I figured it was about time I add my USD $0.02/CAN $0.03 to this debate.
To get to the bottom of the matter I conducted a highly scientific poll in which I texted 25 random Mormon friends of mine asking them “Are you Christian?” Of those, 17 responded (the other 8 were probably busy watching the Red Sox wail on the Yankees). Here’s what they replied:
- Yes i am christian.
- Yes sir
- I don’t know what answer you want… Yes, i am…I believe in christ and try my best to follow him
- Yes, clearly
- heretofore yes
- Ain’t no thang. Good luck to your hide. I’ll let you know of our next potential gatherin’ (note: I suspect that this one might not be in response to my question…)
- just simple yes or not? yes. if you want more detailed let me know.
- You bet.
- Yes. 🙂 (an emoticon!)
- I am and know that he leads this church.
- Of course
And the last friend of mine responded by actually calling me up and flabbergastedly (probably not a word) asking me why I’d ever even ask him that — of course he’s Christian! So, there you have it, at 17 votes to none the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian religion. That is, according to Mormons anyway. They say this because Christ is the central figure of Mormon theology. “We talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.” (Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 25:26). In the words of Joseph Smith, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.” Susan Easton Black, a church scholar (and coincidentally my neighbor) calculated that Christ or His ministry is mentioned on the average every 1.7 verses in the Book of Mormon. Mormon teaching is preeminently Christ-centered.
It seems the major part of the dear Mother Earth’s population agree that we are Christians. To a Muslim, Mormons are Christians; to a Buddhist, Mormons are Christian. I’m guessing that even a Pastafarian would probably call Mormons Christians. The problem is that some members of other religions chilling out under the holy umbrella of Christianity don’t like sharing the dry space. They claim that since some of our beliefs differ from that of “traditional” Christians, we shouldn’t be allowed use of the term. And they have a point — truly we are different in many ways (and proudly so, I say). Our view of Christ differs from a Lutheran’s point of view of Christ just as a Baptist’s view of Him differs from a Catholic’s, but it should not be these doctrinal differences that define Christianity (read more about our view of Christ here).
The question at heart here is this: who has the right to determine the definition of the word “Christian”? Let’s look at the term’s history. According to Acts 11:26, the disciples of Christ were first called “Christians” at Antioch. The term meant someone who was a follower of the man Jesus. And the term went from there, eventually being applied to the Catholic and Orthodox churches and the many denominations that later started springing up. But today, no one really owns the legal rights to such terms. Certainly Evangelical Christians (who seem to take most issue with this claim) don’t own these rights. The term should be defined in the same way as any other term: by how it has been used by the common person over the course of many years. If any one group did own the rights, it would be the Catholics—the Christians who have been around the longest.
But I say we leave the definition up to the most reliable definitional source we humans have: www.merriam-webster.com which provides the following:
Main Entry: Chris·tian
Etymology: Latin christianus, adjective & noun, from Greek christianos, from Christos
1: one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ
2: the hero in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress
So as long as you’re asking me if I’m a Christian in the first definition’s sense, then yes, I’m unquestionably a Christian. And that rounds out the 4 ways in which Mormons are Christians: 1) By self definition, 2) By majority vote of the earth’s population, 3) By original definition of the word “Christian”, and 4) By current dictionary definition of the same.
I know Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, that He lived and performed miracles and died for us. I know He rose again on that blessed third day. I know He loves me and that through His atoning sacrifice I can overcome sin and be saved. I’m grateful to Christian friends and neighbors of the Mormon and non-Mormon type who spread the good news of His gospel.