Can a Christian believe that the Father is a great pumpkin in the sky?

Is a Christian someone who believes in a person named “Christ”, no matter what attributes they think of this person or his Father having? This will sound like a silly and irreverent thought-experiment, but hear me out, as this is intended to draw out a principle:

If someone said they believed in the historical life, death, and resurrection of the person of Jesus Christ, but said that this person’s Father was a great pumpkin in the sky, would that person still legitimately be considered a Christian?

I asked that very question to a panel of Mormon scholars once, and one answered yes (preferring such a person to be called a “heretical Christian”), and another answered no (referring to Jesus’ statement in John 10:30, “I and the Father are one”). Of course, no Mormon believes that the Father is “a great pumpkin in the sky”, but it does seem Mormons tend to believe that the title of “Christian” should be granted to anyone who claims the person of “Christ”, no matter what attributes they think this person (or his Father) have. The conditions are understandably minimal: this person believes in Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection, and this person believes in Christ’s “divinity” (however a person chooses to define that).

Traditional Christianity seems to have an unspoken, hidden qualification: such a person lacks what we might call “defeater-beliefs”. Believing that God is a unicorn or is the Xenu of Scientology would be safe examples. Does Mormonism simply deny the idea of “defeater-beliefs” altogether, beliefs which would disqualify someone’s status as “Christian”? Have Mormons primarily done this to make it easier to justify their own status as “Christian”, or are there any compelling reasons they have from scripture and reason? Even those rare Mormons who believe that Jesus was a sinner seem to be embraced as fellow Mormons. Is there simply no limit to what a “Christian” can believe beyond what is considered the minimum requirement?

The heart of my question for Mormons is whether the attributes and identity of Jesus and the Father matter with respect to the theological and spiritual definition of “Christian”. This of course is relevant to evangelical Christians, who don’t recognize as “Christian” those who believe the Father was once perhaps a mere mortal sinful man, or that he is potentially one among many in a larger genealogy of Gods. In fact, we happen to believe that these “defeater-beliefs” compromise the very nature and content of basic Christian beliefs, in an inevitably integrated and interconnected way. Call us bigoted, call us hateful, call us arbitrarily exclusive, but if someone believes that the Father is a great pumpkin in the sky, we don’t recognize them as Christian.

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43 Responses to Can a Christian believe that the Father is a great pumpkin in the sky?

  1. Mike R says:

    Given the Mormon people’s trust in their leaders to be accurate in relaying spiritual truth
    from God , and that to doubt that these men’s authority, their spiritual guidance, is leading
    them astray is to invite God’s judgement over them , then practically whatever these men
    teach will be embraced by the Mormon people. A false prophet can flurish in that type of
    mind-set. Compounding this sad scenario is that we read where Mormon leaders have said that
    the scriptures are from dead prophets/apostles ; there is among us today a “living prophet
    who interprets the mind and will of God”. This opens the door to embrace what “new light”
    the prophet claims is spiritual truth, and if this “truth” is that Jesus is literally the spirit brother
    of Satan then so be it . That would the necessitate that the term “christian “be described by
    those who follow this prophet to try and make their belief somehow fit in with that term.
    I think this is why many Mormons define who is a Christian the way they do .
    After all, if you believe in “a Jesus” or ” a God” then that’s all that counts right?
    [2Cor.11:4]

  2. Clyde6070 says:

    You come up with some really odd points. I could say I am an arian but somethings I believe in differ from them. I could be a trinitarian but I see greater differences. I remember this verse, And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. What others see about God I might not see but I can be liberal enough to say that they might be on to something and are better than I am. You have seemed to come up with a point that makes the differences bigger than they actually are.

  3. Clyde6070, the point is to come up with an outrageous hypothetical belief to show that, if one follows a certain logic (that Christianity has no limitations), such a person would still have to be counted as Christian. But it should be intuitive to people that Christianity is not everything, and not nothing, but something, and not something else.

    I can think of four ways that we identify distinct things:

    1) By what attributes they essentially have.

    2) By what attributes they normally have.

    3) By what attributes they normally do not have.

    4) By what attributes they essentially lack.

    All four criteria seem important, but Mormons seem to justify an abandonment of the #4 criteria by pointing to the difficulty of specifying boundaries between all the above criteria. I don’t think they have thought through the implications of this, hence my “Great Pumpkin” argument.

  4. TJayT says:

    I think Aaron’s point is thoughtful. In the last few weeks I’ve thought about this a couple of times, once when I was wondering to myself if God could be a squid headed monster (don’t ask) and another when I was trying to describe my ideas of what God was in the decadee that I wasn’t Christian by anyone’s standards.

    The question of if Mormons are Christian all boils down to what group you’re trying to describe. If your talking about anyone that tries to take on themselves the name of Christ then that includes Mormons. If your talking about a group that believes a few broad theological similarities then the answer is maybe (or at least hereticaly). If your talking about a group that believes
    a more defined set of ideas that place Catholics and Orthodox on the fringes of the group then obviously Mormons don’t fit at all.

    Anyway that’s this lone Mormon’s thoughts. Again thanks Aaron for giving me a little something to think about.

  5. Rick B says:

    Clyde,
    You cannot believe believe anything about God and simply assume it will be ok. God Himself rebuked Job and his friends for getting things wrong about God, God also says He takes His word more serious than His name. His word tells us about Him.

    God punished Moses for mis-representing who God is. Also God through Jesus tells us all about the nature of God and who He is.

    Lets say you meet my wife, or best friend or even people that have know me for years at church, you tell them, Yep I know Rick, were friends. They ask you, you know Rick? And you say yep, And they say, well then tell me about Rick, And you say Rick is a doctor, he hates Violence, Loves cats, loves the color Pink, etc. Everyone would say you dont know Rick and never meet Him. Now you can say, that I am Male, a human being, and I can talk.

    So you can see things in Mormonism and Christianity that are the same, You mention Jesus, say He died for us, he rose again, Etc. Yet their are enough things you get wrong that we can say, nope you do not know Him.

    I hate Pink, I love fighting and am a fighter, I am a Chef, I hate cats. Remember Jesus said, Not me, Many people on the last day will say, Lord, Lord, did we not cast out demons IN YOUR NAME? Did we not perform Miracles IN YOUR NAME? People are claiming to know Jesus and do things in HIS NAME, Yet what does Jesus say, Depart from me you workers of Evil, for I NEVER KNEW YOU.

    You or people might claim to know Jesus, but Does Jesus know you?

  6. Mike R says:

    Every once and a while I get to see how a Mormon authority really feels about this subject
    of who is a Christian . It seems that most of the comments on this subject by influential
    Mormons tend to have a PR type flavor. I like it when a Mormon authority shoots straight
    and tells me what they know about all others who claim to follow Jesus , in all other churches.
    If I listen long enough these Mormon authorities will say what’s been put in their hearts , it may
    be brief but sooner or later they will confirm my suspicions. One example : Spencer W. Kimball
    stated : ” Latter-day Saints are true Christians …We are THE TRUE FOLLOWERS of Jesus Christ
    ….” [ Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 434, cited in MRM newletter , Nov-Dec 2008 ]
    I’m thinkin if Mormons are the true followers of Jesus , then that would relegate all other
    Christians as false followers of Jesus . Mormonism seems clear at least that it alone is the-only-
    true Church of the followers of Jesus, as all other churches constitute the church of the devil.
    One day may the Mormon people come to see that there is more to receiving eternal life and
    living with God than a title [ “christian” ] , true followers of Jesus were called all kinds of things,
    but they preached the savings truths of His gospel , what was necessary to be truely saved.
    Mormon apostles have claimed to be directed by Jesus since 1830 to preach His gospel . Have
    they done so ? How would the apostles in the N.T. view the teachings of Mormon apostles since
    they also claim Jesus’ direction? Same gospel?

  7. spartacus says:

    There are too many things to say on this topic! (LDS readers please reply!)

    1) I wish LDS would stop saying “of course we’re christian, just look at our name”. This is like someone saying “of course I’m a doctor, my name is Doctor”. Would that work for any LDS out there? Would you trust your life, the life of your wife/husband, children, parents, and friends to a guy named “Doctor” with a scalpel at your/their chest? Well, with the possibility that LDS is completely wrong, that is exactly what this argument says you are willing to do with your very souls. (Or for those that don’t understand why exmo’s “can’t leave the church alone” – what would you do if you realized he was not a true doctor and your parents hadn’t died naturally but by his fraud – would you just let him continue practicing??)

    Instead of looking at his credentials, you instead decide to listen to his portrayal of your condition and its remedy (maybe he sounds really good – read a lot of WebMD) and then seek a burning in your bosom to testify to you that he is real.

    2) Ultimately this is not just about the word “Christian” but that each group claims it in a non-compatible way. That is, Christians have their exclusive definition of the minimum a “christian” must be and LDS also have their own exclusive definition of a “real” Christian. The LDS Church(officials) don’t really believe that just anyone calling themselves “christians” are christians for real. After all, your belief in Christ doesn’t get you any closer to the Father than nonbelievers without the proper belief in Christ’s One and Only True Church on the face of the earth. (contd.)

  8. spartacus says:

    (contd.)

    3) But lets try a thought experiment I first heard from another brother on the heart of the matter – what if I wanted to start a church and I called it the Church of Jesus Christ: Latter-day Saints. I taught that Jesus Christ is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit is one with the Father and the Son. There is only one God of any kind, anywhere. Jesus saves you all the way to the very intimate presence of the Father/Son/Spirit upon your surrender and acceptance of the costly (to Him) gift of Christ’s sacrifice for mercy and free (to you) gift of grace whereby you are effectively risen and returned in Christ’s resurrection and return to the Father without works. You are made perfect, by becoming the perfect human with Him as God wanted you to be. Only that works are fruit of a the plant, the plant is already saved, or else it wouldn’t bear saved fruit. Oh, and that the Church of Jesus Christ: Latter-Day Saints is the only true church on the face of the earth and “Should you ask why we differ from other Latter-day Saints, as they are called, it is simply because they are not Latter-day Saints as the New Testament defines Latter-day Saints.” (altered quote, BY, JoD10:230). I also say, “We talk of the LDS church, but it is a perfect pack of nonsense… the devil could not invent a better engine to spread his work than the Mormonism of the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries.” (altered quote, John Taylor, JoD6:167). And “The great apostasy commenced on September 24th, 1890, and it has been waxing worse and worse from then until now.” (altered quote Orson Pratt, JoD18:44). And finally…

  9. spartacus says:

    And finally, “The traditional Christ of whom LDS speak is not the Christ of whom I speak.” (altered quote, Hinckley, LDS Church News Week June 20, 1998, p.7) Say I said that my church and my followers were Latter-day Saints too, but taught that we were the “real Latter-day Saints” with the “real” priesthood (that of the Body of Christ Priesthood). What would you think about that?

    Or another way. What if my Church of Jesus Christ: Latter-day Saints believed and taught that Joseph Smith was a prophet, that he never got married and taught that all Saints should stay unmarried to eachother but only married to Christ for the work of the Kingdom (if they could)? What if I taught that JS taught that we are saved by faith (trust of mind and heart) in Christ alone for our salvation and that works were a result of salvation only, not a means. He taught that a plant is known by its fruits, so a plant must be saved already to bear saved fruit. And that he taught that our greatest existence will be as perfect humans with Him as God meant us to be. He taught that all believers in Christ would be together forever in a perfected family living the Greatest Pleasure, Excitement, Meaning, and Existence by the intimacy we have with the Greatest Pleasure, Excitment, Meaning, and Existent- the Only Numerically Single God (of any sort) in three Persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit? Oh, and that he used the word “Trinity” to make sure people knew what he was talking about. What then?

    and lastly…

  10. spartacus says:

    4) Finally, how can LDS be taken seriously in their protests of Christians denying them the label “real christian” as long as LDS deny Fundamentalist Mormons the label “real Latter-day Saints” or “real mormons”? How can LDS seriously be offended by Christians being concerned with their (LDS’s) salvation when the LDS church teaches that former-LDS-turned-FLDS are apostates a heart beat away from becoming sons of perdition doomed to outer darkness?

    (ps-pardon if this doubled, after my original post nothing showed after I logged out, not even a hold for moderation, so I reconstructed and posted again)

  11. Mike R says:

    Spartacus, I appreciate your insight on the topics we discuss here on MRM. I think that you
    brought up a great point about the FLDS . These Mormons have been a burr under the saddle
    of the LDS leadership for a long time.

  12. WWJD says:

    This quote is my favorite and I think it says a lot: “The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak.” ~President Hinckley (LDS Church News Week ending June 20, 1998, p. 7). We speak of a traditional Christ who is revealed in the Bible. The traditional Christ came to save us from our sins so that our broken relationship can be restored with a Holy God who abhors sin. The Christ of whom Hinckley speaks came to partially save the LDS people after all they can do. Does this matter? The LDS church has changed who Christ is and since Christ is the key to our salvation, it does matter what Christ you believe in as these verses apply to the traditional Christ of the Bible: John 3:16, John 3:18 and John 3:36.

  13. TJayT says:

    spartacus,

    Nice to talk to you again 🙂

    1) I agree it’s a silly argument if a Mormon is trying to pass the religion off as some sort of protestant Christian faith. But I don’t think most Mormons are trying to say that. I think they are trying to point out that the Lds honestly think we’re following the biblical Jesus, not that we share every belief in common with mainstream Christianity.

    2) I would agree that you and I mean two different things when we say Christian. You are speaking of a minimum set of orthodox beliefs. I’m describing someone that professes belief in the teachings of Jesus. This doesn’t make them compatable, it just means we’re describing two different groups. What I’m describing can hold Gnostics, Catholics, Hermetics, Protestants, Mormons and Aarons Cucubita Maximus movement. I don’t know all the believes of current Lds officals, but faith in Christ does bring you closer to the father. We differ on what the end fruit looks like though.

    3) I would say these churches can fall into a number of categories. They’re Christian (belief in Jesus), part of the Latter Day Saint movement (belief in JS as prophet) and Heretical Mormons (differing from the current teachings of the modern Latter-Day Saint church).

    4) I’m fine with calling them Heretical Mormons and members of the Latter Day Saint movement. I also think the modern Latter-Day Saint church is a heretical Christian sect because Mormons can be defined as people that believe they follow Christ.

    Aaron’s post does show why mainstream Christians say we’re not Christian, something I didn’t understand when I started posting here (In fact my first post here was on this subject). And just so you know I’m not offended by your concern for my soul. I’m just glad someones worried about me.

  14. spartacus says:

    Mike R-thanks for the kind words. I, too, think that the relation between LDS and FLDS is undeniably inconsistent and a powerful criticism of all LDS claims to “persecution” from Christians.

    WWJD-I agree that Hinckley’s quote is definitive at least to a point in this “christian” issue. If they believe in a different Christ then they are AT LEAST A DIFFERENT christian. So I see no way for LDS to claim the right to be called “christian” as that term is already represented by a greater population, history, and older history than the LDS. I really believe that LDS should at least be honest and call themselves “the only true christians” and not be offended when Christians call them “heretics”.

    Christ is the crux, as He is in everything important, in this issue-believe in different Christ then you are at least a different christian. But when you consider all the differences: The Father’s nature, history, sinlessness, perfection;Jesus’ nature, history, perfection;the Holy Spirit’s nature, history;the nature of sin, the seriousness of sin, the seriousness of the problem and thus the importance of Christ’s solution, the efficacy of Christ’s atonement, the ability of humans to participate in their salvation; the nature of the attributes of ‘god(s)’, creation;the priesthood; the “freedom in Christ”; the list goes on.

    Surely it would be dishonest for LDS to want to be called “christian” and dishonest for Christians to not respond critically to this desire. LDS would also be dishonest to simply call themselves “LDS christians” or “mormon Christians” like they are just another denomination. LDS don’t believe they are a denomination but the epitome,definition of “christian”. It is only because of Christians’ primacy and majority AND the public’s familiarity that demand “real christian” honesty by LDS.

  15. falcon says:

    Here’s something that gets missed. Mormons believe in a “restored” gospel. In-other-words, the original gospel got lost after the death of the apostles so it was necessary to reestablish the “original”. So in that context, Joseph Smith and those who followed him, could say anything they wanted and claim that it is part of the restoration of the original gospel.
    They had and have a blank slate to write on. That blank slate is provided because they can’t provide any evidence that Mormonism (whatever edition) existed in the first century church. It’s a false premise/claim but since Mormons aren’t real interested in checking the premise out, Mormon prophets have a free ticket to ride. There are plenty of extra Biblical writings to examine to know what was taught in the first century. We know that Mormonism doesn’t appear in the NT or in any of the historical writings. Mormons make a really dumb claim that it was all left out because of a giant conspiracy. That’s incredibly childish.
    Thus, in Mormonism, Jesus can have a whole new persona and characteristics because Joseph Smith said so. Mormonism is a playground for the idle speculations of folks who think they’re receiving revelations from a god. So anyway, “Jesus” can be whatever someone wants Him to be as long as they think they’re receiving revelations and have confirming feelings.
    The Bible tells us who Jesus is. A person doesn’t need a claimed prophet to tell him/her who Jesus is. What people need is the Holy Spirit and God’s revealed Word, the Bible.
    I don’t care how inspired someone may think they are or how they interpret their feelings, if they don’t get Jesus right, if they are depending on another Christ, they aren’t saved.
    This is serious business.

  16. falcon says:

    Actually I’m all for “progressive” revelation, to a degree. What do I mean by that? Well, I believe firmly in the manifestation of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit as taught by the apostle Paul in First Corinthians 12-14. However God’s revealed Word, the Bible, stands as a test to any revelation that might come forth. The “revelation” is supported by the Word.
    Notice in Galatians that the apostle Paul says that the gospel he preached was not taught to him by any man but he received it as a revelation from God. Still, he journeyed to Jerusalem, years after receiving it, to check-it-out with those who had walked with Jesus. Paul writes that they added nothing to what had been revealed to him regarding (the gospel).
    God is amazingly consistent. Jesus appeared to Paul. He spoke to Paul in an audible voice on the road to Damascus. The message of who Jesus is and what His death, burial and resurrection meant regarding the salvation of men and mankind didn’t wavier nor was it nuanced.
    Therefore it is important what characteristics we apply to the person of Jesus Christ. This knowing who Jesus is isn’t a do-it-yourself project. He isn’t the nebulous god of Twelve Step programs that merely identify God as “whoever you conceive Him to be”. A generic god may be enough of a boost to get someone sober however it’s not enough to get someone saved.
    Joseph Smith, one of the many religious entrepreneurs of the 19th century, started his religion with a fairly conventional Christian view of God. But Smith, being very creative and influenced by other “mystics”, took off on a nefarious journey of speculation and fueled by his own ego, created a new god for himself and his followers.

  17. falcon says:

    So the point is, that when Paul got knocked to the ground and had an appearance from Jesus and heard his voice and this was followed up by further direct revelation of who Jesus is and what He did, it was consistent with what had been revealed by Jesus to His apostles.
    In the 2,000 years since, there have been plenty of people who have claimed visions, dreams, miracles and revelations regarding Our Lord and our Heavenly Father. Many of these claimed events would stir a person to feel and believe the reporter of the events. So it all really comes down to testing not only the truth of the report but also the truthfulness and reliability of the reporter.
    I don’t know how these things happen to me, but last night my wife, daughter and I were sitting in an “up scale” (HA!) fast food restaurant and there was a large group of men sitting at the adjoining booth and my ears perked up to their conversation. They were talking about spiritual matters and a lot of the conversation dealt with accounts of the deliverance of specific folks from demons. There was also talk of Words of Knowledge relative to these accounts.
    I said to my daughter, “Interesting conversation,huh?” She says, “Yea, I wonder if any of it’s true?” I’ve raised her to be a Christian and a skeptic, a skeptic particularly around folks who are claiming all sorts of mystical experiences, supernatural events and quite frankly, even answers to prayers and events in their lives.
    I must admit it more fun to just accept it all and enjoy the emotional buzz that can accompany it. The problem is, I’m more interested in the truth than I am in any transient feelings I can garner from reported spiritual experiences.

  18. falcon says:

    There’s no mystery regarding who God is. In the pages of the Bible He is revealed to us in all His magnificent glory. He reveals to us many of His attributes and although we can know about Him, He can never be fully known.
    Mormons want to believe that there is not just one God. That the being of God can be achieved and duplicated by mortal men because God, to them, is a transformed mortal men. Mormons think that this is a deep mystery and can get quite arrogant in their supposed superior understanding of these “deep” things. In truth, they are not only foolish in their idle speculation but they are fools for rejecting the magnificent living God for a creature that is little better than themselves. The only difference between them and their gods is that the Mormon gods are simply a little further along in their progress.
    The early Arians, with their heresy regarding Jesus, wouldn’t even claim Mormonism. They would have laughed them out of their gatherings. The Arians would have seen the mother-father god duo off procreating spirit children on or near the planet Kolob for what it is, total nonsense. But as has been said before, the more bizarre and convoluted an idea is, the more the extreme heretics love it. To them it supports their own claims to superior understanding and deep spiritual insights. To those of us observing this, it is man’s folly personified.

  19. Rick B says:

    TJAYT said

    I think they are trying to point out that the Lds honestly think we’re following the biblical Jesus, not that we share every belief in common with mainstream Christianity.

    2) I would agree that you and I mean two different things when we say Christian. You are speaking of a minimum set of orthodox beliefs. I’m describing someone that professes belief in the teachings of Jesus.

    I dont agree with what you said, If you look at The LDS teachings you will find that they dont line up with what Jesus said in the Bible. Add to that, Mormons tend to reject the Bible by throwing it under the bus at every turn and the need added scripture and revelation that also does not line up with scripture.

    Then as you can see for yourself, Many, many LDS refuse to talk with us over these issues, they just start saying we are attacking them, or persecuting them. Then many times I have asked mormons, where is the Love of Christ shown in LDS? I just keep hearing LDS claim they follow Christ, yet they sure dont show His love, I ask a question or people bring up topics as you have been reading, and all we hear over and over is, your wrong, you are twisting the facts, etc. Yet no lds ever shows us the love of Christ by giving us honest answers and taking us through the scriptures and laying out the truth we are missing. So if you think I am wrong, or any LDS thinks I am wrong, please tell me how or why.

  20. TJayT says:

    Rick B

    My argument isn’t that the Lds position is right or wrong. It’s that Mormons THINK they are following Christ (i.e. professing a belief in Christ). In that broad definition Mormonism is a Christian faith. You can argue (as Aaron did eloquently) that this definition is to broad if your trying to define a group that excludes heretical beliefs. But that definition still places Mormonism in the heretical Christian camp with Gnostics and Hermetics (and some argue Catholics and E.O.) but they’re still Christian religions, even if they’re wrong.

    I can understand your side of the argument because it’s the same one Mormons use when called a cult. While technically true the definition has to be fairly broad to fit them into it. Same with calling the Lds faith a Christian religion.

    As to your request to talk about other issues not related to Aaron’s post I don’t want to jack the thread, but I’ll gladly ask Sharon to send you my email so we can have a broader discussion.

  21. spartacus says:

    TJayT, it’s good to hear from you too.

    Some clarifications of my 4 points and responses to your responses:

    1) If they are doing what you think they’re doing ‘honestly think they follow the biblical Jesus’ then say that, don’t say “his name is in our name”. And how likely is it that they think they are following the “biblical” jesus if they think the Bible is only true insofar as it is translated correctly and has managed to escape the corruption of evil priests? No, instead, LDS think they are following the real Jesus (which of course is the LDS idea of Jesus), for whom we have no confirmation, no witness other than Joseph Smith et. al. And if they think they are the only one’s effectively following the real Jesus, that they are the ones that have any real idea about who the real Jesus is, then they think they are the real christians. My point – Say so.

    2) I understand the “s.o. who professes belief in the teachings of jesus” position. But that was not what I was talking about in my #2. I was comparing the exclusive claim of Christians which includes everyone who holds to the most basic/effective-for-salvation beliefs about the real Jesus. While the LDS have an super-exclusive definition of “christian” by believing that they are the only real ones (the only real ones really baptized, Holy Spirit gifted, with real knowledge of the real Jesus, father, etc.) LDS don’t admit this, but it is implied in every unique belief they have (which they have for basically every category and “object” of theology)- starting with “the only true church on earth.” See 3 for how I think “Professes belief in” is too broad practically.

    (contd.)

  22. spartacus says:

    (contd.)

    3) My first analogy was supposed to be a traditional Christian church masquerading as the “true” LDS. I don’t think LDS would really accept such as “heretical Mormons” but as traditional Christians masquerading as “the only true Mormons.” Thus traditional Christians who deny “christian” to LDS are justified in doing so because they see LDS as completely different than anything previously understood as Christian and it masquerades as “christian”.

    The second analogy was specific to the “different Jesus”-“different Christian” point of mine. Instead, though for this analogy, its a different Joseph Smith. A different Joseph Smith would not be accepted as Mormon by LDS let alone as “the only true Mormon.”

    4) Do any other LDS, besides you TJayT, consider FLDS to be simply heretical mormons, as opposed to “apostate sons of perdition destined to outer darkness”? I doubt it. Even if they do, I think its a safe bet that they are a minority. So my point is if LDS can deny “true LDS”-hood to FLDS then Christians have the right to deny (implied “real”) “christian”-hood to LDS.

    and lastly…

  23. spartacus says:

    and lastly…

    RE to your last post:

    Defining people simply by what they think they are related to because the name is the same, eve if some secondary or tertiary elements are the same (place of birth (Bethlehem), type of vocation (savior of some sort)) is either the height of political correctness or relativity. Just because I claim to be a millionaire doesn’t include me in the group of actual millionaires nor the millionaire movement. More analogically identical – Just because I say I believe in the United States of America and was born there, making me a citizen, doesn’t make me one. (e.g.-a christian cause I have been baptized into THE christian church) I have to have actually been born in the actual United States of America. Not just the place I believed was the U.S.A.

    Now, this analogy assumes we can prove the absolute facts about God (analogically the U.S.A.’s location and authority). Since this is technically not applicable to our issue here with “who’s right: LDS or Christians or s.o. else”, this analogy just shows how both groups, if they are consistent to their beliefs, cannot accept the other group claiming to be the same group as themselves – as God is completely different between the two groups. We both don’t just believe in the “U.S.A.” and both want be called “American citizens”, we claim completely different land masses as the actual “U.S.A.”

    (contd., sorry just a bit more)

  24. spartacus says:

    (contd., last one I promise.)

    So instead, it behooves us to TAKE A STEP BACK and see WHO ELSE is affected by the “christian” terminology- not just LDS, not just Christians, but – everyone else that hears LDS or Christians claim to be “christian”. Most people in the U.S. and most of the world have a pretty good idea about what a “christian” is – believer in the actual guy that lived in Isreal and died for their sins and they believe rose again, they think he’s God. It’s that last part, and every bit of greater detail (that is more likely to be traditional details rather than LDS beliefs simply because most people are more familiar with traditional Christianity than LDS) that makes the word “christian” mean the traditional definition instead of the LDS’s new definition. Majority rule is the rule in practical language. For LDS to say to non-christians that they are “christian” is to use a word that means to the audience something completely different than what it does by the speaker. So again, for honest, accurate communication, (from both the perspective of the hearers as well as the honest beliefs of the LDS speakers) the best description that LDS can honestly give is “only true christians”. This immediately signals to non-christians hearers that LDS are differentiating themselves from traditional Christianity and yet identifying with the actual Jesus of history.

    Christians can still deny the truth of the claim, but at least there is little-to-no masquerading involved, which, I believe, is the real crux of the issue for Christians.

    (p.s.-if there is any doubt to the LDS Church’s claim to being the only true christians, I’m sure several of us here could post cited quotes from LDS leaders to prove it.)

  25. Rick B says:

    Hello TjayT.

    First off, I understand why people wont openly give out their email address, Me on the other hand, I dont care, people write me, we will talk. My address is, iplayjudo1970@hotmail.com.

    I over all have 3 different email accounts for various reasons, so if someone has a different email account for me, it probably still works.

    Now you said,

    My argument isn’t that the Lds position is right or wrong. It’s that Mormons THINK they are following Christ (i.e. professing a belief in Christ). In that broad definition Mormonism is a Christian faith.

    I dont agree with you, just because someone mentions the name Jesus does not mean it is the Jesus of the Bible or the Jesus I believe in. I can go to Mexico and ask for Jesus and will be told their are many people by that name, yet it is not the Jesus I follow.

    Jesus said also, Many people will COME IN HIS NAME, Yet they are false Christs and trying to device. Jesus did not say, anyone who comes in His name is really Him. Also as I said before, If I said, I wanted to go door to door, claim I am from the Church of the LDS, Call myself a mormon, yet proclaim my gospel, LDS would say that is wrong and I cannot do it. Yet they go door to door, Proclaim a different gospel and claim to be a christian.

    Jesus also said, Not everyone who says, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, since He will say, I never knew you. Yet these people used the name of Jesus to cast out demons, or perform miracles. So just because you use the Name Jesus means nothing.

  26. TJayT says:

    spartacus,

    1) Lds feel they have the “most correct” theology, and that’s why they would call you an “Apostate Christian” (Apostate being the normal Lds term for heretic or heretical). But since Mormon’s don’t think you’re following a false or wrong Jesus they likely don’t see the need to make a distinction and say the follow the “real” Jesus. And might I add I hold the Bible in equal standing with the BoM. In fact I’ve read the Bible far more then other Lds scripture, and have never prayed about the BoM. There may be Mormons that look down on the Bible, and if they do I think there dead wrong. But that’s another topic.

    2) I understood you where talking about “basic/effective-for-salvation beliefs about the real Jesus”. I’m trying to say that’s not what Lds are talking about when they say “Christian”. To a Mormon anyone that professes Christ is a Christian, good or bad theology has nothing to do with it. We’re using the word in the secular/dictionary definition. We can argue who are the “real” Christians (however you define that) but when it comes to what Mormons are trying to get across that doesn’t even enter there mindset.

    3) Again I understood your analogies (the first actually sounds a lot like the Church of Christ (Rlds)). But we’re still arguing two different things. Your absolutely right that “Salt Lake” Lds wouldn’t accept these teachings as those of the “real Mormons”. But that doesn’t stop said groups from being part of the Latter Day Saint movement, and there for doesn’t stop them from being Mormon, even if they are of the Apostate variety. Whether Lds would want to accept them as apostate Mormons or not doesn’t change the way the secular categorization of religious movements works.

  27. TJayT says:

    (cont)
    4) First the idea that they’re “apostate sons of perdition destined to outer darkness” is absolutely silly. Even if that could have been said about the original founders of the faith (and I doubt it) the only way someone goes to Outer Darkens in Lds theology is to deny the Holy Ghost, something I doubt they have done. In fact it’s something I doubt many people on the planet that could do. Second everyone I asked today agreed that they would be Apostate members of the Later Day Saint movement (aka Heretical Mormons). I think it’s safe to bet they aren’t a minority. But until I get my magic crystal ball from the FAIR catalogue we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one.

    RE to your RE:
    Defining people by what they think they are related to when it comes to religion isn’t the height of political correctness or relativity, it’s how the secular system of defining religions works. Here’s pretty much how SLC Mormonism breaks down in the secular system of defining religions according to Wikipedia: Abrahamic, Christianity, Christian primitivism, Later Day Saint Movement, Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints. The Christian after Abrahamic is all that Mormons are trying to say we are, not that we’re right or your wrong. An example of what you and I are discussing from another religion would be Sunni and Shia Islam. Both are Islamic religions. Both feel they are correct and the other isn’t, making the other group “Non-Muslim”. Whether or not they ARE the correct interpretation of Islam doesn’t stop them from BOTH being Islamic religions and all of them being Muslims in the secular categorization. (cont)

  28. TJayT says:

    (Last one!)
    When it comes to worrying about what Non-Christians think about the definition of Christian, take it from the guy that was a Non-Christian for a decade. Non-Christians think our argument about being Christian or not is silly. Every Non-Christian I have ever talked to defines Christianity in the secular/dictionary definition. Add to that a Pew Research Poll that showed 51% of Americans would call Mormonism a Christian religion and your argument of majority rule in practical language still falls short. You could argue that Mormons calling themselves Christian could be confusing to actual Christians who have been taught the word means Non-Heretical Saved Christians, but I’ve never met a Mormon that didn’t jump at the chance to say why our religion is different from Mainstream Christianity.

    Rick B,

    The only reason I didn’t post my Email was because I didn’t know the forum rules on the matter. For anyone that want’s to mail me it’s Mcderth@yahoo.com. Let the theology begin!

    As I told spartacus above, we’re arguing two totally different things. Your arguing that Mormon’s aren’t Orthodox saved Christians in the historical sense. I’m willing to agree with you 100% about that. I’m saying that the Lds faith is a part of the Christian movement in the secular categorical sense. In that group good or bad theology has absolutely nothing to do with it.

  29. spartacus says:

    TJayT,

    I understand that you are arguing something different than I am. I also agree with what you are arguing. Yes, in the academic arena, you have to go by what the believers say they are. So as an academic I have to and academics do put Mormonism in the Christianity part of their books.

    What I have been stating all along is that the whole “christian” issue is not just about the definition of christian or the theology right or wrong but how LDS officially views itself. I am saying that the LDS leadership has consistently denigrated and demonized traditional christians, and LDS (both official and lay) have consistently held to beliefs of not just “we have more” or superiority but of “only true” : only true church, authority, baptism, gift of Holy Spirit, gospel, means of salvation (exaltation, not just general salvation), etc. It is at least inconsistent, and really just dishonest, to label oneself “christian” and thus liken oneself to the very people you have made anathema.

    Instead, LDS should be honest about what they really teach about themselves and – I’m not saying not call themselves christian but- call themselves the only true christians. As I said before, this immediately lets the hearer know that the LDS speaker means something different than the traditional christianity with which s/he is more or less familiar.

    Though TJayT, your comment about the 51% actually works for my argument. The real issue that Christians have with LDS calling themselves “christian” is that it tends to make people believe that LDS and traditional Christians are the same or similar. Neither is acceptable to traditional Christians. I’m sure that, if they knew all the differences the masses would agree the two shouldn’t use the same name.

  30. spartacus says:

    Or we could look at this from the LDS view:

    Perhaps LDS want to be known as “christian” and mean “only true” only in their own minds, missionary lessons, and self-descriptions to themselves (periodicals).So if LDS are “christian”, then it is implied that traditional Christians need to start calling themselves something else.If the Only True Christians are known as “christian”, then the Not Really Christians need to find another term.

    This is another way to show how absurd it is for LDS to claim the right to be known as simply “christian”. Just because a relatively small group claims to be christians doesn’t mean they can lump themselves in with the much larger and with more documented history group- especially if the two are so completely different from eachother. Christians have original and longest claim to the name “christian”. The only people who believe otherwise(that LDS is restored original Christianity) are LDS- so they don’t count for communication purposes – they already know what they believe they are. If LDS want to get across that they follow christ then call themselves something other than just christian: “heretical christian” is from the traditional point of view – this would not be appropriate, “non-traditional christian” would be true to LDS and to Christians, “the only true christians” would be the most accurate and honest (even though offensive) to traditional Christians.

    Like my previous analogy, if I believed myself to be one of the only true American citizens, I wouldn’t lump myself in with the imposters born elsewhere from non-American parents. I would say I am a “real American citizen.” Why would I want to portray myself as similar to those I believe are intellectually mistaken or morally corrupt? (What LDS officials have always said of traditional Christians.)

  31. spartacus says:

    Lastly:

    Oranges and apples are both fruits (academically) but they sure are different. If you want to effectively communicate to others what you have you don’t just say “fruit”.

  32. falcon says:

    Mormons not only have a distorted view of the history of the traditional Christian Church but they have no idea of world history either. Mormons live in a make believe world where Jews from Israel travel to the New World in specially designed boats, establish a civilization and become the ancestors of the American Indians. OK stop right there! Are Mormons really serious about this claim?
    There are so many points along the continuum of Mormonism where only the truly diluted can continue on believing in Joseph Smith’s fantasy. It isn’t even necessary to get into the doctrinal differences between Mormonism and historical Christianity and debate whether or not Mormonism is Christian in it’s orientation.

  33. Rick B says:

    TJayT said

    But since Mormon’s don’t think you’re following a false or wrong Jesus they likely don’t see the need to make a distinction and say the follow the “real” Jesus.

    I dont agree becasue, the BoM teaches their are only TWO CHURCHS, The True Church and the Church of the Devil. Now Either Mormons believe this or they dont. If they dont believe this then we have bigger issues, like do they even believe the BoM in the first place.

    Now if they believe this, then that means they dont believe we are Christians or are saved according to what we believe. How can lds teach they are saved, but in order to be saved, they need to do a list of things, like Tithe, or enter the temple, Or dont drink Coffee or tea. If I do or dont do these things I cannot be saved according to LDS. So when MM’s knock on my door, I could say, hello, I also am a believer in Jesus Christ. But if they ask, are you a LDS member, and I say no, they will not simply say, well your a brother in Christ and are saved, we will move on. They might leave anyway just to avoid talking about the difference between us.

    Also why can I say, LDS are not Christian, and they get mad at me and claim they are, but if I said, I was LDS, and taught the gospel I believe, they again would get mad and say, no your not LDS. They want it both ways, Their Christian, yet have a different gospel, but I cannot have a different gospel and say I’m LDS. Why is that?

  34. Rick B says:

    TJAYT said

    1) Lds feel they have the “most correct” theology, and that’s why they would call you an “Apostate Christian” (Apostate being the normal Lds term for heretic or heretical).

    TJ, I challenge you to go to all your LDS friends, in Church or face to face one on one or however you can, Ask them if they believe they really have the “Most Correct” theology, if they say yes, then ask why it has changed so much from the Time JS and BY gave it till now. Ask them why they keep changing so much that if you really look back at what JS and BY taught, and compare it to know, You pretty much have a completely different religion. If JS or BY somehow were able to come back from the grave, then they would not even know their own religion any more.

    Think I am wrong on this? Then explain why so many LDS wont debate us on these issues and why even on their own turf, In their churches, Websites or face to face encounters, they leave and wont talk, They do it because they know the changes are real and are afraid of the truth.

  35. TJayT says:

    I understand your argument as well, and I agree with it. I’m fine with calling myself a heretic and giving you the real, historic and/or orthodox Christian title, just as long as we get Christian in there someplace. It’s not like I’m normal in anything else I do, why start now?

    I’ve never been an Lds missionary or taken the discussions (though I will be soon, my wife’s friend that has wanted to be baptized for years is taking them and has agreed to let me sit in) but I’m pretty sure the first discussion talks about Mormons believing we’re the right one’s and everyone else is wrong. I could be wrong myself, but I thought it was part of the whole first vision thing. If your talking specifically about lay members there’s not much I can do for you there, other then to agree with you.

    My comment about the 51% only works for your argument if most people really do worry about something other then the dictionary definition of Christianity. I’m sure many of them would think I’m crazy and wrong, but given the state of America’s spiritual health I’m not even sure they would be worried about my soul. But that’s another topic for another day.

    I thought up an America analogy that’s a bit broader then yours but I think fits our discussion a little better. It goes something like this: (Cont)

  36. TJayT says:

    (Cont)
    You have America in the year 2012. It’s definitely different from what it was in 1787. Some would say for the better and others for the worse, but it can easily lay claim to direct decadences from the founding fathers and full legal standing to call themselves The United States of America and there people Americans. Now lets imagine the group that said America was worse now decided to hold a constitutional convention. They opened it up to some of the best and brightest in the country and redo the constitution, taking it back to more or less the original, keeping a few laws that they liked and getting rid of the rest. The original America didn’t accept there claims and rejected there new document, so these reformers where forced to leave and start a new country in Scandinavia called The Reformed United States of America. Now lets imagine that after that happened a Man showed up claiming that the ghosts of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson came to him and said that both of these America movements where wrong, there Constitutions and laws where an abomination to them and they wanted to use this man to restore the United States of America back to what it should be. He gathered a following, slowly evolved a new constitution that has a few similarities to the original, though it really doesn’t look anything like what the other two have, and says it’s how the founders want the country for everyone in this day and age. Naturally neither of the first two groups wants anything to do with this batch of bat-crap crazies and so they leave for Nova Scotia and start the Restored United States of America.
    (Cont)

  37. TJayT says:

    Obviously all three groups can’t be the “real” Americans, even if each individual group believes they are the “real” ones and everyone else is wrong. But they would all be part of a larger American movement, and therefore in some way Americans. That said they would, and indeed should, make sure to differentiate which American they are. You would have the Original Americans, the Reformationist Americans and the B.C.C.W.J. Americans.

    In the end you and I will probably never agree on this issue. The best we can hope for is to understand each others position, understand our differences, shake hands and respectfully agree to disagree.

  38. TJayT says:

    Dang it, the word decadences in the second post should be descendants. Stupid spell check and lack of sleep.

  39. spartacus says:

    TJayT,

    You just did agree with me. All I wanted was a MORE name than simply “christian”. “B.C.C.W.J Americans” is better than just “Americans.” I just prefer the differentiation term to be “only real” because I think it is more efficient and open. It’s not about each group thinking they are the “real” Americans, but how LDS think they are “the only”.

    A few issues with your analogy. It was good, and useful, but:

    1- It assumes that Protestants don’t think Catholics are real Christians. Now I am sure that this is the case with some if not most people who actually call themselves “Protestant”. I am not one of these people. I know of parts of the Catholic teachings that are worrisome, but, and this is CRUCIAL,…

    2-…MY analogy was hinging on the different Jesus (Americas), Catholics teach the same Jesus as Protestants, just a different understanding of His teachings. LDS do not believe in the same Jesus. Or, rather, they believe that the actual Jesus was, is, and taught completely differently than any traditional Christian believes/teaches He did. That is, the differences between Catholics and Protestants (same Jesus, same teachings, different understanding of teachings) is not nearly synonymous with the differences between All other traditional Christians and LDS (totally different entities and teachings).

    Otherwise I like your analogy very much. Kudos.

    [Interesting thought (at least to me) = we actually don’t have any records that have Jesus teaching any of LDS’ unique teachings – not even in LDS scriptures. That is, during His life, His time in the Americas, we have no quotes of teachings that remotely resemble unique LDS teachings. The closest we get is the revelations given to Joseph Smith that say they are from the “Lord”.Hm.]

  40. spartacus says:

    Also, B(at). C(rap). C(razy). W. J.??? Is that W(ith). J(oseph).???

    I appreciate and like the sympathetic humor. But let me know if I’m right on the last part of the acronym.

    Thanks again, TJayT, for participating.

  41. TJayT says:

    Spartacus,

    When I said agree on this issue I was meaning who is right or wrong theologically. I’m glad we’re on the same page with the naming though. I honestly don’t think most Mormons are meaning to be disingenuous when the say there Christian, and given the chance they’ll talk your ear off about the only true church. Just as long as we can get across we don’t worship the demon Mormo I’m happy. On your issues;

    1) Some do and some don’t from what I hear. Ironically I’ve heard many I know describe the Lds faith as the same way you speak of Catholics (and that’s coming from Christians that have lived among us for decades and do know our doctrine).

    2)There’s no reason both couldn’t follow the same Jesus in my analogy, if you believe that Jesus is the constitution in this case. But I’m glad you liked the ideas. As to Catholics believing the same Jesus as Protestants have you ever read a Chick Tract on the issue? Man the make me smile.

    B.C.C.W.J. was Whack Jobs. I thought I typed it in the earlier post but I guess I missed it. With Joseph is a bit nicer though so we can go with that.

    My normal tone when speaking about religion is VERY sacrilegious, though I think equally so to everyone involved. I tone it down a bit online because it’s so easy to offend someone when not face to face, and that’s something I try to avoid as much as possible. Still, just because I do believe something doesn’t mean I can’t hear just how bat crap crazy I sound.

    Hope to talk to you again sometime.

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