Are Mormons Christians?
Are Mormons Christian? This is a debate that will never end, because each side has its own definition as to what constitutes a Christian. Ask a Mormon who he or she worships and the Mormon will say “Christ.” Mormons pray to God the Father in the Name of Christ, and they believe that only through belief on His Name and faith in Him, can a person be exalted after death. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. A follower of Christ is a Christian. The critic will rebut that Mormons believe in “a different Christ.” Because critics of the Mormon Church misrepresent the Church’s teachings and use catch-phrases to discredit the Church, the Mormon will often state his belief, and the critic will tell him that Mormons really believe something else. What is really at issue is the definition of “Christian.” For Christians outside the Mormon Church, the definition relies on several points of doctrine. The many denominations of Christianity have their differences, but agree on basic traditional principles.
A Different Jesus
The claim that Mormons are not Christian is mostly founded on particular definitions created according to the accuser’s beliefs. One of the arguments denying that Mormons are Christian claims that Mormons believe in a “different” Jesus. The “proper” Jesus is defined almost wholly from the writings in the Bible. The New Testament gives accounts of the ministry of Jesus and contains writings of the Apostles. What the Christian world knows about Jesus, it knows from the New Testament, and Mormons also accept it as the word of God. The exclusion comes from the belief about the nature of Jesus Christ by interpretation of the Bible.
Most of those asking “Are Mormons Christian?” believe in the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity. This and succeeding councils sought to protect true Christianity from the many heresies that threatened the unity of the Church. Most of these heresies would also astound Mormons. Two of the counterparts entering discussions at the councils were Athanasius, author of Incarnation of the Word, bishop of Alexandria in Egypt. His rival, Arius, was also from Alexandria and offered the counter opinion of, among other things, Christ being a superior creation of God, but a creation nonetheless. Athanasius supported the idea of Christ not created, and though he rose and fell in favor, he eventually triumphed, and the councils codified the belief that Christ was “begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.” Codified in the councils was also the idea that the earthly Christ was God incarnate, and that God is a being without body parts or passions, a spirit. This immaterial God could be everywhere and nowhere.
Mormons do not believe this is the nature of God and Mormons do not see a trinitarian idea in the Bible. Mormons see Christ at the right hand of God in the vision of Stephen, and Christ praying to His Father as He died on the cross. Mormons believe like other Christians that Christ was the first fruits of the resurrection, but that He is still a resurrected being of flesh and bone, as is the Father. Mormons believe that the Trinity is three separate beings that together are God. The Father possesses a body, a perfect, immortal, glorious body. Jesus is the literal Son of God, they are not of one substance but are Father and Son. The Holy Ghost is a spirit, and is thus able to influence everywhere at once.
Why was Jesus resurrected? He was resurrected so that we can be resurrected. Most Christian faiths believe in a universal resurrection. But to believe in a trinity as a spirit-entity, means that Christ discarded His perfect, resurrected body in order to return to the God-entity. If we sit very still for a moment and meditate, the natural belief that settles and makes us peaceful, is that Christ was resurrected because it is the eternally desirable and perfected state, and that He continues as a perfect, resurrected being.
A Bible! A Bible!
Another aspect of the question “Are Mormons Christian?” deals with scripture. Mormons believe the Bible because it contains the words of prophets. After Christ and the Apostles were killed, the apostolic authority was not perfectly passed on. Although revelation has been continuous from God to His children on earth for their edification and progress, Mormons believe that the revelation that comes through authority to lead God’s Church, did cease. For a long time there was no one on the earth with the prophetic authority that had been given to the Apostles by Jesus. As a result, Christianity was left to interpretation by scholars, and sectarian divisions were the result.
Prophetic and Apostolic authority was restored to Joseph Smith at the hands of the resurrected John the Baptist, and Peter, James, and John, who originally held such authority. Under this same authority through which other prophets had written, Joseph Smith brought forth additional scriptures, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Those that ask ‘Are Mormons Christian?’ believe the Bible is complete and cannot be added to. First, the Bible is a compilation and was not written as a single book by its authors; when Deuteronomy 4:2 and Revelation 22:18-19 were written, which say the Bible cannot be added to, the Bible did not exist as it does now, so it was added to; the meaning of the passages is to not add to the gospel. All Mormon scripture supports the belief in Jesus Christ and is in line with the gospel as found in the New Testament. Second, the words of all the prophets who ever lived are not all contained in the Bible. Jesus’ warning of false prophets does not mean that there will never be true prophets. Mormons believe when a prophet speaks on behalf of God that it is truth, and there are modern prophets that are doing it. Many Christians believe there are no more prophets, but this does not make it a qualification for Christian belief.
Here, another question creates a stalemate. What about the Ten Lost Tribes? Bible prophecy holds that they will return, and that their return will be accompanied by miracles so great that the whole world will take notice. These tribes split off from those captured by the Assyrians and carried off. They had repented, and through the grace of God, were led into sanctuary, where they have remained hidden from the world. They have had prophets and written scripture, which the Mormon Church will receive with gratitude. Should the entire Christian world then reject it, because the Bible allows for no more revelatory scripture? Why should we limit the Lord in that way?
Thou fool, that shall say: A Bible, we have got a Bible, and we need no more Bible. Have ye obtained a Bible save it were by the Jews? Know ye not that there are more nations than one? Know ye not that I, the Lord your God, have created all men, and that I remember those who are upon the isles of the sea; and that I rule in the heavens above and in the earth beneath; and I bring forth my word unto the children of men, yea, even upon all the nations of the earth?
Wherefore murmur ye, because that ye shall receive more of my word? Know ye not that the testimony of two nations is a witness unto you that I am God, that I remember one nation like unto another? Wherefore, I speak the same words unto one nation like unto another. And when the two nations shall run together the testimony of the two nations shall run together also. And I do this that I may prove unto many that I am the same yesterday, today, and forever; and that I speak forth my words according to mine own pleasure. And because that I have spoken one word ye need not suppose that I cannot speak another; for my work is not yet finished; neither shall it be until the end of man, neither from that time henceforth and forever.
Wherefore, because that ye have a Bible ye need not suppose that it contains all my words; neither need ye suppose that I have not caused more to be written. For I command all men, both in the east and in the west, and in the north, and in the south, and in the islands of the sea, that they shall write the words which I speak unto them; for out of the books which shall be written I will judge the world, every man according to their works, according to that which is written.
For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it. And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews. And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one. And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever (2 Nephi 29:6-14).
What Do You Mean By ‘Christian’?
The debate asking “Are Mormons Christian?” centers on the belief in continuing revelation. Mormons believe revelation through designated prophets to the western world ceased with the death of the Apostles and then was restored through Joseph Smith. Without revelation to the Church, the doctrines by which much of Christianity defines itself today (and attempts to define others) were established. Mormons believe the truths of the gospel were restored by Joseph Smith, such as the nature of the Godhead, the organization of His Church, the authority to act in God’s name, and the ordinances necessary for salvation, the authority to perform miracles. And by a commandment of God the Book of Mormon and other scriptures were brought forth for the benefit of the believers. So the answer to the question “Are Mormons Christian?” depends on the meaning of “Christian.” If it means the concept of the Trinity, then no, Mormons do not believe that. But if “Christians” are those who follow Christ, who try to live according to His commandments, who exercise charity in His name, among whom are found the spiritual gifts that accompany faith in Him, then the answer is “yes.” Despite differences of opinion and interpretation, Mormons follow Christ.