Protestants often associate Mormonism with outlandish1 doctrines like innumerable Gods, people living on the sun, or special underwear that you can't take off2. But I am curious what lies at the "other end of the spectrum"; are there any Mormon doctrines which have been so embraced by Protestants as to shape their beliefs?

That is, are there any common Protestant beliefs which have their origin in Mormon teachings?

The reason I ask is:

  • Like it or not, modern Protestant thinking is influenced by our culture

  • Mormonism is a significant part of our culture

  • I am curious if "A+B=C", so to speak; has Mormonism had any significant impact on the shaping of Protestant thinking?

[1] My use of the word 'outlandish' here is not meant to be inflammatory. Such ideas are commonly viewed by Protestants as 'outlandish' (foreign, strange, etc.); I realize they may not seem outlandish to Mormons, and I realize that many Protestant doctrines would seem outlandish to non-Protestants.

[2] Please note that these are my words, based on things I've heard Protestants say - not the words of modern Mormon theologians.


The Short Answer: No. And, AFAIK, there are no Mormon teachings at all that have spread to other traditions. Here's why.

Ecclesiologists who study the history of the church sometimes distinguish between four primary "branches" of christendom: the Roman Catholic church, the Eastern Orthodox church, the Protestant church, and the "bible cults." Protestant is an umbrella term that refers to theological traditions that are rooted in the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. Protestantism is known for its theological diversity, and a quick glance at a World Almanac shows dozens of Protestant denominations worldwide that each report at least 5,000 houses of worship, extending into the millions for larger denominations.

This diversity of theological traditions is due, in part, to the fact that -- unlike the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches -- Protestantism lacks a single, unifying authoritative leader or leaders that can define for adherents what is and isn't considered acceptable doctrine. In fact, the Protestant Reformation itself grew out of the rejection of the notion of the authority of clergymen and church history, in favor of consulting the bible itself. The event that is regarded as the "official" beginning of the Reformation was Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg, Germany, in the year 1517. The central topic addressed in that document was the official [Roman Catholic] church practice of selling "Indulgences," which Luther believed was an offense against God because, he said, it was not based on sound interpretation of scripture.

So, the word "Protestant" encompasses a wide set of beliefs. In general terms, the Protestant church is differentiated by it's emphasis on the authority of scripture over both church tradition and any extra-biblical teachings of clergymen when seeking to determine what is pleasing to God (see "Sola Scriptura" (1), (2)). There is also a common, though not unanimous adherence to the other "Solas" of the Reformation (see the same references as above). Other than that, however, there are few specifically Protestant points of difference that can be made which will apply to all churches that self-identify as Protestant.

The history of the Mormon church, on the other hand, extends back to 1830 (see "Organization of the Church" sub-heading in the reference). The intervening two hundred-some years between when Protestantism began, and when Mormonism later began, provided plenty of time for the development of many doctrines unique to various Protestant theological traditions. By 1830, many denominations had well established, comprehensively defined sets of beliefs. That is, in many cases there was simply no need to adopt additional doctrine, from Mormonism or elsewhere -- and in many denominations, the process of adopting new doctrine is fairly complex. Finally, there is the widespread contemporary categorization of Mormonism as a "bible cult" by many, though not all denominations. (Note that this C.SE response does not attempt to address the issue of whether or not that categorization is accurate, but simply notes that many people do assert such a categorization).

While my familiarity with Mormon doctrine is at a fairly "introductory" level, and based primarily on a number of conversations with some LDS adherents, my present understanding is that at the basis of Joseph Smith's set of teachings is the notion that all translations of the bible, except for his own, are flawed and incomplete, lacking the additional books endorsed by Smith (the "Book of Mormon"), as well as the modifications made to various books in the Protestant OT & NT, which Smith said were provided to him by one he called "Moroni." (Reference). Since all doctrine established outside of the Mormon church is based on translations other than Smith's, it makes sense that Mormon doctrines remain within those churches that teach Smith's doctrines, and they have not penetrated other traditions.

  • 2
    Nice answer. The last paragraph is the only thing keeping me from voting +1. That translations of the Bible are somewhat incomplete or errant is of little significance to Smith's teachings. Instead, his basis was the doctrine and testimony of Christ. Smith said (see p. 49), "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." (to be continued)...
    – Matt
    Jul 24 '12 at 22:56
  • 5
    (con't.) ... Smith actually is not known to have said that his translation of the Bible was complete. In fact, Mormons use the KJV Bible -- nothing more, nothing less, and Smith's translations were never finished before he died. The records brought to Smith by Moroni (why the quotes?) weren't Biblical books and don't append to the Bible. I just wanted to clarify these things. Your overview of the Protestant tradition is quite comprehensive and, IMO, satisfies the question.
    – Matt
    Jul 24 '12 at 23:04
  • @Matt: After reading your comment, I added a few immaterial clarifications to the paragraph on Smith and translations, in order to ensure a clinical tone. I may (or may not) complete some additional research on Mormonism and provide an update in the coming days. Cheers. Jul 25 '12 at 2:05
  • 5
    Great answer. Just as a clarification to the last paragraph, Smith only claimed to have received the plates of gold from Moroni, which in turn produced the Book of Mormon. Smith's translation of the Bible was never claimed to be sourced from Moroni but rather from pure revelation. Also, Smith never deemed his modifications of the Bible complete, as he was killed before he could complete it. The largest LDS denomination only has parts of it canonized, which indicates that perhaps it does not play as important of a role as has been set forth here.
    – Dougvj
    Jul 25 '12 at 3:10

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