The so-called "Mormon Moment" has shown that professional writers are really just a bunch of kids in a candy shop. And like a kid in a candy shop, these writers are easily distracted by whatever all of the other children are running to. Polygamy and "magic underwear" have received more than their fair share of attention.
One argument that we need to hear more of, but haven't, is that Mormons aren't Christians. You've probably heard people say this before, and you may have even heard a half-assed explanation. In my experience, though, few people have enough familiarity with Mormon theology to clearly and succinctly explain why Mormons aren't Christians.
Why they aren't:
- Christian believe in an infinite and singular God.
- Mormons believe in a finite God who is one of a plurality of Gods (Elohim is the God of this creation; he resides on the planet Kolob).
- Christians believe that Jesus is the incarnation of their singular God (hence the Trinity)
- Mormons believe that Jesus is God's half-human offspring (hence the Godhead)
Mormons assert that they believe that through Christ their sins are forgiven. This sounds about right, but upon closer examination, their version of Christ's expiation differs from their Christian brothers and sisters. Mormons don't believe that the atonement occurred in Christ's death, but earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane. The outcome is the same, but the function is different.
I need to cool off and remind myself that this is all moot. Keep repeating to yourself, Frank, "I don't believe in any of this crap." (It's so fun, though.) I should take this moment to point out the obvious in that Mormons aren't Christians because no Mormon would ever get an awesome tattoo like the one to the right.
And here's a tip: no matter your familiarity with this topic, don't tell a Mormon that he or she isn't Christian. They're liable to scratch your eyes out. Mormons don't understand that it's not an insult, in fact it makes them a whole hell of a lot more interesting to view them as distinct from Christianity. The assertion is simply an honest understanding of Christianity and Mormonism, and that the two have a relation that more resembles the one between Christianity and Islam. Islam builds upon some aspects of Christianity, and Mormonism does the same. But protestant is where it's at in this country, so goddammit, the Mormons will throw as much of their religion away as they have to in order to get in good with the cool kids.
Simon Critchley—commenting online for NYTimes—spells it all out in this thoughtful explanation of Mormonism. He mixes Mormon theology and Mormon cosmology into a piece about how the LDS faithful understand God and how their theology separates them from mainstream Christianity.
And he shares a couple of doozies…
“So, dear Simon,” my new friend concluded, “we, too, can become Gods, American Gods, no less.” He chuckled. I was astonished.