The LDS church has recently exerted great effort to portray itself as a Christian denomination :
- All editions of the Book of Mormon were simply entitled the 'Book of Mormon' until 1982 when the subtitle "Another Testament of Jesus Christ" was added .
- In 1995 the words 'Jesus Christ' on the official letterhead of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were enlarged until they were three times the size of the rest of the text.
- In Salt Lake City 's Temple Square , the guides' patter, once full of proud references to Smith, is now almost entirely Christological. "We talk about Christ a lot more than we used to ," says editor of the temple magazine. "We want to show the converts we are Christians".
- A number of recent LDS books such as Stephen E. Robinson's ' Are Mormons Christian '? attempt to make Mormonism and Christianity appear to be the same.
- The official name of the LDS Church has not always contained the name of 'Jesus Christ'. At its inception on April 6, 1830 until May 3, 1834, the name of ' Church of Christ ' was adopted. But from May 3, 1834 to April 25, 1838, the name ' The Church of the Latter Day Saints ' was adopted by unanimous vote at a conference of Elders moderated by Joseph Smith, Jr. (The Evening and Morning Star, 2(20): 160, May 1834; History of the Church 2:62). On April 26, 1838 the name was changed to ' The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ' as named in a 'revelation' ( Doctrine and Covenants 115:3) to Smith.
Yet LDS leaders seem to fall on both sides of this issue. For example, President Hinckley says:
- "Am I Christian? Of course I am. I believe in Christ. I talk of Christ. I pray through Christ. I'm trying to follow Him and live His gospel in my life" (LDS Church News, 6/28/98).
- However, in reference to whether he believes 'in the traditional Christ' Hinckley responds: "No, I don't. The traditional Christ of whom they [non-Mormons] speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. He together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the year 1820, and when Joseph left the grove that day, he knew more of the nature of God than all the learned ministers of the gospel of the ages" (LDS Church News Week 6/20/98, p.7).
Of course, early Mormon prophets and leaders made VERY clear statements explaining that their church was NOT a Christian denomination (see: The Only True Church? ). They claimed that there was a total apostasy of all Christendom after the death of the original apostles. Here are just a few quotes:
- Joseph Smith stated: "This [LDS] Church...the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth" ( Doctrine and Covenants 1:30). "What is it that inspires professors of Christianity generally with a hope of salvation? It is that smooth, sophisticated influence of the devil, by which he deceives the whole world" ( Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith , p.270);
- Brigham Young stated: "Should you ask why we differ from other Christians, as they are called, it is simply because they are not Christians as the New Testament defines Christianity " ( Journal of Discourses , 10:230);
- Apostle Orson Pratt proclaimed: "Both Catholics and Protestants are nothing less than the 'whore of Babylon ' whom the Lord denounces by the mouth of John the Revelator as having corrupted all the earth by their fornications and wickedness. Any person who shall be so corrupt as to receive a holy ordinance of the Gospel from the ministers of any of these apostate churches will be sent down to hell with them , unless they repent" ( The Seer , p. 255).
- Apostle Bruce McConkie is also very clear: "Apostasy was universal...And this darkness still prevails except among those who have come to a knowledge of the restored gospel" ( Doctrines of Salvation , vol 3, p.265). "Virtually all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ" (LDS Apostle Bruce McConkie, in Mormon Doctrine , p.269).
- President Ezra Taft Benson said: "This is not just another Church . This is not just one of a family of Christian churches . This is the Church and kingdom of God , the only true Church upon the face of the earth..." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p.164-165).
The Mormon response to those who question whether they are Christians is to accuse them of being contentious and unloving. Mormons will proudly claim that the LDS church never criticizes other beliefs and therefore no one should criticize them. Based on the statements above, this obviously isn't true; the Mormon reaction is merely feigned indignation or reflects an ignorance of statements made by their own leaders.