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Is Mormonism a Christian Religion?

20

January 9, 2013 by mattfradd


Mormon Temple - San Diego, California

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.

PS

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).

20 thoughts on “Is Mormonism a Christian Religion?

  1. ajb says:

    If you define a Christian as one who has been baptised according to the above definition of proper intent, then … but why not just say “I don’t believe Mormons are baptized according to proper intent” instead of saying “Mormons aren’t Christians” or “Mormonism isn’t a Christian religion,” as the latter two phrases can be understood to mean something different, i.e., a Christian could be understood to be someone who thinks that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and attempts to follow his teachings and actions?

    • mattfradd says:

      It’s precisely because I did define Christians, ordinarily speaking, as those who have been regenerated by “water and spirit” that I concluded that Mormonism is not a Christian religion.

      • ajb says:

        Yes. What I’m saying is that the definition of a Christian so given is contentious. Again, why not just say “their baptisms aren’t really baptisms,” or some such thing, instead of focusing on the label ‘Christian’, by which they self-identify?

      • mattfradd says:

        Whether a statement is contentious or not is irrelevant to the truth of that statement.

      • ajb says:

        If by ‘Christian’ you mean something other than the normal meaning, then your argument has to be qualified. I.e., it seems to me that if a *definition* is contentious then that is relevant to the truth of a statement.

      • mattfradd says:

        We seem to be going around in circles here. Let me be as succinct as I can.

        Holy Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life (CCC 1213). If one is not baptized then, ordinarily speaking, he is not regenerated.

        finally, the primary definition (yep, I looked it up) of contentious is: likely to cause disagreement or argument.

        Truth often does that, wouldn’t you agree?

  2. Carole says:

    Good analysis Matt! Its worth adding that their concept of the divinity of Jesus is exactly the opposite of Christian teaching, Whereas Christians believe that God became a man, Mormons believe that Jesus became a God, and indeed that God was once a man, and that we will all become gods.

  3. Steve says:

    The definition of Christian in the free dictionary

    1. Professing belief in Jesus as Christ or following the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus.

    People do interpret the teachings differently, hence the theological separation that divide the many different groups when it comes to Christianity.

    Keep in mind what this article is really saying is “Mormons are not classed as Christians from a Catholic perspective because Mormons do not follow what the Catholic Church interprets are the teachings of Jesus.”

    To a Mormon however, they believe they are Christian as they follow Christ and the teachings as they have been taught and understand them.

    Many Protestants claim Catholics are not Christians on different theological interpretations. According to this article a lot of Protestants would also not be classed as Christians as not all believe baptism and or works is necessary for salvation.

    Just google Are Catholics Christians

    These debates do not typically help people come to faith, I’ve seen them drive many people away and give atheists a field day. Matt does a great job in the article above to point that out by ensure dialog with Mormons is constructive. I understand Matt is an apologist and not evangelising however so pointing out differences is important so people can clearly see what it means to be a “Catholic.”. I a better title for this type of article would be. “What it means to be a Catholic Christian”. Rather than a direct attack on the Mormons. But that’s just me, I don’t like the division these sorts of articles create amongst people of faith.

    I see many people after reading this sort of article start using “Christian” as some sort of new type of “Racist” way of discrimination amongst people of faith.

    I personally have some Mormon friends and they true “Christian” characteristics, and a close relationship with Christ through what they do, how they behave and how they handle situations. It personally hurts them on an emtional level when they are accused, or it is inffered they are not Christian. To some “removing Christain” implies they don’t have a relationship with Christ.

    There are also many amazing personal testimonies from Mormons on how Jesus Christ has saved them from pornography, drugs, alchohol addiction and many other afflications or simply how the relationship helps them in there life. They are no different than the Protestant / Catholic ones you read.

    Plus I love “The Piano Guys” (look em up on Youtbue) who are Mormons….There brilliant 🙂

    Thought provoking article Matt. I love your stuff.

    • Jason says:

      Steve, I too have Mormon friends and used to feel the way you do. However, the more I learned about Mormonism, the more I came to see that it is not in line with historic Christianity. In fact, I don’t think Matt went far enough–or warned us harshly enough–about Mormon beliefs.

      Here are just a few reasons why:

      1) Mormons believe that our God is only one God among MANY in existence and that we too, as God’s children, will grow to have godly power and even rule our own planets. They also teach that God is married to a goddess wife called Heavenly mother. In doing so, they deny central Catholic teachings on this subject.

      According to Mormon prophets:

      “Intelligent beings are organized to become Gods, even the sons of God, to dwell in the presence of the Gods, and become associated with the highest intelligencies [sic] that dwell in eternity.”
      – Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 8, p. 160,

      “All those who are counted worthy to be exalted and to become Gods, even the sons of God, will go forth and have earths and worlds like those who framed this and millions on millions of others
      -Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 18:259, October 8,

      2) Mormons also teach that God, our Almighty Father, was once a man just like us. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism taught:

      “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret.”-Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., “King Follett Discourse,” Journal of Discourses, v. 6, pp. 3-4, also in Teachings of the Prophet of Joseph Smith, pp. 345-346.

      These two teachings violate Catholicism and Protestant Christianity to the core. Instead of looking to the words of prophets like Brigham Young, we turn to scripture, which teaches that there is only ONE God, and there never will be another.

      “But you are my witnesses, O Israel!” says the LORD. “You are my servant. You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I ALONE am God. There is NO other God–there never has been, and there never will be.” Isaiah 43:10

      ALL Christians–Catholics, Baptists, Pentecostals, etc–agree that there is only one true God and that there will NEVER be another God besides Him.

      Mormons are also known for hiding their beliefs from those who investigate their church. They fail to tell novice Mormons that they will:

      Be expected to go to temple (something separate than church) where they will learn “tokens” and secret gestures necessary to reach the highest level of heaven called the Celestial Kingdom. These things are top secret and never discussed with outsiders. In fact, Mormons can’t even discuss them with one another unless they are in the temple.

      Be expected to wear temple garments, aka special “blessed” underwear beneath their clothes. Mormons will be required to wear AND buy this underwear from the church for the rest of their lives

      Prior to the 1990s, Mormons had to promise that they would cut their own throats before revealing what they learn in the temple. In sacred rituals, they would signify that they would slit their throats and disembowel themselves rather than betray their church. This aspect of the temple was removed 20 years ago because too many people found it uncomfortable. I know it’s very weird and frightening, but believe me, it’s true.

      Mormons are expected to pay 10% of their income to tithing. At first, this sounds like some Protestant branches of Christianity. However, Mormons deny their members entrance to the temple without proof that they have tithed. Without temple attendance (not just church attendance on Sunday), they are taught that they will not be able to attain the highest level of heaven known as the Celestial Kingdom where they can become gods.

      3) Steve, do not be deceived. It is only in this last 40 years that Mormons have wanted to be called Christians. In fact, their founders held Christianity in contempt. Just look at what some of the Mormon Prophets have said about Christianity.

      “With a regard to true theology, a more ignorant people never lived than the present so-called Christian world.”- Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 8, p. 199

      “The Christian world, so-called, are heathens as to the knowledge of the salvation of God”
      – Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, v. 8, p. 171

      “What! Are Christians ignorant? Yes, as ignorant of the things of God as the brute beast.”
      – Prophet John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, v. 13, p. 225

      “What does the Christian world know about God? Nothing… Why so far as the things of God are concerned, they are the veriest fools; they know neither God nor the things of God.”
      – Prophet John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, v. 13, p. 225

      It is only recently that Mormons have wanted to be called Christian. Mormons have a latent belief in “lying for the Lord” where they present their beliefs as very mainstream only to reveal later on that they have MANY secret beliefs that they call “the meat” of their faith.

      In fact, in the 1800s Mormons often lied by saying that they weren’t practicing polygamy to potential converts.

      There are numerous problems with Mormon history and most of them involve deceiving people. You can find out a lot of it from mormonthink.com, a site by a group of Mormons who are tired of the false history that the church teaches.

      • Steve says:

        Jason,

        Thanks for your reply, you raise some important issues.

        There is no question they have number of theological interpretations that can be questioned in regards to the way Mormons interpret the bible. I’m not disputing that at all.

        But coming back to the pure definition of the word Christian http://www.thefreedictionary.com/christian

        1. Professing belief in Jesus as Christ or following the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus.
        2. Relating to or derived from Jesus or Jesus’s teachings.
        3. Manifesting the qualities or spirit of Jesus; Christlike.
        4. Relating to or characteristic of Christianity or its adherents.
        5. Showing a loving concern for others; humane.
        n.
        1. One who professes belief in Jesus as Christ or follows the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus.
        2. One who lives according to the teachings of Jesus.

        According to their current website lds.org they fall under that definition. Whether or not they changed their beliefs is immaterial, were talking about what they claim now. Anyone at any point in life can become a Christain regardless of what they have done or said in the past.

        From a theological point of view Catholics should say “Why a Mormon isn’t a Catholic” it makes more sense as you can clearly define your theological differences.

        You can’t, well I guess you can which seems to be what is happening here, extrapolate a “Statement of Faith” into the definition of the word. If you do that your creating a “New Meaning” to the word.

        The LDS Church is (they claim) “The Church of Jesus Christ – The Latter Day Saints”

        Define yourself as a Catholic, it clearly sets you apart.

        I’m just looking at this on the pure definition on the word, not moral position, or emotional grounds. If I applied what I believed a Christain to be from a personal perspective I could start pointing at many people that claim to be Christians from all denominations and sections of Christianity and say “Hey your not a Christian”.

      • Jason says:

        Steve, given the fact that the founders of Mormonism called Christians “ignorant,” a better question would be to ask them why they want to be called Christians in the first place.

        From their origins, they insulted Christians and Christianity, and now they want to be considered one of us. Obviously they have other motives and your attempt to be neutral only ignores the facts and history. Their theology is oceans apart from historic Christianity and that’s why people don’t like to call them Christians.

        It’s like calling someone who eats beef a vegetarian.

        Mormons play off your sympathy while they, at the same time, hide all the hidden parts of their faith that would make anyone realize how they have nothing to do with historic Christianity.

        You are quoting their website, when I basically gave you facts about how they have historically deceived people. Please don’t be so naive.

        Let me put it another way:

        Mormons believe:

        1)In many gods of many worlds
        2)That God the Father was once a man
        3)That there should be numerous temples built all over the earth to learn “higher truths”
        4)Admittance to such temples should be based on worthiness interviews and individuals’ commitment to tithe 10% to the church for at least one year
        5)That God is married

        NONE of these things are part of Jesus’ teachings. They are CORE issues and CORE values of Mormonism.

        If you think that these beliefs and more can qualify someone as a Christian, you either don’t know your Bible or you don’t know history. The fact that you think because something is written on the Mormon Church website that it must be the truth is what worries me. Joseph Smith and his followers have lied to people about their beliefs from the beginning–and it was always with the intent to make Mormonism more appealing, like putting more icing on a rotten cake.

        When Joseph Smith was alive, he told people that he wasn’t practicing polygamy when he was practicing in secret. He lied to his own people. Lying about their faith and practices has been a problem with Mormonism from the beginning, and they love it when people say things like “I saw it on the official church website. It must be true.”

      • Steve says:

        Hi Jason,

        It’s not about whether I believe it to be true or not, it is what they claim.

        By the definition of the word Christian, and by what they claim, it is true, they are Christians.

        If what they publically claim is false, then that is a different debate.

        If you assign more ‘meaning’ to the word than what is presented in the defintion, then rightly so, they may not be Christians according to your defintion of the word.

        Many claim Catholics are not Christians based on doctorine issues.

        EG: from a Christian Apologetics site.

        http://carm.org/are-roman-catholics-christian

        extract “CARM’s position is simple. If a Roman Catholic believes in the official Roman Catholic teaching on salvation, then he is not a Christian since the official RCC position is contrary to scripture. Therefore, as a whole, Roman Catholics need to be evangelized. They need to hear the true Gospel.”

      • Jason says:

        Steve,

        Let me be as clear and concise as possible.

        This blog is obviously dealing with the Catholic perspective–not the freedictionary.com definition or the CARM definition or the Mormon definition. No matter how much you debate, from the Roman Catholic perspective (as well as the Protestant perspective), Mormonism is NOT Christian.

        From the Mormon founders’ OWN perspective, Mormons are NOT Christian either.

        From YOUR perspective, however, if a group of Satanists called themselves Christians, they would be Christians.

        Any Mormon who claims they are Christian is in direct violation of what their prophets Brigham Young and John Taylor taught about what a Christian is.

      • Steve says:

        Jason,

        If you go back to my original post before your first reply to it you will see where I said

        “Keep in mind what this article is really saying is “Mormons are not classed as Christians from a Catholic perspective because Mormons do not follow what the Catholic Church interprets are the teachings of Jesus.”

        then I continued with (notice where I said, “To a Mormon”)

        “To a Mormon however, they believe they are Christian as they follow Christ and the teachings as they have been taught and understand them.”

        Hence, I have no problem with your last statement *

        “from a Roman Catholic perspective (as well as the Protestant perspective), Mormonism is NOT Christian.”

        * except the Protestant perspective as I don’t know if they ALL do or don’t, they differer in various beliefs from church to church and denomination

        And again, bringing up Mormon past is irrelevant of what they claim today. It’s like saying to a an Athiest, hey you can’t be a “Christian” because once upon a time you didn’t believe in God or you followed some weird cult leader. Mormons (and their religion) have a right to change to there beliefs regardless of their forefathers beliefs.

        Everyone has the right to change their beliefs to come to Christianity, and as a Christian I accept that.

        Anyway Jason, I’m going to leave this topic here, thanks for your posts.

      • Jason says:

        “bringing up Mormon past is irrelevant of what they claim today.”

        Steve, the fact that you wrote the above statement only highlights your naivete about Mormonism.

        You cannot be accepted into the LDS Church without believing that Joseph Smith and all his successors were prophets of God. It’s a hallmark of Mormonism. It’s the very foundation of Mormonism.

        To be a Mormon means you take Joseph Smith and Brigham Young said seriously, and it’s clear that they both demeaned Christianity numerous times, and did NOT what to be associated or confused with it.

        Statements like yours are why Fundamentalist Mormons call the LDS betrayers and apostates–because they clearly turn their backs on the teachings of the original prophets by trying to be more mainstream.

        So we are left with this scenario, a catch 22. If the Mormons are Christian, they have disregarded some of the teachings of their own founders–the very “prophets” they want everyone to admire and respect when they are trying to convert others– or they’re not Christians and are, in fact, their own religion just as their own prophets have taught.

      • Jason says:

        I forgot to mention that you also wrote this:

        “Everyone has the right to change their beliefs to come to Christianity, and as a Christian I accept that.”

        I absolutely and 100% agree, but the fact is that the LDS have not changed their beliefs. They stand by almost all of Joseph Smith’s non-Christian theology; they simply want to label themselves differently to be more appealing to the masses. It’s like putting a new coat of paint on the same old house. People like you argue that “It’s different. They have the new paint!” But underneath, anyone with discernment can tell the house itself is still the same.

  4. Lourdes says:

    Matt, I studied Mormonism for 7 years. No matter how hard I tried, and I really did, I never got an answer from God that it was the true church. I still have Mormon friends, but I was always puzzled and sometimes even shocked by their real teachings and beliefs. As a former born again Christian and Catholic revert I can only say that they do believe in Christ but not in the Christ I know, not the one the Gospels talk about, not the Christ the prophets announced. Not our Saviour. Not the Christ I meet in the Eucharist. None of that.

  5. Gene Fadness says:

    I used to be a member of the Mormon Church, served a mission and graduated from BYU. I would say that Mormons have certainly adopted many Christian morals and, indeed, often live out Christian principles in their daily lives far better than many Catholics. But Mormon doctrine is not Christian doctrine. What separates Christians from all the world’s great religions is what we just celebrated: God Made Man. We believe that Jesus is God come in the flesh. Our Mormon friends do not believe that.
    I know it may sound uncharitable to say that a Mormon is not a Christian and I would certainly not approach them in that manner. But, if it comes up, they may be able to understand our position if you were to explain it his way: “What if someone were to come up to and say I’m a Mormon, but I don’t believe Joseph Smith was a prophet and I don’t believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God. Of course, you would respond, “They you may think you’re a Mormon, but you’re not!” Likewise, how can people, however well intended, claim to be Christian but deny the major creeds of the historic Christian church? Mormonism is one of the world’s great religions and its adherents are sincere and have a heart for God, but it is not a Christian religion.

    • Jason says:

      “What if someone were to come up to [a Mormon] and say I’m a Mormon, but I don’t believe Joseph Smith was a prophet and I don’t believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God. Of course, you would respond, ‘They you may think you’re a Mormon, but you’re not!’ Likewise, how can people, however well intended, claim to be Christian but deny the major creeds of the historic Christian church?”

      Gene, you stated that simply and powerfully. Thank you.

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