This question is one that has been continually argued since the inception of Mormonism. On the one hand Mormons say, “of course we are Christian, we believe that Jesus is God, he is the savior of the World. Even the name of our church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
On the other hand, mainstream Christianity (MSC) would argue that Mormons (LDS) are not Christian because LDS do not believe in the trinity (or as MSC likes to put “Mormons don’t believe in the same Jesus we do.”) – in that God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the exact same being.
Quite frankly, the debate is old and ridiculous. Honestly, it is a debate based upon semantics that will really have no bearing on either parties eternal salvation. Regardless of who is right, both MSC and LDS believe in God the Father, our supreme being, the creator and organizer of heaven and earth. We both believe in Jesus Christ, the son of God, the savior of the World, that he died for our sins and was resurrected in order to redeem us from both spirtual and physical death. We both believe in the holy spirit, who testifies of the father and the son and confirms their divinity through his presence. These are the beliefs God is truly looking for. Are we excercising such faith in him. Our understanding of the nature of God, though interesting and thought provoking, is not what God is judging us on, he is judging us on our faithfulness to his commandments and if we have accepted Christ as our savior. Undoubtedly, those in MSC and LDS have, even if we differ slightly on who Christ is.
Now, a note to Mormons, it is understandable that we want to be considered Christian and it is also understandable that we are offended when people say we are not. But you need to understand that MSC differentiates between believing in Christ and being Christian. I would hope that all those in MSC recognize that LDS believe in Christ. So when they say that we are not Christian, it means we do not believe in Christ the way they do, and hence, we do not fall under the Christian umbrella. Fine, so what? There is a reason that Mormonism is not a protestant faith, LDS is supposed to be different. So when mainstream Christians say that you are not Christian, smile and say, “if you say so.” Realize that no matter how much talking, discussing and arguing is done, one will not prove the other wrong. We are all already stuck in our ways.
Now, let’s discuss the origins and background for each argument. First, let’s point out that there is SIGNIFICANT evidence throughout the Bible supporting both MSC’s trinity and LDS’s Godhead arguments. So, I am not going to address Biblical evidences, again both points of view are strongly argued in the Bible. (I recognize that many on both sides will likely disagree with me on that, but I have had the Trinity vs. Godhead discussion enough times to know that no amount of time spent debating or discussing will prove one side or the other wrong). So, I simply want to address the origins for such beliefs outside of Biblical records.
Let’s start with the LDS Godhead – that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost are three separate and distinct beings. Quite simply the basis for this belief is rooted in the very beginning of the LDS movement – Joseph Smith’s first vision. As a young man Joseph was troubled by the various religions and their differences. He recognized the need for baptism and other ordinances, for the Bible taught that. But because there were so many different Christian faiths, he did not know which one was true. As a result, he took James’s advice and asked God. He went into a nearby patch of woods to have some privacy and began to pray; to find out which church was true. During this prayer he says God the father and Jesus Christ visited him. It was at this instance that the doctrine of the Godhead was solidified in the LDS Church; God and Jesus both visited the boy Joseph, they were not one being.
Now whether you believe this actually occured or not is neither here nor there. I only share it to explain that this is an unequivocal doctrine for the LDS Church and that this why it is believed. (Now, before many of you start commenting about how that is not biblical and JS is a false prophet, please spare me; remember that there is siginificant biblical evidence in support of the Godhood belief.)
In fact, these differences of opinion on the nature of God is what lead modern-day Christianity and Catholicism to their current trinitarian belief. From the death of Christ, or, more appropriately, Peter (as he was head of the Church after Christ’s death) through the reign of Emporer Constantine (who made Christianity a dominant religion) there was siginficant debate on this precise issue – the Nature of God. It was not until the First Council of Nicea (325 AD) and the First Council of Constantinople (381 AD) that the debate ended and the official belief of Christianity was that of the Trinity. Again, it is important to note that before this, there was no definitive definition, both sides were argued constantly.
So ultimately, what the argument comes down to is a matter of faith. Do you believe in the Nicene Creed version or the Joseph Smith version? There is nothing wrong with believing in either one in my opinion. I certainly have my beliefs, but I do not fault anybody for having theirs either. We are all entitled to them.
The point is, is so what if MSC don’t think LDS are Christian? If being Christian means that I have to deny my faith and subscribe to what the majority think, I don’t want to be considered a “Christian.” Further, if people like “Christian Leader” Bill Keller represent Christianity, I want nothing to do with it. Christ did not spend his time preaching hate and vitriol against the faith of others, he simply taught what he knew to be the truth and went on his way. That is what I think the LDS Church tries to do, at least as a whole. Mormons should not worry so much about what others think of them (although it is hard not to), but focus on ways to improve yourself and strengthen your faith. This is the same thing people of all faiths should be doing. All people should share their beliefs when appropriate, but do not criticize those of others. If entering into a conversation or debate about religion make sure it ends cordially and simply agree to disagree, people have been arguing religion since Cain and Abel.