“Are Mormons Christians?”: A Blog Round Table

Author’s Note: This post is cross-posted at Faith-Promoting Rumor.

Are Mormons Christians?

For most Mormons, the answer to this question is obvious. Yes, yes they are. They believe in Jesus Christ. This settles it for them

For people from other religious perspectives, the answer is obvious but in the negative. Mormons are not Christians. The reasons for this response is varied.

For some, few answers are obvious. Instead, this question is more one of inquiry. For me, the question itself, and that it gets asked, is what intrigues me and brings me to this round table. Why do we get caught up in these debates? What do such questions tell us about Mormonism, Christianity, and religion.

A group of bloggers here at Patheos has decided to take turns addressing this question. The participants on this round table, include contributors to the Mormon channel here at Patheos, as well as bloggers at the Buddhist and Catholic Channels. I am hoping to rope in contributions and responses from other channels as well.

We will also have at least one guest contribution from a leading scholar who has written on this topic.

One of my purposes in announcing this round table, is to invite you to participate. Please, ask questions and leave comments in the comment sections of the respective posts.

If you would like to contribute a guest post about this question, shoot my a message. You can do so by sending me a message at my Facebook page or by emailing me at approachingjustice@gmail.com

I am looking forward to this discussion. Patheos is a great place for it.

Here are the contributions to the round table so far:

“Are Mormons Christians? Yes and No.” by Chris Henrichsen of Approaching Justice.

“Are Mormons Christians? Defining Religious Identity” by Justin Whitaker atAmerican Buddhist Perspective.

“Are Mormons Christian? Who Gets to Decide?” by Caryn Riswold of feminismxianity.

“Mormonism and the Christianity Police” by Taylor Petrey at Peculiar People.

“What a Pagan can tell you about whether Mormons are Christian” by John Halstead of The Allergic Pagan.

“Who Do You Say That I Am? Mormons and the Christ” by Kathy Schiffer at Seasons of Grace.

“Are Mormons Christian? We’ll see.” by Sam Rocha.

“Are Mainline Protestants Christian?” by Stephen H. Webb at Sam Rocha’s blog.

Are Mormons Christian? A series of unhelpful questions by Fred Clark at Slacktivist.

About Chris Henrichsen

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

  • Kirsten Crippen

    I have always felt that you are a Christian if you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. Every thing else is just set dressing.

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

      Thanks, Kristen. Does the set dressing diminish the acceptance of Christ as Savior? Or is it just part of individual faith? I am finding that we accept Christ as our Savior in many forms and I am starting to really appreciate that.

      • Kirsten Crippen

        Well, yes. I just find it hurtful and unproductive for all the different Christians too badmouth other Christians.

        At our county fair, there used to be a booth that would tell if you were going to heaven in 2 questions. (1) Do you accept JC as your Savior? (2) Are you a Mormon?

        Unless you answered yes to the first, and no to the second, you were going to hell.

  • MrShorty

    This could be an interesting discussion.
    In recent years, I have gotten kind of tired of this question, personally. It sometimes feels like we Mormons are continually submitting an application to an exclusive country club, getting our application rejected, then we want to tell one and all how wrong the applications committee was in rejecting our application. Sometimes I think we would be better off to stop worrying about whether men will let us into the country club and worry more about whether God accepts us as what He calls “Christian.”
    I must admit that I am not an apologist or anything like that, so I usually find that I cannot articulate my thoughts as well as other can. That said, it often seems to me that so much of this discussion boils down to exactly how you define “Christian” or what necessary elements must be present to call a theology “Christian.” Kirsten suggests that this should only include whether or not “you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.” While I might agree with her, it seems to me that many Christians want to include things like whether or not you strictly accept the doctrine of the Trinity; or whether you believe in “sola scriptura” (the belief that the 66 books of the Protestant Bible are the only scripture available to man); or whether or not you believe in “sola fide” (salvation comes by faith alone and not by any works done by man).
    I think it will be interesting to see how you all work out this discussion.

    • Lars

      I agree because you already have your own country club. Who cares if another club rejects you! They should want to join YOUR club! Seems to me that religion (and politics, and Middle School, and insert group name here) are essentially just other clubs you are free to join or ignore. Even the Christians can’t figure out who’s really a Christian – not Catholics, certainly – and who isn’t, so whose blessings are you after?

      And if you believe in divine revelation, when do you cut it off? At Revelation? At The Book of Mormon? At Sun Myung Moon? What keeps God from communicating with humanity today and who gets to judge the veracity of that communication? I guess whichever group is most popular at the time.

      (For the record, there are some pretty crazy communications by God in the OT so craziness of revelation is not necessarily a criterion! Full disclosure – I’m an ex-evangelical who was taught that Catholics, Mormons, and most everyone else were in for a rude awakening upon death.)

  • John W. Morehead

    This will be a helpful discussion if you have the right participants, and forum. I’d suggest that a written one may not be too productive. Perhaps a podcast hosted by Patheos? A conversation with knowledgeable and civil Mormons and Evangelicals?

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

      We may have some related podcasts in the future. On thing I have liked about the round table so far is that it has moved beyond just a back and forth between Mormon apologists and Evangelicals. It is still a work-in-progress.

  • billwald

    Since the 3rd century Christianity had been defined by the ecumenical creeds. By this standard most Baptists are not explicitly Christian but accept the content of the creeds if not the format. The LDS rejects the content of the creeds and the content of every other historical Christian document.

  • Tracy

    We just studied this at bible school awhile back. It was quite interesting, and helped me to understand a bit more on perhaps what ‘defines’ a Christian. Our teacher drew a circle, and within that circle, 2 other circles. The inner one was called dogma, the middle one, doctrine, and the outer one, opinions. Our dogma as Christians is what we are all supposed to agree on. It is the foundation of our faith and the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed show us this. Then you have doctrine. This is just peoples interpretation of what Scripture says, and lastly, opinion. This is my opinion verses your opinion. Thing is, in this context we have unity, while maintaining diversity. We all agree on the basic Creed on the Christian faith, but anything else is can be a free for all. This is where we sometimes go wrong. We start making doctrine and opinions into dogma. So.. if Mormons can agree with the Creed, God the Father, maker of heaven and earth. Jesus Christ his only Son, who was born of virgin birth. I think they might different on WHO Jesus is… they believe in Him, but not that he is the Son of God, and IS God. That is my understanding of Mormonism. I am totally open to being corrected on that one.

  • breid1903

    i think the horse has left the barn. in the last election(2012) the tevangelicals supported mitt. the only one that they spoke against was obama. bo is a christian. i did not vote for obama. by silent acclimation they accepted mornonisiom. you mormons are in. i live in cracker land(indiana) you folks maybe civil but we aren’t. i pack.

    besides who has the right to decide what?

    i could go on for hours, fortunately i will not. just remember everyone but me and my little old church is going to hell. maybe my church.

    peaceup billy(the heathen)

  • RaymondSwenson

    I think the primary concern that I have as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that, in order to justify their exclusion of Mormons from the definition of “Christian” is that so much false information is taught about what we believe and how we live.

    First of all, Mormons believe EVERYTHING in the traditional “Apostles Creed”. You can compare it to the LDS Thirteen Articles of Faith in the Pearl of Great Price in the LDS Scriptures section of LDS.org.

    Second, this means that Mormons also teach most of the statements in the classical Nicene Creed, except for the legendarily confusing description of the Trinity about three persons sharing one substance. Mormons DO believe in what Protestants refer to as a “Social Trinity”, along with a number of Protestant denominations. Mormons affirm that there is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. See Article of Faith #1. We affirm that God the Son is Jehovah, the God who created the earth and spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, and that this Gd was born of the virgin Mary and lived on earth as Jesus Christ. We affirm that Jesus suffered and atoned foir the sins of all mankind, died on the cross, and was resurrected, and that after instructing the apostles, he ascended to heaven and the right hand of God the Father, from which he will return to reign on and judge the earth. We affirm that we are living in the last days before Christ-Jehovah returns in glory, hence the name of our church.

    As long as you understand these facts, I am not as concerned about how you personally want to draw circles of exclusion.

    • Grotoff

      Of course, the name Jehovah is a Greek confusion. The name of the God of Israel is YHWH. Neither the Y or W sounds or letters existed in Ancient Greek, so they substituted J and V. Additionally, the proper vowel notation for YHWH was not recorded and there is no agreement on how it should be pronounced, specifically because the Jews refused to do so. The most common modern pronunciation is Yahweh, though I can see making an argument for Yehowah. Certainly not Jehovah.

  • RaymondSwenson

    Theologian Stephen Webb, an Evangelical convert to Catholicism, is emphatic that Mormonism is a branch on the Christian tree, in his new book Mormon Christianity. I highly recommend it. Webb has taken pains to make sure he is representing Mormon beliefs accurately, and I found none of the kinds of errors that mark even scholarly books about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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

      Webb will be contributing to this round table. I am hoping that his post will be this week.

  • Grotoff

    TRANSPLANT: From Peculiar People

    Mormonism is Christian the way that Christianity is Jewish. Which is to say, sort of but not really. Christians added the New Testament with all sorts of new and
    unusual doctrines that Jews, at the time and since, have rejected as
    heretical. Mormons do the same with their Book of Mormon and other
    writings.

    That’s in the historical sense, which is what von Harnack is
    explicitly rejecting. In the objective sense of the trajectory of
    movements and the evolution of doctrines, Mormonism is a wayward child
    of Christianity. It is heterodox Christianity, in a similar way as the
    American Muslim offshoot “The Nation of Islam” is heterodox Islam.

    Of course, you are right that pointing out Mormonism’s otherness has
    been dangerous for it and for the people who profess it. But that
    requires that we push for greater tolerance of all heterodoxy and true
    freedom of religion. It doesn’t require us to deny the history and
    doctrine of Mormonism or the Protestant Christianity that it broke away
    from.

  • Andrew

    LDS theology tells us that all mortals lived prior to this life in what is called the pre-existence. Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie stated that it was in the pre-existence that Jesus attained the status of a God. Wrote McConkie, “He is the Firstborn of the Father. By obedience and devotion to the truth he attained that pinnacle of intelligence which ranked him as a God, as the Lord Omnipotent, while yet in his pre-existent state” (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, pg. 129). In essence, the Mormon Jesus did something his own “father” could not accomplish, that is, become a God before going through a mortal probation.

    Christians have longed maintained that Christ was, and is, the eternal God. Unlike the teachings of LDS prophets, there was not a point in time when He was not God.

    I’m a Christian and don’t call my self a LDS because I don’t believe in LDS doctrines. Stop calling yourselves Christians because you don’t believe in Christian doctrines.

    • JohnH2

      Actually Andrew, if you are familiar at all with pre-Nicaea Christianity then you would know that the idea that Jesus is God was not held by a very large portion of Christians at that time. Believing that Jesus is Christ and Savior is what appears to be the defining feature of Christianity.

      This isn’t even getting into whether what Elder McConkie said is doctrine or his own opinion or anything of the sort.

      • Andrew

        Actually there was debate on it so they held a council to come up with an orthodox position. It was that Jesus is God and equal with the Father and Spirit. It’s called the trinity and the New Testament many times equates the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. That is where that doctrine comes from. Either way though, right or wrong, it’s what Christians have believed for the last 1700 years and it is central to being a Christian. If you don’t believe this, don’t call yourself a Christian.

        Sixth LDS President Joseph F. Smith stated, “Among the spirit children of Elohim, the first-born was and is Jehovah, or Jesus Christ, to whom all others are juniors”. I don’t believe this so I don’t call myself a LDS. If you don’t believe that Jesus was God, equal to the Father, don’t call yourself a Christian.

        • JohnH2

          The Arianism is still Christian and they did not believe that, and they are just the most well known (and powerful) of the sects that have believed something different then what came out of the council.

          While imperial Rome and later Catholic Crusades exerted political power and military power to banish and exterminate all competing views (which hardly seems like the Christ-like thing to do), there has always existed sects which believe in some variation which is different then the Trinitarian which you claim IS Christianity.

          In the Ecumenical councils in which you place your faith these sects are declared to be Christian though heresy; By now denying the term Christian to those that believe different from Trinitarian you are defying the very councils in which you place your faith that the Trinity is the correct view of the Godhead.

          Mormons are quite a bit less extreme then Arians: (who, again councils declare are Christian). We believe that the Father, Jesus, and the Spirit form a single Godhead, or are one God, with each equal to the other. We believe that Jesus is Jehovah who is the God of the Old Testament and is from everlasting to everlasting and is God from everlasting to everlasting. Jesus is the Son of God and is the Lamb slain from the foundations of the world. The LDS position is entirely consistent with the Bible, and even more consistent then the Trinity is.

          As Abraham 3 makes clear, even as an intelligence (a state and substance prior to being a spirit), Jesus is God and equal to the Father, while also being the first-born of the Father. Jesus is also the only-begotten Son of the Father which clearly doesn’t lessen your view of Him or His state, so I am not sure why the LDS belief gives you the impression that it implies that Jesus is not equal to the Father.

          As I have shown, under what you have said, and according to the standards that were used in the ecumenical councils (which is contrary to what you have said), Mormons are very clearly Christian.

  • Steve Webb

    Please add link to Stephen H. Webb’s post on Sam Rocha’s page. Thanks!

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

      Prof. Webb, thanks for the reminder. It is now linked here and on the page. Thank you for the wonderful contribution.


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