Monday, January 14, 2013

Becoming a More Christian Christian

Are Mormons Christians? That is a question I heard asked countless times and personally in 4 different languages on 4 different continents. I'm not a world traveler but in my few travels I've had the opportunity of discussing this very core question. The questions began as a primary age child: my best friend used to come to church with me occasionally until his mother falsely accused us of not being Christian and made us choose our friendship if I persisted in inviting him to church. They continued as a youth as I invited friends who were struggling with their own beliefs or life in general to meet with the missionaries and discover for themselves what our church has to offer the world. The pattern of these question will continue, likely until the day I die and hopefully will never be a question to those that know me for they will know Him who I profess to believe as my Savior and the One I serve and worship.

A couple of years ago during a work lunch the topic of Mormons being Christians came up and of course I was on one side of the controversial debate with around 7 other Christians on the other. The odds were definitely not in their favor, not because I'm one with solid debate skills or overwhelming social graces that decisively sway others to my position, but because I have the truth and Spirit of the Lord on my side with nothing to fear in my life. Certainly areas of weakness exist in my life that could have been beneficial in the discussion (for example a more solid skill of quoting exact passages of scripture like B. Tallmadge so eloquently is able to do) but a testimony based upon the revelation of the Spirit cannot be shaken even amongst highly intelligent co-workers. While I didn't intellectually convince any one of the co-workers, the areas of doctrine we discussed and I was able to testify concerning held lasting impressions with them and one day I pray they'll further develop the curiosity necessary to seek additional light and knowledge and gain their own witness of the truths discussed.     

So let's define what a Christian is and whether a Mormon meets the fundamental criteria.

A Christian is:

  • a believer in Jesus Christ, having faith that He is the Son of God, the Eternal Father in Heaven.
  • a Christian believes Jesus died and atoned for our sins
  • through His grace we can repent, forgive others, keep His commandments and inherit eternal life
  • a Christian denotes taking upon ourselves the name of Christ
  • a Christian believes in the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ

In a Google search on "What is a Christian," the Christian Post had an article by one of their authors Dan Delzell that had this to say about a Christian:

"So what exactly is a Christian? Is it a person who believes certain things? Or maybe a person who does certain things? Or is it perhaps a person who experiences certain things? Yes. Bingo. That is correct....on all counts. All three of those characteristics describe what it means to be a Christian."

While this definition is pretty generic, it allows for the distinction of an individual that not only know/believes something, but feels and does according to the belief and feeling. 

"Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son aJoseph.
 6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: "

And so begins the account in John 4 of the woman of Samaria at the well. Having a basic knowledge of God, the customs and traditions of her people and the covenant promises of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, she somewhat spars with Jesus over the drawing of water from the well. But in this interchange, she takes what she knows, allows Jesus to build upon her belief by receiving personal revelation of the divinity of Jesus and then acts upon this witness. Upon Jesus' declaration that He is the Messiah and the source of the Living Water, she goes unto her countrymen and have them come to join Jesus at the well where over the course of 2 days they learn from the Master.

  1. Know/believe
  2. Feel/receive revelation through the Spirit
  3. Act according the belief

So, anything controversial with those belief statements? Does a Mormon hold those core doctrines to be true. Everyone should be leaping within themselves and self-audiating a resounding "YES!"

Prophets since the world was created have testified of the divinity of Jesus Christ and of his sacred mission to ransom our souls and provide the only way back to the Father. They continue to do so. A Christian believes in the words of the prophets, seeks them for their personal study and learning, feels the love of the inspired doctrine and does according to the Word for the Word is Jesus Christ as state in the gospel of John.

So if a Mormon is a Christian, and while I haven't exhaustively tried to debate or prove this truth (we'll just go on the internally, undisputed fact that we are), does this make a difference in our lives and how can we become more of a Christian Christian? Notice I didn't say a better Christian than all others. Just, a more of a Christian Christian. What kind of Christians are we? In other words, how are we doing in our quest to follow Christ?

There are times when the well of Living Water seems to overflow and fill our lives so completely that drought is an impossibility, peace and joy are complete in our lives and the shadows of misery and despair are blotted out by the eternal light emanating from the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

There are other times in all of our lives where the flow of living water that Jesus Christ promises to us and we drink from liberally seems to run dry. Why is that? What are we doing/not doing, feeling/not feeling, believing/doubting that may cause the tap to close itself or the well to taste a bit full of dirt or minerals. 

Alma the younger asks the question this way in addressing the people:

5:26 And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, if ye have experienced a achange of heart, and if ye have felt to sing thebsong of redeeming love, I would ask, ccan ye feel so now?

He then goes on to ask whether the following are issues:
  • walking blameless before God
  • sufficiently humble
  • cleanses through the atoning blood of Jesus
  • stripped of pride
  • stripped of envy
  • mocking his brethren
  • sufficient repentance
  • partakers of the tree of life
  • puffed up in the vain things of the world
  • turning backs on the poor and the needy
Elder Robert D. Hales in our most recent conference address suggested the following attributes that if cultivated will help us to become more Christian Christians.
Christian love. The Savior valued everyone. Kind and compassionate to all, He left the ninety and nine to find the one,12 for “even the very hairs of [our] head are … numbered”13 to Him.

Christian faith. Despite temptations, trials, and persecutions, the Savior trusted our Heavenly Father and chose to be faithful and obedient to His commandments.

Christian sacrifice. Throughout His life the Savior gave of His time, His energy, and ultimately, through the Atonement, gave Himself so that all of God’s children could be resurrected and have the opportunity to inherit eternal life.

Christian caring. Like the good Samaritan, the Savior was continually reaching out to rescue, love, and nurture people around Him, regardless of their culture, creed, or circumstances.

Christian service. Whether drawing water from a well, cooking a meal of fish, or washing dusty feet, the Savior spent His days serving others—lifting up the weary and strengthening the weak.

Christian patience. In His own sorrow and suffering, the Savior waited upon His Father. With patience for us, He waits upon us to come to ourselves and come home to Him.

Christian peace. Throughout His ministry He urged understanding and promoted peace. Especially among His disciples, He taught that Christians cannot contend with other Christians, notwithstanding their differences.

Christian forgivenessHe taught us to bless those who curse us. He showed us the way by praying that those who crucified Him would be forgiven.

Christian conversion. Like Peter and Andrew, many recognize the truth of the gospel as soon as they hear it. They are instantly converted. For others it may take longer. In a revelation given through Joseph Smith, the Savior taught, “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day,”14 the perfect day of our conversion. Jesus Christ is “the light and the Redeemer of the world; the Spirit of truth.”15

Christian endurance to the end. In all His days, the Savior never gave up doing His Father’s will but continued in righteousness, goodness, mercy, and truth to the end of His mortal life.
 What suggestions would you make or additions would you add to become more of a Christian Christian?