A guest post by our friend Dan
Does the label “Mormon” truly explain who we are? Does it truly embody everything that we believe in? I propose that we consider a re-labelling of the brand “Mormon” to more accurately describe who we are.
I propose that we call ourselves from here on out “Mormon Christians.” It has a nice ring to it, and it also better describes who we are. Elder Jeffery R. Holland spoke in October 2007 General Conference about how our doctrinal beliefs make us Christians by definition.
As Elder Ballard noted earlier in this session, various crosscurrents of our times have brought increasing public attention to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Lord told the ancients this latter-day work would be “a marvellous work and a wonder,” and it is. But even as we invite one and all to examine closely the marvel of it, there is one thing we would not like anyone to wonder about—that is whether or not we are “Christians.”
By and large any controversy in this matter has swirled around two doctrinal issues—our view of the Godhead and our belief in the principle of continuing revelation leading to an open scriptural canon. In addressing this we do not need to be apologists for our faith, but we would like not to be misunderstood. So with a desire to increase understanding and unequivocally declare our Christianity, I speak today on the first of those two doctrinal issues just mentioned.
He goes on to make the point on the Trinity. He concludes with the following testimony:
Now, to anyone within the sound of my voice who has wondered regarding our Christianity, I bear this witness. I testify that Jesus Christ is the literal, living Son of our literal, living God. This Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer who, under the guidance of the Father, was the Creator of heaven and earth and all things that in them are. I bear witness that He was born of a virgin mother, that in His lifetime He performed mighty miracles observed by legions of His disciples and by His enemies as well. I testify that He had power over death because He was divine but that He willingly subjected Himself to death for our sake because for a period of time He was also mortal. I declare that in His willing submission to death He took upon Himself the sins of the world, paying an infinite price for every sorrow and sickness, every heartache and unhappiness from Adam to the end of the world. In doing so He conquered both the grave physically and hell spiritually and set the human family free. I bear witness that He was literally resurrected from the tomb and, after ascending to His Father to complete the process of that Resurrection, He appeared, repeatedly, to hundreds of disciples in the Old World and in the New. I know He is the Holy One of Israel, the Messiah who will one day come again in final glory, to reign on earth as Lord of lords and King of kings. I know that there is no other name given under heaven whereby a man can be saved and that only by relying wholly upon His merits, mercy, and everlasting grace can we gain eternal life.
My additional testimony regarding this resplendent doctrine is that in preparation for His millennial latter-day reign, Jesus has already come, more than once, in embodied majestic glory. In the spring of 1820, a 14-year-old boy, confused by many of these very doctrines that still confuse much of Christendom, went into a grove of trees to pray. In answer to that earnest prayer offered at such a tender age, the Father and the Son appeared as embodied, glorified beings to the boy prophet Joseph Smith. That day marked the beginning of the return of the true, New Testament gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and the restoration of other prophetic truths offered from Adam down to the present day.
I testify that my witness of these things is true and that the heavens are open to all who seek the same confirmation. Through the Holy Spirit of Truth, may we all know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom [He has] sent.” Then may we live Their teachings and be true Christians in deed, as well as in word, I pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
We are believers in Christ through and through. We call our church The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, but in terms of slang language, we do not use His name anywhere. We either call ourselves “Latter Day Saints” or “Mormons.” But neither is complete; and frankly, “Latter Day Saints” feels somewhat condescending, as if to imply that those who are not LDS are sinners.
I therefore propose that we call ourselves what we are: “Christians.” But we do have to find a way to identify ourselves separate from other Christian sects. “Mormon” also describes ourselves well. So let us combine the two. I give the following reasons for this.
1. It has a nice ring to it, as I stated above. “Mormon Christians.”
2. It will spark a conversation and questions because it is something new, something not used before. Imagine in a conversation someone asking you what you are religiously and you respond, “I’m a Mormon Christian.” They’ll wonder about that change. They’ll ask about it.
3. It will cause other Christians sects and denominations to also talk about it, even in unkind ways. This is what I would like to see, more conversations about who we are. Let the whole world talk about us. That’s beautiful.
4. The “Mormon” label should be kept because it has historical value (seeing that we’ve been called “Mormons” from since the beginning). It describes a lot of what we believe in (The Book of Mormon). But it is lacking the one most important thing that describes our central belief: Jesus Christ.
5. By adding “Christian” to the label, we make a stand to the world that we really are what we say we are and stand by it through thick and thin. We are Christians. We are believers in Christ. He is our Lord and our Savior.
6. It might irk Baptists and Pentecostals and Evangelists enough into also considering adding the “Christian” appendage to their labels.
So what do you all think? Could this be something we can do? Is it feasable? Is it workable? Is it possible?
Although I know that perhaps I should care more than I do, I’m awfully weary of our attempts to convince others we are Christian. We are, period. Trying to convince them only serves to tell them that their opinions affect us, and it doesn’t change their perspective one iota. It feels as fruitless to me as showing satellite images to flat-earthers.
>>> It feels as fruitless to me as showing satellite images to flat-earthers.
I agree, SilverRain.
But I have consistently maintained that the real issues here is the misrepresentation, not any one particular label. As such, this is a moral issue. I believe MLK said something to the affect that the oppressed (if you pardon a bit of exaggeration for this case) need to demand they are not oppressed if change is to happen. The oppressor will never offer it on their own.
Indeed, we all have a moral duty to object to others misrepresenting us. The fact that this will change little now does not mean that it won’t eventually have an effect as the good hearted amongst their own start to object also on moral grounds.
Think of it this way. How many non-Mormon Christians would it take to end the practice of misrepresenting Mormons? I’ll tell you. Exactly one per congregation in the majority of congregations. I imagine that would be far less than 1%. If one Christian in the majority of congregations insisted that their pastor not mistreat Mormons through misrepresention or they were leaving the congregation, the practice would end. In fact, the funding for hate groups such as the counter cult movement would dry up overnight.
We don’t have to “convince them all” just that less than 1%. They will do the rest.
But I have consistently maintained that the real issues here is the misrepresentation, not any one particular label. . . . Indeed, we all have a moral duty to object to others misrepresenting us.
Therefore, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should stop allowing others to call them “Mormons,” and relinquish their recently-obtained trademark on the usage of the word. When others call you “Mormons,” they imply that you accept and follow the teachings of Joseph Smith, which in many cases you don’t.
Nick, you often act as if you don’t see the moral difference bewteen applying self labels and labeling other.
Not long ago you asked me to allow non-LDS people to apply the term “Mormon” to themselves and to be careful about using “Mormon” and “LDS” as synonyms if I am speaking of other restorationist religions. Though you did not ask respectfully, your request was granted. This despite the fact that many restoration religions have indeed historically rejected the term “Mormon” as a self-label.
You should grant me the same respect I granted your request.
Hey Dan, who put your post up the same day as mine? Your stealing my (non)thunder, lol. 🙂
I think “Christian” is a bigger term than any group, just as “Buddhist” or “Muslim” is. When other Christians say were not Christian, their suggesting that “Christian” and “Mormon” are equivalent terms, and to me they’re not. “Mormon” and “Catholic” or “Pentecostal” are I think.
Take Buddhism for example. We’re not worried about which between SGI and Shingonshu (Japanese sects) are Buddhist. It would seem silly if they had such an argument.
Nick – what happens in another 50-100 years when the church has changed quite a bit, and we can no longer call ourselves “LDS”? Do we need a new term for new “periods” in the church?
#4: You’re right, Bruce. Point taken. 🙂
#5: Hehehe…Well, there have been at least four names so far! First there was “The Church of Christ.” Then there was “The Church of the Latter Day Saints.” Then there was “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.” Then came the present, “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (The Strangites, of course, still call themselves “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” and point to the capitalization and punctuation difference as a major issue.)
Yeah, we certainly can’t call ourselves New Order Mormons, because that’s already taken, lol. Moronis, anyone?
While I generally agree that those who don’t consider us Christians will never perceive us as Christians no matter what we do, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t proclaim through all means, in all times and places, that we truly are Christian.
I agree, thanks for your comments.
But Joseph Smith does not fully represent this Church, and “Mormon” is not fully descriptive of the one man. Otherwise, I recommend we call ourselves “Smithites” or something like it.
My sincerest apologies good sir. I was merely told that my post would be put up on Saturday. I just comment here; I can’t speak for their scheduling. 🙂
I like it – MUCH better than the abbreviation we have seen in our town lately of “The Church of the Latter-day Saints”. All they do is take out “Jesus Christ”. No big deal, right?
Dan – no worries. 🙂 It seemed there had been a dearth of posts here the last few days, and then today we get three.
As you know, the official name really was “The Church of the Latter-day Saints” for a very brief period in the 1830s. For anyone to use that today, however, always strikes me as a very intentional insult.
Yep, Nick – on both counts.
The truly ironic part is that our church is the largest supporter of the charitable program that produces the t-shirts that have the incorrect name on them. We have told them of the mistake, but they keep printing them that way. I want badly to believe it’s nothing more than a lack of communication, but it’s getting harder and harder to do so.
How about something descriptive, like the “Church of the Almighty Family.”
SilverRain voiced feelings that I have. I have felt resignation with the recognition that I know what I am, so what others say about me doesn’t matter, as long as I continue to try to be an example of Christ-like behavior. If we standby and say nothing, as Bruce warns, then the media will continue to report egregious errors about our core beliefs. I wrote a letter to the editor (by email), this year, to Newsweek, advising the authors of an article with such an error that I, a Mormon, accept Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. I never saw it published, but I had hoped that many other members of the church would have sent their own emails so that the authors would have gotten hundreds of emails from members with this affirmation.
As to the proposal in this post, I’m not sure where “Mormon Christian” takes us. It leads to the question from others as to what the difference is between Mormons and Mormon Christians. When you say that there isn’t a difference between the two because Mormons have always been Christians, then the second question comes about why don’t you just use the term Mormons? Granted, this may open up some teaching moments, but it leaves something to be desired. You would also face questions about whether you can have a Mormon Buddhist or a Mormon Taoist, and there are many that do try to practice multiple religions concurrently. I have no other suggestions for a better term, however, so I’ll keep your suggestion in mind and see if it grows on me.
Just to echo what SliverRain and Rigel said, I have said more than once that I really don’t care what others call me, since I know I am a Christian. However, at the same time, I think I should share the following, from a post I wrote last month on my own blog entitiled “Righteousness: ‘Being a Good Example’ is Not Enough”:
The idea that “just being a good example” is enough to “share the Gospel” and attract others to the Church is fundamentally flawed and actually dangerous, since it misses two critical realities of this life.
1) There are numerous people of all religions and denominations who live their lives in accordance with the basic principles of the Gospel – whose lives are examples of true Christian discipleship in every objective measure, even within non-Christian religions. Many of these people are closer to being truly Christ-like than I am. Joining them in that devotion is important, but it does NOTHING to distinguish us from them – especially if . . .
2) People generally have no idea what religion someone else is unless there are obvious outward signs or that someone tells them. In my area, for example, if I am a wonderful but silent example of Christian discipleship, most others will assume correctly that I am Christian – but not one of them will assume I am Mormon. In fact, the vast majority probably will assume I am not Mormon, due to their misconceptions about the Church. So, in a very real and powerful way, **my silent example of Christian discipleship actually will reinforce their negative view of Mormonism and harm the Church**.
That’s worth considering. The challenge is NOT whether we should tell people about our membership; the challenge is HOW we should do it.
Back to this post:
I like the “Mormon Christian” as a self-identifier, but in the end, I’ll stick with “Mormon” when I talk with others who are not members. K.I.S.S. is a pretty good rule in those situations, and, like it or not, Mormon is what we are to the world.
Mormons have always had a brand identity problem and a hate/love relationship with the term “Mormon” itself. Early church members generally hated it, which is why they coined the term “Latter Day Saints” and changed the church’s name. This three word alternative, however, is cumbersome and problematic because of the perceived boast of calling yourself a “Saint.” How many Mormons are comfortable with calling the early members “Saints,” while being unwilling to call themselves a “Saint.” I’ve never heard a Mormon say, “I’m one of the Saints.” Also, insisting on using the full name of the church or abbreviating it to “The Church of Jesus Christ” are both preposterous.
The alternatives are inadequate, leaving us with “Mormon” as a brand. Since that’s what Mormons got, I think it’s wise to embrace the term head-on, as the LDS Church did in the 1970s and as fundamentalist Mormons do now.
I don’t think this proposed hybrid “Mormon Christians” is helpful at all. We don’t say “Lutheran Christians” or “Methodist Christians.” Appending Christian to Mormon sounds like “Jews for Jesus,” i.e., you as a “Christian Mormon” are different from normal Mormons, with the implication that normal Mormons are not, in fact, Christian. I don’t see outsiders adopting this euphemism. It certainly will not be adopted by the Evangelicals who are calling Mormons “non-Christian,” who are apparently the cause of this new, defensive reactive insistence Mormons have adopted in the past couple of decades. These same Evangelicals don’t consider mainline Christians Christian either, which doesn’t seem to worry Episcopaleans.
Ultimately, the problem is not the label; the problem is with the perception people have to the doctrines that fall under that label. People can perceive Seventh Day Adventists as Christian without having to be called “Seventh Day Adventist Christians.”
Ever since Mormons started to care about this Christian label debate, they have been fighting a losing battle on swampy ground. The fact is that you can truthfully argue that Mormonism is Christian and you can truthfully argue that it isn’t. The morass is unwinnable. If Mormons want to make progress in this war, they need to get out of the swamp. There are two options: (1) Taking the offense, and (2) staking out defensible territory.
The offensive path is to assert that Evangelicals are not Christian. Mormons can admit that they are not like Evangelicals, but vigorously reverse the conclusion by asserting that Evangelicals are not true Christians. That’s a tough slog, but I think that mainline Christians also need to get on board with the same strategy, so there are potential allies.
The defensible ground is to stop insisting “we’re Christian like you” and to start asserting that “we’re Christian, but unlike you.” If Mormons began to consistently define themselves as a separate branch of Christianity like Catharism, their position would be quite strong and the media would eventually get it.
The church is within every denomination throughout the entire world.
We who are in Christ Jesus have become a “new” creature (Gal.6:15, 2 Cor.5:17 below). We have BECOME the church of God (1 Cor.10:32, 1 Cor.1:2, 1 Cor.15:9, Gal.1:13 below), Jesus’ living body (Col.1:24 below).
No matter which denomination one attends, the living body of Christ is there.
Gal.6:15 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature (2 Cor.5:17 below).
2 Cor.5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (Gal.6:15 above): old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
1 Cor.10:32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:
Col.1:24 Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for His body’s sake, which IS the church (1 Cor.10:32 above).
1 Cor.1:2 Unto the church of God (1 Cor.10:32 above) which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their’s and our’s:
1 Cor.15:9 For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God (1 Cor.10:32 above).
Gal.1:13 For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God (1 Cor.10:32 above), and wasted it:
Eph.2:16 And that he might RECONCILE BOTH (Jews and Gentiles) unto God IN ONE BODY (the church of God – 1 Cor.10:32 above) by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
Patricia (©) Bible Prophecy on the Web
Author of the self-study aid, The Book of Revelation Explained © 1982
We know the Telestial world is for the bad, the Terrestrial world is for the good, and the Celestial world is for the better or more good. This brings us to Joseph Smith’s explanation of the word “Mormon“:
Meaning of Word Mormon
Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith
Section Six 1843-44, p.299
To the Editor of the Times & Seasons:
Sir:–Through the medium of your paper, I wish to correct an error among men that profess to be learned, liberal and wise; and I do it the more cheerfully, because I hope sober-thinking and sound-reasoning people will sooner listen to the voice of truth, than be led astray by the vain pretensions of the self-wise. the error I speak of, is the definition of the word “Mormon.” I has been stated that this word was derived from the Greek word “mormo.” This is not the case. There was no Greek or Latin upon the plates from which I, through the grace of God, translated the Book of Mormon. Let the language of that book speak for itself. On the 523rd page, of the fourth edition, it reads: “And now behold we have written this record according to our knowledge in the characters, which are called among us the “Reformed Egyptian,” being handed down and altered by us, according to our manner of speech; and if our plates had been sufficiently large, we should have written in Hebrew: but the Hebrew hath been altered by us, also; and if we could have written in Hebrew, behold ye would have had no imperfection in our record, but the Lord knoweth the things which we have written, and also, that none other people knoweth our language; therefore he hath prepared means for the interpretation thereof.”
Here then the subject is put to silence, for “none other people knoweth our language,” therefore the Lord, and not man, had to interpret, after the people were all dead. And as Paul said, “the world by wisdom know not God,” so the world by speculation are destitute of revelation; and as God in his superior wisdom, has always given his Saints, wherever he had any on the earth, the same spirit, and that spirit, as John says, is the true spirit of prophecy, which is the testimony of Jesus. I may safely say that the word Mormon stands independent of the learning and wisdom of this generation.–Before I give a definition, however, to the word, let me say that the Bible in its widest sense, means good; for the Savior says according to the gospel of John, “I am the good shepherd;” and it will not be beyond the common use of terms, to say that good is among the most important in use, and though known by various names in different languages, still its meaning is the same, and is ever in opposition to “bad.” We say from the Saxon, “good”; the Dane, “god”; the Goth, “goda”; the German, “gut”; the Dutch, “goed”; the Latin, “bonus”; the Greek, “kalos”; the Hebrew, “tob”; and the “Egyptian, “mon.” Hence, with the addition of “more,” or the contraction, “mor,” we have the word “mormon”; which means, literally, “more good.”
(May 15, 1843.) T&S 4:194.
In many Protestant churches, the word “Saint” is used more generally to refer to anyone who is a Christian. This is similar in usage to Paul’s numerous references in the New Testament of the Bible. In this sense, anyone who is within the Body of Christ (i.e., a professing Christian) is a ‘saint’ because of their relationship with Jesus. Because of this, many Protestants consider prayers to the saints to be idolatry or even necromancy. . .
The beliefs of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or Mormons with regard to saints are similar to the Protestant tradition described above. In the New Testament the saints are all those who have entered into the Christian covenant. The qualification “Latter-Day” Saints refers to the doctrine that members are living in the “latter days” before the second coming of Jesus Christ, and is used to distinguish the modern church from the ancient Christian church. Therefore members refer to themselves as “Latter-day Saints”, or simply “Saints”, most often among themselves.”
I really don’t see the problem with using the term Latter-day Saint in describing myself, or shortening the name of the Church to just “The Church of Jesus Christ” in common usage.
Anyway, I was in a meeting in 1997 in the MTC where a speaker told us that this (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b7/Logo_of_the_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-day_Saints_(1995).gif) was our “brand” and compared it to the logos of big companies like FedEX and the like.