Good afternoon everybody (or evening, or morning, or middle of the night depending on when you are reading this). As I am typing this we have a blizzard developing outside my Utah door that is incredibly beautiful. I wish I could share it with all of you but pictures would not do it justice.
It has been over a week since I last posted, which means my New Year’s Resolution to blog almost every day is going terribly. But this morning a friend sent me an email and asked me a question that has been on my heart and mind a lot over the last couple years. This email came from a couple who lives in a town that is 95% Mormon. They left the Mormon church years ago but still love the Utah Mormon culture. Last summer they reached out to me asking about the Church of the Nazarene and I have become their pastor over the last several months.
She more or less pointed out that there are members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles whom she respects and whom she believes are steering the Mormon church in a Christ like direction. However, she also noted that several Christians she talks with don’t share that belief at all. Instead they argue that the “Christ” talk is just a deceptive PR stunt. She wanted to know my thoughts.
I assured her and I assure you that I am not an expert in Mormonism at all. However, over the last couple years I have spoken with many who are experts including a Southern Baptist Missionary who has a PhD in Mormonism and Richard Muow, the former President of Fuller Theological Seminary who meets regularly with the Mormon leadership. I have also read some books about the relationship of Mormonism to Christianity that were insightful. In addition I am friends with several Nazarene scholars who regularly meet with BYU professors and I have also listened to some lectures by an evangelical pastor out of Provo.
And I still find it incredibly difficult to say that the Mormon denomination is a Christian one. The most gracious I can be is to echo what the previously mentioned pastor in Provo said in one of his lectures: “I do believe many Mormons will be saved, but it will be despite Mormonism, not because of it.” For the record I also believe many members of the Church of the Nazarene will be saved despite our denomination. And I believe the same thing about Baptists and Assembly of God and Catholics and Lutherans and any other. After all it is by grace that we are saved, not by church membership.
However, to call an institution itself Christian requires something more succinct than the generic statement above. I have thought long and hard about the circumstances that would have to happen for me to be able to call Mormons a Christian denomination. The email from my friend gave me opportunity to sit down and write two lists that have been germinating in my head. The first list is of the non-negotiables. They are the things the top tier of the Mormon leadership must do in order make Mormonism Christian. The second list are things that would make it easier for me to call them Christian, but that aren’t necessarily deal breakers. You will notice the second list is longer than the first. Regarding that second list, be assured I have similar lists for my denomination and, if I am being completely honest, most other Christian denominations.
List 1: What Would Make Mormons a Christian Denomination?
- Full acceptance of the Nicene Creed along with First 7 Ecumenical Councils (including full deity of Jesus and full equality of the Trinity)
- Statement placing the inspiration of the Old and New Testaments over the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price and Doctrines and Covenants (This would not be a rejection of the Mormon documents per say but a relegation of their authority to that under the Scriptures.)
List 2: Things I Personally Would Like to See:
(Of note: some of these are all ready happening)
- Stop proselytizing people from Christian denominations
- Stop rebaptizing those from Christian denominations
- Start teaching the stories about the life and teachings of Jesus from the four canonical gospels as part of a catechism process for children.
- Relax some but not necessarily all requirements on temple recommends so that Christians from other denominations can participate in some manner.
- Rejection of the tiered eschatology (i.e. terrestrial, celestial and telestial levels of heaven).
- Full and public rejection of eternal marriage, especially eschatological polygamy (i.e. that divorced Mormons who were married multiple times in the temple will be married to multiple wives in heaven).
I have other things I am sure to add to that second list but it is a snowy Sunday afternoon and my head is spinning with other things. Be that as it may, those are my thoughts from someone who is on the ground doing ministry in Utah! Have a blessed day wherever and whenever you are!