Why would Mormons want to be Christians too?

In every conversation I’ve had with a Mormon, whether it be a lay member or a Missionary, they have always told me “Yeah, we’re Christians too.” That statement has always confused me. Here’s why.

The LDS church stands or falls on one idea: There was a Great Apostasy and the Church needed to be restored on the earth. This is first lesson which the Missionaries will teach you if you ever have them over. It’s called “The Restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” and it teaches the Latter-Day Saint view of church history.

According to the official account of the First Vision, Joseph went into what is now known as the Sacred Grove to pray. There, God the Father and Jesus appeared to him, and he asked them which of the sects of Christianity he ought to join. In Joseph Smith-History 1:19 (which is part of the Pearl of Great Price, and therefore official doctrine) he says:

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all 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.”

So according to God, all of the creeds (as in the Apostles, Athanasian, and Nicene Creeds otherwise known as Christian orthodoxy) are an abomination, and all those who profess those creeds (Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Eastern Orthodox, Catholics, and even most Baptists) are corrupt. And yet, when I, as a corrupt professor of an abomination, say “I’m a Christian,” Mormons say to me “We are Christians too.”

I think you can see now why I’ve been stressing the “too.” It wouldn’t bother me if Mormons said to me “Well, we think we’re Christians, and you’re not.” It wouldn’t bother me if Mormons said just “Well, we’re Christians.” If they believe that they are the true church that Jesus founded then it would make sense that they think they are the true Christians. But when they say that they are Christians too, as if we somehow share faith, despite the words of their prophet, it is confusing to me and strikes me as, perhaps, dishonest.

If you’re a Latter-Day Saint, perhaps you can help me understand. Why would any Mormon tell me that they’re a Christian too, when 1 Nephi 14:10 teaches:

Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil; wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.

Given what Joseph Smith said about traditional Christianity, it cannot be the case that when a Mormon says “we’re Christians too” they mean that both traditional Christians and the LDS belong to the church of the Lamb of God. That would fly in the face of what God told Joseph Smith. But I can’t believe that they would believe the only alternative: That the Latter-Day Saints belong to the church of the devil! They must not mean that we are both Christians, because there’s no way, given Joseph’s revelation from God, that this can be true.

One response I anticipate is what Missionaries have told me from time to time: I, as a traditional Christian, have part of the truth. I just need the Full Gospel restored. The problem with this, as I see it, is that just because someone knows some true things, that doesn’t make them a Christian.  A Sikh believes many true things about the world, but they are not Christians because they don’t believe in the Christian God. So it seems that a traditional Christian, who does not believe in Heavenly Father (at least not in the Mormon sense) cannot, from a Mormon point of view, be called a true Christian despite the fact that they believe many true things.

Would any Latter-Day Saint like to clarify things for me?

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9 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Ecclesiology, Mormonism Mondays

9 responses to “Why would Mormons want to be Christians too?

  1. Sure.

    Christian: A person who believes that Jesus Christ is the son of God, that He was crucified and suffered for the sins of the world, that He was resurrected three days later, and that He now reigns in heaven as God.

    Now, if you believe all these points you are a Christian. Nothing else matters when defining what a Christian is and who can be designated as such. So, if there is anything in this statement that you don’t agree with, you are not a Christian. If you agree with all of it, you are a Christian.
    As most Christian sects agree with this statement, most we would consider Christian. We are also Christian, because we also believe this.

    Now, being a Christian church does not mean the church is the true church of God, or the church of the Lamb. It means only that the church espouses this basic doctrine.

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    • Where are you getting your definition of Christian?

      Also, if those churches are Christian which believe what you’ve outlined, are they also part of the church of the devil?

      Thanks!

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  2. Johnny

    If you prefer the dictionary definition: of, relating to, or derived from Jesus Christ or His teachings (from dictionary.com)
    I get that definition from the most basic understanding of what a Christian has been throughout history. There have been many sects that have been condemned as false, but most Christians today still refer to them as Christian sects.
    Few people would say that Arius was not a Christian, but almost all will tell you he taught heresy.

    As to the church of the Devil, you bet. One can be a Christian and still be part of the church of the Devil.

    And on if it was not clear in my first answer, we identify as Christian because we hold the basic belief of Christianity, and thus to say we are not Christian is to deny that we hold that belief. It has nothing to do with associating us with other Christian churches, but with associating us with that doctrine.

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  3. They can’t, but then nothing in the definition I gave of Christian says anything about belonging to Christ. One can be a Christian and not belong to Christ. There are many who believe in Christ, and do many things in His name, and yet, in the last days, Christ will declare that He never knew them (Matthew 7: 21-23).
    Now, this should not be surprising as we do not even believe that all members of the LDS church truly belong to Christ, for not all of them do the will of His Father.

    It is also true that one needs to distinguish between the earthly churches and the churches of eternity. When Nephi speaks of the church of the Lamb he is speaking of an earthly religion that is organized for the benefit of mankind. In the same way the church of the Devil is an earthly organization that is set up to draw people away from God.
    Now, one can belong to either of these churches and still not belong to Christ. To belong to Christ means you are part of what is called the Church of the Firstborn, referring to an eternal organization that is the reward of the faithful. Hebrews 12: 23 makes this distinction when it speaks of the General Assembly (meaning the earthly church) and the church of the Firstborn (meaning the heavenly sociability of the faithful).

    So, we are not simply striving to belong to the church of the Lamb in this life, but to belong to Christ, as a member of the Church of the First Born, in the eternities.

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    • Interesting response. Where do you find this “church of the Firstborn” language? And just so I’m clear, you believe that both the church of the Devil and the church of the Lamb are Christian churches?

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  4. “you believe that both the church of the Devil and the church of the Lamb are Christian churches?”

    Not exactly. The church of the Lamb is definitely a Christian church. However, all churches that are not part of the church of the Lamb are part of the church of the devil. Thus, the church of the devil is composed of christian and non-Christian denominations. They are each just a different deception that have been put out there by the devil.

    “Where do you find this “church of the Firstborn” language?”

    It is primarily in the Doctrine and Covenants, though there is the one verse in Hebrews that I mentioned above. The phrase is used eight times in the Doctrine and Covenants.
    76:54, 71, 94, 102; 78:21; 88:5; 93:22; 107:19
    It is also mentioned once in the JST of Genesis 9: 23.
    It also gives an explanation of it here https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bd/firstborn.p3?lang=eng&letter=f and here https://www.lds.org/scriptures/gs/firstborn.p6?lang=eng&letter=f

    One thing: I was wrong in my understanding of Hebrews 12:23. I should not have used it as an example. The general assembly is simply the members, while the church of the firstborn is the covenant and organization.

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