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The LDS Restorationist Movement, including the Mormon Churches

Part 1: Questions & criticisms from non-Mormons:
Rejection of Mormon theology.

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Rejection of the LDI Restorationist theology by other faith groups:

Which is the true Christian church?

bullet 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.

bulletMany 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.

bullet 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:

bulletTheir religious exclusivity, communal lifestyle, and "Mormons first and for themselves" lifestyle were criticized.

bulletJoseph Smith's visions were rejected as frauds.

bulletSome of his theological teachings about the nature of God, structure of Heaven, requirements for salvation, history of the Americas, etc. were rejected as heresy.

bullet Plural marriage in particular was considered totally unacceptable behavior by most non-Mormons.

bullet Smith's elevation of three writings to equality with the Bible was considered deeply offensive.

bulletSmith's new translation of the Bible was viewed as heretical.

bulletSmith's political goals were viewed as threatening to his neighbors. They feared that he wanted to establish a theocracy.

bulletThe 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 threat.

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:

bulletThe 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 religion:

bulletThe 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 community."

The document also recommends that individual Mormons first formally remove themselves from the LDS before seeking membership in the United Methodist Church. 1

bulletAccording to a pamphlet produced by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
"...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 salvation, the 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

bullet The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) agrees closely with LDS beliefs concerning the submissive role for women in marriage, exclusion of women from the clergy, opposition to abortion access, opposition to equal rights for gays and lesbians, physician assisted suicide, opposition to same-sex marriage, etc. But the SBC has long criticized the LDS church theologically. They regard Mormons in the same category as Jews, Muslims. etc. All are viewed as non-Christians who are destined to spend eternity in Hell, and need to be "saved" in order to attain Heaven.

bullet 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."

bullet 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

bullet 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 [altogether]."
bulletBefore 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 possible.

bulletReligion 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 beliefs that:

bulletGod and Jesus have bodies and are separate within the godhead.

bulletSalvation requires good works in addition to grace.

bulletOnly 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

bullet LA Times, reporting on Governor Romney's anticipated bid for the presidency, wrote  that:

bullet"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'."
bullet "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 weren't Christians'."

"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 commander-in-chief'." 10

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This topic continues in Part 2

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "United Methodists adopt guidelines for Mormons joining church," http://umns.umc.org/
  2. "Presbyterians and Latter-day Saints," Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 100 Witherspoon St., Louisville, KY 40202-1396. See: http://pcusa80.pcusa.org/pcusa
  3. "LDS, Baptists hold 'gracious' talks; But questions stress churches' doctrinal conflict," at: http://www.desnews.com/misc/
  4. Feature Story, "Mormons insisting that they are Christians" 1998-MAR-2, available at: http://www.religiontoday.com (Search the web site for "Mormon")
  5. Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, Bethany House, (1985), P. 166-226
  6. "American Religious Identification Survey," City University of New York, at: http://www.gc.cuny.edu/
  7. "The Hill Cumorah Pageant: America's Witness for Christ," at: http://www.lds.org/
  8. Tom Mathews, "An example for possible future changes in policy relating to women and gays," at: http://www.lds-mormon.com/racism.shtml
  9. Joseph Fielding Smith, "Doctrines of Salvation," Page 61.
  10. Elizabeth Mehren, "Romney's 2008 Bid Faces Issue of Faith. Massachusetts' GOP governor has political promise, but voters may not embrace a Mormon,"  LA Times, 2006-OCT-10, at: http://www.latimes.com/

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Copyright © 1997 to 2006 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2013-OCT-15
Author: B.A. Robinson

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