A guest post by Mette Harrison
A few months ago, I got into a surprising argument on Facebook about whether Mormons worship Jesus Christ.
It started with a “helpful Mormon” who emailed me about one of my previous essays on Mormonism to mansplain to me that Mormons don’t worship Jesus Christ.
This seemed ridiculous to me, particularly since I’d just sat down in Sacrament Meeting and my bishop had welcomed everyone there who had “come together to worship Christ.”
What is the Mormon Sacrament if not a way of worshipping Christ? What does it mean when we say we are Christians if not that we worship Christ? Why do we name our church “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints” if we don’t worship Christ? And why do we spend time trying to convince other Christians we are Christian, too, if we don’t worship Christ?
Apparently, this dance on the head of a pin goes back to a 1982 talk titled “Our Relationship With the Lord,” given by Bruce R. McConkie, in which he declares emphatically that we worship only the Father and not Jesus Christ:
We do not worship the Son, and we do not worship the Holy Ghost. I know perfectly well what the scriptures say about worshiping Christ and Jehovah, but they are speaking in an entirely different sense—the sense of standing in awe and being reverentially grateful to him who has redeemed us. Worship in the true and saving sense is reserved for God the first, the Creator.
I would claim that this is a distinction that makes no difference, except that McConkie argues in this same talk that “many false and vain and foolish things are being taught in the sectarian world and even among us about our need to gain a special relationship with the Lord Jesus.” He clearly thinks that we Mormons are superior to other Christians (would he even say that we are Christian? Maybe not) in that we don’t need to gain a special relationship with Christ. He says that there is
. . . no salvation in believing any false doctrine, particularly a false or unwise view about the Godhead or any of its members. Eternal life is reserved for those who know God and the One whom he sent to work out the infinite and eternal atonement. True and saving worship is found only among those who know the truth about God and the Godhead and who understand the true relationship men should have with each member of that Eternal Presidency.
I have spent a good deal of time over the last several years trying to argue with Christians that Mormons are Christian, and that The Book of Mormon is “another testament of Christ.” I explain that we have communion in much the same way as other Christians, that we follow Christ as our supreme example, and that we believe Christ is the literal son of God.
And even if we do not accept the Trinity as most Christians do, we believe that Christ is the “Father” and “Jehovah” of the Old Testament. In this sense, we believe that the Father and the Son are one God in much the same way as other Christians — though of course I know that our belief that Christ is a God of flesh and blood separate and distinct from the Holy Spirit, which has no body, may lead us to being called “heretics.”
After the comments exploded after the blog post, a Mormon friend said, “I don’t understand why Mormons want to be seen as Christian so much anyway.”
Really? Do we not care about that anymore?
Well, I do. I’m not going to follow Bruce R. McConkie on this, and I suspect that since I’ve heard no one quote this talk in General Conference in the last twenty years that the “brethren” have kicked this to the curb along with other nonsense McConkie believed was “Mormon Doctrine.”
McConkie says that the scriptures that talk about worshiping Christ don’t matter, and that “the practice of the Church constitutes the interpretation of the scripture,” which he seems to think means that we should listen to the brethren instead of the scriptures.
Well, excuse me if I reject that premise. I’m going to listen to the scriptures, including this one:
And now behold, I say unto you that the right way is to believe in Christ, and deny him not; and Christ is the Holy One of Israel; wherefore ye must bow down before him, and worship him with all your might, mind, and strength, and your whole soul; and if ye do this ye shall in nowise be cast out. (2 Nephi 25:29)
I’m going to continue to believe that one of the main missions of the LDS Church is to “bring souls to Christ.” And I’m also going to remind McConkie-ites of his own song, in which he states:
I believe in Christ–my Lord, my God! . . .
I’ll worship him with all my might;
He is the source of truth and light . . .
I believe in Christ; he stands supreme!
Calling Christ “God” and “supreme” indicates worshipfulness to me. And the word “worship” seems to indicate, well, worshiping. Christ is the foundation of our testimonies. We are instructed to make sure in testimony meeting that we focus primarily on Christ and not on other things that might be good experiences in the gospel.
Yes, we know that there is an Elohim who appeared with Christ to Joseph Smith, but He immediately turned to His son and told Joseph Smith to listen to Him. All of our interactions with God are through Christ. He is the God of our universe, the creator, the redeemer.
I’m worshiping him with all my might, too!
OTHER POSTS BY METTE HARRISON:
- Dear Mormon men, please stop calling your wives “angels”
- Mormon joy, Lehi’s dream, and the love of God
- A letter to my daughter’s seminary teacher