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>

6 thoughts on “Similarities between Mormons and Muslims”

  1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints is a part of Christianity in a similar way to other churches whether they be Baptists, Pentecostals, Anglicans, Catholics etc. To say that they have more in common with Islam than Christianity – and then try to demonstrate why – can only be done through heavily twisting the facts.
    I notice that a lot of times you refer to “christianity” as believing a particular thing, yet within christianity, all churches teach and believe differently. Not all for example believe that “faith alone” will save them. Not all believe in the ‘trinity’.
    There are differences throughout… and again, Mormonism is similar in this way. They believe Jesus to be the Son of God, and the Saviour of the world. Hardly a common belief held by Islam…

    1. I sincerely appreciate you reading and taking the time for commenting.

      It is not correct that the LDS church is similar to Baptists, Pentecoastals, Anglicans, Catholics, and other denominations. While all of those sects do have nuances in their beliefs, there is significant agreement. However, they all differ significantly between the theological beliefs within Mormonism.

      Last week, I was reading a piece in the Washington Post by Mormon author Joanna Brooks pertaining to myths our society believes about Mormonism. One of the “myths” she stated was the belief held by many that Mormons aren’t really Christians. Responding to this, she stated:

      “We Mormons view ourselves as Christians. Many Christian pastors and scholars, however, point to theological technicalities that disqualify us from the mainline tradition.”

      Her mistake is that they are not technicalieites. They are major theological differences.

      I must also disagree with your statement about other churches and the doctrine of the trinity. Name another school of thought within Christianity who does not affirm the Trinity? Jehovah’s Witnesses? Oneness Pentecoastals? Unitarian Universalits? These are all groups whose beliefs are also largely viewed as being heretical.

      The ones who do not believe in this are always considered heresys. The Catholic, Reformed, Arminian, and Orthodox traditions all affirm the Trinity, and Mormons do not.

      Relative to the vast majority of the Christian Church, Mormons have distinctly different views pertaining to: original sin, heaven, hell, sanctification, Canon, application of baptism, sufficiency of grace, incarnation of the spirit pertaining to the birth of Jesus, marriage, and a host of other significant issues.

      It’s not that I think Mormons are Muslims. It’s that Mormonism has some significant similarities with Islam.

      jrb

  2. Well that’s just it – as you have eluded to – Christianity is so divided. Teachings that contradict with one another. Some churches are rejected by others. It doesn’t mean one is any more ‘christian’ than another..

    You ask me to name a church that doesn’t believe in the Trinity – I’ll name Pentecostals.

    The definition of Christianity is quite simple – it is one who believes in Christ, and accepts him to be oth the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. Anything beyond that is beyond the definition. All churches interpret him and his teachings differently, but they all agree that he is our Saviour.

    Islam is very different to Mormonism. It’s core teachings are fundamentally different. It is simply illogical to say that Mormons have more in common with Muslims than other Christians.

    1. You are overstating how divided I think that other denominations are. While I did acknowledge that there are nuances in belief, there is significant theological and doctrinal agreement. Those same denominations have essentially nothing in common with Mormonism from a doctrinal standpoint (and there is essentially uniform agreement on the major issues within these other denominations).

      Throughout the history of the church, there have been numerous brilliant minds who have had influences. A few examples would include: John Calvin, John Knox, Martin Luther, John Wesley, John Wycliffe, Jan Hus, Jonathan Edwards, and numerous other individuals. Do you know what they had in common?

      None of them ever claimed that they were prophets, or that angels from God came and gave them a third revelation, or that it was the will of God to reinstate the apostles, or that their own words could be used as scripture.

      Yes, Mormons do use the name of Jesus, but the epistemological and theological foundations on which the belief system is created are radically different from the rest of Christianity.

      Also, Pentecostals are not inherently non-Trinitarian. It is most commonly the “Oneness” movement within Pentecostalism which believes that.

      What are the differences between Mormonism and Islam?

      jrb

  3. Hi Josh
    I don’t want to sidetrack from your blog, and we certainly don’t look like we will agree, so my comments will be brief.
    Christianity is heavily divided. Split to the core. There are many many denominations, and within those, many many split offs. I know that some Pentecostal churches (more particularly those in africa) teach that Jesus is seperate to God. Yet other Pentecostal churches teach the trinity. There are of course many christians who attend their respective denominations, who don’t believe in the trinity irrespective of what their denomination teaches.
    Mormons are Christians. They may not be the same as other churches, but they are no less Christian. They believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and that he is the Saviour of the world. That in and only through him, our sins are cleansed, and we are saved. This is the Jesus of the Bible. This is undisputed, all christians believe it.
    The “trinity” apect is not straight forward. It is not clear from the bible – there are many passages of scriputre that both elude to the trinity, and many that elude to Jesus and God being wholly seperate (no trinity). It is not correct to say the Jeus of the Bible is God. The trinity is an interpretation of the Bible Jesus. It is not right therefore to say that mormon’s are not christian because they don’t accept the Trinity claim.
    As for your question regarding the differences between Mormonism and Islam, I’ll give but one (although there are many). Mormons believe Jesus to be the son of God (as all Christians do). Mulsims believe that he is but a prophet. That is a huge difference!
    Though we differ in opinion, I’m grateful that you have allowed my contribution to your comments. Cheers
    Daniel

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s