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Editors note: This article was originally posted on faithstreet.com by Craig Harline and Samuel Brown.
1. Some Mormons want to be called “Latter-day Saints,” but most are fine with “LDS” or “Mormon,” which is a heckuva lot better than “Cultists” or “Satan-worshipers.”
Early Mormons believed they weren’t so much reforming Protestantism as “restoring” pure, New Testament Christianity (with a strong dose of Old Testament Israel thrown in). They called themselves “latter-day” saints to both identify with and distinguish themselves from the “former-day” saints who were the first followers of Christ.
“Mormon” (short for “Mormonite”), was like many other nicknames, once a slur, but most LDS people today are okay with it — as long as you don’t precede it with “damned” or some other nasty adjective.
2. Mormons consider themselves Christians, even if a lot of other Christians consider them big-time heretics.
Mormons don’t love being called heretics any more than most people, but they are absolutely baffled that many don’t even consider them Christian: the name of their church is, after all, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and they talk about Christ constantly.
Mormons do read Christian history differently from traditional Christians: e.g., they see their non-Trinitarian, embodied God in some early Christian writers, and note that early Christianity was more diverse than the creeds suggest. But they also recognize that they have a lot in common with traditional Christians today. Taxonomically, you might say that Mormonism is a Reformation of the Protestant Reformation that adds some very Catholic- and Eastern-Orthodox-sounding ideas, all mixed together with an American pragmatism that is more communal and charismatic than the Protestantism Mormons rebelled against.
3. Under the Banner of Heaven is to Mormonism as The Da Vinci Code is to Catholicism.
It still amazes us how many people think they’ve performed due diligence in learning about Mormons if they read adventure-writer Jon Krakauer’s true-crime page-turner, Under the Banner of Heaven. That’s like reading Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code to learn about Catholics.
Mormon history, like all history, has disturbing warts aplenty, and the warts matter. But there are serious histories aplenty nowadays, such as John Turner’s Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet,or the multi-authored Massacre at Mountain Meadows, in which you can learn about troubling episodes with some serious accuracy and context.
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