This post is written for my fellow Latter-day Saints, who are Christian in the truest sense of the word, in response to Tarik Lacour’s “Are Mormons Christian? Not really…” post from 28 August 2016, on his personal blog.
Almost since the Church was restored in 1830, people began accusing the Latter-day Saints of not being Christian. Their reasons are varied and many, and most are because we believe God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ are separate, distinct beings with physical bodies, perfected and immortal.
Growing up in the South, I corrected the erroneous belief about my Church to many, many friends and coworkers. The conversation usually went something like this:
Friend: “Dennis, I hear you’re a Mormon.” (I was never shy about this.)
Me: “Yes. What’s your religion? Where do you go to Church?”
Friend: “Oh I attend the Baptist/Methodist/Presbyterian/Nondenominational Christian Church.”
Me: “Tell me what you believe.”
Friend: “I believe in Jesus and… (general expounding of personal interpretation of Christ’s teachings). What do you believe?”
Me: “We believe in God, His Son Jesus Christ, in the Holy Ghost, and that they speak through prophets today. This was restored through a prophet named Joseph Smith.”
Friend: “Wait, you said you believe in Jesus??”
Me: “Yes, and let me share why.”
The conversations usually ended quite amicably, with me respecting someone’s belief in Christ, and them understanding that my faith in Him, His Atonement and His prophets, both ancient and modern, was central and core to who I am as a person and as a Mormon.
Other conversations weren’t so friendly. Occasionally, people would say things like, “Well, you might be Christian, but I know the rest of the Mormons aren’t.” Some would even claim to have met Mormons who didn’t believe Christ was the only name on which we can be saved (which claims were wholly untrue, and I would be happy to call them on that and correct their erroneous belief, and then remind them of the commandment to not bear false witness).
As a missionary in Seattle, I came against Ed Decker’s followers and many so-called born-agains, who would attack my Christianity because of the holy temple rites we Latter-day Saints embrace, and because of our claim that Joseph Smith is indeed a prophet. Again, it was saddening, and aggravating when the very name I bore on my chest was Christ’s, but not surprising. Even more ridiculous was the idea that we aren’t Christian because we “worship a different Jesus,” to which I would reply yes, we do, and He’s the one represented in the New Testament, when He and His Father appeared to Stephen the Apostle in Acts Chapter 7.
Such arguments were ignorant, hate-driven, and fueled by those who were and are apostates from the truth. Humans, being emotional creatures, tend to believe that which those who surround them believe. Thus, not being surrounded by Mormons, I can understand their misunderstanding.
However, this week, I encountered a new claim that I’ve never before considered, even though I may have heard it: an academic philosophy that we aren’t Christians because we’re a “Restoration Church,” (even though this person admitted we follow Christ) on a comment on my good friend Tarik Lacour’s Facebook. This was a new concept to me, and frankly is puzzling.
Tarik agreed with this person who presented this idea, and he went on to write a blog post as to why we aren’t Christian as Mormons, which is astounding and doctrinally heretical, given he’s a baptized member of the Church. The logic and argument he used to argue that we aren’t Christian, however, can be used to prove that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is indeed Christianity in its purest and most original form.
I will attempt to respond Tarik’s post, but not from an academic point of view, as he wrote his points of view. Instead, I’ll write from the standpoint (and my personal knowledge) that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only true and living Church on the face of the earth, that our theology is wholly true and correct, and that even if practices have changed, our doctrine is consistent and Christian. I do this because I feel it’s unfair to the doctrine, and one cannot fully appreciate our doctrine if only studied from an academic point of view.
Before I do this, let me state that to remain truly Christian, we must have restorations as people and groups apostatize. There was evidence of this all throughout the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Book of Mormon. To say or even imply that the two ideas of Restoration and Christianity are mutually exclusive are exceptionally erroneous, and such a concept should be discarded as false doctrine.
Adam and Eve were the original Christians.
Indeed, we know that Adam knew Christ in His Spirit form, before Christ had obtained His physical body here on earth. Adam, who was Michael in the pre-mortal life, chose, along with Eve, to partake of the fruit and become mortal, thus needing a Savior to return to the presence of God. They fell that we, their descendants, might be, and Christ came to save us all.
Adam learned more of Christ’s sacrifice when an angel appeared to him asking why he made sacrifices unto God. Adam replied that he didn’t know, and the angel taught him that it was a “similitude” of Christ’s sacrifice for all of us, and commanded that we do everything in the name of Christ. (All of this is detailed in the Pearl of Great Price.)
Thus, Adam operated at the first Christian or follower of Christ. Old testament prophets after Adam were all Christian, and taught that only through Him, Jehovah, may we be saved.
The Biblical saints were referred to as “Christians,” and the Book of Mormon saints were also followers of Christ.
One of the earliest references in the New Testament comes from Acts 11: 26:
“…And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Emphasis added). This term is then used throughout the New Testament.
The Book of Mormon is replete with evidence that it was the Christian Church, complete with prophets, high priests, elders, priests, and teachers. Nephi’s statement in 2 Nephi 25:26 that “… we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins,” is quite simply a beautiful proclamation of Nephi’s Christianity.
The Great Apostasy was a time that warped Christianity from it’s purest form, and Joseph Smith was the prophet that restored truth to the earth regarding God and His nature.
Tarik began his blog post by almost immediately quoting the Nicene Creed. It’s erroneous and false teachings were Greek and Roman in nature, with some Christianity mixed into it. The fact that Emporer Constantine locked all the officials of what would become the Roman Catholic church in a room and made them agree to doctrines, essentially at swordpoint, is enough for me to discard its teachings.
Such a situation could not have had the Holy Ghost present, as it was full of argument, and Christ Himself taught that contention is of the devil; indeed, all the Apostles that He had called were dead (with the exception of John the Beloved), and the Holy Priesthood was no longer on the earth.
Said Gordon B. Hinckley about the Nicene Creed and Latter-day Saint beliefs:
“When the emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity, he became aware of the divisiveness among the clergy concerning the nature of Deity. In an attempt to overcome this he gathered the eminent divines of the day to Nicaea in the year 325. Each participant was given opportunity to state his views. The argument only grew more heated. When a definition could not be reached, a compromise was made. It came to be known as the Nicene Creed, and its basic elements are recited by most of the Christian faithful.
“Personally, I cannot understand it. To me the creed is confusing.
“How deeply grateful I am that we of this Church do not rely on any man-made statement concerning the nature of Deity. Our knowledge comes directly from the personal experience of Joseph Smith, who, while yet a boy, spoke with God the Eternal Father and His Beloved Son, the Risen Lord. He knelt in Their presence; he heard Their voices; and he responded. Each was a distinct personality. Small wonder that he told his mother that he had learned that her church was not true. And so, one of the great over-arching doctrines of this Church is our belief in God the Eternal Father. He is a being, real and individual. He is the great Governor of the universe, yet He is our Father, and we are His children.”
What’s important to note is that Joseph Smith never questioned, at least not publically or in writing, the actual Christianity of another, if they were not a Latter-day Saint and confessed some other form of Protestantism or Catholicism.
However, the Nicene creed is a very warped version of Christianity. For Tarik to imply that the acceptance of it’s doctrine is required for one to be truly Christian means that he doesn’t understand the basis of the original Christian Church being Adamic in nature, and that said Church continued through the Old Testament, was restored numerous times by prophets and even Christ Himself, that the Christian pattern is one of restoration, because God gave us Christ to restore us to Him.
Today’s statements on our Christianity.
All we do in the Restored Church is done in the name of Christ when it comes to rites, ordinances, sermons, and other sacred, holy practices. We pray in His name; we claim Thomas S. Monson is His prophet and that He has 14 other living Apostles. We trust in Him; He is our Redeemer. We know He speaks to these men.
We bless people, by the power of His Holy Priesthood, in His name.
From The Living Christ:
“He was the Great Jehovah of the Old Testament, the Messiah of the New….
“His gospel was a message of peace and goodwill. He entreated all to follow His example. He walked the roads of Palestine, healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and raising the dead. He taught the truths of eternity, the reality of our premortal existence, the purpose of our life on earth, and the potential for the sons and daughters of God in the life to come. He instituted the sacrament as a reminder of His great atoning sacrifice. He was arrested and condemned on spurious charges, convicted to satisfy a mob, and sentenced to die on Calvary’s cross. He gave His life to atone for the sins of all mankind. His was a great vicarious gift in behalf of all who would ever live upon the earth. We solemnly testify that His life, which is central to all human history, neither began in Bethlehem nor concluded on Calvary. He was the Firstborn of the Father, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world.
And from “Are Mormons Christian?”
While members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have no desire to compromise the distinctiveness of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, they wish to work together with other Christians—and people of all faiths—to recognize and remedy many of the moral and family issues faced by society. The Christian conversation is richer for what the Latter-day Saints bring to the table. There is no good reason for Christian faiths to ostracize each other when there has never been more urgent need for unity in proclaiming the divinity and teachings of Jesus Christ.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a living Apostle, has stated, “Divine covenants make strong Christians.” Indeed, if we are the only Church where covenants are valid, then that would imply that we are Christians.
Those covenants are made through Christ’s priesthood authority. We claim that we are the only Church with this authority. Indeed, if its His authority, then that would consequently make us the most Christian Church of all other Christian Churchs.
This doesn’t mean the members or even the leaders are perfect; rather, it means that we have the best ability to bring souls the closest to Christ among all other churches, both in this life and in the next.
We do not have to be the only Christian Church to be the true Christain Church.
In “Are Mormons Christians,” the passage above that I quoted implies that there are many forms of Christianity; the point is that we all seek the follow Christ and His teachings to the best of our knowledge.
Tarik Lacour’s assumption that we must say we are the only Christian church and his call for us to separate ourselves and essential renounce our Christianity, or his other solution contrast that with the claim that we are the only Christain Church, is absurd and heretical. His call is ironically accompanied by a statement that implies that the Church and its Saints are not honest.
Such actions with either appease the masses and discredit the entire work of the Lord, quite the opposite of Tarik’s assumption that it would accelerate and assist in the legitimacy of the work. He states that “In order to be honest, you must clearly state what you believe, and honesty is the best avenue to have fruitful interfaith dialogue. In order for this to happen, Mormons will need to be honest and say that they are a separate religion from Christians, be straightforward about their materialistic and polytheistic beliefs, and honest that they alone are the vehicle of salvation and exaltation, even if other faiths do much good. We cannot move forward unless we are strictly honest.”
Such a statement would make it clear that he feels there is no legitimacy to the work of the Lord in current time.
Quite the contrary, with a knowledge that he claims to have that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true, he is being dishonest with himself, the Church and with his fellow man. If he really knew it was true, he would take the words of the prophets seriously, and believe in his heart that we are Christians, and work tirelessly, even vigorously, to defend that Christianity that Latter-day Saints hold so dear.
Such a sterile, academic view of the Restored Gospel, and even the rest of Christianity, is the epitome of the phrase given by the resurrected Lord Jesus Christ to the boy prophet Joseph Smith: “They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me” (JSH 1:19), and thoroughly denies the power and divinity of this, the most true and correct Christain work on the earth, thus removing the most important thing from the equation: the power of the Holy Ghost, whom Christ sent to us to declare His word to our hearts.
This power and manifestation of the Holy Ghost comes by honest inquiry to God, asking Him with real intent and being willing to act on His direction that will inevitably come if that intent is real. Appealing to academic theological studies and points of view, without first assuming the Restored Gospel is true and Christian, will always lead to these types of apostate statements, views and demands, and robs the writer and those who agree with him or may come to believe him of true revelatory experiences.
In short, Tarik should discard these views and instead look the source, Jesus Christ and His true Church, His prophets and apostles, and the official statements and publications of the Church regarding this matter.
After all, if we aren’t willing to look to the source, where else will we get accurate information?