Why it’s unchristian to call Mormons “not Christian”

April 10, 2008 | 60 comments
By

In his new book, Claiming Christ, Professor Robert Millet, in dialogue with Evangelical scholar Gerald McDermott about the commonalities and differences of Mormonism and the varieties of Evangelical Christianity, makes the observation that the notion of labeling Latter-day Saints as “not Christian” is a fashion that became widespread only about twenty years ago. (For example, it has only been in the last few years that the Methodists and Catholics thought it necessary to address whether Mormons could be received into their membership without rebaptism.) Brother Millet makes it clear that he rejects the label, and his effort throughout the book is to explain the devotion to the Savior that Latter-day Saints share with Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants of all kinds.

We are all familiar with the effort of people in many other churches in Christendom to classify Latter-day Saints as being outside Christianity on grounds of our rejection of the bodiless, emotionless trinity of the creeds, while we get no credit for having a stronger loyalty to the text of the Bible than many modern Protestant denominations. Apparently you can reject the authority and accuracy of scripture pretty broadly and still be Christian. In First Things journal, Father Richard John Neuhaus critically recounts every month instances of departure from basic Christian doctrine by priests of his own Roman Catholic Church, but they are never considered as losing their membership cards in Christianity on that basis. We Mormons are never going to win a game using their arbitrary definitions of “Christian” that emphasize our differences, while overlooking our many similarities and ignoring the wide divergence of many other denominations from historical and arguably Biblical Christian beliefs.

I suggest that there is a non-theological reason why those who call us “non-Christian” should stop doing so.

I don’t begrudge people who feel the need to find some terminology to demarcate themselves from Mormons. How about calling themselves “non-Mormons”, rather than making up a name for Mormons—“non-Christian”–which Mormons don’t agree with and don’t want to wear?

Insisting on applying that term to Mormons is like someone coming up and slapping a sticker on my back that says “Stupid”. They are well aware that, without specific explanation, it is understood by many people to mean that Mormons do not believe that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God, the resurrected Savior of the world. Knowing this, people who use the term, without caveats to specify that it does not mean what it sounds like, are creating a false understanding about Mormons, and are therefore bearing false witness against their LDS neighbors.

Since they know that Mormons don’t like the label, people who use it are intentionally giving offense. How Christian is it to do that? Didn’t Jesus say something about people who call their brother “a fool” being in danger of hell fire?

We don’t call Japanese people “Japs” any more (I am one, by the way), and some of the names for blacks are so offensive we don’t even spell them out, and we fire people who use such terms (as Don Imus learned). Certain terms for homosexuals are employed only by those intent on giving offense or even inducing fear of physical harm. We also refrain from using terms that denigrate Muslim Americans, even while we wage war against a violent group that uses Muslim rhetoric to encourage the mass murder of Americans. Such labels turn human beings into objects that can be abused at will. They are invitations for others in the audience to express their animosity toward the group being labeled.

Just as a matter of maintaining a civil society, and not gratuitously alienating our fellow citizens, shouldn’t we generally refrain from sticking labels on good people that hurt their feelings, that portray them as lesser persons (not allowed, for example, to be elected President), or that serve as invitations to the sociopaths in society to “Kick Me”?

Regardless of what one’s own particular theology causes one to conclude about the ultimate eternal destination of your neighbor, it seems to me to be a serious deficit of Christian ethics to insist on applying a label to millions of people when they see it as denying the sincerity of their worship, their prayer, their study of scripture, their sacred covenants with God and their sacrifice. It is a label that literally leads to them being called “liars” in public places when they profess their faith in Christ (as Professor Millet recounts), and that encourages the most boorish of our neighbors to loudly ridicule things that we hold sacred. It demonstrates neither the love of neighbor that Jesus called the second great commandment, nor the love of enemies that he called his disciples to strive for in his Sermon on the Mount.

There is no problem with saying factually true things such as “Mormons are not within traditional Trinitarian Christianity,” or “Mormon beliefs are very different from those of my church, including beliefs about Christ that are beyond what the Bible says.” But when a Protestant or Catholic person points a finger at me and says “You are not Christian, and when you say you are, you are lying”, it serves no purpose other than to express hatred, and encourage division and discrimination. It carries the constant subtext that Latter-day Saints, because we insist we are Christian, are untrustworthy prevaricators who are therefore fair game for discrimination and denial of full participation in society alongside “real Christians.”

That kind of pejorative labeling is looked on with horror by society when used against racial and ethnic minorities, homosexuals, and other religious minorities. Why don’t Mormons deserve the same kind of civility in public discourse that other minority groups receive?

Tags: , , ,

60 Responses to Why it’s unchristian to call Mormons “not Christian”

  1. a random John on April 10, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Do fundamentalist Mormons deserve the same courtesy? Should they be allowed to claim the nickname of Mormons alongside the LDS?

  2. tiredmormon on April 10, 2008 at 5:11 pm

    Ditto.

    And does it have anything to do with generations of rhetoric from the LDS Hierarchy that we are not Christians?

    I mean the prophets have, until very recently, been the ones to underscore the doctrinal differences and set Mormons aside as something apart from Christians in no uncertain terms. I think you are placing far too much blame on those of other faiths for denouncing Mormons as non-Christian when they are essentially repeating utterances from our own prophets. We can\’t have it both ways.

  3. outsider on April 10, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    I agree with both of these comments (1&2); Mormons go out of their way to remind people that their church is the only true church, yet also want to wear the very-broad Christian title. It can’t go both ways. And if you are a Christian who believes that Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics, and heck, even *gasp* homosexuals can all be Christians, it’s a little hard when Mormons claim that they are too, despite believing that only their church is correct.

    It probably does feel a little like FLDS claming to be LDS. I know many Mormons who get very angry that they share a name.

  4. Darrell on April 10, 2008 at 5:23 pm

    Tiredmormon, I am not sure that I have ever heard our own prophets state that we are not Christian. Not Catholic, not Lutheran, not Baptist, etc. yes, but not Christian, no. I would be interested in seeing some reference.

    It used to bother me a lot when I (or the Church as a whole) would be accused of that, but it does not any more. I guess I just care about what I believe. It is most important that I “be” a Christian rather than I “be called” a Christian. One of the greatest compliments I ever received was from a Baptist friend when, in a quiet conversation, he told me that he believed that I would go to Heaven “even though you are a Mormon.” I believe Raymond is correct. When people call us non-Christian they are telling us more about themselves than they are about us.

  5. Blake on April 10, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    I must admit Tired Mormon that your practice of referring to others outside the LDS faith as Christians and suggesting that Mormon prophets were therefore rejecting the title “Christian” is precisely the kind of presumptuous and question begging use of “Christian” that is properly being called unChristian. Outsider: The notion that Mormon Christians cannot point of differences and even reject various sectarian views without the implication that they are rejecting Christianity is precisely the false assumption that we ought not tolerate. So I agree with Darrell.

  6. Eric Russell on April 10, 2008 at 5:39 pm

    The words “Mormon” and “Christian” are different categories of words and the argument that they ought to be employed similarly doesn’t follow. “Christian” as defined by most dictionaries means “of, pertaining to, believing in, or belonging to the religion based on the teachings of Jesus Christ”. “Mormon” as defined by most dictionaries is “the popular name given to a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

  7. jrl on April 10, 2008 at 5:45 pm

    # 1 – yes, FLDS should be able to call themselves Mormons. Just like the Community of Christ, Strangites, and anyone else that refers to themselves as being Mormon. As long as they are not misrepresenting their beliefs or our beliefs… But a name is shorthand for a whole bundle of beliefs, isn’t it. Maybe I’m not any help on that question…

  8. Wilfried on April 10, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Excellent post, Raymond.

    It is indeed sad, if not exasperating, to be denied an identity that is so central to us. But should this oblige us to almost beg to be adopted in the Christian family and be recognized as one of the Christian sects and denominations? A broader question underlying the vexing issue of being labeled “non Christian” is indeed also: “What is our place in Christianity?” From the viewpoint of missionary work, and I am certainly speaking here from an international and from a convert perspective, the claim that we are “a” Christian church among the others seems far from helpful. Indeed, conversion to Mormonism includes the realization that all Christian churches have deviated from the original truth and that none holds the authority to act in the name of the Lord. Of course, we want this message to be worded in a non-offensive way and we want to show respect to all Christians as individuals, but converts find it difficult to understand why the Only True Church would want to profile itself as just “another” church among Christian denominations.

  9. outsider on April 10, 2008 at 6:07 pm

    “Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
    – Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., History of the Church, v. 1, p. xl

    “The Christian world, so-called, are heathens as to the knowledge of the salvation of God”
    – Prophet Brigham Young

    “Christians—those poor, miserable priests brother Brigham was speaking about—some of them are the biggest whoremasters there are on the earth, and at the same time preaching righteousness to the children of men. The poor devils, they could not get up here and preach an oral discourse, to save themselves from hell; they are preaching their fathers’ sermons —preaching sermons that were written a hundred years before they were born. …You may get a Methodist priest to pour water on you, or sprinkle it on you, and baptize you face foremost, or lay you down the other way, and whatever mode you please, and you will be damned with your priest.
    – Apostle Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, v. 5, p. 89

    “What! Are Christians ignorant? Yes, as ignorant of the things of God as the brute beast.”
    – Prophet John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, v. 13, p. 225

    “Both Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the ‘whore of Babylon’ whom the Lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickedness. Any person who shall be so corrupt as to receive a holy ordinance of the Gospel from the ministers of any of these apostate churches will be sent down to hell with them, unless they repent.”
    – Apostle Orson Pratt, The Seer, p. 255

    “My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.”
    “I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in His sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.’”

    “What is it that inspires professors of Christianity generally with a hope of salvation? It is that smooth, sophisticated influence of the devil, by which he deceives the whole world”
    – Prophet Joseph Smith

  10. Wilfried on April 10, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    # 7 referring to # 1 – “yes, FLDS should be able to call themselves Mormons. Just like the Community of Christ, Strangites, and anyone else that refers to themselves as being Mormon.”

    The Style Guide of the Church says it differently and has a clear take on this, and so does even the Associated Press Stylebook:

    When writing about the Church, please follow these guidelines:
    • “Mormon” is correctly used in proper names such as the Book of Mormon, Mormon Tabernacle Choir or Mormon Trail, or when used as an adjective in such expressions as “Mormon pioneers.”
    • The term “Mormonism” is acceptable in describing the combination of doctrine, culture and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
    • When referring to people or organizations that practice polygamy, the terms “Mormons,” “Mormon fundamentalist,” “Mormon dissidents,” etc. are incorrect. The Associated Press Stylebook notes: “The term Mormon is not properly applied to the other … churches that resulted from the split after [Joseph] Smith’s death.”

  11. Ray on April 10, 2008 at 6:20 pm

    #9 – and your point is?

  12. Blake on April 10, 2008 at 6:22 pm

    Outsider: Please note the nuance: “The Christian world, so-called…” There are quite obviously nuanced uses of the term “Christian” in these quotes. No LDS prophet has ever rejected the view that we are Christians in the sense that we are followers of Jesus Christ. Never!

    No LDS prophet has claimed to be Christian in the sense that we are just a part of the larger “christian” world that is defined by the Catholic and Protestant world. In that sense as a general noun or designation for a religious tradition, we are not “christians,” but so what. What is at issue is obviously the various senses in which it is claimed that Mormons are not “Christian.” Yes, it is unChristian in extremis to reject our own self-designation as Christians in the sense that we are followers of Christ. It is unChristian to reject that self-designation in the sense that claim to be the legitimate continuation of the revelation of Jesus and the kingdom of God on earth.

    So if so-called Christians claim that LDS are not Christians, as you do, it is incumbent on you to explain what sense you are denying to Mormon Christians. When outsiders like yourself state that Mormon Christians are really Christians, they are simply attempting to argue that Latter-day Saints are not really the legitimate successors to Jesus Christ and don’t represent him. However, by simply begging the question in this sense, they win a semantic victory by presupposing a conclusion to precisely the issue that we are discussing. Latter-day Saints have every right to claim to be followers of Christ. If you deny that use, then you are unChristian. If you suggest that we don’t accept the historical creeds or some hermeneutic tradition of sola scriptura as such, then who cares how you use the term? You simply have an obligation to be clear when you deny us our own self-designation.

    Finally, note the in the First Vision God didn’t use the term “Christian” to refer to those professors of religion who refused to listen to him because their doctrines had a form only but lacked the heart of divine power. In fact, he quoted Isaiah and Jesus Christ who both spoke about those who profess religion but don’t live it. In fact, pretending to judge Latter-day Saints and whether they are truly Christian is just the kind of conduct Isaiah and Christ were pointing to.

  13. Darrell on April 10, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    With all of this, do the FLDS (or other groups) even want to be refered to as Mormons? “Mormon fundamentalist?” What do they call themselves? I am not sure. Maybe we are arguing in circles. This line of argument may be a moot point if they have no desire at all to be refered to as “Mormons” or any other derivation of the term. Does anyone know?

  14. kwk on April 10, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Mormons aren’t the only recipients of Protestant name calling. I’d imagine there are quite a few spiritual people who dislike the label “heathen”. I’ve never found evangelical types to be particularly civil in conversation about faiths other than their own. I don’t mean to paint with a wide brush, that’s just been my experience.

    When ever I think about the “Are Mormons Christian?” question, I always think – why would we want to be part of a club that doesn’t want us as a member? If the Protestants and Catholics want to assume ownership of the definition of the word, I say let them. Does it hurt the public’s perception of us? I don’t think so. It’s not like Christianity is getting a lot of love in the press lately. Does it hurt missionary work? For the people that don’t have enough honest interest to check out the church’s website, or come to our worship services and see Jesus’ name in big letters in front of our chapels – yeah, they’ll probably get a skewed perspective. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve never expected other churches or mainstream media to be complimentary, or even neutral, towards Mormons. A primary theme of the most important event in our church’s history was that everyone else was wrong – so I’ve kind of accepted ‘being the odd man out’ as a cross that Mormons bare. The nature of our personal relationships with those not of our faith will always drown out all of that scare tactics and shallow analysis noise anyway.

  15. hawkgrrrl on April 10, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    When Mormons are referred to as \”non-Christians\” it is not usually an epithet hurled at us, it is what is said about us. The distinction is important. The first scenario is an insult designed to offend us or belittle us. The second scenario is designed to scare the crap out of anyone who might otherwise listen to what we are teaching and be converted.

  16. Ray on April 10, 2008 at 6:46 pm

    Fwiw, I really don’t care whether someone says they are Christian or not. I care only if they try to live in accordance with what Jesus taught and how he lived. I prefer the Buddhist or Muslim who is living a “Christian life” to the Christian who is not – even if that Christian is Mormon.

    Arguments over being called Christian are too much like “We have Abraham for our father” for me. Nearly always it carries a “therefore I am saved while you are damned” implication that is the real un-Christian statement. That goes beyond just giving offense. In other words, if “Mormon” functions as a curse, in the true scriptural sense of the word, it’s wrong and un-Christian; if “Christian” functions as a curse from our lips, it is just as wrong and un-Christian. The only quotes from #9 that do that to other Christians are the ones from HCK and Orson Pratt (not a surprise); the others are significantly different in actual meaning.

  17. Keith on April 10, 2008 at 7:00 pm

    Here’s why II care that others think we are Christian.

    First of all, I agree that it doesn’t matter, in most respects, what others think. It doesn’t strengthen my faith when a prominent theologian of another faith says LDS people and beliefs might be Christians, any more than it weakens it when hordes of theologians say we aren’t. Here I leave it in Christ’s hands to judge. I’m confident what that judgment will be with respect to the Church, its teaching and practices, or I wouldn’t be a Latter-day Saint. With respect to me individually, I have to say, like Nephi, I know in whom I have trusted and who I follow in fear and trembling.

    Notwithstanding this, I do have reasons for hoping others accept us as Christians (even if misguided or maybe if even heretical Christians).

    1. For simple honesty and accuracy. We believe in the Christ of the New Testament, and for all that we have beliefs that other Christians don’t (pre-existence, differences in doctrine of Godhead, embodiment of the Father, extra-Biblical Scripture, etc.), we do believe that we are saved by Christ and in no other way. We believe he was God come to redeem us, that he worked out the atonement for this purpose, and that he was crucified, died, and was resurrected. It is one thing when a scholar, using the traditional theological doctrines, says Latter-day Saints are not Christian, but it is quite another when the average person hears this. I doubt that theologians who know LDS belief have the impression that we don’t look to Christ for redemption. It is for other reasons that they will hold we are not Christian. But simply to hear such, without knowing the story the way they do, leaves the wrong impression.

    2. For fellowship and for working together for good. This is related, in some ways, to reason #1 above. Some will not join Latter-day Saints, or let Latter-day Saints join with them in some mutual efforts or fellowship because they believe we are not Christian. This includes not only the worthy battles on the social issues, but also in the academy where we might well be allies in fighting anti-religious and anti-Christian strains of thought. I value very much the non-LDS Christian friends I gained at Graduate School—both from the regular school and the theological school associated with it. I was happy when one of my Christian friends invited me to be part of a campus Christian group that met once a week. I also tried earnestly to help this same person keep his Christian faith as it began to be shaken through his studies. (And I did this with no concern to convert him to my particular faith.)

    3. My last reason for hoping that others will at least tentatively accept us as Christian arises from a concern that some may reject our message outright without a second thought because they already know, as they’ve been informed, that we don’t believe in Christ. This, of course, comes from my belief that we are Christians, that the Restoration is true, and that we have the fullness of the Gospel and authority to administer its ordinances. But this reason is no more important to me than reasons 1 and 2 above. In other words, this “selfish” denominational concern would not outweigh those other concerns in a way that would bring me to be dishonest about my belief or differences of belief with others. Additionally, and perhaps paradoxically, it is this belief that also helps me understand why leaders and theologians from other denominations oppose us. The belief of many of them will be that adhering to LDS beliefs and practices puts one outside the reach of Christ’s redemption and leaves one in hell. While I disagree with this, because I take my own faith seriously and believe it is actually true, I can understand where others are coming from if they, too, take their beliefs seriously.

    This leads me to wonder whether some of the inter-faith dialogue might focus on whether our traditional Christian friends should worry about us or not (or perhaps it’s been an unstated motive, but still present). In other words, I might be inclined to show my friends how I really do believe in Christ, trust him, look to him for salvation, not so much to erase theological differences, and certainly not to get their approval so I feel better, but so they need not worry and so that, in appropriate ways, we might share in fellowship and mutual efforts. The counterpart to this, of course, is that if my friends truly believe I don’t trust in Christ and that my beliefs and practices lead me out of his grace, much of their effort will be to get me to see that I and they should be worried.

    In short, I’ve got good reason for not caring what others think. There are also good reasons to care.

  18. Bob on April 10, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    I don’t think “Christians’ got up one morning and decided Mormons should not be called Christians. Rather, it seems a few decades ago, Mormons decided they wanted to be called Christians by others, and the fight started.
    #12: These statements in # 9 are not “nuance”, there are mean.

  19. Todd Wood on April 10, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Now if I tangle with fiesty Raymond in disagreement here in Idaho Falls, will I need a lawyer to keep me out of trouble? :) As one living in the small, small minority, I do at times think of self-preservation lest I be thrown into the Snake River. :)

    Raymond, rather than place a lengthy counter post here on T&S, I am going to swing it over on to HI4LDS. Ok? Stay tuned. For today, I will just link this T&S post on my blog.

    Blake: Finally, note the in the First Vision God didn’t use the term “Christian” to refer to those professors of religion who refused to listen to him because their doctrines had a form only but lacked the heart of divine power. In fact, he quoted Isaiah and Jesus Christ who both spoke about those who profess religion but don’t live it. In fact, pretending to judge Latter-day Saints and whether they are truly Christian is just the kind of conduct Isaiah and Christ were pointing to.

    I have been unaware of this. Which specific quotes of Isaiah and Jesus are you referring to, Blake?

  20. Raymond Takashi Swenson on April 10, 2008 at 7:31 pm

    Let me point out that LDS chaplains are classified by the armed forces as “Christians.” The number of chaplains representing each denomination is based on the relative proportion of that denomination in the US church-going population. LDS chaplains take their turn conducting the generic Protestant chapel services at military bases and in the field. They wear a cross device on their uniforms. So there are certainly institutions in society that have not had a problem with recognizing that Mormons are Christian at a basic level. In some ways, the chaplain corps loves the Mormons, because their funding and manpower authorizations are allocated on the basis of total numbers of meetings and total chapel attendance, and we Mormons basically made up half of that figure each week when we met in the base chapel.

    I am 58 years old and have seen a number of developments in the emphases of the Church in my time, but I do not recall a time when LDS leaders did not consider us to be Christians. I do not see such a distinction in the discourses and writings of Joseph Smith or Brigham Young, but actually the opposite, that the message of the Restoration is that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, if anything, the MOST Christian church on the earth today.

    When I was on my mission in Japan from 1969 to 1971, we told people we were neither Catholic nor Protestant, but were Christian, the original Church of Jesus Christ restored to the earth as it was in the time of the original apostles. Our flannel board cutouts had a little building (resembling the Idaho Falls temple) that was overlaid on the foundation of the “Apostles and Prophets”. When I pulled the foundation out, the rest of the building fell off the flannel board. Then we explained that the apostles of Christ had been restored to the earth, allowing the true church of Christ to be organized again.

    What has perceptibly developed is a wider understanding of the role of Christ’s grace in our salvation and exaltation. That is a direct result of the greater emphasis on direct study of the scriptures (as opposed to study of topics drawing on little proof texts from throughout the scriptures), with the change in the Sunday School curriculum in the 1980s, and then the greater emphasis on study of the Book of Mormon by President Benson. The essential role of Christ’s grace is emphasized throughout the Book of Mormon, and a better understanding of it among Latter-day Saints is a direct result of better study of that book. You can certainly find some old LDS popular literature written during the previous years that shows little appreciation for God’s grace, beyond the initial forgiveness of sins at baptism, and emphasizes effort and obedience as the means to blessings including eternal life. They actually sound odd when I come across one of them on the shelf in Deseret Industries. I suspect they were very much a product of a reaction to the exclusive reliance on grace without works, called “cheap grace” by its critics such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, preached by a movement within Protestantism that really took off in the same time period that the LDS Church has been organized, even though it claims to be the legitimate heir of Paul and the primitive church.

    It should also be noted that the notion of excluding from Christianity churches that don’t meet some narrow definition of “Christian” has often been used to exclude Catholicism too. It ought to be a cautionary example to Catholics who see an Evangelical bandwagon pass by singing “Mormons aren’t Christian” that if the Catholics join in, after a while they will hear the tune switch to “Catholics aren’t Christian.”

    I have never heard of a polygamist sect that does not denounce the brethren down at 50 East South Temple as “apostates” due to our rejection of plural marriage. I guess I don’t have enough contact with the polygamists to have heard them insist they are “Mormon” and should be associated with the LDS Church and its opposition to modern polygamy. I know the Community of Christ (nee Reorganized LDS) has made an effort to disassociate itself from “Mormonism”, the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith. One could argue that “Mormon” is a term so closely associated with the LDS Church with 13 million members, with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and its publication of millions of copies of the Book of Mormon in dozens of languages, an association that is the product of years of effort and millions of dollars in investment, that it would be a misrepresentation to use the term for any other church in the sense of “a Mormon church” rather than “the Mormon Church.” The LDS Church approaches, if it does not fulfill, the standard for asserting a trademark on the word “Mormon.” Saying that a member of a sect with historic ties to Mormonism is nevertheless not a member of THE Mormon Church is not, as far as I know, a statement that is objectionable, since everyone knows what THE Mormon Church is.

    By contrast, there have been multiple centers of Christianity since the Second Century, initially as equal status independent organizations, especially outside the Roman Empire. The ability to be Christian but not Roman Catholic was established early on, so the assertion that a church that uses the Christian canon and holds Jesus to be Christ and Savior cannot be Christian evinces the response “Why not?” There is no such thing as THE Christian Church, and has not been since the First Century.

  21. Seth R. on April 10, 2008 at 7:54 pm

    I no longer care too much about the designation of “Christian.”

    To begin with, it wasn’t a word the followers of Jesus even used, but was a nickname given to them later by the Romans.

    Secondly, as the term is commonly understood throughout the world, no, we really aren’t “Christians.” We’re fundamentally not a part of that tradition. Our theology is totally different. We share a common belief in Jesus Christ, but it’s a shared belief the same way the original Christians shared a belief with the Jews in Jehovah. We’re a different game in town and a new world religion in our own right.

    Third, it really doesn’t seem fair that we get to doctrinally refute an entire world faith and then try to claim its name for ourselves. And doing so really puts us in a kill-or-be-killed sort of stance in relation to traditional Christianity. From their perspective, it’s a pretty reasonable response.

    Finally, do we really want traditional Christianity’s baggage? The word “Christian” isn’t always a really positive one. Do we want to take all their skeletons into our own closet? Don’t we have enough in our own? We have a distinctly unique opportunity to start fresh on the world scene and newly brand ourselves however we want. Why shoot ourselves in the foot from the get-go?

    The truth is, I just don’t see the word “Christian” as such a huge asset as some of you seem to. I remain quite indifferent to whether we manage to claim it for our own or not.

  22. Dennis on April 10, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    Blake and Keith,

    Excellent comments. I agree completely.

    My own two cents: From my experience, there is not a very logical distinction between who the Christian community calls Christian and who they do not. For simplicity, let’s focus simply on evangelical Christians. I’ve had many conversations with evangelicals (including ministers and ministers-in-training) regarding why Mormons aren’t Christians. Any reasons they give do not get to the heart of the matter. For example, if it has to do with extra scripture, the Catholics believe in extra scripture, yet most evangelicals (though I acknowledge some would) would not say that Catholics are not Christian. It it has to do with a focus on outward ordinances and “Christ alone” not being sufficient to save, the Catholics again fit this bill.

    Here’s the question I occasionally ask non-LDS Christians in theological circles (when we talk about this issue): CAN a Mormon be Christian? This is a fun little game. Because if the answer is “yes” then it is not (technically) correct to say Mormons aren’t Christians. If the answer is “no” then we have to wonder why “Christ alone” is not able to save me in spite of my Mormonism. I pressed this point once in a recent conversation, asking if it is possible for me as a Mormon to be saved, and if so, at what point am I saved? One fellow said that I would have to reject Mormonism first, to which I replied, “Then I have to DO something!” The other fellow (training to be a minister and who earlier said that the reason Mormons aren’t Christians is because we dont’ think Christ alone is sufficient) eagerly piped in, “No, no, I don’t believe that. You could be a Christian as a Mormon.” Interestingly, however, by his own definition, the first fellow would not be a Christian. And certainly, if we took the logical definitions seriously, there would be plenty in the evangelical Christian community who would not be considered Christian. Oh, the tangled web we weave when we try to sort out who is and who is not Christian!

    Here, at bottom, is the logic: Mormon is not Christian. And we can’t really pinpoint why.

    But one thing about the whole “Christ alone” argument that I’ve never quite understood. Unless you’re a predestinarian (not sure if that’s a real word), the individual has to at least accept the grace of Christ. Could not the entire Mormon plan of salvation and exaltation be considered as simply accepting the grace of Christ? I don’t see any problem with seeing it that way. From this view, the crucial issue is not a “Christ alone” vs. “save yourself” argument (only the Calvinists really fit the “Christ alone” bill). The issue, rather, is what we mean by accepting the grace of Christ. Unfortunately, people on both sides (LDS and non-LDS) make this divide a qualitative grace vs. works argument that is much further than the real differences between us, if you ask me.

    Putting all this aside, I take the most stock in Jesus’ words: “By this shall men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

  23. Jacob J on April 10, 2008 at 8:37 pm

    This reminds me of a thead over at HI4TW. My thoughts were in the same vein as those expressed in this post.

  24. C Jones on April 10, 2008 at 8:42 pm

    If you have to to label it: Mormons are ‘Christ of the New Testament ‘ Christians. Evangelicals are ‘Christ of the Creeds’ Christians.

    Sweet website, Jacob J!

  25. Aaron on April 10, 2008 at 8:48 pm

    I totally agree with #21 (this is my lazy way of reading through the post and picking the one that most resembles my opinion on the issue).

    And I don’t care if other groups call themselves “Mormons” either – who cares?! I think 7 or 8 other “faiths” consider the Book of Mormon scripture – so have at it, call yourselves Mormons.

    I believe in Christ. I belong to a Church the believes in Christ. What is a “Christian” to say to that? – “No you don’t!” I think if LDS/Mormons rid themselves of the desire to be included in “Christian” then the argument disappears. Have at it “Christians.” Keep your title all to yourselves. Its quickly (and sadly) becoming synonymous with “closedminded”, “bigot”, and “holier than thou.”

  26. Bob on April 10, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    I think what most people miss, is this is a surrogate war. We are really fighting about something else. I have my feelings on what those things are, but I’ll let each reach his own answer.
    At the Vietnam “peace talks”, they fought two years over the shape of the table. The real issue was how they were going to engage each other, and learn to know what the other valued. Some way must be found to turn this from a wedge issue, to a bonding issue.

  27. hawkgrrrl on April 10, 2008 at 9:56 pm

    This argument is fairly new because Evangelicals picked this fight pretty recently. This wasn’t a discussion before they started claiming the title Christian as solely their own.

    A couple months back, my assistant told me she used to be Catholic until she converted to Christianity. I said Catholics might disagree with that statement and asked what sect she was. She said Christian. I asked what denomination. She said Christian. I couldn’t get more than that out of her. So I asked her if she belonged to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). She finally kind of smiled and said she attends a (non-denominational) megachurch.

    I agree that the title Christian (like GOP) is becoming a pejorative quickly in this present environment, but I object to the highjacking of both.

  28. Bob on April 10, 2008 at 10:30 pm

    #27: “Evangelicals picked this fight pretty recently”. Read again #9. Early on, Mormons attacked Christians and Catholics.
    Evangelicals I have known, see themselves bonded only to Christ. They see Mormons (and Catholics) bonded to their Churches . They see this Mormon bonding to a Church as not “Christian”, but cult like.

  29. Raymond Takashi Swenson on April 10, 2008 at 11:51 pm

    RE#28: “Mormons attacked Christians and Catholics”? Picketed their churches? Printed pamphlets saying they were going to hell? Calling them names, asserting they were not Christians, that they were liars or stuipid or both? That is how some modern churches “attack” the LDS Church.

    Do you mean they “attacked” Protestants and Catholics by burning their homes, arresting their pastors on false charges, threatening to execute them illegally, and ordering them to abandon their homes and leave a state on pain of death if they stayed? That is how some churches in Missouri “attacked” the Mormons.

    Or do you mean they disagreed with some of their various tenets, in the same way Luther and Calvin “attacked” the Catholic Church by publishing arguments that some of its doctrines were in error? I would suggest that Mormon “attacks” were essentially the same kind of disagreement as this, the kind of disagreement that also extended to disputes among various Protestant sects, which was the impetus for Joseph to ask God which sect was the correct one. If God had told Joseph to join the Methodists, wouldn’t that have been the same kind of “attack” on Presbyterians and Episcopalians and Baptists? Isn’t the freedom to make this kind of “attack”–an appeal to reason and an argument–precisely what the First Amendment protects as the free exercise of religion?

    The rhetoric that some Protestants have used to justify their harsh criticism of Mormons and Mormonism has accused Mormons of being inherently deceptive and untrustworthy, specifically of lying about their worship of Christ when they are actually worshipping Joseph Smith or Satan, and that the Book of Mormon was actually written under the influence of Satan (as an explanation for the information in it that is beyond the capacity of Joseph Smith to have created). While this defamation is only believed by a minority of Americans, those who do accept it feel strongly that Mormons are a threat to their version of Christianity on a par with radical jihadist Muslims. That minority’s antipathy to Mormons is an expression of pure religious xenophobia. Mormons are the equivalent of illegal immigrants sneaking into Christianity, in their view, and are to be denounced and deported. And this attitude is underwritten by official organs of the Southern Baptist Convention (specifically the North American Missions Board) as demonstrated in the propaganda they distributed at their 1998 convention in Salt Lake City. They insist (and continued to insist during the presidential primaries) that Mormonism cannot be allowed to achieve the status of a “legitimate” religion in America, in other words, they think Mormons are literally illegitimate, i.e. religious “bastards”.

    As an institution, what has the LDS Church ever done to the Southern Baptist Convention that justifies such a campaign of defamation?

  30. Ray on April 11, 2008 at 12:03 am

    taken away members

  31. Ray on April 11, 2008 at 12:17 am

    The Mormon Church offends other Christian religions by asserting they are not what they claim to be; other Christians offend Mormons by asserting that we are not what we claim to be. Imo, it’s only inexcusable if it rises to the level of the “cursing” that is prohibited in scripture – claiming that the other will be damned to Hell. That has been the charge against us from the beginning. Our early leaders sometimes replied in kind; luckily our current leaders do not. That was my point in #16.

    Frankly, if “Christian” means followers of Christ and worshipers of Christ *only*, I’ll opt out. If it requires the elimination of the Father as a real and separate and distinct Being, I don’t want the term. I’ll settle for disciple or follower of Christ or believer in Christ and Son of the Living God. I’ll stick with an explanation of my beliefs, rather than a nickname.

    If someone says, “Are you a Christian?” I will answer, “I think so, but lots of others don’t. Do you want to hear what I believe and decide for yourself?”

  32. Blake on April 11, 2008 at 12:37 am

    Todd: Try Isaiah 29:13: “Why the Lord said, For as much as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men.” That is what Christ quoted to Joseph in the grove. Then for the way Jesus used this quote from Isaiah, look at Matt. 15:8-9; Mark 7:6-7.

    Bob: If you are suggesting that Mormon Christians only recently claimed to be followers of Christ, then you are not merely unChristian but sadly misinformed.

    If the worst we do is say that so-called christians wallow in ignorance, I’ll take that over driving folks out of their homes, killing their prophets and raping their Constitutional rights while claiming to follow Jesus.

  33. Bob on April 11, 2008 at 12:43 am

    #29: I never said modern Mormons have attached “Christians”. I am well aware of the evils of men. I also value my Evangelical and Baptist friends of a life time. I have spend many hours in trying to understand their beliefs, and feelings or understandings of Mormons. Our goals as friends is to find a way to come together.

  34. Bob on April 11, 2008 at 1:06 am

    #32: Blake, funny you would pick me out of all these posts, to call “unchristian”. I never said nor suggested ” Mormon Christians only recently claimed to be followers of Christ”. I said it is only recently they wanted to be called “Christian”.

  35. Raymond Takashi Swenson on April 11, 2008 at 1:09 am

    Re #31 (Ray): I agree that is a reasonable way to handle that question. The concern I have is with people who don’t ask, they just tell.

    I have a thick enough skin I can survive being falsely accused of all sorts of things, an occupational necessaity for a lawyer. But I am concerned that the false classification of Latter-day Saints has real consequences in terms of the freedoms and opportunities of individual members, particularly when it comes to participation in communities outside the church, both occupational, professional, recreational and political.

  36. Blake on April 11, 2008 at 1:35 am

    Bob: Just what do you call one who claims to follow Christ? Well, “Christian” certainly comes to mind. Have you done an historical analysis of the claim to be “Christian” in LDS usage?

  37. Ray on April 11, 2008 at 2:00 am

    I know what you mean, RTS. I have lived in the Deep South and, after leaving a room at work, had “the spirit of the serpent that is among us” exorcised from that room. I understand the bigotry and the harm it causes. I just think “turn the other cheek” and “forgive seventy times seven” have much broader application than we often realize. If we will be known ultimately by our fruits, that’s a good place to start, imo – refusing to take offense, returning a smile when we receive bile and, through that example, letting our light so shine. That probably wasn’t an available luxury back when persecution was afflicted via gunpowder and tar, but when persecution usually manifests itself verbally, I think it’s the proper course.

    I agree it’s un-Christian to call us “not Christian” – but I don’t think it’s worth fighting about. I’ll settle for teaching correct principles and letting them govern themselves – exactly what I want them to do for me. If I have to give up “Christian” and stick with Son of God, I’m ok with that. That’s the heart of the Restored Gospel anyway, imho, so if I have to be identified with the Father when mainstream Christianity excludes me from their identification with the Son, so be it. I’ll aim for the Celestial Kingdom and let them aim for the Terrestrial – since that’s what each of us preaches in the first place.

  38. Ray on April 11, 2008 at 2:03 am

    Sorry, “inflicted” not “afflicted”.

  39. john f. on April 11, 2008 at 9:57 am

    Raymond:

    As I have stated on Todd Wood’s blog, many Evangelicals know how much emphasis we Latter-day Saints put on Christ and how we see ourselves as followers of Jesus Christ but they will never accept us as followers of Jesus Christ based on how they judge our ability to measure up to abstract philosophical constructs such as the one substance Trinity (in which the New Testament descriptions of the unity between God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit are interpreted to mean that they are the same substance as well) as an arbitrary, Catholic standard by which to exclude certain individuals from the family of Jesus Christ.

    In other words, our devotion to Jesus Christ simply doesn’t matter because they say our Jesus Christ is different than the one that emerged from Tertullian’s pen and the deliberations of the fourth-century ecumenical councils.

  40. john f. on April 11, 2008 at 10:03 am

    Ray # 37, If I have to give up “Christian” and stick with Son of God, I’m ok with that.

    Don’t be silly Ray. Why would Evangelicals’ and other creedal Christians’ insistence on calling you “not Christian” despite your daily devotion to the Jesus Christ of the New Testament cause you to “give up” seeing and referring to yourself as a Christian?

    True, maybe we should just call ourselves Followers of Jesus Christ and stop trying to call ourselves Christian, not because we don’t believe we are Christian but because that actually describes what a Christian is — a Follower, or Disciple, of Jesus Christ. This is what is contained in the term “Christian” and not anything about an abstract philosophical construct of homoousios (same substance).

  41. Ray on April 11, 2008 at 10:35 am

    That’s my point, john f. “Christian” was a nickname, perhaps given in derision (like “Mormon”) by those who rejected “Christians” as true believers. The record doesn’t specify, but we have our own modern example. Why settle for a nickname, if that nickname is used as a club? Why are we married to that term? I think it’s because we want to fit in – to be accepted – to b validated. (“We are too ok!”)

    If the term has come to mean, in real terms, those who believe the creeds of Protestantism (since it is used to exclude Catholics by many), why can’t we just quit arguing about it and use a different term? Why can’t we “turn the other cheek” on this one and just say, “Fine. You are right. We really aren’t Christians **as you define it**. We simply are dedicated to following Jesus’ example and trying to become more like Him. Call us whatever you want, just judge us by our fruits.”

    I really am fine with that.

  42. Trish on April 11, 2008 at 11:26 am

    When I was younger, we called ourselves Mormons. The term \”Christian\” was used to describe any person that believed in Jesus Christ as his or her personal saviour. I live and work in Salt Lake City. Everyone uses \”LDS\” instead of \”Mormon.\” — probaby because the term \”Mormon\” is often used in writings that ridicule the church and its members?

    I read all your comments.
    Does it really matter what you call yourself? Jesus taught us to be kind, compassionate and loving. He said to forgive other people as many times as it takes.

    Did you know that the Dalai Lama teaches the same principles? I wish I could count how many times I have heard LDS people make fun of others including the Dalai Lama. Do you think the Dalai Lama cares? Probably not.

    My point is that you shouldn\’t have defend your beliefs or yourself. It almost seems like you are trying to convince yourself that you are a \”Christian too?\”

  43. Bob on April 11, 2008 at 11:47 am

    #36: What do I call a follower of Christ? A peacemaker. To fight over the term “Christian”, makes both sides look foolish, and unchristian.
    As to my “analyzing of the claim to be “Christian” in LDS usage?”, I enter the above set of comments.

  44. Raymond Takashi Swenson on April 11, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    By and large, all of these comments are valid insights on the general issue. But what I am proposing is not that we LDS get into a victim mindset about it, but rather that when we are involved in a public dialogue with those not of our faith (as Elder Ballard has encouraged us to be), and specifically when one of the topics is the public labeling that some traditional Christians use against us (typically in the equivalent of the old skull and crossbones poison emblem), we might want to consider appealing to the sense of fair play among those people who would not dream of using pejoriative labels against other minority groups, and ask for what is simply consistent treatment.

    The fact that many Evangelicals ended up voting for Mitt Romney over Mike Huckabee makes me optimistic that at least some of those people who too easily fall into the use of such labeling might actually reconsider, recognizing that using such labels too casually reinforces prejudice and prevents treating “the other” as real human beings. I have no illusions that this argument would make any difference to the hard core anti-Mormons, but I think there are good people out there who would start thinking of Mormons as real people and not caricatures, and then become open to the concept that, however they want to classify us theologically, we do in fact worship the Christ of the New Testament.

    The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants have a number of passages that discuss the deceptions that the Adversary places in the way of people accepting the gospel. This adversarial labeling of the LDS as beyond the pale is a large obstacle to people hearing the gospel. While it is one thing to live our lives with equanimity despite what men may say behind our backs (or to our faces), our own compassion for those who are being misled by this labeling, and deterred from hearing the gospel, and our mission to take the gospel to the world, is reason enough to do a few simple things to break down that barrier.

    Whether my argument would be effective or not is not as important as recognizing that such artificial barriers to people making their own decision about accepting the restored gospel are things we are tasked to overcome, to the extent we can.

  45. hawkgrrrl on April 11, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    I agree that the victim mentality has to stop, one thing that Romney recognized very well in his campaign, IMO. He appealed to people’s better nature and said he believed Americans were above that pettiness. Many were, and you can’t convince the ones who are not, so why engage in it at all? My answer (if asked) would be that we consider ourselves Christians. For most, that’s a sufficient answer.

  46. Visorstuff on April 11, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    Thought i’d add one quote to the discussion:

    The old Catholic church traditions are worth more than all you have said. Here is a principle of logic that most men have no more sense than to adopt. I will illustrate it by an old apple tree. Here jumps off a branch and says, I am the true tree, and you are corrupt. If the whole tree is corrupt, are not its branches corrupt? If the Catholic religion is a false religion, how can any true religion come out of it? If the Catholic church is bad, how can any good thing come out of it? – History of the Church, 6:478; Discourses of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 223; Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 375

    I see more in our core teachings that say that our brethren and sisters of other faiths have a a great deal of truth. But they lack the fulness of the gospel – or the priesthood and temple ordinances – needed for exaltation.

    I think that this was made even more clear in Elder Nelson’s talk when he discussed that non-Mormon Christians can recieve a degree salvation by faith on Christ. Part of his talk states:

    To be saved—or to gain salvation—means to be saved from physical and spiritual death. Because of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, all people will be resurrected and saved from physical death. People may also be saved from individual spiritual death through the Atonement of Jesus Christ, by their faith in Him…To be exalted—or to gain exaltation—refers to the highest state of happiness and glory in the celestial realm.

    Clearly our non-mormon friends can recieve a degree of salvation based on their faith. But no-one can recieve exaltation without Mormon temples. There is truth out there. Other churches have a purpose. But the house of Israel and the church have the responsiblitiy to teach the gospel and administer the ordinances of salvation to all.

  47. Brutus vs Publius on April 11, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    I am must admit that I did not read the the entry. I am just guessing that it has to deal with the age old argument of Mormons desperatley trying to get our evangelical friends to call us Christian. Whether it is a theological argument or if its a socially taboo.

    I guess my comment is my curiosity in the complete misunderstanding of the doctrines of the majority of the sects of evangelical christianity. Its interesting our desperate attempt to integrate ourselves in a movement that is only a little more than a century old. It is the mainstream doctrine of most evaneglical faiths that all mormons are going to hell. The hell that involves torture, fire, and endless suffering. We are a misguided and ultimatley immoral due to our pursuit for godhood. Utah is refered to as the stronghold of Satan and our leaders are referred in the annals of thier history books as daemon worshipers and child rapists. One must realize that we are completely at odds with evangelical christianity but not with evangelical christians. The natural tendency to come to Christ by reading the bible is obvious but that does not eliminate the \”great divide\” that does and will always seperate our groups. There are evangelicals who believe otherwise but they are at odds with the doctrine of thier own faith. If they are nondenomination then they can hold thier own views but as a baptist, pentecostal, luthern, nazereene, apostolic witness, ect.. the list goes on you unabashedely hate the mormons, and hate is the correct word to be used. I compare it to my friend who is a Catholic priest who believes in eternal marriage, he can believe it but he admits his church does not endorse and adamantly denies it as a doctrinal possibility. I have always disagreed with Robert Millet, who I think is amazing, on the subject of the divide. Evangelical Christianity left unrestrained would act akin to Govenor Boggs, this might be a stretch but in my research an experience I don\’t think so.

    Sorry for all they typos I wrote this fast at my cubicle.

  48. Raymond Takashi Swenson on April 11, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    Brutus (#47). Please read the post. My argument is not theological, but civil. As you point out, there differences between the adversary position of a particular church toward the LDS, and the actions of a particular member of that church. Just as your Catholic frrind sees the positive aspects of eternal marriage, there are some of the individuals who may be susceptible to an argument based on equal treatment to ward all minorities, as a matter of not giving unnecessary offense and working together as citizens and neighbors.

    i agree that for some Evangelicals, it appears that their belief in a radical “salvation by grace alone, not by works” has led them to the view that the Savior’s injunctions in the Sermon on the Mount love our enemies, his teaching to love our neighbor, somehoe don’t constrain Christians. But other Evangelicals assert that failure to manifest love and Christian good works demonstrates that one has not n fact been saved, that one has not in fact embraced Christ in faith. It is those people, who don’t think Christ gives them a free pass for new sins, who may be susceptible to my appeal. If they would step back and refuse to support the people who think they can spew hatred in the name of Christ, life would be much easier for our brothers and sisters in the church who have neighbors and family members and co-workers in Evangelical churches.

  49. Bob on April 11, 2008 at 10:20 pm

    #47: I agree, there may be beliefs in each side, that will prevent any type of bonding, or even friendly agreements. There is just some hardwiring that may not be bypassed.
    But we can disagree without being disagreeable. Each can try to control it’s own position.
    Both sides dream of a time when the lamb and the lion lay together, bur each still wants to be the lion.

  50. Richard O. on April 12, 2008 at 7:11 am

    One of the reasons that this discussion matters “in a civil way” is that some of our fellow Christians use the “Christian/non-Christian” hubris as a political and legal wedge. A good example of that was in Ghana some years ago where the Church was legal dissolved as a legal entity for a period of 18 months. When the power of the state and the law are used to reinforce religious prejudice, that is stepping over the moral and ethical line. Given that Catholics and Protestants have historically both been on the receiving end of such legally and politically enforced bigotry, it is ironic that they would sanction this against Mormons.

  51. tiredmormon on April 14, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    DARRELL,

    Here are the quotes you requested. I think they reject traditional Christianity out right. They are dismissive and separatist. I think they exemplify why Christians feel we are not Christians. I agree that outsiders may have lost the point of many tolerant talks given by the Brethren, but you can’t fault them when they see crap like this and insist Mormons are not Christians:

    “the millions of apostate Christiandom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ … in large part the worship of apostate Christendom is performed in ignorance, as much so as was the worship of the Athenians who bowed before the Unknown God.” – McConkie

    Speaking of those who say Mormons are not Christens, GBH said on June 4, 1998, in an address published in the Church News : “No I don’t (believe in traditional Christ) The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this Dispensation in the fullness of times.”

    And Blake, there is no need to be a jerk. Your post presumes too much (as do your books).

  52. Carol F. on April 15, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    For Darrell #13: For several years I had a friendship with a girl and her husband who were from the polygamist colony of Lebaron, Mexico. They each had left the polygamist lifestyle of their parents and were baptized in the LDS church. My friend explained that the polygamists of Lebaron “call themselves Mormon, but know they are not LDS.” So even though there were “Mormon” chapels in town, my friend and her husband would travel about 45 minutes to the nearest LDS chapel for church.

  53. Raymond Takashi Swenson on April 15, 2008 at 6:01 pm

    #51 (tiredmormon): My guess is that President Hinckley was referring to the “traditions of men” that, embodied in the creeds, assert that the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are of one substance and have no body or emotions. He certainly affirmed, over and over, the fact that he and the rest of us LDS believe in the Christ of the gospels, Acts, the epistles and Revelation. For that matter, according to Joseph Smith, during the First Vision, Jesus himself did not think much of the existing churches’ “traditional” description of him.

    #52 (Carol F.) thank you for that insight into the internal views of the “fundamentalists”. But of course, they know that there is a difference between their definition of “Mormon” and the LDS Church. Perhaps if the rest of the world understood that distinction, our church would not be so touchy about the confusion, especially when it involves people accused of felonies.

    But the world and its reporters clearly do NOT know the difference between some group that believes, on the one hand, in some extent in the Book of Mormon, and, on the other hand, the actual LDS Church, which has a Mormon Tabernacle and its Choir, temples, a headquarters in Salt Lake City, provides disaster relief all around the world, has 13 million members on its records, field 50,000 missionaries at a time, and has a former presidential candidate. Having established its identity as “THE Mormon Church”, the Church has an interest in not having this “brand name” diluted or devalued by those who are very explicitly the enemies of its leaders and policies (the reason there has to be such a thing as Church Security).

  54. Bookslinger on April 15, 2008 at 10:24 pm

    I think we need a hyphenated “-Christian” or “Christian-” label.

    So many traditional Catholic/Protestant Christians have given Christianity such a bad name over the centuries, that I think it proper that we distinguish ourselves from them.

    I interact with a lot of people who are part of non-Christian religions. I encounter many valid complaints against Christians and the way Christianity has been practiced. The vast majority of those complaints are the same complaints, or at least differences, that LDS point out.

    If we (attempt to) fully adopt the Christian label, then aren’t we self-identifying with a lot of bad examples, from the Crusades to Jimmy Swaggart/Jim Bakker? From the blandness and Sunday-only-ness of middle-class American Protestantism, to the undignified extremism of snake-handlers etc.?

    I tried to give a Book of Mormon to one gentleman, and when I pointed out it was a Christian book, he started ranting about many of the bad things of modern mainstream Christianity, and all of them were areas where we also disagree with “those” Christians and try to differentiate ourselves. But I couldn’t get a word in edgewise to let him know I agreed with him and open the door to us being considered different than other Christians. I had self-identified with what he considered “bad,” and I never got a chance to say “but we’re a different kind of Christian.” And I realized it would have been even more futile/bad to say “But we’re real Christians.” So, I let him have his rant, and in the end, just said something like “You’re right.”

    Another common can’t-win-for-losing situation is offering a Book of Mormon, saying it’s Christian, and they respond “Sorry. I’m already Christian.”

    I came to a belief in Christ when I was 14. But prior to that I was an anti-Christian agnostic. The undignified preaching of TV-preachers in the 60’s and early 70’s sickened my stomach, “That can’t be what God is really about.” The hypocrisy of some of my boyhood Catholic friends, wherein they thought you could do whatever you wanted, as long as you confessed to the priest, turned me off too. The milque-toast blandness of my protestant Ned Flanders-ish relatives also turned me off.

    With so much of the world associating “Christianity” with “bad things” we need to be careful about the use of that label. In a way, we’re asking to be tarred with the same brush.

  55. Matthew on April 16, 2008 at 2:00 am

    Late getting in again here. This discussion highlights one of the paradoxes that Givens points out in his recent book. We want to be “not of the world” and be a “peculiar people” and yet we crave the approval of others. Since one of Joseph’s central messages was that none of the church’s are true, then why on earth should we care that they don’t define us as being Christian. The truth, in any case, is that we are not Christian in the way they mean it. I can’t recall who, but someone has made the (I think) brilliant observation that a Mormon complaining that he is not accepted as a Christian is like the Christian complaining that he is not accepted as a Jew. This is the restoration; we really do represent something very different.

  56. Raymond Takashi Swenson on April 16, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    #55 (Matthew)–As has been noted above, apart from the sober theological analyses that classify the LDS as “not Christian” based on certain theological points, there are millions of people who think that such theological classification endorses the many distortions and lies about us that are pushed by professional anti-Mormons and churches like the Southern Baptist Convention. I would not mind if they would talk accurately about what we believe and how it is different from their own religion, but what even professional ministers say about our beliefs is incredibly distorted. Besides the obstacle it places in our mission of teaching the gospel to the honest in heart, who don’t deserve to miss it because of such lies, there are also families and neighbors who are spilt by such gross misunderstandings. And finally, our ability to function in civil society with people not of our faith is impaired and hobbled by the bigotry that comes from the false portrayals. When we are seeking zoning permission to build meetinghouses and temples, those prejudices matter. When we are judged in criminal and civil cases by our peers, those prejudices matter in very real ways.

    No, I don’t see the Brethren as motivated by a desire to get a “best preacher” award from the Methodists or other markers of approval, in the way the Community of Christ has bent over backwards to disassociate itself from Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. We are just hoping for honesty and understanding so that our missionaries and members are not hampered in their religious freedom.

    As a Japanese American, I am not asking everyone to say that sushi is on a par with prime rib, or that we are the smartest people in America, just that people not blame us for Pearl Harbor (which some veterans still do, in justification of the imprisonment without trial of 100,000 men, women and children for three years, most of whom were US citizens who had never seen Japan). Mormons are only seeking the same kind of tolerance and end of myths that reinforce prejudice.

  57. Carol F. on April 17, 2008 at 1:35 am

    The next time I am brought into a conversation about my purported Christianity by an antagonistic Christian, I think I will say, “I believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God, my personal Savior and the Savior of all mankind. How would you define me?” I am very curious about what they would say to that. At least my testimony would be out there and I wouldn’t have bought into the struggle of whose definition of Christianity is correct.

  58. Brutus vs Publius on April 17, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    I think tolerance should be our objective but the majority of members make that secondary to the desire of being excepted as Christians. I believe that this Texas situation is another manifestation of the supreme hatred that evangelical christianity has for mormons. The FLDS religion is everything that evangelicals wish us to be to validate their doctrinal and personal divide. If it was up to me, we should thank God that it is not :), I would end all conversation in the church on topics about ” We are christians too”.

    Let us be clear on what we believe. I have one neighbor who thinks mormons are idiots. My family and I do all that we can to serve them.I have another neighbor who particpates in anti-mormon organizations. He has the “look” or “spirit” of what I would imagine the Tanners in utah or maybe the mob that killed Joseph Smith. The man brought to my house the DNA and the book of mormon video. After calmly telling the man that I wished that we could remain civil and respect each others opinion he would not let it die. He told me that I was going to hell and I could contain myself no longer. I told him that he was going hell unless he repented of his hatred for mormons. He left angry and bitter.

    I do not think that I was in the wrong. I did not recieve the feelings that were ordinarlily associated with guilt. I still believe that this man will go to hell unless he lets go of his hate. These types of individuals have large groups of followers. Its not just an isolated incident. He mirrors the the real truth of what these faiths teach and belive, despite that there are good evangelical people. I firmly believe that evangelical christianity is evil. I am not a evangelical christian right conspiracy theorist but I do believe that the organizations are evil.

  59. Raymond Takashi Swenson on April 17, 2008 at 7:38 pm

    #58, Brutus et al: Thank you for your sobering experiences. I think Professor Robert Millet has cultivated some worthwhile friendships with Evangelical theologians (among others) who are not quite the obsessed loonies like your neighbor. We do our best to maintain positive relationships with our neighbors in all denominations, both in the hope of reciprocal respect, and the hope that those with the capacity to respond to the Restored Gospel will have a chance to do so.

    But at the same time, just as the LDS Church assurance that our church is true has led some Mormons to the sin of pride, which is denounced so effectively by the Book of Mormon and by President Benson as part of his teaching from the BOM, I agree that the formal and official adversarial stance taken by churches like the Southern Baptists has sucked many people into pride in their belief that they will be taken directly to heaven (e.g. raptured) while everyone else will go to hell, just like the Zoramites on their Rameumptom.

    The efforts of such people to convert Mormons are not motivated so much by love as by their pride in demonstrating their superior status with God. I think if there was love at the heart of it, the fact that they believe 13 million Mormons will end up in everlasting and forever torment would cause them some sorrow, and would be expressed in concern, and most of all, would be expressed by communicating to us the way an adult would communicate with a child they see playing on the precipice of a cliff, trying to entice them with sweet words, rather than shouting at and scaring them so they might be hastened over the edge.

    What I perceive in the way they dismiss Mormons as idiots who deserve to go to hell (i was called that just yesterday) is that they embrace the Calvinist belief that God has elected them to be saved and the balance of mankind, including us, to be damned. In their view, we are EXPENDABLE, and there is not any reason to waste a lot of love or time on listening to us. So when they preach at us about the incorrectness of our religion, it is just another way for them to boast that they are saved and we are not. They don’t really care about our souls. The best example of this is the wacko “church” that demonstrates at the funerals of soldiers and claims that God is happy they are dead, because the US military tolerates homosexuals to serve who exercise restraint.

    The theme of many of the Savior’s parables and more explicit teachings is that the way we treat others will determine how God treats us, what goes around comes around, we will be forgiven as we forgive, God loves us as we love our heretical Samaritan neighbors, God loves us as we love even the least of our brethren. I fear that the promotion of pride and hatred within certain strains of Evangelical Christianity is actively dragging many people from the Terrestrial Kingdom and into the Telestial Kingdom. Those who glory in their pride have joined the great and abominable church of the devil.

  60. ExeUte on April 22, 2008 at 1:50 am

    It is the Mormon theology that makes it non-christian. Christianity is monotheistic, Mormonism is polytheistic or henotheistic- plurality of gods none the less. That is one fact… no need for the many others. Tiredmormon- you are right about the claims of former Mormon presidents making a stance for Mormons to different from Christians. \”Hold no book above the book of Mormon\”, rejection of Apostle\’s Creed, it is undeniable, unless one is in denial…
    The push for acceptance with \”Christian\” label is to further spread the religion.