Between the recent conference on Methodists and Mormons and the events of my own week, I have been left pondering the question: should Mormons be categorized as Protestants?
This week at Casper College our annual humanities festival focused on sin. On Thursday night, there 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.
The Mormon bishop was a mathematics professor at the college. He did a great job.
I was part of a group of faculty and students that tweeted the event. One of the students, Micah, is 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. 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 avoid. 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.
However, Joseph, the English professor was using Protestant in the way that I had been introduced to it growing up. 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.
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) to the true form of the original Biblical church.
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 position on them.
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.
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.
On Tuesday, I attended Shrove Tuesday dinner at St. Marks Episcopal Church in downtown Casper. My kids loved the pancakes. I enjoyed chatting with the minister and an older couple. It felt a lot like a ward activity.