Beliefnet Debate: Are Mormons Christian?

Are Mormons Christian? Beliefnet is currently hosting a debate on this question between Albert Mohler (president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) and Mormon novelist Orson Scott Card. Here is an excerpt from Mohler’s most recent exchange with Card.

“Are Mormons ‘Christians’ as defined by traditional Christian orthodoxy?” . . . With the question structured that way, the answer is clear and unassailable – Mormonism is not Christianity.

When the question is framed this way, Mr. Card and I actually agree, as his essay makes clear. In his words, “I am also happy to agree with him [Mohler] that when one compares our understanding of the nature of God and Christ, we categorically disagree with almost every statement in the ‘historic creeds and doctrinal affirmations’ he refers to.”

Mr. Card would prefer that the question be put differently . . . If I were a Mormon I would share that concern and would try to define Christianity in some way other than traditional Christian orthodoxy. The reason is simple – traditional Christian orthodoxy and Mormon theology are utterly incompatible . . .

Mormonism uses the language of Christian theology and makes many references to Christ . . . But Christianity has never been defined in terms of merely thinking well of Jesus. Mormonism claims to affirm the New Testament teachings about Jesus, but actually presents a very different Jesus from the onset. A reading of Mormonism’s authoritative documents makes this clear . . .

“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,” as Mormonism is officially known, claims to be the only true church. As stated in the Doctrine and Covenants [1:30], Mormonism is “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” According to Mormon teaching, the church was corrupted after the death of the apostles and became the “Church of the Devil.” Mormonism then claims that the true church was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith in the 1820s. This restored church was, Mormon theology claims, given the keys to the kingdom and the authority of the only true priesthood . . .

Mr. Card may complain that traditional Christianity defines the faith in a way that rejects Mormonism. Fair enough. But Mormonism rejects historic Christianity as it makes its own central claim – to be the only true church, restored on earth in the latter days.

You can read the full debate here.

Related post: Should Christians Call Mormonism a Cult?

7 Comments

  1. Jeremy says:

    Mormons are christian because we do believe that christ is the savior of the world. WE do not reject all christian traditions, only those that have been perverted through years of apostasy. We ambrace the Holy Bible and use it in our worship services and personal study as much as we do the Book of Mormon.

  2. Ray Fowler says:

    Jeremy – Thanks for taking the time to comment. Although Mormons revere Christ and use the Bible, the teachings of the Mormon church are radically different from what the Bible teaches about Christ, God and salvation. I find it interesting that Mormons want to be called Christian and yet also want to distinguish themselves from the teaching of the Christian church. Rather than redefine what the word “Christian” means, I think it is less confusing to let Christians keep the name Christian and Mormons keep the name Mormon. Fair enough? 🙂  Once again, thanks for commenting, and please know you are welcome here anytime.

  3. Bob Myers says:

    1. I would not call Mormonism a cult. That seems tacky.

    2. As to whether Mormons are Christians, would it not depend on one’s favored definition of “Christian”? If the definition is tight enough, Mormons would be excluded, but so might many Jewish Christians, Quakers, and many others. I’m troubled by a “who’s in, who’s out” way of trying to exclude and quite possibly degrade another’s beliefs. I happen to think it’s important to believe in God, but I have friends who don’t. I think a loyalty to Jesus does count for something. If Mormons think of themselves as not just Christians, but very good Christians, why be obnoxious about it and argue with them? I would broaden the definition and welcome more people inside the tent.

    3. Christians would be well advised to increase their number of friends instead of arguing so much about who is “really” a cultist and who isn’t. When it comes to cults, my only concern is whether children are mistreated. If a cult mistreats children, I’m against them. By my standard, Mormons are not cultists in the least.

  4. Ray Fowler says:

    Bob – Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Let me respond to each of your points below.

    1. As to whether Christians should call Mormonism a cult, I would direct you to the related article on this blog: Should Christians Call Mormonism a Cult There is some lively discussion in the comments as well.

    2. Mormons themselves distinguish their teachings from the historic teaching of the Christian church. Perhaps the biggest difference is that Mormons do not believe in the trinity (that there is one God who exists eternally as three persons). The doctrine of the trinity is central to Christian belief, and those who reject the most basic teachings of Christianity really shouldn’t expect to be called Christian.

    3. Just because Mormons teach something different from historic Christianity doesn’t mean we can’t be friends. I am friends with many people who believe differently than I do.

    Once again, thanks for commenting!

  5. Ray Fowler says:

    Update: Justin Taylor just published a good post today outlining the differences between Mormonism and Christianity: An FAQ on the Difference between Mormonism and Biblical Christianity

  6. Gary Sellars says:

    Before I address the question, I’d like to address the various definitions of “cult.”

    Words change their meaning with time. “Let” used in the New Testament now means “allow” whereas when it was penned in the New Testament, it meant “restrain.” Oddly, just the opposite. How did that happen? I don’t know but it’s not a good thing when words change in meaning because it then gets confusing and words change because people don’t “hold fast” to the original definition.

    I think we should all make an effort to know word definitions, use them properly and encourage others to do all three of these things to avoid such confusion.

    As defined by Walter Martin, who was the leading authority on cults when he was alive, Mormonism was and is a cult (Mr. Martin used the second of the three definitions located elsewhere on this website) and unfortunately, they can be extremely dishonest in regard to telling people what they really believe.

    I’ve spent many hours with Mormon missionaries and have seen the shock when they find that I’m privy to some of their bizarre teachings and I’ve watched them struggle with how to answer and even deny the things that Mormonism believes. Now, to be clear, Mormonism isn’t what a young Mormon missionary tells you it is and neither is it what I or someone else tells you it is. It is what has been established by the leadership, starting with Joseph Smith and then Brigham Young and the leaders of the Mormon Church. In other words, it’s what’s written that counts, not what so-and-so says.

    Walter Martin was a direct descendant of Brigham Young and thus qualified for leadership in the Mormon Church but rather exposed them for the multitude of heresies they believe, most of them in secret and many Mormons do not even know what their Church believes and the Mormon Church has hidden, removed, and changed documents that expose some of their extremely strange and even blasphemous teachings. “The Maze of Mormonism” by Walter Martin is a good source to find out what Mormonism really represents, and EVERYTHING he says about them is explained is simple English, thoroughly footnoted and documented. The facts are plain and not obtuse. For a Christian to call Mormonism a cult or not a cult is not a matter of differences of opinions that Christian might have, but of what a cult, by definition, is, which is a religious group that has diverged or deviated from orthodoxy. By claiming they believe the Bible (which is really a lie), they’re making a claim to Christian orthodoxy and by rejecting orthodoxy (in truth), they qualify as a cult.

    Regarding my remark that they really don’t believe the Bible, they will tell you they believe and accept it “every where it’s translated accurately.” Unfortunately, they don’t know the Bible and in the multitude of doctrines in which they clearly contradict Holy Scripture, they dismiss it by claiming the Bible is translated incorrectly, though never, in my experience, do they have any idea what the original Hebrew or Greek actually says, and also in my experience, and this is most telling, THEY DON’T CARE.

    The Mormon Church is not Christian by any stretch of the imagination and one cannot be a Christian and embrace even a small portion of the false doctrines of the Mormon Church that so clearly go against the clear teachings of the New Testament.

    That said, a Mormon CAN certainly be a Christian IF they don’t believe the many false doctrines of the Mormon Church which preclude faith in doctrine of salvation, but instead believe that salvation is through faith in the shed blood of Jesus, who was God in the flesh. That is certainly possible though not really likely. If a person believes the truth of the Gospel and has rejected the salvation by works taught by Mormonism, why would one continue to consider himself a Mormon? Yet, we all do strange things sometimes. and in the realm of possibilities, it’s certainly POSSIBLE to be a Mormon and be a genuine believer in Jesus, though I’ve yet to meet any who showed me any evidence of faith in Jesus’ atonement on our behalf.

    It is important that we “give a clear sound” regarding what a believer in Jesus is without being swayed by the enemy’s deceit that we’re “being unloving” or “unaccepting” or “intolerant” of those who disagree with us.

    It’s not unloving or intolerant to tell the truth and in this situation, believing a lie will result in eternal separation from God. That’s too important an issue to for us to compromise.

    It’s unloving and selfish to refuse to tell the truth for fear of rejection or persecution. The apostle Paul said, “ALL who would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Our warfare is not against flesh and blood and the enemy will indeed try to paint us as “haters” when it’s really love that motivates us to tell people the truth. We want them to know the love and redemption of God that we’ve found is a GIFT of His grace.

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  1. Should Christians Call Mormonism a Cult? at Ray Fowler .org

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