In the New Testament, the followers of Jesus Christ generally called themselves Saints. The term Christian was used only three times, always in a context that suggests it is how outsiders addressed them, not how they themselves preferred to be addressed. It is likely the term was used in a negative context, much as Mormon, a nickname for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was first used by outsiders in a mocking way. Later, Mormons, although even today calling themselves Saints as the New Testament Christians did, took the negative name and made something positive of it. Modern Christians have done the same with the term Christian.
Since the term “Christian” is used only three times in the Bible and never by Christians themselves, it is easy to recognize the Bible does not give a formal definition of the word. Anyone who considered himself a follower of Jesus Christ was a Saint. The Bible did not offer a list of random doctrine that had to be believed. Jesus was asked from time to time what it took to be saved or to have everlasting life, but in those times, he normally answered with a list of works, not beliefs:
If ye love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15).
30 And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?
31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house (Acts 16:30-31).
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 7:21).
16 ¶And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.
18 He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness,
19 Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
These scriptures show that Jesus expected His followers to have faith and to keep the commandments. Today, some Christians have added to what is in the Bible by also mandating a random list of doctrine—many of which are not Biblical—in order for someone to be called a Christian. They do so without authority of the Bible or God, since these things are not part of God’s own definition.
Mormons believe that we do not have the right to decide who is Christian and who is not. Jimmy Carter, a former United States president and a Baptist, said that for Christians to decide who is and is not Christian is to act as the Pharisees do. Only God has the right to decide who is a Christian, because only God can measure a man’s faith and his heart.
If you tell Mormons you are a Christian, they will believe you. Their view of certain doctrines may be different from yours, but they do not believe that makes you a non-Christian. They simply believe it means you interpret the Bible a bit differently. However, if you say you love Jesus Christ and God and that you try to follow Him in the best way you know how, they will believe you and accept your self-definition of being a Christian.
All the rest is up to God.
Mormons believe in God, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. They accept the Bible as the word of God and they also accept with great reverence and gratitude the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. They believe He took their sins on Himself in an extraordinarily painful process that made it possible for us to repent and to be forgiven of our sins. They believe He died on the cross, overcoming death by being resurrected so we also could be resurrected and live forever.
Following is the testimony of a Mormon apostle. Apostles are called to be special witnesses of Jesus Christ, just as the New Testament apostles were:
Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten and Beloved Son of God. He is our Creator. He is the Light of the World. He is our Savior from sin and death. This is the most important knowledge on earth, and you can know this for yourself, as I know it for myself. The Holy Ghost, who testifies of the Father and the Son and leads us into truth, has revealed these truths to me, and He will reveal them to you. The way is desire and obedience. As to desire, Jesus taught, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7). As to obedience, He taught, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17). I testify of the truth of these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen. (See Teachings of Jesus by Dallin H. Oaks, Nov. 2011.)