As discussion surrounding The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon) continues to expand, thoughtful individuals are seeking to better understand Latter-day Saint Christianity. In a recent opinion piece published in the Washington Post, Brigham Young University professor Robert L. Millet writes that the Church “is built upon the person, power and teachings of Jesus Christ. He is our King, our Lord, and our God.”
Millet also notes that “the question of whether Mormons are Christians has surfaced again and again.” He describes how this query is a uniquely modern phenomenon. “Baptists and Methodists and Presbyterians in the area [where the Church began] knew that the followers of Joseph Smith believed in doctrinal matters that deviated somewhat from traditional Christianity. Folks seemed to assume, however, that Mormonism fit under the umbrella of Christianity.”
For Millet the assumption is correct. “We believe a Christian is one who follows Jesus. For us, one is a Christian not simply because he or she possesses a ‘correct’ theology. One’s Christian faith ought to be manifest in the way he speaks to and treats others. The Apostle Paul charged those who professed Christian discipleship: ‘If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.’ I think that means: ‘If we talk the talk, we really ought to walk the walk.’”
Latter-day Saints do indeed seek to follow Jesus Christ: they pray and worship in His holy name (see Matthew 6:9-13); they’re baptized (see Matthew 3:13-17) and partake of His sacrament (see Luke 22:19-20); they believe in doing good to others (see Acts 10:38) and bearing witness of the Savior through both word and deed (see James 2:26). Jesus is the only way to salvation, and we believe His love and grace is available to all.
Millet explains that, as members of the Church, “we ask to … define ourselves and explain what we really believe.” While we don’t want “to compromise our distinctiveness or ignore our differences with other groups,” we do feel it’s important to “celebrate our similarities and work together to remedy many of the troubling issues in our society.”
Commentary from other prominent Christian voices has recently bolstered such sentiments. “I am convinced that we should take Mormons at their word and acknowledge the sincerity of their conviction that Jesus Christ is their Lord and Savior,” writes Stephen H. Webb, a professor of religion at Wabash College, in a recent article. “By now we should know better than to judge fellow followers of Jesus by the quality of their philosophical speculations rather than the fruits of their faith.”
Put plainly, the Church is neither Catholic nor Protestant, but to describe it as anything other than Christian is simply inaccurate. We believe in a restoration of the ancient Christianity and Church that Christ established with twelve apostles and God’s authority. For us Christ has been, and will always remain, the Savior of the world and the divine Son of God. He is the same Jesus Christ of the New Testament who taught about faith and about love for God and mankind.
Jesus Christ — not Moses, Peter or Joseph Smith — is the object of Mormons’ devotion and worship. As the Prophet Joseph Smith himself taught, “The fundamental principles of our religion are … concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”
Mormon Newsroom commentary: Christianity: Following Jesus in Word and Deed