Last Friday, Latter Day Saint Glenn Beck told Liberty University students that Mormonism is a Christian denomination. While I focused briefly on the Grand Council reference in the speech, blogger James Duncan referenced Beck’s statement about Latter Day Saints and Christianity in his post on Beck’s speech in Liberty’s chapel. Beck said:
I share your faith. I am from a different denomination, and a denomination, quite honestly, that I’m sure can make many people at Liberty uncomfortable. I’m a Mormon, but I share your faith in the atonement of the savior, Jesus Christ. In my faith, we have a guy who gave his life for what he believed in. You don’t have to believe it; I’m not asking you to. I’m asking you, “What is it that you believe? Are you willing to give your life?”
Unlike some other speakers who deviate from Liberty’s evangelical affiliations, Beck made a religious claim. It is incredible that Liberty allowed this to be said without any response or disclaimer. Given the enthusiastic response of LU leaders and the student body, I wonder if Beck’s claim is accepted and taught at LU.
Al Mohler addressed the claim that Mormons are members of a Christian denomination. As he points out, the LDS movement began as a rejection of Christianity and a claim that the LDS church had recovered the true Gospel.
Once that is made clear, the answer is inevitable. Furthermore, the answer is made easy, not only by the structure of Christian orthodoxy (a structure Mormonism denies) but by the central argument of Mormonism itself – that the true faith was restored through Joseph Smith in the nineteenth century in America and that the entire structure of Christian orthodoxy as affirmed by the post-apostolic church is corrupt and false.
In other words, Mormonism rejects traditional Christian orthodoxy at the onset – this rejection is the very logic of Mormonism’s existence. A contemporary observer of Mormon public relations is not going to hear this logic presented directly, but it is the very logic and message of the Book of Mormon and the structure of Mormon thought. Mormonism rejects Christian orthodoxy as the very argument for its own existence, and it clearly identifies historic Christianity as a false faith.
The major divisions within Christian history (Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism) disagree over important issues of doctrine, but all affirm the early church’s consensus concerning the nature of Christ and the Trinitarian faith. These are precisely what Mormonism rejects.
Without doubt, Mormonism borrows Christian themes, personalities, and narratives. Nevertheless, it rejects what orthodox Christianity affirms and it affirms what orthodox Christianity rejects. It is not Christianity in a new form or another branch of the Christian tradition. By its own teachings and claims, it rejects that very tradition.
LDS founder Joseph Smith clearly taught that his angelic visitors told him that none of the denominations of Christianity were correct. From Smith’s writings 1:19-20:
18 My object in going to ainquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.
19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all awrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those bprofessors were all ccorrupt; that: “they ddraw near to me with their lips, but their ehearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the fcommandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the gpower thereof.”
Some of the silence in response to Beck’s claims may be due to the endorsement of David Barton. Barton has claimed that Beck is a Christian who identifies as a Mormon out of loyalty. Also, some of the silence may be due to the fact that Beck donated money to Liberty and promised to do more.
In any case, from both an orthodox Christian and the historic LDS perspective, the case for the LDS church being a denomination of orthodox Christianity isn’t credible.