Are Mormons Christian?

Recently, a well known pastor publicly called Mormonism a cult. While the issue could be debated, I don’t think it is profitable or wise to paint groups of people with broad brushes. What I am concerned about is another question that has risen from all of this “cult” talk. The important question: Are Mormons Christian?
Many people have begun to speak on the topic, including Fuller Theological Seminary President Richard Mouw (http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2011/10/09/my-take-this-evangelical-says-mormonism-isnt-a-cult/?npt=NP1). He said that Mormon are not theologically in Christianity, but then made several qualifying statements concerning the dialogue evangelicals and Mormons have had in recent years. The quote that I found concerning was this:
“While I am not prepared to reclassify Mormonism as possessing undeniably Christian theology, I do accept many of my Mormon friends as genuine followers of the Jesus whom I worship as the divine Savior. I find Mormons to be more Christ-centered than they have been in the past.”
I lived in Utah for years. I pastored two churches there. I once spent a year meeting with Mormon missionaries twice a week. I love Mormons and I love dialoguing with them about theological matters. I have dialogued with many Mormons on the topic so I feel qualified to speak to this question.
The problem that is not addressed in Mouw’s statement, as well as many who debate this in the public forum is that when Jesus Christ’s name is mention, at first it sound like evangelicals and Mormons are talking the same language. But, once you begin to dig past the name “Jesus” and examine who He is, Mormons and evangelicals have a very different picture.
For Christians, Christ is the eternal Son. Philippians 2:5-11 clearly outlines the fact that Jesus is God. Philippians 2:6 says of Jesus: “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” Jesus existed in the form of God before He ever came to earth in a human body. The word ‘form’ means that Jesus bore the essential attributes of God and that He was in the essential image and glory of God. His essential state of being before He took a body was the nature and character of God. Jesus had no other existence, before His time on earth, than eternal existence as God. So when we talk about Jesus being the second person of the Trinity – God the Son – we are saying that in His essential nature and character He was God. His glory and honor and majesty were awesome and beyond compare. However, though the Son was equal in nature and character and majesty, He did not consider this something to clutch and cling to.
In Colossians 2:9 the Scriptures tell us that in Christ “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” In other words, in Christ all of the nature and character of God was there. Understand, He is not part God, or even part of God, He is God the Son.
Jesus even affirms the concept of His character and nature when He makes this incredible statement in John 10:30: “I and the Father are one.” And again in John 14:11: “Believe Me that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me…”

Mormons have a very different picture of Jesus – they do not believe in the concept of the Trinity – do not hold to the idea that Jesus is the one and only unique Son within the Christian idea of God. They believe He was the first born of God the Father (who had a wife and gave birth to Jesus and then all of us as well). So, Jesus is literally our spirit brother born of the Father (and the mother).
So, it does not matter how “Christ-centered” Mormons become because they are a different concept of who He is to begin with.
Years ago, I was dialoguing with a Mormon friend of mine. And I continually went back to this idea that Jesus is God. Showing her the passages we just mentioned and others as well. And finally the implications of this truth began to sink in and realizing she now had no other defense, realizing that the Scriptures did indeed teach Jesus as God – she looked at me and with complete honesty said, ‘If I become a Christian I will lose all of my friends.’
She did not reject the Christ of the Bible because she looked at the evidence and found that there was no evidence to support the Trinity. She rejected Christ because she looked at the evidence and decided that she would turn away from it.
This is true of every Mormon I have sat down with and discussed theology. From the faithful church-goer, to the missionary, to the Stake president, they all come away saying we have different ideas and that one of us is right and one of us is wrong and that we cannot both be right.

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3 Responses to “Are Mormons Christian?”

  1. John McClanahan says:

    I miss having you as my Bible teacher.

  2. Toby Foster says:

    Before I begin I will say this, I am a Mormon and i can see where you are coming from with this article but our stance is far more complex than you are letting on with this article.
    Your stance that our beliefs are unfounded in the Bible are incorrect. There is merely a discrepancy in the interpretation of the scriptures you cited. We believe that John 10:30 is a reference to Christ’s will and purpose being one with God’s will and again that John 14:11 is meant to mean that their wills are one in the same because of Christ’s divine parentage. There are other scriptures that would have suited your purposes but one of the main things that sets us apart from other Christians is that we believe in modern prophets and scriptures. These have given us the knowledge that some of the interpretations of the Bible were incorrect until the true church was restored upon the Earth.

    • Wes says:

      Toby –

      I appreciate your willingness to write about the way the LDS view Jesus Christ. And let me say that I could not do a full exposition of the Mormon teaching on Christ and still keep my blog short. So, you are right when you say that I did not do full justice to the theology. However, the core of the Mormon teaching, I believe, is correct.
      As far as the interpretation of the Scripture being “incorrect until the true church was restored” I wonder if you could tell me when the Scriptures were corrupted. At what point did the Scripture need to be restored? Because, Joseph Smith did indeed say that all of our churches were corrupt and “all their creeds were an abomination in His sight.” At what point did the Scriptures get corrupted and what was the corruption? Because if all Christian creeds are an abomination, where did we go wrong?

      As to your statement that Jesus was merely saying He was one in purpose with the Father (John 10:30), I have a question: Why did the Jews pick up stones to stone Him? 10:33 says it was for blasphemy (making Himself out to be God). When they told Jesus they were going to kill Him for blasphemy, why didn’t He correct them and tell them they misunderstood Him? Why didn’t He say, ‘I’m only one with the Father in purpose’?

      Look forward to your response. Thanks.

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