While members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are often called Mormons, this is not the correct name for our Church or its members. Admittedly, we have a long name. However, the correct short name for our church is the Church of Jesus Christ, not the Mormon Church. This is the name I will use throughout this blog, when I do not use the Church's full name. Instead of Mormons, members of the church are correctly called latter-day saints. This is why we are often called the LDS Church. This does not imply that we are all saints as the word is commonly used. Rather, it simply means that we are the Lord's covenant people, which is the same way the word is used in the Bible.
So now let's talk about Pastor Jeffress' interview with the BBC, and his comments about Mormonism. Is it true that Mormonism isn't Christianity, and that Mormons aren't Christians? First of all, we need to be careful about terminology. Without a common definition of terms we're essentially speaking two different languages. Christianity, as he defines it, is the religion that evolved after the time that Christ and his apostles led the Christian church.
Now Christianity is a very general term and can be interpreted a lot of ways. To say that members of the Church or Jesus Christ, or Mormons as we are called, reject the Christianity that existed after the apostles is misleading. That could imply that we reject the faith of the believers who lived during that time, and do not consider them Christians. This is incorrect. What we reject is the doctrines of Christianity that evolved during this time, specifically the Creed of Nicaea. We do not believe that any doctrine can be considered valid except it comes by revelation from God to his prophets and apostles.
From a doctrinal standpoint, Christianity, as defined by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is the religion that God revealed through his prophets, from Adam to Jesus Christ and his Apostles, and which was restored again to the earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith. Note that we do not believe that Christianity began with Christ's mortal ministry. We believe that Adam was the first Christian prophet.
Now the Baptist religion began in 1609 with the English pastor John Smyth. This was a protestant congregation, and therefore it rejected the religion of the Catholic Church. Like other protestant congregations, it was based on a particular interpretation of the Bible, thus implying that other Christian churches were in error on certain points of doctrine. Therefore, in a sense, the Baptists also rejected historic Christianity that evolved prior to 1609. However, they accepted the doctrines which emerged from the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, as well as many ideas of previous reformers. Though interpretations of the Bible may vary widely, most Christian churches share an acceptance of the Nicene Creed. Our rejection of this creed is the principle reason why some Pastors have said that members of the Church of Jesus Christ are not Christians.
Although their beliefs about Christ may differ from our own, we do not say that members of other Christian churches are not Christians. We recognize the sincerity and faith of many others who do not belong to our church, and like them accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, and the only means through which salvation can come. But we do believe that we have something more to offer.
When Jesus Christ taught among his people, the Jews, he did not reject the Jewish religion. However, he did reject what were called the traditions of the elders. Moreover, he perceived that much understanding had been lost. In particular, there were but few who understood the words of the prophets concerning him. The majority did not realize that the Mosaic Law and the words of all the holy prophets had been given to point the people of Israel to him, their Redeemer. Consequently, he restored his Gospel to the earth and gave authority to twelve apostles to teach it throughout the known world.
Likewise, when Joseph Smith came on the scene, he did not reject Christianity. He did not reject the sacrifice and devotion of Christians for nearly 2000 years, nor their faith in the teachings of the Bible. What he did reject were the traditions and creeds that had been formulated since the death of the Apostles. In a vision he had of Jesus Christ, the Lord said to him that they were all “an abomination in his sight.” He said, “They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrine the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” Jesus had made a similar statement to the Jews in the Gospel of Matthew concerning the traditions of the elders.
So in summary, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as Mormons, are most definitely Christians. If others chose to exclude us by using a narrow definition of Christianity based on the Nicene Creed, it is of no concern to us. That may be their definition of what a Christian is, but it is not ours. We believe that, as founder of the Christian faith, Christ alone has the authority to declare who is and who is not a Christian. According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, “We believe that all mankind may be saved through the Atonement of Christ, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.”