The question of whether Latter-day Saints are Christians impacts Mormon participation in ecumenical events.
BY: Peggy Fletcher Stack
The Salt Lake Tribune
The question of whether Mormons are Christians has been debated among Protestants for years. It has even spilled into the rarified intellectual realms of the Society of Christian Philosophers.
The ranklings, which came largely from evangelical Christians, began in 1992 when Brigham Young University philosophy professor David Paulsen organized the society's first Intermountain Regional meeting at the LDS Church-owned school.
"Some of us felt that holding the Society of Christian Philosophers meeting at BYU was in effect endorsing or abetting the LDS representation of itself to the public as being just another Christian denomination akin to Methodists, Presbyterians, and Baptists," said William Craig, a research philosopher at the Talbot School of Theology in Los Angeles, in a phone interview this week. "We felt we ought not to participate in this misrepresentation."
Still, BYU hosted the event again in 1993. But questions continued to be raised about the appropriateness of its involvement.
The national society has about 1,000 members, including 30 in the Intermountain region.
At the urging of Craig and others, the society's executive committee drafted guidelines for regional meetings on April 7, 2000, that excluded any institution "professing to be Christian while at the same time subscribing to a doctrinal position directly contradicting the ecumenical creeds accepted by all branches of the Christian Church, Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant."
Under this plan, individual members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could still belong to the society, in keeping with the society's founding principles that membership be open to anyone who considered himself or herself to be a philosopher and a Christian.
But BYU and other church-affiliated schools, along with such groups as the Unification Church and Scientologists, were barred from hosting society gatherings.
Craig and many other Protestants believe that LDS teachings about the nature of God, Jesus Christ and the hereafter as well as its extra-biblical scriptures depart radically from mainstream Christianity.
The hosting resolution prompted lively Internet discussions among members last year, including those who raised strong objections to the ban.
Then last month a newly created executive committee adopted a revised guideline for regional meetings, recommending only that "care be exercised in the selection of sites" and that meetings not be held at "sites that are likely to be considered objectionable by a substantial number of members of the Society."