A few weeks ago, a blog buddy of mine named John Shore sent me an email. Knowing that I am a Mormon, he shared an article recently published by Richard Abanes, which presents the theory that Mormonism has legally been declared non-Christian.
On inspection this post’s startling claim does not hold water. I would like to offer my personal response as a researched, fact-based rebuttal, in order to provide balance and fairness for readers.
It is my hope that many will take the time to consider my words. I wish to clarify misconceptions, and help you experience a little peace in your day. I realize this post is longer than readers prefer. Therefore, I have highlighted the outline, and some salient points or key words if you are in a hurry. I urge you to return and read the entire text. And, at least stick around long enough to listen to the nice “reading music” I’ve provided! ( three whole selections) :)
PLAY: “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need”, by Mormon Tabernacle Choir
I am not an “official spokesperson” for my church. Nor am I a religious scholar, although I regularly “feast upon the Word”. I’m an average 40-something American woman. I also happen to be a life-long, devout Mormon. One of over 13 million worldwide. If you are reading this, then you have chosen to hear what Mormons believe straight from a faithful Mormon. That is very appreciated.
I’m going to give you some basic facts to support the foundation of my response. Then, we will address the article itself.
I. BASIC MORMON FACTS
1. What is a Mormon? The name of our church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was organized by Joseph Smith, Jr. in 1830. He was the first president and prophet. The term “Mormon” is a nickname those not of our faith labeled early on. It comes from the name of an ancient American prophet, and the title of one of our books of scripture , which we use as a companion to The Holy Bible.
The use of the term ‘Mormon’ exclusively causes discomfort to church members, because just like exclusively using “Winter Holiday” or “Seasons Greetings” – it removes Christ’s name, meaning, and purpose. We don’t get offended if you call us “Mormons”. Let’s face it, nicknames die hard (especially after nearly 180 years)! And, even nicknames meant to be hurtful tend to become endearing (even proprietary). :) Most commonly we refer to ourselves as Latter-day Saints or LDS, for short. I choose to use Mormon as part of my ‘online persona’. It honors a great prophet, and my pioneer ancestors. It is also a moniker of our beloved Choir.
However, it is very important you understand ‘Mormon’ is not the name of our church, nor is it descriptive of what and whom we worship. We are The Church of Jesus Christ, in these (latter) days, and He is our Savior, Lord and Master.
II. THE ARTICLE IN QUESTION
I have never met Richard Abanes, and have no personal quarrel with him. Mr. Abanes’ profession is as a writer. He has several books published on many various topics. He is not a Mormon, but recently promotes himself as an ‘expert’ on Mormonism, having published two books on the subject. Unfortunately he chooses to mix fact and fiction into a word soup, which causes confusion and bias for readers, and difficulty for members of our church to address each inaccuracy without writing another book! You can check any of his published claims and “facts” at a private non-profit called FairLDS.org. Abanes is banking that you wont. I do not consider him ‘the enemy’. Rather, misguided talent. It saddens me when anyone invests time into seeking to “disprove” another’s sacred beliefs, especially for profit. Why not use life to strengthen and defend one’s own beliefs? However, he is free to choose. My goal here is to analyze what he has written, underscore it, and offer you a clearer perspective.
Abanes article, dated between Oct 9 – 14 has been posted under two separate titles and on several wesites online: “Mormonism LEGALLY Declared Not Christian”. And “Mormonism LEGALLY Declared not Protestant” are the two main sites. The titles were created for shock value, and as traffic boosters. Inflammatory toward Latter-day Saints, they are promoting misinformation and outright falsehood, as I will detail.
The Court Case
The article begins with a report from the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, of a divorce custody/contempt appeal. I found and read the entire Court of Appeals document(are you impressed?) Mr. Abanes either did not do his homework, or chose not to share with the class.
In brief: Mr. and Mrs. Rownak divorced in 2005. Mr. R. got custody of their 2 boys. They both decided that their kids should be “raised in the Protestant faith” and if another faith was taught, “both parties should consent”. Unfortunately, they put these exact words into their legal agreement. A little over a year later, Mr. R. remarried and converted to the LDS Church. He and his new wife naturally involved the children in their worship. Unfortunately, the former Mrs. R. refused consent, and raised a ‘holy contempt’ case. It was nasty. The court chose to ignore Mr. R.’s appeal arguments, (and also refused to define what constitutes being in contempt). Instead, the judge focused solely on the wording of the original divorce agreement. The judge correctly determined that “The LDS Church is not in the Protestant faith”.
What does it mean?
Abanes proposes this is a “remarkable” and “landmark decision that will have implications”. Sounds exciting! However, any “implications” for the church are mythical. Sorry. The accurate (and much less exciting) truth is that the court did not attempt to define nor redefine the LDS Church, nor did they ‘LEGALLY’ declare a “landmark theological ruling”.The court simply went to the LDS website, clicked, and voila! established the definition that the Church already gives of itself, which can be found in multiple locations. Mr. R. fully agreed with this, because that was never his appeal argument (he had a couple other good ones which were ignored).
LDS Definition found online:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restoration of New Testament Christianity as taught by Jesus and His apostles. It is not Protestant, evangelical, Catholic or Orthodox.”(LDS Newsroom)
Mormons vs Protestant
A general definition of Protestant(ism), are Christian groups which protested Roman Catholicism, broke away, and re-formed. This period of history is called “The Reformation“, beginning with Martin Luther.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints did not break off or re-form. Rather, it is a Restoration church . (‘independent’)
Thus, LDS = not Protestant & never claimed to be.
With all of Mr. Abanes expertise and research, he most certainly knew this court finding was not “remarkable”.
PLAY:”I Feel My Savior’s Love” by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Mormons vs Christian
Abanes correctly admits the court did not legally define What Mormonism Is. However, he does not offer a working link to an official Mormon website.
Abanes leads his readers to a climactic conclusion that because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (‘Mormonism’) does not fit into the definition of “Protestant”, “Roman Catholicism”, or “Eastern Orthodox”, “one can naturally extrapolate that Mormonism is not Christian.”
Mr. Abanes has ‘extrapolated’ a stipulation to being a Christian is to belong to one of the Big Three (or possibly various “branches” and offshoots of the three ? ) otherwise your Christian status is invalid. This is very interesting, as just one paragraph later he tells us definitively that:
“A Christian is someone who embraces as their Lord and Savior the Jesus of the Bible.”
This says nothing about a church membership. It appears Abanes has some extra stipulations he adds ‘as needed’ to bar ‘Christian’ status. However, we certainly don’t need to consider him an authority on defining the term ‘Christian’. Let’s turn to a basic dictionary, shall we?
Alright. Let’s compare the definition of Latter-day Saints ‘Mormonism'::
Those who know Mormons, also know that we strive to follow Jesus Christ’s example, by living our religion. Giving countless Christ-like service to charitible causes, and community, in our ministry church and to our family.
Interestingly enough, in the definition of Christianity set forth by Abanes that a Christian is one who embraces “Lord/Savior/Jesus of the Bible”, Mormons also qualify .
If this issue were ever to come up in a court of law, (which it has not), it is clearly evident a judge would have overwhemling evidence to declare Mormonism “Legally” Christian.
Abanes closing statement in his article is:
“This court ruling shows that the Mormon Jesus and declaration of faith is not consistent with the Jesus and declaration of faith found within Protestantism”.
Mormons and Protestants have some differences in belief. However, the Arkansas court did not make a ruling that “shows” Mormons worship a different Jesus! The court did not make any ruling about any declaration of faith within the Mormon or the Protestant religion, (in fact it stayed as far away from that land mine as possible). The court merely established that “Mormons” are not “Protestant”, as defined by Mormons themselves. That’s it.
Abanes has made a few conclusions for his readers. Let’s review what we have established:
1. Mormons aren’t Protestant. = True
2. Mormons aren’t Christian. = False
3. Mormons worship a different Jesus because they are not Protestant. = What?
A Different Jesus?
Someone thought they were very clever when they coined the phrases “Mormon Jesus” and “Different Jesus”. This is certainly not unique to Mr. Abanes. It’s been around for a long time, and, quite frankly, he is just parroting it.
I believe there should be nothing that offends a true Christian more, than the use of our Savior’s sacred name in this mocking manner.
There is only one Jesus Christ. We each have a different personal relationship with him. It stands to reason that we each understand him in different ways during our spiritual progression. According to Wiki there are an estimated 2.1 Billion Christians living on earth currently. However, I have never heard a Christian say there are 2.1 Billion different Jesus’. The Bible clearly states there is only one Savior and Redeemer of this world, the living Christ.
His followers have the privilege and duty to defend and protect His sacred name. Any person who uses His name to mock and judge another religion is choosing to follow a different Master.
I love and adore and worship our Savior Jesus Christ. I strive to learn as much about Him, and his words, as possible. I am a member of a church that bears His sacred name. I strive to follow His commandments, to pray daily, to serve my fellowmen and to repent of my many sins. I am called a “Mormon”. I am also a “Christian”; a follower and believer of Jesus Christ and His holy words.
There are those who say my belief in Christ does not qualify, because my interpretation of the Bible does not match theirs. Some also say that as a Latter-day Saint I have exceeded some sort of “religious limit”, because I believe more about Jesus than what we read in the Bible.
It is true. Mormons believe in additional scripture that testifies of Jesus Christ, and visions of Jesus Christ in our modern day, and an open canon of ongoing revelation from Jesus Christ , in addition to our love and reverence of the Holy Bible which testifies of Jesus Christ. Our message is that Jesus Christ is not dead. He is risen! And, He is not silent. He has appeared in our modern times, reorganized His church and restored his priesthood authority. Once more there are prophets and apostles on the earth. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – “Mormons” – share this exciting message with the world, in order to help people add even more happiness to their lives, and come even closer to our Savior.
You don’t have to listen to the Mormon message. You also don’t have to listen to those who purposely distort the truth, and mock our sacred beliefs. All we ask is to be treated with the same respect that you desire.
Who has the authority to determine who is Christian? or, To pass a ‘LEGAL’ judgment? or, To pass any judgment on spiritual matters?
I submit it is only the Holy Judge of Israel, Jesus Christ himself. He has given us the commandment to love all, as He would do. He bought each of us with a heavy price. He bled for each of us. None were excluded. We are all loved and atoned for by Christ. That does NOT mean he loves or condones our words and actions. He has wept, and I am sure continues to weep over our behavior. But we are still treasured as Children of God. The Bible and The Book of Mormon teach that each of us will face consequences for our choices. And we will stand accountable before Him on the judgment day.
I join with His plea that we all show brotherly and sisterly love and never slander someone else in His holy name.
I thank John for demonstrating true brotherly kindness by inviting a Mormon, and fellow follower of Christ, to share my voice.
You made it! I thank all who took the time to read this post. In celebration, here is one last song. It is one of my very favorite hymns. To read the story and lyrics and watch a music video go to: I Believe In Christ, The Hymn, or you may play the audio here:
“I Believe In Christ” by The Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Jesus Christ lives! He will return to earth again to rule and reign. I believe in His power to heal hearts and bring peace. May His spirit and blessings be with you.
*****This post was written for the purpose of offering one Mormon’s personal response and witness. I wish it to stand on it’s own. Therefore, comments have been disabled. There are plenty of alternate views and debate forums elsewhere. Thank you.*****