How am I supposed to tell my Jesus loving Mormon kids that they aren’t Christian?

This post is in response to a recent blog by Ben Witherington ‘Why Mormonism is not Christian – the issue of Christology.

My nine year old adores his older brother and it was no surprise that after years of watching Isaac sing choral evensong he too wanted to don a bright red cassock, a crisp white surplice and ruff, and praise the Lord in an Anglican cathedral, resplendent with flickering candles, stained windows, crosses, and the Book of Common  Prayer.  And so, every  Tuesday evening and twice on Sunday he sings his heart out as only a boy chorister can.  It’s busy on Sundays as we try valiantly to squeeze our LDS services between an 11am mass and a 5pm evensong.  I’m enormously proud of both sons (one currently preparing for his LDS mission) who have developed an abiding love for Church Music from preces to psalms, and at the same time have felt strong sense of God’s presence in their lives through their  interfaith experiences.  A third son also attends an Anglican school and looks forward keenly to his church services where he gets to sing his favourite anthem,Here I am Lord’.  All of my boys have developed important attachments with their non-LDS clergy, and its warm community of lay persons.  My nine year old is particularly fond of Lynda Patterson, the acting Dean of the Christchurch Cathedral who just a few weeks ago, led a children’s service wearing a chicken costume!  She was glorious.   My boys move gracefully and beautifully from one space to another, rarely making anything of the difference, and frequently building and enriching upon their lessons, talks and sermons as they shift between denominations.

My boys’ LDS interfaith life in some way mirrors my own.  There was never a question that I was LDS,  but as a child, and before the correlated programme, I would attend the Linwood Avenue Baptist Church with my Oma and later, when my mother married a Roman Catholic,  I’d happily attend St Mary’s for mass  even sneaking away occasionally to take communion because I didn’t want to miss out on this wonderful opportunity to remember Christ in this most sanctifying and blessed of ways.  As an 8 year old I used my time in the Evangelical church’s ‘Joy Club’ to prepare for my baptism.  I basked in the stories of Jesus, wept for the man left by the side of the road with only a Samaritan a willing help in his time of need.  I sang Jesus Loves the Little Children while gazing wonderingly at the faces of those children of every different hue that graced the song sheet.  Each of my Mormon, Anglican, Catholic, Baptist and Pentecostal church experiences affirmed to me, time and time again that, the Jesus person who I’d had fallen unremittingly in love with, loved me too and that is all that mattered.  Perhaps in my head I made sense of the obvious denominational differences much like a child would make sense of different restaurants.  In some places dining is casual, in others it’s formal.  Either way you hold your fork – its still food.  But to be honest I don’t recall weighing them up, measuring them, or comparing them.  To me all of the pages in my inter-denominational experiences fit together with a neat binding that said – The Jesus I Know.

So you can imagine my surprise as a child, when upon learning that I was a Mormon, a neighbour announced to me,  ‘Mormons aren’t Christians’.   In all of my  young life I had, thankfully, been spared this accusation.  But in her saying it with such emphatic knowing, with such confidence, I realized that this came from something larger than her.  Sitting behind these words was a conviction that one only bears when they know they have ideological company.  Her words ricocheted through me like a million barbs.  I had never heard nor imagined such a thing – I wasn’t a Christian?

All at once I recalled the framed picture of Jesus clasping the helm of a ship in a tempest,  that sat behind the podium in my LDS meetinghouse primary room.   I remembered the songs, ‘Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam’, ‘Jesus once was a little child’, ‘Remember the stories of Jesus’ – the bible stories from Joy Club that were repeated in junior Sunday School and I was stunned that any one would imagine me as anything but His child.  Something stole away from on that day, my innocence perhaps?  I learned then that when it comes to our hyperbolic denominationalism, adults can be cruel, even with a child’s simple faith.

I’ve had many years to reflect on this statement.  It was the first time I had heard it, but it hasn’t been the last.  I will make some intellectual concessions to Witherington’s argument.  Yes, early Mormonism eschewed patristics and in doing so brazenly stepped up and over a long, rich, beautiful, cruel, magnificent, dark and deeply complex Christian tradition.  But Christianity is full of heresy, Mormonism being one of  them, and each of these heresies put together today is a breathtaking bricolage of thought, feeling, intelligence, transcendence, wonder, testimony and majesty all bound up in the supernal and immortal figure of Christ.

At St Christopher’s Anglican church some months back, the priest talked movingly about the Trinity.  His question was, ‘Of what value the Trinity?’ His thought provoking sermon was centered around the idea that in the Trinity one can be assured that whether we are feeling the presence of the Holy Ghost, or marveling on the goodness of Christ’s ministry, God is present.  Thus, in being moved by the spirit – God is with me; in taking the communion and remembering the death and resurrection of Christ – God is with me.  I had never seen the  grace of the Trinity in this way before – it made sense.    At my LDS ward recently someone shared their testimony of Christ and their gratitude for a Heavenly Father who sent his Son to atone for our sins. The underlying message I believe is that in experiencing the miracle of the atonement, God can be with you and I – this too made sense.  In the final analysis does it really matter what theological, doctrinal, soteriological, Christological position,  if the end result is that we experience the miracle of Christ?

It is true, the Mormon tradition does not out rightly and explicitly honour the Church Fathers –and personally I think we are diminished somewhat by not understanding their great contributions to the Christian faith.  But in the final analysis, these Christian Fathers were not pointing to themselves as the object of our adoration, they were grappling with the exigencies of mortality while trying to point heavenward, searching for a course that would shore us up in the bosom of the Lord, who, after all is the object of our worship and adoration.

So perhaps Ben Witherington would like to explain to me how I tell my children that because they are Mormon they are not Christian?  Perhaps he could suggest to me a way of explaining to them that there is a problematic divide between the Christ they experience in their Anglican faith life,  and the one they experience in their Mormon faith life.

At what point should we have stopped Finn, our 8 year old, who, after a devastating earthquake in our city prayed fervently that Jesus would come down and fix the houses because he was a carpenter?  Should I have added that in when he raised his weeping eyes from his clasped hands, or should we have stopped him mid-point?   At what point should I remind my chorister son that he isn’t a Christian, would that be after he takes off his Anglican Cassock but before he takes the Mormon sacrament?  When do I tell my twins that they aren’t Christians?  Would that be as they pick up their colouring pencils to  draw a picture of Jesus with Mary buying a cheese burger at McDonalds, or should I wait until they have pinned it up proudly beside their beds, to drop the bomb?

There is a startling hypocrisy for any Christian to seek through theological, or doctrinal argument to undermine any one’s faith in Christ.   I will concede that Mormonism hasn’t made many friends with its ‘One True Church’ mantras.  I have personally found this position repugnant.  But I am equally incensed by those who have sought to undermine my faith (a difficult spiritual commodity to come by these days) by cornering me – and with a pointed finger refusing me an identity that is not theirs to bestow.  My Christianity is something I’ll work out in the quiet confines of my soul, with Jesus as my friend.

  • http://juvenileinstructor.org Christopher

    This is a great response, and on behalf of the folks at Peculiar People, let me welcome you to the Mormon family at Patheos. I look forward to future posts.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Hey Christopher! Thanks so much for the welcome. As you can see I’m not quite there yet but probably sometime this week. I’m really looking forward to being part of the crew and super excited about exploring our faith tradition in a more ecumenical context. I feel honoured to be able to join you!

  • Marina

    At my last workplace I worked for a while with a lovely guy who is a Christian missionary. He spends his life going back and forth between India and New Zealand. He works here in NZ and saves his money, then when he’s got a good amount of funds he goes back to India and does good works using his savings. We were quite used to him turning up every few months to work with us and then disappearing again to his missionary work. We all had great respect for him and what he was doing. One day I heard a Muslim colleague ask our Christian missionary what he knew about Mormons. She said that she’d heard people talking about Mormans and she wanted to know what was special about them. My ears pricked up and I waited with interest to hear what he would say. To my horror he proceeded to tell her that Mormons weren’t actually Christian and that we didn’t believe in the Bible. I wasn’t game enough to start a debate about religion in our workplace so I waited until he left the room and I had a quiet chat with my Muslim friend and told her a bit about our beliefs. I told her that we definitely did believe in the bible and that we were Christians. I didn’t realise then that the definition of Christianity is so complex that one would require a theological degree to be able to determine if they are Christian or not. I don’t think that Christ, the Carpenter, would want it to be such a complicated issue. I’m going to continue to think of myself as a Christian until someone who can walk on water tells me otherwise.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      I love it Marina! Very cool.

    • muerknz

      Do you believe that Jesus the Christ is God? Because I think that is central to being Christian – as a Christian we worship Jesus because he is God as St Thomas said in John 20:28. “My Lord and my God!”

      • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

        Well, I certainly believe that and I can’t find anything in my faith tradition that would indicate that isn’t so.

      • Michael

        Gina you say you believe that Christ is God and you can’t find anything in your faith tradition that would indicate that it isn’t so. Let me quote from Calvin’s Geneva Catechism, 1541 as included in The School of Faith by T. F. Torrance. Question 14 “ Then the foundation of true reliance upon God is to know Him in Jesus Christ (John 17:3)? Answer That is true. 15. What then briefly is the substance of this knowledge? It is contained in the Confession of Faith used by all Christians. It is commonly called the Apostles’ Creed, because it is a summary of the true faith which has always been held in Christ’s Church, and was also derived from the pure doctrine of the Apostles. ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilot, was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; he ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from thence He shall come to judge the quick and dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; the holy Catholic Church; the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Amen.’”
        Question 19 “ Since there is but one God, why do you mention the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who are three? Because in one essence of God, we have to look on the Father as the beginning and origin, and first cause of all things, then the Son, who is Eternal Wisdom; and the Holy Spirit who is His virtue and power shed abroad over all creatures, but still perpetually resident in Himself…these persons are distinctly one Godhead, and that God is not therefore divided? Just so.”
        Since I also go to Evensong at the Anglican church I am very familiar with this creed as you are. I also from being a Mormon know that our doctrine is quite different. Mormons believe that Jesus, a separate person from God went down and took of existing matter and organised it into the earth under God’s instruction. This was not creation but organising existing elements. This means that in the beginning there was not just God, which is a basic feature of Christianity as it establishes God as all powerful and the source of creation. If we admit anything else, then we do not have a supreme God, but a lesser or subsidiary God, and even a created God. This post will already be too long so I will not develop this. However, we see that there is a difference between the Mormon concept of creation and God’s pre eminence and Christian ideas of God.
        I recently saw on line a video from the Mormon church that said that Jesus was wholly God and wholly man when we was born to Mary. Mormons have taught that God actually had relations with Mary to produce Jesus and that is how Jesus obtained his divinity in the flesh (see Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R McConkie a past Mormon Apostle). This is in total opposition to Christianity and to the Bible which indicates that Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, but not in a physical way. As a side note, how could Jesus become a God if he had not paid tithing to buy his salvation in a Mormon Temple by taking out his endowment, and having at least one wife? Anyway, let’s leave that problem alone here.
        The essence of Mormon theology about God is that He is created and so did not have an independent eternal existence and made His creation ex nihilo as held by the Christian church. As you can also see from what I have written here, there is a unity of God in the Godhead where the three persons mutually indwell each other. This is Christian theology and not Mormon theology of three persons distinct and one in purpose (a concept that is not found the Bible). Mormons believe that both God the Father and Jesus are created beings created from the intelligences already existing and organised by an earlier heavenly father and mother through spiritual procreation, obtained bodies the way we do and kept all sorts of rules and regulations so that in the case of God the Father the man could become a God and organise us in the same way. Again, it seems in Mormon theology Jesus has a different career path to God status in that he is the physical offspring of God and Mary.
        Look, I could go on and one about the differences between Mormonism and Christianity, but there is not the space here to do it. But Gina, you are not a practicing Christian, you are a practicing Mormon.

        • JohnH

          Actually we don’t believe that anyone is created (see D&C 93) let alone God or Jesus. Jesus most certainly ascended to the mountain of the Lord and was there declared of God “Thou art my son this day have I begotten thee”, I am positive that He also knew the ordinances of heaven.

          As for speculations of Apostles or even past presidents of the church you might want to become familiar with the 1865 proclamation of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve. If it wasn’t submitted to the councils of the church then it wasn’t revelation or doctrine and that means it isn’t binding and is probably the opinion of the person saying it. Since I happen to know that this particular opinion came from Brigham Young then you should know that Brigham Young is probably the worst place to go to get doctrine that most practicing latter day saints hold as even possibly being true, he was great at organizing the church, settling the west, navigating difficult political situations, so forth but in terms of doctrine he is not a reliable source.

          • Michael

            I did say that Mormons believe that God did not create the earth or us, but merely organised existing matter. This is a point of difference between Mormonism and Christianity. Christianity does not attack the soveriegnty of God but recognises God as Creator, not Organiser. This goes to what I have said elsewhere, that Mormons use the same lexicon but supply a different meaning and so end up with a different theology that is not part of the Christian faith.

  • Helen

    I like it Gina. I admit I cringed a little at the ‘”repugnant” one true church mantra’, but it’s a good thing to clear this one up, that’s building up for sure. And thank you for your thoughtful response to my thoughtful response the other day.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Like (with a wink)

  • Ganesh

    It is interesting how the Christian label can be used to both elevate and exclude. Is it possible that Mormons enamor with Mitt Romney is the hope that he will bring us finally an admission to this mainstream group which has pushed back at our entry with such force. We have ticked all the other American boxes with fervor. Colonizing ‘tick’, hard working ‘tick’, patriotic ‘tick’, militaristic ‘tick’, business minded ‘tick’, mostly white ‘tick’, family centered ‘tick’ – we just have not been allowed to tick the ‘Christian’ box even though we think of ourselves as ultra Christians, (after all Jesus has come to visit us on numerous occasions.) Catholics got their ticket in with JFK and we know from Bruce R – that they are not even close to real Christians. :)

    Of course the problem with Witherington’s definition of Christian and also our own definition is that it bypasses Christ’s definition. Two New Testament passages come to mind but there are many.

    21 ¶Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
    22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
    23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

    Many people who consider themselves Christians will be genuinely surprised that Christ does not consider them to be so.

    34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
    35 For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
    36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
    37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
    38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
    39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
    40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

    Likewise there will be a lot of people that will be genuinely surprised to find out they are Christians when they didn’t consider themselves to be so.
    Christ definition of a Christian paradoxically appears to discount anything we believe about Him and hinge entirely on how we treat our fellow men!
    Being labeled a Christian is a fools prize and we should be wary of the anti-Christian compromises we will need to make to attain it. In fact being labeled a Christian might be the worst thing that can happen to us. :)

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Dead on Ganesh! Throwing the label ‘Christian’ around like a hot potato diminishes it and inflects it with a problematic ingroup/outgroup binary which completely undermines the central message of Christ, which his invitation for all to ‘come unto him’.

  • http://gravatar.com/lpf43 lpf43

    When my grandson in North Carolina needed a school with a program to meet some of his special needs, I found that the only one which met the criteria was a private school associated with a Baptist Church. After having spent some time touring the school and discussing his needs I mentioned in passing that his family is LDS and I assumed it would not be a problem. WRONG!!! We were not even allowed to apply for entrance, even when we said we had no objection to his attending all their religious training and services. It would appear that one little Mormon kid in a school of 200 would have been too much of a contaminant. They kept telling me I needed to go to a certain Website which would tell me what Mormons believe!! That was over a year ago and I am still incensed.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      And so you should be!

  • Jeff

    Thank you for writing this Gina

    I’ll never forget about 15 years ago speaking with an evangelical Christian man that a semi active sister that I home taught had asked me to visit with. He was very hostile to the church and hit really hard on the ‘you’re not Christians’ line. In the past and indeed sometimes on my mission I’d whip out my Bible for a good old fashion bash. This night I felt impressed to let him rant without comment and then I asked him whether he’d ever read anything in the Book of Mormon outside of the anti Mormon books he’d been marinating in. He admitted that he hadn’t. I asked whether I could read to him one chapter of the BOM without interrruption and he agreed. I then read to him 3 Nephi 17 – the powerful account of the Saviour healing and praying for and with the Nephites. The Spirit came into the room strongly and by the end of the chapter the sister and I were in tears. I closed the BOM, bore my testimony of the divinity of Christ and of his centrality to not just the BOM but our church and my life and faith and challenged him to repeat that we were not Christians. I’d love to report that he too was touched but he couldn’t switch fast enough to polygamy and other issues and I excused myself as I knew he was not sincere. I’ve done the same thing on a number of occasions since then and I’m pleased to report that most people had to admit that by the common definition of Christian, that what they heard me read sure sounded Christian to them.

  • muerknz

    I think the label “Christian” applies to those who practice the belief that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine and the Second Person of the Trinity who was raised from the dead. I think part of practicing that belief is being baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Pretty much if you agree with the Nicene Creed and you practice your faith you are definitely a Christian.

    I have no idea how the LDS fits in with that, but if you do you’re Christian.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Well, we aren’t a creedal denomination, but then there are lots of protestants who aren’t – would the fact that Baptists are non-creedal make them non-Christian by that definition. Our understanding of the trinity is more nuanced in that we think about the Trinity as three separate beings with a divine unity, but in terms of baptism, this is conducted in the name of the father, the son and the holy ghost. I suppose my big question is, if we aren’t Christian (as many like to point out), but believe in Christ as our saviour, does that make us Jews or Muslims? Its a preposterous notion, but that is where we seem to be left.

      • muerknz

        “… we think about the Trinity as three separate beings with a divine unity…”

        In Catholicism we see the Trinity as a single God (because we are monotheists) that has three Persons. Would you say that the LDS is monotheistic because I’m confused over how there are three separate beings who are still in a unity, perhaps we believe in the same thing, but expressed in different terms?

        Does the LDS offer worship to Christ? Personally I feel that my Christianity is about the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross and the unbloody sacrifice of the eucharist on the altar. There’s something so miraculous and mysterious about physically eating the literal Body and Blood of Christ (even though it looks like bread and wine). Whilst I think that sects that don’t have the eucharist/creeds are still Christian, I struggle with them because of the historical record of Christian worship being centered on the eucharist and creeds in both Western and Eastern traditions.

        Really it comes down to how we segment ourselves because Jews, Muslims, Christians and Baha’i are all followers of the God of Abraham and Isaac. I don’t know enough about Mormon theology to decide where it fits, but I guess the most basic question is do you worship the God of Abraham (which you do, yes?) and go from there.

        Probably my issue with the LDS is the inclusion of a new work of scripture, the BOM. I don’t think the canon of scripture can be added to, although I know protestants have excluded books (the Greek ones) from the Bible.

        Have you read any of the Early Church Fathers? I’m reading St Augustine’s ‘The Trinity’ atm and I highly recommend it, although it is jolly slow going. I’ve also read other Church Fathers and I’m always amazed by what I get out it and how it deepens my spiritual life.

        • Gina Colvin

          We don’t have a tradition of transubstantiation and are thus more protestant in our theology of the eucharist. The bread and water are a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice and in consuming it (with a broken heart and a contrite spirit) we are sanctified. In having it blessed it becomes an emblem of spiritual transformation and at-one-ment with God.

          Yes, unequivocally we worship the God of Abraham.

          With respect to the Book of Mormon – I think this is one aspect of our theology which hits us out of the ball-park, and it is unusual and completely out of step with mainline Christian denominations (credal or not). I personally love the Book of Mormon as much as I love the Bible. But I do have questions about its genesis and I’m inclined not to take it as a literal history of a people in Mesoamerica – but then again, nothing but folklore and a dominant discourse in my religion requires me to. I do however value it as inspired, coherent, and transformative. But I would have to ask if having another religious canon would necessarily exclude us from being followers of Christ and therefore Christian (in the literal sense).

          I haven’t read the Church Fathers – which I must do at some stage. I’ve been reading the Cathechism which I’m enjoying very much.

  • larryco_

    Why aren’t Mormons considered “Christian” by mainstream Christians? It all comes down to history. LDS’s believe that following the death of the original apostles of Jesus, an apostasy took place which continued to exist until the restoration of the fullness of the gospel in 1830. During that period of time the following took place:

    cir. 185 A.D.: With the establishment of Christian “schools” of thought, particularly in Alexandria, Egypt, Christianity became highly intertwined with neo-platonism, especially the concept of the non(anti-)-materialistic heavenly “ideal/idea”. The codification of this led to…

    early 4th century: The non-materialistic three-in-one Trinity god that is presented as part of the Nicene Creed and is further debated and refined at Chalcedon and other councils over the next 400 years.

    5th century: Augustine of Hippo, partly due to his extreme sense of guilt for having a mistress while he was undergoing theological studies, introduces the concept of the total depravity of mankind, which has become known as “original sin”. Every wonderful, precious baby who is born into this world is thoroughly tainted with sin due to Adam’s fall. The introduction of this doctrine led to…

    5th century: Infant baptism. Where originally baptism was for the purpose of entrance into God’s kingdom (earthly and heavenly) and the remission of sins committed by the individual, it now served the additional purpose of removing original sin. Therefore, those infants who died before baptism were condemned to everlasting punishment in hell.

    16th century: Martin Luther, disgusted by the decadence he finds in Rome during his pilgrimage there, starts a chain of events which lead to protestantism. Among his most prominent doctrinal changes is his insistance that mankind is saved by faith only. He even introduce the term “faith alone” into his translation of the the bible into German.

    So, when people say that Mormons aren’t christian, it is in part because LDS’s 1) believe in a personal Father in Heaven in who’s image they are literally created, 2) believe that spirits fresh from the presence of a loving Heavenly Father are not born evilly depraved, but are pure and undefiled and will 3) not be sent to Hades for eternity if they die prior to the age of accountability, and 4) LDS’s believe that “not everyone who sayeth Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of God, but he that doeth the will of My Father.” That “will” includes obedience to the commandments and participation in the first principles and ordinances of the gospel.

    This is the pony I choose to ride.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      Interesting. Am I understanding you correctly that you don’t think Mormons are served well by assuming a Christian identity or is the other way around (ie. mainline Christians are entitled to reject Mormonism as a Christian denomination)? Just a bit confused here.

    • muerknz

      I agree about there being an influence of neo-platonism in Church theology, but I think you’re dead wrong in attributing the doctrine of original sin on St Augustine’s shame at having a mistress. Have you read “Confessions” by St Augustine? Or anything on him? I can recommend Peter Brown’s “Augustine of Hippo: A Biography”.

  • larryco_

    Muerknz: I followed the famed Christian historian W.H.C. Frend in connecting Augustine’s shame with his development of the doctrine of original sin. After explaining the profound affect that Augustine’s mother had on his sense of morality and discussing his mistress, Frend states “he retained a lasting sense of personal unworthiness…Allied to a profound sense of guilt was his preoccupation with chastity and the association of wickedness with sex.” (The Rise of Christianity, p. 662-3)

    kiwimormon: My only thought in commenting was that you expressed what I perceived as a sense of sadness that others have labeled LDS’s as not Christian. I thought I would show that in many ways the things that Christian’s use to label Mormons as outsiders are actually doctrines that developed long after the bible was written. Many in the church seem to feel this same sadness because of the love they have for their Savior.

    To both of you, I apologize to you if you feel I went beyond the mark in my comments.

    • http://kiwimormon.wordpress.com kiwimormon

      No offense taken on my part! I thought your comment was great, but I was just a bit confused by something and hence needed some clarification. It was just some wording that I misread.

  • Michael

    Gina, Mormons are not Christians by definition. I am just home from work for a few minutes, and may get a chance to type more later. Mormonism is a new religion based on Christian principles but embraces a gospel of works, an atonment that is limited and condtional, and a doctrine of the Godhead that is in direct contradiction to that of the Christian Church. Mormons think that because they say prayers through Christ, go to a church that includes Jesus’ name and believe that he also lived, died, was ressurected and ascended that Mormons are just as Christian as everyone else who claims to be. However, we only use the same words such as Jesus, Godhead, salvation etc, but we don’t have the same definitions. Mormons don’t understand that by trying to be like Jesus does not make them Christians but people who do good things. Mormons don’t understand New Testament teachings and particularly Romans 5-8 and so don’t appreciate the abomination of the Temple and what it says about God and his work of reconciling creation to himself. Mormons don’t realise that they are not Christians and so are offended when people say that they aren’t. There have been a number of quotes from Apostles in the 20th Century, so no appeal to Brigham Young is needed, that Mormons are not part of the Christian Church because of the things I have pointed out here. Mormons are Mormons, they are not Christians as the Christians (Anglican, or any type) are Christians. A simple study of basic theology should make that quite clear.

  • Michael

    “There is a startling hypocrisy for any Christian to seek through theological, or doctrinal argument to undermine any one’s faith in Christ. I will concede that Mormonism hasn’t made many friends with its ‘One True Church’ mantras. I have personally found this position repugnant. But I am equally incensed by those who have sought to undermine my faith (a difficult spiritual commodity to come by these days) by cornering me – and with a pointed finger refusing me an identity that is not theirs to bestow. My Christianity is something I’ll work out in the quiet confines of my soul, with Jesus as my friend.”

    Gina, I disagree that there is a startling hypocrisy. I think it is easy enough to define Christianity without being at all complicated about it so that people may easily understand. Mormons have an idea that one should have faith in Christ and Mormons support the idea of a Christ, but Mormons don’t know the Christ as God in hypostatic union with man. While you like saying you have faith in a Christ, your Christ or rather the Christ of the Christian Church is not your Christ. When Mormons realise that while they use the same terms, they don’t use the same meaning then they will understand that the assessment made is not made is not hypocritical, but a truly factual statement.
    Christians believe that they are brought into relationship with God through Christ and because of that union with Christ we become his brothers and sisters and cry Abba Father. Our union with Christ is through the Spirit. Christians believe that when Christ died we died and when he rose, we rose and that Christ reconciles us with the Father. Mormons believe that our salvation is only available to us after all we can do, after we have paid for it with 10% of our income so we can go to the Temple and participate in the ordinances there and that if we are less than faithful we can lose our salvation. This is not the relationship described by Paul. Christians see these additions as unnecessary and departures from the Christian doctrine of Salvation.
    I challenge you to spend some time with your bible, not your Mormon edition but say a nice Cambridge King James study bible. You will then be able to read the bible without being told what to think about what you are reading. I also suggest you get yourself some good alternative sources, for example Incarnation by T. F. Torrance and Atonement also by T. F. Torrance and edited by Robert Walker. There is also a good book by a New Zealander, Douglas Campbell called The Search for Paul’s Gospel. You will see the reflection of Mormonism in the Justification by Faith model that is developed primarily from Romans 1-3 and parts of Galatians and see that model torpedoed by the development of the argument in Romans 5-8 that is undertaken. Also, a number of books by Baxter Kruger, Daniel Thimell or Gary Deddo.
    In short, Mormons profess to believe in Christ, but their Christ is a different Christ and a different gospel.

    • Gina Colvin

      Michael, I think you have made some startling assumptions about my faith in Christ that my post sought to address. Firstly, you conflate my spiritual identity and my faith life with a conservative Mormon theology, as if by my very denominational identity I’m irretrievably washed in it with little room for nuance or even resistance. Secondly, wrangling over the sign ‘Christian’ and what it is supposed to signify is part of the great Christian conversation and your wrestling with me about this suggests that I am very a much a part of this grand religious enterprise – so thanks for the affirmation.

      • Michael

        You’re welcome Gina, but I wasn’t attempting any assumptions but just dealing with a portion of what you had written. I want to really just stick to the sticking point which is I believe the issue of are Mormons Christians. Christians are united by the Triune God who seeks reconcilliation and communion with man. The differences that arise afterwards cause us to enter in the realm of religion. Since Mormons have a totally different concept of God, they are outisde of the Christian tent. I wouldn’t say that the nature of the Godhead is a conservative Mormon theology and I don’t think that there is any official recognition of non orthodox views on God. But now I do struggle with why you have written this particular blog posting.because I think you can spot the differences between Mormonism and Christianity and the article you referenced spelled a few out. The God of Mormonism is a different God, but with the same name, except in Mormonism Jesus is not God. I don’t get why you think its a theological argument that is being made to exclude Mormons from Christianity, when it is the Mormon theology that has done it. Christianity is not about what we do, but is entirely centred on Christ and what he has done and it is about our response to what he has both done and is doing. This means that it is entirely possible for Mormons to be Christians, but it is not possible for Mormonism to be a Christian religion, which may allow us to both be on the same page.

  • Mike Cammock

    Hey Gina like the blog.

    I would find this one of the easier questions to answer. You explain that Christianity was the religious tradition that existed when JS had his sacred vision, the one God and Jesus specifically told him was false and apostate. Joseph Smith restored the true church. We would obviously be happy to call ourselves christian, but not when other fallen religions are undermining the meaning of the word with apostate teachings. For now we can call our selves Mormons or LDS. (Of course this is all satirical.)

    We, as a Mormon community, need to stop being so petty with the issue of our Christianity. We believe in Jesus, sure. But our faith is fundamentally distinct from the mainstream christian worlds. Moreover, we are unwilling to be identified as simply Christian. Do the experiment. Ask a Christian if they are Christian and they will say Yes, end of story. Ask a Mormon, they will say Yes, I am a Mormon. Mormons want to be Christian and “Other” at the same time. We make it hard for Christians to include us by actively having a theological discourse that, since the beginning, has excluded them. Also, Mormons often want to be the only Christians (we don’t admit it often but we love being the one true church).

  • http://google rob mckay

    speaking as an Anglican, Mormons are Christian but not Orthodox Christians. Meaning, they do not hold to the creedal formulations of the 3rd and 4th centuries. They not affirm the Athanassian or Nicene Creed. Mormon understanding of the trinity differs from orthodox Christianity.

  • Raymond McIntyre

    Talking as a theologian and an ex-Mormon, I can only say that I have met many fine, Christian folk in the LDS (and RLDS) Church(es.) Christianity is, at the end of the day, not a creedal formulation but a relationship with Christ and just as many Mormons have that relationship as any other Christian group — far too few to which condemnation I can only add, ‘Mea culpa.’


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