Religion Magazine

Is Mormonism a Christian Denomination?

By Stjohnpa @faith_explorer

Is Mormonism a Christian Denomination?

Mormon Temple

Mormons like Glenn Beck and Senator Orrin Hatch have long given a high profile to this American-grown faith. And with Mitt Romney in the running for the Republican nomination, the question of exactly how to categorize Mormonism has become news. An Evangelical pastor who supports Rick Perry told reporters he thought Mormonism is “a cult”, prompting a denial of the opinion by the Perry campagn, and a characterization of it as “bigotry” by former member of the Reagan cabinet, Bill Bennett, speaking in support of Romney. Mormons, meanwhile, very openly express the hope that having a Mormon running in the presidential race will help people to see their religion as “mainstream.”

Mormons have been publicly asking to be accepted as “Christians” and have their church, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints”, viewed as just another Christian denomination for decades now. But their own history makes this problematic. Their founder, Joseph Smith, claimed to have been told in a vision regarding the Christian churches that God “forbade me to join with any of them” and “all their creeds were an abomination in his sight.” It is hence Mormons (not Christians) who established, from the beginning of their group, an antagonistic relationship with those Christian groups already in existence, although in recent years Mormons have sought to downplay this antagonism. Still, even while they seem to be natural political and social allies with Evangelicals, many Evangelicals continue to refer to the Mormon faith as a “cult.” (To make it more confusing for a Catholic, some of these same Evangelicals might call the Catholic Church “a cult.”) Meanwhile, when Mormons are not trying to make common cause with Evangelicals, they will boldly challenge Catholics with their assertion that the Mormon church is the only true church. (Read the complete article here…)

In one sense, clearly, Mormonism is Christian. If you were going to categorize Mormonism according to world-religion criteria, you would have to say they are Christians. World religions are the major belief systems found around the world that frame a tradition of enough cultural richness to support a civilization. The major world religions are Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Confucianism and Islam. Clearly Mormonism fits into the broad “Christian” category. And so would many other groups whose relationship with the wider Christian world is antagonistic: Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, etc.

Also, we have to remember that individual Mormons may be Christians in spite of being Mormons. Some Mormon converts were baptized as Christians at some point before becoming Mormons. So when we talk about whether Mormons are Christians, we really are talking about whether Mormonism as a belief system is Christian, not judging the faith claim of an individual.

America’s Lost Tribe
It may be that in the not-too-distant future, we will have to categorize Mormonism as a separate world religion. It is the fifth-largest religious group now in the US, having passed the Lutherans, and the LDS are experiencing rapid expansion in other countries. In many ways its development parallels that of Islam. Both religions were founded by prophets who claimed to have been visited by an angel. They borrow heavily from Judaism and Christianity, yet reject their central tenets. Both rely upon strange revisions of history. The Koran identifies Mary, the mother of Jesus, with Miriam the sister of Moses, who lived over fourteen centuries earlier. The Book of Mormon makes numerous claims regarding the peoples of the Americas (including the idea that the American Indians descended from a lost tribe of ancient Israelites) that have been refuted by history, archeology, and anthropology. Both Islam and Mormonism claim that where their sacred writings contradict the Bible, the Christian and Jewish scriptures have been corrupted.

It might be argued that Mormons have the right to say that they are “Christians” and no one should deny what they say about themselves. It is possible, however, for us to respect their right to call themselves whatever they wish without feeling compelled to validate that claim ourselves. This is complicated by the fact that to many Catholics, Mormonism seems no more strange than the Baptist faith, or that of any other Protestant denomination. In part this is because Mormons themselves generally use the language and terminology common to (especially Protestant) Christians. In their initial approach to you, they will do all they can to hide or gloss over the distinctive beliefs of their church. Statements of Mormon belief sound so much like statements of the Christian faith that many Catholics and Protestants are quite willing to recognize Mormons as “Christians,” not merely in the world-religion sense, but in the sense in which we Catholics recognize Protestant Christians as our “separated brethren.”

This is a serious error with two major consequences. First, Christians (including Catholics) are misled into the Mormon church where they are indoctrinated in a religion which rejects the central doctrines of the Christian faith, resulting in them bringing their children up as non-Christians. Second, Christians embrace Mormons as fellow Christians instead of evangelizing them.

In order to protect Christians from this deception and to help Mormons learn the truth, we must understand how Mormon doctrine differs from the historic Christian faith that we share with Protestants. To do this, we will examine first what Mormons say, then how they define the terms they are using and how that differs from the Christian faith.(Read the complete article here…)

About the Author: Raised as a third-generation Jehovah’s Witness, Mary Kochan worked her way backwards through the Protestant Reformation to enter the Catholic Church on Trinity Sunday, 1996. Mary has spoken in many settings, to groups large and small, on the topic of destructive cultism and has been a guest on both local and national radio programs.

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