The first Christian

Jun 13 2012 - 3:43pm

Surely this question, thought the learned men, will reveal who the man really is.

This imposter who has caused such a stir among the people, who has given them false hopes, was the object of their scorn. Let us hear his answer to our question, then everyone will know.

They had thought mightily about how to word such a question and had a short list of acceptable answers.

Now it was time to pose the question to the man. "Tell us, what do you say is the greatest of the commandments?" They waited, not knowing what his exact answer would be, but knowing that it would be wrong.

They smiled benevolently at the man, they could afford to; they were the learned men who had studied the commandments and knew them backward and forward. The man would put nothing past them, no flowery answers would suffice, now was the time of truth.

The man knew he was being tested, he was calm and confident; he also smiled, he too could afford to. For him this was a "no-brainer."

As he began to speak, a hush fell on the people about him. His followers too, were intently interested in the answer. As he spoke the words fell freely from his lips, there was no hesitation, no strain; only the feeling of serenity and love. "The greatest commandment is to love the Lord God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind; and the second is like unto it, to love your neighbor as yourself."

Everyone listened to his words, the clarity and wisdom of them, the comfort of them. The learned men absorbed his words and could not find fault.

What had they expected? The only critic thought, "Isn't that just like him, he gives you more than you asked for."

The first Christian had clearly given his followers the first two commandments. He would teach them much more before he left, many would listen and learn. The foundation of Christianity had been established.

In the 21st century, Christianity remains as the religion of more than a billion people worldwide, at least nominally, even if divided among various sects, factions and denominations. Christ is worshipped in a number of forms and rituals.

A question has arisen, prompted by the presidential candidacy of Mitt Romney, about the authenticity of a popular denomination, Mormons, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A few learned men have openly expressed, with certitude, that Mormons are not Christians presumably because they do not worship or believe exactly as the learned men would have them do.

The various denominations of Christianity choose to place emphasis on different aspects of the religion. Some emphasize the works of the apostles, some place emphasis on ritual and continuity; still others emphasize missionary work, healing powers, the value of prayer and music in worship and other facets of worship.

All forms it would seem have their roots in the teachings of Christ; all have benefit for worshipers. If you were to reduce Christianity to its bedrock fundamentals there would be within those values that which is the essence of Christianity.

It seems inescapable that the two greatest commandments, those that Christ gave in his answer to the learned men; the unequivocal love of God and of neighbor, would fill that requirement.

The fidelity with which members of the LDS church fulfill the two greatest commandments is unsurpassed among Christian churches and is valid reason to say that indeed Mormons are Christians. Proofs of this are programs such as LDS charities and disaster relief, or you may find proof in simply associating with a member of the church.

It would seem that too many critics of Mormons have spent an inordinate amount of time picking apart doctrine and not enough examining how the church and members express their devotion to the fundamentals of Christianity.

For the record, this is not written by a member of the LDS church.

Reynolds lives in Pleasant View. He is a retired businessman and member of the Kiwanis Club of North Ogden.

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