The prominent criticism raised concerns the notion that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not Christians. Based on the idea that, per our Evangelical and Protestant neighbors, Latter-day Saints deny the essential core doctrines:
- The Deity of Christ – or namely Jesus is God manifested in the Flesh
- Salvation by Grace – Sola Gratia
- Salvation through Jesus Christ alone – Sola Fide
- The Resurrection of Christ
- The Gospel
- The Holy Trinity
Based on these essential core doctrines of the Christian faith – Evangelical and Protestant Christians deny Latter-day Saints as members of the Christian Faith. Namely, because they perceive our denunciation of sola gratia and sola fide, our non-adherence to the Trinity doctrine, and the notion the LDS Faith is polytheistic and not monotheistic. Another inference is the idea that Latter-day Saints teach a different Jesus and therefore deny the deity of Christ contained in the Bible.
The truth is, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are Christians. While we are neither Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant, we are a restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ originally established by the Savior in the New Testament. After all, Christianity refers to those who follow Christ. Prior to the term Christian many of those who followed Christ, and subsequently the Apostles, were referred to as the people of the way.
Another aspect of this concerns the other criticism where some insinuate that in the early days of the LDS faith, members did not want to consider themselves Christians. Today, however, the appearance of the Church gravitating more toward embracing a desire to be considered Christian seems to reflect an inconsistent ideology that had apparently separated members of the Church from those of our fellow Evangelical and Protestant Christians.
In the book How Wide the Divide? Co-Author Stephen E. Robinson shares this:
The statement is sometimes made that Latter-day Saints now want to be known as Christians, whereas in the past we did not. This statement is both true and false. If we define “Christian” generically as someone who accepts the New Testament proclamation of Jesus Christ as Son of God and Savior, then the first part of the statement is true: [Latter-day Saints] do wish to be known as Christians. But the second half of the statement would then be false, since there has never been a time when we wished otherwise.Blomberg and Robinson; How Wide the Divide: A Mormon and an Evangelical in Conversation; pp. 19-20
Robinson goes to further state:
However, if we define “Christian” as meaning traditional, historical, and creedal orthodoxy, then the first part of the statement would be false: [Latter-day Saints] do not now wish to be known as post-Nicene, “orthodox” Christians. But the second part of the statement would then be true, for [Latter-day Saints] have never wanted to be identified with post-New Testament Christianity.
Robinson concludes with this idea:
Latter-day Saints have always called themselves Christians in the sense that they worship Jesus Christ and attempt to live according to his teachings, but they have never wanted to be identified with the “Christians” who burned them from their homes and drove them into the wilderness.
Understanding these nuance differences and similarities may help us further better communicate what we see as differences and similarities. Are Latter-day Saints Christians? From an Evangelical and Protestant perspective – no. From a Latter-day saint perspective and worldview – yes. How do we harmonize the differences? We look to what common understanding we have about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. More specifically, understanding who He is.