“Christianity and Mormonism are basically the same. Sure, there are a few differences, but if I, a Mormon, were to go into a Christian church, I would fully agree with just about everything I heard there.”
Ever heard something like that when talking with LDS (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a.k.a Mormons) church members? I have heard that sentiment in just about every conversation I’ve ever had with LDS folks. Without fail, it comes up quickly, and almost every time the LDS person I’m talking with is quick to identify the Mormon faith as Christian.
I had two conversations with Mormons last week that followed this pattern.
I often run into LDS church members. I always enjoy their company, for they are almost always eager to do good, and we have a lot in common as to our views on morality. Such was the case this past week.
A little background: last week I was working as a counselor at a wrestling camp in Riverside, CA. Wrestlers and coaches from all over the country came to, well, wrestle for a week. The schedule, almost literally, was: wake up, eat, wrestle, eat, wrestle, eat, wrestle, go to bed. Go, go, go, with very little down time. There wasn’t much time for conversation, but despite the busyness I managed to get into some spiritual conversations with some of the staff who were LDS.
Within moments, both folks confidently expressed the thought I led with above: Mormonism is Christian. Any differences are tantamount to denominational differences within the Christian religion.
I’ve never been able to buy this. Whenever someone expresses that thought, I ask: why, then, do Mormon missionaries regularly evangelize other devout Christians? For the record, I don’t have a problem with evangelization. After all, I evangelize and try to persuade others to bend the knee to Christ. Christ commands it and did it himself in the Bible.
My contention is that it seems strange for Mormons to evangelize folks like me if Mormonism is Christian. Isn’t it odd for Christians to evangelize other Christians? After all, I don’t go next door to my friendly neighborhood baptists and try to persuade them like they are non-believers. I might disagree with some of their theological doctrines and have passionate debate with them on those points, but I don’t treat them like they are outside the faith.
Yet, if Mormonism is essentially Christian, then that is what Mormon missionaries do! Every time Mormon missionaries come to my door and I express my Christian convictions to them, they proceed to evangelize as if I am a non-believer. They clearly act and talk as if I am not saved. In fact, according to Joseph Smith himself, the beliefs of traditional Christianity are an “abomination” to God the Father. The language of apostacy is used for guys like me.
Again, I don’t have a problem with that per se, it’s just that it’s odd to call someone from another denomination an “apostate.”
When I brought this up, both Mormons I talked with said the same thing: evangelical Christians have some of the truth, but the LDS church has the “full” gospel. If I become a Mormon, I am embracing everything that Christ taught. This is a very common response among LDS missionaries as well.
While they might be genuine in that response, it doesn’t work for one very large reason: when you compare core Mormon doctrine with what is in the Bible, you find some glaring differences, just like you find when you compare Islam with what is taught in the Bible.
The LDS church disagrees with traditional Christianity in who God is (more here), the number of gods, the nature of His relationship to us, who Jesus is (spirit bro of Satan), how one can be saved, the plan of salvation, and original sin. Mormons embrace doctrines such as exaltation. That just scratches the surface of differences.
Those are no small differences.
If I become a Mormon, I would not be embracing the “fullness” of the gospel; I am embracing another faith alltogether. It is clear that we’re talking about two separate religions here, and since they contradict each other (either Jesus is or is not a spirit brother of Satan, not both. Either God has a body of flesh and bones, or He doesn’t, not both.), both can’t be true.
This does not mean that Mormonism is false. That is a separate question. I just don’t see why admitting that Mormonism and Christianity are two different faiths is so controversial.
Though the two I talked with this week weren’t offended, many times Mormons get a bit antsy when you suggest that their faith isn’t Christian. This is just so strange to me. After all, no Muslim gets offended when you suggest that Christianity and Islam are two different faiths, and that both can’t be true. My hunch is that, with the LDS missionaries in particular, they are happy to treat me as an apostate when it suits their evangelical purpose, and happy to treat me as a brother when it happens to suit their evangelical purpose.
Mormons would be doing themselves a favor as far as their credibility is concerned if they just owned up to the wide gulf between the two religions.
There are similarities, but it’s the differences that matter more. After all, to paraphrase Greg Koukl, sure, aspirin and arsenic are both white and come in tablet form, but one would do well to pay attention to the differences when deciding which pill one should take for a headache.