The 10 Myths Part 10: “Biblical Christianity is divided into 10,000+ sects, all believing in different paths to salvation.”

Posted: February 5, 2023 in Christian History, Fred Anson, Mormon Studies, Roman Catholicism, The 10 Myths Mormons Believe About Christianity, Theology
God’s way is unity in diversity

Evangelist Billy Graham speaks at his 1985 Anaheim, California crusade in which a stadium record crowd of 81,000 was set. This brought the total attendance for the 10-day event to more than 545,000, a spokesman said. Participating in the event was a broad cross-section of Christian traditions, denominations, and sects from across Southern California who were united by the gospel of Jesus Christ.

by Fred W. Anson
Mormonism is fueled by faith-promoting stories. No one said this better than Mormon Apostle, Bruce R. McConkie, “We have in the Church an untapped, almost unknown, treasury of inspiring and faith-promoting stories. They are the best of their kind and there are thousands of them.” (Bruce R. McConkie, “The How and Why of Faith-promoting Stories”, New Era magazine, July 1978). Unfortunately, some of them, as another Mormon Apostle said well, only provide “…a kind of theological Twinkie—spiritually empty calories?” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “A Teacher Come from God”, Spring General Conference 1998). This series exposes the following ten “Twinkies”…

10 Myths That Mormonism Tells About Biblical Christianity

  1. Biblical Christianity apostatized.
  2. The Bible has been corrupted.
  3. Biblical Christians believe in cheap grace.
  4. Biblical Christians believe Christ prayed to Himself.
  5. The Biblical Christian God is a monster who sends good people to hell just because they never had a chance to hear the gospel.
  6. Biblical Christians worship the cross and the Bible.
  7. Biblical Christians have no priesthood.
  8. Biblical Christian Pastors and Apologists practice Priestcraft – they’re only in it for the money.
  9. Biblical Christians hate Mormons.
  10. Biblical Christianity is divided into 10,000+ sects, all believing in different paths to salvation.

… and replaces them with nourishing truth. Let’s talk about the one that’s bolded, shall we?

In 2008, Evangelist Luis Palau returned to his hometown to lead a major evangelistic campaign in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The effort brought together thousands of churches, tens of thousands of believers, and hundreds of thousands of individuals for the two-day festival in the heart of the city. The event crossed denominations uniting Christians of all flavors for the cause of Christ in Latin America.

The Myth
“Biblical Christianity is divided into 10,000+ sects, all believing in different paths to salvation.”

Why It’s a Myth
The claim that the various and sundry Biblical Christian denominations believe in different paths to salvation is, stated plainly, a lie. Why? Because the Bible couldn’t be clearer that salvation is by Christ alone, through faith by grace alone, and we are, after all, Biblical Christians, right?

“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone boast.” (Ephesians 2:8 NKJV)

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2 NKJV)

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7 NKJV)

Furthermore, the Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith are determined from the Bible based on how they support and validate the common salvation that we all share, regardless of which particular group, denomination, movement, or sect we may be in:

“The Bible itself reveals those doctrines that are essential to the Christian faith. They are

1) the Deity of Christ,
2) Salvation by Grace,
3) Resurrection of Christ,
4) the gospel, and
5) monotheism.

These are the doctrines the Bible says are necessary. Though there are many other important doctrines, these five are the ones that are declared by Scripture to be essential.”
(Theologian Matt Slick, “Essential Doctrines of Christianity”, CARM website, lightly reformatted for emphasis and clarity)

Everything else – the things that aren’t essential to salvation are, therefore, non-essential, and Christians can and will legitimately disagree and it has absolutely no impact on their legitimacy as Christian brothers or sisters in Christ with whom I can have fellowship today and share eternity in the presence of God tomorrow. A sampling of the non-Essentials is as follows:

    • Eschatology (how and when the end times will unfold, the rapture, the millennium, the role of Israel today, etc.)
    • Earth Age (young v. old earth creationism, etc.)
    • Bible translation preferences (King James v. modern translations, word-for-word v. thought-for-thought, etc.)
    • Ecclesiology (church government models, the roles of clergy and laity, are Apostles and Prophets for today, etc.)
    • Soteriological Systems (Arminianism v. Calvinism, etc.)
    • Demonology (can a Christian have a demon or not, teachings on various kinds of spiritual warfare, etc.)
    • Sacrament practices (wine v. grape juice, leavened v. unleavened bread, who can administer, etc.)
    • Modes of baptism (sprinkling v. full immersion, infant baptism, etc.)
    • Worship styles (liturgical v. contemporary, hymns v. choruses, choirs, drums v. organs, etc.)
    • The gifts of the Holy Spirit (tongues v. no tongues, cessationism v. continuationism, etc.)
    • Worship observances (Sabbatarianism v. Sunday worship, observance of special holy days, tithing, etc.)
    • Food and drink (consumption of alcohol v. abstinence, kosher v. non-kosher food, etc.)
    • Various do’s and don’ts (tobacco consumption, playing cards, dancing, makeup, “acceptable” dress, movies, etc.)
    • , etc., etc. This is far from an exhaustive or comprehensive list of Christian non-essentials – it seems endless at times!

A 1996 Promise Keepers “Break Down The Walls” conference in which hundreds of thousands of Christian men from different sects, groups, traditions, and denominations united to praise and exalt Jesus Christ and commit themselves to His gospel.

It is these non-essential doctrines and/or distinctives from which Biblical Christians derive their various and sundry denominations. And just as there are different denominations of money but only one America that shares the common economy that they function in, so there are different denominations of non-essential doctrine but only one Christian Church that they function in. And this is true if we’re talking about 10, 100, 1,000 or 10,000 denominations. Heck make it 10 million denominations, it doesn’t matter, as long as they are faithful and biblical on the Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith, they are legitimately Christian. It is just as a 17th Century Theologian said so well:

In essentials, unity; In non-essentials, liberty; In all things, charity.”
(17th century Theologian Rupertus Meldenius)

 And as Theologian and Christian Educator, C. Michael Patton in our own day has said so well:

“I am not an ecumenicist, but I don’t think that we should have ill-will or break fellowship with people unnecessarily. I do believe that we have the right and obligation to define what it means to be “Christian.” While I don’t think we should over-define it to the point where our circle of fellowship is so small that it only includes “you and those two,” we need to be careful, as under-defining our faith is just as dangerous as over-defining it. It is very easy to slip into theological maximalism (fundamentalism) or theological minimalism (liberalism). But we are Evangelicals. This means that we are “centrists,” uniting around the most important issues and giving varying degrees of liberty in less important issues. While it is true that because something is non-essential this does not make it negotiable, it is also true that because something is believed strongly does not make it central.”
(C. Michael Patton, “Essentials and Non-Essentials in a Nutshell”, Credo House website, June 8, 2011)

How It’s a Myth
In support of all this, I would point the reader to the prior installments of this series of articles. The roster of writers and their denominational and soteriological affiliation was as follows:

Michael Flournoy
SBC Baptist, Arminian
Fred Anson
ACM Charismatic, Calvinist
Tom Hobson
ECO Presbyterian, Calvinist
Paul Nurnburg
Independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, Arminian
Matthew Eklund
Reformed Baptist, Calvinist
Ben Reed
Confessional Lutheran, Lutheran
Jason Wallace
OPC Presbyterian, Calvinist

So there you have it: Seven authors, seven denominations, and three soteriological systems, all holding to different systems of eschatology, worship styles, ecclesiology, and liturgy. Some are young earth Creationists, and some are old earth Creationists. Two are Continuationists, and the rest are Cessationists. Some are Sabbatarian, and some are not. We have different politics, different church clothes standards, different modes of baptism, different sacrament practices, different… whatever, and yet we are all united in the Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith and all sharing a common salvation in Jesus Christ by faith through grace.  I could and would join them in worship at their church congregation for worship, and they would, no doubt, join me at mine. And either way, we would be worshiping with fellow Christians with whom we will all share eternity in the presence of God and with each other.

And if we extend this small sampling out we can include millions – no, make that billions – of fellow Christians of every shape, color, and texture all over the world. Every single one of them is just as Christian and just as saved as I am. After all, God doesn’t make one type of anything, so why the heck would He make only one kind of Christian? In the midst of our diversity, there is unity.

Patriarch Pimen, leader of the Russian Orthodox church, listens as American evangelist, Rev. Billy Graham speaks in Moscow’s main cathedral, Sept 21, 1984. The American evangelist was invited to the Soviet Union by the Russian Orthodox Church and the All-Union Council of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (or Baptist Union, which includes other Protestant groups). (AP Photo)

Why It Matters
The problems that this myth creates within Mormonism are so widespread and acute that it’s hard to pick where to start and where to end, so I’ll just pick a couple.

First, it’s hypocritical. Mormon Leaders who use this myth as a mallet to bludgeon other churches with are deliberately ignoring the 400+ Mormon denominations that have existed over the 190+ years of Mormon History – which is a rate of fracturing, fragmenting, and splitting that far exceeds what was seen in Christian Church History.  Stated plainly, given the current rate of fragmentation Mormon denominationalism will easily surpass Christian denominationalism at some point in the future.1 The publisher of the definitive book on the subject noted well in their product description:

“That so many groups and individuals have been unsatisfied with the more mainstream Mormon churches, yet cling to tenets of the Smith–Rigdon movement, speaks to the strengths of the restoration concept and the naïve view that one denomination can successfully meet all the needs of believers.”
(Amazon product description for Steven L. Shields, “Divergent Paths of the Restoration: An Encyclopedia of the Smith–Rigdon Movement”)

Equally hypocritical is the fact that all of those 400+ Mormon Denominations have not accepted or recognized the other groups as legitimate churches since they all claim to be the only true and living church and all others apostate. I think that this is largely due to the impossibility of developing a set of Essential Doctrines for the Latter-Day Saint movement due to the dogma of continuing revelation. Hence, what’s essential for the Brighamite Mormons in Salt Lake City isn’t essential for the Josephite Mormons in Independence, Missouri.

Case in point: The Trinity. The LdS Church (aka “Brighamite”) Mormons condemn the Trinity as Exhibit A for the Great Apostasy, while RLDS/Community of Christ (aka “Josephite”) Mormons have been Trinitarian since their inception. Then there’s the problem of the various and sundry versions of Doctrine & Covenants that the various groups hold to and the fact that some groups are continuing to canonize new revelations and scriptures that none of the other Mormon denominations have or will recognize as legitimate.2 And this is just the beginning of the big ball of Mormon denominational confusion that was unleashed after the death of Joseph Smith.3

Second, this hypocritical myopia generates an odd form of self-righteous elitism in Mormons. And why not, just consider the arrogant condescension on these “lesser” groups that have poured forth like a river from Mormon pulpits:

“But as there has been no Christian Church on the earth for a great many centuries past, until the present century, the people have lost sight of the pattern that God has given according to which the Christian Church should be established, and they have denominated a great variety of Christian Churches … But there has been a long apostasy, during which the nations have been cursed with apostate churches in great abundance”
(Apostle Orson Pratt, “Journal of Discourses”, v. 18, p. 172)

“Religious denominations relied entirely on the dead letter of the Bible for their authority. They closed the heavens against themselves, and their interpretations of scripture without divine guidance led them into division, subdivision, and multiplication of churches, each going its own way blindly and in confusion. The power of the priesthood was lost and the true Church of Jesus Christ ceased to exist on the earth. There had been no prophet, no revelation, or divine instruction from the time of the apostles of old until the Lord again opened the heavens and sent holy messengers to restore that which had been taken away”
(Joseph Fielding Smith, “Answers to Gospel Questions”, 1:97)

“The Protestant Reformation, which resulted in the establishment of numerous Christian denominations—approximately two hundred and fifty of them existing in America today—bears unimpeachable evidence to the fact that a great apostacy did occur as the Master and the prophets of old had predicted it would. Martin Luther, John Calvin, the Wesley brothers, and the other protestors against the erroneous doctrines which had corrupted Catholicism did not claim divine restoration of the Holy Priesthood nor of the principles and ordinances of the gospel”
(Milton R. Hunter, “Conference Reports, April 1946”, p. 143)

But the irony of this smug, eyes wide shut, hypocritical elitism isn’t wasted given the hard reality of Mormon denominationalism that was already spinning out of control as these works were being spoken. For example, at the point that Orson Pratt, delivered the “Restoration of the Gospel…” address in the Fifteenth Ward Meetinghouse in Salt Lake City on Sunday afternoon, March 26, 1876 which was excerpted above, Mormon denominationalism was already over the 30-group mark with only more fracturing, splintering, and denominating to come.4 By the time we get to Joseph Fielding Smith and Milton R. Hunter’s addresses in the mid-twentieth century, we are well into hundreds of Mormon Denominations. All unique, and all denouncing all the others as apostate churches. Stone meet glass house.

45,000 charismatic Christians gathered in Arrowhead Stadium for the 1977 Kansas City Charismatic Renewal Conference. This event brought together a vast cross-section of Protestant and Catholic believers for the cause of Christ who were united by the essential doctrines of the Christian faith despite their differences on some non-essential doctrines which continue to this day. (Photo: People of Praise archives)

Summary and Conclusion
Mormonism makes the mistake of assuming that homogeneity equals unity. And while it can be, it can also be symptomatic of unhealthy groupthink and blind conformity. Rather, could it be that unity is best when it’s manifested in the midst of diversity? Which is more interesting: A highly manicured field consisting of only one type of flower or a raw, uncultivated meadow exploding with wildflowers? Personally, I find the wild meadow far more interesting. And apparently, so does God since that seems to be His way over tightly controlled uniformity. Were this not so, He only would have created one type of flower rather than a seemingly endless array of them. And what’s true of flowers is true of people.

Biblical Christians rightly celebrate the diversity of denominations that we enjoy and benefit from. I have been in arenas filled with Christian men of every shape, size, color, and “flavor” at Promise Keeper and other Christian events. My father was a counselor at the 1969 Billy Graham Crusade in Anaheim, California with an Anaheim Stadium filled with a dizzying array of Protestant denominations. I have been to a Catholic funerary mass, more than one Presbyterian wedding, Baptist services, played bass in an Episcopal chapel, heard more than one Baptist fire and brimstone sermon, been through several Lutheran events, and worshipped in so many Charismatic churches of some many flavors that I’ve lost count. Yeah, this kid raised in the Nazarene Church has pretty much seen and done it all. And through it all, I have been united with my brothers and sisters in Christ at every single one of them. Man’s way is unity through homogeneity. God’s way is unity in diversity.

As for me and my house, we’ll do it God’s way. Whose way will you choose?

1 See Steven L. Shields, “Divergent Paths of the Restoration: An Encyclopedia of the Smith–Rigdon Movement” for an encyclopedic breakdown of the 400+ Mormon denominations to date. And please compare and contrast those 400+ LDS Denominations over just 190+ years to this:

Independents: 22,000 denominations (2,016 years)
Protestants: 9000 denominations (499 years)
Marginals: 1600 denominations (duration varies)
Orthodox: 781 denominations (963 years)
Catholics: 242 denominations (1,799 years)
Anglicans: 168 denominations (483 years)
(see ; the durations as of  the date of this article, February 9, 2016)

So you can see that my claim that the LDS Movement will easily outpace the denominationalism of other churches isn’t an empty claim – the numbers speak for themselves, don’t they?

2 See the comparative chart of the LdS Church’s current edition of Doctrine & Covenants to the Community of Christ’s to see this concretely illustrated:

3 Wikipedia has an excellent primer on the succession crisis that followed the death of Joseph Smith which triggered the non-stop Mormon denominationalism that we have seen since then:

4 An abbreviated timeline-style roster of Mormon denominations can be found here:

A fuller, more comprehensive roster of Mormon denominations can be found here:

And, as mentioned previously, an encyclopedic roster of Mormon denominations can be found in this book:  Steven L. Shields, “Divergent Paths of the Restoration: An Encyclopedia of the Smith–Rigdon Movement”

About the Author
Fred W. Anson is the founder and publishing editor of the Beggar’s Bread website, which features a rich potpourri of articles on Christianity with a recurring emphasis on Mormon studies. Fred is also the administrator of several Internet discussion groups and communities, including several Mormon-centric groups, including two Facebook Support Groups for Ex-Mormons (Ex-Mormon Christians, and Ex-Mormon Christians Manhood Quorum). Raised in the Nazarene Church, Fred later became an Atheist but then returned to the Christian faith during the Jesus Movement in 1976. He is currently a member of Saddleback Covenant Church, a non-denominational church, in Mission Viejo, California.

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