January 9, 2013 by mattfradd
Is Mormonism, that is, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Christian religion?
What Makes a Christian a Christian?
In order to answer this question we must first ask, what makes a Christian a Christian?
In the Gospel of John, chapter three, Our Lord says to Nicodemus
“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:5).
The Church has always understood these words to refer to water baptism.
In fact, I defy you to find me one Church Father who believed this verse to mean something contrary to water baptism – after much research, I’m convinced it can’t be done.
The Code of Canon Law states:
Baptism, the gateway to the sacraments and necessary for salvation by actual reception or at least by desire, is validly conferred only by a washing of true water with the proper form of words. Through baptism men and women are freed from sin, are reborn as children of God, and, configured to Christ by an indelible character, are incorporated into the Church. (CIC 849)
Ordinarily then, if one is not validly baptized, then, he can not be considered a Christian, since he has not been regenerated.
Do Mormons Have Valid Baptisms?
Before answering this question we should look at what constitutes a valid baptism. There are three main requirements for the valid administration of baptism: Form, Matter and Intent.
Form: The invocation of the trinity: “I baptize thee in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matt 28:19); (CCC 1240).
Do Mormons have valid form? Yes; “Being commissioned by Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (cf. D&C 20:73).
Matter: “True water” (CIC 849) “conferred either by immersion or by pouring” (CIC 854)
Do Mormons have valid matter? Yes; Mormons practice Baptism by immersion (cf. Doctrine and Covenants [D&C] 20:74).
Intent: Though the ordinary minister of Baptism is a Bishop, Priest or Deacon, “in case of necessity, any person who has the requisite intention may do so (CIC 861:2). In other words, the one administering the baptism, even if he be an atheist must “will to do what the Church does when she baptizes (CCC 1256).
Do Mormons baptize with proper intent? No; for Mormons deny original sin, and that Jesus Christ established the sacrament of baptism, and that Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are three persons in which subsists the one Godhead.
Rather they believe that they are three gods who form one divinity, that one is different from the other, even though they exist in perfect harmony (Joseph F. Smith, ed., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith [TPJSI, Salt Lake City: Desert Book, 1976, p. 372).
For these reasons, Pope John Paul II officially declared that the baptism of administered by Mormons is invalid (See document here).
For (at least) this reason, Mormonism is not to be considered a Christian religion.
This article is not meant to inflame Catholic and Mormon dialog. When conversing with a Mormon, starting out with, “oh, by the way, did you know that Mormonism is not a Christian religion” would not be the way to go! There is much we can learn from our Mormon friends, such as the importance they place on family and the courage they demonstrate in proclaiming what they believe to be the Gospel.
I am also not claiming that Mormons cannot be saved; Lumen Gentium states:
“Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation (16).