There are probably thousands of different definitions of the word “Christian.” We have chosen the same inclusive definition as is used by public opinion pollsters and government census offices: A “Christian” includes any group or individual who seriously, devoutly, prayerfully describes themselves as Christian. Under this definition, Christianity includes: Roman Catholics, Southern Baptists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, United Church members, even a small minority of Unitarian Universalists, etc. (www.religioustolerance.org)
According to this definition there shouldn’t be a divide between the various Christian faiths and Mormonism (LDS). However, those who follow the LDS faith know they are not included and perhaps do not want to be included in the mainstream Christian faiths. Recently there has been a push from the LDS leaders to emphasize their belief in Jesus Christ and embrace Christianity and Christians (from my experience) are not eager to welcome Mormonism to their fold. This is due to some major theological differences and attitudes that I have observed, some of which I will address.
Theological Differences and Attitudes
Christians believe in Creeds (that include the Trinity theology and more) Mormons do not believe in Creeds, rather they believe in revelation from modern Prophets and apostles.
Christians may or may not believe in baptism as being necessary for salvation. Mormons believe in ordinances such as baptism, the sacrament, marriage, etc.
Christians believe the “church of Christ” or the body of Christ are all the Christian sects who believe in Jesus. Mormons believe the “one true Church of Christ” is the LDS faith.
Christians do not believe in a pre-existance and Jesus being our elder brother. Mormons do.
Both Christians and Mormons are passionate about their belief in Jesus and try to help others “see the light.” However, the Mormon Jesus and the Christian Jesus are not the same person if you ask a Christian.
Mormons believe in universal salvation to a certain extent. Christians believe those who confess Jesus are going to heaven. Those who don’t are going to hell.
Mormons believe God has revealed scripture and will continue to reveal scripture through his prophets. Christians believe the Bible to be the only word of God.
Through the years and during the past few months I’ve been reading blogs online, these differences along with other differences tend to be what Christians and Mormons alike tend to focus on. Focusing on differences, however, causes a big riff between both Christians and Mormons (and any other people who have differences for that matter). Is there a way to find common ground? Is there a way to join forces for common good? I believe there is. I’ll outline ways I’ve found that we can bridge the Mormon/Evangelical Divide.
Bridging the Divide
- Build on Common Beliefs
Regardless of who we believe Jesus is one can not argue that whether or not He’s the same Jesus that following His teachings will result in blessings. Personally I’ve seen miracles happen in the name of Jesus in both Mormon and Evangelical circles. In addition, I’ve seen God bless the lives of people who follow Jesus’ teachings in both circles. Love, faith, kindness, service, patience, prayer, etc. These are all common things both Mormons and Evangelicals can find common ground on.
- Don’t debate points of Doctrine
Mormons especially should be the last to argue with their fellow Christian friends about points of Doctrine. In the Book of Mormon, Jesus clearly states that disputing points of doctrine should be done away with. Trying to prove a point through scriptural debate will not lead to conversion and personally I’ve found that when I try to prove my point as being right and the other’s as being wrong, the Holy Spirit leaves and then I’m left to my own devises. Building ourselves up to put others down leads to nowhere fast.
- Don’t criticize others’ beliefs and religious practices
This ones a huge one. I’ve heard Mormons criticize other Christians and put themselves on a pedastal by saying they’re in the “one true church,” that their baptism is the only baptism, that miracles can only happen through the priesthood, and much more. Similarly, I’ve heard Christians mock Mormons for their “boring” religious practices in church and also scoff at their temple practices. There are many more beliefs I’ve heard both sides criticize, but regardless of what one believes, we need to make sure we don’t condemn another for their belief.
- Look for the good in every conversation
It is evident that there will be differences in belief, but even if we believe differently, it is very helpful to look for the good in every conversation we engage in. There will usually be something both parties agree on and can build on.
- Know when not to talk, or to walk away
I’ve seen both Mormons and Christians who simply do not want to stop arguing and want to prove their point as being right. This is when it is time to be silent as Jesus was many times when people mocked him. Sometimes it’s better to simply not respond to an argumentative blog post, or discussion. Sometimes it’s best to be silent and walk away.
I’ve found personally that when I follow these guidelines I have much more in common with not only other Christians, but people from all faiths and beliefs as well. I hope this post helps both Evangelical Christians and LDS to engage in uplifting discussions and bridge the divide.
For some other great posts on this topic I recommend the following blogs: