On Christianity

Update: Here is the link to a discussion of this same topic on the LDS Newsroom blog.

One discussion I really do not understand is whether or not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are Christian. Let’s ignore the name of the LDS Church for a minute – after all, any church can claim that they are the Lord’s (however, only one church is claimed by the Lord as His: “And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually” {D&C; 1:30}). Again, if we ignore the name of the LDS Church, we can move on to a discussion of the Christianity of the LDS Church and if that Christianity or lack thereof really matter. My view is that the discussion is silly.

Be that as it may, why does it matter to some people whether or not the LDS Church is Christian? I have read many blog posts and articles and statements about how members of the LDS Church are not Christian. I had the discussion with a number of people while I was a missionary. In essence my question is “What is a Christian?”

  1. Are Christians people who believe the Bible to be God’s word? If that is part of it then we Mormons pass that criterion.
  2. Are Christians people who believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world? We believe that as well.
  3. Are Christians people who believe that Jesus Christ is divine, even God? We believe that as well. I recognize that LDS conceptions of Jesus Christ as God might differ slightly from the official doctrines of many other churches but Mormon doctrine of the nature of God is supported completely by the Bible (and clarified and expanded by latter-day revelation).
  4. Are Christians people who believe that the Bible is all of God’s word? Well, we Mormons do not meet that criterion. However, that is a belief that is not supported by the Bible. How could the Bible rule out “modern” (i.e., concurrent) revelation when that is exactly what it is?! I know many people would quibble with me on this point because they have before but nowhere in the Bible are we taught that the Bible contains all of God’s words and that there is no more need for revelation or prophets.
  5. Are Christians people who try to live as Christ intended – doing good to those who hate you, helping those in need, lifting burdens, teaching His gospel, and so forth? Mormons meet all these criteria.
  6. Are Christians people who accept Jesus as their Savior and recognize that salvation comes only through Him? Mormons fit that criterion as well (I can’t speak individually for all LDS Church members but it is the doctrine of our church).
  7. Are Christians people who are either Catholic or Protestant, at least in theology? I’ve heard and read serious arguments that boiled down essentially to this. The problem is that that position is anything but Biblical. It’s based on the acceptance of the Creeds of Christendom – which is ironic because the people who accept the Creeds generally do not accept continuing revelation from God (i.e., the Bible is a closed canon); in short, many people accept the teachings and interpretation of theologians but will not accept what many claim to be direct revelation from God in our day. I might be a little cynical in this example but I’ve heard a lot of people imply that they have the Bible and that was (more than) enough of God’s words for them: “We already have a Bible, we don’t need another one.”

I could go on but those points should suffice for now. My other main question besides what are the criteria for being Christian, is why is it so important to some people to demonstrate that Mormons are not Christian? What are their motives for this position? I can put forth some guesses but I won’t because I try not to ascribe motives to others, especially when I have no idea.

For me, and I think most members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and most other Christians, being Christian means as a start “one who believes in Jesus Christ.” That’s it. However, truly being Christian means more than a profession of belief in Jesus Christ, it requires a life of striving to be like the Savior in deeds, words, and thoughts. On one level, being Christian is completely personal. On another level, being Christian is evident in how one lives one’s life. Trying to give or deny Christianity using other criteria is, I believe, misguided.

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