Skip to main content

FIVE REASONS WHY I BELIEVE MORMONS ARE CHRISTIANS – PART 1: THE NAME OF THE CHURCH


            Sometime ago, I was working on a comprehensive response to the accusation that Mormons are not Christians. It is currently 190 pages in length, and is probably about 55-65 percent complete. Though I still tinker around with it from time-to-time, my interest have generally moved on, and so I don’t know if the rest will ever be written. Though most of it deals with responding to anti-Mormon arguments, one portion, about 30 pages long, elucidates five reasons I think strongly suggest that Mormons are Christians.  Given the recent controversy, brought on by Rev. Jeffress, I thought now would be a good time to draw on some of that content. So, I thought I would do a five part series explaining those reasons. Despite breaking it up into five parts, my arguments have still been considerably condensed.

The name Jesus Christ appears in the official title of the Church

            This is, quite naturally, the very first argument most members make when faced with this accusation. The name of the Church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! How much more obvious could it get. Of course, merely stating the name of the Church rarely convinces the persistent critic, who will insist the “Just because you call yourselves ‘The Church of Jesus Christ’ doesn’t mean you are the church of Jesus Christ.” While it is true, just calling oneself the church of Jesus Christ does not automatically make one His Church, anymore than me claiming I’m Jimmer Fredette makes it so. But that is not the point. The implications of using the name of Jesus Christ in the title of our church should be obvious to our claims of being Christians. Would a non-Christian Church put the name of Jesus Christ in its official Church title? The answer to that question should be obvious, which is why the name of our Church is the very first thing we point to when defending our claim to being a part of Christianity – because it is plainly obvious that we are Christians by virtue of the name of our Church.  Jan Shipps, a non-Mormon who has spent over 40 years studying the Church of Jesus Christ, explained that when she is asked to speak at different church groups on Mormonism, “The task I set for myself in such situations is not merely connecting Mormonism to Christianity – after all, I am talking about a church of Jesus Christ.”[1] It seems the implications of our name are just as obvious to her.

The name of the Church in the Bible

            Calling the Church after Jesus Christ is in keeping with the New Testament, which says that the Church is His church (see Matt. 16:18) and identifies Christ as the head of the Church (see Eph. 1:22; 5:23; Col.1:18). Paul refers to the Church as the “body of Christ” (see 1 Cor.12:27; Eph. 4:12; Rom. 12:5), and calls the people in the church, “members of Christ” (1 Cor. 6:15). On one occasion, Paul speaks of “the church by Christ Jesus” (Eph. 3:21), while at another time he speaks of the “church of the firstborn” (Heb. 12:23), who, of course, is Christ (cf. Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15; Heb 1:6). While the Church is most frequently called “the church of God” in the New Testament, such a name could very well refer to Jesus Christ, as is obviously the case when Paul speaks of “the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood(Acts 20:28). Elsewhere Paul makes clear that it is Jesus Christ who acts as the “chief cornerstone” to the “household of God” (Eph. 2:19-20).

            When Paul heard that there had been divisions among the Corinthians because some were calling themselves after himself and other apostles, Paul responded by making clear that the Church is not of Paul, nor of Apollos, nor of Cephas (Peter), but that the Church is of Christ, and should not be called after any other name (see 1 Cor. 1:10-13; 3:21-23). 

            Though the individual congregations of the Church are often called after the city or region they are in (not at all unlike Mormon wards and branches today), they are still frequently tied back to being in Christ or of God (see Gal. 1:22; 1 Thess. 2:14; 1 Cor. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1). The collective congregations (churches) of the church are were once called “the churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16), while at another time they are identified as “the churches of the saints” (1 Cor. 14:33). Together, these two references support calling the church after both Jesus Christ, and the members (the saints), just as we get in the name of the LDS Church today: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

            Of course, none of this is to say there was an “official title” of the Church in biblical times. My point is only to illustrate that the early Church was clearly understood to be Christ’s church (or the church of Jesus Christ) and the saints clearly associated the church with Christ’s name.

Conclusion of Part 1

            The early Christians clearly called the Church after the name of Jesus Christ, just as Latter-day Saints do today. Thus, I suggest that Mormons are Christians because their Church is called after the name of Jesus Christ, which is not only an obvious sign of Christianity, but is also well within the established practice of the New Testament.


Other Reasons


Christian Covenants 

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

“The Dominant Narrative is Not True”: Some Thoughts on Recent Remarks by Richard Bushman

The following is making its rounds on Facebook (from this video):Questioner: In your view do you see room in Mormonism for several narratives of a religious experience or do you think that in order for the Church to remain strong they would have to hold to that dominant narrative?
Richard Bushman: I think that for the Church to remain strong it has to reconstruct its narrative. The dominant narrative is not true; it can’t be sustained. The Church has to absorb all this new information or it will be on very shaky grounds and that's what it is trying to do and it will be a strain for a lot of people, older people especially. But I think it has to change. As I have seen this quote flash across my Facebook news feed and thought about how to make sense of it, I have been reminded of the short essay response questions I would often have on tests or assignments in college or even high school. It would not be uncommon for these questions to be built around a quote from an important schola…

Book of Mormon Day Reading

The Book of Mormon first went up for sale on March 26, 1830, at the E.B. Grandin Bookstore in Palmyra, NY. Tomorrow will mark the 187th anniversary of that occasion. In those intervening years, the book has had a major impact on countless lives—including my own. I love the Book of Mormon, and have a firm testimony of its truth. I can personally tell you that research into all kinds of questions about the book has only served to strengthen my testimony. It is a remarkable book, which will wear you out long before you make a dent in it, as Hugh Nibley said (pretty sure that is a direct quote, but too lazy to double check).

For those who would like to reflect on the Book of Mormon’s coming forth and long term impact in the last (almost) two centuries, I’ve compiled the following list of KnoWhys from Book of Mormon Central.
Moroni’s Visits to Joseph Smith

Why Did Moroni Quote Isaiah 11 to Joseph Smith?Why Did Moroni Deliver the Plates on September 22?

Translation

Why Did the Book of Mormon C…