The assertion that Latter-day Saints are not Christian has at its base the idea that the Latter-day Saints don’t meet the definition of the word “Christian.” But the meanings of words are determined by usage and acceptance. If a definition is widespread (used by many people), persistent (used over a long period of time), and established (accepted by individuals and organizations that are respected and assumed to be knowledgeable) then its use is likely appropriate.
The attempt to define “Christian” in such a way as to exclude Latter-day Saints (and many other groups that are generally considered to be some kind of Christian denomination or religion) is really the recent work of a minority group within Protestantism. The nearly-universal and nearly-2000-year-old usage of the word “Christian”–which refers generally to those who regard Jesus as divine and as the route to salvation–has clearly included unorthodox groups that disagree, sometimes sharply, with the teachings and practices of those who claim to be able to define Latter-day Saints out of the Christian fold.
In short, the complaints about Mormons’ inclusion in “Christianity” say relatively little about Mormon beliefs, and instead reflect some Protestant groups’ beliefs about the falsity of Mormonism.
The following are some organizations and resources that classify The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as Christian. The range of sources–from encyclopedias to media outlets to government organizations–supports the fact that the definition of “Christian” includes Latter-day Saints.
- adherents.com: “Largest Branches of Christianity in the U.S.“
- BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation)
- beliefnet: “Faiths and Practices” index
- Encyclopedia Britannia Online
- LaborLawTalk dictionary
- MSN Encarta encyclopedia: “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints“
- National Council of Churches (NCC): National Council of Churches’ 2005 “Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches.”
- PBS (Public Broadcasting Service): “The Church: A Brief History“
- RSN (Religion New Service): Religion Backgrounders
- World Council of Churches (WCC): Churches
- United States Department of State: International Religious Freedom Report 2004 (Tonga)
- Yahoo Directory: “Christian Denominations and Sects“
Those with different beliefs remain Christians
Members of the Church do not object when other Christians point out that the Church differs in doctrine from other faiths. If it did not, there would be little point in yet another denomination. Members also are not offended or troubled when other Christians announce that they regard the Church as mistaken on certain points of doctrine–if Christians did not regard other denominations as deficient in some way, there would be only one church.
Members object, however, to self-serving definitions of “Christian” that seek to exclude all those who do not share the critics’ theology. Latter-day Saints regard themselves as Christian because they have promised to follow Jesus Christ, whom they regard as divine, the Son of God, and the only route to salvation.
If critics are using the term “Christian” to imply something about theology instead of the importance and role of Jesus in the worship and faith of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, they owe it to their audience to make their meaning clear. Claims that Mormons are not Christians implies to most listeners that Mormons do not worship, honor, or follow Jesus Christ. This is simply false.