Mormons seeking recognition as a legitimate member of the Christian church is self-contradictory because the religion was founded by declaring it is the only existing true church, stated one of America's pre-eminent evangelical leaders Friday.
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, focused in his second blog entry on how, by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints' own definition, it cannot be considered part of the orthodox Christian church.
"'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints,' as Mormonism is officially known, claims to be the only true church. As stated in the Doctrine and Covenants [1:30], Mormonism is 'the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth,'" Mohler wrote.
Mormons believe the church was corrupt after the death of the apostles and became the "Church of the Devil." And Mormons claim that it was not until the 19th century that the Prophet Joseph Smith restored the true church. This "true church" was given the keys to the Kingdom and the authority of the only true priesthood, according to Mormon theology.
"Why would Mormonism now want to be identified as a form of Christianity, when its central historical claim is that the churches commonly understood to be Christian are part of the Church of the Devil?" questioned Mohler.
The prominent Christian theologian has been engaged in an ongoing "blog dialogue" with well-known Mormon science fiction author Orson Scott Card since June 28. The two figures are debating whether Mormons can be considered Christians in a forum sponsored by the Web site Beliefnet.com.
Defending Mormonism is Card, who in his latest blog questioned Mohler's authority to define who is Christian. More specifically, Card contended that the word "Christian" should include anyone that believes Jesus is the only way to salvation rather than in Mohler's argument based on Christian orthodoxy.
In response, the Baptist seminary head said that Beliefnet had specifically assigned him to consider if Mormons were Christians based on traditional Christian orthodoxy. Mohler further added that if Christianity was defined in terms of sociology, the history of religions or other disciplines, then an expert from that field should take part in the debate rather than himself.
"The question could simply refer to common opinion – do people on the street believe that Mormonism is Christianity? But then the matter would be in better hands among the pollsters," Mohler commented.
The evangelical theologian emphasized once again that according to how the question was framed theologically by Beliefnet, "the answer is clear and unassailable – Mormonism is not Christianity. When the question is framed this way, Mr. Card and I actually agree, as his essay makes clear."