Disclaimer: I am a practicing, believing Mormon who believes my Church has incredible things to offer to the global community. However, I do not believe we can rightfully say that we are Christian unless we adjust some attitude problems that are prevalent in the Church. It does not bother me one whit whether Christians allow us or not allow us to be “Christian,” but if we as a group want our Christian brothers and sisters to acknowledge that title, then we need to change some of the attitudes we have of what it means to be “Mormon.” These views are in no way representative of the official organization known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
My friend David on his blog Catchy Title Goes Here recently wrote about the age-old argument of why Mormons are (or are not) Christians. David lies in the Mormons are Christian camp, and he has some excellent reasonings as to why we are, despite some cultural differences between us and our more mainstream Christian brothers and sisters.
However, I’ve of late have taken a completely different approach on the question which has led me to decide that we really aren’t that Christian, but not for doctrinal reasons. The differences between us and other Christian sects are not really that much more different than the differences between, say, Baptists and Methodists, or Protestants and Catholics. No, there’s more than just doctrinal reasons that cause fellow Christians to insist that we are not Christian, and I think it has a lot to do with our actions than our doctrines.
It’s no secret that animosity between Mormons and other Christians was common. We’ve always accused Christianity for falling into an irredeemable apostasy that warranted the need for God to restore truths, principles, and authorities back on the earth through divine intervention. And, as predictable human nature would say, it’s no surprise that Christianity hasn’t taken kindly to our accusations. And here lies the core of the problem.
Imagine if a kid makes fun of your social circle, spreads nasty rumors, tells other people that you are a horrible, immoral bunch of heathens and sinners. When the kid then starts saying that, oh yes, he’s a member of your social circle, wouldn’t you reel in shock as well? The nerve and gall of this punk! You would protest. No, absolutely not, this kid is not part of your social circle, and he never will be, as far as you’re concerned.
Mormonism is that kid – we declare unequivocally that Christianity is irredeemably corrupt, and then in the same breath, we claim to be part of Christianity. Of course, the Christians respond with, “No, you’re not one of us.” But then we have the gall to say, “No, we totally are!” This is also exactly why many Christians deny the title to Jehovah’s Witnesses, or any other sect that declares the whole of Christianity as corrupt and apostate. And I can sympathize with this sentiment.
We are an incredibly selective group. While Nazarenes and Church of Christ members may not agree on the details, they would never honestly say that the other group is not Christian. But when the FLDS sect tries to assert their (in my opinion rightful) position under the Mormon umbrella, how quickly we as an organization and collective membership cast them out with little tolerance for their deviant views. And so when we howl that Christianity refuses to acknowledge us as “Christian,” it’s simply the pot calling the kettle black. If we can say that we are Christian despite fringe doctrinal disagreements, then will we be ready as a group to admit that the FLDS church, no matter how unsavory or embarrassing their position on polygamy, is most certainly also “Mormon”? The very thought causes the lay member (and authority) to shudder with distaste. And after all this, why would we expect others to extend charity to us when we try to muscle in under their umbrella of Christianity?
The concept of being a Christian is packed with all sorts of connotations and assumptions. One of these assumptions is that you do not bad mouth the other sects too badly when you talk about them. And if we insist on usurping the title of “Christian” from our brothers and sisters while belittling their doctrines, we should not be surprised if they resist our assertions and we end up with the comment “Does not play well with the other children” on our report cards.
Of course, this may not be what Mormons mean to imply when we say that we are Christian, but when words come out of your mouth, it doesn’t matter your intention, only how the audience perceives it. We may declare that we believe in Christ, but we will never be “Christian,” unless we stop saying that, you know, all of Christendom fell into a deep, dark, prolonged apostasy, which, last time I checked, is a pretty core teaching of our Church. Until this attitude towards mainstream Christianity is minimized or eliminated, we may never be fully reconciled with our Christian brothers.