As you well may know, the Mormon Church’s official name is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Oftentimes, they will claim to be Christian, saying, “Look! Jesus Christ is even in the name of our church!” I have to object to this, not from a Mormon perspective (obviously each religious tradition believes that they have the attributes of the Divine, etc. correct), but rather from outside all religious traditions, from an outside perspective. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the church of Christ just as the God of Islam is the God of Abraham. Now, what do I mean by this? Islam claims to be the third step (much like Mormonism, actually) of the “Abrahamic faiths”, starting with Abraham and Judaism, continuing with Jesus and his followers (Christians), and finally completed with Islam through Mohammad. Because of this, Muslims claim that the God of Abraham, Jesus, and Mohammad are the same God. And from a Muslim perspective, that’s true. However, it would be incorrect to say that, as religious traditions, Christians and Muslims believe in the same God. For instance, the Christian God is triune, having three personages in one being (see my last post). The Jesus of Christianity is also different than the Jesus of Islam. The Jesus of Christianity claimed to be divine and resurrected three days after he died. The Jesus of Islam, while a prophet of God, was not divine and was ascended into heaven (according to the Qur’an, he will return at the end of days). Would it to be fair to say that both Christians and Muslims believe in the same Jesus? Of course not! In the same way, the Jesus of Christianity (a.k.a. the Jesus of Christians) is not the same as the Jesus of Mormonism.
How about an illustration: Person 1 has a Great Aunt Dorothy. Person 1 says Great Aunt Dorothy has hazel eyes, white hair, is fairly tan, and is fairly shy. Person 2 also has a Great Aunt Dorothy. Person 2 says Great Aunt Dorothy has blue eyes, grey hair, has a fair complexion, and is quite outgoing. So, does Person 1 have the same Great Aunt Dorothy as Person 2? No, no they don’t. They may share a name, but the different attributes of both of them mean they are different individuals.
According to the LDS Church News Week, in June of 1998, “President [of the LDS Church] Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints ‘do not believe in the traditional Christ.’ ‘No, I don’t. The traditional Christ [the Christ of Christianity] of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times. He together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the year 1820…”
So, if President Hinckley, said that Mormons believe in a different Christ than the rest of Christendom, why is it that his fellow Mormons are so reluctant to say that they are not Christian? Notice that the Christ President Hinckley speaks of revealed himself to Joseph Smith, an attribute not given to Christ by ANY Christian denomination.
Why is this so important? What does it matter that Mormons call themselves “Christian”? It matters because, frankly, it’s misleading for Christians. When Mormons go seeking new members, as on their missions, they claim to be Christian, and tell Christians to read the Book of Mormon, which doesn’t depart much from Christianity (as I showed in this post), except for the issue of salvation. It is only once they become a full-fledged member of the LDS Church that they actually learn about other LDS doctrines not found in the Book of Mormon or Bible, such as there being multiple gods all made of “flesh and bone” (as I showed here). The LDS Church denies that they keep any doctrinal information from new members, and I’m not saying that they hide anything. It’s just that many times, LDS members are troubled when they learn certain facts about their religion that they might have wanted to know when they decided to become Mormon. I’m also not saying that LDS members are lying to anyone joining their church. It’s more of a misunderstanding, that I would say is analogous to Catholics who say they are not Christian (perhaps also worthy of a blog post).
Let’s get back to the real issue at hand: Christ. So, as we’ve seen, the Christ of Christianity and Mormonism are different. The Bible makes it clear that we ought to get Christ right. This is essentially what doctrine is. As a side note, or those Christians who say “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship”, my answer is “yes, but no”. Yes, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is critical. However, it’s just as critical to have a personal relationship with the correct Jesus Christ. We know this through correct doctrine, which makes up the Christian religion. But I digress. 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 states, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve though his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” So, it is vitally important that we know the correct Jesus, and not another Jesus (whether “traditional” Christian or Mormon). In the coming posts, I will show more specifically the differences between the LDS Jesus and the Christian Jesus. Which Jesus do you follow?