Getting Our Doctrinal Bearings
By H. Wallace Goddard
Usually in this column I recommend a good book for improving family process. I have recommended Seligman’s Authentic Happiness as the best book for individual development, Gottman’s 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work as the best marriage book, Ginott’s Between Parent and Child as the best parenting book, and Robinson’s Believing Christ as the best change-of-heart book. This month I want to recommend something very different.
Are Mormons Christians?
We latter-day saints tend to have a knee-jerk reaction to the claim that we are not Christians: “Of course we’re Christians! Look at the name of our church!” This response betrays our lack of understanding of the specialized meanings that some groups attach to the label “Christian.”
Stephen Robinson, well-known author of Believing Christ (and other remarkable books), has done a great service to the dialogue between LDS and others with his book, Are Mormons Christians? This book, first published in 1991, considers each of eight reasons for our exclusion from Christian fellowship. The reasons for exclusion include issues such as tradition (LDS reject the extra-Biblical councils and their creeds), added revelation (we claim to have added scriptures and living prophets!), and various doctrinal differences (the nature of the trinity, etc.).
In considering these differences, Robinson does not set out to twist any arms or blacken any eyes. He clearly shows that LDS practices and beliefs are consistent with others who have been considered mainstream Christians. In the process he helps us understand the real power of our LDS doctrine.
It is common in books of this ilk to have a quarrelsome spirit. Not so Robinson. He is informative without being argumentative. In fact, I recommend that LDS families buy this book and study it together in order to get their doctrinal bearings. The study should be especially useful for young people and adults planning on missions and for all members who have wanted a respectful dialogue with friends of different religious persuasions. Families with teen children may find this book useful for home evenings.
In a mere 114 pages, Robinson captures much of the unique genius of LDS theology. Somehow our doctrine encircles all the finest, holiest, and most sensible Christian teachings. To this reader it was abundantly clear that the continuing presence of living prophets has kept LDS doctrine on course.
By understanding our differences with our Christian brothers and sisters, we can be better prepared to have a Christian dialogue.
Stephen E. Robinson (1991). Are Mormons Christians? Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft.
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