The Daily Toreador out of Lubbock, Texas today posted an article intriguingly titled “A lesson on LSD.” The author immediately comes clean:
Oops, sorry for that misprint in the headline. Actually, I’m not sorry. I did it on purpose to get your attention. So now that I have it, what I really wanted to give you was a lesson on LDS, or Latter-day Saints.
What follows is the oft-heard charge that non-Mormons don’t know what Mormonism is, so the journalist, Taryn Chesshire, decided to provide a short lesson. Several points are discussed, but the one that seems to me to be the most germane is the “misconception” that “Mormons aren’t Christian.”
If any of you hold the same misconception, I’d like to ask you the same thing I asked that co-worker: “What is a Christian?”I was under the impression a Christian was someone who believed Jesus was the son of God, he died for men’s salvation and was resurrected three days after his crucifixion to join his father in heaven. Do I have that about right?…
If you’re a Christian, Mormons believe everything you do.
Since it’s impossible to know what everyone labeled “Mormon” and everyone labeled “Christian” believes, I think there’s more benefit in discussing the religions instead of the individuals. But for the sake of this discussion, let’s assume the “Christian” embraces historic, orthodox Christian theology, and the “Mormon” embraces the authoritative teachings of his prophets and apostles. Using this scenario, I take vigorous exception to the statement, “If you’re a Christian, Mormons believe everything you do.”
On the face of it, the Mormon and the Christian will both affirm Taryn Chesshire’s statement that Jesus is the Son of God who died for men’s salvation, etc. But anyone who understands the meanings of the words contained in that statement knows Christian/Mormon agreement goes no deeper than the syntax.
On March 12th a new Christian book will hit the bookstore shelves: By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification. Gary L. W. Johnson, adjunct professor at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, has contributed a chapter entitled, “The Reformation, Today’s Evangelicals, and Mormons: What Next?” In this chapter Dr. Johnson discusses LDS Professor Robert Millet’s book, A Different Jesus? The Christ of the Latter-day Saints.
One of several doctrines Dr. Johnson addresses is the Christ of Mormonism. He writes,
Millet is unapologetic in his defense of Mormon theology. To begin, he explicitly rejects the cardinal doctrine of the Trinity, candidly admitting that Mormonism believes in “Three distinct Gods” (70) who are “three distinct personages, three Beings, three separate Gods” (141). In layman’s language this is polytheism, pure and simple…Despite Millet’s insistence that his Jesus is the same one that we met in the pages of the New Testament, it is the other Scriptures of Mormonism that define him. This Jesus was born “as we all were, the spirit children of the Father” (20). This Jesus is a spirit brother of Lucifer (21). This Jesus is the Christ of Joseph Smith and is considered absolutely foundational to Mormonism (39). It is conceded that the Christ of “traditional” Christianity and the Christ of Mormonism are very different, and in substantial ways. Why? Because the Christ of orthodox Christianity is rooted in theological creeds, while the Christ of Mormonism “comes from the witness of a prophet — Joseph Smith” (174). Contrary to Millet’s claim that Christ is the central figure in the doctrine and practice of Mormonism (80), Joseph Smith, by his later admission, holds that place of honor (158). In fact, without Joseph Smith, there is no Mormonism (151). The Jesus of Mormonism is distinctively the Christ of Joseph Smith. The two cannot be separated. (By Faith Alone: Answering the Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification, 196-198)
This brief look at Mormon Christology clearly exposes the fallacies in “A lesson on LSD.” Our hypothetical Mormon does not believe everything the Christian believes; the two belief systems are really not compatible at all.
While I don’t agree with the theology or conclusions of another LDS author, Joseph Fielding McConkie, I do appreciate his honesty in drawing distinctions between Mormonism and historic Christianity. He calls for public disclosure of the deep doctrinal differences between the two religions. Dr. McConkie writes,
This [First] vision stands as a refutation of the fundamental doctrines of a corrupt Christianity. It destroys the very premises upon which all the creeds of Christendom rest…As Latter-day Saints we must know clearly where we stand. If our message is simply a reworking of key Bible texts for which we have gained some insights that others overlooked, then why not abandon the offensive notion that there was a universal apostasy, or that there is but one true church, and get on with the matter of mending fences with historical Christianity? If, on the other hand, we are serious in testifying that there was indeed an apostasy, that it was universal, that it included the loss of the priesthood and the saving truths of salvation and the knowledge of the very nature of God himself, then we must be prepared to stand alone. …it is not common ground that we seek. We seek sacred ground, and upon that ground we must stand. (Here We Stand, 202-203)
This makes a lot of sense to me. So why is it we find that the vast majority of public comments from Mormons sound like the one in “A lesson on LSD”: “If you’re a Christian, Mormons believe everything you do”?
On page 6 of Dr. McConkie’s book he asks a really good question of his fellow Latter-day Saints: “Should we trade our birthright to be thought acceptable by a corrupted form of Christianity?”
I wish the answer would be heard around the world.