I've decided that much of the frustration and confusion in conversations between Latter-day Saints and those not of our faith is caused by ourselves. One of my pet peeves, and pet peeves of many Evangelical Christians, is when Latter-day Saints say "We're Christians just like you", which of course isn't true, and means one of two things: The Mormon is ignorant, or the Mormon is purposely being misleading. Semantics matter, after all. Mormons certainly are Christians, but we're Non-Traditional Christians. Although I tend to enjoy exploring our commonalities more than our differences, I'll never pretend that we don't have significant differences with Traditional Christianity. We need to be careful about the intended and unintended messages our words give off. I'm sure we all could do a better job not only of understanding the gospel, but of communicating it more effectively both within the Church and without.
One example. Elder M. Russell Ballard cautioned members of the Church:
"We occasionally hear some members refer to Jesus as our Elder Brother, which is a true concept based on our understanding of the pre-mortal life with our Father in Heaven. But like many points of gospel doctrine, that simple truth doesn't go far enough in terms of describing the Savior's role in our present lives and His great position as a member of the Godhead. Thus, some non-LDS Christians are uncomfortable with what they perceive as a secondary role for Christ in our theology. They feel that we view Jesus as a spiritual peer. They believe that we view Christ as an implementor for God, if you will, but that we don't view Him as God to us and to all mankind, which, of course, is counter to biblical testimony about Christ's divinity…
"Now we can understand why some Latter-day Saints have tended to focus on Christ's Sonship as opposed to His Godhood. As members of earthly families, we can relate to Him as a child, as a Son, and as a Brother because we know how that feels. We can personalize that relationship because we ourselves are children, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. For some it may be more difficult to relate to Him as a God. And so in an attempt to draw closer to Christ and to cultivate warm and personal feelings toward Him, some tend to humanize Him, sometimes at the expense of acknowledging His Divinity. So let us be very clear on this point: it is true that Jesus was our Elder Brother in the premortal life, but we believe that in this life it is crucial that we become "born again" as His sons and daughters in the gospel covenant." ("Building Bridges of Understanding", by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles).
Jesuit priest Tom Reese joins Religion News Service
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