Saturday, November 05, 2011

Are Mormons Christians?

Or better put, is the religion of the Latter Day Saints church a Christian religion?

My short answer is that Mormonism is to Christianity as Christianity is to Judaism. In a word, it is not Christian, but something built on Christianity that moved out of it so significantly as to be no longer recognizable as Christian. Just as the Jesus movement moved out of Judaism into something new.


The actual Ex Cathedra in Rome agrees with the blogging Ex Cathedra here. The Vatican officially declared that Mormon baptism --even though it is performed with the traditional words--- is invalid, of no sacramental effect.  Any Mormon who became Catholic --unlike a Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, etc.-- would first have to be baptised.  Mormons are considered unbaptized, not Christian, because the content of their religion is so far outside the bounds of even heretical (Protestant) Christianity. Consequently, there is an invalidating defect of intention.

But it's a funny question. For this reason: In Mormon eyes --or at least in the eyes of their prophet, Joseph Smith, they are the only Christians. And all the other churches are not. Mormons, by the way, do not recognize any baptism as valid but Mormon baptism, since only they hold the restored priesthood authorized to perform the rite. All baptized Christians joining their church are re-baptized.

When Smith was asking God which of the many denominations to join, he was told that they were all false, that the church of Christ has ceased to exist since The Great Apostasy, which was complete long before the close of the First Century and that God was going to re-establish his Church through Smith. The Apostles Peter, James and John appeared and ordained him directly in 1829, re-establishing the long-lost Christian priesthood, which had long ceased to exist on earth after the last Apostle died. Smith did not seek to reform the existing religion or bodies of "Christians" because he did not recognize them as such. Everyone coming into the new faith was baptized into it. Previous Christian sacraments received were considered null.* Brigham Young explicitly named Catholic Baptism and Eucharist as empty and invalid forms and in 2001 Rome returned the favor. Mormonism is restoration of something utterly lost, not the reformation of a continuity which has made mistakes.



It is an irony of public relations that now when Christians --the non-churches of the Great Apostasy, -- are made to be the intolerant bigoted bad guys when they answer the title question in the negative. The real response when the question arises should be to quiz Mormons on whether Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants are Christians. The Mormons gave their own no to that question at their founding. And until the last ten minutes, consistently:
Joseph Fielding Smith (10th LDS President)  
“For hundreds of years the world was wrapped in a veil of spiritual darkness, until there was not one fundamental truth belonging to the place of salvation that was not, in the year 1820, so obscured by false tradition and ceremonies, borrowed from paganism, as to make it unrecognizable; or else it was entirely denied …Joseph Smith declared that in the year 1820 the Lord revealed to him that all the ‘Christian’ churches were in error, teaching for commandments the doctrines of men” (Doctrines of Salvation 3:282).  
 
Spencer W. Kimball (12th LDS President)  
“This is the only true church …This is not a church. This is the Church of Jesus Christ. There are churches of men all over the land and they have great cathedrals, synagogues, and other houses of worship running into the hundreds of millions of dollars. They are churches of men. They teach the doctrines of men, combined with the philosophies and ethics and other ideas and ideals that men have partly developed and partly found in sacred places and interpreted for themselves” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pg.421).  
 
“Presumptuous and blasphemous are they who purport to baptize, bless, marry, or perform other sacraments in the name of the Lord while in fact lacking the specific authorization” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pg.55).  
 
Bruce McConkie (Mormon Apostle)  
“The traditions of the elders – as is also the case with the traditions of an apostate Christendom – are wholly devoid of the least scintilla of inspiration. They are, as Jesus said, ‘the commandments of men’” (The Mortal Messiah, Vol.2, FOOTNOTES, Pg.412).  
 
“What of seventies? Who are they, and how do they fit into the eternal scheme of things? That their mission and ministry is unknown among the cults of Christendom is one of the great evidences of the apostate darkness that engulfs those who call themselves by the name of Him who called seventies to stand as especial witnesses of that very name” (The Mortal Messiah, 3:99-100).  
 
“Thus the signs of the times include the prevailing apostate darkness in the sects of Christendom and in the religious world in general. False churches, false prophets, false worship – breeding as they do a way of life that runs counter to the divine will – all these are signs of the times” (The Millennial Messiah, pg.4

*Mormonism is even more doctrinally alien to historic Christianity than the Jehovah's Witnesses, who also deny the Christian reality of any other body, rebaptizing Christians who convert. The JW's are non-Trinitarian subordinationist Arians, sort of, who believe that God created Michael the Archangel, who then created everything else and later became Jesus...but they are monotheists who assert their fidelity to the Bible as the only revelation.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

There's this one particular Roman Catholic who was never excommunicated but (as is the Mormon practice) received baptism after death into the Mormon faith. What's the ruling on that one, ExC?

USMaleSF said...

Ruling on what exactly ? The validity of Adolph's baptism? No grounds for doubt there.

According to the code of canon law of 1917, though, whatever his other sins and offenses were...and I think public apostasy is probably in there somewhere...along with missing Mass on Sunday not making his annual confession and communion, his attempt at a non-canonical marriage with Eva Braun incurred excommunication latae sententiae and his suicide added yet another mortal sin, so...

I guess after he died and went to Hell, he was given an invalid Mormon baptism?

Anonymous said...

I was going to ask whether if Hitler's brain was saved as a movie argued a new body into which Hitler's brain was transplanted would need to be rebaptised to be a member of the Church.

And then I was going to note that according to Catholic doctrine it's routine for a baptised person to fall out of communion with the Church -- through any mortal sin, whether covetousness or mass murder. Indeed, in a way wasn't I baptised into a condition of excommunication from the Church when I was baptised as an infant but in virtue of my parents' and godparents' faith and in the name of the Trinity and with water and for the remission of sin? (since these are the criteria for real baptism according to the RCC)

What's curious to me is that the Teaching Church in rejecting the Christian validity of LDS baptism doesn't refer to the salient difference that although LDS baptism involves water and is done with these words “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen” -- this rite and words do not mention remission of sins.

I was going to ask whether if Hitler's brain was saved as a movie argued a new body into which Hitler's brain was transplanted would need to be rebaptised to be a member of the Church.

And then I was going to note that according to Catholic doctrine it's routine for a baptised person to fall out of communion with the Church -- through any mortal sin, whether covetousness or mass murder. Indeed, in a way wasn't I baptised into a condition of excommunication from the Church when I was baptised as an infant but in virtue of my parents' and godparents' faith and in the name of the Trinity and with water and for the remission of sin? (since these are the criteria for real baptism according to the RCC)

What's curious to me is that the Teaching Church in rejecting the Christian validity of LDS baptism doesn't refer to the salient difference that although LDS baptism involves water and is done with these words “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen” -- this rite and words (D&C 20:73) do not mention remission of sins.

Accordingly, the LDS baptism leaves Mormons in a condition of deadness. They would indeed need to be baptised "again" were they to have Christian baptism according to the criteria specify'd by the RCC: with water, in the name of the Trinity, and for the remission of sin.

One could trace one's genealogy all the way back to Adam and Eve, or to the mitochondria of the first bona fide homo sapiens woman (as indeed each of us can by however complex a route), but without baptism said to be for the remission of sin the life of one's ancestors is dead within. LDS baptism for the living and for the dead are both deeply baptism for the dead.

This isn't doesn't mean that ecumenical dialogue cannot go forward between Catholic Christians and LDS. The first item on the discussion could be whether remission of sin toward resurrection in eternal life is worth having. In support of the LDS position, Egyptian hierophants could be brought back from the tombs of the dead to argue that eternal deadness is just fine.

The guiding maxim for ecumenical discussion seems to be one provided by a Prot of the Augustinian mentality »in essentials (necessaries) unity, in non-essentials (unnecessaries) liberty, in all things charity.«

Along this line, the result of Catholic-LDS dialogue could well be that although using trinitarian lingo is necessary or an essential, eternal life isn't necessary or is a non-essential. The various mutually charitable denominations of Jesus Christ claimers can opt for eternal life or for eternal deadness in sin -- accordingly as the inner light guiding them may prefer. Jesus Christ is equally pleased either way.

USMaleSF said...

I was going to ask whether if Hitler's brain was saved as a movie argued a new body into which Hitler's brain was transplanted would need to be rebaptised to be a member of the Church.

New theological turf, beyond my pay grade. Would require a Pontifical Commission.

And then I was going to note that according to Catholic doctrine it's routine for a baptised person to fall out of communion with the Church -- through any mortal sin, whether covetousness or mass murder. Indeed, in a way wasn't I baptised into a condition of excommunication from the Church when I was baptised as an infant but in virtue of my parents' and godparents' faith and in the name of the Trinity and with water and for the remission of sin? (since these are the criteria for real baptism according to the RCC)

The state of mortal sin and the state of excommunication are not identical. Lots of Catholics fall into mortal sin --extinguishing the life of grace in the soul-- and often privately. But excommunication is a legal declaration of (temporary) exile from the Catholic community and therefore always "political", having to do with relations with the public ecclesial polis. You were validly baptized into a community out of communion with Rome and therefore, if you will, joined a group of "excommunicated" heretics. But they have nice church suppers and smile a lot.

What's curious to me is that the Teaching Church in rejecting the Christian validity of LDS baptism doesn't refer to the salient difference that although LDS baptism involves water and is done with these words “Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen” -- this rite and words do not mention remission of sins.

Part of the defect of intention is precisely about that. Since the LDS don't accept original sin, that's part of why their rite is invalid. Removing that motive alters its shape beyond the bounds of validity.

The Teaching Church is always happy to hear from you.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you mean our clerics Ismaili a Lut. ...

In any case, I do think one or another of the ex cathedras ought to have mention'd the silence of LDS baptism on sin, rather than leaving matters as LDS' development or movement etc away from what is "recognizable as Christian." I don't suppose that Muslims promote recognition of significant differences between Catholic shirk and LDS shirk and Jehovah's Witness shirk. (Buddhists, Enlightenment deists and other nontheists don't commit shirk, bur are mere infidels, which is perhaps less threatening to the mullahs and imams.)

Yet aside from the merely "political" or civil difference between dying in a state of mortal sin of lust or avarice, say, and dying in a state of official excommunication, is there any difference between these two conditions in terms of being cut off from communion with the Church and thus from the treasury of merit?

It is in baptism that one gains all duties binding on "Catholics," yes? In my baptism as an infant in a Methodist church, I implicitly promised to obey all the precepts of the (RC) Church and to believe every doctrine proposed for belief by the (RC) Church, that is in the person of the holy roman pontiff and the bishops in communion with him. Isn't that so? So also if I had been baptised in an Eastern Orthodox Church.

Only "invincible ignorance" (one hopes) or perhaps some other material defect prevents me from petitioning a bishop for removal of my condition of separation from the Church (now usually by a curious procedure call'd RCIA, as far as I have heard), and thereby access to the sacrament of penance and onward to receiving the elements of communion and confirmation.

(And yet receiving "the Sacrament" seems to do no more than shipshapen up what one has from baptism and penance, which are surely the really powerful sacraments: removal of original sin and absolution for whatever the term is for sin that isn't original but done by the sinner. I suppose Orders is also a powerful sacrament since it creates the priests who may absolve sin and restore to communion with the Church. Not surprising that the precepts say one must receive communion only once a year. Confession ought to occur as often as possible, and then one may, for instance, pray the rosary while the mass goes on -- and not go forward to communicate, since one is already in a state of grace from the sacrament of penance. What is surprising is that anyone every recommends receiving communion frequently. Whatever for? To remove venal sin? One may shipshapen up one's faith life etc by devotion to a saint, feeding the hungry, doing innumerable mortifications, marching for Catholic social justice, etc. I see no particular reason to avail oneself of the benefits listed in the Catechism from receiving communion.

The strange sense I have, though, is now only I in the whole olam really love these RC lines of doctrine. I may say that they don't "offend" me in the least. I would not wish to see these lines abolish'd, least of all for the sake of something as spurious as ecumenical goodwill. ... This experience is enhanced when I think that everything "controversial" in RC doctrine today pertains to all persons, since 'natural law' in the conscience is the foundation of the doctrines re abortion, contraception, homosexuality, etc. (Humanae vitae is not address'd formally to communicating Catholics. I think politicians are mention'd in the preface, sc that civil law ought to forbid the sale of contraceptives -- which admittedly was usual in Western civil law. I think the only somewhat controversial item is the rule against marriage for priests, which has exceptions, e.g. for the admission of marry'd Anglicans to the priesthood. This rule is said to be a stipulation of Canon Law only, not of the natural law. The inadmissibility of women to holy orders is not determined by mere positive statute of Canon Law.)

Anonymous said...

And yet all that is only reasoning about doctrine. It isn't inaccurate (except for mistakes I might make -- although if I may say so I do seem to surprise even season'd Catholics with what I notice in real eros for their system).

There is another sense of what is "Catholic" which could be described as 'material' or maybe 'cultural' or something. Only a great poet or novelist can begin to do justice to the psyche in culture. For instance, Flannery O'Connor's descriptions of the struggles and experiences of certain white southern Americans -- of which few are RCs (e.g. the old-fashion'd priest who arrives to talk with the no longer young fail'd novelist who returns home in achievement catastrophe; and I assume the Polish immigrant whose head gets run over by a tractor).

Some learned RCs might object that O'Connor has the old-fashion'd priest give a certain focus on "purity" in the conversation with the fail'd novelist, rather than, say, "structural sin" such as the military-industrial complex, or perhaps Thomistic-Aristotelian staesmanship. And yet, really, despite the reality that sexual sins or sexual immorality receive only comparatively scant attention in the Catechism, or in the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, we all know that it is true to Christian reality that somehow Christianity has enculturated primarily in a clampdown and condemnation of sexuality -- perhaps a sublimation or something results from the clampdown. But we all know that it makes entire sense for a Christian youngster to "live" in terror of damnation for homosexual thoughts or even for masturbation. We would suppose that a youngster must be playing a prank on his Christian 'mentor' if he claim'd to live in dread of damnation for an ambition to serve Mammon as a corporation lawyer.

Seeking rather worldly prestige (e.g. a career as a Christian academic -- Methodist, S.J., Anglican, evangelical, whatever) rather than God's favour for 'mortifications' is easily arrived at by the not eternal easily spoken of tao involved in remarking that "God gave me a mind and obviously intends me to use it" (sc in the world's higher learning systems that are own'd by the kingdoms that Satan can offer to Jesus in the Temptations, if only Jesus will bow down to him). No guy ever thought to defend serial monogamy with girls on grounds that "God gave me a sex drive and obviously intends me to use it." Lots of guys do such things, but they conclude -- rightly according to the real-world enculturated meaning of Christianity -- that when they do so they are not bothering to 'really believe' in Christianity any more.

Anonymous said...

"God make me pure, but not yet" is one of the foundational jokes in Christendom. And it means _sexually_ pure (no sexuality at all: sc real chastity, not mere "marital" chastity). Augustine didn't pray that God spare him from the temptation to become the greatest founder since Plato. One would think that the mortification of thumos never even occur'd to him.

But then we have this curiosity: centuries of reverence for women's chastity (the BVM, nuns). How does that amount to anything. Chastity is a miracle in a guy, but in a woman? One would think that women religious should be revered for sacrificing their wish to have children. Indeed, I have heard this sacrifice explain'd away on grounds that nuns can have 'spiritual children' etc if they work as teachers (so no real sacrifice of maternal libido is involved).

But we do well to enquire why women were revered for their chastity -- I mean, as if chastity were a tremendous achievement vs lust, as it is in a guy, and not merely because men's and women's reverence for mothers and for women and girls in general conflicts with men's and women's sense of what male sexuality is. Is it simply that clerics wish'd to tell women that 'Yes, Platonism for the people is open to women too"?

Well, I gotta go drift off to sleep while ideating about rescuing unbelieveable stewardesses from Al-Qaeda hijackers.

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