Are Mormons Christians?

Posted: December 28, 2011 in Christian doctrine, judging others, Mormons

Pastor Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist megachurch in Dallas, Texas stirred some controversy when he said that Mormonism is a cult:

Rick Perry’s a Christian. He’s an evangelical Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ. Mitt Romney’s a good moral person, but he’s not a Christian. Mormonism is not Christianity. It has always been considered a cult by the mainstream of Christianity.

It must first be explicitly stated that, regardless of etymology or dictionary definition, the word ‘cult’ has negative or insulting connotations. It’s like calling someone ignorant. ‘Ignorant’ should not be an insult, since it simply describes the state of a person’s intellectual experience, not his mental capacity. However, ‘ignorant’ has negative connotations, and calling someone ignorant is a great way to pick a fight. With an implicit rebuke toward Pastor Jeffress, I’d like to address the much less pejorative question of whether or not Mormons are Christians.

There and Back Again

If you could take the Democratic party and send it back in time to the 1860s, you would see very few similarities between the party of then and the party of today. So which party would be the “real” Democratic party and which would be the “fake” Democratic party? Clearly, we’re asking the wrong question here, since neither one would be real or fake. Each is the Democratic party of its own time. So similarly, who gets to define what Christian doctrine is? Christianity today does not at all resemble Christianity of Roman times or the Middle Ages. In order to determine whether or not Mormons are Christians, we would first need to determine what exactly Christianity is.

The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry states that the christianhood of the Mormon Church is a very important question, but that the simple answer is that Mormons are not Christians. The basis for this conclusion is that Mormonism “denies one or more of the essential doctrines of Christianity.” Of course, the astute will then ask what these essential doctrines are, who defined them, and who maintains them. In this case, the essential doctrines are defined by the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry itself, which greatly simplifies the ministry’s task of defining Mormons out of Christianity.

According to more than one source, Christianity is not a religion. Bill O’Reilly made the statement that Christianity is not a religion on his show, as quoted previously here on Bible Study with Bill. If, as O’Reilly states, atheists can follow the teachings of Jesus, then by all means Mormons can, too.

The best-selling fantasy author Tracy Hickman has a page expressing his testimony as a Mormon. On it, he answers the question, “Are ‘Mormons’ really ‘Christians’?”:

Emphatically YES, if you mean Christian in the sense of a person or church which espouses and follows the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ is the very head of my church — a church which bears His name in it’s title.

From this statement, and from Bill O’Reilly’s statement that Christianity is a theology and a philosophy, it would seem that Mormons are Christians. However, you be the judge!

Do the Hokey Pokey

Years ago, I found a gem of a web site, in the sense that it was truly consciousness raising. The Meaning of Life (or, What’s it all about?) page turns the question of the meaning of life back around to the questioner. It asks the questioner, “Why do you want to know the meaning of life?” At this point, I’d like to do the same thing and instead ask, “Why are you asking whether or not Mormons are Christians?”

  • Are you trying to determine if Mormons should be considered part of your group or organization? Or, in a purposefully pejorative manner, are you trying to determine if Mormons are part of your “club”? You probably already know the answer to this question, and don’t need to wax theological to find an answer.
  • Are you trying to figure out if Mormons are going to heaven or hell? This question is between a person and his deity (or lack thereof). It’s impossible for you to know for certain whether your fellow church-goers are going to heaven or hell, let alone whether or not people you have never met from another church or religion are saved or damned.
  • Are you trying to judge if a Mormon is a just, moral person? Again, you’ll have a hard time doing this just based on a person’s religion. We see those who tout Christian morals cheating on their wives. So if you’re in a judgmental mood, you’ll probably have to judge a person based on his actions, rather than on the belief he publicly profess.

Ultimately, if you find yourself asking, “Are Mormons Christians?” you should probably turn the question around. Given the myriad Bible verses emphatically and explicitly stating not to judge others, turn yourself around. Ask yourself instead – “Am I really a Christian?”

  1. Elizabeth says:

    I really live the conclusion of this post. I think this same reasoning can, and should be applied to the question of religous displays on government property.

  2. Ellen Weddendorf says:

    Following the teachings of Christ doesn’t make you a Christian! If you were to be a girl/boy scout means that you not only need to follow the group, but to become member! Membership requires adhering/ swearing to the core belief!

  3. cellartroll says:

    Well first, a philosophy doesn’t require membership, though a religion very well could. If O’Reilly is correct in saying Christianity is a philosophy, then it can’t demand membership.

    But if you’re saying that O’Reilly is wrong and that Christianity is a religion, then you’d have to explain what the core belief is to which you must swear in order to be a Christian. You’d then have to demonstrate that Mormons don’t adhere/swear to this core belief.

  4. Toddo says:

    “Mitt Romney’s a good moral person, but he’s not a Christian.”

    I wish the speaker had stopped before the comma; the first part of that sentence is the important part. The last part is simply prejudice. Easy trick for spotting prejudice: Replace the group in question with a minority. For example, “Person X is a good moral person, but he’s not white” is a blatantly prejudicial statement. Sliding a popular religion into the statement does not make it okay.

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