Thanks, But I’ll Stick With Color

This is long, but I hope you find it worth your time..
My family was the last one on the block to have a color TV. I was the last kid to know that Gilligan wore red, and the Skipper wore blue. As I wrote last week, once I was even shamed for not knowing that Oscar was green. (link here)

But that was OK. I enjoyed my shows. Bugs Bunny was still funny, and Fess Parker still made me want to be like Daniel Boone. It’s true that we usually don’t know what we are missing until we find it. But in this case, I knew we were missing something – and I was proven right the day came that Dad brought home a color TV. It was amazing! The family gathered around the TV on Sunday nights to watch Wonderful World of Disney in all its full-color glory.

Since then, I have had no desire to go back to watching black and white TV. Sure, it was incredible. Sure, it was the best thing going in its time. Sure, it was first – but compared with the HD, 3-D, big-screen, Dolby 7.1 TVs that are available now, it is impossible to make the case that the original black and white is better in any way, shape or form. (Early b/w televisions even cost more: $2500+ by today’s dollars.)

I’m sure there are a few die-hard b/w fans who, to this day, refuse to give up their old TVs and step up to those newfangled color contraptions.


The point… (It will take a while to get there, but it’s worth it – I promise)

Lately there has been a great deal of focus on whether or not Mormons are “Christians”.  Are we? We are according to our definition. But apparently we are not according to the majority of those who call themselves Christians. Why the confusion?

The problem rests in the fact that we are using the same word to describe two different definitions of what Christianity is.

To understand this, we need to get in the phone booth and go back a couple thousand years…

In the centuries after Christ’s death, the young church had grown and spread into many different areas. Unfortunately, without our modern travel and communication abilities, those churches were unable to function as a whole. Each individual church was essentially running itself, and their own traditions, preferences, personalities and beliefs shaped each individual church, until they were many differing versions of Christianity.

(Paul had already struggled with this same problem just a few years after the death of Jesus. He would establish a church, and then, as soon as he left town, that new church would began to transform into a different creation. Most of the epistles Paul wrote were to help various churches “straighten up and fly right.”)

By the time three hundred years had passed, there were literally thousands of Christian churches scattered throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. Unfortunately, they all believed different variations of the gospel, and practiced it accordingly.

Enter Constantine, AD 325. Constatine was a non-Christian Roman Emperor at the time, and realized that there was tremendous political value in bringing together the Christians under one roof. His roof. While not as entertaining as feeding Christians to the lions, it could solidify his tenuous position as Emperor. So he called a meeting. He called it the “Council at Nicea” and invited the leaders of all the Christian churches far and wide. It is said that he invited upwards of 1800 leaders of different sects.  About 250 showed up. (14% representation – but who’s counting?)

The main purpose of the Council at Nicea was to come up with an agreement as to what they all believed. This wasn’t an easy task – so many churches, so many beliefs, so many practices. And no authority. As we know, the priesthood authority of God had long since left the earth. Even those who attended the Council did not claim divine revelation. This was a council of men, trying to define things of God – without God’s help.

Through much contention and consternation, they eventually came up with a compromise and called it the “Nicene Creed”. The first issue they tackled in the creed was to define the Trinity. There was a great deal of confusion. Three? Three-in-one? Body? No body? How was Jesus his own son?  Here’s what they came up with:

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through Him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
He came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
He became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake He was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
He suffered death and was buried.
On the third day He rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and His kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father.
With the Father and the Son He is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. AMEN.
Actually, it is not a bad effort, given that there were so many differing opinions, and no revelation to guide them. But here’s where things begin to go off the rails:
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
 of one Being with the Father.
See that bold line right there? That single line is one of the biggest reasons that modern Christianity does not believe that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Later-day Saints are Christians.  We believe that all three members of the Trinity are individuals. They believe that God is an entity that can send parts of himself to earth in different forms, such as Jesus. The accusation? That we are “poly-theistic” or that we believe in more than one God.
So, this is the definition of the Trinity, or the Godhead, that the Council went with. They went back several times and had more councils to fine-tune things over the years, but this part mostly stuck. It was the foundational definition of God in the Catholic church, and as you know, most protestant churches broke away from the Catholic church, and took this creed with them.
Then what is my problem with the creed?  Nothing. It is as good a creed as the Council could possibly get, given the huge task, and lack of divine guidance. They did a pretty good job. But they didn’t know what they were missing – they simply did not know what they did not know.
HOWEVER, I see the Nicene Creed and its definition of the Trinity as the black and white TV of its time. Yes, the picture is pretty good. Yes, you can see what is going on – it did the job – and was the best they could do back in AD325.
In 1820, a young Joseph Smith entered the woods in upstate New York and emerged with knowledge that would immediately make the creed of AD325 INSTANTLY OBSOLETE. He knew from a brief visitation that one of the key tenants of the Nicene Creed was seriously flawed. He learned that God the Father, and Jesus Christ were two separate, distinct individuals. If the creed was flawed, then all churches who base their beliefs on that creed are flawed as well.
Welcome to the world of color.
Through modern prophets, the Lord has shown us the limitations of the councils of men. Through the Book of Mormon and modern scripture, He has shown us a fully enhanced, high definition understanding of the nature of God. He has shown us the depth, contrasts, nuances, and vibrant hues that make our understanding decidedly non-Christian.
Non-Christian. If the definition of “Christian” is that we believe in incorrect archaic creeds born out of politics and contention, by uninspired men and politicians, then I’m not sure why we are trying so hard to be invited to that party.
Many decry that we are not “Christian”, and many members are upset by it.  Personally, I am not interested in defining-down my understanding to merit the approval of those with a lesser understanding. If you want to define “Christian” as someone who follows Jesus Christ with a bright understanding of the fullness of the gospel, then I’m already signed up.
Simply put, I am not about to trade in my full color, HD, 3D, Dolby 7.1, understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in exchange for a grainy, fuzzy, black and white version that was designed by committee in AD325.

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  1. I sm not a Mormon, but am enjoying your blog nonetheless; I hope you don’t mind. I am an Orthodox Christian and while I appreciated the black-and-white TV analogy, many (if not most) Orthodox priests would argue that the attendees at the Council of Nicea were not without spiritual guidance – He is in all places and fills all things, so therefore they could not have been entirely left to their own uninspired council about the decisions made therein.

    I am not educated enough about the Mormon beliefs to comment on whether or not *I* would consider Mormons “Christians” or not. To be honest, some of the *rumors* I’ve heard of your beliefs do not fall remotely in line with what my own Church teaches to be true and right BUT I know a few things. I know that the Mormons that I have personally known are wonderful people, most of them (every group has a few who struggle more than others!) , and I absolutely love the way you all keep tightly knit families. So though I could not follow some of the most basic tenets of the Mormon beliefs, I am a huge admirer of some of your actions.

    I appreciate a blog like yours though, because it also gives me a better understanding of where you’re coming from in your walk in life.

    1. Tillie! So glad to have you on board. I truly hope you can see through the joking and satire to know that I hold these deep beliefs very sacred.

      The idea of succession of divine authority is truly one of the great religious questions of the ages – and both of our faiths are unique in this department.

      Stay in touch! And if sometimes I just don’t make sense (As I often do) drop me a line and I’l try and answer.

      Thanks! -MMM-

  2. MMM, as usual, you have taken something complex and made it entirely simple for us to understand. Well done.

    But I have been chewing on this one thing for a few days: that the Council, in creating the Nicene Creed, was completely without divine guidance. Certainly, although the priesthood was no longer on the earth, divine guidance did continue. That this, along with many, many other things was a stepping stone to the restoration of the gospel?

    I’m open to your explanation.

  3. Thank you for this analogy. It helped clear up a lot of questions that I had. I knew I was Christian but I didn’t understand why others didn’t think so. However I agree with a lot of others here that it doesn’t matter what they think. I KNOW that I am a Christian.

  4. For the record, my family, too, was the last in probably THE ENTIRE TOWN to get a color TV–probably the mid-80s! I’m sure I didn’t know Oscar was green, either.

    Excellent post. My brother served his mission in the south and he encountered the “non-Christian” argument all the time, and his response was, “If by ‘Christian’ you mean a person vocally critical of anyone else that has beliefs different from theirs, then no, I would say I’m not christian. If by ‘Christian’ you mean a person who believes in Jesus Christ as our Savior, then yes, I am Christian.” I have to wonder if this would be an issue if a Jew were running for president. Would someone make a stink about a Jew not being Christian? I’m guessing no one would dare.

    I lived in Israel for a couple of years, and it’s much more clear there. There, you just say the name of the church, and people are all right with you believing in Jesus, but in Israel you don’t actually want people to think of you as “Christian,” because to them that means “involved in the Crusades.” We believe in Christ, but we’re our own flavor. Israelis really get that. Too bad Americans don’t.


  5. Excellent post! It is nice to know I am not the only one who feels this way about not being considered “Christian.” If it means watering down the message the boy prophet brought us from the Sacred Grove, then go ahead, then thanks, but I think I will pass.

    P.S. Thanks for the great FHE lesson for tomorrow night. I think it will really help my boys be able to respond better to some of the heat they take at school from the Southern Baptists who are out to save their souls.

  6. Excellent analogy and very well said. The best I’ve heard yet. I did not know all of that history and I found it very enlightening. Thank you so much for sharing this!

    1. here in the UK, peeps might prefer a b/w TV because the licence is a lot cheaper, not so much of a sacrifice to find the money (but look what you’re missing!)…in exactly the same way, some choose to be a Nicene Christian, because it’s a lot easier to live, not so much of a sacrifice (but look what you’re missing!)…

    2. One of my kids once asked me if I remembered when the world was black and white? Well, as a convert member, yeah, I do remember…

      I used to have a piece of stamped cross-stitch embroidery, which was only partially completed…the blue crosses on the incompleted part didn’t mean anything much…however, when the colours were added to the completed section, everything made perfect sense, and a person could ascertain some idea of what the whole would be, when done…I used this to explain to my family and friends the difference the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Ghost had made to my life…b/w vs HD…excellent analogy…thanks!

  7. Del: I think you have brought in an important point.

    Looking at what the Nicene Council came up with, and comparing it to early Christianity and early scripture does show how far things had fallen in such a short period of time. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been to be a member of that Council and watch as the majority decided to strip away important doctrines that they knew had come from Christ himself.

  8. I like the analogy, especially the “fully enhanced, high definition understanding of the nature of God”. It is important to emphasize that this “HD” understanding was the original understanding and is decidedly Christian in the fullest sense of the word. The fact that this knowledge has been lost to the world for centuries doesn’t make it any less true. We claim to have the same gospel that has been enjoyed through all ages of the world, since the days of Adam to the present day, except for times of apostasy. As I once told a co-worker, let’s walk through each page of the Bible together and discuss each verse, with the Spirit of God guiding our discussion. When we get to the end, you will realize that the Gospel of Jesus Christ in its fullness is only found in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and you will desire to belong to it. Nowhere else will you find the body of Christ, with all its members intact. Nowhere else will you find all that the Gospel has to offer God’s children, including not only a correct understanding of the nature of God, but also His authority to act, the ordinances, organization, support, and the accompanying gifts of the Spirit and signs promised to “them that believe”. Without these, can anyone else claim to be Christ’s Church and Kingdom?

  9. Thanks for a very well written post. I am finding we feel the same way about many things, and I like having a “kindred spirit”. With this issue, however, I have never really thought about the comments that we are not Christian and I’ll tell you why. Those I interact with on a regular basis know I am a Mormon and know I am a Christian. That is the best I can do to dispel any myths that may be out there. Be as open and honest about who I am and what I believe as I can be. Also, I don’t watch the news on a real regular basis. I just read the headlines in the paper mostly. That helps alot. 🙂 Thanks MMM.

  10. This truly defines what I tried to express in my testimony today. We cannot love Christ TOO much. I can hardly wait to see, feel and hear what comes after the color,HD, 3-D,.
    Thanks again for a thought provoking S.S. Lesson. I always need it after I’ve given my all to some very spirited 4 yr olds. in Primary. Now ther’s some true Christians!

  11. This: “I’m not sure why we are trying so hard to be invited to that party. ” is what I’ve been wondering during this whole time. Why does it matter what they think? Well written, MMM.

  12. I am consistently awestruck at your ability to explain things in such a way that makes me understand more fundamentally what I believe. I,too, have struggled with the Christian/non-Christian argument but, until reading your post, couldn’t explain the differences to others. My testimony is a warm light within me that gives my existence color and vibrancy but it is difficult to define that knowledge and feeling to others who only see in black-and-white. Thank you for words that can help me bring light and color to others.

  13. Awesome. I also struggle with the Christian/non-Christian title thing in the news. I follow Christ, I took his name upon me, I try to be like him and teach others to do so. Call that whatever you want, but the fullness of the gospel is like opening your eyes, ears, heart, feelings. It is more than color, it is an explosion of light. Hard to describe, since it fills your whole soul. I really like your black and white vs. color TV analogy!

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