The LDS church teaches that their organization is a restoration of the original
church of the apostles, as it existed in the 1st Century CE. They
believe that, when the last apostle died, the original Christian movement went astray, and eventually
split into many different denominations which have rejected much of Jesus'
teachings and are thus heretical. All of the tens of thousands of other Christian
denominations are thus in error.
Many other Christian faith groups teach the opposite of this belief:
that most Protestant denominations follow a common Christian tradition
which is traceable back to the earliest days of the church. As Jude 1:3 says,
non-Mormon Christians possess "... the faith which was once delivered
unto the saints." It is the
Mormons who have deviated from that tradition, and are thus heretical.
Many historians and liberal theologians suggest that both are wrong:
that the beliefs and practices of the original Christian movement, the
Jewish Christians, were quite different both
from the Mormons and from other contemporary Christian denominations. By
the second century CE, there were many "Christianities" in existence,
all teaching different belief systems. There may have been more difference among
those early forms of Christianity than there is between the LDS and
Evangelical denominations today.
Friction between Mormons and other other Christians has been present during the entire history of the LDS Church.
There were a number of reasons why most Christians rejected the Mormon
movement during the 19th century:
Their religious exclusivity, communal lifestyle, and "Mormons first
and for themselves" lifestyle were criticized.
Joseph Smith's visions were rejected as frauds.
Some of his theological teachings about the nature of God, structure
of Heaven, requirements for salvation, history of the Americas, etc. were
rejected as heresy.
Plural marriage in particular was considered totally unacceptable
behavior by most non-Mormons.
Smith's elevation of three writings to equality with the Bible was considered deeply offensive.
Smith's new translation of the Bible was viewed as heretical.
Smith's political goals were viewed as threatening to his neighbors.
They feared that he wanted to establish a theocracy.
The movement has been growing rapidly -- on the order of 10% per decade
-- since it was founded. This is perceived by some Christian groups as a
Today, even though plural marriage has been at least temporarily
suspended in principle for over a century and in practice for almost a century, many of the above points of conflict continue.
During the early years, opposition by other
Christians was violent. Much blood was shed. Now, the battle it is a mainly war of words:
The general meetings of the United Methodist Church, and
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Southern Baptist Convention have stated, in
their opinion, the LDS is a denomination that is separate from the Christian
The General Conference of the United Methodist Church
approved a document on 2000-MAY-10: "Sacramental Faithfulness: Guidelines for Receiving People From the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints (Mormons)" The document says, in part, that:
"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by self-definition, does not fit within the bounds of the historic,
apostolic tradition of Christian faith...[Mormons'] explicitly [profess] distinction and separateness from the ecumenical
The document also
recommends that individual Mormons first formally remove themselves from the LDS
before seeking membership in the United Methodist Church. 1
According to a pamphlet produced by the Presbyterian Church
"...Mormonism is a new and emerging religious
tradition distinct from the historic apostolic tradition of the
Christian Church, of which Presbyterians are a part...Latter-day Saints
understand themselves to be separate from the continuous witness to
Jesus Christ, from the apostles to the present, affirmed by churches of
the "catholic" tradition. Latter-day Saints and the historic churches
view the canon of scriptures and interpret shared scriptures in
radically different ways. They use the same words with dissimilar
meanings. When the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks of
the Trinity, Christ's death and resurrection, and
theology and practices related to these set it apart from the Orthodox,
Roman Catholic, and Protestant churches."
Presbyterians do not recognize the baptism administered to Mormons. A
convert must be re-baptized. Similarly Presbyterians do not allow LDS
officials to administer the Lord's Supper. 2
On 1997-NOV-21, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter criticized
SBC leaders for saying that Mormons are not Christians. He said that the SBC leaders
"are trying to act as the Pharisees did,
who were condemned by Christ, in trying to define who can and cannot be considered an
acceptable person in the eyes of God...In other words they are making judgments on behalf
of God. I think that's wrong."
R. Philip Roberts, director, Interfaith Witness Division
for the Southern Baptist Convention was interviewed at a
meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Salt Lake City
during 1998. One reporter asked: "Is Mormonism heresy?" The Deseret News reported:
"'Yes,' replied Roberts, after prefacing his response with a
fairly lengthy description of 'dogmatic Mormonism' which he said
includes such beliefs as God having once been a mortal man and that
LDS temple attendance is essential for the fullness of salvation.
'And it compromises one's salvation?' the reporter asked. 'Yes,'
Roberts said." 3
According to a report in the Deseret News, a training video prepared by
Southern Baptist leaders, titled
"The Mormon Puzzle," concludes that members of The Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have carefully cultivated a
media image that leads people to believe they are Christian, when in
fact they are not. Tom Elliff, president of the SBC, said:
"The Christ that the Mormons speak about is not, in
our minds, identified with the Christ identified solely in the
scriptures...When we (Mormons and Baptists) try to talk about a
belief in Christ, we're really comparing apples with oranges.
We're not talking about the same Christ. It's a different Christ
Before their annual meeting in Salt Lake City (1998-JUN-9 to
11), the SBC conducted a "Crossover Salt Lake City"
evangelistic thrust. This involved a door-to-door witnessing
campaign, covering the city. Volunteers attempted "save"
as many Mormons (and other non-Evangelical Christians) as
Religion Today's feature story for 1998-JUL-27
listed a number of Mormon theological doctrines which they feel
are incompatible with historical Christianity, including the
God and Jesus have bodies and are separate within the
Salvation requires good works in addition to grace.
Only some male LDS Church members have the "authority to be prophetic priests and to
perform ordinances necessary for salvation." This doctrine
has been taught by Mormon President Gordon Hinckley, and his
predecessors back to the Mormon founder Joseph Smith. 4
LA Times, reporting on Governor Romney's anticipated bid for the
presidency, wrote that:
"Pastor Ted Haggard, [at the time] president of the National Association of
Evangelicals (NEA)in Colorado Springs, CO said:
" 'We evangelicals view Mormons as a Christian cult
group. A cult group is a group that claims exclusive revelation. And
typically, it's hard to get out of these cult groups. And so Mormonism
qualifies as that'."
"In addition, Haggard said, evangelicals do not accept Mormon Church
founder Joseph Smith as a prophet. 'And we do not believe that the Book
of Mormon has the same level of authority as the Bible,' he said."
"When Romney says that he accepts Jesus Christ as his savior, 'we
appreciate that,' Haggard said. 'But very often when people like Mormons
use terms that we also use, there are different meanings in the theology
behind those terms'."
"Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty
Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention at the time, said:
'Up until about 30 years ago, Mormons were very emphatic that they
"But evangelicals might overlook the theological divisions if Romney
were the only social conservative on the ballot, Land said."
'If given a choice between a Mormon social conservative and a
Catholic social conservative or an Episcopal social conservative or
a Presbyterian social conservative, they are going to pick the
Catholic or the Episcopal or the Presbyterian,' Land said. 'But if
given a choice between [former New York Mayor Rudolph W.] Giuliani
and Romney, I think a lot of evangelicals would vote for Romney. We
are not electing a theologian-in-chief. We are electing a