Once again: Are Mormons Christians?

Posted on behalf of Kathleen Petty, who wrote it but was called away by a family emergency.

Kathleen Petty writes:

I am sure most of you are aware of the article last fall in Newsweek about the church. I was interested in how much space Newsweek allotted in the letters section to response. It was a lot, and the letters, positive and negative, seemed to give a fair picture of how the church is perceived by others. There were at least three letters that disputed the Church’s claim to be a Christian church. One letter said we aren’t Christian because we have allegiance to scriptures other than the Bible. A second said we can’t be Christian because we believe man can progress toward godhood. A third said we claimed to be Christian as part of a nefarious scheme to lure people into conversion.

That we aren’t Christian is a fairly recent accusation. Thirty years ago when I was in college I don’t remember that it ever came up. And while there were plenty of complaints about Joseph Smith when the church was founded, that he wasn’t a Christian wasn’t one of them. In a way, it’s a strange accusation. After all, who gets to decide who is and isn’t a Christian? Who controls the definition? It’s not as if the pedigree of Christianity is pure. It combines a little of whatever was going around during the four centuries after Christ. (Sterling M. McMurrin, “Comments on the Theological and Philosophical Foundations of Christianity,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 25, No. 1, [Spring 1992] p. 37.)

It’s as if somebody said that a person who fixes and eats only raw food can’t be considered a cook, because “cooking” implies the application of heat. If there were a will toward conciliation, everyone could come together around the idea of “food preparation.” And if there were a will toward conciliation, everyone could come together around the mission of Christ, or the idea of redemption, but among the people who don’t consider us Christian, there is no will toward conciliation. They don’t want us in the club. I wonder if we should want to be in the club or care if we aren’t.

To be fair, maybe we have proprietary ideas about who gets to be called a “Mormon,” not that there seem to be a lot of groups vying for the privilege. Do the polygamist groups call themselves “Mormon?” Does the Community of Christ want to be considered “Mormon” anymore? How would we feel if some wacky break-off group said it was “Mormon?” What do you have to believe to be considered a Mormon at the most basic level?

In 1991 there was a group of essays in Dialogue discussing whether or not Mormonism is a mainline religion. (“Mormonism Becomes a Mainline Religion: The Challenges,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 24, No. 4, [Winter 1991] 59-96.) The first essay by Mario S. de Pillis said the Church was becoming mainstream based on four criteria: the socioeconomic class of its members, the Church’s international presence, the growth of its bureaucracy, and the church’s acceptance of its social environment, meaning the Church accepts the five basic institutional arrangements of American society– the state, the local community, local schools, the family, and the capitalistic marketplace. (It is interesting to note that at one time or another our Church hasn’t been congruent with one or another of those five basic institutional arrangements.) A second essay by Marie Cornwall took exception, saying despite those definitions, Mormons are still regarded as marginal by the general population–“more accepted than Moonies and the Hare Krishna followers, but less tolerated than Pentacostals, Baptists, and members of the Church of Christ.” (p.69.)

Since polygamy ended at the turn of the last century, the Church has been working hard on its image in order to be accepted by the broader community. I was interested to note in Gregory Prince’s biography of David O. McKay that the church’s building program was motivated partly by the desire to give the Church a more respectable and established look–no more Sunday services on the third floor of rented halls. I think everyone has noticed how much greater the public emphasis on the role of the Savior in our Church has become, to counteract its reputation for being a weird sect.

The more prominent and successful, the more “mainstream” we become, the more scrutiny we come under. For example, with a series on HBO about a polygamist (“Big Love”), the less likely it is going to be that we can skirt that part of our history. Probably wisely, the Church’s response has been the simple statement that we no longer practice polygamy and will excommunicate anyone who does. That stops short of repudiating polygamy; it ignores how difficult, controversial, and muddled stopping polygamy was. Most church members are not well educated about how many people practiced polygamy or why. I also think most of us assume polygamy will be part of life in the hereafter. The only person I know of who confronted the doctrine of polygamy head on was Eugene England in a 1987 essay called “On Fidelity, Polygamy, and Celestial Marriage.” (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 20, No. 4, [Winter 1987] p. 138.) He argued that polygamy is not an eternal doctrine, but was an Abrahamic test for the Saints of that generation.

We talk a lot of free agency, and making good choices, but it is always in the context of passing the life quiz to return to God. I don’t hear very often about how learning to be agents and choose for ourselves is part of becoming like God. Presumably we are supposed to be learning to become a Person with all the answers. Among ourselves, we might make casual reference to becoming like God (“In my world, there won’t be any mosquitoes,” or “I want to talk to the committee who designed backs”), but how many Sunday School lessons or talks have you sat through recently about that topic, not as a collection of attributes but as part of an “active retirement,” so to speak, on the other side.? Have you ever had a lesson that explored why becoming a god is so shocking to other Christians? How many lessons relate the importance of genealogy to how we conceive of the next life, except as connected to the idea of families being together? Together for what end? Have you had many lessons that compared our idea of what the afterlife is like to what others believe?

We emphasize the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s prophetic role. The Book of Mormon is controversial because of its origin, not because of its content. Joseph Smith’s really radical ideas about man and God, the nature of man and God, and man’s destiny, came at the end of his life. It’s these ideas that other Christians don’t like; it’s these ideas that we tend to soft pedal. But it’s these ideas I believe we ought to embrace the tightest. I fear that in the name of trying to present a less controversial image, we might trade our birthright for a mess of pottage.

Comments

  1. “Mess of pottage” is a little harsh. It’s a carefully correlated, test-marketed, pre-packaged gospel meal that seems to be getting the job done most of the time for most of the people. When the Church is big enough that PR doesn’t matter anymore — about a hundred years from now — then the birthright will be reclaimed.

    Kathleen makes an excellent point about who owns religious labels. While it’s annoying to hear some Christians talk as if they own the “Christian” brand and can withhold it from anyone who doesn’t dance to their denominational or doctrinal tune, it’s also disturbing to see small splinter sects claim and use the “Mormon” label and to see the press go along with it. Some Christians must feel the same way toward LDS use of the “Christian” title.

  2. I think part of the “they’re not Christian” rhetoric stems from the LDS understanding of the nature of God, Jesus, and of the Holy Spirit. I think our theology that God is a flesh-and-bone being, and that Jesus is our “peer” in the sense that he’s our Elder Brother, is quite bothersome to most Christians. Typically, they think of God as non-material, and of Jesus as co-eternal, in his role of “Son.”

    The outright dismisal of the Trinitarian God by the LDS, to them, means that we are following a false idea of Jesus. The fundamentalist version of Christian, as Dave said, sees the LDS church as competitors for souls. Furthermore, we are competitors promoting a “false God,” and that difference (marketing by product differentiation!) is a good draw for both retaining members, and for preventing conversion.

    Also, since LDS don’t really believe in Hell, we are able to be more blase about “real” Christians, because we don’t imagine eternal fire and brimstone and torment for those who are wrong. I think Fundamentalist Christians (and probably the mainstream religions) have sincere concern for the souls of LDS, and of those the Saints would convert. In their theology, all those people are going to burn in Hell forever. It’s not just a pejorative curse for them – they really think that eternal torment and torture is what the afterlife has in store for us. They want to save us from that.

  3. I suspect though that if enough significant splinter groups were using the term “Mormon” that we’d focus more on LDS. There already was a push to do that back in the 90’s, although it largely failed because we all like the label Mormon.

  4. Troy Taysom says:

    Of course we’re Christian. It’s un-Christ like to imply otherwise.

  5. If by “Christian,” you mean, a believer of Jesus Christ … yes, we are Christians.

    If by “Christian,” you mean, well within the general trend of the vast majority of Christ’s followers since the 2nd century AD … no, we are not Christians.

    The problem is that many Mormons don’t just want to use the first definition.

    They also want to put on an image of “hey we’re all just like you guys, let’s be friends!” It’s an attempt to make the Church look less threatening for new converts. We’re just good ol, barbeque folks who vote Republican. What could be more American? What could be more wholesome? Of course we’re Christians! All that Godmakers stuff is just smoke and mirrors.

    This isn’t true, and it smacks of dishonesty. We are very different from other faiths. Our unequivocal doctrines and our aggressive proselyting represent a direct threat to the other American churches. And yet we want to act like nothing is the matter between us and the Baptists while we quietly seek to annihilate each other’s membership bases. No, it’s not all hunky-dory between our faiths. Other Christians are right to call us on such ingenuousness.

    I’m not opposed to siding up with Focus on the Family for the purposes of combating pornography, etc. But I’m not willing to start shoving unique doctrines under the carpet just so I can ape “mainline Christianity.” This is a war of ideas we are waging.

    May the best theology win.

  6. Seth, It sounds like you are gearing up for battle there. lol.

    In some ways I agree with your viewpoint. Fundamentally you are right, we need to stand up and distinguish ourselves from the pack.

    I have an experience though that makes me think twice about it that way. I was about 16 and I had recently learned some of the deeper doctrines of the church etc. Not sure where I heard it, but I happen to be sitting on the school bus talking to a bunch of people about LDS doctrine. I was teaching the plan of salvation. The other kids were really interested. I went so far as to teach the three degrees of glory and then I told them we could become Gods.

    I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but later, I was helping this guy build a house and I didn’t realize it but he was a recent convert to the church and the step father of one of the kids that were listening to the conversation. He told me that his step son really liked what I had to say, up until I got to the Gods part. It turned him away from the church.

    I have felt bad about it since then. This kid was the only member of the family that did not join the church. This was based on what I taught.

    Perhaps he would have found this out later and left the church anyway. I can’t help but think that he could have been converted more spiritually and then he could have accepted those teachings.

    Milk before meat as they say. (sorry for the long post.)

  7. 30 years ago it didn’t come up???

    Walter Martin, the great leader of the cult of anti-Mormonism, was in his heyday 30 years ago.

  8. Excellent post, Kathleen. Our feelings on this topic are no doubt influenced by our individual backgrounds. Some Mormons may want to be viewed as Christians, some not at all (in the second sense as indicated by Seth R).

    As a Mormon convert in a Catholic country, who joined the church on the basis of a clear “Apostasy versus Restoration” conviction, I cannot view our Church as “a” Christian church, in the sense of “one among the others”. Our unique claims make this impossible. The tendency to level down our originality, just to be part of the mainstream, makes me uncomfortable. Moreover, if only diplomatic rapprochement to Christian churches is the purpose, or simply our desire not to be accused of being non-Christian, is it not an illusion to think that those churches will ever officially accept Mormonism as a Christian church in an ecumenical light? Before they do that, we would have to deny the First Vision and the Book of Mormon.

    Second, if our marked contraposition to apostate Christianity is not stressed sufficiently, where is the need to be a Mormon? A diminishing distinctiveness of Mormonism is not likely to keep the conversion charisma alive in the mission field.

    But, thirdly, it is also a unique feature of Mormonism to be able to extend a hand of friendship and cooperation to all non-Mormons and all co-Christians (in the sense of believers in Christ). Moreover, we are not exclusive: we have the unique belief that salvation and exaltation are still possible for all in the hereafter. And our 11th article of faith is one the most remarkable statements, seldom found in other religions: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

  9. One of the main reasons I’ve seen for mormons not being called christian has to do with tele-evangelists and their like. Mormons don’t donate in general to these organizations, and it really in my opinion seems to be these sort of groups that take pot shots at mormons. I honestly think a large percentage of these complaints would go away, if these groups were receiving a significant percentage of their fundage from mormons

  10. Paul Ramsell says:

    I would really like to see us quit fretting over whether Christians consider us Christian. The truth of the matter is that the mainstream world hears “Christain” and they tend to picture some fat, smarmy, redneck tv preacher with a 1-800 number, a pinky ring and a mistress on the side.

    I personally feel better about being part of some rare sect, slightly more tolerable than the Church of Scientology and significantly less tolerable than Seventh Day Adventists.

    As a missionary, I spent weeks teaching a older couple the discussions in Mitchell, SD, until finally they called us up and said come over, we’ve got something to tell you that we think you’re going to like. We raced over there to breathlessly hear that “we’ve decided that you boys aren’t as bad as the J Dubs.”

    There’s no amount of PR or debate that will change this type of perception. We cannot convince the Christian world that we are Christian, and I don’t really see how it would help anyway.

    Legitimate converts embrace Mormonism when they are moved by the Holy Ghost. It doesn’t matter how whacky we are.

    My new year’s wish is that we could just all agree that we believe in Christ but that we are not Christian in the sense that most people — especially Christains — understand. We believe in a brother Jesus who litterally has a Father and depending on your view of GBH’s dismissal of the man to God theory on Larry King a couple years back, we may or may not believe that we, too, will become Gods with a planet of our own.

    This ain’t Christian. And that ain’t so bad.

  11. I can see why Christians get their panties in a wad over Mormon’s being called Christian because it irritates me that fundies call themselves Mormons.

    However, I think it’s partially a separate issue. In that fundies calling themselves Mormon confuses, whereas few are that confused as to what mainstream Christianity is all about.

    Also, I resent fundies frequenting church owned sites, claiming everything in the association of the church that is not rightfully theirs by their violation of their covenants. It irritates me in the same way that they suck money out of the welfare system.

    Basicly, I think there’s similarities but the two aren’t entirely parallel.

    As to the church selling out for PR. I think that’s totally off base. I don’t think doctrine is sacrificed no matter how the church changes. It’s part of my whole thing about believing the church to be led by God, himself through actual Priesthood authority.

  12. The reason I’d heard that other Christians don’t think we’re Christian is because we say we need more than a belief in Christ to be saved. We believe we have to be baptized and have other priesthood ordinances, and then we have to be obedient to commandments. What got to them (the Pentecostals I was talking to) was that our salvation was dependent on another person in that another person had to perform the ordinance, and that the Church told us which commandments we had to obey and even checked up on our obedience (like in TR interviews).

    So there’s one more reason we aren’t Christians. We have to demonstrate our belief by our actions.

  13. A very good (Mormon) friend oft says that he thinks being called unChristian by the “mainstream” Christian churches is a good selling point for the Church.

  14. Having been raised a Lutheran and always believing in Jesus Christ as a youth I began in my mid-teens to think and feel there had to be something greater to religion than just confessing faith in Jesus Christ. I turned from my church, but not from my Jesus in a quest to find the true meaning of life. However, in taking the risk of throwing off organized religion and seeking truth wherever I could find it I made a vow to my God. This vow was if I died before I found the greater answer I would call upon Jesus Christ to save me and put my simple faith to the ultimate test. This set the stage for my NDE at Woodstock in 1969 and my rebirth (born again) experience leading me into the greater light. This greater light led me to a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church. I was led to WS following the teachings of Jimi Hendrix who sang “have you ever been experienced? Well I have.” My life experience started with faith in Jesus Christ and my search through life led me to greater knowledge in Christ and Christ led me to Joseph Smith.

  15. Tea & Biscuits says:

    It’s also helpful to note that the church is going through the same motions that the early church went through — birth, trial, assimilation, correlation, domination, and…. apostasy??? :)

    Seriously, I attend a Protestant religious graduate school, and have thought a lot about this. I’ve taken the stance that most Mormons would vomit even to consider: let them have it–let them have the word “Christian” all to themselves. After all, what best describes what I am? Christian or Mormon? The latter by far best describes me. And no, I don’t think we belong in their little club. They murdered our leaders, pushed us out of lands, destroyed our property, maid unfair demands as our creditors, and now we want to be lumped in with them??? No thanks. Furthermore, when we try to say we’re Christians to these people, it creates so much friction that most of the time it’s not even worth it. Contention isn’t the way to create mutual understanding. So in response to the question: “Are you Christian?” a decent reply might be “Well, I’m a Mormon.” And lastly, anybody who has half a brain can take a look at who we are and see that we worship Jesus. It’s the church’s official name, all the prayers are done in his name, it’s on the cover of the BofM, etc. etc. Even if it’s a “different” Jesus, like the counter-cultists say it is, they’re still recognizing something “Christian” about it when they say that (one guy I know calls us “pseudo-Christian,” which I think is better than “non-Christian” because it recognizes some form of Christianity, ableit [to him] false).

    So big deal. Let’s just be Mormons. For Mormons to be Christians is self-serving — it only helps our image, not theirs. They hate it when we say we’re Christian, and peace between the two is that much more difficult to reach when we try to say that we’re something that they feel we’re not.

  16. Over time, I’ve come to consider this as one of the silliest religious debates (which is not, by the way, meant as a criticism of this excellent post). Of course Mormons are Chistians, unless being a Christian is defined in an exceptionally narrow sense–and then there would be many nominally Christian sects that might not qualify either. On the other hand, I’m almost willing to give up the title if it means I can disassociate myself with the likes of Jerry Falwell and James Dobson.

    I think a more interesting question might be: Are Mormon’s monotheists? It’s kind of hard to argue that we are, except in the most abstract sense (i.e., oneness of truth and purpose). Of course, once you head off in this direction, it’s easy to see how people might make the inference that Mormons aren’t Christians, since Christianity is a monotheistic religion.

  17. Are Christians monotheists? It is my understanding (weak perhaps) that the desire to be seen as monotheists was a significant factor in the development of the doctrine of the Trinity. What a knot they had to tie themselves into. The word monotheist in any of its forms does not appear in my scriptures so I think I will leave it out of my worship or my doctrine.

  18. georgeD,

    I agree. But you’d be hard-pressed to find a protestant or a Catholic who would concede that Christianity isn’t monotheistic. So this would certainly affect their view of Mormons.

  19. But perhaps you may find a Jew who’ll claim it isn’t. I’ll contend that the LDS belief in the Godhead is entirely scriptural and leave it at that. I don’t think that LDS need to take the argument to protestants etc. We are above that. They argue for the Terrestrial Kingdom, we strive for the Celestial.

  20. I’m with Tea & Biscuits. The very same self-proclaimed “Christians” who would deny our Christianity are the spiritual descendants of the “Christian” ministers who would whip the mobs in Missouri and Illinois into a drunken fury, and then lead them on midnight killing and looting spree among the Mormon inhabitants. Although our moral stands may sometimes accidentally coincide, I am deeply suspicious of allying myself with anyone of the James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, or Pat Robertson ilk. Their spiritual forebears murdered my ancestors, and given half a chance, they would do the same thing. The very fact that they try and deny us the label Christian shows the kind of bigoted, narrow-minded, self-righteous, intolerant, hypocritical Pharisees they are.

    I think this is going to be a HUGE issue if Mitt Romney makes a credible run for the White House. I think that the Evangelicals (among whom this attitude seems to be most prevalent) would rather vote for Hillary Clinton than a non-Christian Mormon.

    David

  21. The word monotheist in any of its forms does not appear in my scriptures so I think I will leave it out of my worship or my doctrine

    Uh, how about the shema’ in Deut. 6:4-6?

    I’ve often heard of Mormons referred to as “henotheists,” which is the veneration of one god, but the recognition that there might be others. I don’t think Mormons qualify as henotheistic or polytheistic.

    Henotheistic because this term is generally used for civilizations which were inherently pluralistic in worship, but most everybody was worshiping a single deity out of several possibilities. Furthermore, if you were to travel back in time, and ask one of these constructive henotheists about the other gods of the pantheon, chances are they would know who those other gods were, and be able to tell you much of their respective mythologies. But, if you ask a Mormon about the other “gods” of their “pantheon,” you won’t hear of their names, their respective mythologies, or anything along those lines. Plus, the henotheist might concede that worshiping some marginal deity over and against the “main” deity might give you some advantage, albeit not as much advantage as worshiping the main deity. Bottom line: the henotheist knows about the other deities in his/her pantheon, yet constructively worships one above all the others.

    Polytheistic because the Mormon really worships one deity, God, in the name of his son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    I don’t think the doctrine of theopoesis (or divinization, or “partaking of the divine nature”) jeopardizes our monotheism. If people are made into gods eventually, they’re not recognized or venerated by the people of the church. Ever.

    You guys are correct, trinitarianism was developed out of the need to adhere to the Jewish monotheism upon which Christianity was bolted once it gained momentum. That’s why it’s a mystery. I’ve often thought of making a t-shirt which depicted a stick-figure man with three heads (like that giant in MP’s Holy Grail). Above the stick figure it says “Trinity” really big, and below it is written “three in one.” What would a trinitarian godhead look like? Beats me.

  22. I mentioned this over on FMH, but …

    Mormons don’t need to be seeking the “Christian” label any more than they need to be seeking the label of “Jew” (and in my mind, we have about as good a claim to either title).

    A bit of theological overlap doesn’t mean that we need to reinvent the world’s system of theological classification.

    Like Mormons, many Muslims also believe in Christ. They view Him as a prophet (which is pretty close to divinity anyway in that religion) and believe in His second coming at the end of the world. Like Mormons, the Muslim view of Christ is very different from mainline Christianity.

    But this doesn’t mean that either group needs a quick admission into the “Christian country-club.”

    We are selling ourselves and our religion short here by trying to assimilate into mainline Christianity. Mormonism isn’t merely some obscure subgroup of the mainstream.

    We are a new world religion in our own right. The first since Mohammad walked out of the desert hundreds of years ago. We are here to redefine world theology.

    But instead, many of us seem to be content to quibble over semantics with the aim to be a junior partner to the Methodists. We aren’t meant to assimilate. We are here to triumph over all other religions.

    OK, so maybe that viewpoint is a bit contentious and prideful. But many in our faith seem to have overcompensated the other way: advocating a church that lacks any spine at all.

  23. Seth, you rock, man. That’s brilliant; except for maybe the taking over other religions think. I like peaceful co-existence myself. But for the Mormon to try to be “Christian,” in the classical sense of the term, does not create a peaceful existence with the mainstream. It creates war where none is needed. Let’s just be Mormons and that’s all.

  24. David, much scholarly commentary I’ve read take the position that the Shema isn’t arguing or even presupposing monotheism. Rather, given the strong similarities to Neo-Assyrian vassal treaties, it indicates covenant loyalty to the sovereign.

    There’s also a good money quote I’ll dig up for you that even ancient monotheists were henotheistic.

  25. Amen to David and Seth’s comments. Many years ago in the little college town of Moscow, Idaho, the local minister from the Church of Christ invited some Mormon missionaries into his home and they played a tape by Hugh B. Brown challenging anyone to find a more Christ-like person than Joseph Smith. The minster, who wrote a weekly column in the local newspaper, took President Brown’s challenge seriously and called on the local Bishop to have a public debate with him about that subject. The bishop, who was by then a counselor in the Stake Presidency resisted a responce initially and then, after many weeks of the same challenge, responded to the minister by saying that the challenge came from Hugh B. Brown and therefore the debate should be with President Brown. He suggested that it would be much better for each man to simply live his brand of religion and see which one, in the end, had done the most good in the world. I suggest we all take that advice concerning this issue.

    Christ certainly did not shy away from contention but he taught us not to be openly contentious. If we stop listening to our prideful hearts telling us we need to prove to ourselves and others that we are right and simply follow the teachings of Jesus, and the prophets and out hearts, we will all be more happy and ultimately will serve the world in a better way.

  26. I’ve often heard of Mormons referred to as “henotheists,” which is the veneration of one god, but the recognition that there might be others. I don’t think Mormons qualify as henotheistic or polytheistic.

    FWIW, I’ve often interpreted early portions of the New Testament (particularly the books of Moses) as having a distinctly henotheistic flavor. “Choose you this day…” etc. seem to have an air of “we believe in the one true God, and our God is superior to the that of the Babylonians, Egyptians, Assyrians, etc.” I think the early believers had a hard time figuring this concept out (the “golden calf” and all that). I’ll have to watch for that again as I prepare my Gospel Doctrine classes this year.

    Polytheistic because the Mormon really worships one deity, God, in the name of his son, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    Well, kinda sorta. We worship Jesus Christ as well as God the Father, and recognize that they are different and distinct beings. Catholicism and Protestantism adopted the doctine of the trinity to avoid polytheism. Mormons are radically anti-trinitarian, but in accepting this doctrine, I think it’s unavoidable that we are, at some level, something more than monotheists.

    A aside: my Hindu co-blogger informs me that Hinduism is not, as most Westerners believe, a polytheistic religion. Hindus believe in one diety, but many different manifestations, or “avatars.” Or so I understand it.

  27. Well David,

    I’ll admit that the “peaceful coexistence” model that you (and Lamonte?) describe is appealing to me as well.

    But it is a bit problematic. You see, there’s this troubling part in Mormon theology where we claim to be the only religion on the planet with the fullness of the gospel. Even if we don’t claim to be the “only true religion” (which many LDS do), we at least seem to be claiming to be the “most true religion.”

    This is bound to cause a bit of anxiety for our neighboring religions.

  28. Oops, I meant “Old Testament,” not “New Testament.” Sorry.

  29. I think Seth makes a compelling argument, but it really bugs me. Call me weak, call me a conformist, but I kind of like to fit in.

    If we are a mainstream religion, why does Mitt Romney’s religion come up so often in politics? I yearn for the day when my religion ceases to become an issue, or a novelty. When I dont have to be know to my co-workers as “that Mormon guy.”

    Even if it means we play down some of the more controversial aspects of our theology and history, I would prefer that we continue our progression to be a mainstream american religion. I know, I’m a wuss, but I don’t want to be peculiar any more.

  30. Porter,

    What do you mean by “mainstream?”

    What if the front-runner for President were a Jew or a Muslim? Or a Buddhist?

    Would it get talked about? You bet. Would there be worries about carrying the Republican primary? Probably.

    But those are all “mainstream” religions if you ask me. Being “mainstream” and fitting in are not the same thing.

  31. Perhaps I misconstrued your earlier comment. I thought that you were saying that we should embrace and promote our unique doctrines. Perhaps the doctrine about us all becoming gods should be the subject of our next advertising campaign?

    Don’t you beleive that in order to be considered a mainline American religion we will need to at least de-emphasize our unique doctrines (or shove them under the carpet)?

    I gave a GD lesson on this issue once, and asked people in the class were asked by the church to wear something every day that visibly identified them as a member of the church (such as a yarmulke or a veil) if they would have a hard time doing that. Most said they would. Of course several said they would love it. One asked if wearing a CTR ring would be enough. . .

  32. Seth makes an excellent point. The only religion with the fullness of the Gospel doctrine makes it kind of hard for Mormons to fit in quietly with other Christian religions.

    The very existence of the LDS Church invokes a call of “us or them.” The Mormon Church is founded on the principles that all other Christian religions are false and that the founder, money-digger, oops, that slipped out sorry, Joe Smith, Happy 200th BTW, was given the restored gospel of by God and angels since no one else had it.

    With this logic and legend in mind, the very existence of the Mormon religion makes a mockery of all other Christian religions.

    We (Mormons) exist because your religion is false!

    One last point, Mormons love to mention that they are the most persecuted of all Christian religions, ie, MO, IL etc, movement out west. This is indisputable of course. However, maybe just maybe the persecution happened (I don’t condone violence for any reason) because mormons preached and taught others that their beliefs were wrong and that they should follow mormon beliefs. Me-thinks this may have caused some hate of Mormons by other religous groups.

    Making a mockery of the beliefs of others is not a great way to be included the in the Christian family. How did you true believers feel when I made my earlier money digger comment? Now think how early competing religions felt when Mormon preachers told them they were wrong!

    Hmmm… MormonGuru teaches a lesson.

  33. Hey Mormon Guru.

    Since I have personally while a child panned for Gold and went with my Grandpa with his metal detector looking for old coins in old run down areas. I guess if I ever get famous my critics can just roast me with the old horrible accusation of being a “money digger”

    Is being called a money digger supposed to be an insult or something? Is that a current 21st century insult?

  34. Actually MormonGuru,

    I think a large part of the persecution against Mormons occurred because Mormons would move into a locality en masse and naturally start to dominate the scene.

    When we moved into Missouri, the region was already almost in a state of civil war over the question of slavery. Then this massive, highly unified voting block of abolitionists moves in and then buys stuff only from each other and otherwise makes little effort to talk to their neighbors …

    It’s not really hard to see why the persecution would have happened even without the religious element and all the “fringe stuff” (like polygamy).

    Porter,

    Oh! You meant mainstream American religion. I was talking about world religions.

    Yeah, to be a mainstream American religion, you pretty much have to be Protestant. We’re not really one of those, and thank goodness I say.

  35. BBell my boy I hope you are not a money-digger in the sense that Joe was.

    A little more on money digging.

    “Money-digging” (also sometimes called “glass-looking”) was a con or a fraud that was practiced in the Northeastern US in the 1820’s. The con man would have a “magic stone” which he would place in his hat, and then pull his hat over his face, excluding all light. The stone would then supposedly shine and the money-digger could locate hidden treasure. People would pay the money-digger to tell them where to dig, but there was another part of the scam. When you got “close” to the treasure, the money-digger would usually tell you that the treasure had moved. The whole thing was like looking into a crystal ball or doing palm-reading. Two interesting quotes:

    (1) In an 1859 interview, Martin Harris, one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon plates, stated that in Oct 1826 Joseph Smith had been approached by an angel and told to “quit the company of the money-diggers.”

    (2) David Whitmer, another of the three witnesses, wrote: “I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principle scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear.”

    Money-digging, translating plates of precious value? Its all the same. :)

    A Joseph Smith was convicted of the misdeamenor of Money-Digging in 1826 in upstate New York.

    On March 20, 1826, Joseph Smith Jr. appeared in civil court in Bainbridge, New York. He was accused of being a “disorderly person or an imposter.” This meant perpetrating fraud. Relatives of a farmer by the name of Josiah Stoal (sometimes spelled Stowell) claimed that Smith was paid money after convincing the elderly Josiah that he could find buried money, salt mines, and other things of value by divination.

    Joseph’s version of this episode comes from the Pearl of Great Price:

    In the month of October, 1825, I hired with an old gentleman by the name of Josiah Stoal, who lived in Chenango county, State of New York. He had heard something of a silver mine having been opened by the Spaniards in Harmony, Susquehanna county, State of Pennsylvania: and had, previous to my hiring to him, been digging, in order, if possible, to discover the mine. After I went to live with him, he took me, with the rest of his hands, to dig for the silver mine, at which I continued to work for nearly a month, without success in our undertaking, and finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging after it. Hence arose the very prevalent story of my having been a money digger.

    BBell you are probably NOT a money-digger in the same manner in which the esteemed Joseph Smith was. Or at least I would hope not. :)

  36. Old Testament… a distinctly henotheistic flavor.

    Greg, you’re alone in that assumption, my friend. Numerous ANE scholars (Albright, Dever, Mark S. Smith, etc.) show that by the time the Pentateuch/Hist. Books were written down (probably solomonic era or later), orthodox yahwism was deeply entrenched in the minds of the OT authors. That ancient Israel may have been poly or henotheistic prior to this is moot given the yahwistic reforms prominent during the composition of the text. Josh. 24:15, as written by an orthodox yahwist, is terribly non-henotheistic in flavor because of the very reason you mention — Joshua is indicating that the polytheistic tendencies of the Canaanites had made some appeal and entrance into Israel’s Sinaiatic faith — a fiercely monotheistic one, and now Joshua stands in fierce opposition to it. But because Joshua opposes the purported deities of Canaan does not necessarily merit a hermeneutic which assigns Joshua’s own belief and veneration of those deities. That’s like saying to me that because I oppose Mariolatry, I also admit that Mary is a bona-fide deity. That’s paradoxical. The Hebrew text of the conquest narrative up to that point make this adequately clear, especially in verses where “devoting [the enemy] to the ban” was prominent — they were to wipe out the polytheism of the pre-existing inhabitants of Canaan in order to possess the land for their own proliferation of the yahwism they received at Sinai. Mind you, this story was probably codified during an era of nationalistic yahwism to boot. To say the OT has a henotheistic flavor, I believe, is a fatal hermeneutic to the original context of both the author of the Hebrew text and the yahwistic religion it attempted to portray. But that’s just my two Lincolns. You’re entitled to yours too.

    Again, if you were to ask a henotheist about the other deities of his/her respective pantheon, they wouldn’t scratch their heads or look at you funny, but know exactly what you’re talking about. Again, lots of ANE literature on this. I can get you specific titles if you’re interested.

    Ben — indeed, Albright has worked out the shema adequately, but I was using it as a layperson here to just get things moving. That the Bible is anything but monotheistic in what it affirms is, IMO, naive. Would you concur?

  37. Josh. 24:15, as written by an orthodox yahwist, is terribly non-henotheistic in flavor because of the very reason you mention — Joshua is indicating that the polytheistic tendencies of the Canaanites had made some appeal and entrance into Israel’s Sinaiatic faith — a fiercely monotheistic one, and now Joshua stands in fierce opposition to it.

    Well, yeah, I got that much. But the fact that Joshua had to make his point so forcefully (don’t forget what happened to those who chose incorrectly) sort of indicates that henotheism was quite prevelant at the time.

    At least, that’s what this lay person’s hermaneutic tells him.

  38. don’t forget what happened to those who chose incorrectly

    Well, if you keep reading you’ll see that they forsook their polytheistic ways and rejoined the ranks of yahwistic religion. They repented of their polytheism (or “whoring after other gods” — polytheism).

    But the fact that Joshua had to make his point so forcefully… sort of indicates that henotheism was quite prevelant at the time.

    Prevelant? The forcefulness of his statement would actually go the other way then — a poloar opposite to polytheism, if you will, or monotheism. As I stated above, it’s terribly obvious that monotheism vs. polytheism was at stake, as the book of Joshua indicates all throughout that Israel went mingling with Baal/Asherah worshippers and not Yahweh. If there were henotheists, they would have recognized them all, but stuck with venerating only one of them, in which case they weren’t. But again, henotheism in Israel? No way. At least not after the Josiah/Hezekiah reforms, or if you want to be conservative the reigns of David/Solomon, and if you want to be ultra-conservative/fundy, Moses himself.

    Again, henotheism is the constructive worship of one deity in a whole pantheon of other deities. With ancient (orthodox) Israel, it was “Yahweh or the highway.” No other gods in the pantheon.

  39. MikeInWeHo says:

    Seth’s comment: “We’re not really one of those, and thank goodness I say” (re: American Protestant/Evangelicals) could not be more true. As a true friend and fascinated observer of the LDS Church, I just have to say: This is the time to distinguish yourselves from American Christianity, not ape it. The Evangelicals and Fundamentalists will never, ever embrace the LDS as fellow Christians, period. The theologies are just too obviously opposed. Liberal Christians may accept you as part of the Christian community, but loath your generally conservative world view (not quite so prevalent in this blog, I might add… : ). When your church presents itself as the clear alternative that it is, I suspect the investigaters will come marching in. Perhaps half the U.S. population is horrified by the progress of the angry, scary Evangelical movement. Talk about a ripe mission field.

  40. One of the better known “Christians” in the country, Pat Robertson, yesterday claimed that Isreali Prime Minister Arial Sharon’s stroke was an act of God punishing Sharon for returning some of “God’s land” back to the Palestinians. He also expressed hope for the murder of the leader of Iran.

    If someone wants to tell me I can’t be in the same ‘club’ as Pat Robertson because my beliefs are different than him, then I’m just fine with that.

  41. Well, if you keep reading you’ll see that they forsook their polytheistic ways and rejoined the ranks of yahwistic religion. They repented of their polytheism (or “whoring after other gods” — polytheism).

    My bad. I had my Old Testament stories mixed up. I was actually thinking of this anecdote from Exodus 32:

    “26 Then Moses stood in the gate of the camp, and said, Who is on the LORD’s side? let him come unto me. And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together unto him.

    27 And he said unto them, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour.

    28 And the children of Levi did according to the word of Moses: and there fell of the people that day about three thousand men.”

    It’s a good thing it’s OT this year. Clearly, I’m rusty.

  42. A good contrast between Mormonism and Christianity:

    http://www.MormonInfo.org

  43. Aaron,

    Thanks for coming here and re-affirming that Mormonism has for me better answers to where we came from and were we are going after death. Appreciate that my man.

  44. MikeInWeHo (#38): Well said, my friend. VERY well said. It’s a shame that Mormon heirarchy is so old and conservative; changes along the lines you mentioned are decades, if not genrations away. And you’re right about how our investigators view us; when we’re distinct, we grow. When we try to become “Christian” (as our PR efforts have attempted the last decade or so), our numbers slow somewhat. Armand Mauss bangs this out a little bit in The Angel and the Beehive.

    I say let each side take its own stand, and extend each other the left arm of fellowship, live in peaceful co-existence, and let God do the judging. As I stated earlier, for the Mormons to try to become Christians is self-serving; the classical/traditional Christians have nothing to gain from it, and, as they (rightly) perceive it, everything to lose from such an association.

  45. While I tend to agree that I think much of our slowing in growth has as much to do with emphasizing our shared basis with the rest of Christianity as opposed to our differences, I also think that there has been a lot of wisdom in this.

    Growth isn’t everything.

  46. I haven’t read Albright, but Joshua 24:15 says nothing about belief in th existence of non-Yahwistic deities. It’s talking about whom one serves, which, like the Shema, falls squarely into the terminological realm of vassal treaties.

    I’m simply not convinced the Bible espouses monotheism as we define it today.

  47. I second Ben in questioning finding strict modern monotheism in the Pentateuch and the OT as a whole. I don’t think arguments finding henotheism or monolatry invariably lead to a fatal hermeneutic. I would say that the final editors appear to have be monotheists, but I don’t know that I would say that the stories or the theology that they choose to include universally support that.

  48. I don’t need to try to become a Christian. I am one. Not the best, but nevertheless…

  49. Well I guess we then enter into discussions of praxis and not belief, in which case, I think the lines between the two in the OT are very, very fuzzy. So I see your point. I guess it’s just my “history of interpretation” training so far in grad school that molds the two into one when I’m reading the text. Gotta shirk that, man. Can’t wait for next year — NES here I come! Biblical Studies is too… biblical. I wanna git my hands dirty.

    Suzerain/vassal treaties… mmmmm…. Yehezekiel Kaufmann… yes, I remember. Man, I’m glad you guys are here.

    Enough thread-jacking for David J.

  50. I have to say though, much as I like the “peculiar people” emphasis, there’s a fine line to tread here.

    I suppose I’d prefer to offer honest truth seekers an alternative to mainline Christianity (and its attendant problems) without cheesing off our neighbors too much.

    I’m kind of a fan of the stealthy road to world domination actually … =)

  51. Sultan of Squirrels says:

    we could join the McDisney Micromart corporation in 50 years when they run the world (Mcdonalds Disney Microsoft and Wal Mart are in cahoots I tell you) and we could become the latter day church of the Mcdisney Micromart corporation…. of christ. a free toy and non caffeinated pepsi with all baptisms done before the second coming. can’t wait.

  52. I second Ben in questioning finding strict modern monotheism in the Pentateuch and the OT as a whole. I don’t think arguments finding henotheism or monolatry invariably lead to a fatal hermeneutic. I would say that the final editors appear to have be monotheists, but I don’t know that I would say that the stories or the theology that they choose to include universally support that.

    (Kip Dynamite Voice:) That’s what I’m talking about.

  53. Re Sultan,

    Well, we’ve already got correlation …

  54. The key to understanding this is to have child like faith. Knowledge and reason will assist you to realize that the final step to true understanding is faith. You can listen to an numberless concourse of preachers, read endless books on philosophy and religion, but never as the Bible says “ever come to a knowledge of the truth.”
    Truth is a hard word which frightens even those who think they know or believe it. For the truth is not ridged and dead like unto the law, but alive and free flowing like the spirit of God. Christ is the truth, the way and the light.
    The greater question is who is this great Messiah and who truly represents him in this day and age? The house of Israel has often been deceived or deceitful. Think of Joseph who was sold into Egypt by his brothers and how they must have felt when they discovered the truth of who he became. Moses was challenged by Korah and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed him up. The Messiah came in the flesh as the Son of God and the Jews rejected him much like the way the sons of Jacob had initially rejected Joseph. Paul the once great Pharisee frighten the Jews with the truth of his great conversion to Jesus Christ.
    This book might frighten the Judo-Christian and Muslim world, but to the opened minded, honest of heart, true believer and sincere seeker of the greater truth a straight and narrow path will be opened which leads into the greater light even eternal life.
    Beware my fellow believers of those who are quick to throw stones. Be not deceived by those whose ministries might be financially effected by these truths. Look to the Lord Jesus Christ who will give you milk and honey without money.
    Christ is the answer for surely he is the Son of God, the promised Messiah. He was born of the virgin Mary and suffered temptations of every kind while living in the flesh. He endured the crosses of this world and sinned not. He atoned for the sins of all mankind as he died upon the cross and on the third day he rose from the dead with healing in his soul for all those who will call upon his name in faith. He is the resurrection and the life, the truth and the light.
    The true gospel of Jesus Christ is the straight and narrow and only way to eternal life. The first principles and ordinances of the gospel are faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance of personal sins, baptism by emersion by the proper authority and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands as recorded in the Bible and Book of Mormon.
    I write in defense of all Christians everywhere from Adam even down until this very time. Woe be unto those who judge unjustly for they shall be judged by the Lord of Hosts. Have not many of the true prophets been judged and killed by the pious self appointed religious leaders of their day. How quick the general populous falls in line to throw stones at those whom their leaders point the finger of scorn. Even those who profess themselves as Christians have at times been guilty of the most murderous deeds. For to accept and profess Christ is not enough. Even the devils believe, and tremble as recorded James 2:19. To these false witnesses let us let God be their judge as recorded in Matthew 7:21-23.
    “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. 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? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity”.
    Come to the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and he will guide you by his Holy Spirit. Beware of the babbling of men for they often cry the loudest and judge the quickest. Their pointing fingers of scorn remind me of the Pharisees of old. Men with a mission to control the hearts, minds and purses of the everyday people. Many of the leading ministers of today practice the same art of trying to convince the people that their views of Christ and the Bible are the only true ones. They are the very ones who point the finger and judge others saying “he is of the devil”.
    The real question is; who do you listen to? God or man, the Holy Spirit or the voice of your minister, the Word of God or your priest’s interpretation. These are tough questions which all Christians must face. Those with opened minds and understanding hearts who have been born again and read the word of God by the power of the Holy Ghost will be lead into the greater light and know the truth of all things.
    Paul raised this issue to the Ephesians as recorded in chapter 4:11-14; “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;”
    The great apostle Peter gives us the keys to understanding the Bible in 2 Peter 2:20-21: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
    You must come to the Lord on your own with faith, hope, charity and trust in the living God who will guide you by the Holy Ghost to his true servants. Beware of the rhetoric of men who have their own secret agendas. They are usually self proclaimed Bible experts who claim their views are the only true gospel while denouncing others with differing views as teaching another or false gospel. They prey upon the weak and simple minded warning them not to listen to others, but to only follow the Bible.
    This is ironic because these men in the same breath are telling the people they have the only true interpretation. So in reality they are saying listen only to me for I know best. They are saying close your minds, hearts and doors to any others with any new or different thoughts. I beg to differ with this type of thinking. I think its demeaning to treat fellow human beings as if they lack the intelligence to understand what others are saying. This is the most subtle form of censorship and mind control. Did not the priests in the days of Christ strip their fellow Jews of this same freedom of choice.
    America was founded on freedom of religion and freedom of thought. It is this very principle which has opened our minds to new horizons and our country to many different cultures. We are one nation under God devoted to respecting the rights and privileges of others. Sometimes our self righteous attitudes to dictate and force others to believe the same way we do is a greater evil then the life style of the sinner. Did not the Savior tell the Pharisees that the harlots and publicans would enter into the kingdom of heaven before them.
    Who are you? The all wise authority or the humble, opened minded sinner. The reason the sinners were being saved is they stopped to listen and to do what this new comer, Jesus had to say. The well learned honorable religious leaders knew better then to give heed to these new revelations of Christ. It was easier for them to label him a devil and condemn him for blaspheme then to repent and be baptized in his name.
    Now truly think which group would you have been in back in those early days of Christ. A blind follower of the religious leaders, a knowledgeable religious leader or an opened minded earnest seeker of the truth. Those same groups exist today though their faces and names have changed. God will force no man into heaven, but he has promised to deliver us from evil by guiding us by the Holy Ghost.
    Again Peter gives us the true keys for gaining a knowledge of the truth. When the Savior ask Peter,”But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”(Matt 16:15-19)
    Revelation is the rock and Christ is the answer and you must gain that testimony from the Father in heaven and not from man. I know by the power of the Holy Ghost that Peter did receive the keys of the kingdom of heaven and in these last days he truly appeared to the prophet Joseph Smith and ordained him to that same office. The truth of this might cut you to the heart even as the truth about Joseph of old in Egypt cut the other sons of Israel to the heart. Now Joseph forgave them, but could they forgive themselves and acknowledge that Joseph was truly a prophet of the Lord God Jehovah.
    You know the answer, but can you be humble and man enough to do the same. Why kick against the pricks and fight against the living God; for he is the same yesterday, today and forevermore. Even the Savior chastened his disciples when they complained about a man casting out devils in his name. “But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part.”(Mark 9:38-40)
    Judge not unjustly or you might find yourself in the same position as those who judged Peter and John in Acts chapters 4 and 5. Peter’s testimony of Christ was sharp, quick and powerful and they that heard it “were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them. Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men…. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”(Acts 5:33-39)
    That same counsel should apply to Christendom in these last days when so many in the Counsel of Churches have been quick to defend the traditions of men and condemn the modern prophets such as Joseph Smith the American “Joseph” and Brigham Young the American “Moses”. I know these men were prophets of God and if you will open your hearts and minds to the true spirit of Christ and read the Book of Mormon under the influence of the Holy Ghost, rather then listen to the opinions of men, you too shall become a true friend to God and all men.
    So my fellow Christians, Jews, Israelites, Muslims and all ye ends of the earth think twice before you cast those stones. For if God is with us who can be against us. Remember what the Lord said,”by their fruits you shall know them.” Come with us and let us reason together, go the extra mile and turn the other cheek to prove your patients in the Lord. We may believe different things about the Christ, but that doesn’t give us the right to persecute one another. May we learn to love and understand one another as we await the day when we shall all see eye to eye in the Lord in Zion!

  55. Because of temples, priesthood, etc., Mormons are “Judeo-Christians.”

  56. Skip,

    That term, “Judeo-Christian” is heavily loaded semantically, and in the studies I’ve done Mormonism doesn’t apply. Generally the term is employed by those in the field as a catch-all term for something that Judaism and (mainstream) Christianity share, such as the “thou shalt not kill” ethic of Exodus 20, or some form of holy day observence, etc. etc. Most often, the term is used in theological ethics, however.

    Using it for Mormonism does look tempting, but be cautious around experts because they’d laugh if you used it to describe Mormonism. Mormonism, to them, isn’t Jewish or Christian, it’s a new religious movement. True, there are similarities, but that’s only because Mormonism grew out of or was bolted on top of these other traditions; to them, it is by no means an extension of either, but a self-standing belief system.

    Same thing with “Christian” — we’re not Christians as far as Christians are concerned, although we may (rightly) use the term when referring to ourselves. It creates a lot of contention (something to be avoided) when we attempt to assimilate ourselves into the Christian mainstream, and as per my comments and feelings above, I don’t think it’s worth it. What we’re doing by trying to be Christian is actually creating a greater rift between us and them; they’ll seek for themselves further distinction from us if we move in on their territory. In a sense, we’re distancing ourselves from mainstream Christianity by attempting to be part of it.

    In the days of Joseph Smith, “Christian” didn’t have the connotations it does now; there is no argument for the “Christian-ness” of Mormonism until as of late. This is nicely illustrated in Phillip Barlow’s book Mormons and the Bible.

  57. monothesim in OT

    All I’m saying is that I’m coming from a truck-load of secondary literature which states that they were monotheistic, and by extension, monolatrous. Maybe it’s just Protestants, I don’t know. But the scholars/professors I’ve had, and the reading they assign, oozes with ubiquitous references to Israel’s monotheism. Perhaps the real issue here is whether the reader is blending orthodox yahwism with early Israelite folk religion, in which case I’d say you guys are right.

  58. Concierge says:

    On monotheism:

    The father of monotheism, Abraham, prayed, talked to and was answered by God using these translations:

    Yahweh (the Lord) – voice that directed Abraham to Canaan

    El Shaddai (Almighty God)- requested the circumcision

    El Olam (Everlasting God) – Abraham plants a tamrisk tree using this translation for God.

    Another reference:

    God told Moses that he appeared to Abraham as El Shaddai.

    This is NOT polytheism, it is polymorphy. With polymorphy, God allows the plural usage of His name to exercise/manifest His humility.

  59. Labels and Sound-bites – I’m reminded of the line in the old movie “War Games” when the computer finally “learns” that the only way to “win” is to not play the game. Perhaps a more helpful response when asked whether I’m “Christian” would be to simply testify that I personally worship Jesus Christ and God the Father. Don’t allow myself to be forced into a simple yes or no answer to the labeling questions. Bring the battle for souls into His territory rather than staying in the world’s obsession with quick and easy sound-bites, comparisons, and labels. And, remember that His territory includes the emphatic statement:

    that their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

    Obviously, it is not the Church as a whole that will meet Him at the veil, but you, me and each of them – one by one. Could it be that we stoop to the use of sound-bites and labels to give ourselves the feeling of security – that we are not within the above description? Is my heart far from His – do I deny His power? Wearing the label Christian or Mormon certainly is no guarantee.

  60. A better question is whether other churches are Christian, especially the so-called “Born Agains” who attack Mormonism. When you look at some of the garbage that they teach, well, I think that none of the first apostles would recognize them. Consider some of the absurd claims. First, they say that they believe only what is in the Bible, then they turn around and toss in the Nicene Creed, for instance. They ignore all of the times that Jesus refers to his Father (including the times that he prays to him and even PLEADS with him), and seize on the few references which can be read to mean that Jesus claimed to be God. They say that the Catholic church has no authority, but then they use the Bible that was compiled by that same Catholic church!

    I suppose that they are Christian, to one degree or another. They believe in Christ as our Savior (though they are pretty shaky on the whole “Son of God” issue), and what else is necessary?

  61. I think that none of the first apostles would recognize them

    Au contrare KW, they’re more apostolic than Mormons are. They’ve had the Bible in their hands for centuries, we’ve only had it in ours for barely two centuries. They’ve got all the learning and maturity that attends long-term ownership of a scripture like the Bible, and frankly, they know it (as a community) better than we do. We’re just really far behind; most of our interpretations of, for example, OT passages are immature, fundamentalist/dispensationalist, and guided by nothing more than a gut feeling — something I think the apostles of old would have shunned (I’m thinking of the “every whim of doctrine” verse and the “driven by the waves of the sea” verse in James).

    First, they say that they believe only what is in the Bible, then they turn around and toss in the Nicene Creed, for instance

    Catholics do this too, my friend. In fact, the Western Church wrote the creeds. And if you read the Nicene Creed carefully, and compare it to JS’s teachings (not the modern teachings of Correlation, mind you) you’ll find very few conflicts, if any.

    They ignore all of the times that Jesus refers to his Father (including the times that he prays to him and even PLEADS with him), and seize on the few references which can be read to mean that Jesus claimed to be God.

    They do this through trinitarianism. If one accepts the assumption of trinitarianism, then their claims function quite well. It’s how they appeal to OT monotheism in a Jewish way while at the same time appeasing the presence of God’s son, who is later claimed to be equal with God. Without trinitarianism, they’re just apostate polytheists (like they claim us to be).

    They say that the Catholic church has no authority, but then they use the Bible that was compiled by that same Catholic church!

    Maybe some do, but not the ones I know. One of the products of the Reformation of the 16th century was the doctrine of “priesthood of all believers.” They don’t need Catholic Petrine authority because Jesus grants it to them through their faith. Even yet, they still extended each other a hand of fellowship (albeit the left hand), recognizing that Protestant tradition was born of Catholic tradition. Besides, baptism is recognized between each group mutually. For example, if you’re Prot, and you want to convert to Cath, there’s no re-baptism because the Catholics recognize that the Prots baptized under the same authority as the Catholics did, and vice versa. For a Mormon to become Catholic, re-baptism is required.

    And if you think about it harder, they don’t use the Catholic Bible at all (the Vulgate). They use modern translations which are probably more faithful to the underlying ancient languages (and even moreso than the KJV, in my opinion). And you’ll notice that the Catholic Bible was also one of the issues on Luther’s 95 theses — he wanted it translated into the vernacular instead of forcing everyone to hear it in Latin. So Protestants never really used the “Catholic Bible,” so to speak.

    what else is necessary?

    For them, adherence to the Creeds of the Christian faith, which is why Mormons don’t qualify as Christians (to them). Otherwise, the individual or group is “pseudo-Christian,” which I actually prefer over “non-Christian” because at least “pseudo” recognizes some form of Christianity, albeit (to them) a false one.

  62. Tea & Biscuits says:

    seize on the few references which can be read to mean that Jesus claimed to be God

    …kind of like we do with the Restoration in the Bible as well. If you place the proof-texts we use into their proper context, the Restoration just isn’t there. Ezek. 37:15ff is one of the greater crimes I think the church as made.

  63. Sure, they have had the Bible for centuries, but you can’t win by missing the target, no matter how long you stare at it or how loudly you claim that you’re actually hitting it. It’s not the rumble of the thunder that has the power.

    The Nicene Creed came from the same Catholics that the Born Agains scorn.

    Yes, if you accept Trinitarianism you can ignore a lot of things that are in the Bible.

    All of the BACs use the Bible that the Catholics compiled, at least as a basis for whichever translation they consider to be right. It comes from the end of the 4th century, about 1000 years before Protestantism, and over 1500 years before the Born Again cults showed up.

    Regarding baptism, it is only very recently that the Catholic church has recognized any Protestant baptism as valid, and they only recognize a few of the major Protestant churches that way. There are Protestant churches which don’t recognize other Protestant churches’ baptisms as being valid. It doesn’t worry me that the Catholics don’t recognize LDS bapstism as valid, because they have no authority on the matter anyhow.

  64. Having served my mission in the South, I realized that a number of Protestants were highly critical of the Catholics. I too find this to be a shot in the foot. However, I must agree that Protestants and Catholics have a long history. They have had a number of centuries to work on and perfect doctrine. In fact, it is for that reason that the Lord required a Restoration. The scriptures, no matter how explicit, can still be ambiguous depending on how one approaches their words. Just look at the number of Mormon schismatics to show that all our clarification with additional scripture has not allayed the problem. I very much agree that we as a Church should have a better understanding of the Bible. It is a marvelous work, and still the Word of God, despite the downplaying we as a whole sometimes give it.

    On the other hand, this is the Restored Gospel of Christ. I believe the apostles would recognize this, because we have the true apostolic authority. It is the above mentioned ambiguity that required such a Restoration. Certain trains of wore such deep tracks that it required actual revelation to get out of them. A millenium and a half down the wrong road can lead to a very different location. But you are right, at least they have developed their understanding. We really could use more of that.

    I also wanted to make a point about taking little scriptures and attributing things to them. Ezekiel 37 was originated by leaders of the Church, and I am inclined to believe them. It is obvious to any scholar that Ezekiel is referring to the split in two kingdoms and their eventual reuniting. But is its meaning so limited? I could discourse on a number of possible thoughts, but I feel the one that would be of the most benefit is the fact that MANY scriptures have more than one meaning, even within the Bible. For instance, Matthew 1:22-23 makes the reference about a virgin conceiving and baring the Emmanuel and states that this is Christ. And so we all turn to the cross-reference (Isaiah 7:14) and say, “Isaiah was obviously speaking of Christ, and those Jews are off their rockers to not clearly recognize something so obvious a reference.” Yet, many non-Christian Bible scholars that it has a completely different meaning. Look at the liberal view here to see what I have read the interpretation should be from more than one scholarly writing on the subject. So was Isaiah referring to a child of sign or to the Christ? Is it possible that he referred to both? I believe that both interpretations can easily be correct. Read Don’t Know Much about the Bible in order to see the scholarly view a little more clearly than my link provides. At any rate, could the same be possible of Ezekiel 37? Again, I believe so.

  65. The apostles would recognize the Restored Gospel. The BACs don’t preach the Restored Gospel, they preach the doctrines of men, mingled with Scripture. This divergence began during their own time (that’s what Corinthians is about) and continued on to this day. THAT is why there had to be the Restoration.

    The big difference between the LDS way of reading the Scriptures and the BAC way is that the BACs dissect the Bible, word by word, then define the words to suit themselves. The LDS way is to read the passage and understand it in context as well as word for word, the same way a translator does when copying from one language to another.

    This, BTW, is the reason for the changes in the Book of Mormon over the years. Language changes, words and grammar change, and Joseph wasn’t a scholar. He used the word or phrase which made the most sense to him, in the vernacular of a New York farmboy of the 1820s. Inspired men and prophets following him have clarified meanings of things in the light of their own greater education. My favorite example is the one the antis have grabbed hold of, changing “white” to “pure” in the current edition. In the 1820s, the two words were synonymous, and only in the last 50 years has the use of “white” to mean “pure” fallen into disfavor.

  66. Tea & Biscuits says:

    Born Again cults

    I suppose you’re using that term in the same way it’s used against Mormons, right? If so, you got issues, man. That’s just wrong.

  67. I must agree tht I don’t find it very Christ-like. I served my mission in Georgia where I received a great deal of flak from many Born again Christians. Still, despite their rude behavior, there were a number of great people as well, and the others did the best they knew how. I get so frustrated when I hear their criticisms, but I have grown to love them, and I don’t think it does anything to improve the situation by calling them the same derogatory name of cult.

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  1. [...] I was just reading another blog about the Church of Jesus Christ being un-Christian. I was reminded of my mission days in Georgia, where I was faced with this accusation with great frequency. I always found it disturbing and rude, but I still learned to love the people and their dedication to Christ. I was deep in the Bible belt, and virtually everyone was a hardcore Protestant. However, a certain issue came to mind as I served my mission: [...]

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