Have you ever wondered about the main differences between Christianity and Mormonism? In this article, we will explore the distinctions between these two religious beliefs. While both are rooted in faith, there are varying practices, doctrines, and histories that set them apart. By understanding these disparities, you can gain a deeper appreciation for the uniqueness of each faith and foster a greater understanding of religious diversity.
Beliefs and Practices
Doctrine of the Trinity
In Christianity, the Doctrine of the Trinity holds that God is one being, existing in three persons: the Father, the Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit. This belief emphasizes the unity and co-equality of the three persons within the Godhead.
Mormonism, on the other hand, has a unique perspective on the Doctrine of the Trinity. Mormons believe in God the Father, His Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, but they do not see them as three distinct persons within one being. Instead, Mormons view them as separate and distinct beings, each with their own tangible bodies. This belief in separate personages challenges the traditional understanding of the Trinity in mainstream Christianity.
The Nature of God
Christianity teaches that God is eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent. Christians believe in the divine attributes of God, including his love, mercy, and justice. God is seen as the Creator and Sustainer of the universe and is worshiped as the ultimate authority.
Mormonism, on the other hand, has a distinct view of the nature of God. Mormons believe that God was once a mortal being who went through a process of progression to become divine. They believe that humans have the potential to become gods in the afterlife and participate in a concept known as “eternal progression.” This belief deviates from the traditional Christian view of God as being eternally perfect and unchanging.
Christianity considers the Bible as its primary and authoritative source of religious teachings. Christians believe that the Bible is inspired by God and serves as a guide for their faith and practices. Different denominations may have variations in the arrangement and inclusion of certain books within the Bible, but the Old and New Testaments are universally recognized.
In addition to the Bible, Mormons also revere the Book of Mormon as scripture. They believe that Joseph Smith, Jr., the founder of Mormonism, translated the Book of Mormon from ancient records. Mormons consider the Book of Mormon to be an additional testament of Jesus Christ, alongside the Bible. They also believe in modern-day revelations in the form of other texts such as The Doctrine and Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price.
Christianity teaches that salvation is obtained through faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Savior. Christians believe that salvation is a gift of grace from God and cannot be earned through good works alone. It is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ that individuals can find forgiveness of sins and eternal life.
Mormons also believe in the importance of faith in Jesus Christ for salvation. However, they add an additional element to the process known as “works.” Mormons believe that salvation requires not only faith but also obedience to God’s commandments, participation in various religious rituals, and adherence to the teachings of the Mormon Church. They believe that good works help to merit God’s grace and contribute to one’s personal progression towards exaltation.
In Christianity, baptism is viewed as a sacrament where an individual publicly declares their faith in Jesus Christ and is symbolically cleansed of their sins. Different Christian denominations may have variations in their baptismal practices, such as the age at which baptism is performed and the method (sprinkling, pouring, or immersion).
Mormons also practice baptism but with some distinctive beliefs and practices. Mormons baptize individuals by complete immersion, as they believe it aligns with the example set by Jesus Christ. They also perform baptisms for the dead, which they believe allows deceased individuals to accept the gospel and receive salvation in the afterlife. This practice is based on their belief in the importance of baptism and the need for it to be performed by proper authority.
Worship and Sacraments
Christian worship varies across different denominations but generally includes practices such as communal prayer, singing hymns or songs of worship, biblical preaching, and the observance of sacraments. The main sacraments recognized in most Christian denominations are baptism and the Eucharist (also known as Communion or the Lord’s Supper).
Mormons have regular worship services on Sundays, where they engage in activities such as prayer, hymn singing, teaching, and partaking of the sacrament. The sacrament in Mormonism is similar to Communion in Christianity, where bread and water are distributed as symbols of Jesus Christ’s body and blood. Additionally, Mormons have temple worship, which includes more symbolic and sacred rituals that are restricted to devout members who have met certain requirements.
Origins and History
Christianity traces its origins back to the life and teachings of Jesus Christ in the 1st century AD. It emerged as a sect within Judaism and soon spread throughout the Roman Empire. The central figure of Christianity, Jesus Christ, is believed to be the Son of God who fulfilled Old Testament prophecies and established a new covenant between God and humanity through his sacrificial death and resurrection.
Mormonism, officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), was founded in the early 19th century by Joseph Smith, Jr. According to Smith’s accounts, he experienced a series of visions and revelations that led him to believe that true Christianity had been corrupted and that he was called to restore the true Church of Jesus Christ.
Smith claimed to have translated the Book of Mormon, which he said was written on ancient American plates buried by a prophet named Mormon. The Book of Mormon is seen by Mormons as a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas and a companion to the Bible.
Prophets and Revelations
In Christianity, the canon of scripture was closed with the completion of the New Testament. While Christians believe in the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit and his guidance, there is generally no belief in ongoing prophecies or revelations that add new scripture to the Bible. Christian denominations may have different views on the role of spiritual gifts and charismatic experiences, but none claim to add or replace biblical texts.
Mormonism, on the other hand, believes in the ongoing nature of prophetic revelation. Mormons consider Joseph Smith to be a prophet chosen by God to restore the true Church and receive additional revelations and commandments. They believe in modern-day prophets and apostles who receive ongoing revelations and guidance for the Church and its members. The LDS Church sees the President of the Church as the current prophet and revelator, with the authority to receive and transmit divine guidance and doctrine.
Leadership and Organization
Christianity has a diverse range of denominations and organizational structures. The most widely recognized leadership positions in Christianity include pastors, priests, bishops, and elders, depending on the denomination. The governance of a Christian denominational body can vary, with some having a hierarchical system headed by a bishop or pope, while others have more congregational or independent structures.
In the Mormon Church, leadership is hierarchical and organized around a central authority. The President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, who is believed to hold the keys of the priesthood and receive direct revelations for the Church, is considered the highest authority. He is assisted by two counselors and a group of twelve apostles. The Church is divided into geographic regions called stakes, each led by a president who oversees multiple congregations known as wards.
Views on Jesus Christ
Christianity views Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, and the Savior of humanity. Christians believe that Jesus was fully divine and fully human, born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, performed miracles, died on the cross for the forgiveness of sins, and rose from the dead. Jesus is central to Christian theology and is seen as the mediator between God and humanity.
Mormons also believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ and his role as the Savior. However, they have some distinct beliefs about his nature and mission. Mormons believe that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God the Father and the literal elder brother of all humans in the pre-mortal life. They believe that Jesus Christ’s atonement enables individuals to be resurrected and gain forgiveness for their sins. Mormons also believe that Jesus Christ visited the Americas after his resurrection, as described in the Book of Mormon.
Afterlife and Eternity
Heaven and Hell
In Christianity, heaven and hell are seen as eternal destinations for individuals based on their relationship with God. Heaven is typically described as a place of eternal joy, communion with God, and the reunification of believers. Hell is generally understood as a place of eternal separation from God, characterized by punishment and suffering for those who have rejected God’s offer of salvation.
Mormonism has a more nuanced view of heaven and hell. Mormons believe in multiple levels of heaven, known as the Celestial Kingdom, Terrestrial Kingdom, and Telestial Kingdom. The Celestial Kingdom is considered the highest level and is reserved for those who have accepted the fullness of the Mormon gospel, including various covenants and ordinances. The Terrestrial and Telestial Kingdoms are seen as lesser degrees of glory for those who have lived less faithfully or rejected the Mormon gospel. Mormons also believe in the concept of outer darkness, a state of eternal punishment reserved for those who have committed the gravest sins and denied the Holy Spirit.
A significant distinction in Mormon belief is the concept of eternal progression. Mormons believe that humans have the potential to become gods in the afterlife, as God the Father once did. This belief suggests that individuals can continue to progress, learn, and acquire new knowledge and skills throughout eternity. It is believed that progression is facilitated through obedience to God’s commandments and adherence to Mormon teachings.
Polygamy is generally not accepted or practiced within mainstream Christianity. While there are instances of polygamy in the Bible, it is seen as a historical practice rather than a requirement or endorsement. The overwhelming majority of Christian denominations consider monogamy to be the standard and ideal for marriage, based on the teachings of Jesus and the apostles.
Polygamy played a significant role in the early history of Mormonism. Joseph Smith, as well as subsequent leaders of the LDS Church, practiced and promoted polygamy as a religious principle. However, in 1890, the LDS Church officially disavowed the practice and banned it, seeking to align with the laws and societal norms of the time. While some splinter groups still practice polygamy, the mainstream LDS Church no longer condones or practices it.
Role of Women
The role of women in Christianity varies across different denominations and cultural contexts. While some Christian traditions have traditionally limited women’s leadership roles within the Church, others have embraced women as pastors, priests, and leaders. There is a wide range of interpretation and practice regarding women’s participation in ministry, with many churches advocating for equal opportunities.
In Mormonism, women hold distinct roles within the structure of the Church. Women are considered equal in terms of their worth and potential for spiritual progression. However, their roles within the hierarchical leadership structure are primarily limited to auxiliary organizations and support roles. Women hold leadership positions in organizations such as the Relief Society, Young Women, and Primary, but they do not hold the priesthood or serve as general authorities.
Views on Modern Revelation
Christianity, in general, does not consider modern revelations to be on par with the authority of the Bible. The canon of scripture is generally understood to be closed, with no additional Scripture being added or prophetic revelations that supersede biblical teachings. However, individual Christians may believe in personal revelations, promptings of the Holy Spirit, and ongoing guidance from God, but these are typically viewed as subjective experiences rather than authoritative doctrine for the entire Church.
Mormonism places a strong emphasis on modern revelation. Mormons believe that the President of the LDS Church serves as a prophet, seer, and revelator, receiving ongoing guidance and inspiration for the Church and its members. This belief in ongoing revelations and the ability to receive personal revelation is central to Mormon religious practice and decision-making. Mormons are encouraged to seek personal revelation through prayer and faith in order to receive guidance for their own lives.
Christianity has a rich tradition of missionary work, with the aim of sharing the Gospel and inviting individuals to accept Jesus Christ as their Savior. Different Christian denominations and organizations have varying approaches to missionary work, ranging from sending full-time missionaries to foreign countries to engaging in local community outreach.
Mormonism places a strong emphasis on missionary work. Mormons believe in the importance of sharing their faith and inviting others to join the LDS Church. Young Mormon men are strongly encouraged to serve a two-year full-time mission, typically starting at the age of 18. Young women may also be called to serve missions, although the minimum age is typically 19. Mormon missionaries dedicate their time to proselytizing, teaching the Mormon gospel, and engaging in service activities.
Membership and Population
Christianity is the largest religion in the world, with an estimated 2.4 billion followers. It encompasses a wide range of denominations and branches, including Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy. The population of Christians is spread across all continents and in almost every country, making it a diverse and globally influential faith.
Mormonism, or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has a significantly smaller population compared to Christianity as a whole. As of 2020, there were an estimated 16.6 million Mormons worldwide. The majority of Mormons reside in the United States, although the Church has a growing presence in other countries. It is important to note that while Mormonism is a distinct religious tradition, its adherents identify as Christians and consider themselves to be part of the broader Christian faith.