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What Some Christian Denominations Say about the LDS Church

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What Some Christian Denominations Say about the LDS Church

Robert M. Bowman Jr.

It is well known that evangelical Protestants generally view the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, popularly known as Mormonism, as a false religion. In a 2010 survey by Lifeway Research of a thousand U.S. pastors of varying Protestant denominations, only 12% of evangelical pastors agreed that Mormons were Christians.1 In particular, the media has from time to time given a great deal of attention to the criticisms of the LDS Church made by Southern Baptists, the largest Protestant denomination in the United States (currently numbering 13 million). However, what is not generally known is that most Christian denominations and leaders agree that the LDS Church is not an authentic Christian church.

It is an objective fact that the LDS Church does not accept some of the fundamental Christian beliefs shared by the three major streams of Christianity—Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. For this reason, the LDS religion is significantly different from historic, traditional Christianity of any denomination. In other words, the differences between, say, the Catholic Church and the LDS Church, or between the United Methodist Church and the LDS Church, are far more radical than the differences among such denominations as the Catholic Church and the United Methodist Church.

Consistent with this radical divide between the LDS Church and traditional Christianity, several major Christian denominations have issued statements explicitly denying that the LDS religion is an acceptable form of Christianity. While we have some strong disagreements with non-evangelical forms of Christianity, we also have significant agreements with them concerning basic, essential Christian beliefs. We present these statements in order to document that evangelical Protestants are by no means the only Christians who view the LDS Church as a false church.

Some of the official denominational statements we present here are cited in many places online but with insufficient or outdated information as to where they can be found. We have cited only those statements that can be traced to the complete published texts so that anyone can read the statements in their full contexts.

Catholic Church (Roman Catholicism)

The Catholic Church, often called the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian body in the world, with over 1.3 billion members. About 62 million people in the United States are Catholic. In 2001, the Catholic Church issued a statement, approved by the Pope, denying that LDS Church baptism is valid Christian baptism:

Question:  Whet[h]er the baptism conferred by the community “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” called “Mormons” in the vernacular, is valid.

Response: Negative.

The Supreme Pontiff John Paul II, in the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect, approved the present Response, decided in the Sessione Ordinaria of this Congregation, and ordered it published.

From the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 5 June 2001. 

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect

Tarcisio Bertone, S.D.B., Archbishop emeritus of Vercelli, Secretary2

The practical significance of this declaration was that former Mormons who wish to join the Catholic Church must be baptized as Catholics. Two months later, the Catholic Church published a commentary on that statement by a Jesuit scholar, Luis Ladaria, in its official newspaper. He explained that the primary reason Catholics cannot accept LDS baptism is that the LDS Church has an entirely different understanding of God:

There is not a true invocation of the Trinity because the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, according to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are not the three persons in which subsists the one Godhead, but three gods who form one divinity…. God the Father has a wife, the Heavenly Mother, with whom he shares the responsibility of creation. They procreate sons in the spiritual world. Their firstborn is Jesus Christ, equal to all men, who has acquired his divinity in a pre-mortal existence…. Four gods are directly responsible for the universe, three of whom have established a covenant and thus form the divinity….

The words Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have for the Mormons a meaning totally different from the Christian meaning. The differences are so great that one cannot even consider that this doctrine is a heresy which emerged out of a false understanding of the Christian doctrine. The teaching of the Mormons has a completely different matrix.3

Ladaria’s point is that from a Catholic perspective the LDS view of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not just a heretical misunderstanding of the Christian doctrine, but part of an entirely different religion with its own “matrix” or belief system.

Before the year was out, a Mormon named Alonzo Gaskill published a lengthy article critically reviewing Ladaria’s article. The first part of Gaskill’s article argued that the Catholic Church was wrong to teach the doctrine of the Trinity, which just confirms Ladaria’s point that people baptized into the LDS Church must be presumed not to accept the historic Christian understanding of God.4 Interestingly, Gaskill had converted to Mormonism from the Greek Orthodox Church.5 Years later, a Catholic blogger calling himself Agellius (the name of a character in a Catholic novel) wrote a scathing rebuttal to Gaskill’s article, pointing out that Gaskill had failed to address most of Ladaria’s points. Agellius comments:

In short, the Mormon Church—by its own admission—did not grow out of either the Catholic Church or its offshoots. Rather, it purports to be a “re-boot,” discarding a millennium and a half of accumulated Christian tradition and doctrinal development, and starting (or resuming, from its point of view) its own tradition.6

What Agellius says here about the LDS Church would not apply to evangelical Protestantism. Protestant theology originated from Catholics who advocated theological and pastoral reform, not rejection of all Catholic teaching. Conservative Catholics and Protestants agree on the doctrine of the Trinity, the creation of the world out of nothing by the triune God, the Bible as the only infallible written word of God, Jesus Christ as the incarnation of the uniquely preexistent, divine Son, and the promise that all redeemed people will live forever in fellowship with God in his eternal kingdom. These are all biblically grounded doctrines that Christians of all the major denominational traditions accept—and that the LDS Church strongly rejects.

Orthodox Church (Eastern Orthodoxy)

The word “orthodox” (with no capitalization) in Christianity generally describes forms of Christianity that affirm the basic doctrines expressed in the church’s early creeds. When the word is capitalized, it designates the worldwide fellowship known as the Orthodox Church or more informally as Eastern Orthodoxy. Each organizational body of Orthodoxy, most of which arose as regional institutions (such as the Greek Orthodox, the Russian Orthodox, and so forth) is headed by a leader called the patriarch. About 220 million people worldwide are Orthodox.

Due to the multiple organizations under the umbrella of Orthodoxy, to the best of our knowledge there is no “official” Orthodox statement on Mormonism or the LDS Church. However, an article on the website OrthodoxWiki gives a good representative description of Mormonism from an Orthodox perspective. The following statement is especially noteworthy:

There is a definite distinction in the Church between God and mankind, between the Creator and His Creation. God is eternal, and existed for eternity prior to (and entirely separate from) His creation (which, unlike its Creator, is not eternal), until the incarnation of the pre-eternal Word of God, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, as Our Lord Jesus Christ. This was a unique union between God and His creation, which never existed before. Mormonism, on the other hand, teaches that man and God are of the same “race” and men have the potential not just to achieve complete union with God but to become gods as He is now.

Mormonism’s designation by Orthodoxy as being “heretical”—instead of “heterodox,” as is the case with the Roman Catholic and most major Protestant faiths—stems primarily from their spurious doctrines on the Holy Trinity and the nature of God, together with various other specious beliefs.

Mormons have a very difficult time understanding why Orthodox and other Christians deny that they are Christian. The simplest answer to this question is that the Mormon god is simply not God—at least not the God worshiped by Orthodox Christians (and other Trinitarians). This does not mean that the Mormons are necessarily immoral or wicked people, simply that they worship a god different from the God worshiped in the Christian Trinity.7

The article uses the term “heretical” somewhat differently than the Catholic author Luis Ladaria, but the same basic distinction comes through. Eastern Orthodoxy has strong disagreements with Protestants, but it acknowledges that in general Protestants, who share the same view of God’s nature and the three persons of the Trinity, are Christians. By contrast, from an Orthodox perspective “the Mormon god is simply not God,” and therefore Mormons are not Christians.

Mainline Protestant Denominations

The term “mainline” denotes U.S.-based Protestant denominations that for the past hundred years or so have had varying mixtures of conservative (or evangelical) and liberal (or “progressive”) members. Outside of the United States, such denominations are commonly called “ecumenical” rather than mainstream. Some of the mainline denominations are almost entirely liberal now, perhaps most notably the Episcopal Church in the USA.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, a majority of mainline Protestants have generally agreed with evangelicals that the LDS Church is not a Christian body. In the Lifeway Research survey that we mentioned at the beginning of this article, only about 25% of mainline Protestant pastors affirmed that Mormons were Christians and nearly half strongly denied that Mormons were Christians. At least three mainline Protestant denominations, including the two largest, have made formal statements explaining why they do not consider the LDS Church to be Christian.

United Methodist Church

The United Methodist Church (UMC) has somewhat less than 6 million members in the United States, making it the largest mainline Protestant denomination. It has nearly 13 million members worldwide. In its 2000 General Conference, the UMC published a statement recommending that former Latter-day Saints should be baptized if they wish to join the UMC. It concluded as follows:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by self-definition, does not fit within the bounds of the historic, apostolic tradition of Christian faith. This conclusion is supported by the fact that the LDS Church itself, while calling itself Christian, explicitly professes a distinction and separateness from the ecumenical community and is intentional about clarifying significant differences in doctrine. As United Methodists we agree with their assessment that the LDS Church is not a part of the historic, apostolic tradition of the Christian faith.8

Note that this UMC statement points out that the LDS Church is frank about not being one of the many Christian denominations and that its doctrines are significantly different from those of traditional Christianity. The statement avoids getting into any debates over those doctrinal differences. Instead, it simply concludes that Methodists should take the LDS Church at its word and not consider it one of the historic forms of Christianity from which people might convert to Methodism without getting newly baptized.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is the second-largest mainline denomination in the United States, with over 3 million members. The term “Evangelical” in the name of the denomination does not identify it as theologically aligned with evangelicalism, which is the movement of theologically conservative Protestants. Rather, the term expresses the ELCA’s self-description as a gospel-focused church.

The ELCA produced a paper that addressed the question, “Do Lutherans re-baptize former Mormons who are joining the congregation?” Revised in 2013, the paper begins by emphasizing that they do not “re-baptize” anyone because they do not baptize anyone who was baptized in a recognized Christian church of any denomination.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints does not hold the traditional Christian teaching about the Holy Trinity. Rather, it seems to treat each person of the Trinity as a separate deity…. Although Mormons may use water—and lots of it—and while they may say “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” their teaching about the nature of God is substantially different from that of orthodox, creedal Christianity. Because the Mormon understanding of the Word of God is not the same as the Christian understanding, it is correct to say that Christian Baptism has not taken place.9

Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), or PCUSA, is another mainline Protestant denomination, with over a million members. In 1990, it published a booklet contrasting Presbyterians and Mormons. While very respectful toward Latter-day Saints, the booklet makes a number of crucial statements explaining why the LDS Church should not be considered a Christian church:

What is troubling to Presbyterians, and many other Christians, is that the picture of God that emerges in Mormon scriptures is not the picture we find of God in the Old and New Testaments…. The thesis of this paper is that Mormon theology, biblical interpretation, and rewriting of scriptures separate that religious body from Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic expressions of the faith.10

A later, undated pamphlet published by the PCUSA recommends the above-cited booklet, noting that the 1995 General Assembly of the denomination had adopted the booklet for its members’ study and guidance, and it affirms the same conclusion:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, like the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), declares allegiance to Jesus. Latter-day Saints and Presbyterians share use of the Bible as scripture and use common theological terms. Nevertheless, Mormonism is a new religious tradition distinct from the historic apostolic tradition of the Church, of which Presbyterians are a part. Its practices and theology set it apart from the Protestant, Orthodox, and Roman Catholic churches. It views the canon of scriptures and interprets shared scriptures in radically different ways. Like Presbyterians, Latter-day Saints speak of God, the Trinity, Christ’s death and resurrection, yet they use the same words with dissimilar meanings.11


The prevailing evangelical view that the LDS Church is not a Christian church is not the result of evangelical prejudice or animus against Mormons. We do not take this view merely because Latter-day Saints are “different” from us. Rather, in common with Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and mainline Protestants, evangelicals view the LDS Church as not authentically Christian due to its radical denials of basic Christian beliefs, especially pertaining to the nature of God, the doctrine of the Trinity, and the person of Jesus Christ.

As all of the statements we have quoted in this article make clear at various points, our conclusion that the LDS Church is not authentically Christian should not be construed as a blanket generalization about the status of every individual Mormon. Some Latter-day Saints may be genuine Christians despite their affiliation with a false church, just as some members of evangelical churches may not be genuine Christians despite their affiliation with authentic Christian church bodies. However, we do consider LDS Church members in general to need to hear and believe the truth about God and the gospel in order to be assured of a right relationship with God. Our intention is not to seek converts to our denominations but to seek those who are spiritually lost, of whatever religion if any (even of our own!), to bring them to the real Jesus Christ.



1. Pastors Say Mormons Not Christians,” Lifeway Research, Oct. 10, 2011.

2. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Tarcisio Bertone, “Response to a ‘Dubium’ on the validity of baptism conferred by ‘The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,’ called ‘Mormons,’” Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (, June 5, 2001. Ratzinger went on to become the Pope (2005–2013).

3. Fr. Luis Ladaria, S.J., “The Question of the Validity of Baptism Conferred in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” L’Osservatore Romano, Aug. 1, 2001, 4 (available at

4. Alonzo Gaskill, “Maximus Nothus Decretum: A Look at the Recent Catholic Declaration regarding Latter-day Saint Baptisms,” FARMS Review of Books 13.2 (2001): 175–96 (see 176–81).

5. Trent Toone, “From Greek Orthodox to Mormon: One professor’s LDS conversion and other lessons at BYU Education Week,” Deseret News, Aug. 25, 2017.

6. Agellius, “A Response to ‘Maximus Nothus Decretum,” by Alonzo Gaskill (re the validity of Mormon baptism,” Petty Armchair Popery (blog), Sept. 19, 2012.

7. Mormonism,” Orthodox Wiki, last edited 2018.

8. “806-NonDis, Subject: Receive guidelines for ministering to Mormons who seek to become UM,” in Daily Christian Advocate: The General Conference of the United Methodist Church (Cleveland, OH), 4.7 (May 9, 2000), reprinted in Journal of the Uniting Conference of the United Methodist Church (May 2000), 2056–57. Emphasis in original. This document is reprinted on the official General Conference 2000 website. The petition for this recommendation was approved by the Conference plenary session on May 10 with a vote of 679 yes and only 11 no. See “Calendar: 806-NonDis,” on the same website. “NonDis” is an abbreviation for “non-disciplinary” matters.

9. Do Lutherans re-baptize former Mormons who are joining the congregation?, Worship Formation & Liturgical Resources: Frequently Asked Questions, rev. ed. (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 2013), 2, available as a PDF on the ELCA website.

10. Presbyterians and Mormons: A Study in Contrasts (Louisville, KY: Theology and Worship Ministry Unit, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1990), 7, 10. Dr. Allan Swan, an Idaho PCUSA pastor, was the document’s main author, but two other authors directly contributed, and input was received from a large number of readers including PCUSA pastors and teachers, an LDS historian, and some LDS theologians (4). At the time of this writing (in 2023), a PDF of the booklet is available from Presbyterian Mission.

11. Presbyterians and Latter-day Saints (Louisville, KY: Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, Worldwide Ministries Division, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), n.d.), also available from Presbyterian Mission.