“Are Mormons Christian?” “Do Mormons believe in a ‘different’ Jesus?” These have been common questions in religious discussions, in the news media and among acquaintances.
A recent national poll by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life cast some light on these questions. The Pew survey found that a slight majority of the public (52%) says that “Mormonism is a Christian religion.” About one-third (31%) disagreed. Almost the same number of people (53%) expressed a favorable view of Mormons, while 27% held an unfavorable view. On the other hand, 62% believe that the “Mormon religion” is “very different” from their own religion. And 51% reported that they know “not very much” or “nothing” about the “Mormon religion.”
It’s possible that greater awareness and familiarity with Latter-day Saints could increase favorable impressions of the Mormon religion and could moderate the perceived differences. As people learn more about Latter-day Saint beliefs, they may see some distinct differences and yet find some unexpected common ground.
For example, recent addresses by Church President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910-2008) and Church apostle Jeffrey R. Holland emphatically affirm Christ as the center of the Church while grounding Latter-day Saint doctrines of Deity in biblical teachings as confirmed by the witness of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said that any criticism that the Church “does not hold the contemporary Christian view of God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost is not a comment about our commitment to Christ but rather a recognition (accurate, I might add) that our view of the Godhead breaks with post–New Testament Christian history and returns to the doctrine taught by Jesus Himself.” President Hinckley observed that for Mormons, the post-biblical fourth-century Christian creeds present a complexity not found in the experience and witness of Joseph Smith: “They spoke to him with words that were audible, and he spoke to Them. They could see. They could speak. They could hear. They were personal. They were of substance. They were not imaginary beings. They were beings tabernacled in flesh. And out of that experience has come our unique and true understanding of the nature of Deity.”
For some, these distinctions may be “very different.” But the fact that Latter-day Saints accept as fellow Christians all who believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Savior of all mankind, shows that there’s common ground for all Christians to occupy together.