Burning Bosom

Theology, History, Culture, Politics & Life from a LDS (Mormon) Perspective

Can a Mormon be a Christian?

Posted by Kerry on March 27, 2008

It’s that age-old question: are Mormons Christians? It seems like every time I read an LDS news website or happen across a Christian blog, one of the topics that always boils to the top is whether the Christian world considers Mormons as sitting inside or outside the revival tent.

This question usually comes down to how each individual party defines the word Christian. Some say it is defined as a disciple of the biblical Christ, others as a member of a protestant church, others define it as a person who has “accepted Christ as their personal Savior” (which I, as a Mormon, have done), while others say that unless you have a cross on your church you cannot be considered a Christian.

What do I say? I don’t care if they think we are Christians.

A prominent evangelical Christian recently “apologized” for his group’s un-acceptance of Mormons as Christians. Even so, I often stand all amazed at the attempts of some of my fellow Mormons who argue, quarrel, and squabble over the point that we are Christians. The rest of the Christian world has their own specific definition of “Christian”, and sometimes we try and either (1) force them to change their definition to make it wide enough to accept Mormons or (2) come up with our own definition of Christian so that we feel included. Does it really matter that much? I guess I don’t see the point in spending exhorbitant energy and time trying convince the Christian world that they should let us into their tent.

We can still be friends with them. We can work together on social issues (which we nearly fall into direct agreement with). We can go out to dinner together. We can invite them over to barbeques and birthday parties. We can even agree on and discuss many of the same doctrines of Christ that we each hold: His life, His ministry, His divinity, etc. In the end, I don’t care if they think I am a “Christian” by their definition or not….I simply want my actions to convince them that I am a disciple of Christ….call that whatever they want.

I personally like the positions that Pres. Hinckley[1] and Elder Ballard[2] have demonstrated: they tell it like it is, what we believe in, who we believe Christ is, the focus that we have on him, etc. If the rest of Christendom doesn’t accept it, then fine. But I will still invite them to play golf on Saturday.

Am I wrong on this? Should this be a focus? Should we be concerned and spend lots of time and energy trying to convince them that we too should be included in their group?

[1] “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.” 

Gordon B. Hinckley, “What Are People Asking about Us?,” Ensign, Nov 1998, 70

[2] “I bear solemn witness that we are true and full believers in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His revealed word through the Holy Bible. We not only believe the Bible—we strive to follow its precepts and to teach its message. The message of our missionaries is Christ and His gospel and His Atonement, and the scriptures are the text of that message. We say to all people, ‘We extend our love to you and invite you to come. Let us share all that God has revealed.’” 

M. Russell Ballard, “The Miracle of the Holy Bible,” Ensign, May 2007, 80–82


9 Responses to “Can a Mormon be a Christian?”

  1. Mike L. said

    I agree. It mostly doesn’t matter to me what label someone does or doesn’t put on our faith. However, I disagree grammatically. I would say, “I couldn’t care less.” I personally feel the opposite statement doesn’t make sense, but I’ve been told they are both a correct way to express the same though.

    Sorry for the tangent.

    But I can also understand the other point of view that by calling us non-Christian, it may give people who are not familiar with how the term is being used the wrong impression about our faith. They are using the term in a very specific sense, but most people don’t see the term “Christian” that way and will assume if we are not Christian than we don’t believe in Christ.

  2. Mike L. said

    That should be “then”, not “than”. Normally I wouldn’t bother correcting it, but since I criticized your grammer, I thought I should be careful with mine at least.:)

  3. Kerry said

    Mike L., that is funny you point out that grammer issue. Before I published this post, I let my wife read what I had written. I was hoping for a big smile, some tears, something to tell me she liked it. All she said was: “Isn’t it couldn’t care less?”

    I guess as long as the message is understood, which is that I do not care what they call us, I am fine with my irreverent grammer. 🙂

    I do like your statement about making sure people who aren’t familiar with our church or maybe even investigators know that we consider ourselves Christians…even though our definition is different than theirs. If that is what we want to call ourselves, I am totally fine with that. I just don’t see the point in trying to convince Christendom that they should call us Christians.

  4. I stopped reading the article at “I could care less” as that grammatical gaff rubs me the wrong way. I jumped down to the comments to tell you it should be “couldn’t” only to find that Mike L. beat me to it.

    I, personally, think we should just call ourselves saints and leave it at that. The Lord never called us Christians, he called us saints. So, we should call ourselves by what he calls us and stop trying to be so mainstream about everything.

    Btw, I posted some pictures of a previously unknown (to the church, anyway) daguerreotype of Joseph Smith on my blog yesterday. I found it and broke the story on it. It is uncanny how much it looks like the Prophet. Check it out and spread the word. I believe it is the genuine article that’s been missing all these years.

  5. jjackson said

    We use “saints” a lot within our own circles, but do we want the Catholics mad at us too? (Especially after they decided to forgive those idiot missionaries 🙂 ) I get “what’s with the name of your church?” questions all the time, and it’s the Latter-Day and Saints parts that confuse most people.

    Just out of high school I visited a friend of mine who was a camp-counselor at a summer camp for Baptists. When they found out I was mormon, I literally found myself in the middle of a circle of about a dozen of them fielding questions/challenges, and my “Christianity” was the general focus.

    Interestinigly enough, the thing that did it for them was me relating the sacrament prayers and explaining that they were something I committed myself to every week. Sorry, I did’t gain the “Christian” endorsement for all of us, but they were willing to concede that I, individuallly, could be considered a Christian.

    I let then know that I appreciated that recognition, but that the only endorsement I cared about came from the One spoken of in those prayers.

  6. I agree it’s not worth getting bent out of shape over.

    We should be confident enough of our faith in the Savior to not worry too much about other’s definitions.

    But I do think we can give some respectful pushback like President Hinckley and Elder Holland did when they discussed the Trinity at the last GC. Examples like Jjackson’s are great ways to show we are true Christians regardless of whatever labels are thrown around.

  7. Chris H. said

    Great post. I, too, have reached the conclusion that I couldn’t care less what they think. Or, as we say in our household, I could care more. 🙂

    Taught a lesson on Sunday that touched on this issue. An excerpt:

    Over the past several months, the Church has been scrutinized in a way that it hasn’t been for many years. Mitt Romney’s candidacy has been mostly responsible for that, but there have been other Latter Day Saints who have attracted attention as well. Harry Reid, the Democratic Senator from Nevada and Senate Majority Leader; Stephenie Meyer, the author of the hugely popular Twilight series of young adult novels; Brooke White and David Archuleta from American Idol; and a variety of other sports, entertainment and political figures.

    As a consequence of this increased visibility, the old discussion about whether or not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are actually followers of Jesus Christ has been taking place with much greater frequency and visibility.

    So, it was interesting to me that Elder Holland, in the October 2007 General Conference, decided to tackle the issue head on. I thought Elder Holland’s talk was forceful and effective and left no doubt that, whether or not the outside world believes we are Christians, they should know that we consider ourselves to be Christians.

    There seems to me to be an element of childishness and certainly ignorance on the part of those who wag their fingers at us about this issue. It really seems to me to be absolutely, unmitigatedly absurd – almost willfully ignorant – that anyone would doubt for a moment that we are Christians or are at least striving to be Christians.

  8. Shawn L said

    I’m of two minds on this. On the one hand, I feel no obligation to define my faith in terms that are acceptable to other Christian denominations. If the question is, do I believe in Christ, the answer is yes. But if the answer is, am I trinitarian, the answer is no. I think we all spend too much time trying to convince others we’re just like them. Quite frankly, I’m not real eager to jump into bed with the evangelical crowd. The “you’re not Christan” line is just a kinder way of saying, “we think you’re a cult.” On the other hand, however, I am in favor of, and appreciate the recent emphasis on, ecumenical outreach. I think we should all quit spending much time focusing on our differences, however real they are, and start focusing on what good we can accomplish together.

  9. Wesley said

    YOur blog is very fun to read, it is not lecturing at all. Wesley

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