Some Christians divide the tens of thousands of denominations which
consider themselves to be Christian into three main groups: Roman Catholics,
Protestants and Eastern Orthodox. within this classification, the Mormon
movement would be considered part of Protestantism.
Some make four divisions: Anglican, Eastern Orthodox,
Protestant and Roman Catholic. Again, Mormons would be considered
Others define Protestantism as consisting of those faith
group who trace their history back to the Protestant Reformation and
Luther's 95 theses. Some include the Restorationist denominations as a
fourth or fifth group. Within this classification, the Mormon churches would
be considered part of the Restorationist group and not Protestant.
Some define Protestantism as consisting of those non-Catholic denominations
that adhere to certain historical cardinal beliefs.
Mormons deviate from these beliefs in a significant way and might not be
considered Protestant because of this.
And of course, many people consider the Restorationist
movement to be non-Christian. In that case, the question is moot.
Court rules that Mormons are not Protestants:
Normally, courts avoid ruling on the status of religious groups. However, a
Benton County Circuit Judge in Arkansas and the Arkansas Court of Appeals
were forced to do just in 2007 and 2008 during a child custody dispute. 1
In 2005, Joel Mark Rownak and Lisa Monette Rownak had agreed in their divorce to
raise their children "in the Protestant faith," unless both of them agreed to do
otherwise. Their decree reads, in part:
"Based on the express agreement of the parties that the minor children be raised
in the Protestant faith, the Court orders that each party hereto is enjoined
from promoting another religious belief system/faith to the minor children
unless both parties should consent." 2
In 2007, evidence was presented to Benton County Circuit Judge John R. Scott that Joel had changed his church membership from Southern Baptist to the
LDS Mormon church. 2 Further,
he promoted the beliefs of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints to his sons. He led his sons in the reading of Scripture
(presumably including the Book of Mormon), and in daily prayer. He had one son
baptized as a Mormon, and one enrolled in Boy Scouts at the local Mormon church.
Scott ruled that the father was in contempt of the divorce decree, since the
judge determined that the Mormon Church is not part of Protestantism.
On appeal in 2007, the father claimed that the contempt ruling violated the
First Amendment's establishment clause that prohibits
the state from discriminating against religious groups. Judge Sam Bird wrote the
Appeals Court ruling. He noted that the father had originally asked that the
Protestant requirement be included in the decree.
The court affirmed the lower court ruling. They based their decision on
testimony by the father who stated that the LDS Church was not part of
Protestantism, and on information obtained from the LDS Church's official web site. They did not regard the
father's claim under the First Amendment to be valid in this case.
Which denomination(s) can legitimately be called "Mormon?"
Generally speaking, the LDS and most of the other
approximately 100 LDS Restorationist
denominations consider their own faith group to be the true successors to Joseph Smith's
original founding of the Church of Christ in 1830. Most regards the other Restorationist
groups as schismatic denominations.
So, for example, The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) considers the Fundamentalist Church of
Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) to be a heretical schismatic group.
The feeling is mutual. The LDS objects strenuously to terms commonly used by the media
such as "fundamentalist Mormons" or "Mormon sect" or "polygamous
Mormons" to refer to other Restorationist groups who trace their history
back to Joseph Smith's original church. Many of these groups actively promote
polygyny among their members. The LDS at least temporarily suspended the
practice of polygyny in the late 19th century. Kim Farah, spokesperson of the LDS church, wrote in a news
"There is no such thing as a 'polygamous' Mormon.
Mormon is a common name for a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints." 3
Unfortunately, there is no consensus on this point. Some LDS
Restorationist denominations use the terms "Mormon," "Original Mormons" or
"Fundamentalist Mormons" to refer to themselves.
Which is the "true" Mormon denomination?:
This is an unanswerable question. All of the many dozens of
Restorationist denominations consider themselves as having originated in Joseph
Smith's original faith group -- The Church of Jesus Christ. Most regard themselves as the only "true" Restorationist
denomination and the only "true" Christian church.