I know that the response to “Mormons aren’t Christians” is “we believe Jesus Christ, so yes we are.” But how would you respond to the more specific “Mormonism is a part of Christianity but not a valid, authentic, faithful expression of the Christian faith?” Basically, how do you respond to yes, you are Christians, but not legitimate ones?
The way other people choose to define your faith has no real impact on you. So don’t let the words of anti-Mormon ministries trouble you. It’s important that substantial answers to criticisms of the Church exist, but please don’t let these questions dominate your time or thinking.
By any fair definition, Latter-day Saints are Christian. We believe in the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth. We believe the Bible, which describes his life, is the Word of God. We believe he died for all mankind, and that salvation is only available through Jesus Christ. The Church’s leadership reaffirmed these beliefs in the strongest possible language in their 2000 statement “The Living Christ.”
Our doctrine, however, is different in some ways, from other Christians. A fact which we should be happy to accept. Otherwise, there would have been no reason for Jesus to restore the Church through Joseph Smith.
Many who attack the Church as not being “truly” Christian are referring to creedal Christianity. During the great apostasy, many well-meaning Christians gathered to vote on and define Christian belief. The documents these gathering produced are called creeds, and include “The Apostles’ Creed,” “The Creed of Jerusalem” and “The Nicene Creed.”
Latter-day Saints do not accept these creeds as binding doctrine because Jesus Christ, himself, told Joseph Smith not to.
When others say “true Christian” they simply mean people who believe all the same doctrines that they do. These people routinely exclude even the largest Christian denominations from their definition of Christianity. While it can be frustrating to feel excluded from what they define as Christianity, this can be an opportunity for them to tell you what defines “true” Christianity for them, and for you to then share more of your beliefs. “The Living Christ” may be a great starting point.
In some ways, Latter-day Saints are also exclusive. We recognize that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only Church led by prophecy and the authorized priesthood authority. Those of other faiths can feel just as excluded by these beliefs as we do by their assertion that we aren’t Christian.
We should make sure that as we discuss our doctrinal differences we focus on including those from all backgrounds and adding to what they already have, rather than excluding them from an exclusive group.