Similarities between Mormons and Muslims

Considering that political commentator Bill Maher theologically describes himself as an apatheist (someone apathetic towards theism), I rarely agree with his views. Last week, while talking about Mitt Romney, he stated that Mormonism has more in common with Islam than it does with Christianity. This is a view with which I have agreed for some time.

Most people probably would not make this connection. After all, Mormonism is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Jesus is in their name! How much more clear does it get?

But what’s in a name? When you actually have a grasp on comparative religion, there are similarities Mormonism has with Islam which are simply absent from the ways in which it relates to Christianity.

I should probably state that I do not literally view Mormonism as a sect of Islam (I would sincerely doubt that Maher does either), but I have outlined some key similarities. There are many more, but I wanted to start with the basics.

1. Historical justifications for legitimacy

Judaism believes that the Israelites were God’s chosen people. God gave them the Law, and for hundreds of years, God sent prophets who attested to a coming Messiah who would rule the Jewish people.

Christians believe Jesus to be that Messiah.

Mormonism believes that Christianity had been a true religion, but that it had become corrupted over time relative to the state in which the church was founded. They believe that there was a third Testament (the Book of Mormon), which the angel Moroni revealed to the prophet Joseph Smith.

Muslims believe that while there had been numerous prophets, God’s final true revelation was presented to the prophet Mohammed through the angel Gabriel.

Both of these religions do believe that there is truth within the Judeo-Christian tradition, but that they had a later revelation.

2. The way in which we are reconciled to God

Both religions Christianity believes that salvation comes by grace through faith in Jesus.

Mormons believe that faith is very important, but it is not by faith alone that people are saved. It is also by works. Similarly in Islam, faith in Allah is one of the keys to paradise, but they also have a legalistic code which adherents are to follow.

3. Levels of heaven

Mormons and Muslims both believe that our place in heaven is based on obedience to the law. People who are more moral get a better heaven.

This idea is not a part of Christian doctrine.

4. Qualifications of clergy

Within most Christian denominations, pastors and priests are individuals who have spent years being intensively trained for ministry.

This is not the case in Islam and Mormonism. That’s not to say that there are not theologically competent scholars in both religions, because there are. But these people are not in a day to day leadership role over the equivilant of a congegration. Mormon’s elect a president of their church, in Islam a Mosque is overseen by an Imam.

Bill Maher

There is one thing with which I disagree with Maher. In his comments last week, he emphasized the difference similarity between Islam and Mormonism as revolving around the way in which Jesus is viewed. Muslims and Mormons view Jesus distinctly different than the rest of Christianity, but Mormons and Muslims do not view Jesus in the same way (or in a similar way) to each other.

So based on the way in which Jesus is viewed, I cannot look at that as a similarity between the two. Both do view him differently than Christianity, but because it is different from Christianity does not make the Mormon and Islamic views mutually similar to each other.

Maher said:

Once they find out that Jesus Christ is like third in the hierarchy there. Really was about Joseph Smith. Actually, Mormonism is closer to Islam because in Islam, Jesus is also a revered figure. He’s a wonderful prophet. He’s just not the ultimate prophet. You know, he’s like the middle act. He’s certainly not the headliner.

I disagree that Jesus is “third” in Mormonism. Mormons do view Jesus as a god, but not the God who created the universe. Theologically, I do think that the Mormon view is distinct from the rest of Christianity.

Christians believe that God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are one entity with three manifestations. Mormons view it as three distinct entities who are unified in purpose.

Muslims view Jesus as a great prophet who performed miracles, but he was not God, and the idea of thinking of him as God is blasphemous to a Muslim.

jrb

I origininally saw an article discussing Maher’s comments in an article on http://newsbusters.org

The image at the top of this post comes from the Flickr Creative Commons project. It is the work of Michael Fisher. Please click the photo for more information.</blockquote>