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What Do Latter-day Saints and Muslims Have in Common?

Two religious groups that have garnered much attention in the United States over the last couple of decades are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka LDS or Mormons) and the world religion of Islam. The LDS gained national attention in 2012 when Mitt Romney, now a Senator from Utah, ran as the Republican candidate for President of the United States. Islam has been indelibly embedded in the American consciousness since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The reason I am addressing the relationship between the two religions was about two years ago, the LDS released a 35-page pamphlet titled Muslims and the Latter-day Saints: Beliefs, Values, and Lifestyles. You can copy the link here:

It purports to compare its faith's beliefs with those of Muslims. The introduction provides five reasons for its publication:

  • It provides a conscientious effort to provide Muslims dignity and tolerance by Mormons and vice versa.

  • It represents hours of discussion by members of both sects.

  • It does not interpret the Qur'an or seek to understand Muslim tenets and practices.

  • It illustrates common themes found in Muslim and LDS beliefs and values but does not make judgments about these findings.

  • It seeks to provide mutual understanding so that members of each sect will feel comfortable dealing with members of the other sect.

I will commend the LDS for taking the steps to improve communication between members of the two religions. That being said, the pamphlet's text does not delve very deep into the fundamental beliefs of Mormonism or Islam. It glosses over the significant differences between the two religions. It is a shallow piece, perhaps showing enough commonality between the two sects to discuss their different theological beliefs. My blog will look at these two religions' similarities and differences vis-à-vis each other. There are many similarities but also some deep, deep differences.

Who Are the the Latter-day Saints?

Joseph Smith, the founder of LDS in 1830, was frequently referred to as "the modern Mohammad" by several newspapers of that era. Mormons are sometimes compared to Ahmadi Muslims because of distinct similarities in both groups' relative age, history, culture, importance of missionary work, and general lack of acceptance from mainstream Islam and Christianity. While Islam is one of the three recognized Abrahamic religions, LDS does follow the Abrahamic tradition, acknowledging Jesus Christ and the one God theology. The LDS also strongly believes in charity, working with and through government non-profits to distribute food and health provisions to earthquake and hurricane victims.

What are some Similarities Between the Two Religions?

  1. Muhammad and Joseph Smith were inspired to start their movements through angelic visits. Muhammad was visited by Archangel Gabriel, and the Angel Moroni visited Smith. I had never heard of Moroni, but the LDS says it is the same angel identified in Revelation 14:6. The Angel Moroni visited Smith several times over the next six years and showed him where to retrieve some golden plates with a collection of ancient writings on the plates. With Moroni's help, Smith translated the language, which is now known as the Book of Mormon. Muhammad faced a more daunting task, trying to remember the words and phrases of 6000 verses given to him by Gabriel over a 23 year period.

  2. Both Muhammad and Joseph Smith left behind authorized books they claim to be direct revelations from God. The Qur'an was not made into a book form until approximately fifty years after Muhammad's death, but the scripture all came through Muhammad. Smith left The Book of Mormon, another book entitled Doctrine and Covenants, a series of revelations from God, and the Pearl of Great Price, which he claimed were corrections to the King James version received by direct inspiration from God.

  3. Muhammad and Joseph Smith were persecuted by local citizens and forced to relocate. Muhammad moved from Mecca to Medina and Smith from Missouri to Illinois.

  4. Both Muhammad and Smith established theocratic city-states during their respective ministries. Muhammad formed the government of Medina, and Smith started the town of Nauvoo, Illinois. Both religions celebrate migration as a core element of their religion's heritage.

  5. Of the 25 prophets listed in the Qur'an and recognized by Muslims, the LDS recognizes only 20 prophets. Interestingly, Islam nor the LDS recognize the founding prophets of the other's religion.

  6. Both religions recognize Jesus but in different contexts. To Muslims, Jesus was a mortal person who was a prophet and would come back to defeat the false Messiah at the end of time. To Mormons, Jesus was the incarnate Son of God, a savior to be worshiped as God.

  7. Mormonism and Islam believe in a life after death and the last judgment. Both religions believe in multiple levels of heaven and hell and that God will determine your place in the afterlife based on one's good works and faith in God.

  8. Fasting forms an essential part of both the LDS and Muslim doctrine. Mormons generally fast on the first Sunday of each month. They usually skip two meals within those 24 hours and donate what they would have spent to charity. Islamic fasting usually occurs during the month of Ramadan, where during the day, Muslims skip their regular meals until sundown, when they can break fast until the next sunrise. In addition, both religions urge their adherents to abstain from alcohol and addictive substances like tobacco.

  9. One final similarity I would add is that both religions prohibit drawings of photos inside their places of worship. The LDS temples allow some images in the hallways and outside their chapels.

Profound Differences Between the Two Religions

Perhaps the most significant difference between Mormons and Muslims lies in their differing concepts of God. In Islam, Allah is considered unique, absolutely and indivisibly ONE. This concept is called Tawhid and does not admit that God might have a son, daughter, wife, split personalities, or anything that might cause God to be worshiped as a co-equal. God is the creator, having created everything else in the known world. The Christian view of the Trinity, where God shares the worship with the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ, does not fly with Muslims.

In stark contrast, Mormonism takes the Christian Trinity and goes even further. The LDS believes in a Godhead composed of three separate and distinct beings who function as a single, unified God under the direction of the Father. While metaphorically, they are seen as one in spirit, and the LDS also believe they each have physical bodies of flesh and bone.

Another significant difference falls in proselytizing those outside of their religion. In Islamic theology, it is inherent to invite all Muslims and non-Muslims to understand the proper worship of God as expressed in the Qur'an. The LDS also has a robust proselytizing program, perhaps best known to others for this activity. I have often seen two young men walking down the street, dressed in "church clothes," whose mission is to knock on doors and ask to witness the wonders of Christ to you. The problem occurs in Islamic countries. Most Islamic dominant countries will not let non-Muslim religions proselytize to their people. We know from other research that throughout a person's life, approximately 20 percent will change religions if they are allowed to. We know that from statistics measured in the U.S. and the U.K. I will attach the article that reveals that statistic at the end. Why not allow freedom of religion? Otherwise, a significant number of people at the mosque are unhappy Muslims. The LDS religion is worldwide, with 17 million members in over 160 countries.

In conclusion

This summary of similarities and differences is a partial list. There are several more issues where Islam and the LDS are similar, like polygamy, prayer, family, and pilgrimages. I did not address all of the issues, but there are several. It is commendable that the LDS is trying to address Islamophobia, but will the Muslims meet the Mormons halfway? It is advantageous if both work together to save dissolute souls in the U.S. and in all countries where each religion has a presence.

Thanks to Wikimedia Commons for the image of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir with the Schoenstein pipe organ in the background. April 1, 2009.

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