This is a discussion being bandied about lately — mainly because two of the presidential candidates are Mormons — Romney and Huntsman (picture to right).
Mormons call themselves “Christians.” They say they believe in Jesus and the Bible and should be considered one of the many respected Christian denominations.
However, Mormons have a serious problem if they want to claim the title of “Christian”. From the earliest days of Christianity battles have raged over orthodox theology — what is it that makes a Christian? There were a good number of tenets that distinguished an orthodox Christian from a heretical group. The Fathers of the Church, the Popes and the Councils were very clear on this.
A few of the essentials of Christian doctrine were 1) the Trinity: there is one God, but God is a Trinity of three distinct co-eternal Persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; 2) the Two Natures of Jesus Christ, both human and divine and the fact that He is one divine person; 3) that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity who is co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit; 4) the revelation of Christ as preached by the Apostles is the final public revelation (which ended with the death of the last apostle) and there will be no further public revelation before the final coming of Jesus Christ (CCC 66, 73; and 5) and baptism for the remission of sins in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Mormon theology denials of all of the above. God is not a Trinity but an elevated, deified man who occupies a physical body. God was once a man like us and is now one god among many who go back to eternity past. He has a wife and procreates spirit children. Jesus was not God in the flesh but a creature, actually the son of a physical Father God and a Heavenly physical mother. Each Mormon man believes he too can become a god and have his own universe. They deny that the God whom we refer to as our “Heavenly Father” is eternal or infinite; rather, he physical and can only be in one place at a time.
Mormons believe in the Great Apostasy — the unsubstantiated belief that early Christians apostatized, fell away from and abandoned the true faith — and that true Christianity was lost for 1700 years until it was recovered in 1820 by Joseph Smith. This new revelation was written down and Mormons now accept four books as the word of God. The Bible is one of the four and the only one they consider to have corruptions and is accepted with qualifications.
(Picture: Moroni gives Joseph Smith the new revelation which begins the false teaching and heresy of Mormonism. The result was the Book of Mormon which is referred to as “the most correct of any book on earth”)
“Heresy” is defined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as “the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same” (2089). It could be argued that Mormons are not baptized so the “post-baptismal” qualification eliminates them. However, Joseph Smith denied historic Christianity (Trinity, dual natures of Christ, etc.) and accepted new revelations that contradicted and denied Christian truth. His teaching was heresy.
The word “heresy” originally came from Latin hairesis meaning “choice” or “to choose.” In other words, heresy is abandoning the truth to make another or your own choice, a choice to believe something contrary to orthodox Christian doctrine.
Among Evangelical Protestants the word “cult” usually refers to a religious group claiming to be Christian but denying the essential doctrines of historical Christianity. These would include Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and other such groups that deny the essential tenets of the Trinity, divinity of Christ and the personhood of the Holy Spirit and more. Thus, the term “cult” is applied to Mormons. So, it is no surprise that while speaking to his congregation Pastor Robert Jeffers referred to Mormonism as a cult. It is certainly consistent with Evangelical teaching. He was using the word in the context it is understood in Protestant circles.
Outside of Evangelical circles the word “cult” has a wider meaning, such as a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object; a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister; a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing. A lot of groups would fit within these categories.
Catholics use the word in the wider senses. Even the devotion to a saint is often referred to — without a negative connotation — as the “cult of so-and-so.” In this wider context it means religious devotion toward a person or object, such as to the Cross, the Holy Face of Christ, the Eucharist, etc. So cult can be used either positively or negatively by Catholics, though in popular Protestant thought it is usually negative.
(Picture: Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus in 431)
The word “cult” is somewhat subjective regarding religious groups. But the word “heretical” is less ambiguous. While one can argue whether Mormons are a cult or not, it is clear that they are a heretical group compared with the historic Catholic faith. Doctrines like those held by Mormons were called heresy without apology by the Church Fathers. They fought — often to the death as martyrs — against teachings similar to those held by Mormons.
The question of whether a Mormon would make a good president or not is a completely different discussion. For a great discussion on this matter, listen to Al Kresta’s commentary. At this point anyone would be better than the man in the White House today in my opinion. Here I only wanted to discuss the words “cult” and “heresy” in the context of Mormonism in relationship to historical, Catholic theology. Even though Mormons tend to be good moral people and there is much we can agree with them on, in this context Mormonism is definitely heretical in contrast to the Catholic faith.
Mormons are NOT Christians according to the historical and Catholic definition of Christian. Joseph Smith was not a true prophet. Mormonism is a false religion and is heretical.
My previous blogs on Mormonism:
Are Mormons Right on Total Apostasy;
When Mormons Come Knocking;
From Mormon to Catholic;
Why a Descendant of Joseph Smith became a Catholic Priest;
Steve Ray interviewed on Papal Infalliblity in the Salt Lake Tribune and Contrasted with Mormon Authority;
Is Mormonism Christian?