Note: The following was originally printed in the March/April 2022 edition of Mormonism Researched. To request a free subscription, please visit here.
By Eric Johnson
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints produced a 35-page online pamphlet in late January that compares Mormonism with Islam.
The pamphlet—titled “Muslims and Latter-day Saints: Beliefs, Values, and Lifestyles”—was written with the help of three American Islamic clerics and is intended to help Mormons “root out bias against Islam.” When the project was announced in 2021, Apostle Gerrit Gong stated how it would “help us to be more kind and more accurate in what we say and feel about each other.”
The short pamphlet has 18 sections, with topics such as “profession of faith in God,” “prophets,” “Jesus Christ,” “scriptures,” and “the role of women.” Similarities rather than differences are emphasized in the writing.
I have no problem for the church to want to “foster understanding and respect” for Muslims, as the final line in the pamphlet states. I just think that a more complete disclosure regarding the true beliefs of both faiths should have been emphasized.
The introduction discusses the origin of the LDS Church, stating that Latter-day Saints are “sometimes incorrectly referred to as Mormons” while maintaining that they “affirm themselves to be Christian.” This claim is disputed by Bible-believing Christians.
According to the pamphlet’s section titled “mutual respect,” “Islam teaches esteem for other religions, including Christianity.” Unfortunately, many people throughout the world—especially those who live in some African nations—are murdered daily for their beliefs in Christianity.
The Christian mission agency Open Doors documents how 1 in 8 Christians in the world are “targeted, discriminated against, and attacked for following Jesus.” The source of persecution in 19 of the top 25 countries—including Afghanistan, Somalia, Libya and Yemen—is due to Muslim persecution. This fact is ignored in the pamphlet.
In that same section, the pamphlet cites from a 1978 LDS First Presidency statement that said how “the great religious leaders of the world such as Muhammad . . . received . . . God’s light” (ellipses in original). The ellipses used in the pamphlet’s citation take away from what the original statement said.
In context, the original statement reads, “The great religious leaders of the world such as Muhammad, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light” (italics added).
According to Mormonism’s leaders, other faiths and philosophies only have a “portion” of ultimate truth that is not enough for their adherents to attain the celestial kingdom. Consider the words of Apostle Bruce R. McConkie who described the perversion of what he felt was Mormonism’s “pure and perfect gospel”:
What is the church of the devil in our day, and where is the seat of her power? . . . The church of the devil is every evil and worldly organization on earth. It is all of the systems, both Christian and non-Christian, that have perverted the pure and perfect gospel; it is all of the governments and powers that run counter to the divine will; it is the societies and political parties and labor unions that sow strife and reap contention. It is communism; it is Islam; it is Buddhism; it is modern Christianity in all its parts. It is Germany under Hitler, Russia under Stalin, and Italy under Mussolini. It is the man of sin speaking in churches, orating in legislative halls, and commanding the armies of men (The Millennial Messiah: The Second Coming of the Son of Man, 54-55. Ellipsis and italics mine).
The pamphlet explains how Mormonism’s Jesus is “the sinless, Only Begotten Son of God, born of the virgin Mary.” This certainly sounds like the Christian description of the Incarnation and Virgin Birth except no definition of “Only Begotten” is provided. Yet LDS leaders have consistently explained how the pregnancy was the result of God the Father having physical relations with Mary. Consider the words of 13th President Ezra Taft Benson:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints proclaims that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the most literal sense. The body in which He performed His mission in the flesh was sired by that same Holy Being we worship as God, our Eternal Father. Jesus was not the son of Joseph, nor was He begotten by the Holy Ghost (The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, 7. See also the Church News, December 18, 2004, 16).
There are many similarities between Mormonism and Islam, including their agreement that the Trinity is a false teaching, the Bible is corrupt, and original sin or the possibility of the assurance of salvation is not true. Still, there are a number of major disagreements between the faiths that include the nature of God, creation, scripture, and the ability for anyone to receive salvation after death. (See the chart at the bottom of this article.)
While the final section of the pamphlet (“religious diversity”) does say how “there are significant differences between the two religions,” similarities such as how both religions “acknowledge the good that can be found in other religions” are emphasized.
There is no doubt that both faiths practice exclusivism, as adherents are taught that theirs is the only (true) way to God and, ultimately, eternal salvation. For example, Islam teaches that anyone who holds Jesus as divine (as Mormons do) commits shirk, which is associating God with other deities. Such a person commits blasphemy and is disqualified to spend eternity in paradise; instead, those who believe Jesus is God/a god will suffer in hell for eternity. As Surah 4:48 in the Qur’an states, “Allah forgiveth not that partners should be set up with Him . . . to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin most heinous indeed.”
Meanwhile, LDS leaders teach that those who reject Joseph Smith and Mormonism cannot qualify for an exalted state in the celestial kingdom. As the church handbook explains,
Exaltation in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom can be obtained only by those who have faithfully lived the gospel of Jesus Christ and are sealed as eternal companions (Handbook 2: Administering the Church, 2010, 3).
Muslims, of course, would never claim to “live the gospel of Jesus Christ” as defined by Mormonism nor do they get married in LDS temples.
Unfortunately, this pamphlet may confuse readers and possibly cause them to assume Islam and Mormonism are more similar than different. This is certainly not the case.