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dianahsieh

Mormonism and Christianity

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By Diana from NoodleFood,cross-posted by MetaBlog

Paul and I had a short discussion a few weeks ago about Mormonism. After I posted my entry on Mark Skousen's essay on Ayn Rand, Paul discovered that Skousen is Mormon. He suggested that I change the entry to reflect that, but I replied that Mormonism is a form of Christianity, so my description of him as Christian was fine. Paul mentioned the new covenant of Mormonism. I suggested that Mormons accepted the Apostles' Creed, so that made them Christian, whatever silly stuff they added to it. Neither of us cared too much, nor knew too much, so that was pretty much the end of the discussion.

Three questions:

  • Do Mormons consider themselves Christians? (I'm pretty sure the answer to that is yes.)

  • Do other Christians consider Mormons Christians? (I suspect that varies greatly. Some Protestants probably don't consider Catholics Christian and vice versa. That's the fallacy of the frozen abstraction, I think.)

  • Most importantly: Are Mormons properly classified as Christians? In other words, do their core doctrines vary fundamentally from those of Baptists, Catholics, Greek Orthodox, Quakers, etc, such that their religion should be considered an alternative to Christianity rather than just a form of it? (I don't know enough about Mormonism to say.)

I don't care much about the particular case of Mormonism, but I am interested in the conceptual classification of systems of belief, as well as the core principles and boundaries of Christianity.

http://ObjectivismOnline.com/blog/archives/002441.html

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I've had several Mormon friends and neighbors over the years. I never thought to ask them if they considered themselves Christian, but it seems to me the answer must be yes. After all, the full name of their church is "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints." And when they advertise on TV offering to send you a free book, it's the Bible.

As to the second question: I have a brother who's a fundamentalist Christian, and he considers Mormons not to be Christian. I'm not real clear on what his reasons are; something about them "denying the divinity of Christ." What he means by that, and whether a Mormon would agree, I have no idea.

I don't know enough about various religions for this to be more than an opinion, but it seems to me that if the term "Christian" is defined so as to include all the other denominations mentioned in Diana's post, it has to include Mormons as well. (As she noted, not all members of those denominations would use that inclusive a definition.) They believe that Jesus Christ exists, that he is the begotten son of God, and that he was resurrected after being killed. By me, that's Christian.

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Hyrum Smith wrote an excellent secular book years ago called The Ten Natural Laws of Successful Time and Life Management derived in a way from Objectivism. By that I mean that he drew upon The Psychology of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden which in turn drew from material published in The Objectivist Newsletter. Basically, Smith argues that productivity and self-esteem have strong psychological links and that a third element, event control, ties those together to make them accessible to us in a systematic fashion. He based his famous Franklin Day Planner on this fundamental "tri-quation" and it still remains basically the same since he started his company back in the middle of the 1980s.

Smith articulates the idea of governing values or standards by which each person judges his own moral worth. He gets this idea from Benjamin Franklin's autobiographical story of his "little book" that he used to track his own adherence to his "thirteen virtues" for the sake of reaching "moral perfection" -- hence the name of the Franklin Day Planner.

Smith, a devout Mormon, lists his adherence to God and "Christian living" among his top governing values in his sample "Personal Constitution" in the book. Fortunately, Smith takes a "natural law" approach in advancing his ideas and does not rely on supernaturalism or mysticism to make his case. Thus, Objectivists will gain much from reading this book despite Smith's own mystical errors.

You can read a summary of the book here:

http://attitudeadjustment.tripod.com/Books/Ten-Laws.htm

Visit http://www.franklincovey.com to order their day planner.

I will never forget the semester when I had three roommates in a two bedroom condominium we all shared while on work study. I shared a room with a devout Mormon while the two hedonists shared the other room. Despite my atheism, I still had more in common with the calm, reserved, studious Mormon than I did with the carousing, drinking, womanizing hedonists. The Mormon spent 30 minutes every single morning reading from his holy books without fail.

They do teach discipline and focus and productiveness and that has advantages in all areas of life. But they still have some very wrong ideas that demand evasion. My local acquaintance Mike Earl, a former Mormon, has an entire site that might help:

http://www.reasonworks.com

Perhaps their strangest belief, which my roommate confirmed, involves their faith that if a person cultivates a good enough soul, he can literally become god of another world in the hereafter. You would need to do some research to learn more about that.

My own Christian church considered Mormonism a cult but not part of the occult -- a church that teaches exemplary character but also beliefs at odds with the "proper" divine inspiration of the Bible though due to human evil rather than Satanic influence. From a secular viewpoint, I see no way around classifying all of them as Christian given their common denominator of accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and the following of his teachings as the worthy ideal in this world. The only disagreement centers on exactly what constitutes those teachings and how to implement them in a way that pleases God and achieves salvation.

To answer your questions succinctly:

1. Yes, Mormons consider themselves Christians.

2. No, other Christians generally do not consider Mormons Christians.

3. Yes, Objectivists and other secularists ought to consider Mormons Christians.

Edited by LutherSetzer

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I classify Judaism, Christianity, and Mormonism by the book of myths which they have imposed upon the world as revelation from God. Judaism imposed the Old Testament. Christianity imposed the New. And Mormonism has imposed the Book of Mormon upon us.

I no longer call Mormons Christians, because it is an insult to Christians, who have enough sense to believe in only two books of myths, not three.

If you insist on classifying these religions by their nonsensical doctrines, then I would say that Mormons are polytheistic Christians, because they worship God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, but do not believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, while most other Christians are monotheistic Christians, because they worship God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, and do believe in the Trinity. You might also call them trinitarians and non-trinitarians, since you'll probably never get a Mormon to admit that he is a polytheist.

Edited by MisterSwig

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When I was a Christian, I vehemently denied that Mormons had a right to call themselves Christians, and I stand by that judgement. Having a Mormon aunt, I know a bit about their religion.

Mormons believe that God was once a normal, mortal being who lived on another planet and attained God-ship by living a good Mormon life. There is simply no way to reconcile that with any conception of God that is found in the 3 main branches of Christianity. Then there's this pesky little verse that Mormons like to ignore:

Revelation 22:18

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.

I could go on about the many doctrines of Mormonism that absolutely disqualifies it from being considered Christian, but I will not do so. I will make another point, however:

Christianity is certainly irrational. But it cannot even begin to compare to the irrational monstrosity known as Mormonism. Christianity has produced some important philosophers (Thomas Aquinas comes to mind). Furthermore, most Christian theologians generally recognize the need to apply reason to their religion and have made exhaustive attempts to do so. They may apply it incorrectly, but at least they recognize the need to have a rational basis for belief.

Then you have Mormons...they don't even try. The things described in the Book of Mormon have been conclusively proven to be a load of bullshit. That book describes a civilization that existed in the Americas that, according to all archaeological evidence, never existed at all. Mormons will just wave their hands and say "well, all traces of its existence were wiped out by God." I know I don't have to point out, to anyone on this board, how ridiculous that is. But you will not find many Christians who would honestly be stupid enough to use that line of reasoning, regarding their own religion.

If you ever get a chance, watch the South Park episode titled "All About Mormons." Some of its claims are exaggerated, but they're actually pretty accurate. Mormons really do, for instance, believe that the Native Americans originated in Jerusalem and that Adam and Eve lived in what is now known as Missouri. For all its faults, the Bible describes a number of events and civilizations that actually existed. The Hittites, Philistines, Egyptians, Israelites, etc. were all real peoples. The same cannot be said of anything in the Book of Mormon.

Edited by Moose

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You might also call them trinitarians and non-trinitarians, since you'll probably never get a Mormon to admit that he is a polytheist.

Except that Mormons are polytheists even if they consider the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be the same God. They think that other worlds have different deities, that are wholly separate from the one that governs our own world.

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Do Mormons consider themselves Christians? (I'm pretty sure the answer to that is yes.)

Yes.

Do other Christians consider Mormons Christians? (I suspect that varies greatly. Some Protestants probably don't consider Catholics Christian and vice versa. That's the fallacy of the frozen abstraction, I think.)

Some do, some don't. This article might help.

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I think you can't get a good answer to the question of whether Mormons are Christians, since there are many definitions. But here's one more thing to throw into the mix.

One thing that distinguishes Mormons from other sects of Christianity is that the others believed in a "closed canon." They accepted the Bible (with or without the Apocrypha) as the holy text and didn't expect more where that came from. Mormons claimed that there was this new holy text, and it seems logical from a Mormon perspective that there could be others.

I also would like to echo that the difference between Christianity and Mormonism on the Bullshit-o-meter is enormous. Mormonism ranks only slightly lower than Scientology on that scale. "Reformed Egyptian" is a real language? Give me a break. At least the Bible was written in real languages.

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I went to church as a mormon in my younger (and more vulnerable years...). Mormons do consider themselves christians. They should be considered christians, because they believe in the divinity of christ, although I don't think what they are called matters too much.

If you want to laugh your ass off, theres a Southpark episode that makes fun of them.

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Except that Mormons are polytheists even if they consider the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be the same God. They think that other worlds have different deities, that are wholly separate from the one that governs our own world.

I see fit to respond. The question hinges on whether or not believing in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as a single being is essential to being a Christian.

I think Mormons might be the platypus of Christianity: impossible to classify as wholly Christian or non-Christian.

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Then there's this pesky little verse that Mormons like to ignore:

"Revelation 22:18

I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book."

Did the Mormons change the book of Revelation?

If you read that verse in context, it is clear that it only applies to the contents of the Book of Revelation, not to the whole Bible or whole New Testament, which did not exist at the time Revelation was written, as "the Bible" was compiled and canonized a couple of centuries later.

But maybe the Mormons did rewrite Revelations. I don't know much about Mormons, besides what I've learned from Southpark and Orgazmo!

[edit:spell]

Edited by Bold Standard

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As as general remark, I think that most people commenting in this thread have an overly-restrictive view of what constitutes Christianity. I held similar views, until I began researching the history of early Christianity over the past year.

The early Christians did not all believe in the Trinity nor in the dual natural of Jesus as fully human and fully divine. Those views have no significant support in the Scriptures. They were imposed -- often with great resistance from large majorities -- on genuine Christians by the Roman emperors centuries after the death of Jesus in the hopes of eliminating the doctrinal squabbles that were fracturing the already fragile empire. (For whatever reason, the Roman emperors always seemed to choose the most theologically absurd of the available alternatives to impose on Christians. That's the source of at least many of the Christian "mysteries.")

You can find tons of details on that in the really, really, really excellent book The Closing of the Western Mind: The Rise of Faith and the Fall of Reason by Charles Freeman.

As for judging adherents of religion, I've been completely convinced by this general argument posted by PMB in the NoodleFood comments. In the case of the Mormons, they do have new Scripture. That makes them a boderline case, I think. They might really break off from Christianity at some point, as the early Christians did from Judaism. Or they might fold themselves back into ordinary Christianity by emphasizing their own Scripture less and less. Or they might persist as they are.

Edited by dianahsieh

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Mormons believe that God was once a normal, mortal being who lived on another planet and attained God-ship by living a good Mormon life.
I have got to say that is the craziest thing I have seen in a long time. Lord of Kobol indeed! From the LSD church itself, "It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the character of God. . . . He was once a man like us; . . . God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 345-46).

The idea that god was once a man is such a complete break with any version of Semitic theology that Mormonology cannot possibly be called a kind of "Christianity". If you want to call Mormons Christians, you should do the same for Muslims and Baha'is. What exactly is the defining characteristic of "Christian" supposed to be? Are Unitarians a kind of Christian?

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The idea that god was once a man is such a complete break with any version of Semitic theology that Mormonology cannot possibly be called a kind of "Christianity".

The Trinity just as much a break from "Semitic theology" -- if by that you mean the Hewbrew Bible. So is the worshipping of saints, the rejection of the Mosiac law, etc. That's why Christians aren't Jews. They claim to accept the OT as scripture, but they don't really mean it. Moreover, I don't see this Mormon view as so terribly far-afield from Christian views of divinity, particularly of the divinity of Jesus.

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That's why Christians aren't Jews.
Alright, but why aren't Muslims, Unitarians or Baha'is also Christian (unless you're claiming that they are). What is the essential characteristic that defined Christianity?

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Alright, but why aren't Muslims, Unitarians or Baha'is also Christian (unless you're claiming that they are). What is the essential characteristic that defined Christianity?

David, as I mentioned in my first post, my general view of these matters is exactly that of PMB posted in the NoodleFood comments. In short: Religions are sets of often-conflicting and often-changing dogmas, so a particular religion cannot be defined in terms of fundamental principles or systems of thought. The fundamental difference between the major religions is largely one of accepted Scripture or tradition. That's why I think that the Mormons are a borderline case, since they have an additional scriptural text, yet also still rely heavily on the New Testament. They're rather like the early Jewish Christians, i.e. those who kept the Mosiac law yet regarded Jesus as the Messiah. If memory serves, the Apostles James and Peter were probably in that camp.

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What is the essential characteristic that defined Christianity?

Isn't it the cult to Jesus Christ?

As far as I know, all Christians worship Jesus as much as God (whether they think they're both the same or not). Jews don't worship Jesus, or any other man for that matter. Muslims don't consider the Bible, either part, to be scripture. Their sole holy book is the Koran.

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As far as I know, all Christians worship Jesus as much as God (whether they think they're both the same or not). Jews don't worship Jesus, or any other man for that matter. Muslims don't consider the Bible, either part, to be scripture. Their sole holy book is the Koran.
Presumably you noticed that I never suggested that Jews are some kind of Christian, so the fact that Jews don't worship Jeebus wouldn't have any bearing on the matter. Jewish belief are relevant only in extablishing that the divinity of god (that is a basic tautology) is so fundamental that it isn't even exclusive to the Xers, and yet the Mormons claim that god used to be a man on the planet Kolob (this shit is too wierd to make up).

What would have a bearing on the question is whether other cults, such is Islam, Unitarianism or Baha'i, do what Christians do w.r.t. Jesus, and they do. The Baha'i, Unitarian and Muslim perspectives on Mr. X are not identical to standard Protestant or Roman Catholic views; OTOH, Protestant views are not the same as Catlick views and there are a number of minor ethnic cults that are nominally called "Christian". What aspect of the definition of Christianity includes Orthodox, Roman, Protestant and Mormon, but does not include Unification Church, Unitarians, Rosicrucians, Muslims, Baha'i and various post-Jesus developments?

So stop focusing on the Jews, and focus on the post-Christian cults. It is obvious that Jews can't worship Jesus since what defines Judaism precedes the supposed birth of Jesus by 500-1000 years. The Jews who took to worshiping Jesus now have a name -- Christian (not to mention the now extinct Jewish Christians). What we care about is the set of Jesus-accepters. Now the question is this: how do you define "Christian", and which of the cults are in the set known as "Christian"? Is it defined with respect to the beliefs of the dominant sects of Christianity at some historical point (for example "by 300 AD")? We know that those beliefs were not uniform in the early history of the church. I just want a clear defining statement of what it means to "be Christian", or else a recognition that Christianity is such an anti-concept that it is plain impossible to know what a "Christian" is.

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Isn't it the cult to Jesus Christ?

As far as I know, all Christians worship Jesus as much as God (whether they think they're both the same or not). Jews don't worship Jesus, or any other man for that matter. Muslims don't consider the Bible, either part, to be scripture. Their sole holy book is the Koran.

Not entirely true. Muslims consider the Gospel to be a holy book that has been corrupted.

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I agree with David (especially since I was the first to mention it) that the Mormon concept of God is enough of a break with Christian theology as to consider them non-Christians. Sure, all the denominations have differences and maybe Christians didn't always accept the idea of the trinity. But religions evolve, and virtually all Christians now accept the doctrine of the trinity. Furthermore, they all believe that God is the uncaused cause of everything. When all 10,000 denominations of Christianity agree on these 2 points, both of which are absolutely fundamental to modern Christian theology, it is safe to exclude the Mormons.

Edited by Moose

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The early Christians did not all believe in the Trinity nor in the dual natural of Jesus as fully human and fully divine. Those views have no significant support in the Scriptures. They were imposed -- often with great resistance from large majorities -- on genuine Christians . . .

What is a "genuine Christian?" Are you saying that trinitarians are not "genuine Christians," thus not real Christians? I don't understand your view.

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What is a "genuine Christian?" Are you saying that trinitarians are not "genuine Christians," thus not real Christians? I don't understand your view.

No, I'm not saying that at all. All that I'm saying that the category "Christian" encompasses a substantially wider variety of views than merely those commonly found today. For example, I think that the legions of early Christians who denied the Trinity were genuine Christians, just as today's Baptists and Catholics are genuine Christians.

Also, I'm not saying that a Christian must be consistent with Scripture. As anyone who has read the whole New Testament knows, that's completely impossible. The texts are flatly contradictory on more than a few major issues. However, a Christian must regard the New Testament (or the earlier traditions) as authoritative (in some sense).

Does that seem more clear? (You may not agree with it, but that's another matter!)

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