Are Mormons Heretics?

12/22/2015 04:15 pm ET Updated Dec 22, 2016

I thought it might be useful to do a follow-up to my piece on "Are Mormons Christians" after I got quite a bit of feedback from Christians who do not consider Mormons part of the "group," despite the fact that Mormons quite obviously believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God and as the Redeemer of mankind, the only possible author of the Atonement of all sins, and the first fruits of the resurrection.

But, these Christians say, Mormons believe in a lot of other stuff that other Christians believe in. So they can't be Christians. And their ideas make other Christians uncomfortable. In case you didn't know, the technical term for this kind of a group is "heretics." Now, if you ask me if Mormons are heretics of Christianity, I would say immediately "yes." There is no doubt that our ideas about Christ, about heaven, about God the Father, about the eternities, about heaven and the resurrection are all heretical to traditional Christianity. And that doesn't even begin to address things like Mormon temple rituals or The Book of Mormon.

Here are some of the biggest heresies that are part of Mormon doctrine:

1. We believe God has a (perfected) body and that the body is an essential part of His divine nature. (We also say that our bodies are temples and this is part of the reason for the strict health code of The Word of Wisdom.)
2. We believe in a universal resurrection and that all humans will continue to grow and become more like God after resurrection.
3. We believe that all souls (including Christ and Lucifer) are children of God and participated in a war in Heaven. Some of those souls supported Lucifer and were not allowed to take bodies, but are left to try to possess the bodies of those who were on Christ's side and won the war.
4. We believe that there is no hell (except for a temporary way station) and that there are three kinds of heaven (telestial, terrestrial, and celestial).
5. We believe that temple rituals like baptism can and must be performed for every person who has ever lived on the earth (which will be the purpose of the thousand years of The Millennium, as well as our temple work).
6. We do not believe in original sin. We believe that God punishes no one for any sins but their own.
7. We believe that Christ is the God of this earth and that He was the head of a council of "elect souls," including Adam, who helped direct the creation using the "priesthood," also the power of God.
8. We don't pray to saints and we don't believe angels have wings. In Mormonism, angels are usually resurrected beings that look exactly like anyone else.
9. We believe that marriages and families will remain intact in heaven.
10. We believe in The Book of Mormon as a more correct way to God's will, since it was translated more directly than the Bible. (But we still believe the Bible to be the word of God.)

Looking at these different doctrines, it might be useful to point out that many of the most heretical ideas of Mormonism actually originated with other Christian denominations before they became part of Mormonism.

1. Marriage rather than celibacy was part of early Catholicism. It was only in 306 A.D. at the Council of Elvira that the Roman Catholic church demanded clerics be unmarried or celibate completely after ordination.
2. The snake of the Garden of Eden was an agent of God and the choice to partake of the fruit was a good one (Sethian).
3. Belief that God has human form (Audianism).
4. The current Christian theology of the trinity of God, which Mormons largely reject, was first codified by the "Nicean Crede" in 325 A.D.
5. Belief that original sin did not taint human nature (Pelegianism).
6. Condemnation of the baptism of infants (Henricians).
7. Belief that English people are descendants of the ancient Israelites (Anglo-Israelism).
8. The need to translate the Bible into the many languages of the congregants so they can read it on their own, rather than rely on the interpretation of others (many Protestant religions).
9. The belief that the gifts of prophecy, tongues, revelation, etc continue to this day (Montanism).
10. The denial of bodily indulgences similar to the strict Mormon health code "the Word of Wisdom" (Gnostics).

Some other heresies of Christianity that Mormonism does not accept:

1. Christ was not born divine, but was so virtuous he was "adopted" by God (Adoptionism).
2. Humans are divine creatures trapped in material bodies (Gnosticism).
3. Belief that through austerity, one can reach perfection in this life (Free Spirit).
4. Belief that God's blessing can be seen through wealth (Puritanism).
5. Rejection of music and dancing as part of worship.
6. Circumcision heresy which demands that all laws, including the law of Moses, must continue to be practiced.
7. 'Sola fida," the Protestant idea that we are saved by faith alone, and not by works or rituals of the church.
8. The idea that Christ died only for the sins of good men who repent, and not for all (Jansenism).
9. Reincarnation (Albigenses).
10. The Trinity is really three separate Gods (Tritheism).

My point with all of this is that one man's heresy is another man's foundational doctrine and it seems odd to me that Protestants as a group would cast stones at Mormons for creating their own version of Christianity when that is exactly what Protestantism is, people who reject parts of Catholicism and reinvent other parts on their own.

So, I refuse to take offense if people call me a "heretical" Christian as Mormon. By the same token, I am unoffended when other Mormons call me a heretic. I am one. My guess is that we're all heretics, that we accept some parts of the religion as preached by others, and not other parts, and that we have our own ideas that are not codified within the religion. Some are aware of this reality more than others, however. I've certainly met lots of Mormons and other Christians who think that their idea of truth perfectly matches with the doctrine as codified. I think if we have minds and souls of our own and the ability to be moved upon by God's Holy Spirit, we should all be heretics.