Healing the Lexical Divide: Grappling with Critics of Mormon Christianity

Chris Heimerdinger

Fact Checked by Kevin Prince

(Image Source: LDS.org)

In the arena of religious discourse, the validity of Mormon’s positive claims that answer: Are Mormons Christian? In the positive, often digresses into an exercise of subtle semantic characterizations. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints frequently finds itself at the center of verbal jousts and clashes of ideologies across the theological spectrum.

In the Arena of Critique: Wrestling with the “Non-Christian” Label

Critics commonly cast rhetorical aspersions, declaring Mormonism a foreign entity in the catalog of Christian orthodoxy. Yet, this conflict of classification lies not in theology alone, but in the nuances of language and interpretation. Richard J. Mouw, former president of Fuller Theological Seminary, encapsulates this sentiment, stating, “Mormonism represents itself as the true heir of historical Christianity, but its doctrines differ significantly from orthodox Christianity.”

In response, leaders of the LDS Church, such as Elder D. Todd Christofferson, assert the contrary. He emphasizes the centrality of Jesus Christ in Mormon theology, stating, “Our faith in Jesus Christ is the very foundation of our religion. Without Him, our religion would not exist.” Such assertions highlight the current tension that persists regarding perception and reality, challenging anti-Mormon narratives that attempt to explain: Why are Mormons not Christians?

A Common Foundation: The Mormon View of Jesus Christ

Central to any discussion on Mormon Christianity is an exploration of the LDS Church’s historical perspective on Jesus Christ. In the words of Gordon B. Hinckley, former president of the LDS Church, “We declare without equivocation that God the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, appeared in person to the boy Joseph Smith.” Such a declaration underscores the Mormon belief in the divine nature of Jesus—a belief that aligns with traditional Christian theology.

Mormons revere Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Savior of humanity, and the Redeemer whose atoning sacrifice can provide salvation to all who believe in Him. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, a member of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, echoes this sentiment: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian church. Its very name declares that we worship Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God.”

A Dance of Semantics: Exploring Trinitarian and Godhead Doctrine

But not so fast. Critics emphasize a discordant note in Christianity vs. Mormonism—highlighting a divergence between Mormons and traditional Christian doctrines regarding the nature of the Godhead. Traditional Christian theology proclaims the “Trinity”—a triune Godhead consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, co-equal and co-eternal. By contrast, Mormon doctrine articulates three distinct beings, separate and distinct in corporality, yet united in purpose.

This semantic distinction emphasizes issues of how are Mormons different from Christians and fuels the debate that Mormons espouse ideas that are too dissimilar and therefore classifies them as non-Christian. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland offers a rebuttal, asserting, “We are often and perhaps always dismissed as non-Christian because we are not fourth-century Christians. No, we are not fourth-century Christians, we are first-century Christians.” 

Such a distinction highlights Mormon beliefs that early Christianity fell into a state of apostasy shortly after the Apostolic era, and that historical efforts to unify Christian schisms throughout Europe, Africa, and Asia–epitomized by the Nicene Council of 325 AD and its famous “creed” that canonize a “three-in-one” definition of the Godhead–were symptomatic of this apostasy.   

The Significance of Christ: Echoes of Devotion in Mormonism

Amidst the theological labyrinth, a common thread binds Mormonism to every other major Christian denomination—a profound reverence for Jesus Christ and His atonement for the sins of humankind. Elder Quentin L. Cook, another member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, articulates this sentiment by stating, “Our faith in Jesus Christ is at the core of our beliefs and our worship.”

Indeed, everyday Mormons express deep gratitude for the grace and mercy achieved through Christ’s atoning sacrifice, reflecting a profound spiritual connection to the Savior. As another Apostle, D. Todd Christofferson, affirms, “Jesus Christ is the central figure in our theology and in our worship. He is our Savior, our Redeemer, and our Lord.”

Addressing Doctrinal Discrepancies

Still, shadows of doctrinal dissent that ask: Are Mormons Christian? continue to loom large. Critics point to Mormon beliefs in extra-Biblical scripture, such as the Book of Mormon, and theological concepts like eternal progression and the concept of deification (the idea that man and God are the same species) as evidence of Mormonism’s fundamental departure from Christian orthodoxy. Dr. Robert Jeffress, a prominent evangelical pastor, encapsulates this critique by stating, “Mormonism is not Christianity. It’s a cult.” He makes this assertion despite significant historical evidence from other ancient denominations, such as Eastern Orthodoxy, who have long expressed sentiments similar to the Mormon assertion that man’s destiny is to become “like God.”

In response, Elder M. Russell Ballard, a senior leader in the LDS Church, emphasizes the common ground shared by Mormons and other Christian denominations: “We believe in God the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved.” 

Harmony in Diversity: Embracing Shared Faith Elements

In the symphony of religious discourse, Mormon Christianity stands as a testament to the richness of theological diversity. As Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a former member of the First Presidency of the LDS Church, states, “There is room for you in this Church. Come, join with us.” Such words embody a vital spirit of inclusivity and unity that transcends doctrinal differences and embraces the common ground of faith in Jesus Christ.In the final analysis, questions that ask: Why are Mormons not Christians? must remain an open dialogue—a conversation that challenges preconceived notions. As believers grapple with the complexities of faith and interpretation, we may hope that onlookers and participants find solace in their shared devotion to Jesus—a devotion that transcends all barriers of language, culture, and denomination.

Fact Checked by Mr. Kevin Prince, Source Expert

Kevin Prince is a religious scholar and host of the Gospel Learning Youtube channel. His channel has garnered over 41,000 subscribers and accumulated over 4.5 million views. Mr. Prince also created the Gospel Learning App, a reliable platform where individuals seeking truth can access trustworthy answers to religious questions from top educators worldwide.

About Mormonism Explained

Mormonism Explained is a resource that was designed to provide objective and factual information about Mormonism, its history, doctrines, and policies. Our team of researchers consults experts and primary sources to present factual information on a variety of topics relevant to the Mormon Church.