A thoughtful answer to that question has to go beyond the common response that it is indeed Christ-centered because it has Jesus Christ in its name. That is like saying Dr. J of past basketball fame was a doctor because he had doctor in his name. To truly answer that question one needs to examine what Mormonism truly focuses on.
Since the LDS Church publishes an extensive number of official manuals and makes many public pronouncements there is a wealth of material to examine. Over the years, in past posts, I have cited many such manuals and pronouncements. Today, however, I’m examining a manual I have never before referred to. It is the official church manual for teaching nursery (ages 1 ½ to 2). I recently picked it up because often seeing what a church teaches its very young is quite revealing of what it is emphasizing. To put it simply, we teach our young the basics of our faith.
So what does this manual reveal? The thing that immediately jumps out from the table of contents is how many lessons begin with “I”. “I Will Be Thankful”, “I Will Love Others”, I Will Obey” to name a few.
Further examination shows that this emphasis on the child and what he is to do carries through the whole manual even in the lessons that don’t begin with an “I”. One example of that is the lesson entitled, “Jesus Christ Showed Us How to Love Others”. In that lesson they are taught a little song called “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus”. The teacher is to share with them a few stories of how Jesus helped others and after each story the children are to say: “Jesus showed us how to love others”. Even though Jesus is mentioned in this lesson, what is stressed is their trying to be like Jesus.
The other thing that is striking about this manual is how little it talks about Jesus. In all thirty lessons I could not find a single suggestion that the teacher should talk about the fact that Jesus has saved them. Take, for example, the song taught in the lesson, “Heavenly Father Has a Plan for Me”.
I am a child of God
And he has sent me here
He has given me an earthly home
With parents kind and dear.
Lead me, guide me, walk beside me
Help me find the way.
Teach me all that I must do
To live with him someday.
Now some might be thinking that since this is a manual for teaching very small children big doctrinal issues have no place in it. But that is not the case. It talks about pre-existence, that Heavenly Father has a body, that the Holy Ghost speaks to them, Joseph Smith’s first vision, the importance of a living prophet, the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and so on. It even has a lesson on the priesthood. But it doesn’t tell them much about Jesus. And, as I mentioned above, it never once even briefly touches on the fact that he saved us. Instead, for example, in the lesson on Christmas they are taught this song:
How could the Father tell the world of love and tenderness?
He sent His Son, a newborn babe, with peace and holiness.
How could the Father show the pathway we should go?
He sent His Son to walk with men on earth, that we many know.
Is the LDS Church Christ-centered? An examination of the basics that they teach their children says a definite no. When he is talked about at all, it is exclusively as an example. The teaching of Jesus as the Savior is conspicuous by its absence.
That is why it is so important for Christians to make use of every opportunity to share a Christ-centered message with Mormons -a message that centers on Christ, not as our example, but as our Savior. That is what being Christ-centered is all about.