Questions to Gospel Answers

Is Mormon Baptism Invalid?

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a congregation within the Roman Catholic Church, has recently ruled that Mormon baptism is invalid on several grounds. Iíll briefly outline the two main objections:

1) The Mormon concept of the Godhead (the Trinity) consisting of three separate Gods rather than One God is so far removed from Christian belief that Mormonism is not even considered as being a Christian heresy. Mormonism's "huge divergence" on the doctrine of the Trinity means that even though the right words appear to be used by Mormons they are not referring to the One God of Christianity when they baptize. Here are two quotes taken from the link at the bottom of this page by Fr Luis Ladaria, S.J.:

"As is easily seen, to the similarity of titles there does not correspond in any way a doctrinal content which can lead to the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. The words Father, Son and Holy Spirit, have for the Mormons a meaning totally different from the Christian meaning. The differences are so great that one cannot even consider that this doctrine is a heresy which emerged out of a false understanding of the Christian doctrine. The teaching of the Mormons has a completely different matrix. We do not find ourselves, therefore, before the case of the validity of Baptism administered by heretics, affirmed already from the first Christian centuries, nor of Baptism conferred in non-Catholic ecclesial communities."

"Summing up, we can say: The Baptism of the Catholic Church and that of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints differ essentially, both for what concerns faith in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in whose name Baptism is conferred, and for what concerns the relationship to Christ who instituted it. As a result of all this, it is understood that the Catholic Church has to consider invalid, that is to say, cannot consider true Baptism, the rite given that name by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints."

While the ruling puts Mormonism far beyond the scope of heresy, I believe this was done to escape the some times less than black and white history in dealing with schismatics and heretics. By putting Mormonism beyond schism and heresy an approach can be taken today without appeal to the past.

As a Christian heresy, Mormon baptism could still be ruled invalid but then the argument would shift to whether or not Mormonism is in fact a Christian heresy. The invalidity of those baptized by heretical groups was first formally established at the Council of Nicaea, which opened at the beginning of June 325. At this council it was decided that "schismatics, such as the Donatists, Novatians, or others who had set up their own churches because they felt the Catholics had betrayed the legacy of the martyrs, could be reincorporated through a ritual of laying on of hands. Heretics, however, those who followed the doctrines associated with Sabellius or Arius, could only be accepted in a Catholic church if they renounced their heresy and submitted to a second baptism." (Christianity, A Global History, by David Chidester, 2000, p. 103)

2) Mormon baptism pre-dates Christ, claiming to be restored by John Baptist and a baptism that even Adam was baptized into. Fr Luis Ladaria states, "According to the New Testament, there is an essential difference between the Baptism of John and Christian Baptism. The Baptism of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which originated not in Christ but already at the beginning of creation (James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith [AF], Salt Lake City: Desert Book, 1990, cf. pp. 110-111), is not Christian Baptism; indeed, it denies its newness."

The NT is very clear that those who received the baptism of John the Baptist and not that of Jesus had to be re-baptized. (This is the objection that I can best relate to and the one that I think would be most understandable to someone who has been Mormon.) My interpretation indicating that the baptism of John the Baptist was not acceptable to be numbered as a disciple of Christ nor preparatory to receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit is based on Acts 19. Why did Paul baptize twelve men who had already received John's baptism if the baptism of John was acceptable as a Christian baptism?

Acts 19:1-7 While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples and asked them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" They answered, "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit." So Paul asked, "Then what baptism did you receive?" "John's baptism," they replied. Paul said, "John's baptism was a baptism of repentance. He told the people to believe in the one coming after him, that is, in Jesus." On hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. When Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. There were about twelve men in all.

Peter and John were sent to Samaria to disciples that had been baptized already into the name of the Lord Jesus. Peter and John found their baptism acceptable and only had to lay their hands on them for them to receive the Holy Spirit.

Acts 8:14-17 Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

Jesus came an fulfilled the law and the prophets. They all pointed to him. Once the promised Messiah had come it only makes sense that the rites that had been in place to prepare people for his coming would be replaced by rites that acknowledged his coming and his presence.

Matthew 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

Matthew 3:13-17 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

John recognized that his baptism was not needed by Jesus to remit sins but Jesus had come to fulfill the law and thus suffered himself to be baptized. What followed the baptism of Jesus was not the bestowing of the Gift of the Holy Ghost but the presence of the Trinity in symbols that we can understand. This was the announcement of the beginning of the ministry of Jesus the Christ.

The question of the validity of Mormon baptism is more fully answered here:


Back to Questions List Page