Are Mormons Christian?
For anyone who knows anything about Mormons, the answer to the above question is obvious. Yes.
So, the real question is, why are we still getting this question?
The people who declare that Mormons are not Christian are using a definitional argument. They are defining Christianity in a way that suits them and excludes us. As a general rule their arguments are generally along these lines:
- We don’t believe that the Bible is the only word of God.
- We don’t believe in the Trinity.
- They (those who call us non-Christian) are offended that we won’t accept their baptisms or other sacraments.
- They are offended that we proselytize other Christians.
Our divergence from other Christian religions on these points is significant, and makes us very different from them. Each of these points also stems from a much deeper core difference. For example, it’s not just the Book of Mormon that is additional scripture for us. We also believe anything spoken by prophets when they are fulfilling their callings is scripture, even talks given in General Conference by General Authorities is considered scripture. However, even when you consider these deeper differences there is nothing that reduces the role of Christ in our doctrine. We are very different from other Christian religions, but are still very much Christian.
Ultimately, it’s a desire to marginalize or denigrate our faith that motivates people to assert that we are not Christian, and ignorance that perpetuates the slander. Sure, we can try to simply retort, “yes we are,” but ultimately that carries little weight. What we need to fight is the ignorance and prejudice behind the assertion.
Next time someone asks you if Mormons are Christian, try getting some clarification. What do they mean by Christian? What do they know about Mormons? Why would you think that we are not Christian, despite the name of Jesus Christ in the name of our church? Once you get clarification, don’t shy away from our differences. Some people don’t like us because we are so different. Difference is explanatory. Our responses and our lives should show that we are Christian.
Surely the “logical” Mormon can see that both arguments are circular and a matter of semantic definition.
From the Mormon perspective, the CJCLDS and its theology is an extension or expansion of Christianity, redefining its errors, omissions, and misunderstandings. It’s theology defines itself as Christian.
From the naysayers perspective, Mormonism cannot be equated with Christianity for precisely the same reason. It’s theology redefines the underlying traditional Christian tenets, some of which you named.
It comes down to a matter of belief. If one believes Joseph Smith is a true prophet, then his teaching (Mormonism) is Christian because the Mormon theology is based on it being the historical next revelation of Christianity.
For the Christian who doesn’t believe in The Book of Mormon, the theological changes proposed therein are so contrary to his/her Christian theology that it is, as you say, a matter of definition that Mormonism doesn’t fit.
Mormonism’s definition of Christianity that includes it is only acceptable if one accepts Mormonism.
Absolutely my point. Those of more traditional Christian religions like yourself have changed this into a discussion about the differences between Mormons and themselves. That is fine. Unfortunately, they have chosen to couch it in language that has a common meaning very different from the meaning they are using.
The common meaning of “Christian” is one who believes in and tries to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ. So when we get accused of not being Christian, that is usually the meaning we are responding to. According to that definition, we are absolutely, 100% Christian. However, we are definitely not like most other Christians, doctrinally speaking.
I would be very happy to have people ask me how we differ from other Christians. There are lots of interesting things to talk about. Being accused of not being Christian is just annoying.
Tyler, I think we could argue semantics for eternity or whichever afterlife you prefer where the line of definition should be drawn: by scripture, nontrinitarian, salvation, preexistence, predestination, etc… Given the right or wrong century my Calvinsim isn’t Christianity, but heresy. I don’t think there is currently universal academic agreement on the definition. That said, I think the “common” definition in use is actually commonly that of biblical trinitarians. But you can’t get annoyed at those who define it that way; over 97% of Christianity by population, (if you include the LDS, 99.8% otherwise) fits into that more specific definition. That’s a third of the world. Confusion and even controversy is to be expected.
However, considering the size of Mormonism and the scope of its divergence from traditional Christianity, wouldn’t it, at least from a theological perspective, be better off calling itself the fourth great Abrahamic religion? Or are the political and culture pressures to be “Christian” still too great in the 21st Century? Wouldn’t that provide more opportunity to discuss the positives of Mormonism rather than explaining its differences? Though who am I to give marketing advice to the fastest growing religion in the world.
There are a lot of ways we could approach this subject differently that would produce a more helpful discussion all around. I kind of like the term “Revelationist Christian”, using a parallel logic to that which produced “Protestant Christian.” I think we’re much more closely related doctrinally than Christianity (as you define it) is to Judaism and Islam. Catholics and Protestants have substantial differences, yet both are considered Christian. Why not us?
I’m more than happy to have a doctrinal discussion surrounding the nomenclature. However, I suspect it is only a small percent of Christians (however you define it) that have enough understanding of the doctrinal distinctions to understand why one religion that professes to believe in Christ is considered by some to be Christian, while another one that also professes to believe in Christ is not. I have no objection to that small percentage having a discussion amongst themselves. To the rest of the Christian world, a believer in Christ is a Christian. To try to persuade those with little understanding of the distinctions that we are not Christian without pointing out WHY we are not Christian in your view is equivalent to telling them that we do not believe in Christ, which is patently false.