What makes a Christian a Christian? If I think back to my pre-LDS days, I remember that saying you were Christian was just another way of saying you weren’t Catholic. That distinction was important for some reason even though Catholics definitely believe Jesus died for their sins. Saying you were Christian was like saying you believed in Christ without all the heavy self-inflicted suffering Catholics are famous for.
What makes a Catholic a Catholic? Not even the Catholics know. Not really. I didn’t. I don’t even know what Catholic means, but when I was one I wore the label with pride because most of the world’s population belonged to this church and I was always one to stick with the crowd. As a Catholic, I got the distinct feeling that you could do whatever you wanted to all week long as long as you showed up to mass on Sunday. They made it easy for you to show up, too, by offering several services in the morning and at night. You could even go on Saturday night if you had plans on Sunday. Sunday was not the Holy Sabbath, but an extra Saturday and one more day that you could play before heading back to work.
I stopped going to the Catholic church when my lifestyle was in direct conflict with attending mass. I felt guilty. How could I show up on Sunday repentant after spending the night before partying with my friends with little thought of God and knowing I would be doing the same thing next Saturday. What was I doing in that pew? So I stopped going… that was in high school. When I did go to church it was to be with my family and we would usually go out to breakfast after mass.
In the years that followed, I would go to church with my mom and attend a non-denominational bible study that she got involved in. I stopped going to that eventually because I would fall asleep during the presentation. This was a popular program and they had a waiting list. I gave up my spot and took a nap at home. I could sense that mom was not really into being Catholic, too, but she kept going because she was taught that to step into another church meant you were going straight to hell. Today she is involved in a sect of the Catholic church that not all Catholics approve of (at least, my mom said that the Pope had to send a letter stating that they were an approved organization in the church). It’s called Neocatechumenate Way (I think… not sure of the spelling). I have no idea what that means either, but I’m sure she does. From what I gather, they have gone back to practicing as they would in the olden days… Saturday is her Sabbath Day. They use real bread and wine instead of manufactured wafers for their sacrament. They still wear crosses and believe that Jesus died for them and they have a slightly closer relationship as they are a smaller group and she refers to them as her community.
Now I’m LDS. A Latter-Day Saint. It doesn’t mean that I think I’m perfect or that I have angel status or that I’m on a pedestal of any kind and people should pray to me. A saint is simply a member of the Church. The “latter-day” distinguishes between a saint from the ancient Church that Jesus organized when he was on the earth and a member of the Church today. And I’m a Christian. The name of the Church bears the name of him who we follow… The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Sants. So how do you get Mormon out of that?
We have another testament of scripture called The Book of Mormon. Mormon was a prophet in Ancient America who was one of the last surviving prophets to keep the records of the Church in that part of the world. So his name is on the cover, but the contents are all about Jesus Christ. It’d be like taking out the Book of Matthew out of the Bible and putting a cover on it by itself… and then people would erroneously call those Christians Matthews. (uh… yeah.)
Zack has a friend at school that Zack suspected was a member of our church. I thought it was unlikely because if he were, we’d probably already know the family… they’d be in our ward (what we call our congregations) or our stake (what we call a bunch of wards in one area). Still, Zack said he saw him wearing a shirt that said “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints” on it.
Zack has been trying to set up a playdate with him so I called his friend’s house to speak with his mother. When we were done ironing out the details, I asked her if she was LDS. She asked me to repeat myself and by her reaction, I figured she wasn’t. So I said, “LDS or Mormon?” and she said, “No we’re Christian.” And the way she said it, as if with a laugh of relief, made me feel sorry I had brought it up. I said, “Oh.” She said, “Are you Mormon?” and I said that we were and then I said that Mormons were Christian also. She said, “Oh, I know, but you’re Mormon Christian and we’re Christian Christian. You know what I mean?” I said, “Oh, yes.” She said, “Is this going to be a problem?” I quickly stated that it wasn’t a problem, and explained how Zack thought we were from the same church and how I thought we would already know them. She said that they went to a church in Pearland (which is over an hour away) and how much they loved it. Then she said that one of her really good friends is a Mormon and named someone from our ward whom I absolutely adore. So the awkwardness of the call was forgotten and we found that we both love the same someone.
Only, it was not the same someone that you would think would unite us.