What is the Mormon Doctrine?

Recently, Glenn Beck and his Washington DC rally has prompted some talk about Christianity and Mormonism.  Similar discussions surfaced when Mitt Romney ran for the Republican Presidential nomination.  At the same time, there have been conversations among my fellow seminarians about Liberty University's connection to Beck.  (I fully admit, I am not comfortable with Beck.)  New videos have surfaced trying to show viewers that Mormons are normal people, seemingly, just like everybody else--just like Christians.  And LDS members frequently identify themselves as Christian.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) desperately seems to desire inclusion within orthodox Christianity. Some have argued that Christianity and Mormonism are the same or at least, "close enough."  More recently, some think that it shouldn't matter as long as Glenn Beck can manipulate American religion in such a way to conform to his political bent.  Others however, are deeply concerned with Beck's beliefs and actions.  Although Glenn Beck is a essentially a rating-hounding shock-jock, the more meaningful conversations center around the similarities and differences between the Mormon and Christian theologies or doctrines.

What tends to happen with the conversation surrounding Mormonism is a focus on the minor issues.  I confess that I have got mired down in this mess in conversations with Mormon friends and missionaries. But the minor issues are meaningless without first addressing the major matters of the LDS religion and Christian theology.  I suggest that we within (generally accepted) Christianity need to better understand the major tenants of the Mormon doctrine, while Mormons need to understand the major tenants generally required to carry the title, Christian.  I also feel it is important that we attempt to settle on some agreed definitions.  All too often we are using the same words but they hold different meanings.  Only after we address the major doctrines and vocabulary will we be able to get to the heart of the matter.

There is no doubt in my mind that many of us (including me) understand only a caricature of the other's beliefs.  This is not to say that once we get a better understanding of the opposing position Mormons will stop sending missionaries to Christian's homes and Christians will consider Mormons inside the traditionally accepted walls of the orthodox tent; but at least our conversations will be more accurate.  If indeed there are differences that mean some of us are outside salvation, then it is only expected that we would want to share a gospel that brings about salvation.  On the other hand, if we find we share enough that we will all be together in God's Kingdom (and I admit that at the moment, I do not feel this is the case), than we are really just wasting our time arguing over meaninglessness.