Mormonism and Christianity/Did early LDS leaders denounce Christianity

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The attitude of early Mormon leaders toward Christianity

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Question: Did early Mormon leaders consider themselves Christians?

Early Latter-day Saint leaders clearly considered themselves Christians, but condemned the hypocrisy of other Christians who persecuted the Saints

It is also clear that early LDS leaders did not object to Christianity per se—since they clearly considered themselves Christians, this would have been nonsensical. What early Church leaders did object to was the hypocrisy of some Christians, who discarded Christian scripture and principles and lied, misrepresented, persecuted, and visited violence on a Christian group with whom they disagreed: members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Saints are not unique in this regard; history is full of violent or bigoted men who claimed the sanction of Christ for their mistreatment of others, as victims of crusades, pogroms, shunnings, and inquisitions can bear witness.

Many of the present-day authors who misrepresent the Saints profess to be Christians

It is ironic, but perhaps not surprising, that many present-day authors who attack and misrepresent the Church are likewise Christians. Latter-day Saints understand, however, that such critics are not representative of all Christians. Happily, they are generally a small, if shrill, minority. We reject their tactics without rejecting the Christianity in which they claim to drape it. It is difficult to believe that the Prince of Peace would sanction such tactics.

Question: Did LDS leaders claim that Christians were no longer present on the earth after the apostasy?

Brigham Young: "in the experience of every true Christian who has lived and still lives upon the earth"

Consider these quotes from Brigham Young:

The Gospel of Jesus Christ, as it is given in the Old and New Testaments, the Book of Mormon, the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and in the experience of every true Christian who has lived and still lives upon the earth, teaches that it is the privilege of every Saint so to live and walk before their God, as to enjoy the light of the spirit of truth from day to day, from week to week, and from year to year, through their whole lives. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 1:233)

The Christian world, I discovered, was like the captain and crew of a vessel on the ocean without a compass, and tossed to and fro whithersoever the wind listed to blow them. When the light came to me, I saw that all the so-called Christian world was grovelling in darkness. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 5:73)

Brigham said that Christians had lost their direction, not that they didn't exist

Notice that Brigham didn't say that there were no Christians, but instead stated that they had lost their direction.

There is a reason that Brigham had a low opinion of those who those who called themselves "Christian" during the early days of the Church. "Christians" were among those who persecuted the Latter-day Saints.

Question: Did Latter-day Saints wish to avoid being classified as Christians?

Early Mormon leaders self-identified as Christians, but condemned Christians who persecuted the Saints as being hypocritical

An argument often used by critics who are attempting to exclude Latter-day Saints from being counted among Christian religions is that the early leaders of the Church "condemned" Christianity. The argument then follows that Latter-day Saints voluntarily separated themselves from being classified as Christian, and should therefore not desire to be included among the family of Christian religions. Among the references critics use to support these assertions are the following:

  • Joseph Smith, History of the Church 5:218.
  • Orson Pratt, "Baptism for the Remission of Sins," The Seer, p. 255.
  • Wilford Woodruff, Journal of Discourses, 2:196.
  • Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 5:73.
  • Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 5:89-90.
  • Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 5:229.
  • John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 2:25.
  • Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:171.
  • Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 8:199.
  • John Taylor, Journal of Discourses 13:225.
  • Andrew Jenson, Collected Discourses 2:150.
  • B.H. Roberts, The Mormon Doctrine of Deity, p. 116.
  • Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, pp. 132, 246, 269, 314-315.

Early Latter-day Saint leaders were denouncing hypocrisy, not Christianity

One of the major issues that early LDS leaders had with those that professed to be "Christian" was the fact that they were sometimes foremost among the persecutors of the Saints.

Suppose we now notice that part of the world called Christians, that profess to believe the Old and New Testament, King James's translation. They say they believe this Bible, yet if you are in France, Germany, England, in the United States, in the Canadas, in the islands of the sea, or no matter where among the Christian nations, the moment you make it known that you have embraced the Book of Mormon, and that you believe Joseph Smith is a Prophet, they will at once accuse you of throwing away the Bible, they will publish abroad that you have become a "Latter-day Saint," "a Mormon," and consequently have denied the Bible you formerly believed, and have cast it entirely away. What is the reason of this, which I need not undertake to substantiate, for it is a fact that almost every person knows? Now, we ARE believers in the Bible, and in consequence of our unshaken faith in its precepts, doctrine, and prophecy, may be, attributed "the strangeness of our course," and the unwarrantable conduct of many towards this people. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 1:237)

We lived in Illinois from 1839 to 1845, by which time they again succeeded in kindling the spirit of persecution against Joseph and the Latter-day Saints. Treason! treason! treason! they cried, calling us murderers, thieves, liars, adulterers, and the worst people on the earth. And this was done by the priests, those pious dispensers of the Christian religion whose charity was supposed to be extended to all men, Christian and heathen; they were joined by drunkards, gamblers, thieves, liars, in crying against the Latter-day Saints. (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 19:61)

Brigham's point was that those who persecuted the Saints were not extending the charity that typically characterized Christianity. This was not a condemnation of Christianity in general, but rather a condemnation of those who professed to be Christian but did not practice Christian principles. Brigham was denouncing hypocrites. Likewise, Joseph F. Smith also denounced such hypocrisy:

I felt to thank God that we still possessed our lives and freedom, and that there was at least some prospect of the homeless widow and her family of little ones, helpless as they were, to hide themselves somewhere in the wilderness from those who sought their destruction, even though it should be among the wild, so-called savage, native tribes of the desert, but who have proved themselves more humane and Christlike than the so-called Christian and more civilized persecutors of the Saints. (Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses 23:74)

The denunciation of hypocrisy among those who professed to be Christians is not a denunciation of Christianity itself. Latter-day Saints certainly identified themselves as Christians during this period of time.

Question: What did early Mormon leaders think of Christians?

George A. Smith: "Christian sympathy was not very strong for the Latter-day Saints. But we feel very thankful to those who did contribute..."

George A. Smith's comments indicate that there was not a general condemnation of Christianity:

Christian sympathy was not very strong for the Latter-day Saints. But we feel very thankful to those who did contribute, and shall ever remember with kindness their generosity towards the Saints. (George A. Smith, Journal of Discourses 13:123)

Question: Did Latter-day Saints only recently claim to be Christian?

Claims that the Church has only recently been asserting its Christian status are easily proven to be false

Latter-day Saints have claimed to be Christians from the very beginning of the restoration. Some observers claim, however, that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are not "Christian," and that they have only recently claimed to be so. A related claim is that the Church has only recently begun to portray itself as "Christian" in order to gain adherents.

This claim is absurd. Claims that the Church has only recently been asserting its Christian status are false, as attested by LDS scripture, practice, doctrine, and public statements of its leadership and its early critics.

Critics of the Church depend upon their audience not knowing much about Latter-day Saint history. Enemies and members of the Church have long known that Church members consider themselves "Christian" (italics added in all cases):

Statements that Mormons are Christians that were made in the 1830s

“They call themselves the church of Christ, and the only church of Christ. All professing Christians who do not adhere to their system, they consider as formalists; ‘having the form of Godliness, but denying the power’”. [1]
“Old Joe . . . and several others . . . admitted [that the new faith] was an improvement in Christianity”. [2]
The Mormonites “say the Millennium is soon to commence and that Christ is to come personally and take up His residence with them. . . . In its general principles this sect entirely coincide with others which have from time to time sprung up in Christendom”. [3]
There is “a civil war between the Mormonites and their brother Christians”. [4]
"Brother Joseph . . . went on to show the brethren how wicked and unchristianlike such conduct [among them] appeared before the eyes of truth and justice”. [5]
April 1834
The only name given under heaven, whereby man can be saved, is Jesus Christ. Men in days of old heard the glad tidings, that the Son of Man would come in the fulness of his own time, to make intercession for the children of men, and suffer, the just, for the unjust, and rise from the dead, that the bands of the temporal death might be broken, that the resurrection might pass upon all men, that they might stand in the presence of God to be judged according to their works.—These glad tidings were communicated from heaven to earth, by the ministering of holy angels and by the voice of the living God. Thousands have looked forward with an eye of faith, and a confidence unshaken in the promises of God, to the time when the great and last sacrifice should be made for fallen man. Many have rejoiced to see the day of the Son of Man, have seen it, and were glad; and have fallen asleep after obtaining the promise, that they should see God in the flesh and should reign with him on the earth a thousand years....The news that the gospel brought in days of old, was, that Jesus Christ would come into the world; that he would suffer according to the flesh; that he would rise from the dead, and thereby redeem his people from the power of the grave. [6]
“the doctrine promulgated by the ‘latter day Christians’ in the newly discovered Bible”. [7]
“This morning a minister from Conne[c]ticut by the name of John W. Olived called at my house . . . . [He] asked me wherein we differ from other Christian denomination[s]”. [8]
“they have the appearance of being devout Christians. . . . They call themselves ‘Latter-day Saints,’ and profess to be the only true church, to have the only gospel order, consisting of apostles, elders, bishops, etc., etc., which several orders of the Christian hierarchy have been distinctly brought to light in the Book of Mormon”. [9]
“a large society of Christians who style themselves ‘Latter-day Saints’ or Mormons.” (Painesville Republican, vol. 1, no. 31, 15 June 1837).
"The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it". [10]
"This sect took its rise, A. D. 1830, in the county of Ontario, and State of New York. In April of that year, the society was organized as a Christian Church". [11]
The Mormons “were singing a hymn as other good Christians are wont to do . . . . [One of them offered] a very good Christian prayer . . . . [which petitioned that the Mormons might have] Christian fortitude.” (Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer, vol. 3, no. 17, 27 July 1839)
1839: Benjamin Dobson to the editor, June 16, 1839, “The Mormons,” Peoria Register and North-Western Gazetteer (Peoria, Illinois) 3, no. 13 (27 July 1839). off-site

Statements that Mormons are Christians that were made in the 1840s

“We want no religion but pure Christianity”. [12]
The heaven-born doctrines of christianity are so opposite to the vain, grovelling, and selfish sentiments of corrupt human nature, and the self-denying practices of genuine believers are so repugnant to the feelings of those whose nature is “earthly, sensual, and devilish,” that it is utterly unreasonable to suppose that anything like amity, concord or peace, can possibly exist between the church and the world. [John Taylor, Calumny Refuted and the Truth Defended (Liverpool: J. Tompkins, 1840), 1–12. Full title]
The citizens of Nauvoo are “a people, professing to be Christians.” (Quincy Whig, vol. 3, no. 13, 25 July 1840).
The Mormons retain “many truths which are held in common by different denominations of Christians.” (The Alton Telegraph, vol. 5, no. 46, 14 November 1840).
"We want no religion but pure Christianity." [Parley P. Pratt, Plain Facts (Manchester: W. R. Thomas, 1840), 5. off-site Full title]
"If every friend to the cause of apostolic christianity, would subscribe and pay in advance for the above mentioned books [Book of Mormon, hymn books]...." [Anon., "Books!!!," Times and Seasons 1 no. 9 (July 1840), 139–40. off-site GospeLink off-site
“I understood from [the Mormons] as follows, . . . that they did not discard the Bible as used by other Christian sects”. [13]
"why it is, that so many professing Christianity, and so many professing to reverence the sacred principles of our Constitution (which gives free religious toleration to all), have slandered, and persecuted this sect of Christians." [14]
"The object of our visit to your city is not to subvert any moral or truly Christian principle, or to promulgate any doctrine other than that which was advocated by Patriarchs, Prophets, Christ and the Apostles; which doctrine or gospel, we believe is the same invariable plan of salvation that it ever was, and that it ought to be taught, administered and obeyed in the present age, precisely as it was in the primitive or golden period of Christianity." [E. Snow and Benjamin Winchester, "An Address to the Citizens of Salem (Mass.) And Vicinity," Times and Seasons 2 no. 24 (1 October 1841), 574-76. off-site GospeLink off-site]
"Many of them have given up home and friends in obedience to what they consider the call of Christ, their Master.... The Mormons not only claim to be Christians, but the only Christians." [“The Mormons,” Auburn Journal and Advertiser (22 December 1841). off-site]
“the great Christian city of Nauvoo”. [15]
[Mormons teach that] "no man can be a Christian, or be admitted into the kingdom of God, unless he is baptized by immersion by an authorized person." [R.T.M., “The Mormons,” Religious Monitor and Evangelical Repository (18 January 1842): 345–46. off-site]
Hyrum Smith is "one of the most pious and devout christians in the world." (New York Herald (19 February 1842); cited in Veritas, "The Mormon Prophets," Millennial Star 3 (May 1842): 8.)
Mormons “are Christians in the fullest sense of the term, believing in the Old and New Testaments.” (The New York Herald, vol. 7, no. 419, 16 May 1842).
Mormons are described as – “A Christian sect in Illinois.” (Alton Telegraph and Democratic Review, vol. 7, no. 25, 18 June 1842; emphasis in original).
"All these letters and documents [about the Mormons] disclose a most extraordinary movement in human affairs. What they mean we can hardly tell, but is it not time for some great religious revolution, as radical as Luther's, to take place in the Christian world?...Unlike all other Christian sects, they adopt at once all the modern improvements of society, in art and literature; and from their singular religious faith give the highest enthusiasm to the movement at large. There is nothing odd, or singular, or absurd about them.” ("Wonderful Progress of Joe Smith, the Modern Mahomet.—Spread of the Mormon Faith, and a New Religious Revolution at Hand," N.Y. Herald (17 June 1842); emphasis added). [16]
"Mr. Whitney then asked if we acknowledged any to be Christians except those who embraced our doctrines and joined our church." (Orson Hyde letter, Times and Seasons, vol. 3, no. 18, 15 July 1842, 849).
A Baptist complained that a Church preacher "declined making an honest confession of those peculiarities which separate them as widely from the Baptists, as from every other denomination of the christian church." [17]
Wrote the Daily Sun of Cincinnati:
Whatever this new doctrine may be, it is extremely pleasing to the world, and death to the constituted church creeds of every name but that of Mormon. It is destined to spread, for every man that takes it upon him to speak in its favor, is fully competent to make out his case. One is very much surprised to see with what facility they prove their doctrine from the holy scriptures. Mr. Adams remarked, that he did not care whether a man believed the Book of Mormon or not, so that he came forward with a broken heart, believing on the Lord Jesus Christ and in baptism for the remission of sins—let him come forth, and if God did not reveal to him the truths of the Book of Mormon, he need not believe it. [Anon., "Mormonism [Reprinted from the Daily Sun, Cincinnati]," Times and Seasons 4 no. 2 (1 December 1842), 28–29. off-site GospeLink off-site
"The Mormons were Christians in belief, and looked for the second Advent of Christ—when he shall come, surrounded by the angels of Heaven to dwell in person upon the earth....We confess that Mr. Winchester has changed our opinion of the sect; for we held them in contempt if not in abhorrence, from the representations we had read of them, whereas, if what Mr. Winchester states be true (and we have no reason to doubt him,) we can recognize them as professing Christians, tinged with peculiarities on particular points." [Anon., "Mormons, or Latter Day Saints," Times and Seasons 4 no. 2 (1 December 1842), 27–28. off-site GospeLink Reprinted from the Baltimore Clipper. off-site]
"So far we are agreed with other Christian denominations. They all preach faith and repentance. The gospel requires baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, which is the meaning of the word in the original language—namely, to bury or immerse". [18]
Joseph Smith, in a public discourse, compared the Mormons to other denominations of Christians. (New York Spectator, vol. 46, no. 46, 23 August 1843).
The Mormons are “calling themselves Christians . . . . Christians, as they claim to be.” (The Warsaw Signal, NS no. 4, no. 121, 6 March 1844).
“The [Saturday] Courier should for the sake of truth and consistency, strike its flag of neutrality in RELIGION, while it wages a war of extermination against the Mormons; the only sect in Christendom, who in this nineteenth century can exhibit the irresistible evidence of martyrdom, in support of its cause”. [19]
"On Sunday I was invited to give, in a public discourse, the points of difference between faith of the Latter-day Saints and other professors of [p.417] the Christian religion." [20]

Statements that Mormons are Christians that were made in the 1850s

Now, we ARE believers in the Bible, and in consequence of our unshaken faith in its precepts, doctrine, and prophecy, may be, attributed "the strangeness of our course," and the unwarrantable conduct of many towards this people. Come, my brother Presbyterian; come, my brother professors of every persuasion of long standing and popular distinction in the world, who are dubbed with the word "ORTHODOX;" come, we are all good Christians; I find no fault with you—why should you find fault with me? [21]
“Mormonites . . . . call themselves Christians, it is true” (The Daily Globe, vol. 6, no. 261, 5 October 1854).
"Their religious teachers of Mormonism, preach to them, as they call it, "Christianity in its purity." (S[olomon] N. Carvalho, Incidents of Travel and Adventure in the Far West; with Col. Fremont's Last Expedition, chapter 22. off-site
We, as Christians, are divided and subdivided into many systems varying in doctrinal points. This one says, "I am right;" and that one says, "I am right;" another rises up and varies, more or less, from the doctrines of the Church he has left, and says he is right. [22]

Statements that Mormons are Christians that were made in the 1860s

"…who is there that was not startled when he heard that a sect, affecting to be Christian beyond all other sects, which had sprung up in broad day from amidst the civilization of the United States…" [23]
Should you ask why we differ from other Christians...Are all this people, in the Scriptural sense, Christians? They should be. Do they all serve God with an undivided heart? They should. Many of them do, seeking daily to do his will. [24]
The Latter-day Saints differ from their Christian brethren. [25]
Now, we as Christians desire to be saved in the kingdom of God. [26]
President B. Young preached a very interesting and instructive discourse, in which he showed that professing Christians believe all that the Jews believe, which appertains to life and salvation, and have accepted principles in advance of the Jews, including faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; and that the Latter-day Saints receive all believed in by other professing Christians, appertaining to life and salvation, accepting, as a part of their religious faith, principles in advance of them which are taught in the Scriptures. He touched upon the history of the Jewish people, showing the penalties which they had incurred by disobedience to the commandments of God, and pointing to the promises made to the patriarchal fathers concerning them. And deduced that if the condition of professing Christians is to-day better than that of the Jews, for believing more of the revelations of God, so the condition of the Saints is preferable to that of the other inhabitants of Christendom, in accepting all the revelations which the Lord has been pleased to give. [27]
"On one occasion one of the native brethren who had been persecuted, claimed his rights as a Swiss citizen, and the question was brought up in the Swiss Congress, Are the 'Mormons' Christians? After some discussion, the conclusion was arrived at that they were, and must accordingly be protected." [28]
Thomas J. Turner (a critic):"...Mormonism is a form of religion 'grant it, a false religion' nevertheless, it claims to be the true Christian religion...."[29]

Statements that Mormons are Christians that were made in the 1870s

Have you embraced truth, Latter-day Saints? Have you anything different from other Christians? [30]
If you should have visits here from those professing to be Christians, and they intimate a desire to preach to you, by all means invite them to do so. Accord to every reputable person who may visit you, and who may wish to occupy the stands of your meeting houses to preach to you, the privilege of doing so, no matter whether he be a Catholic, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Baptist, Free-will Baptist, Methodist, or whatever he may be; and if he wishes to speak to your children let him do so. Of course you have the power to correct whatever false teachings or impressions, if any, your children may hear or receive. I say to parents, place your children, as far as you [p.196] have an opportunity to do so, in a position or situation to learn everything in the world that is worth learning. You will probably have what is called a Christian Church here; they will not admit that we are Christians, but they cannot think us further from the plan of salvation as revealed from heaven than we know them to be, so we are even on that ground, as far as it goes. [31]
We are preaching to the people far and near; our Elders are traveling through the earth; strangers are coming here, and we are declaring to them that the Gospel of the Son of God is true. Whether they believe or not, it is no matter. That book (the Bible)contains the words of the Almighty…. I know of the bright promises which he gave to his disciples anciently. I live in the possession of them, and glory in them and in the cross of Christ, and in the beauty and holiness that he has revealed for the salvation and exaltation of the children of men. I do wish we would live to them, and may the Lord help us. [32]
We, as Christians, believe in God, in Christ and in his atonement, in repentance and obedience, and in receiving the Spirit. [33]
"we take the liberty to believe the Bible, which our fellow Christians, generally throughout the world, profess to believe in…” [34]
“We are looking for him [i.e. Second coming of Christ]. The Christians of all denominations expect that he will appear in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. The Latter-day Saints expect this in common with all other Christians.” [35]
These are only a few reflections, when we take into consideration our Christian religion. [36]
Brother Cannon speaks of Christians. We are Christians professedly, according to our religion. [37]
“How shall we, as Christians, reconcile these words of our Savior with the reception everywhere given by the world to Messrs. Moody and Sankey? They are, professedly, Christian ministers, yet they are largely entertained by the world, extolled by the world, and apparently loved by the world….” [38]
“But Joseph Smith reiterates the Savior’s promises. He has no fear of being proved a false teacher. He professes to be a Christian minister called and sent of God….” [39]
“Immediate revelation was the life of primitive Christianity, and when that ceased to be given to men, Christianity waxed feeble, waned and died. With the restored Gospel came immediate revelation, and Christianity was born again upon the earth.” [40]

Statements that Mormons are Christians that were made in the 1880s

We are a Christian community; we believe in God and in Jesus Christ... [41]

Statements that Mormons are Christians that were made in the 1890s

"What a singular sort of ‘Christian community’ that must be that will not tolerate an unorthodox Christian society in its midst!” [42]
“The insinuation in this [written attack on the LDS by a Protestant minister in SLC] is to the effect that a ‘Mormon’ is not a Christian, and the ‘Mormon’ religion is not a Christian religion, and further that the Supreme Court of the United States has virtually so decided…. But if a ‘Mormon’ is not a Christian then there are no Christians in America…. A member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is at least as fairly entitled to the appellation of a Christian as a member of the Presbyterian Church” [43]
“[with reverence to Revelation 1. 12] We accept—as all Christians do—that God inspired the words ‘to see the voice.’” [44]

Statements that Mormons are Christians that were made in 1900-1950

If it be true Christianity to accept Jesus Christ in person and his mission as divine; to revere him as the Son of God, the crucified and risen Lord, through whom alone mankind can attain salvation; to accept his teachings as a guide, to adopt as a standard and observe as a law the ethical code he promulgated; to comply with the requirements prescribed by him as essential to membership in his Church, namely, faith, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost,—if this be Christianity, then are we Christians, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a Christian church. [45]
[W]e are a Christian people, we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we feel that it is our duty to acknowledge him as our Savior and Redeemer. [46]

Statements that Mormons are Christians that were made after 1950

We are not Catholic, Protestant, nor Jewish, and yet this disclaimer should not be taken to mean we are not Christian. You who heard the powerful address of President Clark this morning will know that we are Christians, for central to everything we believe and teach is our faith that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. We are grateful for our Judeo-Christian heritage, for the Holy Bible which we accept without reservation as the word of God, except as to some errors that have crept in through translations. [47]
Jacob Neusner, one of the great Judaism scholars of the twentieth century: "Christianity encompasses a remarkably diverse set of religious systems that have some qualities in common—belief in Jesus Christ—but also differ deeply, especially about matters on which they seem at first glance to concur. For example, who, exactly was, and is, Jesus Christ? No one imagines that by describing a single common denominator Christianity tells us about one unitary religion. Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox, Methodist, Mormon, and Lutheran—each is comprised by clearly delineated groups of Christians, all of them with their respective systems of belief and the world knows Christianities, but no single Christianity, so the world has known, and today recognizes, diverse Judaisms, no single Judaism." [48]
Bart Ehrman, a leading expert on the text of the New Testament: "...just as Christianity today is incredibly diverse (compare the Roman Catholics with the Mormons with the Pentecostals with the Seventh Day Adventists with the Eastern Orthodox… and so on!), it was even more diverse in the early centuries..." ("A Few Questions for Bart Ehrman," Oxford University Press Blog (OUPblog) (9 October 2006). off-site

Clearly, the Church has "claimed" to be Christian for a long time, and even hostile critics realized it. To insist that this is a new, public relations move is false. Neutral observers have also seen the Church as Christian. Only a recent, intolerant fringe of fundamentalist Christianity has tried to exclude the Church from Christianity by self-serving definitions.

Question: If Mormon are "really" Christians, why do they insist on preaching to other Christians?

Because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will preach to all, and invite everyone to be baptized, this upsets or confuses some Christians

Latter-day Saints preach to all for two reasons:

  1. The restored gospel offers blessings, knowledge, and ordinances unavailable anywhere else, despite the sincere and valuable efforts of other Christian denominations
  2. Just because someone is a member of a Christian denomination, does not mean that they have understood Christ's message or established a personal relationship with Him. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ might be able to reach someone who has remained an outward Christian, but as yet unconverted within.

Many Protestant groups have a mutual understanding regarding "sheep-stealing"—they avoid trying to convert members from other denominations.

Because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will preach to all, and invite everyone to be baptized, this upsets or confuses some Christians. They presume that because we are willing to teach everyone, we must not really be Christian—otherwise, we would conclude that simply being a Christian of any denomination was "good enough."

Elder Dallin H. Oaks answered this objection:

Elder Russell M. Nelson and I called on the leader of the Orthodox Church in [an Eastern block nation]. Here was a man who had helped keep the light of Christianity burning through the dark decades of Communist repression. I noted in my journal that he was a warm and gracious man who impressed me as a servant of the Lord. I mention this so that you will not think there was any spirit of arrogance or contention in our conversation of nearly an hour. Our visit was pleasant and cordial, filled with the goodwill that should always characterize conversations between men and women who love the Lord and seek to serve Him, each according to his or her own understanding...

We introduced ourselves and our fundamental beliefs. We explained that we would soon be sending missionaries into his country and told him how they would perform their labors.

He asked, “Will your missionaries preach only to unbelievers, or will they also try to preach to believers?” We replied that our message was for everyone, believers as well as unbelievers. We gave two reasons for this answer—one a matter of principle and the other a matter of practicality. We told him that we preached to believers as well as unbelievers because our message, the restored gospel, makes an important addition to the knowledge, happiness, and peace of all mankind. As a matter of practicality, we preach to believers as well as unbelievers because we cannot tell the difference. I remember asking this distinguished leader, “When you stand before a congregation and look into the faces of the people, can you tell the difference between those who are real believers and those who are not?” He smiled wryly, and I sensed an admission that he had understood the point.[49]

To see citations to the critical sources for these claims, click here


  1. Rev. John Sherer to Absalom Peters, 18 November 1830, reproduced in Dan Vogel (editor), Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City, Signature Books, 1996–2003), 5 vols, 4:93.
  2. “Mormon Religion—Clerical Ambition—Western New York—The Mormonites Gone to Ohio,” Morning Courier and New-York Enquirer (New York City, New York) 7, no. 1331 (1 September 1831). off-site
  3. The Farmer’s Herald, vol. 4, no. 49, 6 June 1832 [Johnsbury, Vermont]
  4. Liberal Advocate, vol. 3, no. 6, 30 December 1833 [Rochester, New York]
  5. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:83. Volume 2 link
  6. "The Gospel," The Evening and The Morning Star 1:81-83 (April 1833) .
  7. Painesville Telegraph, vol. 1, no. 35, 4 September 1835 [Painesville, Ohio]
  8. Dean C. Jessee, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, revised edition, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret Book, 2002), 144.
  9. James H. Eells to Joshua Leavitt, 1 April 1836, New York Evangelist (New York) 7, no. 15 (9 April 1836): 59. off-site (letter written on 1 April 1836 by James H. Eells who lived in Elyra, Ohio)
  10. Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 121. off-site
  11. Francis G. Bishop, Brief History of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints (Blum and Son, Salem, Massachusetts 1839), 2.
  12. Parley P. Pratt, Plain Facts (Manchester: W. R. Thomas, 1840), 6. off-site Full title
  13. Upper Mississippian, "Nauvoo Mormon Religion," (15 February 1841) Times and Seasons 2:324.; reprint of an article from the Upper Mississippian
  14. Extract from a Letter in the Juliet Courier, dated from Monmouth, Illinois (June 1841); cited in Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 4:381. Volume 4 link
  15. Chicago Democrat, May 1842; editorial by John Wentworth
  16. Cited by Helen Mar Whitney, Woman's Exponent 10 no. 13 (1 December 1881), 97–99. Available in Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, eds., A Woman's View: Helen Mar Whitney's Reminiscences of Early Church History (Provo: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1997), 149.
  17. "A Baptist," letter to the editor published in the North Staffordshire Mercury, "Difference Between the Baptists & Latter-day Saints," (1 October 1843) Times and Seasons 3:931-932. (italics added)
  18. Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, selected by Joseph Fielding Smith, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1976), 314. off-site
  19. Philadelphia Sun reprint, "Magna est veritas, et praevalebit’ (Not sure of translationvol=5," Times and Seasons no. 15 (15 August 1844), 621. off-site GospeLink
  20. D.S. Hollister to Joseph Smith, 9 May 1844; cited in Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 6:416–417. Volume 6 link
  21. Brigham Young, "Effects and Privileges of the Gospel," (24 July 1853) Journal of Discourses 1:237-237.
  22. Brigham Young, "Government of God," (22 May 1859) Journal of Discourses 7:148.; Brigham Young, "Government of God," Deseret News 9 no. 13 (1 June 1859), 104.
  23. Juley Remy, Journey to Great Salt Lake City (1861), 2:82–83; cited by B. Carmon Hardy, Doing the Works of Abraham, 195..
  24. Brigham Young, "Advice To California Emigrants. — The Principles Of The Gospel, etc.," (8 July 1863) Journal of Discourses 10:230-231.
  25. Brigham Young, "Difference Of Ideas Entertained Respecting God, etc.," (31 July 1863) Journal of Discourses 10:318-319.
  26. Brigham Young, "Remarks by President Brigham Young," (19 August 1866) Journal of Discourses 11:268-268.
  27. Brigham Young, Deseret News Weekly 15/109 (4 March 1866): page?.; cited in Eldon Watson (editor), Brigham Young Addresses (1982), 5:32.
  28. William W. Riter, "Minutes of a General Council; Birmingham,England; January 5, 1866," Millennial Star 28 no. 12 (24 March 1866), 179.
  29. M. Scott Bradshaw, "Defining Adultery under Illinois and Nauvoo Law," in Sustaining the Law: Joseph Smith's Legal Encounters, edited by Gordon A. Madsen, Jeffrey N. Walker, and John W. Welch (Provo, Utah: BYU Studies, 2014), 401–426 (p. 416n45, citing Debates and Proceedings of the Constitutional Convention of the State of Illinois, Convened at the City of Springfield, Tuesday December 3, 1869 (Springfield, April 29-30, 1870), 1561).
  30. Brigham Young, "The Saints Are A Strange People Because They Practise What They Profess," (20 February 1870) Journal of Discourses 13:237-238.
  31. Brigham Young, "Discourse by President Brigham Young," (3 June 1871) Journal of Discourses 14:195-196.; Brigham Young, "Discourse by President Brigham Young," Millennial Star 33 no. 27 (4 July 1871), 418–420.; DNW 20:235.
  32. Brigham Young, "Remarks by President Brigham Young," (27 August 1871) Journal of Discourses 14:227.; Discourse by President Brigham Young, Deseret News 20 no. 31 (6 September 1871), 357–358.
  33. Brigham Young, "Riches — Hurry — Fashion — Helping The Poor — Mysteries," (26 May 1872) Journal of Discourses 15:42-42.
  34. John Taylor, "Discourse by Elder John Taylor," (3 March 1872) Journal of Discourses 14:338. Discourse by Elder John Taylor, Deseret News 21 no. 36 (13 March 1872), 65, second column.
  35. Orson Pratt, "Discourse by Elder Orson Pratt," (10 March 10 1872) Journal of Discourses 14:348.; Orson Pratt, "Discourse by Elder Orson Pratt," Deseret News 21 (20 March 1872), 77, fourth column.
  36. Brigham Young, "Discourse By President Brigham Young," (15 August 1876) Journal of Discourses 18:217-217.
  37. Brigham Young, "Discourse By President Brigham Young," (17 September 1876) Journal of Discourses 18:231-231.
  38. Editorial (Elder David McKenzie), "Christianity and Revivalism," Millennial Star 38 no. 10 (6 March 1876), 152.
  39. Editorial (Elder David McKenzie), "Gifts of the Holy Ghost," Millennial Star 38 no. 13 (27 March 1876), 200–201.
  40. Editorial (Elder David McKenzie), "Evidences of the Truth," Millennial Star 38 no. 14 (3 April 1876), 217.
  41. Francis M. Lyman, "General Conference (5 April 1881)," Millennial Star 43 no. 19 (9 May 1881), 292.
  42. Editorial on citizens of Beaver Dam, Virginia removing Mormon Elders by force to another part of the state, Deseret News Weekly 45/13 (17 September 1892): 396.
  43. "Intolerant Discrimination", Deseret News Weekly 45/14 (24 September 1892): 441.
  44. "The Book of Mormon", Deseret News Weekly 45/25 (10 December 1892): 780.
  45. First Presidency, "Address to the World," Improvement Era 10 (May 1907), 481–495.
  46. Joseph F. Smith, General Conference address (April 6, 1917)
  47. Hugh B. Brown, "Discourse," Improvement Era 10 (December 1956), 949–949.
  48. Jacob Neusner, The Way Of Torah, 6th edition, (Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1997), 15. ISBN 0534516033.
  49. Dallin H. Oaks, "Have You Been Saved?," Ensign (May 1998): 55.