The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is one of the largest and fastest growing churches in America. It is now rated the fifth largest church in America. Given it’s fast growing status and unique origins it has often been the target of intense criticism and doubt. One of the most common points of criticism about the church is that Latter Day Saints are not Christians. I wish to contest this false and misinformed idea about the church, though Latter Day Saints pride themselves on being much different than a typical Christian. I will cover five reasons that are often used to claim that Latter Day Saints are not Christian and demonstrate how those points are wrong or misunderstood.
The first point I would like to cover is that Mormons do not follow or believe in the Jesus Christ of the Bible. This is an utterly false accusation and not based on any kind of fact. Mormons follow and believe in Christ in all that they do, say, and preach. Christ is in the very name of the church. When Latter Day Saints are baptized, they take upon themselves the name of Christ and promise to do all they can to live by his commandments. The Book of Mormon is another testament of Jesus Christ. In Second Nephi of the Book of Mormon, 25:26 it states “And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophecy 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.” In 1842 Joseph Smith sent a letter to John Wentworth, editor and chief of the Chicago democrat detailing thirteen points of doctrine that later became known as the Articles of Faith. The first Article of Faith is “We believe in God the eternal father, in his son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost.” These two scriptures I do believe make it very clear that Latter Day Saints do believe in Christ, the very same Christ of the Bible.
The second argument is that the Latter Day Saints believe God the Father has a body of flesh and bones. Most Christians believe (based on the Nicene creed) that God has no body, parts or passions, but is some omnipotent form with unlimited knowledge and power and Christ was merely God in human form. In this respect the LDS church differs from other Christian groups, but does so on the authority of scripture. The Latter Day Saints view of God is based in Biblical scripture that He has a body of flesh and bone. Latter Day Saints also believe that He has form. In the Bible we read “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” ( Holy Bible, Genesis 1:27) So as we can see from this scripture, we are created after the image of God. If God is a formless being and we are created after His image as the scriptures suggest, then logically we should be without body, form or passions as well. If a body was neither necessary, nor desirable by deity, then one might ask why then did Christ reclaim his body from the grave and ascend back up to heaven. Christ also stated “Handle me and, see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have” (Holy Bible, Luke 24:39). Elder Tad R Callister of the Seventy from the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints states
Paul taught, “Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him” (Holy Bible, Romans 6:9). In other words, once Christ was resurrected, His body could never again be separated from His spirit; otherwise He would suffer death, the very consequence Paul said was no longer possible after His Resurrection.
(Tad R Callister, General conference, Oct 2009)
The third argument that Latter Day Saints are not Christians is based on the Latter Day Saints. doctrine that faith is just as important as works for the redemption of souls. This is more than just doing good things and being a good Christian, but rather ordinances of the gospel that must be performed. Many other Christian churches already performs works such as baptism or the sacrament or communion. There are many scriptures in the Bible that support that works are necessary for salvation as much as faith. “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Holy Bible, Matthew 7:21) We can also read in the Book of James, Chapter 2:17-18, 20,and 26 “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone”; “Yea, A man may say, thou has faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works”; “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead.”; “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (Holy Bible)
The fourth argument that Latter Day Saints are not Christians centres on the Latter Day Saint belief in additional scriptures and continuing revelation. As with other Christian churches the Latter Day Saints believe God is the same today, yesterday, and forever. This being the case, why would he simply stop talking to his children? To say Latter Day Saints are not Christians because they believe in additional revelations and then state that God no longer speaks to his children would seem to suggest that the unchangeable God has changed. During the early years of Christianity shortly after Christ ascended to heaven, the apostles served several missions before they were all driven out or killed. By the definition that Christians cannot believe in continuing revelations and additional scripture would suggest that these early believers were not Christian. The apostles were constantly preaching and presenting new scriptures and clarifying scriptures to the believers at that time. Would any Christian claim that those early believers were not Christians because they believed the words of these apostles when they claimed revelations from God and presented additional scriptures? How is it any different in the Latter Day Saint’s church?
We know that there were twelve Tribes of Israel and that the Bible is the record of the Jews. If God loves all of his children then why would he only reveal his gospel to the Jews? Would he not have had other records made concerning the additional eleven Tribes as well as other people who were not part of Israel? Christ said “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” (Holy Bible, John 10:16) At the time that Christ had stated this he had already preached to the Gentiles. That being the case, what other sheep would he have been talking about? Latter Day Saints believe those other sheep are the people in the Book of Mormon.
The final argument that many people like to use is that Mormon doctrine contradicts the Christian teaching of monotheism. A Catholic newspaper (National Catholic Reporter 2001) stated that Latter Day Saint baptisms are not valid because they don’t hold to the belief of the Holy Trinity or
monotheism. This standard view of God as the Holy Trinity was not developed from the scriptures but rather from the Nicene creed. Elder Jeffery R Holland of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Jeffery R Holland, pp 40-42, 2007) explains the Nicene creed as follows
In the year 325 A.D. the Roman emperor Constantine convened the Council of Nicaea to address—among other things—the growing issue of God’s alleged “trinity in unity.” What emerged from the heated contentions of churchmen, philosophers, and ecclesiastical dignitaries came to be known (after another 125 years and three more major councils) as the Nicene Creed, with later reformulations such as the Athanasian Creed. These various evolutions and iterations of creeds—and others to come over the centuries—declared the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to be abstract, absolute, transcendent, immanent, consubstantial, coeternal, and unknowable, without body, parts, or passions and dwelling outside space and time. In such creeds all three members are separate persons, but they are a single being, the oft-noted “mystery of the trinity.” They are three distinct persons, yet not three Gods but one. All three persons are incomprehensible, yet it is one God who is incomprehensible. We agree with our critics on at least that point—that such a formulation for divinity is truly incomprehensible. (ensign, 40-42)
There are many examples within the bible and other scriptures that Latter Day Saints hold to which clearly show that God, Christ and the holy spirit are in fact three different and distinct individuals. Some would include the baptism of Christ. “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straight way out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the spirit of God descending like a dove, and lightning upon him. And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Holy Bible, Matthew 3:16-17) Stephen saw Christ on the right hand of God in a vision. “ But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven,
and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, behold, I see the heavens opened, and the son of man standing on the right hand of God.” (Holy Bible, Acts 7:55-56). Elder Tadd R Callister stated
…God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are two separate, distinct beings. The Bible… tells us that the Son submitted His will to the Father (Holy Bible, Matthew 26:42)…., but what would have been the depth and passion of Christ’s submission or the motivational power of that example if the Father and the Son were the same being and in reality the Son was merely following His own will under a different name? The scriptures give further evidence of this great truth: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (Holy Bible, John 3:16). It is symbolized by the touching story of Abraham and Isaac (Holy Bible, Genesis 22). But if the Father is the same being as the Son, then this sacrifice of all sacrifices is lost, and Abraham is no longer offering up Isaac—Abraham is now offering up Abraham. (Tad R Callister, General Conference, Oct 2009) The Latter Day Saint doctrine that God the Father and Jesus Christ are two different beings is clearly supported in scripture.
While Latter Day Saint doctrine is much different in many aspects of their faith their are also many similarity’s between Latter Day Saints and other Christian churches. Latter Day Saints share a belief in God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Latter Day Saints believe in the importance of baptism and regularly take part in the sacrament or communion as do other Christian churches. Latter Day Saints share a belief in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ and that through him we may return to dwell with God in Heaven. Boyd k Packer (LDS Apostle) said “The ultimate purpose of all we teach is to unite parents and children in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Does that not make one Christian?