and Latter-day Saints
Presbyterians in many parts
of the United States live in close proximity with Mormon neighbors.
Historically, these contacts with one another have often involved
mutual difficulties. Today Presbyterians are challenged to apply
the learnings we are gaining about interfaith relations to our
relationships with Latter-day Saints.
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 members of both churches use common theological
terms. Nevertheless, Mormonism is a new and emerging religious
tradition distinct from the historic apostolic tradition of
the Christian Church, of which Presbyterians are a part.
Latter-day Saints understand themselves to be separate from
the continuous witness to Jesus Christ, from the apostles to
the present, affirmed by churches of the "catholic"
Latter-day Saints and the historic churches view the canon
of scriptures and interpret shared scriptures in radically different
ways. They use the same words with dissimilar meanings. When
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speaks of the
Trinity, Christ's death and resurrection, and salvation, the
theology and practices related to these set it apart from the
Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Protestant churches.
It is the practice of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to
receive on profession of faith those coming directly from a
Mormon background and to administer baptism. Presbyterians do
not invite officials of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints to administer the Lord's Supper.
The Reformed tradition believes that the canon of scripture
is closed and the Bible is complete, although the Holy Spirit
continues to lead the Church into deeper understandings of God's
revelation. Reformed Christians test new understandings against
the content of the central revelatory events recorded in the
Bible. Latter-day Saints speak of receiving new revelations.
Revelatory events not found in the Old and New Testaments are
recounted in additional Mormon scriptures.
The historic apostolic creeds of the church remind Christians
how difficult it is to speak about God. Reformed Christians
have described the person of God as invisible, without body
or passions. God's otherness is overcome in the incarnation
of Jesus Christ. Mormon teachings speak about God in literally
anthropomorphic terms. Latter-day Saints understand that all
souls live a premortal life as spirit children of Heavenly Father
and say that humans may become gods, "as God is."
They define themselves as monotheists since they give allegiance
only to Heavenly Father, creator and ruler of this world.
For Latter-day Saints, salvation through Christ's atonement
is a first step toward sanctification and exaltation — an eternal
progression that is in the hand of each person and family —
thus explaining the special importance of obedient living, marriage,
or baptism for the dead. The Reformed tradition understands
both the initiative and completion of the plan of salvation
to rest on God's grace. Nothing is required but acceptance of
God in Christ, from which a life of gratitude flows.
The 199th General Assembly (1987) of the Presbyterian Church
(U.S.A.) provided general suggestions concerning newer religious
traditions that profess allegiance to Jesus. The 207th General
Assembly (1995) offered specific guidelines for interfaith relationships
Support the search to promote understanding.
- Learn about the cross-cultural context in which Presbyterians
living in areas of significant Mormon concentration carry
out the apostolic ministry of the church.
- Study the historical experience of Mormons that has contributed
to their present forms of social cohesion.
- Seek firm grounding in your own understanding of revelation.
- Use educational materials prepared for pastors and church
- In predominantly Mormon areas, help new members of Presbyterian
churches to learn about the historic apostolic tradition of
the Christian church.
Support the search for cooperation.
- Seek opportunities to work on common concerns in society
together with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
and Mormon people.
- Identify common interests and converging moral imperatives
for the good of the larger community. These do not require
full agreement about beliefs or practices.
- Work to develop friendly relations built on mutual respect
- Respond to invitations to Latter-day Saints' activities
(e.g., Boy Scouts, Mutual Improvement Association, athletic
events) in a manner appropriate to their interfaith context.
- Use guidelines for interfaith celebration and worship where
appropriate, including when interfaith families request Presbyterian
participation in weddings and funerals.
Support the search for witness.
- Exercise special pastoral sensitivity at funerals and memorial
services involving interreligious families.
- As you joyously witness to the good news of Jesus Christ
among all people, feel free to share the gospel with persons
of Mormon background. Witness is dialogical, both speaking
and listening with an attitude of openness and respect.
- Do not use conflict to manipulate persons to change their
- Witness to your own faith rather than speaking against the
- Resist the temptation to respond with fear or hostility
if you are confronted with proselytizing efforts.
Presbyterian relationships with Latter-day Saints have changed
throughout the twentieth century. By God's grace they may change
See General Assembly actions on which this content is based:
Nature of Revelation 1987; Guidelines 1995. Use Presbyterians
and Mormons: A Study in Contrasts and a Resource Packet for
study and guidance.
Office of Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, Presbyterian
Church (U.S.A.). Resource Packet on Presbyterians and Latter-day
Saints. Available 1998. PDS #74-292-98-001.
Presbytery of Utah. A Present Day Look at the Latter-day
Saints. Published by Office of the General Assembly, Presbyterian
Church (U.S.A.), 1990. PDS #OGA
Robinson, Stephen E. Are Mormons Christians? Bookcraft,
Salt Lake City, 1991.
Shipps, Jan. Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition.
University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago, 1985.
Theology and Worship Unit, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Presbyterians
and Mormons: A Study in Contrasts. 1990. See this material
for the full text adopted for guidance by the 207th General
Assembly (1995), with study guide and bibliography. PDS #273-90-001.
World Council of Churches. Guidelines on Dialogue with
People of Living Faiths and Ideologies, revised 1993, Geneva.
ISBN 2-8254-0607-4. This brochure describes relationships with
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with headquarters
in Salt Lake City, Utah. Contact the church for its materials.
"... Mormonism differs from traditional Christianity
in much the same fashion that traditional Christianity ...
came to differ from Judaism."
— Mormonism: The
Story of a New Religious Tradition
"This study is not about the faith of individual Mormons
or about the ability of Mormonism to generate faith .....
"..... theology, history, and religious practices are
legitimate topics for interfaith discussions and evaluations.
Each of these comes second ... as an expression and implication
and Mormons: A Study in Contrasts Study Guide
"... self-serving descriptions of other peoples' faith
are one of the roots of prejudice, stereotyping, and condescension.
Listening carefully to the neighbors' self-understanding enables
Christians better to obey the commandment not to bear false
witness against their neighbors ...
"... any religion or ideology claiming universality
... will also have its own interpretations of other religions
and ideologies as part of its own self-understanding. Dialogue
gives an opportunity for a mutual questioning of the understanding
partners have about themselves and others."
— Guidelines on
Dialogue with People of Living Faiths and Ideologie