Sunday, April 15, 2012

Yes, Virginia, Mormons Are Christians

Dear and Gentle Readers,

Madame L confesses that she is still appalled at the people (Christians and ministers of Christianity) who are still claiming that Mormons are not Christians.

While Madame L will continue to address this issue, she is happy to hear from friends that an apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, has recently explained the basis on which members of the church (and Madame L is proudly one)  proclaim their belief in Christ.

For those who prefer to read, here is a transcript of Elder Holland's remarks. And Madame L is pasting here the main doctrinal points from the talk:

Our basic message about Christ’s restored Church and its doctrine is not limited to, but might begin with, the truth that:
  • Every man, woman, and child who has ever lived, now lives, or will yet live so long as the earth shall last is a son or daughter of a loving and divine Heavenly Father. He is the God in whose image we were created, which is not surprising in that children are always created in the image of their parents. As the spiritual offspring of God, we are “heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.”
  • In order to gain a mortal body and experience moral growth available in no other way, a real Adam and a real Eve chose to leave a paradisiacal setting—Eden, if you will—to learn all that was necessary for children of God to learn, especially about living together in love and realizing that the guidance God would give them is the only answer to the personal and familial, social and political, economic and philosophical problems they would face in mortality.
  • Because mistakes would be made in the course of that mortal education—sometimes horrible mistakes, wrenching mistakes, global mistakes—a Savior was provided in such a plan, one who would atone not only for Adam and Eve’s initial transgression (one necessary to bring the human family into mortal existence) but also for every individual transgression made by all those in that human family—the sins and sorrows, the disappointments and despair, the tears and tragedies of every man, woman, and child who would ever live from Adam to the end of the world.
  • Such a plan was necessary and such a Savior was required in it because life is eternal. Our hopes and dreams mattered before we came to this earth, and they will most certainly matter after we leave it.
  • Lastly, this plan, this divine course outlined for us—including the fortunate Fall in Eden and the redemption of Gethsemane and Calvary—is universally inclusive. All are children of the same God, and all are included in His love and His grace. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Everyone is covered, though it remains to be seen whether everyone cares. But if there is a failure to respond, it won’t be because God didn’t try and Christ didn’t come. That is at the heart of what I have been introducing to you as the restored gospel.
Now, in light of what I consider that pretty straightforward New Testament theology, one may wonder, “Why do these Mormons stir up such emotions in people, and why are they not considered Christian by some?” Let me conclude with just a few thoughts on that.

We are not considered Christian by some because we are not fourth-century Christians, we are not Nicene Christians, we are not creedal Christians of the brand that arose hundreds of years after Christ. No, when we speak of “restored Christianity” we speak of the Church as it was in its New Testament purity, not as it became when great councils were called to debate and anguish over what it was they really believed. So if one means Greek-influenced, council-convening, philosophy-flavored Christianity of post-apostolic times, we are not that kind of Christian. Peter we know, and Paul we know, but Constantine and Athanasius, Athens and Alexandria we do not know. (Actually, we know them, we just don’t follow them.) 
Thus, we teach that:
  • God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are separate and distinct beings with glorified bodies of flesh and bone. As such, we stand with the historical position that “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament].” We take Christ literally at His word—that He “came down from heaven, not to do [his] own will, but the will of him that sent [him].” Of His antagonists, He said they have “hated both me and my Father.” These, along with scores of other references, including His pleading prayers, make clear Jesus’s physical separation from His Father. However, having affirmed the point of Their separate and distinct physical nature, we declare unequivocally that They were indeed “one” in every other conceivable way—in mind and deed, in will and wish and hope, in faith and purpose and intent and love. They are most assuredly much more alike than They are different in all the ways I have just said, but They are separate and distinct beings as all fathers and sons are. In this matter we differ from traditional creedal Christianity but agree with the New Testament.
  • We also differ with fourth and fifth century Christianity by declaring that the scriptural canon is not closed, that the heavens are open with revelatory experience, and that God meant what He said when He promised Moses, “My works are without end, and . . . my words . . . never cease.” We believe that God loves all His children and that He would never leave them for long without the instrumentality of prophets and apostles, authorized agents of His guidance and direction. The Book of Mormon and other canonized scripture, as well as the role of living oracles, witnesses to the fact that God continues to speak. We agree enthusiastically with the insightful Protestant scholar who inquired, “On what biblical or historical grounds has the inspiration of God been limited to the written documents that the church now calls its Bible? . . . If the Spirit inspired only the written documents of the first century, does that mean that the same Spirit does not speak today . . . about matters that are of significant concern?”
  • Lastly, for today, we are unique in the modern Christian world regarding one matter which a prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints called our “most distinguishing feature.” That is, divine priesthood authority to provide the saving sacraments—the ordinances—of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The holy priesthood, which has been restored to the earth by those who held it anciently, signals the return of divine authorization. It is different from all other man-made powers and authorities on the face of the earth. Without it there could be a church in name only, and it would be a church lacking in authority to administer in the things of God. This restoration of priesthood authority eases centuries of anguish among those who knew certain ordinances and sacraments were essential but lived with the doubt as to who had the right to administer them.
In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints we can answer the question of “who laid hands on him” all the way back to Christ Himself. The return of such authority is truly “the most distinguishing feature” of our faith.

Any questions? Contact your local missionaries. (You don't need an official of the church to talk to you about this!--Hint, hint, Lawrence O'Donnell!)


AskTheGeologist said...

VERY succinct, and very complete. I've watched that twice - it is so good, so carefully stated.

However, I would not be quite so politic in describing it as 4th Century creedal, philosophy-driven, post-Apostolic christianity.

In fact the Nicaean Creed was driven by politics - Constantine's need for a common policy to enforce upon his empire to unify it. It was decided by slap-fights, and was enforced at the point of a sword, with the losers being exiled to Illyria. All this happened about 15 generations after the last Apostles, and over 100 years after what German scholars labeled in the 19th Century as the completion of "The Great Apostacy."

No thanks. I recoiled from that as an 11-year-old while being taught in Catholic School in California.

And people wondered why I was an atheist for 10 years.

Cassie said...

Awesome, clear, well-educated and well-put talk! Thanks for posting it.