Are Mormons Christian? or What I believe in

Latter-day Saints believe in the resurrected Jesus Christ
Latter-day Saints believe in the resurrected Jesus Christ

Disclaimer:  Although this should be obvious, this is a private blog, containing my personal thoughts.  I do not speak for anyone but myself.  All opinions contained in this post, and others, are entirely my own, unless others choose to agree with me.

Recently, in a conversation with a friend, the age-old question came up: Are Mormons Christian?  The short answer is YES, but that doesn’t make a very interesting blogpost, does it.  Let’s explore the longer answer.

I have always wondered why this question is asked in the first place.  But more often than not, it is not really asked, it is stated.  Usually I hear “Mormons aren’t Christian” said with such conviction that most who hear this statement accept it as fact and do not question.  Unfortunately, though, those making this claim are themselves neither Mormons nor authorized to speak for the Mormons as a whole.  But, I still wonder why they would make such a claim.

Why do other Christians continue to say that Mormons aren’t Christians?  I will not claim to be an expert, but here are some of my thoughts based on the conversations I have had.

1. Mormons worship a different Christ, or a different version or understanding of Christ.

This is the only claim that I will allow when someone wants to tell me that I, as a Mormon, am not a Christian. And basically, it boils down to the definition of Christian. The argument should be settled by recognizing the official name of the Church: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Rather than taking the broadest and most universal definition of Christian: one who believes in Jesus Christ and follows his teachings, most, when saying that Mormons are not Christian, define Christian as ‘one who believes in Jesus Christ as I do.’  And this is completely true.  Mormons do not believe in Christ in the same way as most ‘traditional’ Christians (whatever that means).  I do not want to make the same mistake and speak for what other religions believe, but from what I have observed of other religions and my own, Mormons believe in a very different Christ.  I have been in many churches of many different denominations, and while I love the artwork and iconography I find, one thing has always put me off: the depiction of Christ hanging from a cross.  This is probably why many do not believe Mormons are Christians — a distinctive lack of crosses in Mormon art and architecture.  You don’t find them anywhere, except in a depiction of the actual crucifixion.  Where it seems like others focus so much on this symbol of a dead Christ hanging from a dead tree, Mormonism celebrates the Resurrection and a Living Christ who leads a Living Church through constant revelation and the calling of Prophets and Apostles as He did when He established his Church the first time when He lived upon this earth.  Mormons believe that Christ continues to speak to Prophets and guide His Church through continuing revelation and inspiration.

Mormonism also rejects the widely-spread belief in the Trinity or the Triune god; that God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Ghost are one being in some metaphysical incomprehensible way.  Jesus Christ is quite literally the Son of God, who through obedience overcame death and hell and has taken his place at His Father’s side.  His life serves as an example to all children of God, and not just in an ambiguous ‘Be like Jesus’ way, but in a literal ‘We can do and be what Jesus did and is.’  Scripture tells us that we can become “joint-heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17), we can inherit what Christ has inherited from His Father, in the same way that He inherited it.  That is the Jesus Christ in whom I believe: My Saviour and Redeemer who provides a way for me to repent of my sins, to become God-like and perfected and inherit my place in the Kingdom of God.

2. Mormons do not talk about Jesus Christ enough

Where the last point is a problem that arises from others’ misconceptions and misunderstandings about Mormons, this one is something we bring upon ourselves.  And to be honest, the Church as an organization has been doing wonderful things to help combat this, but many individual members may still allow this to happen.  Mormons have so much revealed truth, so much scripture (that does indeed testify of Christ), and so much doctrine that, unfortunately, more focus is given to things other than Jesus Christ and his Atonement.  We talk about Joseph Smith and what he taught, about Thomas Monson and what he teaches, about Nephi and Moroni and what they taught, but we tend to gloss over the New Testament and what Christ taught.  Try this, next time you attend an LDS church meeting count the number of times that Jesus Christ is referenced and compare it to the number of times Christ is referenced in, say, a Baptist or a Catholic service.

What I love about other churches is their focus on the Bible, especially the New Testament.  While I am so very grateful for the added truth and understanding I gain from reading the Book of Mormon, I fully believe that the Book of Mormon was intended as a companion to the Bible, not its replacement.  The two should be studied side by side and understood together.  Both testify of Christ and His divinity.  Both outline the Plan of Salvation and man’s journey back to Heaven.  Both, together, provide the gospel upon which our lived must be based.  I can fully understand when other churches and people look at Mormons and their focus on the Book of Mormon and conclude that Mormons are not Christian because they do not use the Bible as extensively.

One of the biggest problems I see in the world today, in religion as well as politics, is the tendency to classify others and not allow others to define themselves.  We see this all the time; people claim that President Obama is a Muslim, or not a Christian, people claim that Republicans are ignorant and reluctant to embrace change.  People want to define other people for them, to classify them and explain them so that they can make up arguments.  And so Muslims, Mormons, Republicans, Democrats, everybody is defined by their opponents, and that usually means that the definition is incorrect, or at the very least incomplete.  Sure the most “Christian” thing to do would be to seek ways to include others rather than finding reasons to exclude them.  The more universal we make all of our definitions, the more we try to find the commonalities and the more we seek to extend our love and fellowship to others the more united we will become and unity will lead to cooperation and mutual understanding and respect.  I have said this before, but we should be looking for more positive things in the world, more opportunities to help and understand each other.  People should be allowed to define themselves and their beliefs without others doing it for them.

I am a Mormon.  I am a Christian.  I believe in Jesus Christ and in the Bible and in the Book of Mormon.  I believe because I have read, studied, pondered, and prayed.  I have felt the Spirit confirming the truths that I have read and felt.  I invite anyone curious to know what Mormons believe to ask the Mormons, and not their detractors.  The new mormon.org is a wonderful place to find answers to any question about Mormon beliefs or practices, written by those who belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Just as I hope you would not ask a politician to explain his opponent’s platform and expect an unbiased response, I hope you would turn the source when looking for answers on who Mormons are and what they believe.  And I’ll do the same for you.

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6 thoughts on “Are Mormons Christian? or What I believe in

  1. Ted

    These days, I am not satisfied with the “different Christ” theory. While we may not believe in the “persona theory” of the Trinity (three aspects of one being), we very much believe in the “social theory” of the Trinity, which was acceptable throughout much of Christianity’s history. After doing a research paper on the many councils of early Christianity to establish the orthodox Christology, I can honestly say that the differences between our Christ and their Christ are relatively few. In order to find some major differences, you have to start venturing into some really fringe “doctrine” on both sides (and you’ll find that after the triumph of the grand ecumenical councils, people have pretty much forgot what the Trinity even means and could never explain the theological concept in any decent manner. It’s a pity, really).

    For me, the best argument for why we are not Christian is as follows: Mormonism declares mainstream Christianity as irredeemably corrupted or lost (thus the Restoration). To then label yourself as Christian is like saying nasty things behind someone’s back and then wondering why that person and your friends won’t accept you into their peer group. We may claim to be followers of Christ, but as far as belonging to the gamut of religions called mainstream Christianity, we are thoroughly not, unless we decide to play nice.

    1. dteeps

      I guess what I mean when I say that we worship a ‘different Christ’ is really that we worship Christ differently. We understand Christ differently. Less of a person who we believe in in order to be saved, and more as a friend and person we emulate and follow in order to become like. As much as I hear my Christian friends say they want to ‘be like Jesus’, it seems few of them take that as literally as Mormons do — that we become joint-heirs with Him in inheriting all that the Father hath.
      I do like your distinction, though. We cannot say that Christianity is entirely wrong, thus the Restoration was needed, and then tell people we want to be known as Christian. But we are indeed Christian, but the broad definition that a Christian is one who follows Christ.

  2. Ted

    I would agree under the broad definition of Christian, we fall under the “Restorationist” section. But that section has always been thought of as a little wacky from their Protestant and Catholic brothers and sisters.

    I guess my argument is less of a categorical one, and more of a “this is why they don’t like it when we say we’re Christian and it’s not going to stop for a long, long time.”

  3. Brother Ben

    I’ve commonly felt like “Christian,” as a noun, is simply a label that we can apply to ourselves and to other at our own discretion. It is nothing more than a method of classification. Like you said, if anything, we should call ourselves Children of God, or “Clothed with Christ,” or something biblical.

    Digging deeper into the “different Jesus” vein: I’ve commonly heard that expression used by Evangelicals to describe the believed method of salvation (soteriology).

    Is salvation by Grace alone? Or do you need to earn grace, or do you need to exhibit Christ-like behavior after receiving Grace?

    Comming from an Evangelical mindset, what I have heard is that “works” (morality put into action) do improve one’s chances of salvation within Mormon doctrine.

    While fruit will undoubtedly grow if a seed is sown, salvation (from the Evangelical view) is that that seed, the Holy Spirit, is all that is needed to “seal” us for redemption.

    This is only what I’ve heard. I’ve also heard Marriage and Baptism are necessary for salvation for certain individuals. ???

    Protestants get rather pershnickety when it comes to Soteriology; after all that was part of what fueled their Reformation.

    The beliefs in God once being man and of us then becoming gods in our own right seems far-fetched to me, but I don’t think it matters much in this life on Earth whether that is true or not. I hope that part is not offensive; just pointing out that some differences, while big on the surface, have minimal affect on how we should live our lives.

    In the end, as a functional definition of “a Christian,” I would say a Christian is someone who professes only Jesus and Jesus alone to be their Savior; and that this person seeks to orient their life accordingly.

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