell into apostasy. It was Joseph Smith's divine mission therefore to restore the original church, in its original "true" form.
Article six of the "Articles of Faith" of the church expresses this idea:
Mormons therefore assume that if their church shows the same organization as the primitive church, it is true. To see that this assumption is fallacious, you only have to ask yourself: "What are the characteristics of the 'true' government of the United States?" You can list them: three separate branches, two houses in the legislature, checks and balances between the three branches, etc., etc. Does that mean that any government which shows all those characteristics is therefore the "true government of the United States"? Of course not!We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
The logical fallacy in the whole idea is the fallacy usually called "affirming the consequent." The Mormon argument is: "If a church has these characteristics of the early church, it is the true church. The Mormon church has them, therefore it is the true church." Of course that is a corruption of the correct premise: "If a church is the true church, it will have these characteristics." To then say that the Mormon church has these characteristics is to commit the fallacy of affirming the consequent, making the argument invalid. The premise can only be used to recognize a FALSE church:
One popular listing used by Mormon missionaries is by Floyd Weston, and called "The 17 Points Of The True Church." He lists them as follows:If a church is the true church, it will have these characteristics;
Church X does not have these characteristics;
Therefore Church X is not the true church.
1. Christ organized the Church (Eph 4:11-14)Of course this list is an artificially constructed list set up so that only the Mormon church might satisfy its standards. See my discussion of the inappropriateness of this list here.
2. The true church must bear the name of Jesus Christ (Eph 5:23)
3. The true church must have a foundation of Apostles and Prophets (Eph 2:19-20)
4. The true church must have the same organization as Christ's Church (Eph 4:11-14)
5. The true church must claim divine authority (Heb 5:4-10)
6. The true church must have no paid ministry (1 Cor 9:16-18; Acts 20:33-34; John 10:11-13)
7. The true church must baptise by immersion (Matt 3:13-16)
8. The true church must bestow the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-17)
9. The true church must practice divine healing (Mark 3:14-15)
10. The true church must teach that God and Jesus are seperate and distinct individuals (John 17:11; 20:17)
11. The true church must teach that God and Jesus have bodies of flesh and bone (Luke 23:36-39; Acts 1:9-11; Heb 1:1-3)
12. The officers must be called by God (Heb 4:4; Ex 28:1; 40:13-16)
13. The true church must claim revelation from God (Amos 3:7)
14. The true church must be a missionary church (Matt 28:19-20)
15. The true church must be a restored church (Acts 3:19-20)
16. The true church must practice baptism for the dead (1Cor 15:16&29)
17. "By their fruits ye shall know them." (Matt 7:20)
If one lists ALL the characteristics of the early church as described in the New Testament, and not just those which the Mormons like to list, the Mormon church is clearly not the true church, since it differs greatly in many fundamental ways from the church described in the New Testament, as the following table shows..
NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH MORMON CHURCH Priests The only references to "priests" in the New Testament are to the Levitical priests of the Jerusalem temple; the church had none All worthy males are ordained "priests" at about age 16 High Priests The only references to "high priests" in the New Testament are to the head priests of the Jerusalem temple, and to Christ All mature worthy males are ordained "high priests" Aaronic Priesthood None mentioned as part of the church All worthy young males hold this priesthood after age 12 Melchizedek Priesthood Only Christ is a priest "after the order of Melchizedek" (Hebrews 5) All worthy adult men hold the "Melchizedek Priesthood" President of the Church Not mentioned Head of church has title "President" (D&C 20:67, 21:1) First Presidency Not mentioned Church is headed by "First Presidency" (D&C 81:2, 90) Office of Translator Not mentioned President of church is a "translator" (D&C 107:92) Office of Seer Not mentioned President of church is a "seer" (D&C 107:92) Prophets and
Prophets are not apostles, apostles are not prophets (1 Cor 12:28, Acts 13:1) All apostles are prophets, all prophets are apostles Number of Apostles Only twelve Often more than twelve (the members of the First Presidency are usually apostles, as well as the Quorum of the Twelve) Seventies Apparently not an office, but simply a group of seventy missionaries (Luke 10) An office in the Melchizedek priesthood; at one time there were thousands of men holding this office; now there are several "Councils of Seventy" among the General Authorities Temples The church had no temples; the only temple was the Jewish temple in Jerusalem; Christians worshiped there (Acts 2:46) Over a hundred temples have been built, for secret rituals Secret Rituals
Nothing was kept secret (John 18:20); no "endowment" mentioned The "endowment" ceremony in the temple is not to be revealed to the "unworthy"; it is secret Deacons Deacons are to be married and have their own household (1 Tim 3:8-13) Most deacons are boys in their early teens (12-14) living with parents Bishops Bishops are to have one wife (1 Tim 3:2) In the 19th century many Mormon bishops were polygamists Evangelists The word appears only three times in the NT, in the meaning of "missionary, one who spreads the Gospel [Greek 'eu-angel'] Although the sixth Article of Faith claims "evangelists," there is no such title in the Mormon hierarchy; it has been replaced by "patriarch" Pastors Mentioned only once (Eph 4:11), with "evangelists" No such office or calling (despite mention in Article Six) Members' property Members held all property "in common" (Acts 2:44, 4:32) Mormons tried this briefly (the "United Order") but abandoned this practice, even though it was to be "everlasting" (D&C 104:1, 82:20) Missionaries'
Missionaries carried no money or food ("purse or scrip") (Matt 10::9-10, Luke 10:4) Missionaries provide their own support, carry money, buy food (although forbidden by D&C 24:18, 84:86, 91) Women in church Women to keep silent in church (1 Cor 14:34) No such rule or practice Women praying Women to cover the head when praying (1 Cor 11:5-6) No such rule or practice The Lord's Supper Bread and wine Bread and water Marriage No marriage in heaven (Matt 22:30, Mark 12:25, Luke 20:34-35) Mormon marriage is for all eternity (D&C 131, 132) Weddings No indication that the church was involved in the solemnization of a marriage Mormon wedding should be solemnized in a Mormon temple by proper church authority
Thus a careful comparison of the church described in the New Testament with the Mormon church shows that in a great many respects the Mormon church is quite unlike the church of Jesus' apostles.
See also my review of Tad Callister's book Blueprint of Christ's Church.