Sunday, January 27, 2008

I am a Mormon. I am a Christian.

No matter how many "Christian" evangelicals try to say otherwise, I am a Mormon, AND I am a Christian. I'm not saying this in an effort to be included as part of some national "Christian club" or as one of "the group", but only to say who and what I really am. I strive to follow Christ--trusting in Him--and to live by Christian teachings/morals/values. Most of the time, people try to exclude Mormons from being Christian because we don't buy into the Nicene creed and the "Christian" understanding of the Trinity. If this truly were a prerequisite for being Christian, then PLEASE count me out simply because it's not biblical. In fact, count Jesus himself out because he wasn't around for the Nicene creed either, and he himself didn't believe in the Trinity that many, if not most, of modern Christianity say they believe in. To me, this is one of the most disastrous results of the apostasy--totally altering belief in and understanding of the nature of God.

We're also criticized for not accepting that the scriptural canon was closed after the death of the apostles; for believing that God is perfectly able to talk to prophets today as He did in ancient times. Once again, I'm glad I don't conform to the "Christian Club" if it means that I believe every word God spoke up until the Bible was finished-as long as he doesn't speak another word. Who are we to say God can't continue to speak? I could go on, but Stephen E. Robinson (my favorite BYU professor) said it best already in his book "Are Mormons Christian?". This book deepened my understanding of the issue and armed me with knowledge about the basis of the name calling and labeling of us as a "cult".

Elder Holland gave one of my favorite talks during the last general conference entitled "The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent". In it he said that "The Lord told the ancients this latter-day work would be 'a marvellous work and a wonder', and it is. But even as we invite one and all to examine closely the marvel of it, there is one thing we would not like anyone to wonder about—that is whether or not we are “Christians.” He then goes on to give one of the best and relevant talks; teaching the truth while at the same time defending our Christianity. No matter how far people go trying to tell us how crazy we are for believing certain things, truth is truth, and there's no denying it. Especially when some things are so self-evident. Doctrinal beliefs aside, I certainly don't judge a true Christian by what church he or she goes to, but by how he or she lives. That's why I can hope that others will do the same with me.

21 comments:

brooksrobinson said...

I left a comment on Neil's blog, but don't bother responding. I found your blog, and its more personal then on Neils blog because too many people have already commented on the issue of Mormonism and Christianity. As a result theres too much clutter. I found your blog and decided it would be a better way of communicating the differences of Mormonism and Christianity.

First off, let us look at it like this... Mormonism is not Christianity,simply because it does not follow the original teachings of the Church fathers. It is the same reason to why Muslims are Muslims and not Christians(despite acknowledging Jesus and the Bible), or why Christians are not goyum's(
Gentile Jews). The doctrines are different, the ideas are different. The only thing Mormonism and Christianity share is the names in its religion(Jesus, Paul,Bible, heaven, etc.) and similar idea's of morality.

The buck stops there though. There are many more dogma's that Christians and Mormons do not share then share. For instance, the nature of Christ and God, the after life, pre-existance, salvation, what makes prophets, and quiet a few more. This is why it would be inappropriate to label Mormonism another denomination. The differences between Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism maybe great in some ways, but we connect on the key areas of doctrines, the nature of Jesus, pre-existance, the nature of God, salvation, heaven(although some hold that they maybe the only ones in heaven), etc. But what I want to focus on is Mere Christianity and not finer points of doctrine that separates the denominations.

So when I say Mormonism is not Christianity, there is no offense meant in that, its going off of the basis of traditional beliefs that were started by the founding fathers.

Clean Cut said...

"brooksrobinson",
Thanks for taking the time to drop by and politely share your opinion. I welcome a conversation--not an argument and not a debate--but a genial christian conversation. It is clear that there are differences, not only in beliefs, but in our understandings. Do you mind sharing with me two things so I can better understand where you're coming from? First off, what is a "Christian"? How do you personally define what makes one a Christian? Second, please tell me how you would define "Christianity". I'm really just curious, and I'd like to at least make an attempt to be on the same page. I think defining "the big picture" of what is a Christian and Christianity to you would be an important place to start.

brooksrobinson said...

Clean Cut:
As I stated earlier, it is these differences in ideas that separate Christianity and Mormonism. Mormonism shares very little with traditional Christian Theology, and has its own theology, which is why I choose to consider it a separate religion, however I will say its based off of Christianity, just as Islam is based off of Christianity and Judaism.

To your questions, "What is a Christian," I think C.S. Lewis' answer is the best, no different then a sinner, recognizes hes fallen, and is doing something about it (paraphrased). Second question, "How do I personally define what makes a Christian?" Well it's not my personal feeling or definition on the matter. It was developed through careful analysis of the scriptures, especially in the original languages. It is also the same idea that has remained in the Church since its birth, that idea is those who are Christians are those that accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Rom.10) and those who follow his moral commands as best as possible, and his commands about who he is. As opposed to the new politically correct method, those who simply say they want to be Christian are Christian. Your third question, "How would you define Christianity?" I define it as those who believe Christ is Lord and Savior, and follow his commands.
Now keep in mind, this is a very brief outline to Christianity, and I'm positive we are about to get waste deep in Christology very shortly.

In Christ,
Brooks Robinson

Clean Cut said...

Great. I actually really like your definition of a Christian and Christianity. I can now honestly tell you that I am a Christian--I accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, try to follow his moral commands as best as possible, as well as his teachings about who he is. This is actually at the heart of what I believe.

But perhaps you can allow me to concede that I am a Christian, but different. How's that? Although I don't necessarily agree that the differences you mentioned necessarily exclude Mormonism from Christianity. That would seem to be a much more limited definition of Christianity than I'm willing to buy into.

I appreciate your "convicted civility".
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2B6VoeO7Bwk

aquinas said...

Clean Cut, that's a great message. I've provided a partial transcript of one of Millet and Johnson's public conversations on this question. I think it is very helpful in advancing understanding on this issue.

brooksrobinson said...

Clean Cut:
I knew you would say something like that. I've yet to encounter a Mormon whose used a different opening line. I mean no offense by this statement, but merely pointing out an observation I've noticed during my studies and discussions.

Probably the key issue that is the greatest rift between Christians and Mormons is the nature of God and who Jesus is. In Mormonism, he is the literal son of God, and not the same substance and nature as God the Father, but seperate, joining God to act as a single god with one purpose. Mormons always claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but clearly in a different light. Gordon Hinkley is even quoting as to say, Mormons follow a different Jesus then that of the Christians(paraphrased). The issue here lies in the Mormon understanding of Lord. Mormons, that I've encountered see no reason to why the nature of Jesus should really matter, "after all we do believe he's our savior and follow his moral ruling."

However, there is an issue at heart here, we both cannot be right, one of us is wrong. If I am right you are guilty of not recognizing Jesus as God and denying him the level of worship that he deserves and therefore do not know him as Lord and cannot have a relationship with him. If I am wrong, I am guilty of violating the 1st commandment, I have just put a man as a god before God. After all we as Traditional Christians worship Jesus as if worshiping God the Father, and I am guilty of not having the relationship Jesus demands we have, for I do not know who he is.

To move on we must understand something,the term Lord is much more complex then a simple ruler, as images of Medival Europe come to mind. There is a deep Jewish concept behind this word. Its clear that the Jews took it to mean, the one Lord over everything, or God the Father.

Its intresting to note that the term used most often in the Septuagint to denote God is not the Greek word theos(god), but kyrios (6,156 times out of 6823 times used to refer to God). The term was used to replace Adoni, which is one of the names used only for God by the Hebrews. Also, Josephus informed his readers that the Jews did not refer to even Caesar as Kyrios because they reserved it, like Adoni, to God alone. The word usage is important to note because the writers of the New Testament,who were 2nd Temple Jews, who would have been familiar with the Greek Old Testament, would have known that stating Jesus is Kyrios is warranting a death sentence. This is clearly evident in the persecution of Christians by Jews and is seen in the trial of Jesus. After all his trial was soley to establish who he is, and who he claimed to be. Which would have mean he said/did things that would have led to some idea's on who he is.

In Christ,
Brooks Robinson

Clean Cut said...

Gordon B. Hinckley:
"I simply wish to set forth, as simply as I know how, my response to what people are asking about us.

"Question: What is the Mormon doctrine of Deity, of God?

"Since the time of the First Vision people have raised this question, and they continue to raise it and will do so for so long as they believe in the God of their tradition, while we bear testimony of the God of modern revelation.

"The Prophet Joseph declared, “It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 345).

“We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost” (A of F 1:1). This first article of faith epitomizes our doctrine.

"We do not accept the Athanasian Creed. We do not accept the Nicene Creed, nor any other creed based on tradition and the conclusions of men.

"We do accept, as the basis of our doctrine, the statement of the Prophet Joseph Smith that when he prayed for wisdom in the woods, “the light rested upon me [and] I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is my Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (JS—H 1:17).

"Two beings of substance were before him. He saw them. They were in form like men, only much more glorious in their appearance. He spoke to them. They spoke to him. They were not amorphous spirits. Each was a distinct personality. They were beings of flesh and bone whose nature was reaffirmed in later revelations which came to the Prophet.

"Our entire case as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints rests on the validity of this glorious First Vision. It was the parting of the curtain to open this, the dispensation of the fulness of times. Nothing on which we base our doctrine, nothing we teach, nothing we live by is of greater importance than this initial declaration.

"I submit that if Joseph Smith talked with God the Father and His Beloved Son, then all else of which he spoke is true. This is the hinge on which turns the gate that leads to the path of salvation and eternal life.

"Are we Christians? Of course we are Christians. We believe in Christ. We worship Christ. We take upon ourselves in solemn covenant His holy name. The Church to which we belong carries His name. He is our Lord, our Savior, our Redeemer through whom came the great Atonement with salvation and eternal life." (Ensign, "What Are People Asking about Us?" November, 1998)

brooksrobinson said...

Clean Cut:

I watched that video that was linked on your comment. I thought it was true; we should have discussions and be friendly to each other. We can both agree that this would be Christ’s attitude. However, and I think both the Mormon and the Evangelical were getting at this, that we should build friendships with other, but that doesn’t include accepting each others form of worship as truth. I did not hear the evangelical say, “Mormonism is another denomination, and no different between Baptist and Lutheran.” Nor did I hear the Mormon say, “Evangelicals are correct in their way and are a true church.” (If they did give me the approx. time they said something similar to this). I personally believe that dialogs between religions should be friendly and courteous; I do believe differences should not be smoothed over or even beliefs that one religion is right and the other is not right should not be hidden. I think you and I can still be civil, and not spiteful, all while fully understanding that each one of our faiths excludes the other. I can still be a friend to my Muslim friend, while knowing he thinks I’m going to hell for my beliefs and convictions, as I can be a friend with him all while knowing that unless he believes Jesus is his Savior, he won’t see heaven. This is part of my motivation to remain in contact with those of different faith, and not exclude them, to possibly lead them to Christ, through the friendship. My personal hope is that there are no bitter feelings between us as we jump into material that will seem condescending to each other’s faith. So when I write something, I mean no personal harm, but the truth of the gospel will cause harm.

To the discussion at hand:
“In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the [LDS] Church who say Latter-day Saints ‘do not believe in the traditional Christ. No, I don’t. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak.’” (Gordon B. Hinckley quoted in Church News, 20 June 1998, page 7)

“As a Church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, April 2002 General Conference, quoted in Ensign, May 2002, page 90)

It is evident through my own research, that the Jesus of Mormonism… the God of Mormonism is not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God of Mormonism is not a Trinitarian God, but three individual gods and beings holding what appears to be an office, or position. This is not the idea of God that the Jews hold, as they hold YHWH to be eternal, to be one, and to be the only living God (as shared by Christians). The Jesus of Mormonism demotes him to a status, of which is different to that of the gospel. From the Mormons I have talked to they have said that essentially Jesus is put below God the Father on the worship scale and is not to be worshiped, just given some devotion because he is the savior. Muslims believe Jesus to be a prophet from God, not to be worshiped but defiantly listened to, and they will take the Bible as a holy book. Like the Mormons, they claim the Bible is translated wrong or has been changed, and claim their book is the pure book of God that is never changing, and is truth.

I also think the Mormons are a bit confused upon their own scriptures and dogma’s. The prophet Bruce McConkie writes in Mormon Doctrine “Father, Son, and Holy Ghost comprise the Godhead. As these persons is a God…a plurality of God exists” (M.D. pg 576-77), and Mormons I have talked to will waste no time in pointing out that God the Father is not the same substance as Jesus, or the Holy Spirit, as the creeds and the traditional Christians proclaim. The current Mormon website even shares this view, “The true doctrine of the Godhead was lost in the apostasy that followed the Savior's mortal ministry and the deaths of His Apostles… we know that the members of the Godhead are three separate beings” (Site). Yet at the same time, the Book of Mormon paints a different picture, “Behold, I am Jesus Christ. I am the Father and the Son” (Either 3:14) and Alma 11:26-39.

In Christ,
Brooks Robinson

brooksrobinson said...

Clean Cut:
It didn't transfer my hyperlink in (site) so heres the site I used.

http://www.lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=bbd508f54922d010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=29ec2f2324d98010VgnVCM1000004d82620a____

Clean Cut said...

Don't you think that it's a little duplicitous to make the stretch that because we believe different things about Jesus that we therefore believe in a different Jesus?

brooksrobinson said...

Clean Cut:

I'm a little disappointed in your response, it seems as if you really did not read what I typed. Gordon Hinkley, the Mormon prophet, clearly states that the Mormon Jesus is different from that of Traditional Christianity. So its not just my opinion, but that of Mr. Hinkley.

This view seems to be expressed throughout Mormon doctrine, considering that it holds itself as the only true Church of Christ and that Traditional Christianity is an abomination to God (1 Nephi13). Holding that after the apostles died, the church became an apostate organization. So it often boggles my mind as to why Mormons would like to consider themselves as a denomination of Christianity. It appears to me, that by desiring this, Mormonism is actually going against the teachings of their scriptures and trying to appeal to men.

I want to go back to two posts ago, because of its importance, and it appears to have been glossed over. It is clear,that Romans 10 when taken into a language context applied to the beliefs and convictions of the writer. Its in a confession formula form, being that one must confess Jesus as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in order to be saved. As I pointed out before, the Jews used the word kyrios to reference YHWH. This is the context that is used by Paul who is the author, who was a pharisee, and would have been acute to just throwing this word out there... especially when considering its Hebrew etymology.
Going by this understanding of what Paul intended, it is unimpeded that Jesus is God and not merely a god.

I just want you to know there is not ill feelings towards you, or any other Mormon, and no matter how judgmental or condescending a post may sound, its not meant to "bash". It is merely expressing in context, the views of the Bible. PS I would not get offended if you were to wave the BoM at me and judge me to the Terrestrial level of heaven.

I noticed that your a history teacher, my forte is history as well.

In Christ,
Brooks Robinson

Clean Cut said...

Brooks,
I too want to have a productive conversation here. All too often it seems like people on both sides of the spectrum are so convinced that they are right and the other is wrong that all understanding ceases.

I hope that is not the case here. There have been moments when a little light bulb goes on in my head and I begin to have a sense of what you are talking about. As long has you're not trying to convince me of the" error of my ways", and I'm not trying to convince you of yours--I'd like to really try to understand why the constant claim from evangelicals that Mormons worship a "different Jesus", and therefore are not Christian.

I'll be honest, the claim that we are not Christian seems so pointless to most Mormons, because we know that we believe and worship Jesus, and are therefore Christian.

Now as to the claim of "a different Jesus"--that one is a tab bit more interesting. Because I can see "differences" for sure. I'm fully aware of Hinckley's statements. I agreed with them when I first heard him say them and I agree with them now.

So the question I have is: Even though we have differences in our Christian beliefs (ie: You believe in the Trinity where all three are one; I believe in the Godhead where there are three distinct beings that are one in purpose)--does that really mean that one of us can't be Christian? (I don't necessarily think so).

Or perhaps the real question is does that really mean that we're worshiping a "different Jesus"? Or perhaps we're just worshiping Jesus differently? I think I tend to lean towards the latter.

brooksrobinson said...

Clean Cut:

Well let me ask you this friend, What do you believe is the gospel that Paul and the other apostles preached?

Clean Cut said...

You know Brooks, a similar question was asked of me and how I would reconcile Galatians 1:8 with the angel Moroni/Joseph Smith/the "restored gospel".

It helps to read the whole chapter so as to understand everything in context. I don't claim to be an expert scriptorian by any means, but I don't think verse 8 is the great stumbling block some might think it is.

As I understand it, In verse 6 Paul "marveled" that they had so quickly fallen into individual apostasy. In verse 7 he warns that there are some out there who "trouble you"--that is, they try to agitate, raise doubts, or perplex you. (That obviously is still happening! :)) And they "pervert the gospel of Christ".

The word "gospel" of course means good news. The good news is that Jesus Christ has made a perfect atonement for mankind. This I too believe.

So in verse 8, to me, Paul basically says: Don't be so easily shaken. Don't worry about those agitators--they'll be taken care of (or at least "accursed"). The gospel we have received, and that we teach, was received "by revelation of Jesus Christ" (verse 12)--not by man.

Well, I too believe in continued revelation. Both personal revelation, as well as revelation for the Church collectively. In fact, one of the bedrock principles (and one of the major differences between the LDS Church and others) is that the Church claims divine authority by direct revelation.

I too believe in the gospel--that is, the good news--of Christ and his great and marvelous atonement. And nobody--not even "an angel from heaven" (verse 8) could persuade me to not believe it. The gospel of Jesus Christ is so fundamental to all of us as Christians--those who profess the name of Christ.

That's how I understand it. Take it or leave it. Sorry it's not as sensational as some would like to believe, but I deeply believe it to be true.

To me, these verses have nothing to do with Moroni or the Restoration of the gospel. Although I do believe John the Revelator foresaw that the gospel would be restored in the last days by angelic ministry in Revelation 14:6-7:

"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgement is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters."

That is understood to be the angel Moroni, along with the Book of Mormon (which also contains the "everlasting gospel") and is now flooding the earth. Parenthetically, the complete Book of Mormon has been translated into 80 languages. Selections of the Book of Mormon have been translated into an additional 27 languages. Almost quite literally to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people.

It stands as a companion volume of holy scripture, along with the Bible which I too love so much. The Bible is a compilation, or library, of only a few of the prophetic writings that had ever been written in that geographical location. I thank God that so much was ever able to be gathered into one great book. But there were many other inspired writings that were not included when the original "compilers" compiled the current Bible as we know it.

Furthermore, God has always commanded that his prophets write holy scripture. "Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). But none of those writings, whether from the old world (the Bible) or the new world (the Book of Mormon) have ever been sufficient alone for our salvation. They only point to Christ, the author of our salvation.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles recently taught:
"Continuing revelation does not demean or discredit existing revelation. The Old Testament does not lose its value in our eyes when we are introduced to the New Testament, and the New Testament is only enhanced when we read the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. In considering the additional scripture accepted by Latter-day Saints, we might ask: Were those early Christians who for decades had access only to the primitive Gospel of Mark (generally considered the first of the New Testament Gospels to be written)—were they offended to receive the more detailed accounts set forth later by Matthew and Luke, to say nothing of the unprecedented passages and revelatory emphasis offered later yet by John? Surely they must have rejoiced that ever more convincing evidence of the divinity of Christ kept coming. And so do we rejoice." (http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-851-30,00.html)

So my faith in the Bible is not my complete faith. My faith is in Jesus Christ, and I welcome all of His words.

Ben said...

brooksrobinson,

Mormons believe that Jesus is Jehova, the God of Abraham.

Mormons worship Jesus as God the Father. We become His sons and daughters through the gospel. Jesus is God (not "a" God as you like to say).

Jesus is not inferior to His Father. To worship Jesus is to worship His Father. They share and are one in glory.

Just my thoughts.
Ben

Clean Cut said...

Thanks for your thoughts Ben. I like what you said: "To worship Jesus is to worship the Father. They share and are one in glory".

In fact, many of those not of our faith (and even within our faith) are confused at how we can say that Jesus is Father when we don't believe in the traditional "Trinity", but that they're separate physical individuals. I remember reading an insightful post about that at Times and Seasons entitled God Himself which includes a great FHE lesson idea called “My Three Dads.”

Clean Cut said...

I wonder how much of the "debate" over me saying that "I am a Mormon, I am a Christian" would have been avoided if all parties had understood something recently discussed in an insightful essay by Orson Scott Card entitled "Let’s Call Mormons ‘Nontraditional Christians’. I think it sheds some light over why evangelicals insist on saying that Mormonism is not Christianity. Because it is not their traditional brand of Christianity (which they believe is the one and only true Christianity)--but we aren't saying that.

One quote: "Instead of saying that we are “not Christian,” which is an obvious falsehood by any rational, widely accepted definition of the word Christian, let us agree that Mormons are “nontraditional Christians.” We’ll live with that label quite happily, because it’s true. We are Christians, but nontraditional ones. And if we ever become traditional, we’ll have no reason to exist as a separate religion!"

Further The Kingdom said...

Why is Mormonism a non Christian religion? It is not Christian because it denies that there is only one God, denies the true Gospel, adds works to salvation, denies that Jesus is the uncreated creator, distorts the biblical teaching of the atonement, and undermines the authority and reliability of the Bible.

Here's a great link to check this out that goes into greater detail
http://www.mrm.org/topics/introductory-issues/were-christians-just-you

Clean Cut said...

Ty, it's obvious to me that you have not read "How Wide the Divide?: A Mormon & an Evangelical in Conversation". I strongly recommend it if you really want to know our genuine differences, as well as our surprising similarities. At the least, you'll enjoy better mutual understanding on issues such as Scripture, God and Deification, Christ and the Trinity, and Salvation.

Clean said...

Fantastic post at "By Common Consent" entitled Are Mormons Christians? Are Post Toasties corn flakes?. It's insightful, enjoyable, and very relevant to why the some say that non-traditional Christians, such as the Latter-day Saints, are not Christians at all. They're monopolizing the "brand name".

Clean Cut said...

See LDS Newsroom Blog: "Are Mormons Christians?" by Nate Nielson