Mormonism has been and continues to be criticized by some Christians because of its peculiar beliefs and doctrines. Although many of the doctrines do strongly distinguish Mormonism from any other Christian faith, the belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Lord and Savior of all mankind, means that Mormons are Christians.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been nicknamed the “Mormon” Church because of its inclusion of the Book of Mormon in its canonical scriptures, beside the Bible. The circumstances under which The Book of Mormon came to be are essential to understanding the divide that sometimes exists between Mormons and the rest of Christendom. The criticisms began when Joseph Smith, the founder of the church, claimed visitations from angels in the early 1800s, due to the popular belief among Christians that miracles and revelation had ceased when the Lord ascended into heaven. The negative sentiment increased when Smith began translating the Book of Mormon from ancient documents which he was led toby an angel. Those who consider the Bible to be the whole of all God’s word see the Book of Mormon as a violation of Christianity. (See 2 Nephi 29.)
Another key tenet of the Mormon religion that challenges the rest of Christianity is priesthood authority. In Hebrews 5:4, it is written, “And no man taketh this honor unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.” Mormonism teaches that the authority to officiate in the name of God, the priesthood, must be bestowed by the Lord Himself, Jesus Christ, to His servants, and then they may give it to others, in a top-down, hierarchical manner. Mormons believe this authority was lost after Jesus ascended and His apostles were martyred. By implication, this means that the rest of Christianity is practicing without the authority of God. One of the angelic visitations that Joseph Smith received was from the resurrected apostles Peter, James, and John. They gave him the authority of the priesthood that Jesus had given them in ancient times. This further distinguishes Mormonism from Protestantism because the Mormon Church is not participating in the reformation, but is a church restored under the authority of Jesus Christ Himself by His apostles. The Mormon Church claims continuing revelation under this authority and the president of the church as the Lord’s prophet on earth, from Joseph Smith to the current president, Thomas S. Monson. As the only church claiming modern revelation and a living prophet, Mormonism stands apart from the rest of Christianity.
Through modern revelation, many doctrines have been clarified. Some of these doctrines have been misunderstood by many Christians or altered after the death of the apostles. The fact that Mormonism has a different view about certain doctrines when compared to other Christian churches has been pointed out by critics as a departure from Christianity, but Mormonism sees it as a restoration of the Lord’s gospel. Such things as the nature of the Godhead or Trinity, the eternal nature of the soul, the afterlife, and the purpose of this mortal life (these topics are addressed in Mormon Doctrine) are distinctly different from every other Christian sect.
Said the Prophet Joseph Smith: “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”