Are Mormons “Peaceable Followers of Christ?”
People sometimes object when I insist on challenging the claim that Mormons are Christians. Mormons object most vociferously. So let me begin by repeating what has been said so often before, that when I declare Mormons are not Christians I am in no way implying that they are not "good people", or "nice to know", which is the way the world defines "Christian".
There are many "good people" in the world who would prefer not to be called Christian. Ironically, a Christian is someone who has confessed to being anything but a good person. Contrary to the world's definition, a Christian is someone who has come to recognise their utterly depraved nature and lostness, and who has come to trust fully in the complete and finished, atoning work of Jesus on the Cross to save them from their lost state of sinfulness.
The Mormon does not subscribe to any such view and therefore cannot in honesty be called "Christian". I and others continue, then, to raise a warning voice to the Christian Church and the world in general, that there is a great deception being perpetrated here and we are determined that people should know about it. This is not spite but genuine concern that folk should not be hurt, disappointed and, ultimately, lost through following a false message.
In an address entitled The Peaceable Followers of Christ given on 1 February 1998, and reported in the April 1998 Ensign magazine, Boyd K Packer, acting President of the Mormon Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke primarily to "those who teach and write and produce films which claim that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is not a Christian church and that we, the members, are not Christians." In his remarks to us he identified five characteristics of the Mormon Church that mark it as Christian.
- Hymns of the church testify of Christ
- The name of the church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Ordinances are performed in Christ's name
- Prayers are offered in his name
- The Mormon "Scriptures" testify of Christ
It is noteworthy that all five refer to using, or "calling upon the name of the Lord". However the Bible makes it clear that "Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord', will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21). So what is the will of God the Father?
"My Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life." (John 6:40 cf. 1John 3:23).
And yet this is the very message that Packer rejects. He states,
"Our critics' belief, based on the Bible, holds that man is saved by grace alone. Theirs is by far the easier way. Our position, also based on the Bible, but strengthened by other scriptures, holds that we are saved by grace 'after all we can do," and we are responsible by conduct and by covenants to live the standards of the gospel."
It is significant that he readily admits that the Christian view is based on the Bible. His own view is, contrary to his claim, not based on the Bible because it cannot be found in the Bible. It has to be "strengthened by other scriptures", in fact it is exclusive to those other scriptures and sometimes not even found there! It is clearly the opposite of what the Bible declares, which is that,
"righteousness…comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus…Where then is boasting? It is excluded…For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law" (Romans 3:22-24,27-28).
My Faith is Not in The Bible!
The place of the Bible in this man's life is significant. You would expect that a man who claims to be a Christian would be most confident about declaring his faith with a trusty Bible in his hands. However he declares himself challenged by the claim that Mormons are not Christians and candidly admits,
“One reason for my feeling challenged by this claim that we are not Christians is that I do not know how to answer it without quoting other revelations, from scriptures which they reject.”
In other words a self-styled "apostle of the Lord" cannot prove himself to be Christian by a simple appeal to the Bible!
Mormons will not wish to believe this, nevertheless the words he uses seem to leave no room for "interpretation" - a favourite Mormon rubric. While he goes to great lengths to prove the Christian nature of the Mormon faith, only six of twenty seven references he makes in support of his claim come from the Bible. Of those six not one makes any reference to any major Christian or Mormon doctrine.
In the final analysis he simply reinforces the point I make which is that outward appearance, being good people, using the Bible, praying and even saying "Lord, Lord", all of which comprise the main thrust of his argument, do not make a Christian. So what advice does Packer offer those who are equally challenged by the charge that Mormons are not Christians?
Is Mormonism Indefensible?
“It is not an easy thing for us to defend the position that bothers so many others. But, brethren and sisters, never be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Never apologise for the sacred doctrines of the kingdom. Never feel inadequate and unsettled because you cannot explain them to the satisfaction of all who might enquire of you. Do not be ill at ease or uncomfortable because you can give little more than your conviction.”
Ending the address with the inevitable Mormon testimony Packer urges his Mormon listeners to do the same and ignore the mountain of evidence that militates against the Mormon faith. He suggests that perhaps someone will be impressed by the sincerity of the testifying Mormon and come to the same conviction, not by the weight of evidence for the Mormon faith which is singularly lacking, but by the force of conviction. The trouble is, it is possible to be sincerely wrong. It is possible to follow conviction down the path of destruction.
For "many will come in [his] name…and will deceive many" (Matthew 24:5).
It is noteworthy that Gordon B Hinckley made it clear that he worships a different Jesus.
"In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints 'do not believe in the traditional Christ.' 'No, I don't. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. He together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the year 1820, and when Joseph left the grove that day, he knew more of the nature of God than all the learned ministers of the gospel of the ages.'"
LDS Church News (6/20/98, p.7)
2 Corinthians 11:4; Galatians 1:8/9
Now we have a "prophet" who openly declares that he worships a very different Jesus to the one worshipped by "other" Christians, and an "apostle" who cannot prove himself guilty of being a Christian by a simple appeal to the Bible!
The inevitable conclusion any reasonable Christian would draw from these facts is that these men cannot be Christians.
- They believe in the Jesus of Joseph Smith, that much is clear from Hinckley's statement
- It is not the Jesus of the Bible, that is clear from Packer's statement.
If it were otherwise then surely the Jesus of Joseph Smith would be clearly portrayed in the Bible and Packer's problem would not exist. There would be no "disadvantage" when "cornered or challenged" because the answer would be found in Christian Scripture. Packer's answer is found in extra-biblical writings, and Hinckley's Jesus is peculiar to Mormonism.
It is clear that the Jesus that Christians worship is quite different from the Jesus of Gordon B Hinckley, Boyd K Packer, and the Mormon Church. The basic message of the Mormon Church to us is that, whilst we may have "some truth", we do not have the Jesus of God. We are mistaken in what we think of him, in how we conceive him, and in what we expect of him.
Whilst Mormon statements concerning other churches are these days couched in terms of conciliation and friendship, nevertheless it is plain that this is so much camouflage to hide the fact that we are considered corrupt in our professions of faith, abominable in our creedal loyalties, and in gross error in our mere lip service to God's power and sovereignty (Joseph Smith, History 1:19). In short, we are not true Christians because we have not embraced the restored truth, and the true Jesus of Mormonism. Against this background Mormons expect us to say, "Of course Mormons are Christians"! In the words Omid Jalili, “You’re having a laugh!”
It seems that Boyd K Packer very much regrets not being a Christian like the rest of us and is torn between the conviction of his testimony and the true state of Mormonism in the modern world. I don’t envy him as he attempts to reconcile the irreconcilable. Nevertheless it will take more than the heartfelt regrets of an elder statesman of Mormonism, who cannot in truth offer more than his conviction and who cannot, by his own admission, stand on God's word in defence of that conviction - it would take more than this to make Christians call Mormons "Christian". Can you blame us?
Emancipation from error is the condition of real knowledge
Henri Frederic Ameil (1849)