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This is a debate that many theologians have had throughout the years since the Restoration of the Church, but is a conversation that the Court of Appeals is warning Arizona judges to stay away from.
In 1999, Kathleen and Shawn Ball were married and had two children. However in 2017 the couple divorced. Part of the parenting-plan that the court provided, each parent may take the children to any church of place of worship while he or she has custody. Both parents agreed that the children "may be instructed in the Christian faith." Key word: CHRISTIAN.
A year later however, Shawn Ball converted and joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and began bringing his children to meetings. When Kathleen found out, she sought legal intervention claiming that the LDS Church was not CHRISTIAN and that this violated their parenting-plan that was created by the court.
According to Tucson.com, this is what happened:
During the hearing, a youth ministry leader testified the LDS church is not Christian. Based on that, Mandell sided with the mother, ruling “that Mormonism does not fall within the confines of Christian faith,” and forbidding the father from taking the children to LDS services.
Appellate Judge Paul McMurdie said that ruling was wrong on two fronts. He pointed out that the parenting agreement said either parent could take the children to whatever place of worship that parent chose. So there was no violation.
But the bigger legal problem, McMurdie wrote, was Mandell’s decision to even consider the issue of the status of the Mormon church.
“The Free Exercise and Establishment clauses of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment, preclude civil courts from inquiring into ecclesiastical matters."
Essential what this means is that the courts should stay out of the business of theological controversy and the happenings of a church. McMurdie said the question Mandell sought to answer about the status of the LDS church and whether it falls under the umbrella of Christianity clearly falls into the category of prohibited court conduct. It is not appropriate for a court to decide or assess how someone identifies as "christian" or what qualifies one to use that term.
So, are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints christian Absolutely! According to the official Church website:
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unequivocally affirm themselves to be Christians. They worship God the Eternal Father in the name of Jesus Christ. When asked what the Latter-day Saints believe, Joseph Smith put Christ at the center: “The fundamental principles of our religion is the testimony of the apostles and prophets concerning Jesus Christ, ‘that he died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended up into heaven;’ and all other things are only appendages to these, which pertain to our religion.” The modern-day Quorum of the Twelve Apostles reaffirmed that testimony when they proclaimed, “Jesus is the Living Christ, the immortal Son of God. … His way is the path that leads to happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.”
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments!