A review of the basic beliefs of Mormons and Quakers reveals that despite differences they have tenets in common. This permits reasoned discourse between these groups as demonstrated on World Religion Day and other interfaith events.
For both Quakers and Mormons revelation is continuous. Belief in the Holy Spirit’s guidance is integral to both faiths.
In the Mormon Church revelation and prophecy belong to the priesthood, consisting only of men. The Prophet is the ultimate authority of the church and the oldest member of the Council of Elders. The current Prophet is Thomas S. Monson.
Women cannot be priests in the Mormon Church. They also can’t become the Prophet of the Church, its ultimate authority, or the one who offers prophecy. Instead they have a group called the Relief Society, the function of which is to provide education and support to the family and community. On the other hand, among Quakers women occupy the highest offices within the religious organization throughout the world and were active in women’s movements, including right to vote.
Mormons have a defined set of beliefs relative to the value of the family in its relationship to God, the church and the community as a whole. The father is the head of the family with the wife the nurturer of children and the support to the father’s authority. Quakers also believe in the value of the family as central to providing a strong community base and for the education and upbringing of children. The emphasis, however, is less on family responsibility, but on individual rights and responsibilities for whom each person is held accountable.
Recently on World Religion Day, a Mormon elder reviewed some Mormon beliefs. On the matter of women’s place in the church, Elder Michael Loftin, a church leader in Louisiana, explained women’s roles are “different from men.” His wife later added to this in her explanation on why Mormon women aren’t allowed to be priests and said this came from the Prophet himself. “Women have special gifts. These gifts are expressed in women’s spiritual connections to God and their awareness of their faith. Men, however, lag behind in religious expressions; and that is why they have responsibilities of the priesthood, to educate themselves and others.”
The Mormon Church, or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, was established when Joseph Smith, the prophet founder, found golden plates near his home that were said to have come from Mormon, a prophet of the 4th century, who wrote about the people of the Americas. These people, according to the plates said to be translated by Smith, were visited directly by Jesus, who spoke of His mission and purpose. Mormons, like Quakers, believe Jesus to be the Son of God, but don’t believe in the concept of the Trinity as held by most Christian churches.
The purpose of living is to learn, according to Mormons, and to live in faith. They work towards the advancement of the individual toward a heaven that unites the deceased with the family and restores the body to its original form.
Quakers on the other hand work for peace and justice on earth. A basic tenet of Quaker belief is service to the poor and those suffering injustice and indignities.
For years the Mormon Church held African Americans as having the mark of Cain, the black skin, as punishment for Cain having killed Abel, his brother, as described in the Book of Genesis. They were therefore forbidden the priesthood. Prophetic revelation changed this belief, and African American men are now fully accepted into the priesthood. On June 8, 1978 Spencer Kimball, the LDS Prophet at the time, offered the following official statement, ” We declare with soberness that the Lord has now make known his will for the blessing of all his children throughout the earth who will hearken to the voice of his authorized servants, and prepare themselves to receive every blessing of the gospel,”
By contrast, Quakers have been outspoken social advocates and were active abolitionists during the period of slavery. They ran many of the safe houses for escaped slaves and some suffered punishment and even death for their actions in helping free slaves in the South.
At the heart of the faith of both Mormons and Quakers is Jesus. Jesus is said to be the Son of God but not God Himself. Neither group believe in the Trinity as maintained by mainstream Christian groups.
Although there are are significant differences in social practices, social attitudes and specific forms of worship between Quakers and Mormons, a careful examination finds similarities that permit reasoned interfaith discussions and cooperative events.
Mormon: The People, the Church, the Prophet
The Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints
A Smorgasbord of Truth
The Watchman Expositor
Quaker (Religious Society of Friends)