Thursday, February 13, 2014

Thor's Day: Are Mormons Christians?

Yes, we are

By Mandy Al-Bjaly

I remember like it was yesterday sitting in my 9th grade history class. We were studying different Christian religions and my teacher brought up Mormons.
    A boy in class, one I happened to have a crush on at the time, shook his head and said, “Mormons aren’t Christians. They wrote their own book.”
    I, a 14-year-old Mormon girl, was too afraid to raise my hand and correct him. I will never forget that day.
    To make up for it now, I would like to write about how Mormons are truly Christian people.

What is a Christian? Well, a Christian is a person who believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ as the son of God and Savior of the world, and who strives throughout his/her life to follow Christ’s teachings and example.
    Since I was a little girl, I have grown up believing in Jesus Christ as my Savior. My whole life I have been taught how to follow Christ, and each day I try to do that more and more.
    For those of you who don’t know much about Mormons, I would love to expound upon how we are Christians:

  • Jesus Christ is the head of our church and the center of it. See the mormon.org webpage “Jesus Christ, Our Savior.”
        The Prophet Joseph Smith taught,

    The fundamental principles of our religion are...concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.

  • The name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • Mormon meetinghouses, homes, and temples are adorned with pictures of Christ. For some examples of images used in Sunday school classes, see the lds.org webpage “Jesus Christ.”
  • Each Sunday, in our church congregations, Mormons administer and partake of the Sacrament (Communion) to remember Christ’s body and blood. We promise to always remember Him.
  • We pray to Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ. We pray before every meal, before every church activity, every morning, and every night. We also strive to always have a prayer in our hearts.
  • Mormons are baptized by immersion in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. The immersion symbolizes Christ’s death and resurrection, and represents the end of one’s past life and the beginning of one’s new spiritual life. When we are baptized, we promise to take upon us the name of Christ, bear one another’s burdens, and stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things and in all places.
  • Mormons believe in loving all people as children of God, which includes finding good in all people, forgiving others, being kind to others, and not judging others. We also spend much of our lives in service to our neighbors, friends, and families. See the mormon.org webpage “Helping Others.”
  • Our church has a very large humanitarian aid program. Since it started keeping track in 1985, it has donated more than $1 billion in cash and material assistance to 167 different countries in need of humanitarian aid. See the mormon.org webpage “Humanitarian Aid.”
  • Many members of our church choose to serve missions around the world where they spread the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Though not all members serve official missions, all members strive to share the gospel of Jesus Christ from day to day, through example and in natural conversation. See the mormon.org webpage “A Missionary Church.”
  • Mormons study and read the Bible throughout their lives, and copies of the Bible can be found in our churches, homes, and temples.
  • Mormons strive throughout their lives to keep God’s commandments—not just the ten commandments, but the higher law Christ taught. We know that to truly love God and to live with Him again, we must follow all of His commandments. See the mormon.org webpage “God’s Commandments.”
  • We seek forgiveness throughout our lives for our sins through the atonement of Jesus Christ and strive throughout our lives to be more like Him. We know that He is the only way to have eternal life with our Father in Heaven. See the mormon.org webpage “God’s Plan of Salvation.”

Now, what about this book that my high school friend said Mormons wrote? Well, he was referring to The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ. It is true that Mormons read, study, and ponder this book along with the Bible their entire lives. It is true that Mormons believe this is the truest book on earth—not because an expert in Christianity wrote it, because Joseph Smith actually only had a third-grade education—but because we believe that it is actual scripture written by prophets living in ancient America, starting 600 years before Christ. In one of the books in The Book of Mormon, the resurrected Jesus Christ appears to the people there and preaches what He had taught in his mortal ministry. You can read more about The Book of Mormon on the mormon.org webpage “The Book of Mormon.” Or, you can read the book on the lds.org website “Scriptures.” In its more than six thousand verses, The Book of Mormon refers to Jesus Christ almost four thousand times and by over one hundred different names.

I mentioned a man named Joseph Smith. Some believe Mormons worship Joseph Smith. This is not the case, though we highly revere him. He was the first prophet of our church. The story of how our church came to exist, as well as how The Book of Mormon came into existence, is a long one. I cannot tell it as well as Joseph Smith himself. To read his story, see the lds.org website “Joseph Smith—History." You can also learn more about him from the mormon.org webpage “Joseph Smith.”     Joseph Smith, we believe, was a prophet of God. A prophet of God leads our church today. His name is Thomas S. Monson, and we believe that he receives revelation from God to lead His church on the earth. We believe that our church is the same church that existed when Christ was on the earth. Just as in Christ’s time, we have prophets, apostles, temples, and the priesthood. Read more about this on the mormon.org webpage “Restoration of Jesus Christ’s Church.”

Based on the definition of what a Christian is, Mormons are definitely Christians. However, we have additional doctrines and practices not familiar to other Christian churches. This is why many Christians say we are not Christians. I will not personally address these issues, but if you would like to read about them, you may find these articles of interest:

If you would like an official statement written by Mormon apostles and prophets regarding our beliefs about Christ, you can read it on the mormonnewsroom.org’s webpage “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles.”


As for me, I love Jesus Christ with all of my heart. I am grateful for Him. I know that He was born of a virgin in the most humble beginnings. I know He led a perfect life of love, kindness, forgiveness, and service. He truly taught us the way to live to return to our Father in Heaven. I know He suffered for our pains and sins in the Garden of Gethsemane. There He paid the price for all of us. Because He suffered, we wouldn’t have to, but instead, through Him, could repent of our sins and become clean. His atonement is infinite and we can use it all our lives, not only for repentance, but also for healing when we go through difficult times, and for spiritual strength to press forward in an increasingly wicked world. I know that Jesus died on the cross and rose on the third day. Because he died and was resurrected, we can all be resurrected to our perfect form. I know Jesus knows my name, and your name. I know He loves us all equally and wants all of us to succeed. He, along with Heavenly Father and the Holy Ghost, are united in helping us attain eternal life. I know if I remain faithful in my heart, in my words, and in my deeds, this can be so.

Yes, Mormons are Christians. Out of all hats we wear, out of all things we define ourselves by, most importantly, we are children of God.

I am happy to respond to any questions asked respectfully and tactfully. My religion means more to me than anything, and I do not wish to respond to anything written out of hate, sarcasm, or misinformation. Thanks so much!
    My profile page at mormon.org.

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Copyright © 2014 by Mandy Al-Bjaly
Comment box is located below

24 comments:

  1. Thank you, Mandy, for answering the question I posed to you: "Are Mormons Christians?" and explaining your answer so thoroughly. I hope our readers will take you up on the invitation to respectfully ask you further questions about what Mormons believe...and perhaps ask you why they believe what they do.

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  2. yeah mandy good job..hope your old classmate sees this and is...sorry that he was so judgemental.

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  3. Just curious, but, who chose the illustrations for your piece? To my eye, as a student of art history, the images of Jesus seem a-historical. Beyond that, a good response to the argument Evangelicals make against the LDS.

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    1. All of the images except the family photo came from the two official LDS or Mormon websites. I selected them initially and Mandy okayed them—all except for one (a depiction of Jesus hanging on a cross), which she wanted me to switch out for another.

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    2. Hello, Tom. I don't really know anything about art history, but I imagine you may have questioned the picture of Jesus blessing the children. That picture is of the resurrected Jesus blessing children in ancient America (a depiction in the Book of Mormon). The only other comment I can give is that LDS (Mormon) artists strive to portray Jesus as a warm, caring person we can have a relationship with. I don't know if that differs from other art or not. I wish I had a better answer. :)

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  4. Mandy, it really only occurred to me today to ask you about "Mormon underwear." There's a Wikipedia article about it under the title "Temple garment," which tends to imply that the garment is worn only for entering a Mormon temple. But I have heard that some (many?) Mormons wear the underwear everyday, as protection from evil temptations. (Wikipedia article: "[T]he garment 'when properly worn...provides protection against temptation and evil'." And "General authority Carlos E. Asay adds that the garment 'strengthens the wearer to resist temptation, fend off evil influences, and stand firmly for the right'.") Do you know any Mormons who wear the special underwear everyday?
        Are there special rules for washing them so as to preserve their "magical" properties?
        If you have ever worn them, can you attest to their efficaciousness?
        If they really work, could a non-Mormon wear them and receive the benefit?
        Thanks!

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  5. Mandy, do Mormons tend to believe that humans were created in their present form or do they agree with science that our species evolved from other forms?
        My wife and I watched an HBO documentary this evening on the concerted efforts of Creationist Christians to exclude the teaching of biological evolution from schools and to "protect" their children from exposure to Darwin's ideas and the science of evolution. Are Mormons Christian in this way, or do they accept the science of evolution ?
        Or are there two branches of Mormonism when it comes to scientific and anti-scientific? To which branch do you belong?
        How old do you think the planet Earth is?

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    1. Good questions! You may find these articles helpful.http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/temple-garments and https://www.lds.org/manual/old-testament-student-manual-genesis-2-samuel/genesis-1-2-the-creation?lang=eng&query=evolution. I think they will answer your questions. The one about creation is actually from an Old testament student manual. There really are not branches of beliefnon this subject in our church.

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    2. Thanks, Mandy. From a perusal of the first source cited, I gather that Mormon underwear would be of no use to me whatsoever <drats!>.
          And from a quick perusal of the second I gather that you are "in duty bound to regard [Adam] as the primal parent of our race," and that you and all Mormons are "Creationists" (so long as you do do your "duty") and look upon Darwin and evolutionary science with benign disfavor, so long as our public schools leave your children alone and don't try to teach them science. Is that about right?
          How old do you tell your children the Earth is?

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    3. Yes, we do believe Adam and Eve are our first parents. Yes, we all believe Christ created the earth under the direction of the Father. Honestly, I am okay with my kids learning about Darwin's theories as long as creation is also taught in school. I don't think Christians are ever "anti-science." There is a lot we can learn from scientific research. In fact, this video may give some insight on that:

      https://www.lds.org/media-library/video/2011-06-03-we-lived-with-god?lang=eng.

      As far as how old the earth is, we believe about 13,000 years.

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    4. Mandy, you told me that "faith precedes the miracle." Does faith that the Earth is 13,000 years old miraculously make it so? If that age (or presumably any other that you believe sufficiently strongly) can be made to be through faith, why not believe that the Earth is some other age? How was 13,000 settled on as THE age to believe in? Did a particular prophet suggest that that was the age to believe in, or was it, like, a board of deacons or something like that who decided it should be 13,000? Do ALL Mormons believe in 13,000, or do some believe in 13,500, 14,500, and so on? Is there a punishment for believing in some other age than 13,000? This is an extremely interesting, and somewhat involved issue!
          And are there any recorded incidents of a particularly discerning child who corrected his or her parent's (or parents') teaching on the matter? (In fact, I just realized that it could set up a really contentious Mormon household if Mom believed the Earth was 13,000 years old and Dad believed it was, say, 130,000. Something like this could be really jarring for a child, unless he or she were able to discern for him or herself which parent, if either, was correct.)

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    5. I think the definition of faith needs to be clarified. Faith is the belief in things which are not seen which are true. There are different interpretations as to how long it took Christ to create the earth. If it was really six days, then the earth, based on Biblical history, is 6000 years old. If it took 6000 years to create the earth (with the interpretation of day being 1000 years), the earth is 13,000 years. We really don't care how old the earth is. It is not something we focus on. It is simply something that has been researched based on Biblical history. I think there are many more important things for Christians to focus on, like are we keeping God's commandments or is our home a happy place.

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    6. To add a clarification to this comment, faith is not blind. How it works is you are taught something in church. Then you study it and pray about it. If the Holy Ghost manifests truth to you, you gain faith in that concept. Because this manifestation is a feeling, not anything you can see, faith is something that must always be nourished.

      Creation is always something that we will hold dear. We simply don't fight about it amongst each other. There are theories based on history, but we know that eventually, God will reveal all truths to us.

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  6. Thank you Mandy. This was informative and educational for me. Personally, I don't agree with all the aspects of Mormon practices, but it is definitely Christian based, in my mind. There are so many changing belief systems in the world now that is too "man made", if you will. And I do NOT mean that the way your old class mate meant it. "Religion" in my opinion, (especially the 'Christian' ones), is far too full of peoples interpretations of the Bible. Speculations, if you will. Guesses, education and scholarly based? Sure. But so what? We spend way too much time arguing over things that "man" has come up with while interpreting their ideas of what the Bible is saying. It is personal. Figure it out for yourself, I say. Of course, listen to others for possible guidance and/or views, but focus your own mind and thoughts in the Good book with the help of your intuitions and the Holy Spirit. Dwell in Him personally. Be your own prophet. We WILL find out ALL the truths when we leave this world. That, I believe.
    Vic

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    1. Vic, I agree about belief systems being man-made, and I think that includes all religious belief systems without exception. That is, the Bible (and The Book of Mormon) were written by men, transcribed and edited (and altered) by men, and collectively or individually interpreted by men. And women, of course, at least the interpreting part—not many female writers back in them there Bible days (there were more in Book of Mormon days--nineteenth century).
          For me, the tragedy is that these belief systems are also imposed on children, whose fragile intellects are not able to protect them from whatever interpretation their parents and teachers make of the received texts. This, in turn, leads to the perpetuation of whatever belief system has been imposed on them. But, as the HBO documentary on the Creationists' very well-funded campaign to suppress evolution science shows, the perpetuation of belief systems isn't just passively self-sustaining but aggressively promoted.

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    2. I totally agree with you, Vic. As a Christian, I believe the Bible to be the word of God, but because there are so many translations of the Bible, with many verses taken out, it is hard to figure out what is really true. This is why there are so many Christian denominations - because of different "man-made" interpretations of the Bible. If you read Joseph Smith's story, you will see that as a young boy of 14 he was searching for the right church to join. He was confused about why there were so many churches and beliefs. He couldn't decide which to join, so he prayed. The whole reason my church exists is because he asked this question. I could tell his story, but it is so much better to read his words. Mormons believe in modern-day prophets who speak directly to God and tell us what God would have us do/know. Of course, in our church, when we receive this counsel, we are encouraged to study and pray to determine for ourselves if it is true.

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    3. To Morris, in my church, we really believe that little children are the most discerning of truth. This is why Jesus told us to be like little children. Also, in my church, we don't baptize little children. Children have the option to choose to be baptized at the age of 8, the age of accountability. Nothing is forced on them. They can choose whether or not they have faith in Christ and if they want to join His church.

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  7. Well, Ms B'Jally has certainly given us a great deal of information about Mormon faith when responding to the question as to whether Mormons (or Latter-day Saints) are Christians. It has been my experience that there are many people who refer to themselves as Christians but deny that others who also refer to themselves as Christians are in fact so. I remember being told as a child that I was not a Christian. I was a Catholic! And Anabaptists, who most certainly believed in the divinity of Jesus Christ, were persecuted and killed by both Protestants and Catholics for allegedly holding non-"Christian" beliefs. Did these persecutors ever think about "Thou shalt not kill"? Probably even less than the throngs that attend some churches and seem to have forgotten, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." And how about coveting thy neighbor's goods? Or, "Thou shalt not steal."
        I'm afraid anyone can call himself a Christian and likewise decide among his fellow men who is and isn't one as well. 
        Our Constitution guaranteed us the right to freedom of religion and that means defining for ourselves what it is even if others don't agree. And freedom of speech gives us the right to natter on and exclaim about it all the time. Since the question of who is a Christian seems to involve almost wholly subjective opinions, our Constitution wisely gave us the right to practice what we choose. That decision was made by wiser men than myself and time has borne out their wisdom. You only need to look to the Near East to see what sectarianism brings to mankind.

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    1. I agree with you. It isn't fair for anyone to tell anyone else if they are Christian. Christians should follow Christ's example of being nonjudgmental, loving, and forgiving. They should follow the commandments. However, it is important to remember that none of us is perfect. We are all learning and growing throughout our lives. I don't know if you know this, but Mormons in the early days of the church were heavily persecuted, and even killed by mobs. That is why they migrated to Utah - to find a place of peace and solace. Our first prophet, Joseph Smith, was murdered by a mob as well. And why? Because he believed something different. I too am grateful for freedom of religion. I hope it remains important in our country.

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  8. What about polygamy? Apparently some Mormons practice it, and the multiple wives go along with it willingly out of religious devotion. What are the scriptural bases for the practice of polygamy? Do ALL Mormons BELIEVE in polygamy, even though obviously not all practice it? I don't think, for example, that Mitt Romney had another wife or two squirreled away somewhere (although he has enough homes around the world to put up quite a few wives)--otherwise the journalists who discovered John Edwards's pregnant mistress would have found Mitt's other wives. And apparently you are your husband's only wife--or the only one pictured in the family photo in your column anyway. Thanks in advance for squaring me away on this point about polygamy. I am very interested in it.

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    1. Great question! Actually, there are no members of my church who practice polygamy. Some members in the early days did practice it. Once it was abolished, some members were upset about that and left the church. They started another church called the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They have no relation to my church at all. To give you more background about why my church ever practice it, you can read http://www.lds.org/topics/plural-marriage-and-families-in-early-utah?lang=eng. If you would like a comparison piece about early polygamy in my church and modern-day polygamy in the FLDS church, you can read http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/commentary/polygamy-then-and-now. I don't know much about the FLDS church, but this is what Wikipedia says: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fundamentalist_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter_Day_Saints. I hope this helps!

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  9. Mandy, what a wonderfully written article. It is refreshing to read such commentary by someone who is obviously devout and informed in her belief, instead of the all-too-frequent misinformation put forth by those who may be devout, but have little actual knowledge of the belief system they claim to follow. Even though many of us view the various modern-day religious belief systems with a strong skepticism based in logic and science, we have an appreciation for people who are able to cast doubts aside and follow their faith.

    What we can't fathom however, is since all religions are based in faith rather than scientific proof (based on what I have read and studied, anyway) why do so many who follow in faith adopt such harsh and vehement perspectives on the matter? You cited the example of your 9th-grade classmate, but we have all seen it among adults as well, and the world has witnessed it in the millions of people killed due to differences in religious belief. As a scientific-minded person I can't imagine bothering to get into an argument or fight over a fact that can be proven - that the earth orbits the sun instead of vice versa, or that all scientific evidence points to it being much older than 13,000 years, for example - yet I frequently encounter devout, self-professed Christians who are more than willing to proclaim that I am going to their version of hell if I don't accept their version of religion. Do you have any comment on why people with beliefs based in faith seem more inclined toward confrontation than people with perspectives based in science? If religious people are fully confident in their beliefs, why do they resort to unprovable rhetoric in an attempt to browbeat those with much scientific information on their side?

    One question about a point of historical accuracy: In one of your comments above, you seem to say that Joseph Smith was killed because his religious beliefs differed from those in the mob that attacked him. As I recall from something I read years ago on the matter, the confrontation that led to Smith's death started because a group of Mormons attacked a newspaper office and destroyed a printing press that had been used to print an article that the Mormons took issue with. If that is the case it would seem he was not killed because others weren't tolerant of the Mormons and their lifestyle, but rather because the Mormons weren't tolerant of what others had to say about their beliefs and lifestyle. Do you happen to know the accurate history of that situation?

    Again, you posted a very interesting article, and I am glad to see it prompted the replies it deserved.

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  10. Excellent questions. I too wonder why so many Christians are so nasty to others in their faith, as well as to people of different faiths. My church in the early days was persecuted beyond belief. Many of the members of the church were murdered viciously. There was even an extermination order put forth by the governor of Missouri at the time. In modern day, you can find numerous websites trying to disprove my religion. Why? I have no idea. Why would anyone else care what my church believes? My church isn't like that at all. We believe that all churches have some truth that we can learn from. We respect people of all religions, or lack thereof. We don't persecute people of other religions or try to prove them wrong. We do proselyte and share our beliefs with others, but we do it in a loving manner. What we believe is so precious to us, we want to share it with the world. I have never in my 30 years of going to my church heard anyone talk badly or harshly about other religions. Confrontation is not what we believe in because we believe that Christ would not want us to be contentious. We aren't perfect people, but we believe in being kind to all people and trying to see things we have in common. We believe in loving all people, even our enemies.

    As for your second question about Joseph Smith, there was a printing press involved, but the City Council decided legally to shut it down. See this link for a detailed history leading to the martyrdom of Joseph Smith: https://www.lds.org/manual/primary-5-doctrine-and-covenants-and-church-history/lesson-37-joseph-and-hyrum-smith-are-martyred?lang=eng

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