This is a common question that many people have about Mormons. In the opening paragraphs, we’ll provide a quick overview answering whether Mormons are Christian or Catholic.
Mormons consider themselves to be Christians, but they are not Catholics. Here are some key points:
- Mormons identify as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
- They believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and Savior of the world.
- However, Mormons have some theological differences from mainstream Christianity.
- Mormons do not follow the authority of the Pope or Catholic teachings.
- Instead, Mormons follow what they believe to be the restored church of Jesus Christ through modern revelation.
So in summary, Mormons view themselves as Christians but not Catholics. Now let’s explore this topic more in-depth.
Mormonism and Christianity
Mormons consider themselves to be Christians because they worship Jesus Christ as their Savior and the divine Son of God. The full name of the Mormon church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which clearly identifies Jesus Christ as central to their faith. The Book of Mormon states that “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ” (2 Nephi 25:26). Jesus is at the heart of Mormon theology and practice.
Mormons believe in the atonement of Jesus Christ, that he died for our sins and was resurrected three days later. They have faith that through Jesus’ grace, we can be forgiven and saved. Mormons worship God the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. They study the life and teachings of Jesus in the New Testament and the Book of Mormon, and follow His example. Faith in Jesus is the first principle and ordinance of the Mormon gospel.
That said, there are some differences between Mormon doctrines of Christ and mainstream Christian views:
- Mormons believe God, Jesus, and the Holy Ghost are three separate divine beings united in purpose, not a Trinitarian Godhead.
- Mormons do not accept the orthodox Christian creeds and definitions from early church councils.
- The Book of Mormon is considered additional scripture about Christ’s revelations to ancient peoples in the Americas.
- Mormons believe in ongoing modern revelation through living prophets and apostles, not just biblical authority.
Due to these differences, some Christians do not consider Mormons to be true Christians. Mormons in turn view mainstream Christian creeds as falling into apostasy from Christ’s true church. Despite theological debates, Mormons unequivocally identify themselves as Christians centered on faith in Jesus Christ.
Mormons and Catholicism
Mormons are not Catholics. There are several major differences between Mormon and Catholic beliefs and practices:
- Mormons do not believe in apostolic succession or the spiritual authority of the Pope and Catholic hierarchy.
- Mormons reject the Catholic doctrines on transubstantiation, purgatory, the immaculate conception of Mary, and the veneration of saints.
- Mormons do not follow the sacraments and liturgical rituals of the Catholic church.
- The Book of Mormon and modern Mormon prophets are not accepted by Catholics.
- Catholics do not recognize Mormon baptism while Mormons reject infant baptism.
Catholicism and Mormonism have very different structures of authority and spiritual practice. Mormons believe that after Jesus Christ established his church, there was a complete apostasy until the restoration of Christ’s true church on earth through the prophet Joseph Smith. As a result, Mormons reject the Great Apostasy theory central to Catholicism, under which the Catholic Church traces its succession back to Peter as the first Pope. For Mormons, the church Christ originally organized was lost and had to be restored.
Mormons see Catholicism as another product of the Great Apostasy that lost the full truth of Jesus’ gospel. As a result, Mormons do not accept the spiritual authority claimed by Catholic popes and bishops. The Mormon church is governed centrally by its prophet and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, with lay participation by its members.
History of Mormonism and Christianity
To better understand where Mormons fit in, let’s look at a brief history of Mormonism and Christianity:
|c. 33 AD
|Jesus Christ establishes his church and is crucified and resurrected
|c. 100 AD
|Original apostles of Christ die, doctrinal disputes and splinter groups emerge
|Roman Emperor Constantine legalizes and promotes Christianity, doctrinal councils held
|Fall of Western Roman Empire, Roman Catholic Church becomes dominant authority
|East-West Schism splits Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches
|Protestant Reformation begins critiquing Catholic dogmas
|Joseph Smith claims vision of God and Jesus Christ, called to restore Christ’s church
|Publication of Book of Mormon, Mormon church formally organized
|Joseph Smith martyred, Brigham Young becomes second Mormon prophet
This timeline shows how mainstream Christianity developed in the centuries after Christ’s original ministry while splintering into various denominations. Mormonism emerged much later in the early 19th century as part of the Second Great Awakening religious revival in America. Mormons believe this was a restoration of Christ’s New Testament church, not another reform movement within divided Christianity.
Mormon Beliefs and Practices
Now that we’ve covered how Mormonism relates to broader Christianity, what do Mormons actually believe and practice in their faith?
Mormons rely on four sacred texts:
- The Bible (Old and New Testament)
- The Book of Mormon
- Doctrine and Covenants
- Pearl of Great Price
The Bible is the word of God as far as it is translated correctly. The other works are specific Mormon scriptures that they believe contain revelations for the restoration of Christ’s church on earth.
Mormons believe in the Godhead of:
- God the Father
- Jesus Christ the Son
- Holy Ghost
They are three distinct heavenly beings who are perfectly united in purpose. God and Jesus have glorified physical bodies, while the Holy Ghost is an embodied spirit. Mormons reject the doctrine of the Trinity.
Plan of Salvation
The Mormon Plan of Salvation outlines God’s purpose for human beings to become like him and return to his presence in the celestial kingdom after mortality. Central principles include:
- Pre-mortal life as spirit children of God
- The Fall and need for a Savior Jesus Christ
- Atonement of Christ provides resurrection and redeems from sin
- Free will to follow the gospel path
- Three kingdoms of glory as possible afterlife destinations
Mormons have a hierarchical church structure led by:
- Two Counselors
- Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
- Quorums of the Seventy
- Area Presidencies
- Stake Presidents
Men fill all senior leadership roles. Local congregations are led by volunteer bishops without any formal seminary training or pay.
Worship and Rituals
Mormon worship and rituals include:
- Sacrament meeting with bread and water communion each Sunday
- Home and visiting teaching for member fellowship
- Baptism and confirmation at age 8
- Priesthood ordinations for men
- Endowment and sealing rituals within temples
Compared to Catholicism, Mormon rituals are less formalized and frequent. They do not have confession to clergy, veneration of saints, nor frequent taking of communion. Temple rituals revolve around eternal bonds and covenants.
Mormons follow a health code called the Word of Wisdom that prohibits:
- Coffee and tea
- Recreational drugs
They believe God revealed these standards for living for improved physical and spiritual health.
Demographics of Mormons
Here are some key statistics on Mormons worldwide as of 2021:
- 16.8 million members reported by the LDS church
- 67% live outside the United States
- 42% in Latin America
- 13% in Africa
- Asia and Europe each have about 10%
- 6 million members in the United States, accounting for 1.8% of U.S. population
This shows that while Mormonism originated in 19th century America, it has grown into an international faith with the majority of members living abroad. Strong growth regions include Latin America, Africa, and the Pacific Islands. However, the United States still has the largest national total membership.
Relationships with Other Faiths
Due to differences in beliefs, Mormons have faced strained relationships with other Christian denominations and the Catholic church at times. Areas of friction include:
- Disagreements over the nature of God, Christ, and the Trinity
- Disputes over whether Mormons are truly Christian
- Mormon missionary efforts toward members of other faiths
- Politically conservative stances by Mormon church leadership
However, relations have improved in recent decades through interfaith dialogue and cooperation on shared social values. For example, the Catholic church has allowed Mormons to access its genealogical archives. In some instances, Mormon and Catholic leaders have made joint public statements affirming shared commitments to strengthening families and religious liberty.
In summary, Mormons consider themselves devout Christians, but they are not Catholics or Orthodox. Mormonism arose in 19th century America based on Joseph Smith’s claims of a restoration of Christ’s true church. Mormons have additional scriptures, doctrines, and practices beyond mainstream Christianity while rejecting Catholic authority and tradition. Although Mormonism is distinctive in many ways, Mormons find their core identity as followers of Jesus Christ, who they recognize as their Lord and Savior.