“A Christian believes that through the grace of God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, we can repent, forgive others, keep the commandments, and inherit eternal life.
“The word Christian denotes taking upon us the name of Christ. We do this by being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands by those holding His priesthood authority.
“A Christian knows that throughout the ages, God’s prophets have always testified of Jesus Christ. This same Jesus, accompanied by Heavenly Father, appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the year 1820 and restored the gospel and the organization of His original Church.
“Through the scriptures and the witness of Joseph Smith, we know that God, our Heavenly Father, has a glorified and perfected body of flesh and bone. Jesus Christ is His Only Begotten Son in the flesh. The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit whose work is to testify of the Father and the Son. The Godhead is three separate and distinct beings, unified in purpose.
“With these doctrines as the foundation of our faith, can there be any doubt or disputation that we, as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, are Christian?” (Ensign, “Being a More Christian Christian,” November 2012, 90)
Indeed, if Mr. Hales’ definition of a Christian is used, not only are Mormons Christians, they are the only Christians. As Bill McKeever noted in the January-February 2013 issue of Mormonism Researched, summarized here,
- Mormonism teaches that Jesus is the literal offspring of Heavenly Father and a Heavenly Mother (while historic Christianity, though recognizing Jesus as the Son of God, has never believed Jesus is “literally” God’s Son);
- The Mormon Church claims to be the only church that holds God’s priesthood authority;
- Only Mormons believe Joseph Smith was visited by God the Father and Jesus Christ;
- Mormon doctrine dictates that God the Father has a body of flesh and bone (while historic Christianity worships a God of spirit);
- Mormonism uniquely expands the biblical revelation of Christ as God’s only begotten Son by adding the qualifier “in the flesh,” something historic Christianity has never affirmed;
- Mormonism recognizes three Gods in the Godhead while orthodox Christianity has always been committed to the doctrine of only One True God (in Trinity).
Therefore, on the face of it, according to Mr. Hales definition only Mormons are Christians. Anyone who believes in the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, or chooses baptism in a different church, or dismisses Joseph Smith’s First Vision (etc.) is not a Christian.
Some have noted that this exclusionary list, presented by a Mormon Apostle, in an official Church setting, is a bit hypocritical in light of the usual insistence of Mormons and the Mormon Church alike that “Christian” must be very broadly defined: “Anyone who accepts Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the Redeemer of the world is a Christian, regardless of differences in theology.”
Perhaps the Mormon Church has recognized that Mr. Hales’ definition of a Christian tends to “dismiss or diminish the validity of other people’s religious experiences,” something the Church, on its website, claims it does not do. In the March 2013 issue of the Ensign, readers are encouraged to “review the October 2012 general conference,” specifically noting Mr. Hales’ address discussing, “What does it mean to be a Christian?” An edited quote from Mr. Hales’ talk is provided for Ensign readers:
- A Christian has faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. …
- A Christian believes that through the grace of God … we can repent, forgive others, keep the commandments, and inherit eternal life.
- The word Christian denotes taking upon us the name of Christ. We do this by being baptized and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.
- A Christian knows that … God’s prophets have always testified of Jesus Christ. (Ensign, “October Conference Notebook,” March 2013, 9. Ellipses retained from the source cited.)
This edited list has lost every Mormon distinctive that is found in Mr. Hales’ original: No mention of Jesus being the “literal” Son of God; no mention of priesthood authority; no mention of Joseph Smith’s First Vision; no mention of a Father God of flesh and bone; no mention of Jesus being the only begotten “in the flesh”; no mention of the Godhead being comprised of three Gods.
The Mormon Church seems happy to recognize non-Mormons as Christian per the broader, more inclusive definition found online and in the March Ensign; but to be a Christian Christian – well, that appears to be another story altogether.