I just finished a little project that did not take long. I sat down with the McConkie/Millet work, Sustaining and Defending the Faith and tested a little theory. See, old-time Mormons did not strive to look like, and sound like, evangelicals. In fact, they worked hard to differentiate themselves, being members of the one true Church. So, given that this book was not meant to convince outsiders at all, but is a book meant to protect LDS readers from outside “attacks” upon Mormonism (a phrase that has become unpopular amongst LDS today, but one which these BYU professors gladly used in a self-descriptive fashion many times without any hint of difficulty), what would I find with reference to the term “Christian?” Would it be a term used self-descriptively by these LDS writers? Would they defend the use of the term, even though they were not writing for an outside audience? If the term was in wide circulation and use amongst the Mormons themselves, this is what we would expect. But if not, we would expect to find other terminology in use, and the term Christian would not come in for great emphasis.

My quick analysis proved that the normal terminology used by the authors for themselves and their fellow Mormons was “members of the Church” or “Latter-day Saints,” and not once did the authors identify themselves as Christians. The uses of the term Christian by them broke down into neutral uses (adjectival, as in “Christian Bible,” or descriptive of the earliest believers after the time of Christ) and negative, never positive. One example of the negative use would be, “Similarly, what of those today who refuse Joseph Smith a fair hearing, having read all they need to know, as they say, from material supplied by the local Christian bookstore, material that is unfactual and deliberately misleading?” This was mainly true of the citations they offered as well, with one very notable exception. Toward the very end of the book one single writer used the term “Christian” in reference to Mormonism, even using the phrase “a Mormon Christian.” And guess who that was? Gordon Hinckley, at that time future president and prophet of the LDS Church.

My scanning also turned up some real hair curling statements. For example,

Because of him we are ransomed from the effects of temporal or physical death, and we may be ransomed from the effects of spiritual death by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel (p. 8).
Without such illuminating lenses as the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Joseph Smith Translation, the Pearl of Great Price, and words of modern Church leaders, the Bible has been, and will be forever, a sealed book (pp. 28-29)

There is no better way to let the spirit of the Restoration evidence itself than to answer those who ask questions with the revelations of the Restoration, primarily the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. Such a statement is virtually always met with the objection that “they don’t believe those sources. Shouldn’t we use the Bible because it is our common ground?” The answer is an emphatic no! First, the Bible is not common ground, it’s fighting ground. The religious world has been fighting over the meaning of the Bible for thousands of years. The Bible has been the excuse for war, bloodshed, and all manner of turmoil. But the Lord added the Book of Mormon to the Bible for the purpose of “the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace” (2 Nephi 3:12). Questions that can be answered from the Book of Mormon should never be answered from the Bible (p. 111).

Compare especially that last paragraph with the sentiments in A Different Jesus? and you will see a vast chasm between them.

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