05
Dec
12

What is a Christian?

One thing that is endlessly debated between Mormons and others is whether or not Mormons are Christians.  One of the points that non-Mormons need to understand is that Mormons sincerely believe that they are Christians and are sincerely astonished when people say they aren’t.  One of the things that Mormons need to understand is that it is totally illogical to non-Mormons for Mormons to claim, on the one hand, that they are Christians just like us, while, on the other hand, saying that the LDS Church is the only true church and that the creeds that most Christians subscribe to are abominations.  I, along with many non-Mormons say that you can’t have it both ways.

But because this is such a hot-button topic, I usually don’t like to get into a discussion of it – because rarely does such a discussion reap any positive benefits.  I prefer focusing not on what people call themselves but on what they believe – especially on what they believe a person needs to do to live with Heavenly Father for all eternity.  If that is the case, however, you might be wondering, if I don’t like to talk about that, why I am bringing it up now.

The reason is because of a talk given at the last General Conference by Elder Robert D. Hales, one of the 12 LDS apostles, entitled “Being a More Christian Christian.”  He begins this talk by citing the reasons why the LDS Church is Christian.  I usually don’t like posting longer quotes but this time I’m going to make an exception.  This is how his talk begins.

     “What does it mean to be a Christian?

     A Christian has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is the literal Son of God, sent by His Father to suffer for our sins in the supreme act of love we know as the Atonement.

     A Christian believes that through the grace of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, we can repent, forgive others, keep the commandments, and inherit eternal life.

     The word Christian denotes taking upon us the name of Christ. We do this by being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by those holding His priesthood authority.

     A Christian knows that throughout the ages, God’s prophets have always testified of Jesus Christ. This same Jesus, accompanied by Heavenly Father, appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the year 1820 and restored the gospel and the organization of His original Church.

     Through the scriptures and the witness of Joseph Smith, we know that God, our Heavenly Father, has a glorified and perfected body of flesh and bone. Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son in the flesh. The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit whose work is to testify of the Father and the Son. The Godhead is three separate and distinct beings, unified in purpose.

     With these doctrines as the foundation of our faith, can there be any doubt or disputation that we, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are Christian?”

There are a lot of things worthy of being addressed in those paragraphs. One wonders again, using these words of an LDS apostle as a guideline, how Mormons can claim that they are Christians just like us.  I say that because there are many things he cites that Christians don’t believe.  For example, how can they consider me a Christian if I have not been baptized by somebody holding priesthood authority?  The same question applies to my not believing that Joseph Smith was a prophet or that the church was restored, or that the Father has a body of flesh and bone, or that Jesus is the only begotten in the flesh, or that the Godhead is unified only in purpose and not in being.

But not only that. There is a whole lot here that also enables us to make the judgment that Mormons are not Christians.  The foundational doctrines that he lists are not the foundational doctrines of Christianity.  His words are clear proof that the LDS Church is not Christian.

In this regard, I want to focus specifically on the third paragraph where he talks about grace.  Instead of defining grace as a characteristic of God, namely, his unconditional, amazing love for us that moved him to save us by sacrificing his Son in our place, Mormonism sees it as power given to us – power that enables us to do the things Elder Hales mentions:  repent, forgive others, keep the commandments, inherit eternal life.  As True to the Faith says, “The word grace, as used in the scriptures, refers primarily to the divine help and strength we receive through the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The difference between “given to you” and “done for you” is huge.  When you see grace as a power given to you, then the burden is on you to use that power to do the things that need to be done to become acceptable by God.  But when you see grace as God’s love for you moving him to work for you, causing him to sacrifice his Son for you, then the pressure is off.  Because then you know it has already been accomplished for you.

That is why Christmas is such a wonderful Season.  At Christmas Jesus came for us – to do it all for us. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4: 4-5).  This Christmas honor God by boldly declaring and joyfully celebrating the wonderful truth that Jesus has done it all for you.  That is the Christian response to Christmas.

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