Friday Minute: Responding with love to the 'Mormons aren't Christians' debate

Published: Friday, Oct. 21 2011 5:00 a.m. MDT

Given the current political climate, members of The Church of the Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are seeing an increase in the "Mormons aren’t Christians" debate. These tips may help members of the LDS Church soften the rhetoric and respond with the spirit of love.

'Mormons aren’t Christians'

The common refrain of "Mormons aren’t Christians" sings one of two discordant notes: We either aren’t Christians at all, or our "brand" of Christianity is cultish and unacceptable. To this shrill song, a soft answer can turn discord into harmony.

First, recognize that some folks have an agenda and will never accept our message. That is OK. Others simply misunderstand our message or don’t know much about us.

For these latter folks, we can correct misinformation by inviting the spirit of love and staying on message: God established his church through Jesus Christ, men changed it and God has reestablished it.

Contention isn’t productive

Contention and contending is never productive. If your friends genuinely want to know what we stand for, link them to your profile on Mormon.org, invite them to read a few key passages of the Book of Mormon and allow them to know and trust you. When you set an atmosphere of love, understanding blossoms.

For example, when my friends ask if Mormons are Christians, I start by telling them the name of our church. As Elder M. Russell Ballard explained recently, "We do not need to stop using the name Mormon when appropriate, but we should continue to give emphasis to the full and correct name of the church itself" (Elder M. Russell Ballard, "The Importance of a Name," general conference, October 2011).

Next, I invite my friends to read and pray about a few key passages from the Book of Mormon. Among the more poignant expressions of our love for Jesus Christ as our Savior and Redeemer are these:

1. The Book of Mormon establishes the truth of the Bible and invites all to come unto Christ — 1 Nephi 13:39-40.

2. Jesus Christ is our Redeemer; salvation comes only through his atonement — Helaman 5:9,12.

3. There is no other way nor means to salvation but in and through Jesus Christ — Mosiah 3:17.

4. Pray with all the energy of heart to be filled with the love of Jesus Christ —Moroni 7:48.

5. We are commanded to emulate Jesus Christ — 3 Nephi 27:27.

6. Following his resurrection, Jesus ministered in the Americas to his "other sheep" — 3 Nephi 11.

7. The Book of Mormon invites everyone to come unto Jesus. All people can know The Book of Mormon is the word of God for themselves — Moroni 10:4-5.

When critics demand proof

Recognize that the things of God are "spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:19). If proof could convert our critics, then section 87 of the Doctrine and Covenants would be technicolor evidence that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. In that revelation, the prophet detailed the Civil War decades before it happened.

The truth is, no person can be intellectually converted to spiritual things, even in the face of undeniable prophecy confirmed by history. Only the spirit converts the heart and anchors the soul.

Were it otherwise, Laman and Lemuel would have sung the Lord’s praises on the journey to the promised land. Instead, they sought to murder their brother and to dismiss every miracle as a Korihor-like fiction of a "frenzied mind" (Alma 30:16).

In like manner, our critics are not interested in embracing us as fellow Christians. If they have an agenda, let them have it.

For those genuinely interested in knowing us as fellow Christians, we need only stay on message, invite the spirit and respond with love.

Besides, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, our mission is to be an "example of the believers" (1 Timothy 4:12 ), not poster-children for the world’s vitriol.

There will always be mocking fingers from the "great and spacious building" (1 Nephi 11:36), but we needn’t take up residence on that side of the river.

William Monahan is a 1980 graduate of BYU law school. He practices law and teaches law and ethics. A former Phoenix stake president and current high councilor for the QC Chandler Heights Stake, he is active in Interfaith and a U.S. Air Force veteran.

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