"Is Mormonism Christian?" Reflections on a Complicated Question

Author: Jan Shipps
Journal: 33:3

Since I, a staunch member of the First United Methodist Church in Bloomington, Indiana, have been studying the Latter-day Saints for more than thirty years, it is perhaps not surprising that I am frequently asked whether Mormons are Christians and whether Mormonism is Christian. Put to me by journalists, academics, denominational bureaucrats, participants in adult forums in various local Protestant and Catholic churches, active Latter-day Saints, bona fide anti-Mormons, my students, and a variety of other interested persons, the query comes in both forms. But whatever the form, a forthright yes or no answer seems to be expected.

Because many people think the two questions are one and the same, inquirers are often startled when I respond by asking if they wish to know whether Mormons are Christians or whether Mormonism is Christian. Moreover, since their question, whatever its form, seems so straightforward to so many, inquirers are also surprised—and sometimes impatient—when I attempt to determine the framework within which the question is being asked. Yet before I can formulate a response, I must know both the substance of the question and its context.