Are Mormons Christians? Are Post Toasties corn flakes?

Years ago the following quiz used to run in Writer’s Digest:

Which of these is wrong?

1. Eating raw chicken.
2. Dating your sister.
3. “Rollerblading.”
4. All of the above.

Answer: D

The quiz was an ad taken out by the Rollerblade company, reminding writers—both journalists and fictional story-scribblers—that Rollerblade was a brand name, not a generic term for in-line roller skates. It was a specific type of inline skate—namely, the type that was made by Rollerblade. “Rollerblade” was a registered trademark, a descriptor that should always be capitalized and followed by the generic referent “in-line skate,” and must never, ever be used as a verb. Did they mention that it was copyright protected? Well, it was. And is. They could still be running the same ad today, for all I know.

In business, brand-name matters, which is why companies take great pains to protect their trademarked names and slogans from casual misuse by writers, in the hope that such meticulous attention to detail will not be lost on the notoriously careless public, who routinely refer to all sweetened carbonated beverages as “cokes.” ::Shudder:: Kleenex says “bless you” for always remembering to say “Kleenex tissues.” Bic reminds us that there is no h in Wite-Out correction fluid. Some might say, “What’s the big deal, if Rollerblade becomes the generic for in-line skates? It just shows that they dominate the market.” But that’s not the point. The point is that Rollerblade wants to be the first name in in-line skating gear. It does not want some other company to become the first name in “rollerblading.”

Ask the makers of Aspirin, Cellophane, Thermos and Zipper what it means to have your trademark genericized. They will probably tell you it feels a lot like dating your sister.

Which brings me to the word “Christian.” Obviously, Jesus had already ascended into heaven when “Christian” was coined as a term for followers of Christ. No “inventor” of Christianity bothered to register it as a trademark because a) there weren’t any trademark registries in those days and b) it would have seemed kind of obvious back then that you either believed that Jesus of Nazareth, called Christ, was the promised Messiah and savior of the world, or you didn’t. What was to be confused about?

That’s essentially the position most Mormons take today. If you believe salvation comes through Jesus Christ, that makes you a Christian. QED. This definition of Christian is also good enough for most non-Christians. If a Muslim or Hindu casually asks you in conversation if you are a Christian, he is not asking for any more detail than whether or not you consider Jesus your savior. He doesn’t need to know if you believe in the Nicene Creed or which books of the Bible you consider canonical. It is as if he walked up to you and said, “Excuse me, I just got a paper cut. Do you have a Band-Aid?” You would not probably not reply, “Oh, sorry, I only have a Curad. Wait, I might have a Band-Aid in my other bag. No, sorry, that’s a 3M. I think there’s a Walgreens on the next block. They probably have Band-Aids.” No, that would be silly. The man wants an adhesive bandage. The likelihood of him having a specific preference, particularly in this situation, is slim. The Band-Aid company will not be happy, but they never need to know.

On the other hand, if an evangelical Christian asks you, casually or otherwise, if you are a Christian, he may very well be asking for more specific information than whether or not you consider Jesus your savior. Let us say that someone asks you for corn flakes, and you give them a box of Post Toasties. Those of unsophisticated palate don’t recognize a difference between Post Toasties and Kelloggs Corn Flakes. Some recognize the difference but don’t find it substantive enough to form a preference for one over the other. Others consider the Kelloggs brand the One True Corn Flake. Others of a more perverse bent actually prefer Post Toasties. The point is, you can’t just assume that Post Toasties will do when the requirement is “corn flakes.” Maybe it will, maybe it won’t. You have to understand what the individual means by the term “corn flakes.”

When an evangelical Christian asks you if you are a Christian, he is not only asking whether you believe salvation comes through Jesus Christ but also whether you affirm specific doctrines concerning the Trinity and the nature of Christ. If you know what the heck he is talking about—and what your religion teaches–you will probably not be able to answer his question in the affirmative. This seems unfair from the Mormon perspective. After all, we believe that Jesus is divine, that his atoning sacrifice is the only means by which humankind can be saved, that following his teachings is the way to be happy—seriously, if that doesn’t make us Christians, then what are we? But from the evangelical (and other orthodox Christian) perspective, “Christian” is more particularly defined, and to accept the broader definition that Mormons (and some other people who don’t care so much about particular creeds and stuff) is to render the term less meaningful. They are trying to protect the brand name, even if they don’t have a registered trademark.

Is it fair to call Mormonism the Post Toasties of Christianity? Is it okay to call Post Toasties “corn flakes”? These are the issues that try our times.

If you’re having difficulty with an analogy that requires you to empathize with corporate America, let’s consider a more vulnerable class of people, the Jews. “Jewish” is both a religious and ethnic descriptor. You can convert to Judaism and thereby become Jewish, or you can be descended from Hebrews and be Jewish by default. Where it gets tricky is when you’re Jewish and convert to Christianity. Generally speaking, Jews aren’t keen on “Jews for Jesus” or “Messianic Jews” representing themselves as Jewish when they are really Christian. This seems unfair to the Jew for Jesus, as his ethnic heritage hasn’t been altered by his religious belief, and also to the Messianic Jew, who keeps the Jewish law and probably feels he is at least as entitled to be a Jew as that Bernie Leibowitz cat who eats bacon for breakfast every morning and helps his shiksa wife put up the Christmas tree each December.

It’s telling, however, that even a person like Michael Medved, who generally believes in calling people by the appellation they have chosen for themselves (even to the point that he calls Mormons “members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” God bless him), seems, as an orthodox Jew, to bristle at the term “Messianic Jew.” Jews have historically been defined—and persecuted—on the basis of being “not Christian”; is it therefore any wonder that they take exception to people who emphasize their Jewishness to the point of omitting a most salient fact of their identity that separates them from “traditional” Jews, i.e. their Christianity?

I didn’t come up with this Jews for Jesus: Jews:: Mormons: Christians analogy. I heard it from Dennis Prager, who is Jewish and doesn’t necessarily hold that it’s a perfect analogy, only that it seems to accurately reflect the way Christians view Mormons, as appropriating a term that is arguably misleading, given the substantial differences between our religion and theirs.

It’s foolish to argue that the differences between Mormonism (or, if you prefer, “Christianity as understood and practiced by members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”) and normative Christianity are insubstantial. If that were the case, we wouldn’t require already-baptized Christians (of the normative Christian tradition) to be rebaptized when they joined our church. If the differences are enough to require a whole ordinance, perhaps they’re also enough to require a change of terminology.

The problem is that when Christians demand that Mormons stop describing themselves as “Christian,” they leave us with no good way to acknowledge what is at the core of our theology, which is—sorry, Christians—Christ’s atoning sacrifice. All of the weirdness—the pre-mortal existence, the three distinct (and physical) personages of the Godhead, boy prophets digging up gold plates in the woods, strange and mysterious undergarments—none of it means anything without Christ. None of it has ever meant anything without Christ. So when someone asks us, “Are you a Christian?” what should we say? “No”? Really? Or “Yes, but…”? But what? “But I belong to a cult of Christianity?” I don’t see that tripping off the tongue either.

Perhaps, we might argue, since it’s those “traditional” Christians who want to restrict the definition of Christianity, it should be incumbent upon them to use the modifiers. But I for one don’t object to using a modifier myself. I’ll happily refer to myself as, say, a “Mormon Christian.” (Heaven knows it’s a heckuva lot less cumbersome than “member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” which wears me out just typing it). I mean, maybe I don’t want unsuspecting persons assuming that I believe in the Trinitarian God, either. (Harumph!)

How long have Mormons been trying to convince the rest of the world that we’re a Christian religion? Putting Jesus on the cover of the Book of Mormon hasn’t worked. Enlarging a portion of our logo hasn’t worked. Acting perplexed about the whole issue (“What? Didn’t you notice the big JESUS CHRIST in our name?”) hasn’t worked. The reason none of it has worked is that none of it has addressed the real problem that Christians have with Mormons, which is that we don’t believe the same things they do about the nature of God. These are differences that can’t be reconciled because we ourselves don’t want to reconcile them. If we did reconcile them, we would cease to be Mormons. So why are we knocking ourselves out to get other people to change their definition of “Christian” to accommodate us? I think the last thing we want is to be seen as indistinct from traditional Christianity. So why should we not at long last surrender and re-emphasize those differences? It should pacify those evangelicals who wish to protect the Christianity (TM) brand and simultaneously serve as a big “Suck it, haters!” to those who think we’re trying to steal their identity when we’re really only trying to steal their converts.

Q. Are you a Christian?

A. Yes, I am a non-traditional/restorationist/non-conformist Christian. Please note that I am not, repeat, NOT an evangelical Christian. (I mean, they’re nice people and all, but their beliefs are seriously messed-up.)

Are you feeling me?

I solicit suggestions for our new modifier(s) from Mormon and non-Mormon Christians alike.

Comments

  1. You could say “non-creedal Christian.”
    I prefer to call myself a “restorationist” or “primordialist” or “Christian sectarian.”

    Or why not just say, “I’m a Mormon” and let them decide how to parse it?

    Q: “Are you a Christian?”
    A: “I’m a Mormon.”

  2. Great post. Mormon Christian, LDS Christian, non-credal or Non-traditional Christian, un-orthodox Christian–any of these work for me.

  3. I’m a heretical Christian :)

  4. One of my Evangelical acquaintances once asked me if I was Christian.

    I simply responded – “I think I am, but some people seem to disagree with me.” When she gave me a questioning look, I told her “I’m a Mormon.” She seemed fine with the answer.

  5. You know what? I whip out the little sing-song “I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”.

    Seriously, I’ll tell someone I’m Christian, but if they complain that I don’t meet their qualifications of being a Christian, I simply refer them back to their requirements and drop it.

    No one joins or leaves our Church because of the “Christian” label.

  6. Wonderful post, Rebecca.

    When anyone asks if I am Christian, I answer with something like, “I’m Mormon. I believe I’m Christian, but some people think I’m not. Do you care enough to let me explain why I believe I am?”

    That gets some varied and interesting responses.

  7. Like smb, I answer that I’m a Mormon. To say Mormon Christian or any of the other options suggests that “I’m a Mormon that is also Christian, unlike those other Mormons.”

    Since this debate about whether Mormons are Christians has been raging the last few years, I have felt that to say we are Christians is misleading because it says that we are a Christian denomination, not a religion in its own right. And I believe that Mormonism is to Christianity what Christianity is to Judiasm (thanks to Jan Shipps). In other words, Mormonism grew out of Christianity and its texts, added to it and became a new religion. We became a new religion not on April 6, 1830, but sometime in Nauvoo, just as Christianity didn’t become a new religion right away.

  8. iguacufalls says:

    Rebecca, I thoroughly enjoyed this “Post,” toasty or not.

    However, I refuse to allow someone else to dictate who I am or tell me what I believe. If someone asks me if I’m Christian, I always answer unabashedly, “Yes!” If they find more details, and determine that I’m not their Brand of Christian, then they can just huff about it. My Christianity is too sacred to me to modify it.

    After all, OUR Christianity came from Jesus Himself. Now who’s christian!?

  9. john willis says:

    The late Phillip Berrigan, the radical Catholic Priest once said “I am a Catholic who is trying to be a Christian”
    Maybe the best answer to the question. Are Mormons Christian’s? is :”I am a Mormon who is trying to be a Christian and some days I do better than others.”

  10. Ryan Bell says:

    Great post, Rebecca. I almost never read posts that long, but this one got me.

    However, I am frustrated by some of the comments above, which answer the question “Are you a Christian” with uncertainty, as if there is some higher authority than the respondent on the question. There isn’t. There is no person better qualified to say whether I am a Christian than I am. When someone asks if I am, I will answer “Yes.” We are the authors of our identities, and we are the primary participants in our discipleships. We get get to make the call, no one else.

    Now, I understand that there’s a desire not to be misleading. This can easily be done while still taking a firm stand on the primary question:

    Q. Are you a Christian?
    A. Yes. I’m Mormon.
    or
    A. Yes. I believe that Christ is my Savior, although I don’t track with all of the traditional Christian creeds.”
    or
    A. Yes. Mainstream American Christians don’t seem to like us Mormons saying we are, but the truth is we believe in Jesus just as much as they do.

    Whatever the explanation tacked on to the end, I think the first response from a Mormon has to be ‘Yes.’ Anything less seems to run afoul of standing as a witness in all times, in all things, and in all places. No?

  11. One of my friends tells people that I’m a Christian who others think is a cultist, and do I want to know more about it?

    He’s a militant agnostic (“I don’t know, and you don’t know either”), but he has a better handle on summarizing our doctrine sometimes than I do…

  12. Ryan Bell (#10) is right to say that we should “take a firm stand on the primary question.” But if someone asks me if I’m a Christian, depending on their intent, the primary question could be “Are you a Christian like me?” “Are you an evangelical Christian?” “Are you Protestant (or Catholic)?” “Do you believe the Bible is the sole authority on matters of faith?” so some combination of these or other questions. Ryan Bell is assuming that the primary question is “Do you believe Christ is your savior?” But I’m not sure that’s the primary question that most people are asking when they ask me if I’m a Christian.

  13. I certainly agree with you, Ryan, that ultimately, we get to make the call whether we’re Christians or not. I get frustrated when other people take it upon themselves to be the arbiter of my faith.

  14. iguacufalls says:

    #12 W. If they have another primary question, they should ask it, instead of whether we are Christian. If they ask if I’m Christian, I’ll assume that’s the question they intend. If they ask if I’m Trinitarian, that’s another question entirely.

  15. W. – I usually answer, “Yes, I’m a Mormon.” Because if I were Catholic, I think I would probably answer, “Yes, I’m a Catholic.” (If I were a Messianic Jew, perhaps I’d answer, “Yes, I’m a Messianic Jew.” How would that grab people?)

    I am also hip to the Mormonism-as-religion-in-its-own-right. I have no problem with that concept. But I do think there’s something helpful about the term “Christian” to the extent that it differentiates us from a religion like Islam, where Jesus is not divine and does not provide a redeeming sacrifice for mankind.

  16. #14: Fair enough. It’s a troublesome business sometimes to try to ferret out each other’s real questions we ask. Sometimes it makes sense to answer from our own understanding of the words they say.

    I think Rebecca J.’s post is compelling, though, that much of the Mormons=Christians debate comes down to branding, not theology. And if that is the case, I don’t mind if others want to try to protect their brand. I’m happy being, and representing myself as, simply a Mormon. I’m happy to tell people what I believe if they care.

  17. Q: “Are you a Christian?”
    A: “I’m a Mormon.”

    I think that works best, provided that we verbally italicize “Mormon” in that sing-songy way that implies superiority. :-)

  18. StillConfused says:

    Any fellow woman who uses terms like “suck it” is my new best friend!

    I don’t really get asked if I am Christian very often (probably because I just glow with Christianity), but when I do, I look to who is asking. I had a lady ask me once; she used to be Mormon and is now something else. I could see that was her code for asking if I was Mormon. So I responded “I am Mormon.” Actually, I think my response was “I am east coast Mormon so I am not all crazy.” That seemed to suffice for her.

  19. who think we’re trying to steal their identity when we’re really only trying to steal their converts.

    Hah! Fantastic post. I thought I had read everything there was to say on this topic; thank you for proving me very wrong!

    Seth: I like that response. I’ll probably use it from now on.

  20. I agree with the comments that state that we are what we believe we are. This is the US census approach to race/ethnicity: self-identification. You decide what race/ethnicity you want to mark and nobody can do anything about it. Most importantly, nobody asks you prove it.

    I am a Christian by self-identification. I do not feel the need to defend it. Nobody is going to convince me otherwise.

    What does Michael Jackson mark on the census? I don’t know. But whatever he marks, that’s what he is.

  21. MikeInWeHo says:

    Jehovah’s Witnesses and several other groups have the same problem. What about the term heterodox Christian?

  22. Martin Willey says:

    I recall hearing some talk where the speaker (a GA of some kind, I think), rendered a similar analysis. He suggested that when you are asked whether you are a Christian, you could respond, “Well, what do you mean by ‘Christian’?” Once you understand the questioner’s definition, the answer is easy. And, it provides an opportunity to explain what you believe about Jesus Christ.

  23. iguacufalls says:

    Mark N. I like the “neener neener” philosophy. I think I’ll adopt it. :)

    On another note, I don’t think I’ve had a problem with individuals I associate with trying the “you’re not a Christian” meme, at least not since high school. Most of my friends and acquaintances are respectful, or at least tactful – at least to my face.

  24. There wouldn’t be much of a problem if Evangelicals claimed that Mormons weren’t “true” Christians. The problem comes in the claim that we aren’t Christian at all.

  25. Coincidentally, I was just asked if I really “believe that I’m saved through Jesus Christ.” (by a member who obviously questions my faith!)

    My response: That is the wrong question. It’s not a matter of what we believe, but who we are.

    I then tried to explain why that is true.

    Why did I respond that way? Because there is a tendency to focus on less important things — e.g. particular interpretations, church attendance, prayer quantity. Somehow, the really important aspects of self tend to get lost in the dogma.

  26. How would 3M respond if Band-Aid tried to tell them that they don’t make “adhesive bandages”?

  27. Ivan Wolfe says:

    “Answer: D”

    I thought this was a weird post modern quiz, meant to shake up our notions of correct answers and neat categories for labeling right and wrong. Why? Because there was no choice “D.” The choices were 1, 2, 3, & 4.

  28. Left Field says:

    The problem with heterodox Christian is that it concedes that “traditional” Christians are the ones who are practicing orthodox (i.e., correct) Christianity. That of course, is the very point at issue.

  29. I had to teach a Relief Society lesson recently based on Elder Holland’s talk about the fact that we are Christians. It was a hard one for me because my response to “Are you a Christian?” is yes. If someone claims that I’m not a Christian based on their definition, they can think that all they want. It doesn’t change the fact that I think I’m a Christian, defined as a follower of Christ.

    Incidentally, in my parent’s ward two weeks ago we had lesson on how to respond respectfully to those who may critize the church. Things got a little out of control when four women that the missionaries had brought came with the intent of telling us all that we weren’t Christians and that we were going to hell because we weren’t. They were trying to be nice about it but still. It was an ironic situation given that it’s difficult responding to critics of the church but especially when they are actually doing it in the middle of a class at church.

  30. Awesome post – and awesome style as always. I really like your idea at the end to essentially explain what kind of Christain we are. I like that strategy, since it shifts the questions from are you a believer or not to a discussion of beliefs. It seems like it gives us a chance to define Christian on our terms while promoting conversation.

  31. Not a bad discussion of trademark law from someone who is not a trademark lawyer. Xerox and FedEx and many others have run similar ads. One small quibble–trademark and copyright are separate regimes, so your first paragraph technically shouldn’t make any reference to copyright protection.

    Next time you want to post about IP law, you can call me first. ;)

  32. R Biddulph says:

    When I was volunteering to work with the New Jersey Family Policy Council (an affiliate of Dr. James Dobson), I was asked if I was Christian. I simply replied that I believe Jesus Christ was and is the Savior of the World. Pressed further, to state if I “was saved”. I said “yes”. (I thought that saying Jesus Christ saved all of mankind might be a bit much for the interviewer to understand.)

    Later, I was awarded the “Volunteer of the Year” award by the NJFPC. Dobson would get a lot of help for his cause if he simply acknowledged that “New Testament Christians” are just a different branch of Christianity from his “Creedal Christians”.

  33. Thomas Parkin says:

    Awesome.
    Far and away the best thing I’ve read on this (tired) subject. ~

  34. Great post.

    Our kids have said to their friends, “I’m a Mormon Christian.” (Or should that be hyphenated?)

    I’m considering the evangelical statement that we are “the fourth Abrahamic religion,” and am getting used to the answer, “I’m a Mormon.”

    Although I hate to give up my “christianness.”

  35. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 32
    But isn’t misrepresenting yourself?

  36. I prefer to answer, “I’m a Mormon (Brighamite).”

  37. Actually gst, I think the correct term would be “Grantite.”

    The FLDS are sticklers on that point.

    Of course, I don’t really know you all that well…

  38. Interesting and creative post Rebecca. I belong to the Sephardic Jewish Genealogy Yahoo Group moderated by Harry Stein. There is often quite a heated discussion between the Messianic Jews and the “real” Jews along with the search and discovery of ancestry and heritage. Mr. Stein usually stops the conversation before it gets too out of hand.

    The Messianic Jews are quite frustrated by the assertion that once you convert to the belief that Yeshua is the Son of G** you are no longer a Jew no matter if your Mama is a Jewess. The Jewish members count as Jewish any atheist backslider who does not keep the commandments as Jewish if his/her Mama is a Jewess. This attitude just about makes the Messianic Jews pull their hair out in frustration.

    Once in awhile the subject of Mormons comes up and apparently some believe that we Mormons are lower on the ladder of contempt than the Messianic Jews. Other Jews are just grateful of the genealogy help and are willing to overlook that whole Temple work controversy.

    Which leads me to ask this question; we come undone, similar to the Messianic Jews, when someone asserts that we are not Christians. Well how about the term Mormon? Are the Community of Christ, Strangites, FLDS etc.. all Mormons? Do we have a double standard when it comes to our moniker?

    My personal belief is do not let someone decide what you are. You can be whatever you want to; be it Christian, Messianic Jew, Mormon etc…

    As for me, I am a first a Christian. I took upon the name of Christ at baptism. Then I am a LDS Mormon and a proud descendant of the great Sephardic Jewish Diaspora. I believe that I have all my bases covered :)

  39. Antonio Parr says:

    The great Bruce Cockburn (singer/songwriter/guitarist/Christian mystic/activist extraordinaire) has been quoted as saying that he is reluctant to call himself a “Christian” because he felt that the label might convey to others that he is a sort of Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson.

    Given the opportunity to answer something other than “yes” or “no” to the question of “are you a Christian?” or “are you a born again believer?”, I would say that I am a practicing Latter-Day Saint, and as such I very much accept Christ as my Savior. I would say further that I strive to be His disciple by attempting to live as I believe He wants me to live, and that I believe Him to be the way, the truth, the life, and the light of the world. I would add that I dearly love Him, (which I do).

    That takes less than 15 seconds . . .

  40. How about, “Yes. In fact, I am Jesus’ brother (or sister).”

  41. I like the answer suggested above in #10: “Yes I’m Mormon.”

    I was once asked by a minister if I had been born again. Thinking of all the times I had felt the spirit and recommitted myself to God, I answered, “Yes, many times.” That really flustered him.

  42. Well how about the term Mormon? Are the Community of Christ, Strangites, FLDS etc.. all Mormons? Do we have a double standard when it comes to our moniker?

    I personally call them all Mormons. I even call ex-Mormons “Mormons” – which might piss some of them off, but tough.

  43. MikeInWeHo says:

    I think of myself as Mormon, but keep that to myself except in the (mostly-anonymous) ether of the Bloggernacle. Who really knows in here??? Has anybody actually seen Steve Evans’ TR? :)

    The Jews For Jews comparison is apt. Can they be Jews and believers in Christ at the same time?

  44. Ivan (27) – Haha – I can’t believe you’re the first person to mention that. I’m thinking about correcting it now, but maybe I’ll just leave it as a testament to my heterodox editing.

  45. Do we have a double standard when it comes to our moniker?

    I fully intended to address this in the original post, until it became so long that I had to stop before it got (too) ridiculous. This is what’s strange about the church. We try to lay exclusive claim to the term “Mormon” whilst simultaneously distancing ourselves from it. No wonder people don’t know what we are.

  46. Has anybody actually seen Steve Evans’ TR?

    The better question is, has anyone actually seen Steve Evans?

    Until it is proved otherwise I hold to my theory that “Steve Evans” is just an imaginary construct, kind of like the Matrix. Either that or Aaron Brown created him as a behavioral science experiment.

  47. Re 42:

    interestingly enough, I will call former/ex/New Order/cultural Mormons Mormon, but I won’t necessarily see FLDS/Strangites/others as them. I dunno what I think about CoC.

    Mormon for me entails a cultural tradition that lasts longer than just Joseph Smith + Book of Mormon. So, I don’t necessarily see FLDS as sharing that, or the smaller splinter groups of the movement. Whereas someone who was in the church, in the culture, and doesn’t believe still shares that tradition.

    Based on the ideas many Christians attach with Christianity, I wouldn’t be necessarily angry if the church distanced itself as a non-christian group. Sure, the church is different — I take that as a given (I’m probably biased). But when it gets down to it, I’d *rather* it be different. Traditional Christianity confuses and sometimes annoys me. Not to say the church doesn’t, but there are entirely different doctrinal foundations.

  48. I think Ryan Bell has it right:

    Q: Are you a Christian?
    A: Yes. I am Mormon.

    We all know that this will be dismissed by most creedal Christians posing the question. But it is what we believe about ourselves that matters, not what others believe.

    In differentiating ourselves from creedal Christians, however, perhaps we should avoid describing them as “normative” or “traditional” Christians because that could imply a concession on our part that their beliefs, form of worship, and conceptions of priesthood authority are consistent with those found in the primitive church, which most of us do not believe to be the case.

  49. Wow! Maybe the best post and accompanying comments I’ve seen on the bloggernacle. So many good suggestions.

    I think I like “Yes, I’m Mormon.” It’s short, to the point and totally accurate.

  50. ****Correction to OP- the term Christian was used before Christ ascended to heaven (see Alma 46). Otherwise, good food for thought.

  51. Add my vote to the “Yes, I’m Mormon”…

  52. Rameumptom says:

    “Yes, I’m Mormon” seems easier than a long discourse of “Yes, I’m Christian with this list of disagreements with the traditional Christians….”

    Most people are in one of three camps: 1. they’ll accept anyone who says they are Christian, 2. they’ll allow you to say you are Christian, even though they think you are a dweeb or heretic, 3. they only consider extremely conservative evangelicals as “true Christians” and have a long list of non-Christians with Mormons being on the bottom of the list.

    So, given this, I may as well define myself than have someone else define me.

    I am intrigued by Richard Bushman’s suggestion for a 4th Abrahamic group, however I fear it would dismiss our Christology too easily, and place us further from Christ in the eyes of others than it should.

  53. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 46 That’s really interesting. Maybe the Bloggernacle has become self-aware, and Steve Evans (even the bland name and ‘Canadian’ identity are suspicious) has finally passed the Turing test.

  54. I think my answer varies upon my mood and who I am talking to.

  55. When someone asks me that question, I like to respond with a completely unrelated question like “Do you eat poached eggs?” Then they are confused enough to give me an opportunity to shove a BoM in their pocket and run.

  56. I’ve seen Steve Evans, but then none of you have seen me so that proves nothing.

    I still advocate for Seth’s response: “I think I am, but some people seem to disagree with me.” Not useful in every situation, but it certainly demands some kind of thoughtful response from the listener. In that respect it may seem a bit passive aggressive—“some people don’t think so, are you one of those?”—but that’s probably why I like it. It challenges the person to decide whether he/she is going to exclude you from “Christian” or not.

  57. I am Christian. I am also an ex-Mormon. There are huge distinctives between them that both groups should protect. Why don’t we let these distinctives stand?

  58. Silver Rain, you made me LOL.

  59. I can say that nobody has ever asked me if I’m a Christian. I am sometimes asked if I go to church, and to which church I go, but ‘Are you a Christian?’ seems an odd question.

  60. Will Rebecca please start calling me a latter day saint?

  61. Anything that floats your boat Todd. I’d be happy to call you a Latter-day Saint. Even happier if you joined the Church!

  62. I can be called a Latter-day Saint without joining the LDS Church?

    CC, I need to bring you over here to Ammon, Idaho.

  63. How long have Mormons been trying to convince the rest of the world that we’re a Christian religion? Putting Jesus on the cover of the Book of Mormon hasn’t worked. Enlarging a portion of our logo hasn’t worked. Acting perplexed about the whole issue (“What? Didn’t you notice the big JESUS CHRIST in our name?”) hasn’t worked.

    It seems to have worked in the places I’ve lived. The Lutherans and Methodists around me don’t question Mormons’ place in Christianity. The fringes of Evangelicalism are active on the Internet, but that needn’t affect how I identify myself.

  64. TA Esplin, if you are willing, would you care to describe generally the places/regions you’ve lived (where the Lutherans and Methodists haven’t questioned your Christianity)?

    I’m curious because I have several close Methodist and Lutheran friends and I kind of want to get a sense for whether this laissez-faire is perhaps cultural or regional.

  65. You mean Lutherans or others aren’t active on the internet, TA?

  66. Mark Brown says:

    Something we need to recognize is that even among other Christians, there are significant differences.

    Lutherans of the Missouri Synod do not recognize LDS sacraments, but they don’t recognize some sacraments of the Lutherans, Wisconsin Synod or ELCA Lutherans, either. For instance, most of them won’t participate in communion with a different synod. It has to do with the same claims to authority which are the sticking points with LDS.

  67. And among Baptists?

    There are whole groups of Baptists that don’t have the foggiest idea of what it means to be a true latter-day saint.

  68. I typically beat people to the punch on this, so they never have to ask. I was asked once by a customer if I was saved. I told her I believed in Christ, but that my church didn’t use terminology like that, and went on for about 10 minutes about what salvation means to me.

    She seemed satisfied and that was that.

  69. Todd, don’t wear out your welcome. Latter-day Saint is typically reserved for Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, if you feel like you want to call yourself a “latter day saint” in the generic sense, be my guest. Though expect the same confusion that you might get if I as someone fond of Luther’s writings decided to call myself “lutheran” in the generic sense while not being a member of a Lutheran Church.

  70. My mother was once asked very respectfully if she were a Christian. She answered simply, “I believe in Christ.” I liked that response.

  71. J., here is a thought. I covet the label, latter day saint, not just in a “generic sense” but a biblical sense. If I am not a latter day saint in the fullest sense, I won’t be with the Father for eternity. This is not just simply some fun word game for me.

    Saying that, I don’t jump on BCC just for debate.

    I think what would really be helpful for me as the outsider is this: a definition on the true heart of a biblical saint walking in the full light of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Thanks for letting me drop in.

  72. R Biddulph says:

    I like the answer: “Yes, my faith and my church’s teachings are based upon the Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Period, not Emperor Constantine’s formulation of the Fourth Century.”

  73. Miss Manners states that one polite way of responding to any personal inquiry is to ask, “Why do you ask?” Perhaps knowing the motive of the person will help to determine which of all of these answers would fit the situation.

  74. Susan – good point. Once again, Miss Manners saves the day.

    Br. Wood – I won’t even call myself a latter-day saint. It is cumbersome and annoying. But if you insist, you can have it. ;)

  75. TA Esplin says:

    Hunter (64) – My experiences come in college towns in the US Midwest. I admit that it is a biased sample for most purposes. (Speaking of controversial brands, by Midwest I mean the narrow, historical definition, where Big 10 basketball is played.)

    Todd Wood (65) – What I meant to express was that I’ve only encountered the rejection of Mormonism’s place in Christianity on news sites, in hostile book reviews, and in blogs like this. The moderates I meet in person (in my sheltered environment) seem underrepresented in such forums. (I apologize for the phrase “the fringes of Evangelicalism,” especially if it is an unfair characterization of those defending an exclusive definition of Christianity.)

  76. Todd,

    You can’t really ask for “a definition on the true heart of a biblical saint walking in the full light of the gospel of Jesus Christ” because you already have a specific definition in mind, one to which we aren’t privy. Each of the clauses there obviously have special meaning for you in a way that is lost on those of us who aren’t you. I don’t even begin to know how to give a definition “on” anything, but if you meant “of” I’m still lost.

    I would call a Christian someone who seeks to know and do God’s will sincerely (understanding God as God the Father whose Son is Christ). Beyond that, I don’t think human definition matters.

  77. By appropriating the name Christian, the implication is that I am NOT christian. I am not happy with that. It is like the way political parties name themselves. Republican vs republican or Democrat vs democrat. How about advocacy groups (Prolife vs ProChoice)? Are prolife people really antichoice? Are ProChoice people really antilife? By picking that name that is exactly what they are trying to do. It is really a little bit aggresive.

  78. Am I christian with a small “c” and they are Christian with capital “C”?

  79. Anonymous says:

    An interesting take. But lately I’ve come to this question from a different context. If I’m not mistaken, if a Lutheran decided to become a Catholic, the Catholic Church would not tell that Lutheran to get re-baptized. However, if that Lutheran decided to become Mormon, the Mormon Church would of course say a Mormon baptism is necessary.

    In other words, Mormons stake a unique claim on the truth of their own beliefs and practices in a manner different from other “Christian” churches. They see Lutherans, Catholics, Methodists, etc, differently than those demoninations see each other, I think.

    While I disagree with those folks withholding the term “Christian,” I think Mormons should try to look at this issue in that context.

  80. Anonymous, I think you’re mistaken. A Catholic becoming a Lutheran might be OK, however.

  81. I think the bigger Lutheran question is…. Does the Lutheran eat lutefisk?

  82. I think the question is are Mormons Christians first, or are they Mormons first? I have discussed this with many who are outside the Church, and they sense it’s Mormon first.
    That’s why they see the Church as a Cult. Most do not have in their religion, “I know my church is true”. They believe only in the ‘Light of Christ’, not “follow the Prophet”. They put ” Christ in my life”, not as a man, but as a way of living.
    For them, they speak of “Christ” is a verb, not a noun. The Mormon Church is moving in the direction, but that is not it’s history.

  83. As I understand it, a Protestant, like a Lutheran, is not required to be rebaptized a Roman Catholic, but would be required to be confirmed to become Roman Catholic.

    Under current Roman Catholic interpretation, a Mormon who converted to Catholicism would be required both to be rebaptized and confirmed (or reconfirmed) to become Roman Catholic.

    See FARMS article analyzing Roman Catholic interpretation of rebaptism requirement for LDS. http://farms.byu.edu/publications/review/?vol=13&num=2&id=394

  84. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the clarifications. I may very well be mistaken about some of this, and should look into it some more.

    My main point remains, I think, that Mormons should be sure to consider this in the larger context of how all these churches view each other– and how the Mormon church views these other churches, as well.

  85. #84 – You are right. It should be considered.

    Mormons view the others as Christian who have every much the same chance of the same eternal reward as Mormons. Many of those others view Mormons as cultist, non-Christians and consign Mormons to Hell. Both justify their view as being the real teaching of Jesus.

    It really does make a difference how we view them.

  86. Jeremy Jensen says:

    “Most do not have in their religion, “I know my church is true”.”

    They may not say it that way, but they do believe that the church of Christ (defined as everyone who believes the same things about the most important core theological questions) is the only true church. Mormonism is false. Buddhism is false. Judaism is false. Islam is false. They believe absolutely that believing in the accepted teachings of their group is the only way to God. It’s just that their group includes many denominations instead of just one. To them, all the acceptable denominations (as defined by them) are, collectively, the only true and living church.

  87. the true heart of a biblical saint walking in the full light of the gospel of Jesus Christ

    Sounds like a crock of BS to me.

    Mormons view the others as Christian who have every much the same chance of the same eternal reward as Mormons.

    Really, Ray? That’s very ecumenical of you, but I think the Church actually teaches that there are certain saving ordinances that are required, and that they must be performed by proper authority. Let’s not misrepresent our teachings just to make ourselves look nice.

  88. Re: 86

    But I think that misses the point. When they say they believe the church of Christ is true to the exclusion of other religions, they are turning these other groups into other religions. E.g., Mormonism is considered a different (wrong) religion. Buddhism, Judaism, Islam are obviously considered different (wrong) religions.

    But with Mormons, it’s only Mormons which are “true.” All other ‘denominations’ (which should be part of the same religion — Christianity) aren’t included in the set of “churches that are true.” They might have “some truth,” but we’d still say they aren’t converted to the fulness of the gospel. So…in this kind of rhetoric, it’s like we are treating all the other denominations as other religions — and only when you add the particulars of the LDS package are you part of the true religion. I agree with MCQ in 86 that Ray is being rather ecumenical, but not very realistic.

  89. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 66
    That is not accurate. A Missouri Synod Lutheran would certainly recognize the sacraments of other Lutherans as valid. The various groups do not PARTICIPATE in sacraments with each other because they are not in fellowship due to various schisms that have taken place over the years. I was raised Wisconsin Synod Lutheran and know all about this stuff. They love their schisms, them Lutherans.

    And yes bbell, according to the Prophet Garrison Keillor lutefisk consumption is required for entry into the highest level of Lutheran heaven. You have to choke one down to get past the angel at the gate.

  90. Kevin Barney says:

    Great, creative post.

    The problem with the term “Christian” is that it is so susceptible to the fallacy of equivocation, and is therefore a weapon that can miscommunicate the nature of one’s belief.

    For my thoughts on this issue, see the beginning of my “A More Responsible Critique,” here.

  91. #87 – MCQ, I didn’t specify vicarious ordinances explicitly, but surely you aren’t saying that we teach that non-Mormon Christians have no chance of ending up in the Celestial Kingdom. That’s all my words themselves say – that Mormon theology allows those who don’t accept our beliefs in this life a chance of ending up exactly where we hope we do.

    How is that a misrepresentation?

  92. My answer depends on who is asking me. If they are a Christian, especially Evangelical, then I say that I am a Christian. Then I quietly wait to see if they become irritated. hehehe.
    If the person is Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, Atheist etc..then I reply that “I feel like I’m Christian but most Christians think I’m going to hell.” I say this because I don’t want them to connect me to the Evangelicals and their “oh so Christian like behavior”. Which of course we fail to demonstration sometimes. But it’s a start and they usually ask me about what we believe, who we are ect…

  93. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 91
    I think MCQ means that offering a second change at conversion in the afterlife does not constitute universalism in any meaningful sense. In a way, it’s a kinder and fairer version of what many faiths teach: There is only one path to salvation, and we have it.

  94. Exactly, Mike. Ray, you’ve got to see that your sentence is deceptive because a creedal Christian who knows nothing of our beliefs would interpret it to mean that we believe he can gain salvation through his own belief system, without ever converting to Mormonism. That is simply false. We don’t teach that and you shouldn’t pretend that we do.

  95. I must admit this discussion reminded me of an event many years ago when I was in high school. A group of Evangical Christians were doing their own version of “tracting” high school students on their way into the campus (open campus unlike our more modern prison style campuses) and asking them if they had “found” Christ.
    Someone apparently shared same with our German teacher (a real German from Prussia). His response was, “What, He’s lost?”
    My own response when asked has been, “What do you mean by that, to be a ‘Christian'”. Starts the strangest conversations…..

  96. (Chuckling) I remember when it was LDS missionary week in high school.

    How about this for a conversation starter?

    Who has the true fullness of the gospel?

    “Insider Christians” or “Outsider Christians”

    And it is always interesting to listen to the steps one must do to be completely and fully an insider. Of course, some tell you that it is never for you to fully know. And then some say all the internal angst is needless.

  97. MCQ, I think you’re stretching what I actually said. Possible interpretations are one thing; what I actually said is quite another. “Able to be misunderstood” is one thing; “deceptive” is quite another. Also, I said “the same chance” – NOT “a second chance”. There is a BIG difference between those two.

    Let me try it this way:

    Someone dies in this life without having had a legitimate opportunity to understand and accept “the Gospel”. We teach that that such a person has a chance in the next life to hear it and accept it (no matter their religion or denomination) – and end up where we hope to end up. Iow, they have “the same chance” that we do, even if that chance is after they die.

    That’s all I said in the actual words I used. Do you disagree with that statement?

  98. In my view, “Christian” (capital C) is a noun meaning someone whose religion claims to follow Christ as the son of God. That includes Catholics, Methodists, Mormons, etc, — maybe even the Mafia. But “christian” (small c) is an adjective that describes someone whose behavior follows the example of the Savior. Not all Christians are christian. And not all christian individuals are Christian. The only way to discover Christians is to ask them. The best way to discover christian behavior is to observe it. This raises the question, “how christian are Christians?” And can it ever be unchristian to ask if someone is Christian?

  99. Obviously, that last comment was mine, not my wife’s.

    Also, MCQ, I really like you, but don’t ever accuse me of “pretneding” we believe things we don’t believe in what I write. That simply is insulting and unnecessary. I don’t EVER pretend. Period.

  100. Ray, as should be obvious by now, I really like you too. I wasn’t intending to insult you, I just thought that you were overreaching. You keep insisting that your comment should be judged by what it actually said. Read that way, especially by a person who knows you and who knows church doctrine, you are probably right. My only point was that you can’t say those words to someone who doesn’t understand our doctrine because they will result in a misunderstanding. In that context, it’s not a fair statement.

  101. According to D&C 138:57-59, “The dead who repent will be redeemed, through obedience to the ordinances of the house of God, and after they have paid the penalty for their transgressions, and have been washed clean, shall receive a reward according to their works, for they are heirs of salvation”.

    No doubt there will be a lot of Mormons and those of other faiths in this category. Otherwise the telestial and terrestial kingdoms are going to be pretty barren, while limbo is packed to the gills.

    [Ed: please delete incorrect posting on other thread]

  102. Thanks, MCQ.

    I don’t like to write things like I wrote in that last comment, so I apologize if it was too strong. I try very hard to choose my words carefully – to say exactly what I mean. I almost always re-read each comment at least once before I publish it, editing most of them in one way or another. I fail occasionally, but because I really do try hard, I don’t like to have to defend what I don’t say. That’s all it was – my frustration over the words “deceptive” and “pretend”. Again, thanks.

    I agree that someone who doesn’t understand our doctrine probably won’t understand what I said, but, honestly, those who aren’t going to stick around long enough to have a conversation that will clear it up probably are going to misunderstand whatever I say – no matter how carefully I choose my words. I have to be responsible for what I say, and I have to be aware of how it might be taken, but I can’t be true to both in every instance.

    When there is a conflict, I’d rather have what I say be correct than have it be understood completely – and I’d rather draw the distinction that we are “more universal” (oxymoron, I know) in our view of grace than most other Christians – especially if you consider how we view the condition they call “Hell”.

    Long response. Let’s let this die – and toast each other with a glass of Sprite. :)

  103. Here’s to you Ray, as always.

  104. Floyd the Wonderdog says:

    Once when I was asked if I was Christian, I replied that “Christian is as Christian does.” A twist on that great theologian Forrest Gump.

  105. I know Ray and MCQ dropped their conversation, but I had a thought on it. I have to agree with Ray, we don’t expect people to convert to Mormonism to be saved. In fact, there will be a vast quantity of people in the Celestial Kingdom who are not and never will be Mormon. The ordinances are not exclusive to Mormonism, they are exclusive to the Plan of Happiness, which was around long before Mormon edited his people’s history and long long before Joseph Smith translated it.

    I think that’s an important perspective when dealing with the question of what we believe about who we are. Our doctrines center around the Father’s plan for His children, the Book of Mormon and the Restoration are only a blip on the screen, however important of a blip they might be. Even Christ’s atonement and sacrifice, even though it is the linchpin of the Plan of Salvation and the Plan could not exist without it, is the means, not the end of the Plan.

    Perhaps that is a good reason others might want to distinguish us from credal Christians. We want to unite ourselves with Christians to demonstrate that we value the Atonement and a relationship with Christ every bit as much as they do, and they want to separate us because we believe in so much more.

    In my mind, both views are completely valid.

    Since many Christians will use the question “Are you Christian?” as a weapon, I feel it is completely appropriate to deal with it as we should any similar attack: with love, understanding, and acceptance in our own hearts, but without allowing them to define us. We should answer with meekness, not with weakness, and with testimony, not scholarship.

  106. As an Evangelical Christian I read this article with a lot of interest. I guess I am one of those Christians who look beyond the “basics” when defining Christianity. My apologies to my brothers and sisters in Christ.

  107. In fact, there will be a vast quantity of people in the Celestial Kingdom who are not and never will be Mormon.

    I hate to start up on this again, but that’s only true if you are using a very narrow definition of “Mormon,” as in, members of the modern Church. I am not. I am using it to refer to the gospel of Jesus Christ, as administered by his ordained servants.

    We believe certain ordinances must be administered by proper authority: those who are properly ordained. In our modern church we call those people “Mormon,” Even Christ was baptized by someone with authority to perform that ordinance. In other words, he was baptized into the Church, by someone having authority to do so. Since we believe that same church was restored through Joseph Smith, it’s still the same thing, whether you call it “Mormon” or not. Those ordinances, administered by proper authority, are required for salvation.

  108. MCQ you are causing me to reconsider. If ‘ordinances’ are required for salvation then the work of Christ was not sufficient in and of itself. Is that what you are putting forth here?

  109. Let me clear up my last post a bit. When I referred to the work of Christ I include the death and resurrection. Sorry for any confusion.

  110. Mike,

    Growing up in Minnesota I can attest that eating lutefisk for Lutherans is almost a sacred event. It tastes so bad that they only eat it at church functions for additional strength in choking it down.

    Its almost like putting chicken in your jello dish for a church function in Davis County. YIKES

    Here is why Mormons should be considered Christians

    1. Virgin Birth
    2. Miracles of Jesus
    3. belief in the Res
    4. And for good measure we celebrate Christmas and Easter

  111. MCQ–one could make a case that most of the ordinances which you are talking about are not required for salvation, but rather for exaltation. Latter-day Saints are sometimes sloppy in interchanging those two terms, which adds to the Evangelical confusion.

    There’s a difference in the ordinance of baptism, which signifies our entrance into the “saving” covenant, and the ordinances of exaltation in the temple.

    Stephen E. Robinson clarifies in the book “How Wide the Divide?” that “the LDS believe the only obedience necessary to be born again is obeying the commandments to have faith in Christ, to repent, and to be baptized. These are the only “laws and principles” on which being born again is predicated. The language in Article of Faith Three that [Evangelicals] find disturbing (“all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel”) is clarified in Article of Faith Four: “We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, second, Repentance, third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins,” To those who obey these principles God give the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32), “fourth, laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

    “In other words, it is impossible to be born again without faith in Christ, repentance, and baptism (Acts 2:38; John 3:3-5). Most Evangelicals would agree with the first two, and some would agree with all three. But there is no quid pro quo here, no earnings being paid off; these things constitute being born again. The only “requirement” for coming to Christ is to come. Truly, there are other laws and principles after these “first” ones, but these refer to ways in which the saved can become more like Christ. They are not conditions for “being saved” initially as Evangelicals use the term.”

  112. One point of clarification concerning baptism which I find helpful from “How Wide the Divide?”:

    “Mormons believe that baptism is a part of the good news (see Hebrews 6:1-2, where both baptism and the laying on of hands are represented as foundational principles of “the doctrine of Christ”). One is baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27; Colossians 2:12) and both salvation and the remission of sins is connected to baptism (Acts 22:16; Ephesians 5:26; Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 3:21). The belief that baptism is necessary is not peculiar to the LDS but is also held by some Evangelicals. Neither they, nor the LDS, understand it to be a prerequisite to conversion, but rather a part of conversion (Acts 8:12-17; 19:1-6). One’s faith, repentance, and submission to the lordship of Christ are expressed by submitting to baptism. Jesus’ grand commission to his disciples was not just to teach, after all, but to teach and to baptize (Matthew 28:19). Latter-day Saints thus line up with those Evangelicals who insist that Jesus must be accepted as both Savior and Lord.”

  113. I’m glad that Ray and MCQ could reach an understanding, but I just know it’s going to dissolve into bitter resentment when MCQ raises a glass of 7UP. “Sprite,” Ray will growl, “I said toast with a glass of Sprite!”

  114. Hilarious, BrianJ. Now back to my “Sierra Mist”…

  115. Brian, actually, mine was Fresca.

    CC, I was talking about baptism and confirmation. The more important issue, however, is the issue of authority. We do not recognize the priesthood or authority of any other church to perform these ordinances. Thus, the question, “do you have to be Mormon to be saved?” really must be answered in the affirmative. You must be baptized and confirmed by one having proper authority; i.e. into the “Mormon” Church.

    You can talk about this stuff as ecumenically as you want, but there’s no way around that requirement.

  116. SilverRain (105),

    Well said.

  117. Jeremy Jensen says:

    Re: 88
    I’m not sure what you’re saying diminishes my point. The fact remains that when people say that our church is unique in claiming to be the only true church, they’re missing the larger point. The Church claims to be the only way to be exalted. Similarly, a Protestant claims that only way to be saved is to believe in the doctrines of the one true church (the church of Christ, which includes many denominations). Any criticism that can be leveled at Mormons for being exclusive rather than inclusive can also be leveled at Protestants, who have many denominations, but, essentially all agree with each other on 95 percent of their theology, and exclude from salvation (or Christian-ness) anyone that disagrees. No, you don’t have to belong to one particular church to be saved, but you must subscribe to the basic beliefs of one of these denominations to be saved. I see the difference between the our approach and their approach as largely superficial.

    One thing that rarely comes up in discussions like these is the fact that, according to most Protestant theology, all Christians go to heaven. So, for a Protestant to concede that Mormons are Christian, they also have to concede that we’re going to heaven. That is a difficult step for many of them to make given our “weird” theology.

  118. The Church claims to be the only way to be exalted.

    And saved.

  119. No, no. Christ is the Way. The Only Way.

  120. My point exactly, Clean Cut.

  121. #120: The Church teaches a “Belief in Christ” is not enough to be saved. You must also be baptized by a “Mormon”. This is one of the reasons Mormons have been challenged in their history as not being Christians.

  122. Whereas “grace-only” Evangelicals only require you to accept a correct doctrinal abstraction of belief before Jesus’ grace works for you.

    I don’t think anyone really believes in grace-alone.

  123. #121 – Technically, if we want to have this discussion, we really should make sure we are using the same words to mean the same things – and we should discuss all of the nuances of the topic. To do that, we need to define “saved” and “exalted” as two different states, and we also need to distinguish between being saved from death and being saved from sin. I can’t begin to do that here, but . . .

    With that foundation, Mormonism is univeralist in how it views being saved from death (with the exception of a very small number of Sons of Perdition), it is universalist in how it views being saved from sin (with that same exception and with an understanding of “glory”), but it is not universalist in how it views degrees of “salvation” among the kingdoms) and how it views exaltation.

    So, actually Bob, in a very real way, The Church teaches that an independently gained belief in Christ is NOT required for salvation – in this life OR the next. Instead, it teaches that a “mere belief” in Christ will be forced by circumstance (“every knee shall bow and every tongue confess”). The exact nature of one’s eternal existence might depend on the exercise of individual agency, but the baseline of gaining a second estate as a reward for one’s choice in the first estate has near universal application.

    Mormonism, imo, is FAR more complex than Christianity in general, so it amuses me when people think it is easily encapsulated in a broad statement or two.

  124. Just to be clear, the last sentence in #123 was not directed at Bob.

  125. #119

    Have you seen the latest pew forum polls among evangelicals?

    CC and MCQ could be more exclusive in these statements than the American evangelical movement as a whole.

  126. MikeInWeHo says:

    re: 122

    Any good Lutheran would disagree with you. They’re emphatic about “grace alone” and use that very expression frequently. It is also why they describe the sacraments as the “means of grace.” Yeah, it’s semantic hair splitting from our perspective but Mormons of all people should cut their Christian neighbors some slack about that…..

  127. Bob, #121, that’s what I’m saying.

    Ray: I think you are being very technical, and maybe it’s required for 100% accuracy, but if the question is asked of us whether we believe baptism into our Church is required for salvation, the simplest and most correct answer is yes. Of course we believe in a universal resurrection, as to many other Christians, but that is not what people mean when they ask about salvation.

    Todd: I have no doubt that Mormonism is more exclusive in its beliefs than the evangelical movement.

  128. I wonder how much the view exclusiveness/inclusiveness is altered by taking into account that even if we believe we hold the exclusive priesthood authority (which we do) in this life, Mormons are unique in our belief that the gospel will be preached in the Spirit World where all people will be included in the chance to fully accept the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Obviously we believe everyone (Hindu, Muslim, Jew, Christian, whatever) will in fact be saved from permanent physical death because of Christ’s resurrection. Furthermore, if we respond appropriately to the gospel of Jesus Christ (whether here or there), we will be saved from “hell.” Naturally, responding appropriately to the gospel includes forming a covenant with Christ through faith, repentance, and (authorized) baptism.

  129. #127 & 128: When I talk with my evangelical friends, the question I ask them: “If I accept Christ, the way you think is right, will I be saved, even if I live the life and ways of a Mormon, wherein I do/believe things you think are unnecessary? They usually say Yes.
    The word “authorized” is a “heresy” because it is put a need between then and Christ’s Grace.

  130. Bob, in practical terms, how is “the way you think is right” any different than the Mormon construct of authority?

  131. There is a long time confusion with regard to the requirements for salvation in LDS theology. Some verses in D&C 76 suggest to many that residence in the telestial glory is salvation in name only.

    Then you have the scripture from D&C 131 that states that the dead who repent shall be redeemed through obedience to the ordinances of the household of god, and that such are heirs of salvation.

    One might well conclude that one indeed must repent and be baptized to be saved – in any degree of glory – and those intransigent souls that refuse shall not be redeemed until they do.

    That proposition is consistent with many other scriptures that state that one must repent and be baptized to be saved, and those who do not repent and are not baptized shall be damned. One might well wonder how evangelicals who do not believe that baptism is necessary avoid the import of Mark 16:16.

  132. Bob, but so what? Most of my evangelical friends say the same thing. Accept Jesus, pray the sinners prayer and you are saved.

    They usually add, however, something like this: “As long as you believe in the right Jesus.”

    They do not accept our beliefs about Christ as being correct, thus we believe in the “wrong” Jesus and cannot be saved as long as we have that belief. There are more heresies than one between Mormons and Evangelicals.

  133. The topic of the post is why Mormons are not seen as Christian by some others. If only Mormons were “voting”, then we would be Christians (?) Yes, there is an issue of how we see Christ in our lives that is different than how others see it.
    But in my opinion, the Mormon belief that only through a Priesthood and it’s Authorized Ordinances can a soul be saved, is the bigger issue. It was in the time of Joseph Smith, and still is today.

  134. Why, Bob?

  135. Q: Are you Christian?
    A: Yes, I’m LDS.

  136. MCQ (#107)—That is obviously where we divide. I have never heard either the gospel or those who are ordained to the authority to administer the ordinances referred to as “Mormons”. The gospel is the news of the Atonement and exaltation, those who are ordained are called by a variety of priesthood offices. “Mormons” is a very specific term to describe a group of people who believe in the restoration through Joseph Smith and in the translations of the Book of Mormon—in other words, those belonging to the modern Church and its offshoots. I think that broadening that term to include everyone who has ever believed in Christ and followed the ordinances of His gospel is rather misleading.

    Although the essential things are the same, there are some strong cultural differences and doctrinal inclusions that are in the modern Church that were not necessarily in previous dispensations. In this Dispensation of the Fullness of Times, it is useful to have a term to refer to that. And when you talk to people without a background in the Church, the subtlety of calling everyone who believes in Christ and His ordinances “Mormons” is completely lost.

    On the other hand, there is strength in remembering that Joseph Smith, the Restoration and the Book of Mormon are only small parts, however essential, of our whole doctrine. Again, it is important to remember that our commonality with other dispensations is the Plan of Exaltation, not the Book of Mormon or anything originating from Mormon.

    Bugbyte #108—Maybe someone already answered this, but a belief in ordinances does not indicate that Christ’s work was not enough. Christ’s work is administered through ordinances. The ordinances are a part of His work. Take baptism for example, Christ was baptized to show us the way and to begin His ministry. In LDS theology, baptism is the door by which the path to Christ is entered, and there are other ordinances which act as checkpoints along the way, which Christ also instituted.

  137. What SilverRain said. She articulated what I was thinking but couldn’t say very well.

    I just don’t think it’s accurate to say that, in order to be saved or exalted, “Everyone will have to be Mormon,” or, “Everyone will have to join the Mormon Church.” I don’t believe Peter, James, John, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Nephi, Alma, etc. should be called “Mormon” – and I am positive Christ’s kingdom during the Millennium won’t be called “The Mormon Church” or “The CoJCoLDS”.

  138. You two are missing my point completely. You’re arguing about semantics. I’m not saying that Christ’s church will always necessarily be called “Mormon” or any particular name (other than, I’m sure it will have the name “Christ” in there somewhere), and I honestly give a flying fig leaf what you call it. My only point was that certain ordinances, administered by those with proper authority, are necessary for salvation. Having now said the same thing twelve times, I’m done talking about this.

  139. #136: “I have never heard either the gospel or those who are ordained to the authority to administer the ordinances referred to as “Mormons”.” I don’t understand that sentence. What are they called, or what should they be called?

  140. MCQ—I don’t think either of us are missing your point, nor do I think semantics are invalid when the differing interpretations change what is being said so drastically.

    Your point is that according to LDS doctrine everyone will have to accept Christ and participate in His ordinances to enter the Celestial kingdom. That is granted, neither of us is arguing that. Our point is that calling that group “Mormons” causes difficulties, since to a wider audience, particularly the audience addressed in this post, that term doesn’t really mean what you say it means to you.

    Bob—Read the sentence after that for the answer to your question.

  141. SilverRain:

    “Your point is that according to LDS doctrine everyone will have to accept Christ and participate in His ordinances to enter the Celestial kingdom.”

    Actually, no.

    I started participating in this conversation because I wanted to correct what I thought was a misimpression that was being created for anyone reading this who isn’t famliar with our doctrine.

    We sometimes tend to view ourselves in a much more favorable light than we view others: e.g. Mormons believe in a universal atonement, a universal resurrection and three degrees of glory where all will be saved except sons of perdition. This is in contrast to some creedal Christians who are sometimes portrayed as excluding Mormons and others who do not accept their narrow view of Christ from the definition of “Christian” and therefore damning them to hell.

    But in reality, we are much more exclusive than we tend to portray ourselves. Our doctrine is clear that certain ordinances, administered by those ordained by proper authority, are required for salvation. And salvation, as I understand it, is not the same as entrance to the celestial kingdom.

    We can argue about what “salvation” means (and Ray may be right that this is a tricky subject), but it certainly means more than just salvation from temporal death, and it must mean less than exaltation or entrance to the celestial kingdom, because additional ordinances are required for that.

    So how do we answer the hypothetical question that an outsider might ask: i.e. “Do you believe that I have to be baptized a member of your church in order to be saved?” My only point was that, given our doctrine concerning the requirement of saving ordinances, the answer we must give in order to be most honest is “yes.”

    Now you and Ray are trying to tell me that the church that we are required to be baptized into is not the “Mormon” church. But so what? It doesn’t matter what you call it. As long as the person performing the ordinance is properly ordained, it could be called anything related to Christ. But I’m not talking about that, nor am I interested in it. I hope that clarifies things.

  142. #140: I read it. I still don’t know what you want to call those who believe the same as you? (Christians?).
    Not all Mormons are Priesthood holders. Not all Priesthood holders are Mormon. When Joseph Smith told the whole “burned over region” that only he and a few others had the Keys their Salvation, and just believing in Christ was no enough to save their souls, the attacks on him began. Many left the Church over “Priesthoods” claimed by Joseph.

    All I am saying for this Post is, my opinion, the divide is not how each sees Christ. But the idea that a Priesthood has a control over Salvation.

  143. Antonio Parr says:

    The problem with the “are you ‘Christian’?” questions is that it begs the question “what do you mean by “Christian”. Absent such an explanation, it is a question that cannot be answered with a one word answer.

    Most have probably already heard/read this joke, but it seems applicable to this discussion:

    The Heretic

    I was walking across a bridge one day, and I saw a man standing on the edge, about to jump off. So I ran over and said, “Stop! Don’t do it!” “Why shouldn’t I?” he said. I said, “Well, there’s so much to live for!” He said, “Like what?” I said, “Well, are you religious or atheist?” He said, “Religious.” I said, “Me too! Are your Christian or Buddhist?” He said, “Christian.” I said, “Me too! Are you Catholic or Protestant?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, Me too! Are your Episcopalian or Baptist? He said, “Baptist!” I said, “Wow! Me too! Are your Baptist Church of God or Baptist Church of the Lord? He said, Baptist Church of God!” I said, “Me too! Are your Original Baptist Church of God or are you Reformed Baptist Church of God?” He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God!” I said, “Me too! Are you Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1879, or Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915?” He said, “Reformed Baptist Church of God, Reformation of 1915!” I said, “Die, heretic scum!” and pushed him off.

  144. #143 Antonio–that’s hilarious. Thanks for sharing!

  145. Loved the article.

    Reading the responses I’ve come to the conclusion that if someone asks me if I’m a Christian: I think I’ll respond: “I hope Jesus thinks I am.”

  146. #145–aw, QD, that’s so sweet. And you are exactly right.

  147. #143–Antonio, I wonder if we do have a harder time getting along, the further down the chain of similarity we get. In other words, we have an easier time singing Kumbaya with a Buddhist than with someone whose reformation is a few years off from ours. (example: LDS and Muslim vs LDS and FLDS)

  148. #145:Quiet_Dave, I am stealing your answer.

  149. #145–Best answer so far! “I hope Jesus thinks I am”…

  150. Yeah, I’m switching my vote too. Quiet Dave wins.

  151. Darn.

  152. Yep, Quiet David’s answer wins it for me, too.

  153. Mormon is a nickname that we didn’t give ourselves. Why should we let evangelicals name us? If someone asks me if I’m a Christian, I answer, “Yes. I’m a Latter-day Christian.” (as opposed to an evangelical Christian)

  154. The Sinister Propoise says:

    This post takes too long to answer a question by using a dictionary definition. The only valid argument to this question that suggests Mormons might not be Christians is based on theology grounds, namely, have Mormons strayed far enough from traditional Christian doctrine — as the early Christians did from the Jewish faith — that it should b e considered a seperate religion.

  155. The thing that really bothers me with most of these comments is that people are announcing to others that they are “mormon”. Really, there is no such thing. “Mormon” is a fictitious word. It was created as a slang term for LDS members, by those who were NOT LDS and the name just stuck. I for one will not name myself something that someone outside my faith has decided to nickname us. If it’s too much for the author of the article to say the entire name of his church and say that he is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he would rather just refer to himself and others of his faith as mormon, then I can’t image him taking the time to sit down and explain our beliefs to someone who is obviously confused as to what we actually believe. How sad that people aren’t willing to take the time to explain that yes we are indeed Christians. Though we may practice our beliefs differently as them, we are followers of that same Christ who will lead us to eternal life. I urge others who read this to follow the counsel of our prophet and refer to ourselves as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or LDS if that wipes you out just saying it like the author. We shouldn’t just say we are mormon and let others figure it out, but instead, we should take the opportunity to share the gospel with them.

  156. Steve Evans says:

    ““Mormon” is a fictitious word.”

    Tell that to Mormon.

  157. Left Field says:

    Deanna, it’s no problem to me if calling your a Mormon is unacceptable to you. However, according to the official Church style guide, calling you a Mormon is perfectly acceptable to the church.

    When referring to Church members, the term “Latter-day Saints” is preferred, though “Mormons” is acceptable.

  158. #155: So did outsiders name the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?

  159. 158. Also, I’m fairly certain that members named DesNews’ new “Mormon Times” section.

  160. Deanna (#155), are you still bothered?

  161. From a doctrinal standpoint, the word “Christian” is first used in the New Testament Acts 11:26 when the disciples of Christ were called that term, presumably by those not of that faith. On the other hand, the New Testament contains many references to the word “saints” starting with Matthew 27:52. It would appear that the term “saint” or “saints” was predominant by those who followed the Savior’s apostles subsequent to his death. I also believe the apostles and prophets have addressed the idea of what it means to be a “Christian” in the fullest sense of the word – for example, see Are Mormons Christians?.

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