Are Mormons Christians?

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
  • 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!
  • yep
  • Yes, clearly
  • Yes
  • 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…)
  • Yes!
  • 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
  • Yes

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).

a very Christian treeThe 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

Function: noun

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.

Spreading News of the Restored Gospel

man-with-megaphoneLatter-day Saints know that the gospel has been restored through a prophet.  It is a knowledge that uplifts and gives life and meaning to everything we do.  It is powerful and comforting to know Heavenly Father has again opened access to heaven and reaffirmed that Jesus is the Christ, His Son. With that knowledge comes a desire to share it with everyone.

Here is our dilemma:  Who will believe us?  How do we share it?

Most of us are hesitant.  We have spent time building good, strong relationships with our neighbors and coworkers, and there is the fear that if we broach the topic of religion, if we invite our friends to a church meeting or to a missionary lesson that our friendships will dry up.

Since Mormonism is such an integral part of our lives we’re worried that a rejected invitation equals a rejected friendship.

I’d like to ask you, our non-Mormon readers, to imagine yourselves in a scenario.  You are talking to a trusted Mormon friend and somehow the LDS Church comes up.  You talk for a few minutes about it pleasantly, but not in much depth.  Then your friend invites you to learn more, maybe saying something like this:

We’re having the missionaries over for dinner on Wednesday.  It’s their job to teach people about the Church, and I’d love for you to learn more.  Will you come over for dinner and a short lesson?

What would you be thinking and feeling?  What would you say?  Be honest.

Mormon Channel

A great new resource is now available on the air and over the internet.  Mormon Channel, the official radio station of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, has started in various cities in the United States and is also available to listen 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on the internet.  This radio station presents music and radio programs such as Conversations (interviews of members of the quorum of the twelve apostles),  Into All the World (stories about the church in all parts of the world), The Light of Men (about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ), Scripture Stories (scripture stories for children)  and Mormon Identity (concerning questions people have towards the church).  All of these programs are available on the radio and as weekly podcasts.  You can also listen to Mormon Channel through the sidebar.  Just click play!

This forms part of the great multimedia outlets of the church.  Mormon.org has wonderful explanations and stories concerning our beliefs.  There is also a YouTube channel featuring various videos at www.youtube.com/MormonMessages.  Please take the time to read, watch or listen to these various resources.

Mormon Missionaries

This past week my family had a unique experience:  On Wednesday we saw my little sister off to be a missionary in Chile, and then on Thursday we met my husband’s little brother at the airport as he returned from his mission in Brazil.  To see the metamorphosis that these young men and women go through was incredible and I thought it might be interesting for some of our readers to know a bit more about these young people they see on bikes and street corners.

  • Elders (the young men) and Sisters (the young women) are addressed by their title and their last name.  Mormons don’t all have the same first name.
  • Elders are generally between 19-21 years old.  Sisters have to be at least 21.   There are also “couple missionaries” who are married and already retired.  They probably won’t tell you how old they are.
  • Elders serve for 2 years and Sisters serve for 18 months.  Couples serve for 18 months as well.
  • Nearly all missionaries first go to the Missionary Training Center In Provo, Utah for a few weeks before they embark on their mission.  There are 16 other MTCs throughout the world.  They teach the basics of language and teaching techniques.  Their language programs are so successful that several government organizations have approached the Mormon church to ask them what their secret is.  Unfortunately, the secret is the Spirit and a very real manifestation of the gift of tongues.   The State Department just can’t replicate that.
  • Missionaries don’t choose where they want to go.  Otherwise, they would all end up in Venice, probably.  They are called by members of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles who receive their direction from the Spirit.
  • Missionaries pay for themselves.  They aren’t church sponsored and they aren’t paid for their service.  They are very literally serving.
  • There were 54,494 missionaries serving in 348 missions throughout the world as of April 2009.
  • Missionaries always work in a companionship.  There are usually two, sometimes three, missionaries who live together, eat together, work together and teach together.   Nothing weird going on there, it is an extension of having two or more witnesses when they teach and testify.
  • Missionaries don’t date.  If you want to talk to them because you are hoping they will ask you out, you are wasting your time.
  • The missionaries’ purpose is to teach the gospel of Jesus Christ to anyone who is interested.  They talk about the restoration of the Gospel through Joseph Smith, the Atonement of Jesus Christ and how it applies to us directly, why we are here on the earth and what our purpose is eternally,  and how to live a life in harmony with God.  When you meet with the missionaries they will likely present a series of four to six lessons introducing gospel concepts.
  • When missionaries go home, they resume their normal lives.  Then they date, go to school, get married, reminisce about their missions, and stop wearing ugly ties.  In fact, if you have Mormon friends, ask them if they went on a mission.  They might have some entertaining stories for you.

So next time you see a set of missionaries walking around, get to know them.  (If they are wearing ugly ties, forgive them.  They are only 19).  They could be from anywhere in the world, and perhaps they were called to that mission just so that they could meet you.

Why Mormons?

why4-1 question_mark

why3-1 imageswhy6-1

Question: Why Mormons?

Answer: Can you please be a little more specific?

Question: Yes, of course. What makes the Mormon Church any different from any other church; why are you Mormons always trying to share your beliefs with me?

Answer: Great question. Let me answer it for myself: the Church is special to me and I love to share its teachings with others because I know it to be the true Church. I believe that other religions and faiths have teachings that are true and I am forever grateful for the work that they do to make people better but I also believe that they are missing important truths. To use a familiar phrase, I believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only church that can honestly claim to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

With this, I believe that this Church is the only Church with authority from God to perform saving ordinances such as baptism.

Authority given to man by God to act in His name is called the priesthood. Throughout time, God has called special individuals to be prophets. Prophets are given the priesthood authority by God and are instructed to teach the people about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thus men like Noah, Abraham, and Moses had this authority to act in God’s name. But, because we men are silly, these prophets were consistently rejected. When a prophet was rejected, this priesthood authority was lost from the Earth for a time (known as a time of apostasy) until God saw fit to once again call a new prophet to restore what was lost.

This cycle of “have a prophet, kill the prophet, don’t have a prophet, eventually have a new prophet” continued up until Christ was sent to the earth. While here, Christ acted as the prophet and organized His Church, which organization included the calling of twelve Apostles. But (silly humans) even Christ was rejected and killed. When Christ was killed Peter, having the proper authority, assumed the role as head of the Church. And yet the persecution didn’t stop. Christian heads were rolling left and right and the Apostles were killed off until, yet again, a new era of apostasy began. Authority was yet again lost from the earth because of the wickedness of men.

The Roman Catholic Church believes that that authority was never lost. The Protestant reformers (a la Martin Luther, John Calvin, William Tyndale, etc), pointing to the widespread corruption in the church of their times, heartily disagreed and broke off in attempts to organize churches that were more like the original Church that Christ had established. But most of these reformers realized that they didn’t have authority from God—they didn’t claim themselves to be prophets called by God. Roger Williams, co-founder of Rhode Island and the Baptist church in America, recognized this lack of authority in his church and soon left saying,

“There is no regularly constituted church of Christ on earth, nor any person qualified to administer any church ordinances; nor can there be until new apostles are sent by the Great Head of the Church for whose coming I am seeking. (Picturesque America, p. 502.)

So mankind needed to wait until God saw fit to call a new prophet. The wait lasted until 1820. In spring of that year God and Jesus Christ personally appeared to Joseph Smith to call him as a new prophet – a prophet to restore what had been lost, a prophet specifically given the priesthood authority necessary to once again establish Christ’s Church here on the earth.

And thus it is that Christ’s Church was restored (not reformed) and is now on the earth again with a prophet, with apostles, and with the priesthood authority necessary to perform baptisms. The Heavens are still open, God talks to His children in our day.

These things I know to be true.

That’s why Mormons.

Thanks for listening.

(Oh, and I dare you to watch this. Or this.)