Our friend charismatic protestant friend Cal has taken a position– beleaguered by most non-Mormons here–that Mormons are Christians. Although no longer a believer, I thought I would try to clearly lay out the argument for Cal’s position aimed at Protestants.
For purposes of the discussion, I am assuming the truth of the Five Solae, the Nicene Creed, and the and the Bible.
I propose that these three premises are true:
1. Jesus prayed for and sought as a goal before God the unity of those that believe in him through the testimony of his disciples, i.e. the New Testament. (John 17: 20-23:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
2. The New Testament does not make orthodox theology a qualification for inclusion in unity. Jesus was not limiting fellowship or unity to the orthodox. He is talking about orthodoxy or unity of creed or belief–Jesus established no creed, distilled his message and rarely made it explicit. He warns against false teachers, but Jesus put the focus on distinguishing false teachers based on their fruits– i.e. you will know them by their behavior and effects on the church not (necessarily) their theological errors.
3. Mormons believe that the text of the New Testament is the truth.
Given these premises, my conclusion is that Protestants should embrace Mormons as part of the group that they are challenged by Jesus to be unified with, and seek to come to complete unity.
Notice that I am assuming what Protestant’s believe is orthodoxy to be correct but the strength of the argument holds on a practical and ethical level. But there is no orthodoxy regarding how unity can and should be achieved. That is an open question. I suggest that even if the path to reaching unity is unclear– efforts toward unity will lead–ultimately–to a greater prevalence of salvation and faith in Jesus more effectively than efforts toward disunity–which are, generally, the order of the day.