>Jin-roh and the LDS: To Avoid Future Confusion

Posted: 19/01/2009 in LDS, Standing Together

>A friend’s comments in my previous blog prompted me to post this one. We all know, LDS and people like me, that not understanding each other’s words can be very, very, confusing. One word I am careful about is the term “Christian” in my blogs concerning Mormonism. I actively avoid using the term without qualifiers. I do this because I want to avoid a huge roadblock to dialogue. I feel that I have some good grounds for doing so, despite objections from Evangelicals.

When I describe my own religious group, I use the term “traditional Christians” or better “Creedal Christians. At times (though I have resolved to avoid it), I use the term “Evangelical” in an incredibly broad sense (i.e. anyone who follows Jesus but isn’t LDS). What these terms mean, for the sake of my blogs, is anyone who is agreement with the early Creeds when it comes to God. In short, if someone can identify with the God that was worshiped by the people who first agreed to Nicene, Apostle’s, and Athanasian creeds, they would be considered a traditional/creedal Christian by the stipulative definition I use.

The traditional/creedal group includes the following: mainline protestants, American Evangelicals, Catholics, most Pentecostals*, etc. These groups all accept the Trinity, the Incarnation, the death and bodily resurrection of Christ among other things. Furthermore, these groups unanimously and steadfastly reject Joseph Smith and the book of Mormon. Consequently, they also eject many important parts of LDS theology, such as the great apostasy.

Now, many non-LDS reading this may feel that this is redundant. After all, being a Christian already means accepting all of these doctrines. Some may say that I validate the insidious plans of LDS who are trying to look Christian. What I need to do is explain how much “Mormons aren’t Christians.”

The problem with this approach is that it fails to understand how the term “Christian” is understood in Mormonism. It is not just that give it a different definition, but it is defined in a different way. Evangelicals, mainline Protestants etc tend to define “Christian” as adhering to a certain set of doctrines. I think this way too. However, LDS think of “Christian” as someone who follows a certain set of moral teachings and ideals. Thus to say, “Mormons aren’t Christians” is equivalent as saying “Mormons aren’t honest, good, people.” Wrangling over the definition of “Christian” thus creates an emotional roadblock to any kind of relationship.

People may persist and say that I need to hold to a more exclusive definition of the term. After all, we should not give the LDS community the sense that they are “just like us.” Rather, we should all be aware of the significance of the divide between LDS and “creedal Christians.”

I think the significance of this divide non-LDS know already. We all understand how different things look if you accept the Book of Mormon, believe in Joseph Smith, change the definition of “Trinity,” and so on and so forth. I like to think that most LDS know this too, since the idea of a “restored gospel” is foundational to their religion. Yet even for those who don’t, asserting that only one side gets to use the term “Christian” in reference to themselves is not going to help things. The gravity of the difference can be communicated from Evangelical to LDS, but only if the Evangelical is sensitive enough to communicate it well.

So in sum, I will try to use terms for “Christian” that everyone can understand in any future blog concerning the LDS. I do this not because I don’t appreciate the divide between LDS and people like me. I do it because I want LDS to eventually appreciate it too. Fighting over the term is useless and pointless.

*I only say “most” because of the minority groups of “United Pentecostals,” who reject critical truths of the Trinity, as asserted in Athanasian creed: we worship one God in the Trinity and the Trinity in unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the substance.

  1. Q says:

    >Good explanation. I sort of figured that’s what you meant, but clarification is always helpful.

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