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 Mormon leaders today claim that Mormonism is a Christian faith, a dubious claim.

 

 

 

 

During the 1820s, religious fervor swept through upstate New York, which became known as the "burned-over district," a reference to the many religious and reform movements emanating from the region.  In the midst of the religious excitement, an unsuccessful treasure-seeker named Joseph Smith received visions from God and founded a new religion: Mormonism, or the Latter Day Saints.  Today, Joseph Smith's visions, and especially the first vision, the substance from which came the Book of Mormon, remain the theological core of the LDS Church.  Joseph Smith himself called his Book of Mormon "the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion," insisting that a person "would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." (Source)

Gordon B. Hinckley, the current Prophet and President of the LDS Church, explains Smith's role in the foundation of his religion in this manner:

"That becomes the hinge pin on which this whole cause turns. If the First Vision was true, if it actually happened, then the Book of Mormon is true. Then we have the priesthood. Then we have the Church organization and all of the other keys and blessings of authority which we say we have. If the First Vision did not occur, then we are involved in a great sham. It is just that simple." (New York Rochester Missionary Meeting, July 12, 1996.) (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 227)

President Thomas S. Monson, First Counselor in the First Presidency of the LDS Church, further notes the centrality of Joseph Smith to the Mormon faith:

"May we incorporate into our own lives the divine principles which [Joseph Smith] so beautifully taught."

Hinckley and Monson's exaltation of Joseph Smith reflect a basic tenet of the Mormon faith: salvation, in the LDS Church, entails bearing testimony to the truth of Joseph Smith's visions, otherwise known as the Book of Mormon.

In short, Joseph Smith and his Book of Mormon are clearly the very foundation of the LDS Church.  In fact, Joseph Smith teaches that the LDS Church is the only truth faith, and that Christianity is a false religion:

"18 My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

20 He again forbade me to join with any of them"  (Source; also here)

Joseph Smith's claim that Christianity is an "abomination" unto God, and that true believers would remain separate from Christians, is critical.  Because Christianity was a false religion, God established the true church, the LDS Church, through Smith.  Mormons to this day, as noted above, testify that Joseph Smith's vision is true.

But in the past few decades, something rather odd has happened within the LDS Church.  While unwavering in their claims to the truth of Joseph Smith's visions and teachings, Mormons also now claim that they are Christians

Plainly, contemporary Mormons cannot have it both ways.  To claim to be Christian is to deny the visions and teachings of Joseph Smith, the cornerstone of the Mormon faith.

In addition, apart from the historical problems inherent in claiming Mormonism is Christianity, Mormonism cannot possibly be a Christian faith, for polytheism is the theological framework of the LDS Church.

In Joseph Smith's words, there are "a plurality of gods" and individual males who faithfully follow Smith's teachings can themselves become gods in the afterlife.

Mormons today publicly downplay the polytheistic nature of their faith.  Their public discomfort over polytheism is such that even Gordon Hinckley, in a Time magazine cover story (August 4, 1997) publicly denied Joseph Smith's teachings on the subject.  Hinckley's public denial of Smith's teachings is problematic enough, but even more odd is that the LDS Prophet and President, by denying the polytheistic nature of his faith, denied the very reason why Mormon temples exist: to assist Mormon males on their transition from "mortality into the eternal realms."  Otherwise known as "eternal progression," this core doctrine of the LDS Church (and the reason Mormon temples exist) pertains to the manner in which a faithful Mormon male may ascend to the heavens and become a god and rule over his own planet in the afterlife (go here to read more about LDS "exaltation").

In conclusion, is the LDS Church part of the Christian faith?  According to the testimony of Joseph Smith, the answer is no.  In addition, the polytheistic theological basis of the LDS faith precludes any possibility of Mormonism being Christian, as polytheism is diametrically opposed to monotheism.

Although Mormons are bent on convincing the world they are Christians, the bizarre theology of the Mormon church is increasingly coming under public scrutiny, of which the latest chapter is Mitt Romney's quest for the presidency of the United States of America.  Romney, a Mormon bishop, is hesitant to discuss his Mormon faith.  And perhaps his reluctance is with good reason.

Notes: 
1. Most of the reference links above are provided from official Mormon or Mormon-friendly sites.  If you wish to explore more about the Mormon faith, you may wish to delve deeper into these referenced websites, particularly lds.org.
2.
Technically speaking, LDS is "monarchial polytheism," otherwise known as "henotheism."  The belief in many gods but worship of one god has existed since ancient times, when some polytheists recognized the existence of many gods, but either worshipped one (of the many) and/or recognized one (of the many) as superior to the others.  In addition to LDS, ancient Egyptians, Assyro-Babylonians and the Indo-European pantheons (among others) were "monarchial polytheists" or "henotheists."  Christians have never been considered either "monarchial polytheists" or "henotheists."