ARE MORMONS CHRISTIAN? (In a Word: No.)

First, a word of praise:  Mormons are good citizens.  They are persons of good conscience, and are supportive of strong family values.  Catholics and Mormons, as the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith noted in its 2001 statement on Mormon baptism,

“…often find themselves working together on a range of problems regarding the common goal of the entire human race.  It can be hoped therefore that through further studies, dialogue and good will, there can be progress in reciprocal understanding and mutual respect.”

But are Mormons Christian?  In a word:  No.

Taylor Petrey, writing on the Mormon Portal at Patheos in 2013, made a different claim.  As evidence that Mormons should be counted among Christians, Petrey cited the “Christus” statue by Danish sculptor Bertel Thorvaldsen, which was displayed at the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Queens, New York, and the revision of the church’s logo in 1996 to feature the words “Jesus Christ” more than twice the size of the other words in the name (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints).

As further proof of Mormons’ inclusion in Christian circles, Petrey cites 19th century Lutheran theologian Adolf von Harnack, who claimed in his volume What Is Christianity? that there is no single definition of Christianity.  For von Harnack, Christianity is whatever you say it is.

I respectfully disagree.

Words have meaning; and if anything can mean whatever you want it to mean, then nothing can have any lasting meaning at all, and attempts at communication are futile.

In the Gospel of Matthew, as Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi and he asked his disciples,   “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 

The apostles responded:  “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  

So Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am?”

It was Simon Peter, the blustering fisherman, who answered confidently, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered him,

“Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.” 

Matthew 16:  13-18

The thing is, the question of WHO JESUS IS is a singularly important question for all of us. 

Christians know that Jesus is the Son of God, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. With Father and the Holy Spirit, He has existed eternally.

The great Jesuit theologian Fr. John Hardon explained,

“The mystery of the Holy Trinity is the most fundamental of our faith. On it everything else depends and from it everything else derives. Hence the Church’s constant concern to safeguard the revealed truth that God is One in nature and Three in Persons.”

Mormons believe, however, that the Trinity “are not the three persons in which subsists the one Godhead, but three gods who form one divinity.  One is different from the other, even though they exist in perfect harmony” (L’Osservatore Romano, Weekly Edition in English, Aug. 1, 2001, page 4).

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith continues their comparison:

“In Mormon belief, God the Father was once a mortal man from another planet who, through a series of progressions, achieved divinity.  He and his wife, the heavenly mother, share the responsibility of creation and have sons in the spiritual world.  Their firstborn son, Jesus Christ, equal to man, “has acquired his divinity in a pre-mortal existence.  Even the Holy Spirit is the son of heavenly parents.  The Son and the Holy Spirit were procreated after the beginning of the creation of the world known to us.”

So if words mean SOMETHING, and cannot at the same time mean SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT, then no, the Christ of the Mormon faith is not the Christ of the Christian faith.

And no, Mormons are not Christians.

 

Image:  Christus Statue in Temple Square, Salt Lake City (via Wikimedia Commons)

A portion of this article was originally published at Patheos as part of a Mormon-initiated roundtable discussion on “Are Mormons Christian?”

By | 2018-01-17T13:54:22+00:00 June 21st, 2016|Faith|

4 Comments

  1. Christine Appleyard July 2, 2016 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    Mormons are quite different from Protestants, all of whom, believe in the same Trinitarian God as Catholics. For all of us, Catholic and Protestant alike, Jesus Christ is the second person of the Holy Trinity, the only begotten Son of God born of the Virgin Mary (they do not believe in her perpetual virginity), who was crucified, died, was buried and rose again on the 3rd day, and will come again to judge the living and the dead. Though some evangelical Christians (Protestants) do not recite the Creed, they do recognize it as historical and valuable. Even those Pentecostals who claim to be non creedal, when you read their ‘What we believe’, you see it matches quite well, until we get to the ‘one holy Catholic and Apostolic church’.

    Protestantism is a negative/reductionist Christianity, off shoots of Catholicism. By negative I mean, each one has reduced or negated some article of faith, e.g. the perpetual virginity of Mary; the sacrifice of the Mass, but the basics remain.

    Joseph Smith set out to start his own religion.

    Mormons believe that there is only one true church and it is either, the Catholic Church or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Protestants have no standing because either, the Catholic Church was apostate as Mormonism teaches, making any offshoots simply more of the same OR, the Catholic Church is the one true church and if so, then clearly, the Protestant denominations are as wrong as the Mormons. I had read this before, years ago, but had it verified this past year by a young couple that left the Mormon Church to become Catholic.

    The husband was a generational Mormon, his family being part of that church for several generations and extremely active. His father is a bishop. She was brought into the faith as a child, by Catholic parents who converted when she was 8 years old. She too grew up to be very active, being head of the women’s group in her area. She, in particular, was always inquisitive and was never quite at ease, often banging heads with elders. As time went on, her questions became more substantive to the point where, she would get no response at all. It is a religion based upon blind faith and what might be termed tribalism.

    Long story short, her parents who had bickered all her life, returned to Catholicism. The change in each of them and in their relationship, for the better, gave she and her husband pause and hope. They came into the Church this past Easter Vigil.

    Mormons want acceptance into the mainstream, so in the past 50 years or so, they have stopped speaking so much about Smith and started speaking more about Jesus Christ. That they are not Christian should not make them outsiders,nor feel like second class citizens; it is their history that has dogged them. Jewish people are not Christian, Jains are not, nor Hindus. They are all people of faith, albeit different faiths. That Mormonism holds many values in common with us, should mean that we not only respect them, but we work together for the common good. In a world like ours, we have to unite in our commonalities, recognizing that our differences while great, need to be back burnered for a united front.

    However, the Jesus Christ they proclaim is no more like Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, than the Jesus proclaimed in the Koran. In terms of the latter, our vision of God is completely disparate. Ours is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, theirs is the God of Abraham, Ismael and Mohammed. None of us worships the same God, with the exception of Jews, Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants.

  2. Benjamin June 23, 2016 at 12:39 pm - Reply

    Mormons are no different the any other Protestant denomination. All conclusions that Mormonism came to are allowed under Protestant doctrine. But I am not saying Mormons are Christians.

  3. Lou June 21, 2016 at 11:29 pm - Reply

    Clear and concise, Kathy. Now, do a column on why Christians and Muslims do Not worship the same God, and cc the Vatican when you do.

  4. VinceC June 21, 2016 at 8:32 pm - Reply

    Mormons tend to get huffy if you tell them that the Church considers their baptisms are invalid and that they’re not Christians.The irony is that it is official Mormon teaching that Catholic and other baptisms are invalid and that all other churches are in apostasy.

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