By Sharon Lindbloom
21 October 2016
The LDS Daily website (“Not an official website of the true church”) provides Mormon readers with Family Home Evening lesson ideas. This week Aleah Ingram suggests a lesson titled, “Are Mormons Christian?” She writes,
“Since the Church was restored by Joseph Smith, many people have wondered if Mormons are Christians. A Christian is someone who believes Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer. As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we firmly believe we are Christians.”
In her lesson, Ms. Ingram includes the words of LDS Hymn #134, “I Believe in Christ.” This song speaks highly of Christ as Lord, God, and King, and recounts His work and accomplishments for mankind. The words are inspiring, filled with praise and worship for the Son of God.
I find this really interesting because the lyrics of Hymn #134 were written by late LDS apostle Bruce R. McConkie (1915-1985) who, in 1982, warned Mormons against a “relationship with Christ that is both improper and perilous.” One improper aspect of such a perilous relationship, according to this LDS apostle, included worshiping Jesus Christ (See BYU Devotional, “Our Relationship with the Lord,” 19). Mr. McConkie said,
“We worship the Father and him only and no one else.
“We do not worship the Son, and we do not worship the Holy Ghost. I know perfectly well what the scriptures say about worshipping Christ and Jehovah, but they are speaking in an entirely different sense—the sense of standing in awe and being reverentially grateful to him who has redeemed us. Worship in the true and saving sense is reserved for God the first, the Creator.” (5)
Yet in Mr. McConkie’s song he said of Christ, “I’ll worship him with all my might.” I don’t think Mr. McConkie was being contradictory or that he had changed his theology regarding worship between the time he wrote the lyrics and the time he presented the devotional at BYU. I think the perceived inconsistency lies in the way Mr. McConkie defined his words — the “sense” in which he used the word “worship” in his song was different than the sense in which he used it in his devotional speech.
This is often the problem Christians encounter when talking about spiritual things with Mormons. We use the same words, but ascribe different meanings to them. So here Mr. McConkie proclaims his worship of Christ (as do all of those who sing the hymn), but what he means is having a sense of “awe and being reverentially grateful” to Jesus – the same sort of feelings Mormons express for Joseph Smith or the living prophet, Thomas Monson (but please note that in these cases the feelings are definitely not understood by Mormons to be worship).
When Ms. Ingram wrote her Family Home Evening lesson she explained, “A Christian is someone who believes Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer.” In a Mormon context, what do these words mean?
The first words that need defining are “Jesus Christ.” Bruce McConkie’s hymn provides some background for Ms. Ingram’s statement, but just as with the word “worship,” more detail and definition is needed. These details can be found in the authoritative teachings of apostle McConkie. In his devotional speech he taught,
“All of us, Christ included, are the spirit children of the Father; all of us, Christ included, seek to become like the Father. In this sense the Firstborn, our Elder Brother, goes forward as we do. (7)
“The plan of salvation originated with the Father…he ordained the laws by obedience to which both we and Christ can become like him.” (7)
Elsewhere Mr. McConkie explained,
“Jesus kept the commandments of his Father and thereby worked out his own salvation, and also set an example as to the way and the means whereby all men may be saved” (The Mortal Messiah 4:434)
“By obedience and devotion to the truth he attained that pinnacle of intelligence which ranked him as a God, as the Lord Omnipotent…” (Mormon Doctrine, 129)
The Jesus Christ of whom Mormons sing differs significantly from Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible and worshiped by Christians all around the world. The Mormon Jesus is a created being, an older sibling to all men and women, a being who needed to be saved, who achieved his salvation by obedience to laws and ordinances, who became like God and became a God.
The biblical Christ is self-existent, not created. He, in fact, created all things that have ever been created (which includes you and me). He was God “in the beginning”; there was never a time in His existence when He was not God (John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-17). And there was never a time when God Himself needed to be saved. The Christian doctrines on the nature of Jesus prompted Mr. McConkie to write,
“…virtually all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ…” (Mormon Doctrine, 269)
Ms. Ingram’s Family Home Evening lesson says “a Christian is someone who believes Jesus Christ is our Savior and Redeemer.” Could it also be said that a Christian is one who believes a mythical Christ is our Savior and Redeemer? Mormon apostle Bruce McConkie would say no. He explained,
“The gods of Christendom…are gods who were created by men in the creeds of an apostate people. There is little profit or peace in serving them, and certainly there is no salvation available through them.” (A New Witness for the Articles of Faith, 545)
I agree that there is no salvation apart from the only true God. A Christian is not one who believes in a mythical Christ, but one who loves, trusts, serves and worships the real Christ in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).
Mormonism is not a Christian religion — it denies all of the essential doctrines of Christianity. But are Mormons Christian? The answer for Mormons — and everyone else — is that it really depends on which Christ we follow.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” –John 10:27