Friday, December 12, 2008

WHO CARES if we're Christian!

Are Mormons Christians? Holy CRAP I'm tired of this one.

Does it really matter what the world calls us? Does the title matter? I don't mean to make this a blog entry consisting entirely of questions - none of which are hypothetical - but seriously now. General Conference talks have been based on this. We're all very concerned about the rest of the world accepting us into the realm of Christendom.

Let me ask you something: Is the title of Christian requisite for admission into God's Kingdom? I get that, without this understanding, conversion for those who belong to other Christian denominations might prove rather difficult. But it's hardly central to salvation to have the title.

The fundamental belief of all Christian people is that Christ is our savior. To us, it's rather obvious.

To others, not so much.

But does it matter what others think? If the Gospel is true and we know what we teach and believe in, what does it matter?

I worry this is too much a PR move. We've a long, glorious history of ostracism, persecution, and other such lovely things. People like to spit that we believe in a "different" Christ - and we laugh. A different Christ? How many could there possibly be?

Other churches see us as cultish. Our doctrines are not only strange to many but border on blasphemous (if not entirely blasphemous). This hurts our image. We want common ground to help our image so we can be of better good in the world. I understand that.

What I don't understand is how much energy we've spent on the subject. Please like us. We believe in Christ, too. Look! It's in the name of our church (and while we're on the subject, just where is Christ's name in your church?). We're taking the defensive role where there's really no reason for it. Our penecostal or evangelical (or even Catholic) friends will not be the ones to let us through the gates of heaven. Why we act like they will be is beyond me.

Why expend so much energy in trying to convince others otherwise? Yes there's plenty misinformation out there - people will believe anything negative about us, but this whole idea of jumping up and down with the proclamation that we are Christian too (RU Christian 2?) seems a little needless and silly.

Face it. We are not part of the mainstream Christian group. We don't believe in the Trinity, we believe God has a body, we believe Christ came to America, that baptism is essential and we put more emphasis on works than do other Christian churches (this is especially offensive to them, though it is largely misunderstood). Hell, there is unofficial speculation that Christ likely married. These ideas are seen as heretical and are thus rejected by mainstream Christians, and that is why they don't believe us to be Christian.

I just can't get rid of the image of a bunch of kids out in the playground, some calling one child "stupid" or a "baby." Does the name calling make it so? No. If we are secure in our own standing with God and his Son, than all we have to do is smile and say "Well, go ahead and think that. I know who I am and who I worship" and walk away.

So let's get over it. Let's preach about more important things. Let's worry less about acceptance and more about our personal relationship with Christ, shall we?

(bytheby, I may not post much if at all this weekend as I won't be home very much. I hope everyone has a good one!)


Chris and Annalee Waddell said...

Proclaiming the truth is part of the threefold mission of the church. It is important to dispel erroneous views held and even pronounced by other people and organizations so that others know exactly who we are, what we believe. Then they will be better able to make an informed decision about accepting the gospel/joining the church or even just revering the church for who/what we actually are. It may not seem significant in our own communities, but keep in mind this is a worldwide church. To be viewed as non-Christian could have more impact in other cultures. You know how people can be, look how they treated Obama on account of his name and his affiliation with WIlliam Ayers. It helps to be painfully clear sometimes.

Grégoire said...

I remember sitting in sacrament meeting, before I had even started kindergarten (it would have been around 1975) and hearing for the first time that we were "Christians".

They had always been big on telling us that we weren't Christians, we were Mormons. All of a sudden, the directive was issued, and things turned on a dime.

I wonder if anyone else has more details on who made this change and what was the motivation behind it. My guess is civil rights, but I don't know.

Why would Mormons want to be Christians anyway? They're a particularly sorry lot of people, for the most part, those Christians. LOL!

Lisa said...

The truth is that we're Christian? Again - what does it matter? We do what we do, we bring in people by virtue of our lifestyle and example, and we teach them that way. By example.

Now, if others are running around calling us pedophiles or something equally disgusting, then yes. We need to clarify that. While I take some issue at our telling others we don't practice polygamy (but we kinda do), I totally get why we need to say something. I just wish we were more forthcoming.

But I digress.

But Christian"? Eh. I'm also failing to see the relationship between our church being Christian and Bill Ayers - we've no guilt by association here. Just by living up to bearing the name of Christ.

Gregoire: It's stories like that which make me wish I'd have been born into the church...years ago. Just to be able to see how things such as racism, sexism (oh hush everyone), etc have progressed and changed through the years. I love looking up old conference talks, but I'm afraid many are gone. Early stuff would be so fascinating.

I will say one thing: When I was on my way to my very first church function (Institute), the "Christian" issue came in rather handy.

"Mom, I'm going to a church thing tonight." (Mind you, I was scared to death. I knew how she felt about the Church)

"...Which one?"

"Don't worry, Mom. They're Christian."

And off I went.

She was rather disturbed and probably a little angry when she discovered it was actually the Mormons I was visiting. She didn't think they were one in the same. I don't think it really matters in the end.

I just fail to see where the importance is in the title that it requires us to go around shouting so much that we are Christians. Aren't we losing the focus here just a bit?

Chris and Annalee Waddell said...

I thought it was pretty clear. I am talking about labels here (non-Christian, terrorist, whatever). People use labels to get at the essence of what a thing/person is. Is the Mormon church a non-Christian establishment? Is Obama a terrorist? Do you understand? This is not about connecting Christianity and terrorism, these are mere examples of how people use labels to understand something/someone. I'm not saying labeling is the best way to understand something. But it's the way people think and it might be an explanation as to why the leaders of the church make being Christian a topic of discourse.

illogically logical said...

When I was younger I lived in a small southern town. Mormons were starting to "flock" to this town and the Townies didn't like it. Even though the LDS church was doing a lot of service in the town, people hated us because they thought we were in a cult and every other thing you could think of. They were desperate for an organist at one of the Presbyterian Churches, so I applied for the job and got it. By my example, but by also learning that we believe in Christ, and therefore are Christian too it changed their whole perspective of the mormons. None of them converted (I didn't even try to convert them, they were happy, good people) but their attitude towards Mormons totally changed.

Christ is central to our religion. The only way to salvation is through Christ. Do you think people will be willing to listen to us if they think we don't believe in Christ?

I don't say this to be mean, really. But, what do you like about the church? What keeps you coming back? What good things do you see? If I had no knowledge of this church, would you try to testify of its truthfulness? Are you bringing people to the Lord, or are you pushing them away? (Seriously, I'm not trying to be mean or insulting or start some kind of debate. I just want to know.)

Laura said...

I once had a very good Baptist friend seriously sit me down and say "I need to know that you are Christian so that I won't worry about your salvation anymore." I was completely offended as this was someone who I went to 4 years of college with, someone who knew me well and knew my intentions.

Seriously - the word to me is meaningless. What does it mean to be a Christian anyway? If it means you must interrogate others about their beliefs and insist that they be saved, then I'm not so sure I want to be lumped into that category. WHy do we feel the need to constantly defend ourselves? If others can't see that we aren't striving to be Christlike, then the problem is really theirs. I really feel as if those who are really seeking out the truth will not be swayed by a label.

I live in the Bible belt here where I am regularly accused of not being Christian. So I wonder if it is this way in other countries. Is the same level of importance attatched to the meaning of the word?

Lisa said...

I have no problem with telling others Christ is central to our religion. None at all. I just find it rather silly that we're spending so much time on a title rather than working on actually acting like Christians.

If people ask what we believe in, than we can tell them. We can call ourselves Christian. I don't really care. I call myself Christian, but I'm not throwing a fit anymore about ensuring everyone knows I'm Christian, dammit, and not Mormon/LDS. Get the distinction?

It just seems to me, and always has, like we're trying to make sure everyone likes us and knows we fit in. I think we should stand strong enough on our own. Our works should manifest truth on its own. Our light will shine, and people will come. If people want to treat us like shit because they don't think we're Christian, that's not my problem, and I should be more concerned about being part of a group who is so exclusive in who they treat how.

We're different but the same. Isn't it our differences that we want to highlight? It was the differences that brought me to the baptismal font. I understand wanting to highlight the similiarities to help others feel we're more approachable, but the fact is that some other churches will always see us as heathens destined for hell because our view of Christ and his gospel IS fundamentally different in many ways. We can call ourselves Christian all we want. We can tell them WHY we're Christian, but there are enough people who will never believe it despite all our conference talks.

I say we just say it and move on to more important things. Just having Christ's name in the name of our Church proves absolutely nothing. There are many who pay lip service - I say we pay more attention to our actions. BE Christlike rather than say we are.

That said, if someone asks, I will tell them what I think and why concerning our status as Christian. I will tell them we absolutely are.

As for your other question. I hestitate to answer that right now. It's obvious I'm having issues, and I'm certain I'm not alone.

I'm trying to work through some things. Honestly and sincerely trying to work through some things. This is an effort to reconcile if it's at all possible.

If someone were to ask me about the church, I would tell them that it's purely up to them and God, that they should study it out - really, really study it out. Get all the sides. If something bothers them before they join (like women and the priesthood or polygamy - the latter bugged me) and get that figured out. Don't tuck it away because it really might matter someday and it is shaking.

I've had a few issues for some years now and have kept them secret. I've been scared. I've ignored things. I cannot with confidence say much, and I will not continue to pretend I have any confidence where I do not.

There is much to love about this church, but this blog is for me to sort through my more crazy side. I'm trying, I'm trudging, I'm fighting. This is one of the scariest things I've gone through. I'm giving myself a voice where I did not before, and I'm praying the entire way that I'll end up doing the right thing, whatever that may end up being for me.

I've been considering doing a more likable post soon - what brought me to the church, why I've stayed, what's kept me here, what I love about it. I didn't want to at first because I'm not here to cater to other people, but I'm starting to think it would be beneficial to do so - if for nobody else, than for me too.

But my thoughts deserve a voice, and that's what this is. If the Church is true, it'll stand despite little ol' me. That said, I don't necessarily believe it's true for everyone - and I would tell any potential investigator/convert that. I would tell them the good and the bad from my standpoint in such a way as to not discourage or encourage. This is a fiercely personal decision and a fiercely active gospel. This Church is good, so good. It does amazing things for people, but it's not perfect. I'm not angry at it and I don't imagine I will be. I hope not.

Honestly, I thought this was a benign enough entry given my last few ;) Guess not.

Lisa said...

Laura: Thank you. Exactly.

My dad and stepmom are penecostal. Their faith's biggest beef is that we do not believe in the "same" Jesus they do. Therefore, we can call ourselves Christian and act like one all we want, but we still don't believe in the Trinity and still attach a bit more importance to works - we believe in ultimate grace, but we preach works much more than other churches do. To them, until we accept the Trinity and the temples and the idea that we can ever become like God, we will never be Christian.

Our insistences will do us no good. They will always want to save us. We should appreciate their concern, assure them we're just fine thankyouverymuch, tell them what we will, and leave it at that.

Last I checked, being called Christian isn't requisite for our admission into heaven. That we believe in Christ and have done all the good we have in His name does.

To these churches, "Christian" equals saved. We don't necessarily believe we're absolutely saved at any given time, right?

I just hate the "Let us join your club!" It's ridiculous, really. I didn't join this church to be part of mainstream Christendom. I liked it because it wasn't mainstream Christendom.

Dan Knudsen said...

Gregoire--I never heard it said in church that we were Mormons and not Christians--in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, or the present decade. I was in the Tab Choir from 1976-1996, and sat in on more than 120 sessions of General Conference and never heard anything like that, nor did I hear it from choir members who’d been in for many years before me--one had been in for 53 years when I got in. So, I can’t verify anything like that. Perhaps it was done only in your ward, or you, as a child, didn’t understand what was said. I misunderstood many things when I was quite young, because of not having a large enough vocabulary and background to understand it, even though I thought I understood it perfectly.

My thought is that the main (unstated) reason why the rest of Christendom says we’re not Christian, is that to do so would give Mormonism legitimacy and more of them would then be free to look into it, which would cause those churches some real problems. They can rationalize all they want to, with whatever reasons they’re giving for why we’re not Christians, but that’s what it’s really all about--the rest is just a smokescreen.

The funny/odd thing to me about the Protestants holding so tightly to the Trinity issue, is that it was developed exclusively by the Catholics--they think all of them are going to hell--but they hold unwaveringly to this core Catholic doctrine as the most Christian-defining doctrine there is. If had it been biblical to begin with, why did it take so many counsels for them to figure it out?

Grégoire said...

Gregoire--I never heard it said in church that we were Mormons and not Christians--in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, or the present decade. I was in the Tab Choir from 1976-1996, and sat in on more than 120 sessions of General Conference and never heard anything like that, nor did I hear it from choir members who’d been in for many years before me--one had been in for 53 years when I got in. So, I can’t verify anything like that. Perhaps it was done only in your ward, or you, as a child, didn’t understand what was said. I misunderstood many things when I was quite young, because of not having a large enough vocabulary and background to understand it, even though I thought I understood it perfectly.

Uh-huh, and the eternal and unchanging temple ceremony never changed either.

If I picked stuff up as a five year old in Midland Texas, a town full of "Christians" who we weren't, then it was obviously pretty pervasive.

Dan Knudsen said...

Gregoire--what you don’t understand is that by the mid-70s, where you’d attended church in Midland, Texas, I’d attended church in at least 40 different wards including California, Nevada, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, New York, Virginia, North Carolina. You heard that Mormons weren’t Christian in your ward; I didn’t hear that in any of the wards I attended. I went to BYU in the 60s, and took many religion classes, including several in church history, and that was not taught in any of those classes, nor was it taught in the BYU wards I attended. I suppose it’s possible that I missed hearing it somewhere, but I don’t think so, as that would’ve stood out as something quite different. Therefore, I’m guessing that your experience wasn’t an experience that everyone else in the church had.

Grégoire said...

Dear Dan,

Gee, you must have paid precious little attention during all those years in conference, holding various self-important callings and issuing directives to the women of the ward.

Don't take my word for it. Here's Brother Pratt, giving a speech in the Bowery in front of Brigham Young, laying down whether we are "Christians" or not.

Now, if we take Mahometanism during those dark ages, and the corruptions that are so universally prevalent over the earth, and the idolatrous systems of religion, falsely called Christianity, and weigh them in a balance; with all my education in favor of Christian nations and Christian powers, and Christian institutions, so called, with all my prejudices of early youth, and habits of thought and reading, my rational faculties would compel me to admit that the Mahometan history and Mahometan doctrine was a standard raised against the most corrupt and abominable idolatry that ever perverted our earth, found in the creeds and worship of Christians...

(An Address by Elder Parley P. Pratt, Delivered in the Bowery, Great Salt Lake City, September 23, 1855.)

Note that Mohametan was the Mormon word for Muslim in the 19th century. Not only were we *not* Christians. To the original church, we were closer to Islam than Christianity. Something to think about as you pat yourself on the back for your broad and expansive knowledge of those plain, precious, and especially *unchanging* "truths". LOLOLOL!

Steve M. said...

When we insist that we're Christian, I think what we really mean is that "we're conservative Christians and we want others on the Christian Right to accept us as such." It's about buddying up with a specific group of Christians (which also happens to be the group that is least likely to recognize our Christianity, due to their own rigid and dogmatic definition of the term). As a Pew research poll showed, moderate Protestants and Catholics are much more likely than Evangelicals to recognize Mormons' Christianity. But for some reason, we seem to be obsessed with earning Evangelicals' approval.

I think Terryl Givens put it best: "Mormons tend to endorse the view of Jan Shipps, who has written that Mormons have the same relationship to Christianity that early Christians had to Judaism. And this without seeming to realize that, at some point, early Christians stopped being offended when they were no longer considered Jewish" (People of Paradox, p. 58).

Dan Knudsen said...

Gregoire--your misunderstanding and/or distortion of what I said, equals your lack of understanding of Parley P. Pratt’s quotation, which you falsely quoted by leaving out the last three words of that paragraph: “...found in the creeds and worship of Christians, falsely so called.” (Journal of Discourses, Volume 3, page 40, bottom half of the first column) He also said, near the beginning of the quotation, that they were “falsely called Christians” and no where in that quotation did Parley P. Pratt say Mormons aren’t Christians, or that Mormons are closer to Islam than to Christianity. Did you think I couldn’t find the actual quote and see how you distorted its meaning? When you distort the meaning of a quotation for your own purposes, you are a liar, like you lied about what I said, when you said, “Gee, you must have paid precious little attention during all those years in conference, holding various self-important callings and issuing directives to the women of the ward.” Never did I mention anything, nor imply anything, about any so-called self-important callings in the church, or of telling women in the ward what to do--that never happened outside of your imagination.

Wikipedia has this to say, never mentioning Mohametans as being exclusively “the Mormon word for Muslim”:
“Other words for Muslim...Until at least the mid 1960s, many English-language writers used the term Mohammedans or Mahometans....”

Try being honest and quit twisting the meanings of other people’s words to fit your own agenda--whatever it may be.

Grégoire said...

Dear Dan,

Gee, what an amusing kook rant.

no where in that quotation did Parley P. Pratt say Mormons aren’t Christians, or that Mormons are closer to Islam than to Christianity.

Apparently you can't read. That's exactly what he said, and more. Here's the whole speech:

Because you can't seem to understand Elder Pratt, here's Joseph Smith, putting it a bit more bluntly.

He equates Christians with Satanists. Obviously, he didn't think "Mormons are Christians".

"What is it that inspires professors of Christianity generally with a hope of salvation? It is that smooth, sophisticated influence of the devil, by which he deceives the whole world..." -Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith p 270

Hope this helps; and remember: I never framed you for a liar.

Jessica said...

i can see, lisa, why you're taking a break.

dan and gregoire, i'm a pretty respectful protestant-influenced christian, and i don't really appreciate your comments about how we're a sorry lot, that labeling mormons as christians would give us problems, etc. i would hope that, in a public forum, you'd be a little more mindful about who is reading. or maybe you don't care about respectful interfaith dialogue, i don't know.

lisa, i agree with this post, for what it's worth, and i know that, even though we have some divergent views in our faith, we have common ground on this issue, in that we've both been called heretical. we don't get to decide who goes to heaven or who goes to hell. we've never met anyone who can tell us what that experience is like after death, and i find it perfectly acceptable, as a person of faith, to say "i don't know" about what happens in the afterlife. i believe my faith, and i have a relationship with christ, and so i have faith about what's happening to ME--but i can't attest to what's happening with other people. i don't know what heaven will look like, i don't know what happens in between dying and getting there, i get scared sometimes about the concept of eternity--but it's okay that i don't have the answers. and i think, in the end, that's why the labels don't matter.

kudos to you for having the courage to not have the answers.

Christine said...

Sorry I'm getting here late (I just found you Lisa on FMH; you're great!) - but I don't see this addressed here yet so maybe someone can answer it for me. I think it odd that in the case of "Are Mormons Christian?" we think that the smaller group gets to define itself. Yet with polygamist groups who say they are Mormon, we adamently say that they aren't - and there, we expect that the larger group gets to define the smaller group.

I figure it's either we're Christians and the polygamists are Mormons, too, or we aren't Christian and they aren't Mormons. I had a friend explain to me in detail why we are Christians and polygamists aren't Mormon, but it was rather convulated and I think it came down to it's whatever the church says.