Part 4 of a series.
In my upcoming book, Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor, I discuss how to think about the question, “Are Mormons Christian?” I’m sharing some of those thoughts in this series of posts.
In my last post, I explained why evangelical and mainstream Christians do not consider the LDS Church to be a Christian church: because its beliefs stand far outside the biblical and historical boundaries that mark the Christian faith.
But as I noted in a previous post, we evaluate individuals differently from institutions. Institutions are classified by what they assert to be true. For individuals, we use a more experiential definition. We call a person a Christian based on their standing with God, which depends not just on affirming certain truths, but on accepting and acting on the truth – which evangelicals understand as trusting fully and solely in the finished work of Jesus Christ to be right with God.
While we can examine the beliefs of Mormonism to evaluate whether it is Christian or not, no one can see into the heart of another person to know with assurance where that person stands with God. Thus I can state with confidence that the LDS Church is not a part of the historic, biblical Christian faith. But I cannot declare whether any individual Latter-day Saint is a Christian or not. Only God can ultimately know that person’s interior condition.
Based on the definition I accept, I assume that some Mormons are regenerate, heaven-bound children of God, and that some members of evangelical churches are not. I imagine there are people who genuinely became Christians in childhood or youth, but joined the LDS Church as adults without full knowledge of its world view and beliefs, perhaps because of a romantic relationship. I know people who, as Mormons, read the Bible and understood its meaning apart from the LDS interpretive grid, and came to adopt the historic biblical gospel. I’ve met people whom I believe had an authentic, saving encounter with God as members of the LDS Church.
I do believe that the more closely a person adopts the LDS world view and central beliefs, the more unlikely it is that he or she could be a regenerate, heaven-bound Christian, because the core beliefs of Mormonism are contrary to the biblical good news message of God’s saving grace. I know a number of people who left Mormonism because they found their newly discovered evangelical experience and beliefs to be increasingly at odds with the LDS world view. In the end they felt they could no longer support the things the LDS Church stands for. But it makes sense to me that other genuine Christ-followers within Mormonism would stay in the LDS Church for family reasons.
So Mormonism has to be considered Christian in the broadest sense. In a more particular sense it is not. Individual Mormons may be Christians. But if they are, it seems to me that it is in spite of, rather than because of, what Mormonism teaches. I guess we’ll find out when we get to heaven.
For a different twist on the issue, see my next post.