Life in the Marketplace of Ideas
A President's Faith Matters: An Interview with Warren Cole Smith
What's interesting to me is that Mormons who really understand what their church teaches agree with me. They know their doctrine is different. They know the Jesus they worship is not the Jesus worshipped by Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox Christians. I will sometimes ask a Mormon: "If your religion is no different from mine, if we truly believe the same things, would you be okay with your children and grandchildren becoming Baptists, or Presbyterians, or Catholics?" No serious, faithful Mormon would answer yes to this question.
As for my experience with the Mormon Church: I've lived in the Mountain West, where the Mormon percentage of the population is higher. I've been involved in the Boy Scouts at the regional and national level, where the influence of the LDS church is strong—and, I would quickly add, positive. These experiences have given me a long interest in the church. I've read not all but significant passages of The Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants. My friend and former TIME Magazine religion editor Richard Ostling's book "Mormon America" has also been a help to me. I've also been involved in evangelism and Christian apologetics for years. Understanding the Mormon faith has been a part of that training and education.
You made several arguments in your article. What, would you say, is your most essential concern? The Mormon doctrine of continuing revelation, the Mormon view of history, or the concern that electing a Mormon would help LDS evangelistic efforts around the world?
As an evangelical Christian, all of these ideas matter to me. And should. These are not peripheral questions. The Mormon doctrine of continuing revelation—accepting as it does The Book of Mormon and other documents as divine revelation—is a dagger to the heart of the historical Christian understanding of Scripture and revelation.
Without going too deeply or specifically into the doctrinal questions (though I will if you want to ask more questions), let me just say in general that continuing revelation or the Mormon view of history (specifically, that Jesus came to America and that Native Americans are descended from a lost tribe of Israel) are just two of scores of beliefs and practices (baptism of the dead, a denial of Original Sin, celestial marriage, the list goes on) that either deny essential Christian doctrines or affirm as essential doctrines what the Christian church has declared through the ages to be false. Any Christian who cares about the purity and peace of the Church—and that should be every Christian—should care about these matters.
I said previously and would reiterate here that the election of a Mormon president would be a tremendous step toward normalizing Mormon beliefs. It would be a tremendous shot in the arm for Mormon evangelism around the world. As an evangelical Christian who believes that Mormonism is a false religion, I think it only makes sense that I would not want to be a part of any effort—either intentional or not—that would spread a false religion.
Other evangelical leaders, like Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, have said that we do not ask an airplane pilot what his religion is, we just want to know whether he can land the plane. Should we focus on things like leadership, political experience, economic prowess, and the like, rather than theology and religious beliefs?
Dr. Timothy Dalrymple is the Associate Director of Content at Patheos, and writes weekly on faith, politics, and culture for Patheos' Evangelical Portal. Follow him at his blog, Philosophical Fragments, on Facebook or on Twitter.