Jesus Christ/Accusations that Mormons aren't Christians
Are Mormons Christian?
Some Christians claim that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not "Christian."
A related claim is that the Church has only recently begun to portray itself as "Christian" in order to gain adherents.
To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here
THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST OF LATTER-DAY SAINTS RESPONDS TO THESE QUESTIONS
"Are Mormons Christian?," Gospel Topics
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unequivocally affirm themselves to be Christians. They worship God the Eternal Father in the name of Jesus Christ. When asked what the Latter-day Saints believe, Joseph Smith put Christ at the center: “The fundamental principles of our religion is the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, ‘that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended up into heaven;’ and all other things are only appendages to these, which pertain to our religion.”1 The modern-day Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reaffirmed that testimony when they proclaimed, “Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. … His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.”(Click here for full article)
Critics often use unnecessarily narrow and self-referential definitions of "Christian" to exclude the LDS. They ignore the fact that many other Christians over the millennia would have disagreed with them on the same points, yet this does not disqualify these other believers from the family of "Christians."
While Mormons realize that there can be honest disagreement regarding definitions, the church encourages its members, as followers of Christ, to exhibit civil dialogue:
- There has been no end to opposition. There are misinterpretations and misrepresentations of us and of our history, some of it mean-spirited and certainly contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ and His gospel. Sometimes clergy, even ministerial organizations, oppose us. They do what we would never do. We do not attack or criticize or oppose others as they do us...Strangest of all, otherwise intelligent people claim we are not Christian. This shows that they know little or nothing about us. It is a true principle that you cannot lift yourself by putting others down.
Are Mormons Christians? Do they worship Jesus Christ? Critics use unnecessarily narrow definitions to deny that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worship and revere Jesus. (Click here for full article)
- Does the Church use the sign or symbol of the cross?—
Brief Summary: Some Christians claim that Latter-day Saints are not Christians, and point to the fact that the Church does not usually use the symbol or sign of the cross in decoration, personal jewelry, or architecture. (Click here for full article)
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- Did Mormons only recently claim to be Christians?—
Brief Summary: From the Church's founding, both Church members and their opponents recognized that they were Christians. (Click here for full article)
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DETAILED QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
It is evident from what has been said, that the Mormons, as such, can have no part or lot in the religion of Jesus Christ—and we do not see how any one can be their friend, (as Mormons,) without being an enemy to God.
—James M’Chesney, An Antidote To Mormonism, revised by G. J. Bennet (New York, NY: Burnett & Pollard, 1838), 49. off-site Full title
Some claim we are not Christians. They either do not know us at all or they misunderstand. In the Church every ordinance is done by the authority of and in the name of Jesus Christ.
—President Boyd K. Packer, "Guided by the Holy Spirit," general conference, April 2011.
Book of Mormon is Christ-centered
Wrote one author:
- Years ago, Susan Easton Black tabulated all of the occurrences of the names and titles of Jesus in the Book of Mormon....According to Black, 101 names or titles of Christ are presented in the Book of Mormon. These include the names/titles Lord God Omnipotent, Redeemer of Israel, Shepherd, and Son of the Living God, each of which is found once in the work. The names/titles Stone, True Messiah, Mighty One of Jacob, and Great Creator are each found twice; the names/titles Holy One of Israel, Lamb of God, Lord Jesus Christ, Redeemer, and Messiah each appear 10 or more times; and the names/titles Christ, God, Jesus, Lord, and Lord God are each found at least 100 times in the book. In all, the 101 names/titles of Christ are collectively presented 3,925 times in 6,607 Book of Mormon verses. Black’s tabulation of the names and titles shows that on average, one name or title of Christ appears once every 1.7 verses.
With the Holy Bible, the Book of Mormon is the foundational scripture of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Christ is found on virtually every page.
LDS Not Excluded by Belief or Practice
When critics make the claim that LDS are not Christian, they typically will present a laundry list of doctrines and practices that they believe put LDS outside the category of "Christian." At its base, this claim is an excellent example of the No true Scotsman fallacy.
There are two problems with such lists. The first, and most important, is that the original and enduring meaning of "Christian" has been a person or group whose beliefs or practices are founded on the life and/or teachings of Christ. That is, all groups whose religion is founded on Jesus of Nazareth have been classified as Christian since the term was first coined in the first century, regardless of specific beliefs and practices. "Christian" has always included such wildly diverse groups as the Ebionites, the Marcionites, and the Christian Gnostics of ancient times, along with Unitarians and Coptic Christians in modern times. Critics may believe that LDS are "false Christians" or "heretical Christians" or "hell-bound Christians," seeing that such terms are subjective and without standard definitions, but neither belief nor practice can exclude any group from the family of Christian religions and denominations if that group claims to be founded on the life or teachings of the first-century Jesus of Nazareth.
The second problem with the critics' list is that their list of objectionable beliefs and practices used to exclude LDS from the Christian family are lists of beliefs and practices that are found in other groups that are clearly classified as Christian. The claimed bases for the charge that the LDS are not Christians include:
- LDS do not accept creedal Trinitarianism as set out by the Nicene creed. This means that they conceive of Jesus and Satan as being spiritual ' siblings' in terms of their ultimate origin, if not their nature or religious status.
- Because of different understandings about God, some Christian critics accuse the LDS of worshipping a different Jesus
- LDS have doctrines which differ from many forms of "traditional" Christianity:
- LDS use additional scripture with the Bible
- LDS do not accept creatio ex nihilo
- LDS do not accept the traditional view of original sin
- LDS heed the teachings of Joseph Smith and other modern prophets
- LDS reject such doctrines as predestination to salvation or damnation
However, all of these doctrinal differences have been held not just by the LDS, but by other Christians as well, including the early Christians of the first and second centuries. These Christians:
- were not Trinitarians, since the creeds were not yet formulated
- did not teach creatio ex nihilo
- did not consider "the Bible" to be the sole authoritative scripture, since it was not compiled until centuries later
- considered some writings to be authoritative which many modern Christians now reject
- taught theosis, or human deification through Christ
- followed living prophets (the apostles)
One might debate whether these Christians were correct or complete in their beliefs, but can the critics seriously exclude them from the family of Christians?
The critics essentially create a definition of "Christian" that includes their brand of Christianity, and excludes others with whom they disagree. The merriam-webster dictionary defines the word Christian to mean "one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ" . The Oxford Dictionaries Online defines the word Christian as "a person who has received Christian baptism or is a believer in Jesus Christ and his teachings". Critics have the right to disagree, but their claim that Mormons are not Christian is just their opinion or their religious belief.
LDS Classified as Christian
The assertion that Latter-day Saints are not Christian has at its base the idea that the Latter-day Saints don't meet the definition of the word "Christian." But the meanings of words are determined by usage and acceptance. If a definition is widespread (used by many people), persistent (used over a long period of time), and established (accepted by individuals and organizations that are respected and assumed to be knowledgeable) then we can confidently state that the definition is correct and accurate.
The attempt to define "Christian" in such a way as to exclude Latter-day Saints (and many other groups that are generally considered to be some kind of Christian denomination or religion) is really the recent work of a minority group within Protestantism. The nearly-universal and nearly-2000-year-old usage of the word "Christian" has clearly included unorthodox groups that disagree, sometimes sharply, with the teachings and practices of those who claim to be able to define Latter-day Saints out of the Christian fold.
The following are some organizations and resources that classify The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as Christian. The range of sources from encyclopedias to media outlets to government organizations supports the fact that the definition of "Christian" includes Latter-day Saints.
- Yahoo Directory: "Christian Denominations and Sects" off-site
- adherents.com: "Largest Branches of Christianity in the U.S." off-site
- beliefnet: "Faiths and Practices" index off-site
- MSN Encarta encyclopedia: "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints" off-site
- RSN (Religion New Service): Religion Backgrounders off-site
- PBS (Public Broadcasting Service): "The Church: A Brief History" off-site
- LaborLawTalk dictionary off-site
- Encyclopedia Britannia Online off-site
- BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) off-site
- World Council of Churches (WCC): Churches off-site
- National Council of Churches (NCC): National Council of Churches’ 2005 "Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches." off-site
- United States Department of State: International Religious Freedom Report 2004 (Tonga) off-site
- [note] Susan Easton Black, Finding Christ through the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1987). Susan Ward Easton [Black], “Names of Christ in the Book of Mormon,” Ensign (July 1978): 60-61.
- [note] Black, Finding Christ, 5. Chapter 22
- [note] Donald W. Parry, "The Book of Mormon," in Susan Easton Black, Expressions of Faith: Testimonies of Latter-day Saint Scholars (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 1996), 216–217.
- [note] For a discussion by a non-LDS, conservative evangelical on points of doctrine upon which modern evangelical Christianity differs with the doctrines taught by the early Christian Fathers, see: David W. Bercot, Will The Real Heretics Please Stand Up: A New Look at Today's Evangelical Church in the Light of Early Christianity, 3rd edition, (Tyler, Texas: Scroll Publishing Company, 1999), 1. ISBN 0924722002 off-site
- [note] For a discussion of these issues, see Daniel C. Peterson and Stephen D. Ricks, "Comparing LDS Beliefs with First-Century Christianity, (Provo, Utah: FARMS, no date). off-site
- [note] Christian. 2012. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved November 24, 2012, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Christian
- [note] "Christian". Oxford Dictionaries. April 2010. Oxford Dictionaries. April 2010. Oxford University Press. 24 November 2012 <http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/american_english/Christian>.