“Are Mormons Christians?”: A Blog Round Table (Updated)

Author’s Note: This post is cross-posted at Approaching Justice.

Are Mormons Christians?

For most Mormons, the answer to this question is obvious. Yes, yes they are. They believe in Jesus Christ. This settles it for them

For people from other religious perspectives, the answer is obvious but in the negative. Mormons are not Christians. The reasons for this response is varied.

For some, few answers are obvious. Instead, this question is more one of inquiry. For me, the question itself, and that it gets asked, is what intrigues me and brings me to this round table. Why do we get caught up in these debates? What do such questions tell us about Mormonism, Christianity, and religion.

A group of bloggers here at Patheos has decided to take turns addressing this question. The participants on this round table, include contributors to the Mormon channel here at Patheos, as well as bloggers at the Buddhist and Catholic Channels. I am hoping to rope in contributions and responses from other channels as well.

We will also have at least one guest contribution from a leading scholar who has written on this topic.

One of my purposes in announcing this round table, is to invite you to participate. Please, ask questions and leave comments in the comment sections of the respective posts.

If you would like to contribute a guest post about this question, shoot my a message. You can do so by sending me a message at my Facebook page or by emailing me at approachingjustice@gmail.com

I am looking forward to this discussion. Patheos is a great place for it.

UPDATE: Here are the contributions to this round table so far.

Martin Luther King Jr. Honored & Celebrated at BYU [UPDATED]

Author’s Note: I have updated this post to include quotes from Margaret Young of BYU and I have corrected the identification of the keynote speaker (1/23/13 4:50 Mountain Time).

The Brigham Young University campus honored Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday in a variety of campus activities.

With classes cancelled for the national holiday, students participated in service activities during the day in and around the Wilkinson Students Center. The activities ranged from making quilts and toys to donating blood.

The day was wrapped up with a march…always a fitting way to honor Martin Luther King Jr. The candle-light walk started at the Carillon Bell Tower. The march ended at the Wilkinson Student Center.

The symbolism of the march ended at the Wilkinson Center is deep since the late-BYU President Ernest Wilkinson was an ardent critic of the Civil Rights Movement.

“In 1965, BYU featured the film _Civil Riots_ in the Varsity Theater,” noted BYU English Instructor Margaret Young in an interview with FPR. “It depicted the civil rights movement as a Communist plot.”

Yet, the events like those held on campus Monday are a sign of positive change on the campus of BYU, said Young who along with Darius Gray brought us the documentary Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormon.

“Though we work with a grossly inadequate budget as we honor Dr. King in 2013, the fact that we do it at all–and that many of us teach Dr. King’s works–is a sign of enormous growth and even repentance,” said Young.

The keynote speaker at the Monday night’s vigil was the amazing Cathy Stokes.

The events were sponsored by BYU’s Multicultural Student Services and BYU’s Center for Service and Learning as part of a larger Community Outreach Day in conjunction with Utah Valley University and the United Way of Utah County.

A Big Step Towards Equality for Woman…In The Military.

Out-going Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has lifted the ban on women serving in combat roles within the armed forces.


This is a sweeping and striking move towards gender equality. The significant impact of such a decision will have ramification far beyond the Department of Defense.


Within the military, access to combat roles will allow for more women to move up to the highest ranks. There have been female generals and admirals already. That is true. However, leadership roles in combat units is often a key towards advancement…particularly to the highest levels of the Pentagon.


Not everyone is a fan of this type of equality. I am and I am not sure if I can explain why. However, times are changing.


No worries, though. They will not be praying in General Conference. That would be crazy.

The Prayer of Myrlie Evers-Williams

I wrote last week about the historical significance of Myrlie Ever-Williams delivering the invocation at President Obama’s Second Inauguration. In our open thread, I mentioned loving it.

Here it is:

America, we are here, our nation’s Capitol on this January the 21st 2013, the inauguration of our 45th [editor’s note, should be 44th] president Barack Obama. We come at this time to ask blessings upon our leaders, the president, vice president, members of Congress, all elected and appointed officials of the United States of America. We are here to ask blessings upon our armed forces, blessings upon all who contribute to the essence of the American spirit, the American dream. The opportunity to become whatever our mankind, womankind, allows us to be. This is the promise of America.

Myrlie Evers-Williams gives an invocation on January 21, 2013 in Washington, DC (AFP, Jewel Samad)

As we sing the words of belief, “this is my country,” let us act upon the meaning that everyone is included. May the inherent dignity and inalienable rights of every woman, man, boy and girl be honored. May all your people, especially the least of these, flourish in our blessed nation. One hundred fifty years after the Emancipation Proclamation and 50 years after the March on Washington, we celebrate the spirit of our ancestors, which has allowed us to move from a nation of unborn hopes and a history of disenfranchised [votes] to today’s expression of a more perfect union. We ask, too, almighty that where our paths seem blanketed by [throngs] of oppression and riddle by pangs of despair we ask for your guidance toward the light of deliverance. And that the vision of those that came before us and dreamed of this day, that we recognize that their visions still inspire us.

They are a great cloud of witnesses unseen by the naked eye but all around us thankful that their living was not in vain. For every mountain you gave us the strength to climb. Your grace is pleaded to continue that climb for America and the world. We now stand beneath the shadow nation’s Capitol whose golden dome reflects the unity and democracy of one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Approximately four miles from where we are assembled the hallowed remains of men and women rest in Arlington Cemetery. They who believed, fought and died for this country. May their spirit infuse our being to work together with respect, enabling us to continue to build this nation, and in so doing we send a message to the world that we are strong, fierce in our strength, and ever vigilant in our pursuit of freedom. We ask that you grant our president the will to act courageously but cautiously when confronted with danger and to act prudently but deliberately when challenged by adversity. Please continue to bless his efforts to lead by example in consideration and favor of the diversity of our people.

Bless our families all across this nation.

We thank you for this opportunity of prayer to strengthen us for the journey through the days that lie ahead.

We invoke the prayers of our grandmothers, who taught us to pray, ‘God make me a blessing.’ Let their spirit guide us as we claim the spirit of old.

There’s something within me that holds the reins. There’s something within me that banishes pain. There’s something within me I cannot explain. But all I know America, there is something within. There is something within.

In Jesus’ name and the name of all who are holy and right we pray. Amen.

Amen. Amen. And Amen.

(Thanks for the Under God Blog at the Washington Post)


I originally wrote the following for BCC back on January 18, 2010.

Martin Luther King Jr. is one of my very favorite figures in the history of American politics and social thought. I have always had a special respect for the civil rights movement, even during my days as a conservative. But King himself holds a special place in my thinking today. I think this is largely because King represented a form of left- leaning liberalism that died in American politics when he died in Memphis.

Some of his greatest moments are the moments which made him a controversial figure during his day. In many ways, our image of King as a non-controversial figure misses out of some of the things which make him great.

In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, he rejects calls to wait rather than act, we see the most eloquent and passionate rejection of Burkean gradualism since Thomas Paine. In American thought, King is very much a mixture of Paine and Thoreau: a advocate of a rights revolution of non-violence. I am not sure if you can beat that.

His “Beyond Vietnam” speech stands as one of the most articulate moral arguments against that war. While we are well aware of the eventual widespread opposition to the Vietnam War, King’s 1967 speech was before the public turned against it. He took a stand against the war before most public officials would do so publicly (almost a year before Walter Conkite’s famed turn against the prudence of the war). The part of the speech which stands out most to me is his assertion that the Vietnamese were people, too. This is a truth that was lost on our war policy of that time, and ours.

When I lived in Idaho, it is not unusual to see a letter to the editor which complained about Martin Luther King Day because King was a communist. The best part of the communist charge is that it is false and a relic of a time when unpopular figure of the left was a communist. He was an egalitarian and a radical one at that. He was a critic of American capitalism. This might make him some form of social democrat or socialist (I proudly claim to be both) but he is anything but a Soviet Marxist. In many way he was a Hugh Nibley with social organization skills.

Continue reading “My MLK”

“Bless us with the humility to accept logic and evidence.” An Inaugural Prayer from Germany. #myinauguralprayer

Our next installment in our inaugural prayer series comes from Hellmut Lotz. He is a political scientist and campaign consultant living in Germany.  He also lived in Utah and Maryland for a total of 17 years.

Here is Hellmut’s prayer for today’s Inauguration:

Bless us with the humility to accept logic and evidence.

Bless us with the generosity to cooperate with one another.

Bless us with the courage to defend the rights of the few and the unpopular.

And bless us with the charity to nurture the weak, the children, the old, and the unfortunate.

I will add just this: Amen.

Thanks, Hellmut.

Inauguration Open Thread/Live Blog

UPDATE: Let’s get started! Comments and thoughts will be shared in the comment section below. All perspectives are welcome. Disagreement ail happen and that is good. Standard rules about language and rudeness apply.

Having written a bit about the inaugural prayers, I am looking forward to the the actually show on Monday.

Join me here for an open thread discussion of the ceremonies.

I will be joined by Dwight Welch, and United Church of Christ Minister from Sheridan, WY. I will also be joined by my son Todd, an LDS deacon from Casper, WY.

The ceremonies start around 9:30 MT/11:30 ET. The thread will open at 9:00 MT/11:00 ET.

All are welcome.

A Theory of Justice: The Musical!

I have not seen The Book of Mormon: The Musical. To be honest, I have not seen any musicals that are not at a local high school or community college.


Often while wondering about musicals about sacred texts, I have wondered a few times about the possibilities of a musical version of my favorite book…the book that is the focus of my academic work….the book which changed my life.


As it turns out, that musical is already in production and will be opening in Oxford, England January 30 and playing until February 2.



Yes, ladies and gentleman:


There is actually going to be A Theory of Justice: The Musical! 

Official Poster of ATOJ: The Musical!


How freaking awesome. Right?


Okay, I may be the only person who gets this excited about anything related Rawls. There are many who understand his work better than I do. There are many who have written great articles and books about Rawls. I…well… am still working on that dissertation on Rawls (I am ACTUALLY now working on it…well…when not writing this post…)…There was a well received conference paper…but when it comes to the hero worship of Rawls…I have that down.


So, when I first heard mention of the A Theory of Justice: The Musical!, I assumed it was a YouTube spoof of some sort. However, that was not the case. It is a real musical!


I interviewed via email Eylon Aslan-Levy who, along with fellow Oxford students Ramin Sabi and Tommy Peto, is one of the co-authors and co-producers of A Theory of Justice: The Musical!


Eylon notes that it was Ramin who came up with the initial idea.


“I’ve got a great idea – let’s write A Theory of Justice: The Musical!” said Ramin and the musical was conceived.


“I laughed, adding that it would probably help with revision. We started toying with some ideas for a plot (we knew we wanted a Utilitarian barbershop quartet from day one!) and played around with some ideas on the piano, and eventually realised that we had a real gem of a musical on our hands, with a lot of potential. We wondered whether we could pull it off, and reckoned that if not in Oxford, where else?” writes Eylon.

Continue reading “A Theory of Justice: The Musical!”

“We come before thee at a very important time…” An Inaugural Prayer from an Engineer. #myinauguralprayer

The first prayer in our inaugural prayer series comes from Eric Nielson. Eric is an mechanical engineer and he lives in the Midwest. I want to thank him for not only getting us started, but also for writing a thoughtful prayer.

He is introduces himself as follows:

My name is Eric Nielson. I am a lifelong faithful Latter-day Saint. My political views are quite conservative and I would consider myself far right. Yet, I am not confident that my political views are the best for society as a whole. I suspect they are mostly a reflection of my own self interests, or at least what I perceive them to be.

I voted for Mitt Romney, and frankly I felt that the country made a big mistake in re-electing President Obama. I feel that fiscal responsibility is something that our government sorely needs, and I acknowledge that to do this, spending would need to be reduced on both sides of the aisle.

I am very concerned for our country’s long term well being. I have such fundamental disagreements with our current president, that I admit that giving such a prayer would be a difficult thing for me to do. I would try to put my personal opinions in the background, and give an appropriate prayer. I would hope to find an appropriate sincerity.

As you will see below, Eric does an amazing job of writing a sincere and appropriate prayer.

Heavenly Father,

We come before thee at a very important time, to inaugurate Barack Obama as the President of the United States.

We are so grateful for the freedoms that we enjoy, and for the blessings that come through self government. We acknowledge thy hand in establishing this great country, and securing the blessings that we all enjoy as a result. We are grateful for President Obama, and for his willingness to take on this great responsibility in representing our entire nation to the whole world. We ask thee to bless him that he may be able to fulfill not only his responsibilities as President, but also his responsibilities as a husband and as a father.

We ask that thy influence will continue with us as we progress into an uncertain future. We ask thee to bless our nation and the world with peace and prosperity. Please bless our president with the wisdom to lead this nation in a way that will be of the greatest benefit to its’ citizens and to its’ allies.

We express our love for thee, and our dependence on thee. Please bless President Barack Obama, and bless the United States of America.

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


CFP: Call for Prayers–Share with us your Inaugural Prayer #myinauguralprayer

With all of the focus on the inaugural prayers, I wanted to invite all of you to consider what you might say if you were an inaugural prayer speaker.

I would also invite you to share your prayer with us here at Faith-Promoting Rumor and Patheos.

Email me your prayer at chrishenrichsen@me.com. I will start sharing the prayers as they start coming in and through Inauguration Day on Monday.

We want prayers from those of all faiths and religions. Non-believers are welcome as well. We welcome prayers from all political persuasions and prayers from all over the world.

My hope is that the prayers will be between 50 and 150 words. Please also include a brief paragraph telling us a little about yourself.

Thank you. I believe that prayer is something that can bring us together. There is no better time for unity and healing.