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Faith in one God affirms Mormonism as Christianity

Second of a two-part commentary on presidential politics and religion. Read Part 1 in the Friday, Feb. 3 Herald.

When considering the openness to religious practice in our country, we are reminded that sociologists have identified over 300 different branches, spin-offs, or registered church denominations in the United States. This variety is just with the memberships viewed as Protestant. We declare a pluralism that is not equaled in any other country. Only in America!

There is a question, put bluntly, by some persons in various churches: “Is a Mormon, referring to Mitt Romney, a Christian?” The statistics on the multiple expressions of faith, with the Bible as a primary source, is soundly established. My ecumenical heart (can’t we be a little more in agreement with the Jesus-basics?) has been broken dozens of times by the divisions, rancor, internal squabbles, and what I regard as territorial impulse.

Mormonism is up for inspection. That in itself, is a positive. But, I encourage the inspectors to place these believers in the context of the larger sea of confessions and practice.

An evaluation of Mormonism as a Christian organization, needs, I suggest, to note that most of what are regarded as historic, traditional beliefs and practices are accepted by the Mormon Church. There have been some behaviors and teachings that were, in some of their communities, once accepted, but they have been rejected, re-interpreted, viewed as unnecessary, or placed in a category of non-essentials in honoring the historic creeds of Christendom.

A reminder: The above analysis could be applied to the larger multiple bodies, groups, synods, and denominations that embrace the traditional, unifying message of Jesus. Certainly, we agree that Jesus was fundamentally an example of healing and compassion. The rare and original teachings of Jesus have flowered into a variety of streams, all having in common particular emphasis. A key word in all of this is interpretation.

Persons interested in a deeper study of the Mormon Church may wish to study and reflect upon the writing of journalist Joanna Brooks. She was raised a Mormon and is presently a professor of English and Comparative Literature at San Diego State University.

There are those of us who continue to consult the Bible as a basis of belief, practice, ritual, and the example of compassion. The scriptures are viewed as a revelation from God. Yet within that revelation there are emphases, points of view, digressions, and debates as to “the truth” that form divergent communities. The variety of convictions already present in scripture have continued to the present hour.

Persons of sincere affiliation of churches in the so-called evangelical tradition, are more apt to raise questions of the authenticity of a “true Christian.” To the point, I, as one person, feel that within my human limitations, I cannot “play God.” I am not the one to verify or set forth a litmus test. I wish to leave some answers to the Great Judge!

The reminders to what we may regard as a basis of being Christian, can be established by many Biblical references.

Words attributed to Jesus are quoted, in part, from the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament viewed also as Christian Scriptures), Leviticus 19:18, “Thou shalt love they neighbor as thyself …”

This theme related to a basic acceptance of being a Christian, is affirmed in the New Testament book of Matthew under the title, “The Greatest Commandment.” Chapter 22, verses 34 through 40, places on the lips of Jesus, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind … You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

My study and teaching classes in World Religions in several colleges, and presently at Riverland Community College, brings me to state: This Biblical statement is a sentiment and conviction of the many forms of a life that is found in God.

Among reasons for my affirming Mormons as Christians, I add this experience. My personal respect, and embracing them as Christians, in as authentic a manner as I, by the grace of God, consider myself a Christian (a follower of Jesus Christ) resulted from time lived in New Haven, Conn. While a Research Fellow at Yale University some years back, my family shared an apartment building with a Mormon couple. The complex, by the way, was labeled “The Fertile Crescent.” The times of friendship, expressions of the love of God, the study of the life of Jesus, prayer, and joint worship —- even a joint recycling project —- was a tender and lived out witness to the Christianity we claim, to the stance of some of our Founding Fathers and Mothers!

There is, admittedly, a diversity and variety of ways in which a Christian way of life is taught, embraced, and practiced while surrounded by praise, prayer, and singing

Marvin Repinski is a minister in the
United Methodist Church, now retired.