Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Yes, I Claim to be a Christian

Early this morning I read an excellent post, one that I saved to file. Dave over at Dave’s Mormon Inquiry asked the question, “Are Mormons Christians?”, in and article called, Nicene Links. ( linked via title bar ) There were several links within the article to others who’d written opinions as to which churches should be or could be considered “Christian”. I left a short response and explained that I’d get back later.

“To counter a widening rift within the church, Constantine convened a council in Nicaea in A.D. 325. A creed reflecting the position of Alexander and Athanasius was written and signed by a majority of the bishops. Nevertheless, the two parties continued to battle each other. In A.D. 381, a second council met in Constantinople. It adopted a revised and expanded form of the A.D. 325 creed, now known as the Nicene Creed.” Quoted from The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

Here’s the generally accepted wording of the Nicene Creed, the “be all end all” argument, at least according to those involved in the war of words. Bear in mind that there are variations to the Nicene Creed; the Lutherans have one version and then there is one called the English Language Liturgical Commission Translation and so there is mild contention exhibited among the sects to this day.

“We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead, whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, who spoke by the prophets. And we believe one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins. And we look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

Now compare that with the beliefs of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints as offered originally in the form of a correspondence, later to be called the Wentworth Letter and then adopted as the Articles of Faith for the Church.

History of the Church, Vol. 4, pp. 535—541

1 We abelieve in bGod, the Eternal Father, and in His cSon, Jesus Christ, and in the dHoly Ghost.
2 We believe that men will be apunished for their bown sins, and not for Adam’s ctransgression.
3 We believe that through the aAtonement of Christ, all bmankind may be csaved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
4 We believe that the first principles and aordinances of the Gospel are: first, bFaith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, cRepentance; third, dBaptism by eimmersion for the fremission of sins; fourth, Laying on of ghands for the hgift of the Holy Ghost.
5 We believe that a man must be acalled of God, by bprophecy, and by the laying on of chands by those who are in dauthority, to epreach the Gospel and administer in the fordinances thereof.
6 We believe in the same aorganization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, bprophets, cpastors, dteachers, eevangelists, and so forth.
7 We believe in the agift of btongues, cprophecy, drevelation, evisions, fhealing, ginterpretation of tongues, and so forth.
8 We believe the aBible to be the bword of God as far as it is translated ccorrectly; we also believe the dBook of Mormon to be the word of God.
9 We believe all that God has arevealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet breveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
10 We believe in the literal agathering of Israel and in the restoration of the bTen Tribes; that cZion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will dreign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be erenewed and receive its fparadisiacal gglory.
11 We claim the aprivilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the bdictates of our own cconscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them dworship how, where, or what they may.
12 We believe in being asubject to bkings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in cobeying, honoring, and sustaining the dlaw.
13 aWe believe in being bhonest, true, cchaste, dbenevolent, virtuous, and in doing egood to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we fhope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to gendure all things. If there is anything hvirtuous, ilovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
Joseph Smith

I could go on for hours comparing the items listed with the Nicene Creed to determine the issues worthy of discussion; however, I will cut to the chase and leave all those minor details for the scholars out there. The most important difference, at least the way I see it, is on the last line, where it is signed, Joseph Smith.

Joseph Smith was a Prophet of God whereas those theologians associated with the writing of the Nicene Creed, those who were assigned the task of assembling a unified set of thoughts to describe, in less than contentious words, generally accepted concepts as to the beliefs of all Christians; were scholars, nothing more and nothing less. I find it entertaining in a dark sort of way, that there are so many willing to follow the teachings of men rather than gain instruction from God’s chosen Prophet.

I’ll wait a few moments while the wild shrieking, the tearing of sack cloth and the ashes settle down from those who call this blasphemy. It boils down to a matter of belief; doesn’t it? The many sects of the Christian world would rather be led by a consensus gained from scholarly notables rather than concede the possibility that God would rather have His Holy Prophets in charge. Doesn’t such arrogance fly in the face of the teachings contained in the Bible, something about the arm of flesh?

I believe that Joseph Smith was the Prophet of God chosen to bring about the restoration of the Gospel in the Fullness of Times, to hold all the keys of the Priesthood so that the world would be prepared for the Second Coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Those who are of a different belief have that right; see article 11 for clarification.

In a snobbish or mean spirited expression of my personal beliefs I might challenge those members of other faiths, “Why haven’t you joined MY church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the only true Church that has Jesus Christ at the head and has living Prophets to lead and guide through direct revelation with God Himself?” Such an exclusive remark, similar to those who would assert that the Mormons are not really Christians, would only lead to angry words and contention and so I won’t go in that direction.

The information contained within the Scriptures was intended to help the children of our Father in Heaven return into His presence. I think it’s a wonderful blessing, being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to have the Book of Mormon as translated by the Prophet Joseph Smith. The Book of Mormon is another witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ as the Savior and I invite any and all to explore the information contained in that text as they search for those truths which God intended for all men to have. It is not up to any committee of Biblical scholars or theologians to determine the truth and meaning of sacred writings or to determine a comprehensive issued set of beliefs; but the responsibility of each individual placed upon this earth.

Disclaimer: I’m aware of the need to identify these opinions as my own, that I am not authorized to express official positions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The answer to Dave’s question, in case you might have missed it, Yes, I claim to be a Christian; now all I have to do is live up to those lofty priciples.

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