Mormons Are Christian. Aren’t They?

The question has sparked a lot of controversy lately.

It even made The Chronicle’s list of 2011’s top 10 religion and politics stories, citing Robert Jeffress’s public assertion that presidential candidate Mitt Romney wasn’t a real Christian.

The matter continues to provoke strong feelings on every side, especially here in Latter Day Saint capital Utah.  The LDS people I know are quite offended by the idea of not being considered Christian.   After all, Mormons do believe in Jesus Christ.  Fer cryin’ out
loud, just look at the church’s name:
“Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” “Jesus Christ” is even in large font, bolded, and centered on  church plaques!  People who insist on refusing their Christian title when they obviously believe in Jesus are tendentious bigots, many say.  The Chronicle echoes this attitude by calling the headline “The Persistence of Anti-Mormon Sentiment.”

I understand where this idea is coming from.  Mormonism is emerging in national news more and more with two LDS candidates running in for commander-in-chief in 2012, yet even with Mormonism’s climb into public awareness, “Mormon” is still a somewhat mysterious word to the unaffiliated masses.  It’s associated with things like polygamy, strange underwear, and an even stranger aversion to coffee beans.  The people themselves, though, have a reputation for kindness and charity, living exemplary moral lives – a trait Utah’s low crime rate can attest to.  To those with a surface-level vantage point it seems utterly exclusivist to maintain that Mormons are not Christian.

Unfortunately, most of the debate has been unruly name-calling.  Anti this, cult that – bigot here, heresy there.  Not only is this unbecoming, but it is entirely unproductive.  It prevents us from hearing any explanation as to why there is a dispute in the first place.  So, let’s put aside rhetorical ad hominem so we can take a look at the real issues.

As I said before, many are aware of Mormonism’s strict moral standards; its external behavior, if you will.  When it comes to internal doctrine, however, most don’t have a clear understanding of what Mormons believe versus mainstream Christianity.  That, dear friends, is what the fuss is all about.  Below I have tried to whittle it down to the main differences (there are many more) with as little cumbersomeness as possible.  (If you want further detail, I’d encourage you to do additional research. It’s a fascinating subject.)

Topic

Mormon View

Christian View

God

God is flesh and bone (D&C 130:22) God is spirit (Jo. 4:24)
God is our literal father, accomplished with our literal mother-God (Mormon Doctrine, 1977 ed., 516) God is our creator (Jo. 1:1-3)
There are multiple gods (polytheistic) (BoA 4:3) There is only one God (monotheistic) (Is. 43:10; 44:8; 45:6)
God used to be a man (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 345) God has always been God (Ps. 90:2; 93:2)
God would stop being God if we stopped supporting Him as such (Mormon Doctrine, 1977 ed. 751) God is God whether ya like it er not (Job 36:22-23; Is. 14:26-27)

Jesus Christ

Jesus is a literal spirit-brother of Lucifer/Satan, created (Gospel Through the Ages, 15) Jesus is the eternal and only begotten Son (Jo. 8:58; 3:16)

Man

Man has eternally existed as “intelligence” that organizes into spirit when a God-Father and God-Mother make spirit babies (Gospel Through the Ages, pp. 126-127) Man is created at a specific point in time, not eternal with God or pre-existing (Job 38:4)
After death, men can become gods and populate their own worlds, just like God did, if holy enough (The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow,1) Believers will not become gods, but will be like Him (I Jo. 3:2) and continue to worship God forever (Rev. 22:3)

Sin, Salvation and Forgiveness

The fall of mankind through sin in Eden was a good thing, providing a way to populate the earth (Articles of Faith, p. 476) The fall was a very crappy thing, and is why we have sin, death, disease, and separation from God. (Ge. 3:16-24; Ro. 3:23; 5:12-15)
Salvation is first a universal resurrection for everyone (Mormon Doctrine, 1977 ed., 63) Salvation is the forgiveness of sin and rescuing from eternal punishment (Rom. 6:23)
Salvation is secondly a provision for forgiveness of sin, but forgiveness only applies after we are righteous by obedience (Articles of Faith, 79) Forgiveness cannot be earned by being righteous, but is a free gift from God through Christ’s suffering (Rom. 4:5)
There is sin that Christ’s blood cannot atone for (Mormon Doctrine, McConkie, 92) There is nothing, absolutely nothing, one can do for which Christ’s blood is not enough (I Jo. 1:7-9)

The list could go on and on…and on, but I will stop at these core teachings. As you can see, the terminology is similar but when definitions of “God” and “Jesus Christ” are elaborated, huge, fundamental issues in which the beliefs are, in some instances, direct opposite each other become apparent.  (I daresay that, when it comes to the nature of God, Christianity has more in common with Islam than Mormonism.)  While each may behave according to a comparable moral code and have good things to say about Christ, Mormonism’s beliefs are not consistent with traditional Christianity.

I don’t think Mormons are Christian any more than I think Christians are Mormon.  Does distinguishing between these systems of thought automatically make me opposed to, against, or a hater of Mormons as the Chronicle would suggest?  No.  In fact, everyone in my family with a religious affiliation is Mormon. I love them dearly, even while I have reasons to disagree with them.  The disagreement is not nit-picking, bigotry, or trying to exclude anyone from some Christian club, rather an endeavor to make a clear-thinking distinction.

So, armed with the information on the table above, here are some important questions to ask:

First, What would a traditional Christian church have to change in order to be considered Mormon? Why would it have to change those things?

Second, If the LDS church denied a Christian church that called itself Mormon without making those changes, would it be fair to label the LDS church anti-Christian?   Or would the exclusion be acceptable as a nominal distinction based upon fundamental qualitative differences?

Third that I’d ask to my Mormon friends specifically, why does the LDS church, which claims to be a restoration of the one true church after a universal apostasy of which all Christian churches are a part, now desire closer identification with apostate Christianity?

I only have speculations, but I won’t go into them here.

What do you think?

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4 Responses to Mormons Are Christian. Aren’t They?

  1. Sandra says:

    Hey Nichole 🙂

    We had some Mormon sisters over into our home not too long ago and had some very interesting conversations where a lot of what you make note of up above did come to light. I suppose one of the most shocking beliefs they hold (at least to me 🙂 ) is that Jesus really is no different than any of us. If that were true then what would be the point of ANYTHING? You might as well eat, drink, and be merry because tomorrow we die and there wouldn’t be anything else, which is really depressing (as I can imagine atheism being rather depressing – course just read Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy (written by an atheist) and it gets more and more sad as the author gets older). Really seems to boil down to them believing God talks directly to their modern-day Apostles who can interpret things from the Bible any way they want to…..Nice people, but man, so so very confused.

  2. anon says:

    I am slightly entertained. Unless you have actually read the entire article or talk yourself (out of said book rather than your assigned reading material from a pastor or a friend) you cannot quote just a portion of an entire article and get the entire picture. Yes, some of what you mentioned is spot on, the argument however is no worth having. I will not talk about this further, go find the reading material and read it yourself. I don’t care what you think of my faith, just make sure the doctrine came directly from the source and you get the whole story before making partial quotes.

    • anon says:

      Also, the book ‘Mormon Doctrine’ is not actually doctrine. We do not read or teach from it in church. It is NOT an official church document.

    • Thanks for commenting, anon. I know personal ideologies hit at the heart and can be difficult to talk through especially when there is disagreement.

      For the record, my pastor doesn’t assign material nor tell me how to view anything, neither does he speak on Mormonism at all on Sunday morning. I’ve had personal interest in this subject for 8 years now, having once been LDS myself, and have read quite widely about Mormonism both from its supporters and its critics. I have reached conclusions on my own. Also, I didn’t quote anything here but only made references to where these doctrines can be found and have indeed read much for myself, as materials are readily available on websites like lds.org and elsewhere.

      Further, if I misrepresented any Mormon doctrine, please point out specifics so I can be corrected. It’s not my intention to misrepresent, and will gladly accept constructive criticism. I apologize if anything I wrote was offensive in any capacity. It isn’t my intention to offend, but only to illustrate the distinction between Christianity and Mormonism.

      As for these arguments not being worth having, I would disagree. I think dialogue is important because having a truly accurate perception of an individual’s beliefs cannot occur in the vacuum of isolation.

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