I'm Not Offended; I'm Tired
Like other Mormons, I believe in the Jesus of the New Testament: he was born of the Virgin Mary, and baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist. He preached the gospel and ministered to the poor and the ill, healing many. He was arrested by the soldiers of Pontius Pilate, then tortured and tried as a common criminal. He was executed by crucifixion, suffering for our sins beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane and ending only with his death. On the third day of his entombment, he arose from the dead, breaking the bonds of death for all humankind. After his resurrection he was seen by many who testified that he had risen. He ascended into heaven where he sits on the right hand of God as our Advocate and Intercessor.
If I didn't preface that description of my belief with "I'm a Mormon," few people hearing my declaration would doubt that I'm a Christian. It makes no sense that such a preface would make the rest of what I say non-Christian. Professor Jeffress and I may disagree about the theological explanations of divinity. But it is preposterous to say that we don't believe in the same historical person, Jesus, nor that we don't both believe that he is the Messiah. We are both Christians.
If I say "horse" and you say "horse" and we are both pointing to the same animal in a field, then we both mean the same thing, even if you believe that horses are related to cows and I believe they are related to unicorns. I doubt that what we believe about a word by way of explanation changes its referent.
So give me a break. I need the rest.
If you believe that Mormons are heretical Christians bound for eternal burning in hell, fine. You are entitled to whatever religious belief you want. But if you have to say something about Mormons, say that. Say what would be more honest, though less interesting: Mormons aren't the same kind of Christian you are. While that would attract virtually no media attention, it would have the virtue of being accurate.
James Faulconer is a Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University, where he has taught philosophy since 1975.