Are Mormons Protestants?

Should Mormons be categorized as Protestants?

The 2012 Casper College Humanities Festival focused on the topic of sin. One of the main events was a panel on the issue of sin from the perspective of different religions. Their was a Catholic Priest, a Jewish Rabbi, and a Mormon Bishop.

No, they did not walk into a bar.

I was part of a group of faculty and students that tweeted the event. One of the students, Micah, was a member of the debate team and the son of a Lutheran minister in Cheyenne.

Micah wondered in a tweet why there was not a protestant representative on the panel. A colleague in the English department asked "Aren’t Mormons considered to be Protestant?"

Micah is quite sure that Mormons are not Christian, let alone Protestant, as strong insisted that was the case during this Twitter discussion. To be honest, I have not asked him to fully explain why. Debaters like to win the argument and arguing religion with students is something I avoided. Discussion is great. Debate is burdensome.

For the most part, Micah views Christ’s grace as sufficient. He views the Book of Mormon as a sign that Mormons do not view that grace as sufficient. At least, that is how I understood his attempt to explain it to me one day during office hours (when he was in my class). My rather postmodern approach to religion did not mesh with the responses that he usually got from the Mormons he had encountered in the past. He gave up trying to convince me.

However, Joseph, the English professor was using Protestant in the way that I had been introduced to it growing up in the public schools of Maryland. Protestants are non-Catholic Christians.

Protestant is a pretty broad category which includes many churches. This ranges from mainline Protestant sects to Non-denominational churches. It includes churches founded in Europe and churches founded in both the First and Second Great Awakenings, as well as many since. Now, this is a very Western European and American view of Christianity on my part, I admit. Also, I am open to the possibility that this might be too broad of a definition.

Mormons do not think of themselves as Protestants. I think they mostly think of the themselves as rejecting both Protestantism and Catholicism and returning (restoring) the true form of the original Biblical church. I have heard Mormons respond to the assertion that Mormons are protestants much in the same way that Micah had with an emphatic "No way!"

However, we have much in common with Protestants. Mormons use the King James Version. This is the Protestant Bible. Our music is very Protestant in style and many of our hymns are Protestant hymns.

Many of the theological issues addressed in the Book of Mormon are the issues facing Protestantism in the midst of the Second Great awakening. Mormonism does not so much reject these debates, instead it takes a specific positions on those debates.

Such issues included the manner of baptism, the need for authority, the manner of such authority, and so forth.

Mormons like to see themselves as having much in common with the Catholics (claims to original authority) and Jews (Abrahamic covenants and temples). I contend that such a view fails to account for the actual origins of Mormonism.

Mormons think of authority in a way that is more in common with the Catholic Church, and in many ways foreign to Protestants. However, we share little in common (and I mean this stylistically as well as theologically) with Catholicism. While we may have much in common socially (large families, conservative social views), we are not in much of a dialogue with Catholic theology or the Catholic tradition.

The treatment of the Catholic Church in the Book of Mormon very much resembles early American Protestant rhetoric about Catholicism.

Now Mormonism surely falls outside the Protestant mainstream. However, I do not think this puts Mormonism outside the category of Protestantism all together. Instead, Mormons are likely best grouped with groups like the Shakers, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Seventh-Day Adventists.

In a sense, Micah was correct. Mormons do not view themselves as Protestants and mainline Protestants do not view Mormons as part of their tradition. However, if we look at Protestants as a historical category within global Christianity, rather than as a creed or a belief system, I would place Mormons within that category. I guess I am coming to this more as a social theorist and a social scientist. We like to categorize things and find doing so to be useful.

In some ways, I have come to this perspective as I have had more interaction with Protestant churches during my time here in Wyoming and, particularly, during my campaign for Congress. This is an interaction that I did not have as much during my time in Utah and Idaho, or while growing up in Maryland. While I grew up around great religious diversity, I never myself engaged it.

As I have alluded to before (here and here), I do have a deep appreciation for the social justice perspective expressed by many Protestant faiths. Maybe this is more of desire to feel more connected with those groups. For too long, I took an antagonistic view towards other faiths. As that antagonism faded away, and later disappeared, it was replaced with a desire for connection and interaction.

Yet, I do not think this is mere wishful thinking. The social science perspective allows us to see the connections away from partisan positioning and sectarian narrative. When we take that step back, we can justifiably categorize Mormons within that broad tradition on Protestantism.

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Chris Henrichsen has moved Approaching Justice off of Patheos. Find his latest posts and the new Approaching Justice. Thanks!

  • Gail Finke

    They have their own holy books, they don’t believe in the Trinity, they consider Christ to a created being with a VERY interesting genealogy, and they are entirely based on secret “revelations” to a man of, shall we say, debatable honesty… their family size and Protestant-style organization aside (they were created, after all, from people who were all American Protestants and used to that kind of organization), why even ask the question? They are a separate religion based on Christianity — among other things.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      Why even ask the question? My favorite thing about being a blogger is being able to ask what ever questions strike my fancy.

      • Gail Finke

        Fair enough! :-)

    • Patrick Stamps

      Gail, most of your points are of VERY debatable honesty unless you want to retract your claims as authoritative and simply admit that you don’t know Mormon doctrine — among other things. Why even reply to such a comment? Because I agree with you that we are not Protestants or Christians based on today’s definition. Being more in line with the ante-Nicene church, I would rather agree with “Christians” like you who don’t know any better.

      • Gail Finke

        I responded because I don’t see how Mormonism could be considered Protestant by any definition. I am not being dishonest. I don’t know anything in depth about Mormon theology ,and while I do not mean any insult to your religion, I also admit that I don’t believe Joseph Smith received any revelations from anyone (any more than I believe Mohammed received revelations from anyone). If I did believe that, I would be a Mormon. Please correct anything I said that is wrong. Are you saying I’m wrong about Mormons not believing in the Trinity? Are you saying I’m wrong about Mormonism being based on its own Scriptures? Are you saying I am wrong about Mormons saying that Christ is a created being and not co-eternal and one being with God and the Holy Spirit?

        I am not saying that Mormonism isn’t a religion, of course it is. But in what sense is it Christian, except based on its own definition? It’s a bit odd to say that it’s not “Protestant or Christian based on today’s definition.” There is no definition of Protestant that dates to before Nicaea, for one thing. If you mean not being a Christian in a sense that was defined by Nicaea, that’s true. But I’m sure you also know that only Mormons believe that the religion is like any Christianity that was professed before Nicaea (except in a superficial way), and that for more than 1700 years it has been Nicaea that has defined Christianity.

        I am not trying to be disrespectful, but simply to be clear. If what you mean by Christ and by God and by scripture is not what any other Christians mean, then you are something else other than Christian. Philip Jenkins would define Mormonism as a “new religion” but I don’t find that to be a helpful term. I would say it is its own religion, one that has a lot in common with Christianity but is not Christianity. I’m sorry if that offends you. If your religion teaches that it is the original Christianity but no one knew that for 1800 years and that only you know it now, you can’t be surprised that other people don’t agree.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

          Gail, I appreciate your willingness to share your thoughts on Approaching Justice. Please come back often. :)

        • rockyspoon

          I’m glad Mormons don’t believe in the Trinity because that doctrine doesn’t make sense; neither is it supported in the Bible. Neither does the Nicaean Creed make sense–and I’ve read it a dozen times, being no further enlightened on the last that the first.
          Being “Christian” has half a dozen different definitions, and so it’s useless to debate that unless one wants to come to a specific, immutable definition and do a comparative analysis on that.

        • trytoseeitmyway

          First of all, you clearly WERE trying to be disrespectful, so you should perhaps consider apologizing rather than denying. Nobody writes your original comment with an attitude of respect or simply to be clear.

          What Mormons mean by Christ and God the Father is exactly what is written in the Old and New Testaments about them. It is true that Mormons don’t accept some of the gloss placed on those scriptures (Old and New Testaments) by others because, you know, we believe in the literal truth of the Bible. Don’t speak contemptuously about us for that.

          A lot of ink (or, these days, electrons) get spilled in pointless debates about the “Trinity.” Mormons believe in the Godhead, a term that has the advantage of appearing in the Bible. When you say that Mormons believe that Jesus is a created being, what we actually believe is that He is the Son of God. If you will check your Bible, you will see one or two verses which tend to support that view. If you ask a Protestant at random to explain exactly what “the Trinity” is, you usually hear an explanation that amounts to modalism – a view rejected as heretical long before Mormons appeared on the scene.

          • Gail Finke

            I thought and think that Mormonism is not in any sense of the word Protestant. If you are going to have your own definitions of things, as well as your own scriptures that define them, you cannot simultaneously be upset that other people don’t accept them. You’re entitled to them, and I never said you weren’t. But they are not PROTESTANT. I apologize for being flip, it was thoughtless and rude.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            Thank you for your apology – it is gladly accepted. Matt. 6:14.

            And I think I agree with you that Mormonism isn’t part of Protestantism. That may be controversial, but I see Mormonism as a synthesis of Protestantism and Catholicism. In other words, Mormonism is like Protestantism in trying to return (through the Restoration of the Gospel) to the original doctrines of the Church left on the Earth by Christ, without a lot of the accretions that were added over the years, which led to the Reformation. Mormons actually go farther to do that than Protestants. At the same time, we know that Christ intended to leave priesthood authority to his prophets and apostles (Matt. 6:19; Eph. 4:11-14) which is why Mormonism has the unified ecclesiastical organization which Protestant churches generally lack. (Individual churches or denominations have church organization, of course, but “Protestantism” itself is splintered among different doctrinal and organizational camps, and rejects the idea of priesthood authority.)

  • Douglas Hunter

    I find it difficult to imagine Mormonism without there first having been the reformation, and the enlightenment. It seems to me that a great deal of JS’s thinking was intellectually and theologically determined by those events. Are Mormons Protestant? It seems to me the shoe fits.

  • Trevor Price

    Joseph Smith seemed to be sewing together a suit with some pieces borrowed from the Catholics, some from Protestant tradition, and some from anywhere in the Bible, without too much concern about how consistent or well-matched the pieces of fabric were.

    He was protesting Protestantism, yet not embracing Catholicism (hence the “restorationist” or “primitivist” labels that are sometimes used).

    I’ll stick with “non-creedal restorationist protestant”. :D

    • trytoseeitmyway

      Or Protestant-Catholic Synthesis. I actually find that the end-product turns out to be quite consistent and well matched. I say that as a Mormon convert (at an adult age) who was raised in evangelical churches.

  • Agni Ashwin

    Might as well ask if Baptists are Protestant.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      I guess I could…

  • John W. Morehead

    A great topic for discussion. As someone involved in Mormon-Evangelical dialogue, and religious diplomacy, I’ll share my brief two cents. While Mormonism arose historically out of and in reaction to Protestantism, at least two elements would seem to mitigate against their categorization as within the Protestant branch of Christendom. First, the basic worldview and cosmology is out of step with a basic Christian theism and Protestantism, and more in keeping with expressions of the Western esoteric tradition (such as Swedenborgianism and masonry). Second, most Protestant bodies identify with much of the doctrinal tenets of the Reformation, and the historic ecumenical creeds, whereas Mormonism has been at odds with these. Given its unique synthesis of Protestant and Western esoteric ideas, perhaps Mormonism is best understood as a religious tradition that arose out of Protestantism but which has evolved into a unique religious tradition in its own right, paralleling Christianity’s rise from Judaism to become a world religion.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      John,

      In considering the many reactions I have gotten this (mostly on FB), I think the way that you have framed it may be the best way to look at it. Thanks for your comment.

      • John W. Morehead

        Glad it was helpful. I’ll try to track this down on Facebook to copy my comments.

  • John S.

    Protestants are non catholic Christians? Wow, talk about being totally clueless about Christianity. 1) Protestands are catholic, the are not Roman Catholic. 2) Ever hear of the Orthodox Church? 3) There are many who split from Rome prior to the Reformation which would be considered neither RC, Protestant or Othodox 4) and it goes on.

    As far as the panel goes RC, Judism, Orthodox, Protestant and Mormon all draw from a similar history (you could throw Islam in there as well). If you want a different religion perspective you need to be much broader and work the panel to establish simularities and differences.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      Totatlly clueless? Probably. How sweet of you to notice.

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com/ Steve Martin

    Mormonism is not Christian.

    But there may be some Mormons who are Christians.

    The Lord can grab a hold of whomever He pleases. Even within that spiritual/ ladder-climbing, self-focused, self-ascendant, man-made religious group.

    They have a different christ than the Christ who died for real sinners and who does not need our help in the salvation process.

    • brian_c

      The two most common, universally accepted definitions of the word “Christian” are (1) someone who believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ and (2) someone who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. Mormons fit both definitions, so they are certainly Christian.

      • Douglas J. Bender

        That is about as sloppy a definition of “Christian” as I have ever seen, and I expect you realize it is a sloppy definition. By that “definition”, Jehovah’s Witnesses are “Christian”. And adherents of the Unity School of Christianity are Christian. And so are various “New Age” groups which accept Jesus’ “divinity” and try to follow “the teachings of Jesus Christ”. Your “definition” thus allows all sorts of fraudulent cults (including, self-servingly on your part, Mormonism) to be considered “Christian”.

        Let’s see if you have sufficient understanding of true Christianity to supply the actual two or three NECESSARY and sufficient requirements to be considered “Christian”. It’s not that difficult, really.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

          You might not be using enough scare quotes :)

          Maybe it is my anti-Platonism or anti-essentialism, but I am not sure what the danger is to having a broad and simple definition of Christianity. (Your comment is in response to Brian, I am not speaking for him).

          I personally could care less whether you include me in the category, but I am curious about the reaction. Of course, that is my style.

          • Douglas J. Bender

            I am sorry you find quotation marks to be scary. My use of them is not intended to “scare” anyone, but to make certain others are aware that I am not in agreement with the implied definition of certain words in certain contexts (thus, I use quotation marks to make those words “stand-out”). Be that as it may, that is simply a distraction on your part, avoiding the main issues.

            I assume you are in agreement with Brian’s points in his post to which I responded, since you did not voice any disagreement with them, and you offered an implicit agreement in your statement that you are “not sure what the danger is to having a broad and simple definition of Christianity”. Well, if that’s the case, why not define as “Christian” any person or group who SAYS that they are “Christian”? That’s about as “broad and simple” a definition of Christianity as one could get, no? Would you see no “danger” in having such a definition?

            Now, I offer to you the same challenge I gave to Brian: “Let’s see if you have sufficient understanding of true Christianity to supply the actual two or three NECESSARY and sufficient requirements to be considered ‘Christian’. It’s not that difficult, really.”

          • trytoseeitmyway

            Two or three necessary and sufficient requirements? How funny that you should be confused about the number. If there are two sufficient requirements then the third would be redundant; but if the third is needed, then the first two by themselves aren’t sufficient. So, while you’re lecturing people about sufficiency, you shouldn’t confess to be confused on the subject itself.

            Mormons believe the truth of every word of the New Testament concerning Jesus Christ. That means that Mormons believe He is the Son of God, that He was conceived miraculously by Mary, a virgin, that He died as the only sufficient atonement for our sins, that He was resurrected on the third day, and that He ascended to His Father in heaven, where he leads His Church to this day. That should be more than sufficient to be regarded as Christian by any reasonable or fair definition.

            Another way to look at it is to realize that Mormons are all saved in the way that evangelical Christians understand that term. In other words, as an evangelical in my youth, I heard literally hundreds if not indeed thousands of explanations of what anyone would need to believe and do to be saved. (It’s funny that other Christians will lecture Mormons about how no “works” can be involved, right after they explain very specifically what steps are needed for salvation. But I digress.) Mormons have all believed and done those very same things, so we’re saved as Christians. I hope that’s reassuring to you.

          • Douglas J. Bender

            “Two or three necessary and sufficient requirements? How funny that you should be confused about the number. If there are two sufficient requirements then the third would be redundant; but if the third is needed, then the first two by themselves aren’t sufficient. So, while you’re lecturing people about sufficiency, you shouldn’t confess to be confused on the subject itself.”

            I am not the one that is confused. The “necessary and sufficient” conditions required to be considered a Christian can be described in several ways — sometimes, people like to combine two of the requirements into one, using “and” or the like. It’s a matter of style, mostly. But the essence is the same, which is why I said “two or three”.

            Mormons believe the truth of every word of the New Testament concerning Jesus Christ. That means that Mormons believe He is the Son of God, that He was conceived miraculously by Mary, a virgin, that He died as the only sufficient atonement for our sins, that He was
            resurrected on the third day, and that He ascended to His Father in heaven, where he leads His Church to this day. That should be more than sufficient to be regarded as Christian by any reasonable or fair definition.”

            Lebron, meet Lebron.

            “Another way to look at it is to realize that Mormons are all saved in the way that evangelical Christians understand that term. In other words, as an evangelical in my youth, I heard literally hundreds if not indeed thousands of explanations of what anyone would need to believe and do to be saved. (It’s funny that other Christians will lecture Mormons about how no ‘works’ can be involved, right after they explain very specifically what steps are needed for salvation. But I digress.)”

            Clearly, you are confused. I don’t know what sort of “evangelical Christianity” you were raised in, but you obviously don’t understand the nature of “works” vis a vis “steps” in the context of salvation. Repentance is one “step” that is needed for salvation; it is NOT a “work of righteousness”. I would think someone familiar with Evangelical Christianity would understand this.

            “Mormons have all believed and done those very same things, so we’re saved as Christians. I hope that’s reassuring to you.”

            No, they haven’t. They believe in ANOTHER Jesus, a FALSE Jesus, and a FALSE God the Father. Their Jesus is NOT the Jesus of the Bible. Their Jesus has NOT existed from all eternity; their Jesus had a BEGINNING. Their God the Father was once a man like us; their God the Father likewise had a beginning. The true Jesus and the true God the Father HAVE ALWAYS EXISTED. Therefore, Mormons are NOT saved, and are NOT Christian.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            Wow, inappropriate use of quotation marks and capital letters too. Yep, you’re a crank.

            So, I grew up in a perfectly generic evangelical denomination. (Unless you think there are some of them who aren’t saved either?) I was told many times, and I followed what I was told, that all I had to do was to believe in Jesus as my personal Savior and commit my life to Him. Right? Is there something more that should have been mentioned?

            Mormons all believe that Jesus is their Savior and they all commit their lives to Him.

            If you want to use some other formula, by all means mention it, and I can make the very same point. No one ever said that it had to be the right Jesus or that there were things about Jesus being the Son of God that needed to be clarified before salvation could take place. All Mormons believe that Jesus is the Son of God, by the way. See 1 John 4:2.

            But in point of fact Mormons don’t believe that Christ or the Father “had a beginning.” Not sure why you say that. but you’re wrong. Does that help?

            I think your whole deal is that you want to believe that Mormons are all condemned to Hell. That’s pretty sick.

          • Douglas J. Bender

            “Wow, inappropriate use of quotation marks and capital letters too.”

            Nope. I did not use any quotation marks, or any capital letters, inappropriately. In my last paragraph, I used “all-caps” to emphasize certain words, since I don’t see any other way to do so.

            “Yep, you’re a crank.”

            Nope, just an Evangelical Christian passionate for the truth. Nice ad hominem, though. Classy, and Christ-like.

            “So, I grew up in a perfectly generic evangelical denomination. (Unless you think there are some of them who aren’t saved either?)”

            Name that generic evangelical denomination. Or do you have something to hide? And, yes, there are plenty of denominations which might have sound doctrine (or not), but who are not truly following Jesus. (I assume you are familiar with the letters to the seven churches in Asia described in Revelation 1-3.)

            “I was told many times, and I followed what I was told, that all I had to do was to believe in Jesus as my personal Savior and commit my life to Him. Right? Is there something more that should have been mentioned?”

            Absolutely. If nothing more was mentioned, then you might have been believing in Jesus, the Hispanic mason.

            “Mormons all believe that Jesus is their Savior and they all commit their lives to Him.”

            Their Jesus is NOT the Jesus of the Bible, as I have already carefully pointed out.

            “If you want to use some other formula, by all means mention it, and I can make the very same point. No one ever said that it had to be the right Jesus or that there were things about Jesus being the Son of God that needed to be clarified before salvation could take place.”

            Whooooooopsie — you just went and contradicted yourself by adding that “Jesus being the Son of God” is one of the “necessary things” to be believed in order to be a Christian. So, which is it: In order to be a Christian, all one has to do is “believe in Jesus as [one's] personal Savior and commit [one's] life to Him”? Or is believing that Jesus is “the Son of God” an additional requirement?

            “All Mormons believe that Jesus is the Son of God, by the way. See 1 John 4:2. ”

            They change the meaning of “Son of God”. And their “God [the Father]” is NOT the same being as the Bible’s God the Father. I have already shown this.

            “But in point of fact Mormons don’t believe that Christ or the Father ‘had a beginning.’ Not sure why you say that. but you’re wrong. Does that help?”

            No, because you are denying something that I have heard from many Mormons, and have read myself in their own “scriptures”. Do you deny that Mormonism teaches that Lucifer is Jesus’ “spirit brother”, and that both Lucifer and Jesus were literally “begotten” by God the Father upon His having literal sexual relations (in their spiritual bodies, I guess) with at least one of His “spirit wives”?

            “I think your whole deal is that you want to believe that Mormons are all condemned to Hell. That’s pretty sick.”

            It is, because you are assuming something that is not true of me, simply because you want to attack my motives since you can’t refute my arguments. You are using another sort of “ad hominem” attack, because you are losing the argument.

            No, I don’t want to believe that Mormons are all condemned to Hell. But if they do not repent and believe the true Gospel, they will be. You are fighting against God and Jesus, in trying to prevent others from seeing and understanding the truth that would save them from Hell. My “whole deal” is defending the TRUTH — defending the Gospel against lies, deceptions, and distortions. Mormonism is a giant lie and deception, a distortion of the truth about God and Jesus. It is a false religion, a set of “doctrines of demons” which Satan concocted in order to lead people astray.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            “Jesus, the Hispanic mason.” Classy and Christ-like. Regarding you being a crank, I just have seen too many examples of people who use quotations marks and capitalization inappropriately. You sort of learn to spot them as giveaways. Sorry if it bothered you for me to point that out.

            Yes, you absolutely want to believe that Mormons are going to Hell. You want to believe that so much that you invent doctrinal tests for salvation that no one ever bothered to mention before. When I say, no one ever bothered to mention them, what I mean is, (1) they are not in the Bible, and (2) they are not brought up in evangelical meetings at which explanations are given about how to be saved. All of those steps – all of the things that need to be believed – are works necessary for salvation, by the way. You’re adding to the works by elaborating on things about the Father and the Son which need to be believed in order to be saved. You do that to boast about your righteousness and doctrinal purity. Eph. 2:9. You’re more like the Pharisees in your insistence that anyone’s doctrine must conform to yours than any simple message of Jesus Christ as Savoir and Redeemer.

            I don’t actually believe that “Lucifer is Jesus’ ‘spirit brother’, and that both Lucifer and Jesus were literally ‘begotten’ by God the Father upon His having literal sexual relations (in their spiritual bodies, I guess) with at least one of His ‘spirit wives’?” I could unpack that false assertion for you, bit by bit, but it is easier to say this affirmatively, as I have already done: Mormons believe in the literal truth of every word written about Jesus and God the Father in the Bible. The only place that you and I might part company is when you start to inject doctrines or teachings that aren’t found in the Bible.

            You’ll say, wait, wait, what about Book of Mormon and other things and what about God having a physical body as we. So let me say this again: Mormons believe in the literal truth of every word written about Jesus and God the Father in the Bible. The only place that you and I might part company is when you start to inject doctrines or teachings that aren’t found in the Bible.

            It’s true, of course, that Mormons claim additional sources of revelation. That was true of the early Christians, too, compared to the scribes and the Pharisees. God never has stopped speaking to His children. But Mormons believe in the literal truth of every word written about Jesus and God the Father in the Bible. The only place that you and I might part company is when you start to inject doctrines or teachings that aren’t found in the Bible.

            So that makes all of this “different Jesus” malarkey just that: malarkey. You guys make that stuff up because you need reasons to discredit Mormons. That’s not ad hominem, it’s just the simple truth.

            So, for example, you say that Mormons “change the meaning of Son of God.” But we only have the meaning that the Bible provides. We believe what is written there. So we aren’t the ones changing the meaning. You’re the ones that come up with all of this extra-biblical doctrine and insist that we can’t be saved unless we believe the stuff that you made up.

          • Douglas J. Bender

            You are a slippery one, just like the false prophet Joseph Smith was. Let’s make this simple and straightforward:

            Do you believe that…

            * Jesus and Lucifer are “spirit brothers”?
            * God begat Jesus by having literal sexual intercourse with Mary?
            * “As man is, God once was; and as God is, man can become”?
            * God the Father was and is a man of flesh and bone who once lived on another planet and who progressed to become the God of this world?

            Just answer each of these bulleted points, in a straightforward manner. If you can’t or won’t, then I won’t waste any more of my time on you.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            No

            No

            Yes

            No

            Is that straightforward enough? I wouldn’t want you to go away mad or anything.

            The problem is you’ll challenge my negative responses, because you’ve been told that Mormons believe those things and that there are quotations which back up those assessments. So, then what happens is, we end up going through a long and ultimately quite tedious back-and-forth trying to unpack the misinformation and misunderstanding from the question of what Mormon doctrine actually is. Just because a Church leader said something once doesn’t make it doctrine – we can and do revere leaders as prophets, seers and revelators without regarding them as infallible or that every statement they make must be canon. Any statement by any Church leader – particularly as you go back in history – deserves to be understood sympathetically and requires consideration in the context of the scriptures and in the context of other statements by prophets and apostles, toward a unified doctrine. Eph. 4:11-14. You and your ilk are never willing to consider that, and are willing to lie in the process.

            I’ll give you an example. The following is a quotation from the Patheos website, with a link to the source provided at the end.

            At a recent meeting of the Faith Angle Forum, Richard Mouw of Fuller Seminary, one of the elder statesmen of American evangelicalism, told a story of attending a series of talks in the 1950s by Walter Martin, a famous counter-cult apologist. In the fourth lecture, Martin spoke of Mormonism. Mouw recalls:

            We knew that there were a lot of Mormons there because they came and filled the first two rows…And Walter Martin did his very harsh attack on Mormonism. Later on he was to publish a book that’s been sort of a classic in the counter-cult movement called The Kingdom of the Cults. But he was rehearsing those things at the time in public speeches and he really went after Mormonism.

            In the Q&A, a very articulate young Mormon man stood up, and they went back and forth quite a bit. The Mormon was insisting that Walter Martin misunderstood Mormonism on the atonement of Christ and Walter Martin simply would not give in. And they got almost into a shouting match and at a certain point the young man, with tears flowing down his face because Martin had been pretty rough on him, said, “I don’t care what you say, Dr. Martin. I believe that my sins have been forgiven by the atoning work of Jesus Christ on Calvary and nothing that you can say can change that conviction.” And Martin turned to the audience and said, “See how they lie?”

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/philosophicalfragments/2012/10/24/why-evangelicals-should-defend-mormons-from-mockery-1/#comment-13368

            I mention that because, as a former evangelical, it offends me deeply to see and to understand how vicious and unkind my former co-religionists are in relation to my faith.

            So, let me be clear. Mormons believe in the literal truth of every word written about Jesus and God the Father in the Bible. The only place that you and I might part company is when you start to inject doctrines or teachings that aren’t found in the Bible. There are no examples of scriptures about Jesus and God the Father which Mormons do not accept as true. It therefore follows that the Godhead in whom we place our belief, trust and worship (see Acts 17:9; Col. 2:9) is the same. There have always been disagreements among theologians or ministers about the doctrines *concerning* the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, but it is utterly dishonest for you to claim that those disagreements separate anyone who believe in the Bible from his or her fundamental faith in and worship of God.

            Let me illustrate it this way. When I was a boy in my evangelical denomination church, I accepted Jesus as my personal savior. So, you would have to admit that I was not accepting any false Jesus; I knew who He was and I asked Him into my heart. So I can just tell you that in my mind and heart it is that very same Jesus in whom I place my faith today. He was born of a virgin at the meridian of time. He walked the earth as God in the flesh and as the representative of his Father, sent by the Father that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17). He atoned for our sins, died and was resurrected on the third day. He ascended to the Father where he leads His Church, having sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be with us and not forsake us. Through obedience and faith, we can become joint heirs with Him as the first-born of many brethren. (Rom 8:29)

            I know who my Redeemer is, and I know He lives. If you claim otherwise, then I won’t waste any more of my time on you.

          • Douglas J. Bender

            I don’t need to know or read anything else, other than that you answered “Yes” to the question, “Do you believe that…as man is, God once was; and as God is, man can become?” That is sufficient to prove that Mormonism is a cult, a false religion, and that its Jesus and God are NOT the God of the Bible, and that Mormonism is therefore NOT Christian.

            The God of the Bible, God the Father, has NEVER been anything other than what He is, and what He will be. And the Bible makes it quite clear that man can never become God. The lie that man can is straight from the Devil, from Satan in the Garden.

            Mormons need to repent of their false religion; they need to discard their false Jesus and false God, and turn to the true Jesus, the true God.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

            You have made your point Douglas. Time to move on.

          • Douglas J. Bender

            And what was my point, Chris? And do you agree with it?

            Perhaps I should ask you the same question I asked “try”: “Do you believe that…as man is, God once was; and as God is, man can become?”

            If you would agree that Mormonism teaches that, “yes, as man is, God once was; and as God is, man can become”, how can you honestly claim that Mormonism is Christian, when by this teaching it blatantly contradicts the Bible, and Who Jesus and God are?

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

            Yawn. As I mention in the original post, these type of debates do not interest me.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            C. S. Lewis (he was a Christian, right?) wrote: “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship.” [C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, rev. ed. (New York: Macmillan, Collier Books, 1980), 18].

            Lewis also explained,

            “The command Be ye perfect is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command. He said (in the Bible) that we were “gods” and He is going to make good His words. If we let Him—for we can prevent Him, if we choose—He will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or goddess, dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly (though, of course, on a smaller scale) His own boundless power and delight and goodness. The process will be long and in parts very painful; but that is what we are in for. Nothing less. He meant what He said.” [Lewis, Mere Christianity, 174—75.]

            In 2006, Mere Christianity was placed third in Christianity Today’s list of the most influential books amongst evangelicals since 1945. So, I guess Lewis was a Christian. Right?

            The Catechism of the Catholic Church (they’re Christians too, right?) says at Art. 460,

            The Word became flesh to make us “partakers of the divine nature”:”For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.” “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.” “The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods.” [Footnotes omitted]

            When Lorenzo Snow’s couplet says that as we are, God once was, I take that to mean that God the Father has always had physical form and has increased in power and glory. It is not as though He were a dirt farmer or something somewhere in the universe. Mormons don’t claim to know a lot about God’s history, but the idea that He is an amorphous something or other isn’t found in the Bible – it comes to you from the platonic idealists.

            The Bible teaches that God the Father has a body and that we are made in His likeness and image. Gen. 1:26-27. Those terms (likeness and image) are used in the Bible to describe a physical relationship. Gen. 5:3. God’s likeness is “as the appearance of a man.” Ezek. 1:26. The Son of God, Jesus, is “the express image” of His Father. Heb. 1:3. James reaffirmed that we “are made after the similitude of God.” James 3:9. Jacob declared, “I have seen God face to face.” Gen. 32:30. John described seeing the eyes and head of the Lord. Rev. 19:12, 15. Isaiah also saw the Lord “sitting upon a throne.” Isaiah 6:1. In Exodus 24:9,10, we read, “Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.”

            Your problem is that you think what you have been taught is what is in the Bible. It turns out to be two different things. You must believe in a false God or something.

            None of this means that God isn’t or hasn’t been eternal, from everlasting to everlasting. Of course He has been. But the idea of God’s changelessness has to be understood in the context of those attributes that are truly changeless and those that reflect His exercise of His will. For example, Creation occurred at a point in time. Why? I don’t think you even know, although we do. But there *was* a reason – and the process of fulfilling His will necessitated a change, Not in God’s fundamental character, but in His conditions and circumstances.

            The Lorenzo Snow couplet is good doctrine, but it is also a simple and poetic statement that may imply more knowledge than we actually claim to have. We don’t know what God was like before man was made in His image and likeness. We don’t claim to know. We only know that we *are* made in His image and likeness, and that this fact implies comparable histories. We don’t think we are equal to Him or that we will ever be equal to Him; we know that He will always be the Father, Creator and Almighty God.

            Hope that helps. It is still the case that Mormons believe everything written in the Bible about God the Father, Christ and the Holy Spirit, which is more than you can say.

            Let me illustrate it this way. When I was a boy in my evangelical denomination church, I accepted Jesus as my personal savior. So, you would have to admit that I was not accepting any false Jesus; I knew who He was and I asked Him into my heart. So I can just tell you that in my mind and heart it is that very same Jesus in whom I place my faith today. He was born of a virgin at the meridian of time. He walked the earth as God in the flesh and as the representative of his Father, sent by the Father that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:17). He atoned for our sins, died and was resurrected on the third day. He ascended to the Father where he leads His Church, having sent the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to be with us and not forsake us. Through obedience and faith, we can become joint heirs with Him as the first-born of many brethren. (Rom 8:29)

            I know who my Redeemer is, and I know He lives. If you claim otherwise, then I won’t waste any more of my time on you.

          • Dandini

            Mr. Bender. . . having been raised Lutheran (Missouri Synod), I am not sure what your definition of a Christian is. . . You keep switching arguments. According to the Bible, Abraham’s faith was perfected by his works, not the other way around. . .

          • Douglas J. Bender

            Switching arguments is fine (there is more than one argument for the truth of the Gospel, for instance). Switching DEFINITIONS is not. I assume you meant to say that I “keep switching definitions”. If that is the case, I have to ask: In what way?

            Also, Abraham’s faith was SHOWN (“perfected”) by his works. James, in the Book of James, says that “faith without works is dead”. Have I ever said anything that disagrees with or contradicts either of those statements regarding Abraham’s faith or faith in general? If so, show me where.

            Works do not justify us in the sense that our works cannot attain for us the forgiveness of sin. But if we say we have faith, but do not exhibit the FRUITS of saving faith (i.e., a life characterized by repentance), then our faith is “dead” (that is, not genuine). Fairly simple.

          • Dandini

            I would guess that your English version of the Bible, of the over 40 main variations in English, has “SHOWN” in it. . . or were those a literary addition? Or maybe that is why my King James version seems a bit more simple for me to understand.

            However, from your words which you stated ” Works do not justify…”, yet the scripture states “Was not Abraham our father justified by works…”

            So maybe LDS and your perspective is really one and the same. . . you just choose to ignore the obvious. . .

          • Douglas J. Bender

            Ascentia and fiducia ( http://carm.org/are-we-justified-faith-romans-or-works-james ).

            It would appear that you are a Mormon, Dandini, but not yet willing to admit it here for some reason. Is that correct?

        • brian_c

          Ha ha. It’s not my definition bud- they’re the most common English language definitions that you’ll find in dictionaries or among regular English speakers.

          Now, you are certainly free to believe whatever you will, and change the definitions of words to fit your own desires. Likewise I can change the definition of the word “gorilla” to mean any animal with hair, but I’d be foolish to expect everyone else to agree with me.

          • Douglas J. Bender

            “Ha ha. It’s not my definition bud- they’re the most common English language definitions that you’ll find in dictionaries or among regular English speakers.”

            Ha ha…that doesn’t matter — it’s still a sloppy definition.

            “Now, you are certainly free to believe whatever you will, and change the definitions of words to fit your own desires. Likewise I can change the definition of the word ‘gorilla’ to mean any animal with hair, but I’d be foolish to expect everyone else to agree with me.”

            Uh, the “broad” definition of “gorilla” being “any animal with hair” is more analogous to the definition of “Christian” that you gave than it is to anything I have proposed. Do you always go around undercutting your own arguments so swiftly?

          • brian_c

            “Ha ha…that doesn’t matter”

            Of course it does bud! It’s called proper communication. Otherwise it’s confusion or deception.

          • Douglas J. Bender

            That’s exactly my point, dude. The definition you cited is inaccurate and incomplete, EVEN THOUGH IT IS ONE OF THE MORE POPULAR DEFINITIONS FOR “CHRISTIAN”. Hence, “it’s confusion or deception”. What a round-about way to arrive at what I have been trying to point out to you.

  • Carol Joy Wilhlem

    To help understand the question from a Mormon’s point of view, I’d like to use an object as instructive. Imagine that Mormonism is a light bulb that you drop into a paper bag on a cement floor. You can reach into the paper bag and pull out any piece you like and find that it might compare to some other religion, however, you will not find the whole anywhere else.

    To Mormons, the basis of this idea comes from Acts 3:19-22–”Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.

    Many of the outside observations from this article and its commentators are correct in saying that Mormonism has pieces of Judaism, Christianity, Protestantism, and Masonry, but it also has more. It has retained the early Christan practice of baptism for the dead used by Paul in I Corinthians as a proof that there is a resurrection and it has retained the basis of 12 Apostles as specified in Ephesians 2:20.

    In 1829, Joseph Smith published the Book of Mormon, which relates the religious history of a Jewish family who left Jerusalem around 600 BC and came to America. The history includes 600 years of a people living under the Mosaic law, but looking forward to the resurrection of Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. When Jesus appeared to them after his resurrection, He instituted the sacrament of bread and wine to replace their animal sacrifices. He also chose 12 disciples as the foundation of HIs new Church and the people thereafter lived in righteous peace for over 200 years. When they fell into apostacy, they warred with each other until they were all killed. Just before the end around 400 AD, a righteous man named Mormon made a digest summary of their 1000 year history on gold plates (thus the name Book of Mormon) and gave the plates to his son Moroni who wrote a little more and then buried the plates. It was he who showed Joseph Smith where they were buried.

    In May and June of 1829, John the Baptist and Peter, James and John appeared to Joseph and gave him the keys to the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood so he could organize the Church. After organizing the Church and choosing 12 Apostles, he began to build a temple in Kirtland, Ohio.

    Joseph asked his wife to assemble a hymn book of acceptable Protestant hymns to be used in their worship services and most ot the early converts and leaders came from a Protestant background. Plus, the restoration could not have been carried out without the freedom of religion brought about by the Protestant rebellion in the old world and the establishment of the Constitution in the new world.

    On April 3, 1836, in fulfillment of Acts 3:19-22, Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith in a show of acceptance ot the Kirtland Temple and prophesied that “the fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands; and this is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people.”

    Immediately thereafter, Moses appeared and gave Joseph the keys of the gathering of Israel. Then Abraham appeared and restored the gospel of Abraham.to continue his line of chosen people. Lastly, Elijah appeared and restored the keys of sealing, the same ones given to Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration “that whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.”

    A few years later in Nauvoo, Illinois, in preparation for the completion of the Nauvoo temple, Joseph restored the opportunity to perform vicarius baptism for the dead and also restored ancient temple rites (in many ways similar to the rites of the Masonic Lodge).

    The restoration of the law of consecration (“all things in common”–lived by the city of Enoch and the Book of Mormon people and tried and failed by the early
    Christians) was also tried and failed by the Mormons.

    Another restoration that failed was the establishment of the Old Testament law of polygamy lived by Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David and Solomon.

    As can be seen, by the above, it is natural to find pieces of past and present religious practices in Mormonism.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      Carol, thanks. The article is written by a practicing Mormon. I do appreciate how you have laid out the Mormon narrative.

  • Jonathan

    Mormon’s did not take a doctrine and protest against it to create a man made religion that was different from something else. Joseph Smith went prayed to know “which” of the churches was the true church… not if he should start a new one… the answer he received was different than he was expecting. “join none” and help restore the correct doctrine, authority and revelatory religion of Christ back to the earth. It was not a movement in disgust of others or in contradiction to others but in asking simple questions about what was “right and true” and receiving answers via revelation from God just like prophets of old. Such questions regarding the nature of the Godhead, the pre-earth life, what happens after this life, the purpose of this life, repentance of sin, the eternal nature of the family… Whether you believe it or not is a different story but that is the claim. Based on the claim I don’t think they are protestant although Mormon’s do feel that protestantism paved the way for the restoration of the Gospel. Mormon’s are Christian in that they believe in Jesus Christ, his atoning sacrifice for sin and his grace that saves all through the resurrection. They believe in the New and Old Testament Bible. They are not “nicean” Christians or “Constantine christians”. God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are 3 separate and distinct individuals as depicted in various places in the New Testament and confirmed through the experiences and revelations experienced by Joseph and other prophets. So, depending on your definition of Christian Mormon’s could be seen as Christian or non-Christian doctrinally as you could with most “christian” sects. Culturally and socially Mormon’s adhere as closely as possible to the definition of being Christ-like (similar to other religions that espouse Christ)

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      Given the central role of the idea that all of the existing churches were false or fallen, it is really hard to say that it was not started somehow in protest or response to that condition. Now, it is not rooted in the reformation period. That is true.

      • Jonathan

        That idea came after the question (which church should I join). There was not a presumption that all were false (maybe from his father but not from other members of his family or from him)… actually the opposite… “one had to be true”… so, it was an honest inquiry from someone who did not know which way to turn vs. protesting… The inquiry did come from an honest desire to know which baptism was correct, who had authority,… etc… but Joseph did not take a stance pre-question that this or that religion was in error — he was searching for which was right not reconciling what was wrong. The belief that all others are in or have gone through a state of apostasy came after the revelations on doctrine and church organization… etc… and it is still a belief that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the answer… or restored church of Christ on the earth with all the rites, ordinances, authority and doctrine necessary to act on earth in Christ name. That does not mean that everything has been revealed as Mormons believe that more has yet to be revealed and that people should be actively searching for more light.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

          Yes, but the Church is not founded until 1830 at the Whitmer farm. While Joseph’s narrative may not start within the context of all existing churches being false, that is the context in which The Church is founded. Now, this may be part of why it should be viewed as a Restoration movement rather than a Protestant one. However, the religious and sectarian environment of the day is very much being responded to. This might now matter, I guess. I am not so much refuting any narrative as I am re-conceptualizing it for myself.

          • Jonathan

            Makes sense. Although I look at it in contrast to the reformers like calvin, luther and wesley who where all trying to reform existing structures and then were forced to protest and start a new. The reformers that I have studied all did exactly that “reformed”. Most did not want to leave the Catholic church they wanted to get it back to what they believed it should be… Joseph did not take one model and “reform” it but more restored (like you alluded to) based on questions and revelation. The result felt like (feels like) to others as a protestation that others were categorically false — but the real context in which the Church was founded and still operates, i think, is not to claim someone else is false but that more light and knowledge exist and that revelation can “add to” and restore things that have been lost. Minor difference but significant in terms of how Mormons approach others of other faiths and the mind of Joseph during the founding years. Thanks for writing the article. It is fun to think about.

          • Richard Giroux

            Mormonism should be characterized as a Restorationist Christian, rather than Protestant Christian, religion. It does not rely on reformation or dissention from the doctrine of another religious movement. Although distinct based on belief in new revelation/scripture, Mormonism fits within the general traditions of restoration movements such as the Stone-Campbell movement that later evolved into Churches of Christ and Disciples of Christ. All sought to restore Christianity to its pre-creedal roots in doctrine and practice.

  • Charles Carter

    Briefly, a ‘protestant’ can be defined as one who accepts the five solas. Those who accept them may not be protestant, but all protestants accept them. LDSs do not accept the five solas, in particular, sola scriptura and sola gratia. Ergo, LDSs are not ‘protestants’ as defined.

    Obviously, one can define pretty much anything he or she wants, and this definition will not be accepted by everyone. However, from a historical and doctrinal perspective, this definition is just about as descriptive as you can get, and really isn’t prescriptive in any way.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      Charles,

      Thanks, I will need to look more in the solas.

    • trytoseeitmyway

      Another way that Mormons are not Protestants (while still being Christian) is that Mormons believe that the Church of Jesus Christ requires a priesthood. The purpose of a priesthood is to provide a vehicle through which Christ may administer His Church. Matt. 16:19. There needs to be a way for prophets and apostles to declare doctrine with authority. Eph. 4:11-14. Catholics understand this. “Protestantism,” by contrast, is splintered, doctrinally chaotic and has no line of authority back to Christ. Just bring up Calvinism vs. Arminianism, for example.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

        I mention in the original post that our emphasis on authority is foreign to protestants. For most…it is downright strange. Of course, I have authority issues of my own. :)

        • trytoseeitmyway

          Thanks, Chris. Not strange to Catholics, though. There are obviously many areas of disagreement between Catholics and Mormons, but understanding the need for ecclesiastical organization and authority isn’t one of them.

  • Douglas J. Bender

    If Mormonism is truly Christian, then Mohammed was an Apostle.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      Douglas,

      I do not think that is quite as clever…or coherent…as you might think.

      • Douglas J. Bender

        I think it is both. The point being very simple: Mohammed was not an Apostle; therefore, Mormonism is not truly Christian. It is “coherent” in that is is correct — Mormonism is not truly Christian. It is “clever” in that it compares two unrelated truths, hyperbolically.

        Mormonism teaches that God the Father was once a man like unto ourselves. That alone proves that Mormonism is NOT truly Christian. Refute.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

          “The point being very simple: Mohammed was not an Apostle; therefore, Mormonism is not truly Christian.” Yeah, still not sure what Mohammed has to do with anything discussed here.

          “Mormonism teaches that God the Father was once a man like unto ourselves. That alone proves that Mormonism is NOT truly Christian. Refute.”

          That proves that you really do not like that belief, but you have not said how that leads to your conclusion. Therefore, nothing for me to refute…not that I am into the refuting thing. I address that in the post.

          • Douglas J. Bender

            You completely miss the logic and hyperbole in my point regarding Mohammed, even though I tried to give you a hint. Oh well.

            Regarding Mormonism’s teachings — Let me try to ‘splain why the teaching of Mormonism that I mentioned proves that Mormonism is NOT truly Christian. (I shouldn’t have to, as it should be obvious. But anyway…). I’ll use an analogy — Consider each of the following statements to be true: Lebron James is widely recognized as the best at what he does. He has been considered a surefire future success since he was in his mid-teens. Lebron James is from the Akron/Cleveland area, but moved to Miami a few years ago. Lebron James is 6’8″ tall, weighs 250 pounds, and is very muscular and athletic. He is also a minority, with lots of tattoos on his arms. Lebron James made a “decision” a few years ago that was wildly unpopular in his hometown. Lebron James was born on December 30, 1984. Lebron James is an Asian with a PhD in Physics, who left his position with Ohio State University a few years back to accept a professorship at the University of Miami. Lebron James does not play basketball, nor does he play it well when he does play.

            Question: If I say that I am a “follower” and fan of Lebron James, does that necessarily mean that I am a “follower” and fan of Lebron James the black basketball player? If I mean that I am a “follower” and fan of Lebron James the Asian Physics professor, should I automatically be considered a “follower” and fan of Lebron James the black basketball player as well? They are two different people, with some interesting but ultimately superficial similarities. Same thing with the Mormon Jesus and the Mormon God the Father, compared with the true and Biblical Jesus and God the Father.

          • trytoseeitmyway

            There is only the one God the Father, and only the one Son, Jesus Christ. They’re the ones written about in the Bible. Mormons believe in them and follow them. When you try to differentiate between a Christian God and a Mormon God, you are not only blaspheming (as mentioned, there is only the One) but you are trying to elevate the importance of lesser doctrinal differences of opinion to a level of one’s belief in God.

            As I mention above, I have heard literally hundreds if not indeed thousands of altar calls and other explanations of
            what anyone would need to believe and to do in order to be saved. When I heard preachers say, you need to believe in Jesus and ask Him into your heart (for example), the preachers never said, oh, and here is a list of very specific things ABOUT Jesus that you are required to believe, whether they are specifically mentioned in the Bible or not. Such as, here is the Nicene Creed, for example, and make sure you understand the meaning of “consubstantial” and “homoousios” before you can be saved! Or you’d better sign up to 5-point Calvinism or anything like that. And forget about Jesus being the literal Son of God, because the Bible is just kidding about that.

            No, none of those things were ever mentioned when pastors or evangelists were explaining what you had to believe and do in order to be saved. Mormons have all believed and done the things that I heard mentioned by those pastors, so – good news! – we’re saved as Christians according to that view. I hope that’s reassuring to you.

          • Douglas J. Bender

            “There is only the one God the Father, and only the one Son, Jesus Christ. They’re the ones written about in the Bible.”

            Correct.

            “Mormons believe in them and follow them.”

            Incorrect. They follow a FALSE God the Father and a FALSE Jesus Christ.

            “When you try to differentiate between a Christian God and a Mormon God, you are not only blaspheming (as mentioned, there is only the One) but you are trying to elevate the importance of lesser doctrinal differences of
            opinion to a level of one’s belief in God.”

            Now you are either just confused, or intentionally lying in order to deceive others. I am not the one who has blasphemed God — MORMONS have, by lying about Who He really is. And Who He really is is NOT a “lesser” doctrinal matter. Bear this in mind, for it is of the same nature as the lie that Satan told Eve in the Garden: The MORMON God was once a man like we are; the MORMON teaching is that we can become gods like unto God Himself, of the same essence. The MORMON Jesus had a beginning — hence, He is of the fundamental nature as us. And THAT is also a lie.

            “As I mention above, I have heard literally hundreds if not indeed thousands of altar calls and other explanations of
            what anyone would need to believe and to do in order to be saved.”

            Impressive. Even more impressive is that you kept count for so long.

            “When I heard preachers say, you need to believe in Jesus and ask Him into your heart (for example), the preachers never said, oh, and here is a list of very specific things ABOUT Jesus that you are required to believe, whether they are specifically mentioned in the Bible or not.”

            Right. Any ol’ Jesus would do, as long as you believe in Him. “Step right up and believe in Jesus, and be saved!!” “Okay, I will!! But Who is this Jesus I am about to believe in?” “Stop being so legalistic, and come forward in faith!!” “No, really, I’d like to know Who it is that I will be trusting and following.” “That’s not important right now!” “Oh, please…pretty please?” “Alright — Jesus is the fourth Super-Engineer from the Planet Nemoninee, astrally projected into the fourth and third dimensions upon the Planet Earth millions of years ago to scrawl the plan of salvation upon various cave walls before being teleported to His home galaxy far, far away. Now repent, and believe in Jesus!!” “Cool. I’m in.”….Yep, that sounds a lot like Mormonism.

            “Such as, here is the Nicene Creed, for example, and make sure you understand the meaning of ‘consubstantial’ and ‘homoousios’ before you can be saved! Or you’d better sign up to 5-point Calvinism or anything like that. And forget about Jesus being the literal Son of God, because the Bible is just kidding about that.”

            People like you like to argue from extremes, because you cannot make a reasoned argument regarding the issues otherwise. I alluded to there being “two or three” necessary and sufficient things that are required in order to be saved, to be a Christian. You then pretend this would require knowing esoteric theological terms and ideas. Hardly. Nice try at avoiding the challenge I gave, though.

            “No, none of those things were ever mentioned when pastors or evangelists were explaining what you had to believe and do in order to be saved. Mormons have all believed and done the things that I heard mentioned by those pastors, so – good news! – we’re saved as Christians according to that view. I hope that’s reassuring to you.”

            Not in the least. You once again show that you really don’t know what it means to be a Christian.

  • Robert Hall
  • christopher mahoney

    Mormonism, like Christianity and Islam, is a derivative of Judaism and the Hebrew Bible. They all view the Jewish Bible as holy scripture, and they all worship the same deity. However, they each have their own second (or third) book of scripture: the Book of Mormon, the New Testament, and the Holy Quran, and they each have their own secondary (or tertiary) figure (Jesus, Mohammed, Joseph Smith). Protestants (as founded by Luther, Calvin, etc.) only recognize the Jewish Bible and the New Testament as holy scripture. Mormonism, with its own unique scripture, is thus a third derivative of Judaism, and a related but separate religion to Protestantism and Catholicism. Mormons are Christian but not Protestant.

    • rockyspoon

      Except Mormons also believe the New Testament as Holy Writ–along with the Bible and Book of Mormon.

      And Mormons have the Doctrine and Covenants and another tome, the Pearl of Great Price.

      And because Mormons have what they consider to be live, current prophets and apostles, their pronouncements are considered scripture also.

      One would expect that of Christ’s true church.

      • trytoseeitmyway

        Yes, and Mormons teach and preach the divinity and atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

        But the conclusion that Mormons are Christian but not Protestant is accurate. I see Mormonism as a new synthesis of Catholicism and Protestantism. Notice, for example, the Catholic-like emphasis on priesthood and priesthood authority and the possibility of continuing revelation, while rejecting (with the Protestant Reformation) many of the un-biblical accretions on Christian doctrine that arose over the centuries in which Christianity was co-opted by empire.

  • Mark Friend

    Enjoyed the article. I am always amazed when people say The Book of Mormon does not teach grace. It certainly does. I am fundamental RLDS within the restoration branch movement. Growing up we were taught that we are not protestant since God moved to restore not reform the church. But looking at what you are saying I can understand including Mormons within the protestant group.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/approachingjustice/ Chris Henrichsen

      Thanks, Mark,

  • trytoseeitmyway

    So, now, I’m late too. Just noticed this.

    When you go through the Apostles Creed line by line, which version do you use? There is more than one you know. And what do your Mormon interlocutors say when you get to the line about the holy catholic church (or “holy Christian church,” again depending on which version). I’m sure that you explain that “holy catholic church” doesn’t have to be taken as a reference to the Roman Catholic Church, but then that begs the question, where is the catholic church referred to in the Creed?

    But when Mormons quarrel with “creeds,” they do so on this basis:

    In the year A.D. 325 the Roman emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea to address—among other things—the growing issue of God’s alleged “trinity in unity.” What emerged from the heated contentions of
    churchmen, philosophers, and ecclesiastical dignitaries came to be known (after another 125 years and three more major councils) as the Nicene Creed, with later reformulations such as the Athanasian Creed. These various evolutions and iterations of creeds—and others to come over the centuries—declared the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be abstract, absolute, transcendent, immanent, consubstantial, coeternal, and unknowable, without body, parts, or passions and dwelling outside space and time. In such creeds all three members are separate persons, but they are a single being, the oft-noted “mystery of the trinity.” They are three distinct persons, yet not three Gods but one. All three persons
    are incomprehensible, yet it is one God who is incomprehensible.

    We agree with our critics on at least that point—that such a formulation for divinity is truly incomprehensible. With such a confusing definition of God being imposed upon the church, little wonder that a fourth-century monk cried out, “Woe is me! They have taken my God away from me,
    … and I know not whom to adore or to address.” How are we to trust, love, worship, to say nothing of strive to be like, One who is incomprehensible and unknowable? What of Jesus’s prayer to His Father in Heaven that “this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”?

    It is not our purpose to demean any person’s belief nor the doctrine of any religion. We extend to all the same respect for their doctrine that we are asking for ours. (That, too, is an article of our faith.) But if one says we are not Christians because we do not hold a fourth- or
    fifth-century view of the Godhead, then what of those first Christian Saints, many of whom were eyewitnesses of the living Christ, who did not hold such a view either?

    http://www.lds.org/general-conference/2007/10/the-only-true-god-and-jesus-christ-whom-he-hath-sent?lang=eng

    What we’re saying, in other words, is that the theology that evolved in the 4th and 5th centuries began to depart from adherence to Biblical teaching, and that even the creeds began to develop a gloss on them that extended beyond the literal meaning of their words. For example, we can all declare that Jesus is the Son of God … but most Christians will then bridle at any attempt to import the literal meaning of sonship into that declaration. They thus depart from the scriptures and the truth.

    That scarcely means that Mormons aren’t Christian. If anything, it ought to mean that Mormons are more Christian than those who treat Biblical teachings about Christ as mere metaphor, subordinate to all this wonderful stuff that Augustine and others claimed to have figured out much later.


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