Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Screek, Screek, Screek, Pop!

[That was me opening up a can of worms.]
How do you start a post that you are afraid will offend people? Not well, evidently.
Here's the deal. Through adoption I have come to know several families who are members of the LDS church. Without exception these families have been gracious, kind, loving and open-minded. When I speak to these families they mention "the Lord" and "our Savior" and all sorts of other little words that clue one Christian in to the fact that they are talking to another Christian.
Except...
It seems that some Christians do not include members of the LDS church as Christians. My big question: Why? Seriously, I don't know the reasoning behind that.
I've had a few opportunities to talk more in depth about LDS beliefs with a few of my friends. They say they are Christian. They say Christ is the son of God. They believe in the death and resurrection. Just like me, they listen to Contemporary Christian Music. They "speak the same language" I speak--you know, the sort of spirit-laced language that one Christian speaks to another Christian.
I was always taught those central beliefs are what made a "Christian" a "Christian."
Yeah, yeah, I know that LDS members believe extra stuff that most Christians do not believe. But does that negate their central belief in Christ? Seriously, I want to know the other side of this argument because I don't see what the big deal is. I don't know why (for instance) a "Christian" agency will not work with "Morman" families.
What do I think about this particular can of worms? Well, I would just find it very difficult to tell someone they aren't a Christian if they say they are. You know, that whole judgement thing. I think we all centrally believe that He is our savior, that He forgives our sins, and He provides a bridge to eternity. That makes us Christians. We might have a LOT of stuff wrong outside of that! [Was there another profit?! Whether were "once saved always saved!" Grace or Works?! Baptized in the Spirit?! The end times!] Those things are not central to the core definition of Christian. Christ-follower. Do you profess to be a Christ-follower? Well then, I suppose that's good enough for me.

23 comments:

Kait 7:44 AM  

I'm with you Anita. There are so many variances within the Christian faith anyway, why do we exclude LDS?

Julie 8:21 AM  

I am with you on this one. I was raised in a church that believed that the catholics and methodists needed to get saved. It didn't seem right to me even then. As an adult, I have developed my own sort of litmus test because as a pastor's wife, this stuff comes up all the time. I use the Apostle's Creed as a basic statement of faith. If you believe whats in that, you are a Christian. There are all different kinds of Christian churches because there are all different kinds of Christian people. So whether you are a hymn singing, prayer book reading, traditional, private Christian or a bible thumping, flag waving, speaking in tongues fanatic, you are part of His family.

Cora 8:52 AM  

I agree, I wish people could be a little less judgmental and more open. Although I think we have come along way as a society, when my mother was little she was not allowed to play with "those Catholic kids" but we still have a long way to go.

exmish 9:33 AM  

Wow, Anita!! :)

My thought is that, given your positive take on the issue as well as those who have commented already, anyone who feels otherwise might not want to "out" him- or herself.

So, allow me as an LDS convert, to share with you some of the reasons I have been told that I am not a Christian:

1. "You believe in a different Jesus." My usual response to that is that to my knowledge, there was only one Jesus born of the Virgin Mary, paid for my sins, died on the cross and was resurrected on the third day. _That_ is the Jesus I believe in.

2. "You have incorrect beliefs about Jesus." My response to that is this: you tell me that I have to believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior to be saved, right? I do. Now, it sounds like you are saying that my knowledge of the Savior has to be perfect to be saved. Let me ask you this: what color were his eyes? How tall was he? If you don't have a perfect knowledge of who Jesus was either, how can you claim to be saved? (Yes, I know it would be argued that those points are not necessary for salvation, but it illustrates my assertion.)

3. "You don't believe the Bible to be inerrant / you believe the Book of Mormon is scripture." Yep! I don't believe anywhere in the Scriptures there's a limitation as to what God can choose to do. If He chooses to speak to His people, who am I to say He can't? There are many lists of contradictions in the Bible as we all know it (e.g. how did Judas die? Was he hanged or disemboweled?), so it isn't unreasonable to conclude that while God is perfect, men are not - and what we know as the Bible passed through many hands, languages, and political agendas as it came to be what we have today.

4. "The Bible says to beware false prophets!" Yes, indeed it does. It also says "by their fruits ye shall know them."

Those are some of the major ones; the minor ones usually come from some point of doctrine that they were told we believe which we don't actually, or something in our faith's history that can be misconstrued. In my 20+ years as a Mormon I think I've heard it all, and not being one to cover my eyes and go "lalala I can't hear you!" I have always looked into the points raised. I'm still a Mormon. :)

I welcome any questions your blog readers may have (it's Ask a Mormon Day! *laugh*) - whether they are controversial or not, I'm not afraid. Feel free to drop by my blog and post them there: exmish.blogspot.com.

Alternately/additionally, there is a lot of information to be had at www.mormon.org - and no one has to even know you are asking. :D

Thanks for bringing this up, Anita. :)

the H family 10:14 AM  

THANK YOU for opening your can of worms! I have seen this first-hand and it is heartbreaking. We were told by several agencies that we would not be approved, simply becuase we were "Those Mormons." One even suggested that we deny our faith on the application! LDS people are most certainly Christians. Jesus Christ is the center of our church and our lives, and we strive daily to follow in His footsteps. I just taught Romans 1:16 to my 9 year old class on Sunday "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth."

Heather 10:48 AM  

Hmmm, interesting question. I'm a Christ follower. I believe in and try to live a life that Christ would want me to. *But* I'm also able to recognize the value of other religions. Islam, Buddhism, Judaism, Hinduism. . . they ALL teach very positive things, positive ways to live ones life. Following the principals of Buddhism is far better, imho, than following NO principals at all. And I think most would consider me exceptionally liberal, and I'm sure there are some that would question my "status" as a Christian. But as liberal as I am. . . No, I would not consider Mormons to be Christian. I'm glad they have found something to believe in. I don't judge Mormons as being "less than" me or anyone else. I certainly wouldn't seek to exclude them or shun them, but no, I don't think they fall into the Christian faith. my .02.

BTW, thank you, thank you, thank you for the beautiful message that you left on Sparkles. You have no idea how many times I've read that message. It gotme through on days where I was ready to quit and they were the EXACT words I needed to hear. Love you and I'm SO glad you're in my life!

Rob Watson 11:06 AM  

As a Mormon, I couldn't agree more. There's been so much I've wanted to do with Christian brothers and sisters to fix this world, but I'm excluded in a rather cliquish manner that feels unbecoming to Christian ideals.

If anyone's interested, I can post what I know from an LDS apologist perspective about why we're excluded from Christianity. It's actually better now than ever before, but we still have a long way to go.

I've written about some of this at length here: http://americantestament.blogspot.com

Rob Watson 11:06 AM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
A. Gillispie 12:41 PM  

Thank you ALL for your comments. Thank you especially for keeping them respectful. I don't at all want to start something that would cause hurt feelings (on either side). I just seriously don't know anymore why I was taught Mormans weren't Christians. I was also taught Catholics weren't Christians. As it happens, my roommate in college was a devout Catholic and she taught me REAL quick that YES she was a a Christian!

The way Catholics practice their religion is complete foreign to me. To me, praying to anybody but God/Jesus is just...well, it's just not something that makes sense to me. BUT I have respect for my Catholic friends who believe differently and I don't think that makes them un-Christian!

So...I'm just at the point in my life where I want to examine the Morman thing. As a main-stream Christian it's seems....out there to me to have another book beyond the Bible. But does having "extra" beliefs exclude Momrans from being Christians anymore than having "extra" beliefs excludes Catholics from being Christians?

I don't want ANYBODY to feel like they can't post here. If you don't want to come out and say "I don't believe Mormans are Christians" I understand. But maybe you know why lots of Christian churches teach that the LDS church is not a Christian church--is a cult. Does the church even teach that anymore? Maybe today's mainstream Christian churches don't still stay "OH! Catholics and Mormans aren't Christians!" Maybe everybody is more tolerant now?

Miss Heather, thank you for stepping out and being honest in a "room" that felt "pro-Morman." You know I love you and I learn from you! Would you mind sharing why you have come to believe that Mormans aren't Christians? I really do want to know--not just trying to stir up trouble. I know you are a loving, intelligent, wonderful woman, and I know that whatever you believe, it is NOT going to be bast in any sort of hate or ignorance.

Eric 1:18 PM  

I have to say I'm with Heather on this one. I have several reasons for this line of thinking. I, however, do not want this to become a forum for debate. Feel free to contact me directly if you want to discuss my reasoning behind my line of thinking.

Becky 3:55 PM  

I spent A LOT of time hanging with members of the LDS Church when I was in Ghana. Hello LDS friends! I am not a member, nor do I think I'm being led that way. Can I just say though, some of the stuff people say about the LDS church is RIDICULOUS! I actually lost a friend over it when I came home. Some people who don't bother to get past the bigotry that some of the media feeds people are just really ignorant.

The members that I know and love are kind, honest and helped me during one of the worst times of my life. The Church that some people call "not Christian" offered me a place to stay and comforted me when I thought my kids weren't going to make it here. They are Christianity personified.

Yeah, there are some members that are crazy, but that doesn't have anything to do with their church membership though. There are members of my church that I don't like to hang with either. If you just look at each person individually, and don't disregard them simply on the basis of their religion, you'll get to meet some really wonderful people. But, then again, isn't that what the bible teaches you? Hmmm.... Again, not a member, I'm just saying. It shouldn't matter!

Anita, does AAI accept Jewish people? I didn't know they were a Christian agency? Figured I'd better ask before I refer someone who may end up not qualifying to adopt. No judgement, just wondering.

--Becky

A. Gillispie 3:59 PM  

Becky, AAI IS NOT A CHRISTIAN AGENCY! Oh my, my boss would not be happy if she thought I was leading people to think AAI is affiliated with any religion! They are a completely secular agency and accept families of any (or no) religious preference. =-)

A. Gillispie 4:37 PM  

Becky,

I hope that nobody would think someone is a bad person because of their religious beliefs--regardless of Christian, Hindu, Muslim, etc.. Personally, I think there are a lot of great people out there that are not Christians. I also think someone may be very "Christ-like" without being a Christian. I often feel like some people are doing work that glorifies God, even if that is not their intention.

I just went to Dictionary.com to see what they said the definition of Christian is. Ironically, the ad at the top said, "Are Mormans Christian?" LOL! Anyway, the basic definition is "a person who believes in Jesus Christ." I suppose that with that definition, regardless of any other different beleifs, it makes sense that Mormans would be called "Christian." They "believe in" Christ. However, I do understand that some Christians would not use that simple definition to define "Christian." Do mormons believe in the SAME "God" and "Jesus" that Christians do? That seems to be the crux of the issue here.

I might be a little bit more comfortable than some other Christians as putting things in the "I don't know" file. I guess I would end by saying, I hope that anybody who professes to be a Christian, truly is, and will be spending eternity with me.

c81bcd8e-4025-11e0-bf30-000f20980440 4:46 PM  

I don't feel comfortable passing judgement on who is or isn't a Christian. However, this information might be useful to you in understanding why some people don't think of LDS members as Christians: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints#Comparisons_with_mainstream_Christianity

CarrieT 6:15 PM  

I read all the time but don't post much. I would say it depends on what your definition of Christian is. If you mean, in general terms, someone who believes in Jesus and follows His teachings, then I would say definitely Mormons are Christians.

But if you are being more specific about the pathway to salvation and eternal life, then I would say that I disagree with the teachings of the Mormon church. But this does not mean that there are not Mormons within the church who might believe more closely to me. I can never know someone else's heart completely, whether they attend an LDS church, a Catholic church, a Baptist church (where I grew up), or a Lutheran church (where I attend now). That is for God to know.

I have the privilege to share my faith with others and pray God uses my witness to encourage and challenge them as He sees fit. AND LDS members have this opportunity too to share what and why they believe with me--which is just fine!! Open, FRIENDLY dialogue can be eye-opening and challenging to each person's faith. In fact LDS members are often very good witnesses to their faith and definitely to moral living.

In conclusion I would say I am willing go on record as believing the LDS church differs in its understanding of salvation compared to what I believe to be the truth. BUT I certainly respect them and believe they fall under the large umbrella of Christianity as all followers of Christ do. I will leave it to God to sort out the specifics and look inside a person's heart--I can't do that anyway!

Hope this is not too controversial. And I would be happy to email you privately, Anita, about the areas I believe are different, but I also don't want to get into an argument or debate on here. Plus I would admit I am certainly not the most learned theologian out there!! (not at all!! :-))

Carrie T. - mom to 4 from Korea

In His Dust 9:27 PM  

I would also have to agree with Eric and Heather.

There are absolutely other people in other religions doing great things and are super awesome people. But, does that make them Christians? No. As Christians we are taught that, "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9 So, although someone may be living a very "Christ-like" life they may not be Christians.

There are tons of different religions that believe in Jesus Christ. Muslims and Hindus being two of the big ones. But, neither of them would call themselves Christians.

I think that is what has happened in the Catholic church is that they most definitely believe in Jesus. But, believing in Him is not enough. It is the repenting of sins and personal relationship that makes you a Christian and from everything that my Catholic friends have told me the personal relationship side of it is not taught. Please correct me if I am wrong.

But, I also believe that you must have the correct knowledge of who Jesus really is and the acknowledgment of the truths told about Him in the Bible which is where I feel like the Mormon church is confused. I also know that no religion should add any books to the Bible, which is perfect and complete. "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book." Revelation 22:18

exmish- Thank you for your comments!:) Thanks for opening up. I think it helps everyone learn about each other!:) Not at all trying to be confrontational but just had a couple comments.:)

1. Yes, those things are the same (as referring to Jesus) but what about the qualities about Jesus that Mormons hold and Christians don't?

2. You are totally correct in saying eye color, height, etc. are non-essentials for salvation. But, I do believe when a person's beliefs go against what the Bible says about a topic/Jesus there lies a problem.

3. I totally believe that the Bible is inerrant and God also is "big" enough have control over what He allowed in the Bible even though it has gone through many hands, like you mentioned. I think we put God into a box when we say that since "men" wrote it it must contain error, like saying He couldn't control what has been written in His own book. And as far of the Judas question: it was actually both. He was hung and also became disemboweled. And if you want me to explain why I believe that I will.:)

I am just like you in looking into all of the points that people bring up against Christianity too! I ALWAYS look into them and have always gotten an answer to my questions. And I am still a Christian!:)

Thanks so much for everyone opening up! Great conversations! Hope I didn't anger anyone.:) Love you all and lots of love to my girl ANITA!!:)

In His Dust 9:46 PM  

AND. . .I of course echo Carrie T.'s words for myself, "I can never know someone else's heart completely, whether they attend an LDS church, a Catholic church, a Baptist church, or a Lutheran church. That is for God to know."

I NEVER judge an individual's salvation. But, I do feel we are free to judge the theology of other religions/churches.

exmish 10:14 PM  

I think this was a great exchange. :)

I have always seen that it comes to this: no matter what point is made (including the points of doctrine discussed/debated kindly :)/etc. here), there is always a logical way to argue for that point, and a logical way to argue against it. Neither point is more valid from the standpoint of logic, so ultimately it will always come down to faith. :)

I feel the same way when people tell me (incorrectly) that I believe that only Mormons go to heaven. Of COURSE I don't believe that, and my church certainly doesn't teach that either. I am so profoundly grateful that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are the only Ones who can truly know what is in a person's heart, not to mention all of the trauma, trials, and triumphs that have gone into his or her life and made them the person that I can only see with my limited viewpoint. They bless those who live righteous principles no matter where they park their rears on Sunday (or Saturday, or Friday, or...). :)

Glad for the open discussion. :)

Rob Watson 10:36 PM  

The Book of Mormon is sacred scripture. We can have a conversation about that if you like on my blog to avoid too much going on here.

This post is the one that I feel most accurately captures the way I feel about the Book of Mormon...and the reasons most people don't understand it.

This summary gives the best summary I can find if you want to get a feel for the structure of the book.

And This post gives another perspective on how the Bible and Book of Mormon reinforce each other as scripture.

Rob Watson 10:36 PM  

The Book of Mormon is sacred scripture. We can have a conversation about that if you like on my blog to avoid too much going on here.

This post is the one that I feel most accurately captures the way I feel about the Book of Mormon...and the reasons most people don't understand it.

This summary gives the best summary I can find if you want to get a feel for the structure of the book.

And This post gives another perspective on how the Bible and Book of Mormon reinforce each other as scripture.

Mama D.'s Dozen 1:20 AM  

GREAT discussion going here, Anita. Thanks for being willing to open this can of worms. :)


I laughed when I saw that "Julie" your 2nd commenter mentioned Catholics and Methodists.

My husband was raised not only in the Catholic church, but also attended Catholic schools. Not once did he EVER hear teaching on how to have a relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ. He had absolutely NO IDEA what it meant to be a Christian, until he attended a Young Life meeting in high school.

I was raised in the United Methodist church. Not only did I attend church, but my dad was the pastor. Not once did I EVER hear teaching on how to have a relationship with Jesus Christ ... not once did I hear teaching about the Holy Spirit (or the Trinity) ... not once did I hear any teaching on what it means to live my life for Jesus. I attended church EVERY single Sunday, and my whole concept of Christianity was that God was some "policeman in the sky". When I attended a Young Life meeting in high school, I heard, for the first time, about the opportunity to have a personal relationship with the Lord. My life was changed forever.

I do not believe that Jim's priests, nor my father (the Methodist pastor) were/are Christians. They are "religious". They are "good people". But ... they do not know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

The United Methodist church does not believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God (inerrant: incapable of being wrong). My dad believes that the Bible is a good book, written by good men. My dad does not believe that Jesus is the Son of God. He does not believe in the Virgin Birth. He believes that anyone can get to heaven ... in their own way ... with their own gods.

Sadly. I do not believe that I will spend eternity with my earthly dad ... unless he chooses to give his life to Jesus, irregardless of the fact that he was a pastor for over 50 years.

That does not mean that there are no true Christians within the Catholic Church.

That does not mean that there are no true Christians within the United Methodist Church.

We do not become Christians (nor do we lose the opportunity to be Christians) by the church that we choose to attend. God is the only one that sees our hearts; He is the only one that knows who will spend eternity in heaven with Him.

I have a cousin who is a Mormon. While I have very strong concerns about the doctrine and theology of the Mormon Church, as a whole, my cousin's theology has never concerned me. Just as I may not fully believe everything within my church's doctrinal statement (nor any other church in my town); so, too, my cousin may not believe every doctrinal statement of the Mormon Church.

Just one thought on the "definition of a Christian" that you found ... Satan also "believes" in Jesus Christ; yet, he is certainly not a Christian. I believe that there is much more to being a Christian than just believing in the existence of Jesus.


I've sure appreciated the respect that each commenter has shown. Thanks for the discussion.


Laurel :)

Mary Ellyn 6:06 PM  

Just an FYI --- I am Lutheran -- Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and I was a member of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America)for many decades. Lutherans are sacramental as are Roman Catholics. You don't typically hear talk of 'personal relationship'(can't speak about individuals). I don't speak of having a personal relationship, but I know that I am child of God because I am baptized and daily I repent of my sins and remember the promises of my baptism.

exmish 9:14 AM  

Yep, I think we have to be careful not to draw conclusions about a person's heart or faith strictly on the language they use (or don't use). I think I'm fairly fluent in "mainstream Christian"...*laugh* In other words, I know that if I'm talking to someone not of my faith, I can't use acronyms they won't understand (FHE, PEC, D&C) and I have to "translate" (family night, leadership meeting, Doctrine and Covenants) first. Also, speaking only for myself, I'm not very verbally open with my feelings on sacred things; I try on a daily basis to draw nearer to the Savior and deepen my relationship with Him, but I don't talk about that openly or casually....it's very personal to me. Other people - in my faith and others - are very vocal about it. It's all good. :)