This video discusses the various reasons some claim members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not Christians and why these claims are erroneous and many are even ironic.
Okay. On this Evidences video, I want to talk about why critics will sometimes call the Latter-day Saints non-Christian, which seems bizarre when Jesus Christ is in our actual name. Why do they even do this? By the way, I just did a video on restoring original Christianity, there. I would suggest, as a companion video to this, to please, please watch that. I’m going to bring it up in a minute too as a reference for something in this video.
So first of all, let’s talk about why they say it. So first thing critics say Latter-day Saints are not Christian because they don’t match the definition of the word. Okay. They are subjectively defining the word. Let’s look at the original use of the Christian word. Jesus Christ never used the term. The term is not used anywhere in the four gospels, only appears three times in the new testament.
The time when the term is used, it appears to be from outsiders. The term was probably modeled on such words, as Herodian and Caesarian, already in circulation at the time. It meant simply Christ’s people or possibly followers of Christ. The three New Testament passages of the word Christian, where they show up, Acts 11:26, “the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” The passive phrase ‘were called Christians’ suggests that the term was first used by non-Christians. Similar to the name ‘Yankee’ and ‘Mormon’ being first used by outsiders.
Okay. Acts 26:28, King Agippa tells Paul “almost though persuadeth me to be a Christian.” The person speaking here is a non-Christian. 1 Peter 4:16, “Yet, if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed.” Possibly indicating the term may have been one outsiders were using to persecute church members, possibly even derived from Roman legal usage.
Now, let’s say, today, the Webster’s Dictionary definition of Christian, “one who professes believe in the teachings of Jesus Christ.” That’s the definition of a Christian. I would like to qualify the teachings in a sense of just saying critical to acknowledge Jesus Christ as the Savior and Redeemer of the world. The example of that would be the Muslims do believe that Jesus Christ was a great prophet, but they don’t view Him as the Son of God who redeemed the world. There. So, I think it’s critical to distinguish what that means to believe Jesus Christ’s teachings. Now, C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity says, “It is not for us to say who, in the deepest sense, is or is not close to the spirit of Christ. We do not see into men’s hearts. We cannot judge, and are indeed forbidden to judge. It would be wicked arrogance for us to say that any man is, or is not, a Christian in this refined sense… When a man who accepts the Christian doctrine lives unworthily of it, it is much clearer to say he is a bad Christian than to say that he is not Christian.
Okay. The next example critics will say the Latter-day Saints are not Christians because they believe Satan and Jesus are brothers, or they believe X Y Z, which isn’t how I interpret the gospel. Again, this is about a subjective view of how you define what that is. This example I gave was because it became a big deal back in the 2008 presidential election. Mike Huckabee being the Republican primary pointed this out about Mitt Romney’s religion and said, “Oh, I don’t know much about the Mormons, but don’t they believe Jesus and Satan are brothers?” You knew exactly what was was happening there. Trying to get that stirrup happening there.
We have a different understanding because of our understanding of the preexistence that allows us to see things very clearly there, but I will share this. The Church issued the following press release on this issue, “Like other…” And this was in 2007, “Like other Christians, we believe Jesus is the divine Son of God. Satan is a fallen angel. As the Apostle Paul wrote, God is the father of all. That means that all beings were created by God and are His spirit children. Christ, however, was the Only Begotten in the flesh and we worship Him as the Son of God and the Savior of mankind.”
That’s how we could, essentially, understand that, there. Maybe, even in the language we use. This was a great example. Elder Ballard said, cautioned members of the Church, this was in June of 1998, Building Bridges of Understanding in the Ensign. He said, “We, occasionally, hear some members refer to Jesus as our elder brother, which is a true concept based on our understanding of the premortal life with our Father in Heaven, but, like many points of gospel doctrine, that simple truth doesn’t go far enough in terms of describing the Savior’s role in our present lives and His great position as a member of the godhead. Thus, some non-LDS Christians are uncomfortable with what they perceive as a secondary role for Christ in our theology. They feel that we view Jesus as a spiritual peer. They believe that we view Christ as an implementer for God, if you will, but that we don’t view him as God to us and to all mankind, which of course is counter to biblical testimony about Christ’s divinity.”
Now, I kind of went off on that topic, but just as an example of something. There’ll be the things they’ll do quote mining, especially from the Journal of Discourses. A favorite is the Adam-God theory, which is not in any way, shape, or form the doctrine of the Church. I did a video on Adam-God theory, but also a video on what is doctrine of the Church. The Church has tried to make statements about this recently, as well, to clarify that not everything said by a leader is considered to be doctrine.
Critics say the Latter-day Saints are not Christian because they are cult. Well, what is the definition of a cult? If you actually looked at the Webster’s Dictionary definition of a cult, “A religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious,” which is totally subjective in a sense. “Great devotion to a person, idea, object, movement, or work; a system of religious beliefs; or formal religious veneration of worship.”
A system of religious beliefs, that could pick up just about all religions, right? Let me share this introduction or this book, Are Mormons Christian, Steven Robinson, fantastic book. He actually talked about Walter Martin, who wrote Kingdom of the Cults in 1965 that really stirred things up and called lots of these newer religions cults. He went through 10 points of how he defined cults.
At the beginning he says, “Nevertheless, there have been many attempts to define cult in an objective way without losing the terms negative connotations. So far, all these attempts have failed. Let us take for example, the last and most ambitious definition proposed by the late Walter Martin. I single out this one only because from a non-Mormon view, Martin is certainly the consensus expert on this subject, and in his latest and longest definition of cult, he renders his most complete explanation of the term. In his proposed objective definition, Martin lists 10 characteristics common to cults, which he believes distinguish them from legitimate religions. At the conclusion of his list, the author assures the reader that we have presented here all of the essential marks, which distinguish many of the new cults from the rest of society and from the biblical Christian Church. The flaw, however, in the proposed definition, and the Achilles’ heel for all such definitions of cult, is that any objective definition of cult that can be applied to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can also be applied to the Christian Church of the New Testament and to most of today’s mainline denominations when they were in their infancy.”
Let’s examine Martin’s 10 points, one at a time, and then he goes through and illustrates and shows that point by point. Here’s his summary. I put this on the screen, here. “To summarize, cult is a subjective word meaning, to the particular person using it, ‘a religion I don’t like.’ When someone refers to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a ‘cult,’ that simply tells us that the speaker doesn’t like the Church. Christianity, itself, was once a new religion with dynamic leadership, strong in-group bonding, high moral expectations and additional scriptures, all of which greatly offended the main-trained clergy, but they did attempt to convert the world to a truth no one else had. By most of the objective definitions that have been proposed for the term cult, early Christianity was one, and so far any general definition of a cult that would fit the Latter-Day Saints will also fit New Testament Christianity.
Okay. Critics will say the Latter-day Saints are not Christian because they don’t accept the traditional Christianity. They don’t fit into the traditional Christian tree, the pedigree. You can see here, this chart right here. Here’s the tree. This one’s a little busy, so let’s look at this one.
Now, if you look at this chart, see if you can find the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on here. It is not part of this pedigree, here. It’s not on the tree, here. It would be a side one with a direct link to the early Christian Church, if you were to draw it. Not linked to any of the others. Here is the one with dates, and this one you can see, and again, of course, the Church would need to be a separate branch on here, back to the original. When I think about this tree, a quote came to mind from the book A Marvelous Work and a Wonder, where Elder Orson F. Whitney, he had recorded the following story in his autobiography. This was a Catholic theologian, John Reiner, who had come to Salt Lake.
Now, note that this occurred about a hundred years ago and the stance predates the Vatican to counter-reformation that happens 1962 to 65, and it might not reflect Catholic sentiment today. It’s a fascinating quote, thinking of the of the tree, there. “Many years ago, there came to Salt Lake City a learned a doctorate of divinity, a member of the Roman Catholic Church. I became well acquainted with him, and we conversed freely and frankly. A great scholar with, perhaps, a dozen languages at his tongue’s end. He seemed to know all about theology, law, literature, science, and philosophy, and was never weary of displaying his vast erudition. One day, he said to me, ‘You Mormons are all ignoramuses. You don’t even know the strength of your own position. It is so strong, that there is only one other tenable in the whole Christian world, and that is the position of the Catholic Church. The issue is between Catholicism and Mormonism.’
‘If we are right, you are wrong. If you are right, we are wrong, and that’s all there is to it. The Protestants haven’t a leg to stand on. If we are wrong, they are wrong with us. For they were part of us, and went out from us. Well, if we are right, they are apostates, whom we cut off long ago. If we really have, as we claimed, the apostolic succession from Saint Peter, there was no need for Joseph Smith and Mormonism, but if we have not that succession, then such a man as Joseph Smith was necessary and Mormonism’s attitude is the only consistent one. It is either the perpetuation of the gospel from ancient times, or the restoration of the gospel in the latter days.'”
I love that and I recommend watching the video I just did on the restoring original Christianity, with that in mind. Okay. The next one. Critics say Latter-day Saints are not Christian because they don’t believe in the Christian creeds.
Okay. This one, I gotta just say, I’m not going to go deep because that was the bulk of the other video that I just did, which is fantastic. I will share this quote from Elder Holland in the October, 2007 General Conference, in which he says, “In the year A.D. 325, the Roman Emperor, Constantine, convened the council of Nicea to address, among other things, the growing issue of God’s alleged trinity in unity. What emerged from the heated contentions of churchman, philosophers, and ecclesiastical dignitaries came to be known, after another 125 years and three more major councils, as the Nicean Creed, with later reformations, 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, imminent, consubstantial, co-eternal, 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.” Now, note this. This is the part that is critical. “It is not our purpose to demean any person’s belief, nor the doctrine of any religion. We extend to all the same respect for their doctrine that we are asking for ours. That, too, is an article of our faith, but if one says we are not Christians because we do not hold a fourth or fifth century view of the Godhead, then what of those first Christian saints, many of whom were eyewitnesses of living Christ, who did not hold such a view, either?”
Makes a lot of sense. Okay. Latter-day Saints. Critics say Latter-day Saints aren’t Christians because they believe in an open canon.
There’s more than just the Bible. Now, you know the famous quote at the end of the Book of Revelations. It says, “If any man shall add to this book, God shall add to him the plagues that are written in this book.” Any return mission probably had to deal with this on their mission about the Book of Mormon, in a sense. When John wrote that, there was no Bible, it did not exist. In fact, tradition holds that John had this vision on the Isle of Patmos with Revelations when he was released in 95, 96 A.D. He quickly dictated this. That’s the tradition. Then, later, wrote the gospel of John. Three epistles came after the Book of Revelations. Most scholars believe that it is tradition there. He, himself, even wrote afterwards. But, think about it. We often read this as the last verse of the New Testament, there, in this book. There was no book, there was no New Testament at that time.
Let me show you this, here. If you look at the screen on here. The earliest spot where we can see a group of books combined into something that could be viewed as a canon, was 130 to 140 Marionite Canon. If you look at it on the screen on the left, there was about a half dozen books, there. That’s it. The Muratorian Fragment in 170 A.D. had many more. You’d actually have to go out. If you want to see today’s New Testament, it would have been the the Codex Sinaiticus in 330 to 336 A.D. It wasn’t until the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D., that it was the first time it was determined the books that made up the canon. That, actually, wasn’t even formally canonized, per se, until the Council of Trent in 1546. There’s confusion, even, which books. Martin Luther rejected the seven books that they called the Apocrypha and put it in the index.
That’s why the Protestant and Catholic Bibles are different by about seven books, there. Now, let’s go to the Gospel Topics Essay, here. This is on the essay, Are Mormons Christians. “A justification argued to label Latter-day Saints as non-Christian has to do with their belief in an open scriptural canon. For those making this argument, to be a Christian means to ascend to the principle of Sola Scriptura, or the self sufficiency of the Bible, but the claim that the Bible is the sole and final word of God, more specifically, the final written word of God, is to claim more for the Bible than it claims for itself. Nowhere does the Bible proclaim that all revelations from God would be gathered into a single volume to be forever closed, and that no further scriptural revelation could be received. Moreover, not all Christian churches are certain that Christianity must be defined by a commitment to a closed canon.”
In truth, the argument for exclusion by closed canon appears to be used selectively to exclude the Latter-day Saints from being called Christian. No brands of Christianity limits itself entirely to the biblical texts, and making doctrinal decisions and then applying biblical principles. Roman Catholics, for example, turn to church tradition and the magisterium, meaning teachers, including popes and councils, for answers. Protestants particularly evangelicals, turn to linguists and scriptural scholars for their answers, as well as to post-New Testament church councils and creeds. For many Christians, these councils and creeds are every bit as canonical as the Bible itself. To establish doctrine and understand the biblical texts, Latter-day Saints turned to living prophets and to additional books of scripture, the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price.” But wait, didn’t Paul say in Galatians 1:8, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.”
Well, look at this last quote, here. “Together with the Old and New Testaments, The Book of Mormon supports an unequivocal testimony of Jesus Christ. One passage says, the Book of Mormon shall establish the truth of the Bible and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people that the Lamb of God is the Son of the eternal Father and the Savior of the world, and that all men must come into Him, or they cannot be saved.” It’s more than 6,000 verses. The Book of Mormon refers to Jesus Christ almost 4,000 times. I say, personally, this is how I know the Bible is true. It’s because of the miracle of the Book of Mormon coming forth. It is a second witness. Remember John 10:16? Jesus Christ said, “Other sheep I have, which are not of this fold, them, also, I must bring.” He did go and visit others. It’s powerful to have a second witness of Jesus Christ.
For me, it makes all the difference in having complete faith in the Bible, having the Book of Mormon. Okay. I would love to share just a couple of quick quotes from Lee McDonald who is not a member of the Church in his book, The Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon.
He wrote, “The early Christian years did not have a fixed canon, nor did it restrict itself to the canon use by most modern Christian churches.” He said, “If the term Christian is defined by the examples and beliefs passed on by earliest followers of Jesus, then we must at least ponder the question of whether the notion of a biblical canon is, necessarily, Christian. They did not have such canons as the church possesses today, nor did they indicate that their successors should draw them up. Even in regard to the Old Testament canon, it has been shown that the early church’s collections of scriptures were considerably broader in scope than those presently found in either the Catholic or Protestant canons, that they demonstrated much more flexibility than our present collections allow. In regard to the Old Testament, should the church be limited to an Old Testament canon to which Jesus and his first disciples were clearly not limited?”
He went on to say this, and I just love this. “In the first question, the most important one is whether the church was right in perceiving the need for a closed canon of scriptures. Did such a move toward a closed canon of scriptures ultimately and unconsciously limit the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in the church? Does God act in the church today, and by the same spirit? On what biblical or historical grounds has the inspiration of God been limited to the written documents that the church now calls its Bible? One must surely ask about the appropriateness of tying the church of the 20th century to a canon that emerged out of the historical circumstances in the second to the fifth century C.E. How are we supposed to make the experience of that church absolute for all time? Was the church in the Nicene and and post-Nicene eras infallible in its decisions or not? Finally, if the spirit inspired only the written documents of the first century, does that mean that the same spirit does not speak today in the church about matters that are of significant concern?”
“For example, the use of contraceptives, abortion, liberation, ecological irresponsibility, equal rights, euthanasia, nuclear proliferation, global genocide, economic and social justice, and so on.”
I think that’s a very interesting thought and that’s why we believe in modern, that God has always spoken through prophets throughout time. That is part of our doctrine and our understanding. It makes sense. It’s just fun to see that from a non-Latter-day Saint talking about that, and how that makes sense. To close, I wanted to share this from the Church Newsroom Q&A Essay with Robert Millet, who was the Emeritus Dean of Religion at BYU. He wrote this in February, 2012. Question was, “Then, why do you want to be called Christian when you are not really a part of historical Christianity?”
The tree, right? He says, “I’m not bothered very much when I am speaking with religious scholars and ministers and they suggest that Mormons are not Christians. They are generally speaking theologically or historically because Mormons do not hold to or accept as spiritually binding, the decisions and formulations of the Post-New Testament church councils, Nicaea, Constantinople, and Ephesus, and because we believe in an expanded canon scripture, they do not consider us to be a part of Orthodox Christianity. They are correct. On the other hand, this is the concern. When the man on the street or the woman in the pew hears the words, ‘Mormons are not Christian’, what do they make of it? Do they think it means that Mormons do not accept the divinity of Jesus? Do not accept the message and witness of the New Testament? Do not believe that Jesus suffered and died for our sins? Do not believe that He rose from the dead into glorious immortality? If they were to draw any of those conclusions, they would be incorrect and thereby misunderstand, misperceive, and thereafter misinterpret the faith and beliefs held by Latter-day Saint friends.”
I love that. I want to close with this phenomenal comment that he shared of his discussion with a Catholic. He said, “A few years ago, I was in New York City. I met with the late Father Richard John Neuhaus, a respected conservative voice among Roman Catholics. We conversed cordially for almost an hour, and he spoke fondly of the Mormon/Evangelical dialogue that had been underway for a decade. He indicated that a similar dialogue between Catholics and Mormons was long overdue and then said, quote, ‘There is a great need for more conversation between Latter-day Saint Christians and Nicene Christians.’ Now, that’s a recognition and a distinction which most Latter-day Saints would be quite comfortable.”
I would certainly be very comfortable and love the idea of not being considered a Nicene Christian, but being part of the Latter-day Saint Christians. So, hope you enjoyed the video, subscribe for more and make sure to go watch the other video related to this topic, Restoring Original Christianity. Thanks.
Restored Book: Are Mormons Christians? by Stephen E. Robinson Articles from
Debate – Are Mormons Christians? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BnKVn…
LDS Perspectives Podcast #39 Mere Christians? with Robert Millet https://www.ldsperspectives.com/2017/…
*Also see the resources for the video Original Christianity Restored
Latter-day Saints’ Q&A is a video series not produced by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but by me, an ordinary member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, an independent voice, with a passion for studying Church history and defending the faith. In this series, I provide evidences for the restoration, and address tough questions posed by critics of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, offering faithful answers based on accurate research and historical references which will be posted at the end of each video.