Why Evangelicals Should Defend Mormons from Mockery, Part 1

Why Evangelicals Should Defend Mormons from Mockery, Part 1 October 24, 2012

At a recent meeting of the Faith Angle Forum, Richard Mouw of Fuller Seminary, one of the elder statesmen of American evangelicalism, told a story of attending a series of talks in the 1950s by Walter Martin, a famous counter-cult apologist.  In the fourth lecture, Martin spoke of Mormonism.  Mouw recalls:

We knew that there were a lot of Mormons there because they came and filled the first two rows…And Walter Martin did his very harsh attack on Mormonism. Later on he was to publish a book that’s been sort of a classic in the counter-cult movement called The Kingdom of the Cults. But he was rehearsing those things at the time in public speeches and he really went after Mormonism.

In the Q&A, a very articulate young Mormon man stood up, and they went back and forth quite a bit.  The Mormon was insisting that Walter Martin misunderstood Mormonism on the atonement of Christ and Walter Martin simply would not give in.  And they got almost into a shouting match and at a certain point the young man, with tears flowing down his face because Martin had been pretty rough on him, said, “I don’t care what you say, Dr. Martin.  I believe that my sins have been forgiven by the atoning work of Jesus Christ on Calvary and nothing that you can say can change that conviction.”  And Martin turned to the audience and said, “See how they lie?”

For another sterling example of neighborly love, consider these words from internet evangelist Bill Keller: “It is no wonder why God is judging this nation by giving us a choice between two sons of Satan when high profile men of God like Billy Graham and supposed Christian leaders like Ralph Reed, Mark DeMoss, David Barton, and scores of others are publicly telling Christians that it is OK to compromise their faith and put temporal politics over the eternal souls of men to support a Baal worshipper.”

Well, then!  Yesterday I published an insta-interview with an anonymous individual who is posting videos, recorded on hidden cameras, of the sacred rituals that take place in the Temple.  The intentions in publishing the video are clearly to raise questions about Mormonism and about Romney.  I told “Noah” in advance that I had moral misgivings about his behavior.  He claims to have footage of Mitt in a Temple ceremony from June 2011, which he has not yet published due to legal concerns.

Let’s put the politics aside for the moment.  I promised to offer my own assessment of these videos.  But first I feel like I need to say something about evangelicals and Mormons.

The ways in which evangelicals have treated Mormons have often been shameful.  To be sure, there some bright spots.  High-level evangelical-Mormon conversations are taking place even now and are clearly edifying both sides.  Mormon leaders have been receptive to evangelical experts in historical theology, and have learned why the church historically has avoided some of the formulations Mormons use.  The trajectory of Mormonism’s development is a positive one.  Yet evangelicals have also, before and alongside these more charitable recent efforts, caricatured Mormons and perpetuated falsehoods about the official doctrines and teachings of the LDS Church.  We have marginalized and ostracized Mormons and generally treated them with heaping measures of suspicion and contempt.

The reason why evangelicals have been particularly zealous in marginalizing Mormons is clear.  When I was a child, I felt a sense of kinship with the Mormons in my classes because we had some similar moral and theological convictions — from the existence of God to chastity before marriage.  Yet I was warned in my church against the dangerousness of their beliefs and the dishonesty of their proselytizing methods.  It was obvious even then that Mormonism was regarded as a serious competitor.  Faith groups that did not proselytize were less threatening.  Yet Mormons are just as eager (and often more eager) to share their beliefs, so the evangelical churches watched the growth of Mormon churches in their communities with grave concern.

I could frame this cynically as a struggle for market share, but that would fail to understand evangelicalism.  To explain: evangelicals do not believe that we are reconciled to God by performing the right moral actions or consenting to the right doctrinal beliefs.  Rather, we believe that we’re reconciled to God and begin an eternal relationship with him when we repent and give ourselves wholly to him, living in the forgiveness and love and mission he gave the world in Christ.  Yet this implies certain beliefs regarding the divinity and the work of Christ, the nature of God and sin, grace and the church, without which it’s impossible fully to understand and live that relationship.  Since false beliefs can have eternal consequences, then, one of the most compassionate things we can do for this and future generations is defend right doctrine and preserve its purity.

Evangelical anxiety over the growth of Mormonism generally represents an earnest concern that souls could be led astray.  Mormonism was often framed as a plot of the Deceiver, a brilliant maneuver in the cosmic theater of spiritual warfare.  That which is patently false is less dangerous than that which presents the semblance but not the essence of truth.  Mimicking Christianity, Mormonism attracts the unwary by teaching the truth on non-essential matters in order to mislead them on essential matters.

Evangelicals are not wrong to be concerned about the growth of Mormonism.  The truth matters, and I like many of my evangelical brethren am convinced that Mormonism does not fully teach the truth of Jesus Christ and his gospel.  But we are wrong to let that concern, that suspicion, that fear, drive us to treat Mormons worse than any other religious group in America.  It’s not a matter of compromising our commitments to truth, but of fulfilling our commitments to love.  Just as it would not be loving to let the saving truth of Jesus Christ be distorted, for in that truth is the liberating message of God’s forgiveness and provision for all people, so it’s not loving to misrepresent what Mormons believe and condemn them in vicious and exaggerated tones.

More to the point, it’s unloving to communicate the truth in such an unloving manner that our hearers conclude that whatever is delivered by people who behave in this way cannot possibly be true.  God’s Word comes to us “full of grace and truth.”  It is never morally or Christianly acceptable to secure the truth by abandoning grace.  The end does not justify the means.

What true message of transformative grace, our listeners wonder, could come from messengers so untransformed by grace? 

Sadly, if I were to judge between evangelicals and Mormons solely on the basis of their behavior toward one another, I cannot say that I would choose evangelicalism.  I do choose evangelical fellowship because the choice is more complex, because Mormon teachings (in my view) are mistaken on important issues, because I think very many evangelicals are honestly deceived about Mormonism, and because I myself have seen what extraordinarily loving and gracious people evangelicals can be.  But I wish I could say that evangelicals had distinguished themselves in this relationship by their grace, their compassion, and their meticulous determination to get the facts about Mormonism right.

Tomorrow — please subscribe by RSS or Facebook or Twitter — I’ll address the question of how evangelicals should respond to hidden videos that seek to humiliate Mormons.  We cannot stand with Mormons on some matters.  But we can stand with them here.  Here we can witness the love and grace that has too often been missing from our witness to Mormons.

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  • E B

    I am a Mormon. I’m not sure you understand us even now, because we believe the exact same things about a relationship with God and trying to follow Jesus Christ by loving all his children, and we believe that we have the priesthood restored to the earth just the same as when He lived. So no, telling Mormons they’re going to hell isn’t going to make them listen to you. Telling them they’re wrong isn’t going to make them listen to you. We all have conviction in our beliefs through the Holy Ghost, probably the same as you, because we’ve prayed and asked God whether certain things are true and received answers. It’s not so much that Mormons believe “differently” as much as “additionally” to you. We embrace all truth revelation, as given by God.

    • Nonsense. You don’t believe “additionally.” You explicitly reject the fundamental doctrines of orthodox Christianity. In fact, it is precisely things like this comment that make orthodox Christians (justifiably) wary that you are wolves in sheeps’ clothing. You are not trying to peacefully coexist with orthodox Christianity. You are trying to proselytize and convert orthodox Christians.

      Let me ask you this: Is the Mormon doctrine on the nature of God different from or additional to the doctrine of the Trinity?

      • NateSchulz

        The idea that any one group thinks they can claim the title of Christian for themselves is sad. That something as arcane as the Trinity should be used as the measure for ‘admission’ makes it that much worse. Wouldn’t a far more worthy measuring stick be a belief in Christ and Christ-like behavior? Christ’s life was not centered on a theological discussion with the religious authorities of His day, it was centered on service. That any group of His followers should place the nitty-gritty details of theology on a higher plane than His own example is a tragedy.

      • Steve Florman

        Very nicely done, Kullervo. You’ve just made Tim’s point for him.

        The history of the doctrine of the trinity is a little too complex to go into here, but people of good will can and do differ on points of doctrine while giving one another credit for good will. That is something the Latter-day Saints have never gotten from the evangelical community. Tim’s efforts are laudable, but your attitude – fueled, unfortunately, by a dislike of doctrine you don’t even understand – is much more common. It should come as no surprise that most Mormons will be a bit suspicious of “olive branches” from evangelicals.

      • cken

        @kullervo Without taking sides, many of the “fundamental doctrines of orthodox Christianity” are man made, and perhaps should be questioned in the context of unbiased theological philosophy.
        From a political view point, I would prefer someone who follows God, rather than someone who follows Allah.

      • Matteo

        @”bull”ervo: You fundies and Protestants kill me. You think you “rediscovered” authority and that you can define Christianity. Heretics all. No one gave you permission to leave. And given you’ve left when you wanted to leave, all you did was take the old baggage with you. You deny Christ as you stand on the corners and profess piety while pounding your chest.

    • Matt

      EB, as a fellow Mormon, I would urge caution in minimizing the differences between Mormonism and post-Nicean orthodox Christianity. Kullervo is right. There are real and important theological differences (as I’m sure you know). I do think both sides waste far to much breath on oversimplified caricatures of the others beliefs about works and grace, which in my conversations with evangelical friends always seem to be a lot closer than either side originally realizes. Still, Mormon theology surrounding the physical nature of God, his relationship to the human family and saving ordinances, just to name a few, are quite different.

      Kullervo, I do not generally thnk Mormons are trying to hide of obfuscate their beliefs or the differences between Mormonism and post-Nicean orthodox Christianity. In my opinion, the tension arises from the fact that other Christians focus exclusively on Mormonism’s differences without acknowledging the far more numerous ways which we agree. This is particularly troubling when, as Tim showed by his examples, other Christians would deny us our own witnesses of Jesus’s saving grace. We also might argue that our differences with evangelicals are not of a kind all that different in degree than differences you have with other Christian denominations that you recognize as such.

      • If you think that any other similarity makes up for disagreement on the doctrine of the Trinity, I think that you do not really understand orthodox Christianity.

        • LMA

          This is really very silly. Mormons believe in the Godhead, a term which has the advantage of having been used in the Bible. They believe that The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are three divine Personages, unified in purpose. This, too, is in accord with the Bible. It is often difficult for mainstream Christians to say exactly what the doctrine of the Trinity actually is, because most attempted explanations run afoul of the modalist heresy. There is also a problem when trinitarian arguments deny the truth of Biblical teaching that Jesus is the literal son of God. Mormons believe the Bible, even if others don’t. It is an established historical fact that the doctrine of the Trinity, and all that curious stuff about homoousios, didn’t develop until the 4th Century. On Kullervo’s theory, Peter, James, John, Paul, Titus, well, you know, all those guys, weren’t real “Christians” because they hadn’t figured out the whole Trinity thing yet.

          • BryanJensen

            I think you are right in that some of the debates about the terms by which the traditions understand and articulate the oneness and threeness of God in trinity are sometimes counterproductive to the unity we often can find despite our disagreements. Nevertheless, it isn’t so much “Trinity” as henotheism that radically departs from orthodoxy on the subject of God and introduces the wider chasm to fellowship e.g., the belief that God the Father was once a human now exalted as a God in a long eternal line of such prior progressions together with the grundle of Heavenly Mothers the numbers of such a cosmology requires for birthing human spirits.

          • Good explanation of the differences, Mormons do follow the first century Christians, and not the 4th century.

          • T. B.

            “the doctrine of the Trinity . . . didn’t develop until the 4th Century.”: that is the history ‘established” in such scholarly sources as the Da Vinci Code. The Councils at Nicaea and Constantinople DID NOT invent the Trinity, they were called when that belief was challenged by Arius and others. Now on “all that curious stuff about homoousios” you are closer to correct; some clarification of the doctrine was developed to give Bishops guidelines on spotting heresy.
            That being said the bigger issue is not the Trinity but you assertion ” teaching that Jesus is the literal son of God.” The notion the Father Almighty has a physical body, with which he had actual sexual congress with one of His wives, to produce the Son, is some that ranks as such blasphemy, it makes me vaguely queasy even to type. It is this notion of the Perfect Most High, that puts Mormonism farther from Christianity than is Islam, whose Allah is more recognizably God. Now if you throw in the ideas (oft denied) that the Mormon god was a guy from another planet who got himself somehow “exalted”, and any claims to being in the family of Abrahamic religions is totally out the window.

          • Matt

            Bryan, as I’ve said, there are important differences between Mormonism and post-nicene orthodox Christianity. But if you want to talk about those issue, you should pick some that contemporary Mormons actually believe. That would not include the grundle of Heavenly Mothers at all.

          • LMA

            T.B., Mormons believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. But when the Bible says that Christ is the Son of the Father (see, e.g., John 3:16) we believe that. Sorry if that makes you queasy but we believe the Bible, even if you don’t. Regarding history, no, I didn’t get my understanding from a Dan Brown novel. Harper’s Bible Dictionary (non-LDS) records that “the formal doctrine of the Trinity as it was defined by the great church councils of the fourth and fifth centuries is not to be found in the [New Testament].” Hippolytus (AD 170 – 236) observed, Jesus did NOT say “I and the Father am one, but are one. For the word are is not said of one person, but it refers to two persons, and one power. He has Himself made this clear, when He spake to His Father concerning the disciples, ‘The glory which Thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one.’ . . . All are one body in respect of substance, or is it that we become one in the power and disposition of unity of mind?” Dionysius of Alexandria (c. AD 264) wrote, “If from the fact that there are three hypostases [essential parts], they say that they are divided, there are three whether they like it or no . . . ” Non-LDS scholars Roger Olson and Christopher Hall, in “The Trinity,” have written:
            “It is understandable that the importance placed on this doctrine is perplexing to many lay Christians and students. Nowhere is it clearly and unequivocally stated in Scripture. “The doctrine of the Trinity developed gradually after the completion of the N.T. in the heat of controversy. The full-blown doctrine of the Trinity was spelled out in the fourth century at two great ecumenical councils: Nicea (325 A.D.) and Constantinople (381 A.D.)” (p. 1-2).

            Your concept of the nature of God owes more to Platonis (c. 205-270 A.D.) than to the Bible, which presents the Father and Son as creating man in their own image and likeness. It is worth remembering that elohim is a plural noun – I agree that there are henotheistic aspects to Mormon belief, but I maintain that there were henotheistic aspects to Jewish belief as well. God said let US make man in OUR own image and likeness. Again, you want to interpret that metaphorically, but we think that the Bible means what it says. And we’re closer to Abraham than you.

        • Matt

          You are certainly right, Kullervo, I have never understood the age old dispute among Christians about the nature of the Trinity, nor the claim that such esoterica is what will ultimately matter when we stand before our righteous judge.

          • I don’t think you understood my comment, Matt. Also, what age-old dispute among Christians about the nature of the Trinity?

          • Matt

            I understood your comment just fine. You were attempting to justify the position of some Christians that Mormons are not part of the club because, no matter what the other similarities might be, Mormons don’t believe in the Holy Trinity the way “Christians” do. My response was intended as a challenge both to your implication that Christians have anything resembling a unanimity of opinion about the Holy Trinity and to the implication that this single issue should be the deciding factor regarding who qualifies as a “Christian.”

            As for the dispute about the Holy Trinity, I could ask three orthodox Christians to explain the nature of the Trinity to me and I would get three different equally vague answers, usually including the words “it’s kind of like…”–even if they were pastors from the same denomination. Christians have been debating this concept since at least the third century. And the debate didn’t end just because Constantine put his boot on the scales.

        • Lily E.

          I agree with this statement the most. (That Mormons don’t understand mainstream Christianity.)
          First- Mormons spend a good century talking about how there was no God to be found in Christianity, how Catholics and Christians were deceived and going to hell, etc. Part of the temple ceremony used to revolve around Satan hiring a Christian minister and paying him to deceive the people. Seriously. So please understand that I have no room in this argument for the idea that we all worship the same God.

          Second, the temple PROVES without a doubt that Mormons (through no fault of their own, usually) have NO IDEA what Christianity is about. First- we don’t believe that we are saved by grace “after all the we can do” like Mormons. Second, you will NEVER hear a Christian minister orchestrating a “worthiness interview.” No Christian would ever be arrogant enough to believe that their actions had made them worthy to actually stand in God’s presence. You will NEVER meet a true Christian that would say that they are worthy of anything other than hell. Christians believe Christ paid the price- the ENTIRE price- and we are merely receivers of that gift. If mormons believed that at all, there would be no worthiness interviews. There would be no temple recommends. There would be no need for secret video, because nothing would be done in secret.
          More to the point, though, is the idea of the temple and the veil. After Jesus came, we no longer needed temples. (And, side note, though they would have you believe differently, Mormon temples are NOTHING like OT temples, or Solomon’s temple, which they claim it is designed after.) There was no longer a need for sacrifice. The veil was torn in 2 when Christ died, and there is no longer a separation between man and God. But Mormonism undid all of that. It literally seeks to turn Christians back into Jews. Don’t eat or drink this or that. You must wear this (Garments.) Etc. Mormonism doesn’t resemble Christianity in really any major way. So when Mormons tell me they are just like Christians, I can only say- then you truly don’t understand the first thing about Christianity! (And why would they? Their church teaches them lies about Christianity, and tells them it isn’t enough.)
          Mormons reject the idea of hell. They reject the Trinity. They demand a tithe in order to be “worthy,” when Christ said that each should give what their heart says. They invented an entire new book of scripture, which often contradicts the Bible! So many of their fundamental beliefs spit in the very face of the Savior they claim their church is named after. But I PROMISE you this: Mormonism is the bastard child of Christianity. It is to Christianity what FLDS is to LDS.

          • Excal

            In his review of Terryl Givens book, Viper on the Hearth, Neal Cramer quotes Orson F Whitney’s famous anecdote, “The Strength of the ‘Mormon’Position.” Its logic cuts right through all these endless arguments, but the unbelief of the gentiles will nevertheless be the.cause of great suffering for the saints, before this is over.

            The Father told Christ that, if the gentiles are fully ripe in iniquity and reject the fulness of his gospel, he will withdraw the fulness of his gospel from among them and take it to his ancient covenant people. (See 3Nephi16)

            I don’t know exactly how he’s going to do that, but I know he will. Maybe knowing this will actually comfort some unbelievers, but somehow I don’t really think it’s the good news they expect.

        • Matteo

          All right–you’ve converted me. I agree: orthodox Christianity is therefore the problem.

  • Dan Sharp

    Tim, I’m very grateful to you for your comments yesterday and today. I am LDS, and one of the most important things to me is honest and considerate conversation on important topics. I have no problem if you disagree with the teachings and doctrines of the LDS faith, just do so kindly and for the right reasons. You’re right, Mormons and Evangelicals have some important doctrinal differences about how we see and use the Atonement of Christ. I greatly enjoy heartfelt and open conversations on this and similar topics. It only hurts/annoys when people are unwilling to listen and discuss, but instead merely label and argue.

    So thank you, Tim, for promoting discussion, kindness and empathy. I look forward to reading more about what you have to say on this topic.

  • LMA

    I’m a Mormon who was raised as an evangelical. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for speaking so forthrightly about the un-Christlike behavior of self-proclaimed countercult ministers and ministries. I am still grateful to my parents and to my early years reading the Bible and learning about our Savior’s divine mission of salvation. I have lost none of that as a Mormon. But it pains me to see and hear and read how so many who call themselves Christians stoop to false witness and deception while claiming to oppose those things. You can’t fool me, because I’ve stood on both sides.

    • Fusion

      I’m with you here, as I too was raised first as a Catholic, spent vacations being taught by Baptists, and had the influence of Hindus, Sikhs, Jews and Muslims as my closest friends, in awe of their love and service and TOLERANCE- unlike the sol called chest-beating christians today. Despite it all, and despising the very idea of the Book of Mormon, I had the courage the finally, after many years, pick it up and read it. I sincerely wanted to know if this was true. After all, the ‘true’ worshippers of the day- Pharisees and Sadducees- held the same belief about Jesus and His apostles as the so called Christian/Evangelical community hold of the Mormons. Well, suffice to say, I was incredibly shocked at what transpired at my reading of the Book of Mormon- an unspeakable joy filled my soul, a love for my Saviour Jesus that I had never imagined possible! I couldn’t stop crying with pure joy at the love He has for me. And, 15 years later, I cannot put down the greatest book I have ever read, and week with love for His closeness and the changes He has made in my being. As much as i love to read the Bible, it has come through centuries of copying and has been in the hands of corrupt men who used the Lord’s word for an abuse of power. The original Book of Mormon is still available- I have compared it with the Book of Mormon I now read. However, I have not and neither have you, ever seen the first edition of ANY of the Biblical books. So, how do you know the Bible is completely uncorrupted? Well, your answer to this question would be the same as mine on the Book of Mormon. With the Book of Mormon, I see the true meaning of Biblical things- please do not make up that worn out lie about contradictions. Some Biblical things are vague in their translation, yes. But contradicting, never. Ironic to see the hatred for Mormons and Mormonism, and Joseph Smith- a man unable to defend himself at the moment coz he’s ummm, dead- at a time when the POLITIC need to hate Mormons (read: Mitt Romney) because the self-esteem of Evangelicals harbour the fear of their pastors like the gracious Benny Hinn and other multi-millionaire evangelists not being able to hustle a living, and the fear of a Mormon president (don’t remember the Mormons doing the same for the Evangelical ‘Christian’ Presidents in the past) parallels the sudden outburst of anti-Mormonism, especially in the media. I have never seen this hatred for any religious group- and am positive when the Lord asks if you loved your fellow man with all your heart, just after you call him Lord, Lord…the reality will open your eyes. It’s hard to see when hatred fills the eyes. I have never heard Mormons talk about you the same way- frankly, they don’t take much notice- they have faith that they will be vindicated,come what may…and I do too. Mormonism is the current term for the Lord’s original Christianity- the same Gospel from the foundation of the world, from Adam and Abraham, Noah, the Apostles and through today. I agree that today’s mormonism is a far cry from Joseph Smith’s original- but the Book of Mormon already predicted that, but to know this means you would actually have to READ it, which would amount to the Pharisees and Sadducees sitting lovingly listening to Jesus’ words in the meridian of time. This is a test for Mormonism, before the original religion Joseph laid the foundation for, will be restored. But I am taking you too far into the truth. Suffice to say, it would be better for you guys to work on yourselves than spending your life’s energies hating Mormons- one thing it does not show, is this GRACE of the Lord in your life. There is nothing graceful in your vitriol. I would counter that this behaviour is more a DIS-GRACE. Which is why I and other Mormons are more likely to sit in a Mormon service on a sunday than listen to hate and discrimination. Mother Teresa had it right- keep the mouth closed, the heart open and the body and soul in service to God and fellow man.

      • Fusion

        …and for the love of heaven, pl stop this nonsense that some uninspired Mormon figures may have described as Heavenly Father possibly slept with Mary- that is their interpretation and it has been taught by evangelists that we believe that. Show me in the Book of Mormon- the ONLY source on Mormon truth- where it says that! If you read the Book of Mormon you would know it actually says this:

        Alma 7:10
        10 And behold, he shall be born of Mary, at Jerusalem which is the land of our forefathers, she being a virgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and CONCEIVE BY THE POWER OF THE HOLY GHOST, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

        No where in the Book of Mormon does it say that God has many wives…neither did Joseph Smith. Some latter-day figure, like Brigham Young who stated he was NOT a prophet, says something, and bam! you guys (and some blind Mormons) jump on it. Get the source at the head of the fountain- the Book of Mormon itself, and Joseph Smith- not downstream where the water has been muddied and soiled.

        Disgraceful behaviour indeed…

    • john f.

      Nice comment LMA.

      One thing I learned after years of arguing with Evangelicals about the main difference between Mormons and creedal Christians — which is the biblical Godhead that Mormons believe in vs. the extra-biblical, abstract philosophical construct of the homoousios Trinity (and derivative of that, the concept of creatio ex nihilo, upon which much of the remainder of the philosophical foundations of their tradition rests) — is that it is too easy to start sounding like the Mormon version of their counter-cult ministers when we do: devoid of feeling, disrespectful, mocking, disdaining, dismissive, etc. (even the original post by Timothy, though praiseworthy in its intention toward charity for Mormons and which I applaud, cannot escape such characteristics entirely).

      We need to turn the other cheek, I think, instead of engage in these arguments with them, at least to the extent that we cannot do so nicely or in good faith, hoping to edify and build them up rather than to tear down anything about the relationship that they’ve been able to build with Jesus Christ. Remember, faith in Jesus Christ is universally valid (or, in my Mormon opinion, should be understood that way) regardless of sectarian differences. So building on that is vitally important. As to making points about what the Restored Gospel has restored to the Christian faith in terms of priesthood authority to perform ordinances that are sealed in heaven as on earth (such as the required ordinance of Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins), the only way to do that might be simply to live as fully as a disciple of Jesus Christ as possible. Orthopraxy in living as a true disciple of Jesus Christ (which is the fruit of the gift of faith that we receive from God) is what really matters in this equation — especially because, in the end, it is only through the grace of Christ, despite all we can do, that we truly can be elevated to become joint heirs with Christ, as promised in the scriptures.

      If creedal Christians want to deny Mormons the appellation of “Christian” based on our skepticism about the philosophical construct of the homoousios Trinity (despite our ardent belief in the Godhead, as both named and described in the New Testament), then we can’t do much about that. We’ll just have to be satisfied to be recognized as disciples of Jesus Christ through the lives that we lead. If that is what we are able to do, then we are in fact disciples of Jesus Christ whether others call us “Christians” or not.

  • Thank you for raising this important issue. I am interested in seeing your thoughts on the “hidden temple video,” but the thought is troubling in two ways, as Evangelicals would not respect the sacred and secret rituals of another religion, and that we are for whatever reasons so enamored with expose approaches to groups like Mormonism. Think of words in our popular book titles in Christian book stores describing Mormonism and other groups we pejoratively label “cults,” which include terms like “Unmasking” and “Exposing.”

    I think another factor in the unfortunate tendency of Evangelical hostility toward Mormons is the definition of our faith identity and our boundaries by way of demonizing the other. As I’ve written for Patheos, the US did this with Communism and now does so with the War on Terror, and Evangelicals define themselves in part by the religious groups and their heterodoxy that we are opposed to in the name of truth.

    Given the controversy over the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and its decision to remove Mormonism from its “cults” list, I and other colleagues who specialize in ministry among new and world religions have suggested that BGEA and other institutions consider following the lead of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization (founded in part by Graham) and it’s issue group on new religions and consider Mormonism and other new religions as distinct religious cultures rather than pejoratively as cults. From this vantage point we can learn more about them other than heterodoxy in contrast with our teachings, and we create opportunities for the winsome and persuasive communication of our message.

    Finally, there is a growing movement of Evangelicals who practice a form of interreligious interaction that does not compromise Evangelical convictions, but which also engages those in other religions in civil fashion. This would seem to be the way of the future, but in order to do this we will have to be self-critical, and willing to reassess our cherished assumptions. I look forward to your second installment in this series.

  • Larry Easton

    What exactly do you find wrong about Mormonism? Do you consider any of it’s beliefs dangerous on any level? Would you convert to Mormonism? If not, why? What are your thoughts regarding their other sacred texts?

    What do you consider to be the primary differences between orthodox Christianity and Mormonism with regard to:

    Theology (specifically, God’s nature and origin)

    Thanks for giving this some thought.

    • Larry Easton

      I remain hopeful that you’ll answer the questions I’ve posed. I’ve done so in good faith and in hopes of better understanding your perspectives on this subject. The questions seem central to such a discussion … the nature of God, the nature of man, the nature of Christ, the nature and conditions of salvation. As well as your own reactions to Mormon sacred texts and the prospect of conversion.

      Again, thank you for giving this some thought and as always, I look forward to your reply.

  • Lorren Vissor

    You seem unwilling to condemn Mormonism. At the same time, the words of Mormon apostle Bruce R McConkie clearly condemns your belief as satanic.

    “What is the church of the devil in our day, and where is the seat of her power? …It is all of the systems, both Christian and non-Christian, that perverted the pure and perfect gospel …It is communism; it is Islam; it is Buddhism; it is modern Christianity in all its parts”

    This was preceded by Joseph Smith’s declarations that all other churches are false and an abomination in the eyes of God. Perhaps this will help you understand Walter Martin’s position.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      There used to be quite a few Christian denominations — and there still are a few — who believe that they alone are the true church.

      • Lorren Vissor

        Just to put into a historical perspective:

        This quote was published by Deseret Book Co in 1982. Deseret Book is wholly owned by the LDS church. The incident you speak of with Walter Martin occured in the 1950s I presume. The caricature that was endorsed by the LDS church at that time was that all other Christian religions were ultimately led by the devil. The LDS temple ceremony portrayed this belief in the endowment ceremony. A protestant preacher was featured as the hireling of Satan.

        Given the LDS sentiment and the temple portrayal of Protestant preachers as hirelings of Satan, It’s very easy to understand Walter Martin’s very harsh attack Mormonism.

        The Mormon church still believes that they are the only true church. By natural logic this means that Mormons believe that your beliefs are apostate. Not only are they apostate, they are offensive to God. Prophet Spencer Kimball declared, “Presumptuous and blasphemous are they who purport to baptize, bless, marry, or perform other sacraments in the name of the Lord while in fact lacking the specific authorization”. This means that according to Mormonism, you are commiting blasphemy by exercising your beloved religion.

        I find it hard to believe that you would defend the a “sacred” ceremony that demeans your own faith in such a way. With proper perspective, it’s so much easier to understand the villain in your story.

        • LMA

          As soon as you start to say “This means …” you start lying. There is a commandment against bearing false witness. You would do well to repent of your sin.

          • Larry Easton

            “There is good reason to speak respectfully to one another across religious differences. John 13:35.”

          • LMA

            Right. Therefore we should not draw false inferences about others’ beliefs. There is a commandment against bearing false witness against our neighbors. It’s in the Bible, actually. Those who profess Christianity ought to be more concerned with avoiding false witness and with speaking respectfully across religious differences. A statement such as, “Given the LDS sentiment and the temple portrayal of Protestant preachers as hirelings of Satan, It’s very easy to understand Walter Martin’s very harsh attack Mormonism,” is inconsistent with Christianity. A statement such as, “By natural logic this means that Mormons believe that your beliefs are apostate” is untrue and bears false witness. A statement such as, This means that according to Mormonism, you are commiting blasphemy by exercising your beloved religion” is untrue and bears false witness. I hope that clears this up for you.

          • Lorren Vissor

            “A statement such as, “By natural logic this means that Mormons believe that your beliefs are apostate” is untrue and bears false witness. ”

            Instead of making accusations, why don’t you read the quotes. Bruce McConkie clearly claimed that the church of the devil exists and identified it as “modern Christianity in all its parts”.

            I’ll clarify my statement regarding Spencer W Kimball. He is speaking about the Mormon priesthood in this case. He has condemned those people who perform baptisms, marriages, and sacraments without proper authority. Kimball clearly says that officiating in these ordinances outside without the “preisthood” in the Mormon church is “Presumptuous and blasphemous”.

            From his bio here on this site we find that he is “The son and grandson of ministers”. We also find that he has a Master of Devinity from Princeston Theological Seminary and a Ph.D from Harvard.

            I’m guessing that Dr. Dalrymple officiates or has officiated in religious rites and I’m assuming that he’s never been ordained to the Aaronic or Melchizedek priesthood of the LDS church. As ordained ministers, I’m pretty sure that his father and grandfather performed the ordinances discribed in Kimball’s quote.

            I’m stating that according to a Mormon prophet, Dr. Dalrymple, Dalrymple’s father and Dalrymple grandfather’s actions are blasphemous according to Mormon prophets.

            Now tell me how you interpret the words of the prophet Spencer W. Kimball. Is it blasphemous to perform Christian ordinances without the proper authority? Is this the doctrine of the LDS church? Do you believe that all other churches are ultimately led by the devil?

            It’s easy to call someone a liar without providing any substance to your response.

  • Walter’s Martin’s degree is phony.

  • Matt


    As always, thank you, from the Mormon corner, for your thoughtful and respectful comments. I believe you do the body of Christ a great service with your witness.

    In this post I was intrigued by this statement about Evangelicals’ concerns about Mormonism: “Mimicking Christianity, Mormonism attracts the unwary by teaching the truth on non-essential matters in order to mislead them on essential matters.” This, to me, begs the question: what are the essential matters and what are the non-essential matters? I readily acknowledge that there are real and important differences between Mormon theology and that of post-Nicean orthodox Christianity. But I would argue that they are not, in fact, on the “essential matters.” Christians have battled for centuries (sometimes, unfortunately, very literally) over theology, Christology and soteriology. Yet the Master’s life and teachings were not about any of these things. He taught that blessed are the meek and the peacemakers and they who hunger and thirst after righteousness, not blessed are they who have a complete understanding of the relationship of the Holy Trinity (else “who then can be saved?”). He taught his apostles that “those who are not against us, are for us.” Surely, counted among the “essential” things must be that unity that he prayed to the Father that his followers would have.

    I would be interested to hear your thoughts about the “essential things,” perhaps in another post. Thank you again.

    • Larry Easton

      Matt, you’re suggesting that matters which form the central truths of authentic Christianity (soteriology and Christology) have been presented as marginally important by Christ? Few could objectively read the Gospels and leave with that conclusion.

      None could objectively read the epistles and reach that conclusion. Indeed, these concepts form the core of the epistles. Equivocation is unhelpful in most discussions, in matters of faith it can prove fatal.

      • Matt

        Larry, thank you for your response.

        I suppose I spoke imprecisely. I should not have implied that the gospels and the epistles do not speak of Christology and soteriology. Of course they do. However I would argue that the issues that have been the subject and cause of the divisions within Christianisty are infrequently, vaguely and often inconsistently addressed in the the gospels and the epistles. For example, Jesus spent very little time discussing the endlessly debated nature of the relationship of the Holy Trinity for example, and the implications of the gospel narratives and apostolic pronouncements on this point are not at all clear. That is, and always has been, the cause of the dispute. In contrast, the teachings of the Master and his apostles were much more often about the hows and whys of discipleship–of behavior. It is those things (not surprisingly) on which Christians mostly agree (at least those who take the Bible seriously).

        I am not trying to imply that those other issues are not important to contemplate, or that they may not powerfully influence the way that a Christian understands his relationship with Christ. But, no, I do not think they are the truly “essential” things. It was, after all, Christ himself who told us that we would know his disciples because they love one another–not because they could write a flawless treatise on the nature of the Holy Trinity.

        • LMA

          Well, I think it is worth adding the following: Mormon doctrine is fully consistent with the Gospels and the New Testament generally. I don’t mean to say that all of Mormon doctrine can be found, fully developed, in the NT, but I DO mean to say that Mormon doctrine is fully consistent with the Gospels and the New Testament generally. There are no contradictions between them. This is an important point to me, because of my background as an evangelical who was raised with (and still retains) a love for the Savior and the Scriptures.

          And of course I won’t try to say that Mormon doctrine is fully compatible with all of the extra-Biblical doctrines and theologies that arose in the centuries following the deaths of Christ and His original apostles. And, so, on that basis, of course Mormonism is unorthodox. But orthodoxy should not be conflated with truth. There are too many instances in which orthodoxy glosses over – or even denies – clear Biblical teachings to allow orthodoxy to be the litmus test of Christianity. And as Matt is observing here, the definition of orthodox has changed over time and is essentially man-made. Martin Luther was once a heretic, you know.

          • Larry Easton

            LMA, as a minister for nearly thirty years I can assure you that your rather glib remark that “Mormon doctrine is fully consistent with the Gospels and the New Testament generally” is, by any meaningful measure, wildly wrong.

            Extra biblical? Am I to assume you’re referring to the book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price, and Doctrine and Covenants?

            Let’s dispense with the term “orthodox” and use, instead, the word biblical, or authentic. Mormonism, when measured against the metrics of the gospels and the epistles simply cannot survive scrutiny.

            I recall as a young man being given a copy of the Book of Mormon. I had not, at that time, read any literature for or against Mormonism. Wow! I remember thinking as I read not only the implausibility of what I was reading, bu the pell-mell manner in which verses were lifted from scripture and strung together in the Book of Mormon.

            At the grand old age of 19 I found it laughably appalling. When the co-worker who gave me the text approached me several days later to discuss it I stated the obvious … “this book finds itself, directly and indirectly, in contradiction to scripture. His whole thesis is built on the most tortured interpretations possible””.

            My friend was crestfallen. She insisted that she loved Jesus and believed that he had died for her sins (she had a background in Christianity). Great I said. She asked me if I thought being a Mormon jeopardized her faith. I honestly didn’t know. I said something to the effect that it is faith in Christ which matters most, and moved on.
            Today I would counsel her a bit more thoroughly.

            LMA, to equate the writings and efforts of Luther to that of Joeseph Smith is not unlike comparing Ronald Reagan with Barack Obama. They are both reformers. One was largely right, the other mostly wrong.

          • LMA

            Larry, there is no reply button on your post, so I have to reply to myself. I hope it works out on the screen.

            You may be a minister of long standing, but I stand by what I said. I was raised as an evangelical and I know the Bible well enough to say what I said. Look closely at what I said, because I didn’t say that there were no theological differences between us … but only that there is nothing in the Bible that is contrary to my belief as a Mormon.

            And I notice you don’t offer to prove that wrong. You just say things like “laughably appalling.” But of course when I was 19, I might have had the same reaction. It took an older, more thoughtful edition of myself (at age 44) to see why the Book of Mormon could be considered scripture.

            But, no, you misunderstood my use of the term “extra-Biblical.” Or maybe you didn’t misunderstand but only wanted to score a rhetorical point – it is hard for me to tell. But by extra-Biblical, I meant doctrines that grew up after the time of Christ and the Apostles which are not to be found in the Bible itself.

            Now, I get that you can then argue, well, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine & Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price are likewise extra-Biblical. And so they are. They are also revealed scripture.

            What’s the difference? The difference is that YOUR extra-Biblical doctrines don’t claim to be divine revelation – they are historically the evolution of theology based on, for example, Hellenistic influences in the 3rd and 4th Centuries. And the accretion of beliefs and practices of the Roman Catholic Church, some of which were then abandoned by the Protestant Reformation.

            You will scoff, as you have already done, at the idea that those scriptures can have been divinely revealed or inspired. Scoff away! People scoff at the Bible itself on the same or similar grounds. As a minister, you know that what is ultimately necessary is not scientific proof of textual claims, but faith in the God who made it all possible.

            Luther and Smith. Well, you can say that “[o]ne was largely right, the other mostly wrong.” But that would be your opinion, I suppose. What I do is, I pray for wisdom in the expectation that it will be revealed to me. James 1:5. It has been.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Thanks, Matt. And I hope it’s clear that I was, at that point, explaining the general view toward Mormonism that was conveyed toward me during my youth.

      I *do* need to write a post explaining my views on these things, but if you follow the link to the Faith Angle Forum event you’ll find Richard Mouw giving a very fair summary of the issues that evangelicals believe are essential and improperly framed in Mormonism.

      • Matt

        Thank you for the response. I will follow the link. And I do look forward to it if you ever get around to posting your own thoughts.

  • Thomas Mitchell

    I am not going to vote in this year’s presidential election. I will vote in the other races on the ballot, but cannot in good conscience cast a ballot for any of the candidates for President. Why? Both major party candidates, Romney and Obama, meet the Biblical definition of false teacher and we are instructed not to give our support to such men. I have concluded that they are not simply flawed men like those among whom we have had to choose in the past, but manifest a spirit of evil that should not have the support of a Christ follower. In Georgia, the only other choice we have is Libertarian Gary Johnson – pro-abortion and pro-gay marriage, and holding many of the other questionable views that Libertarians often have. For what I think should be obvious reasons, that is an unacceptable choice as well.

    Romney is not only Mormon, but was a high ranking leader in that group – a teacher. Mormon doctrine rejects the doctrine of the Trinity, but does so by teaching that Father, Son and Holy Ghost are not of the same substance, and that Jesus was a created being that has become a god. This teaching contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture found in John 1 and as a result meets the definition of false teacher found in 1 John 4:1-3, a definition explained throughout 1 John. 2 John 10-11 teaches that if we even give such men a greeting we participate in their deeds. I feel that voting for such a man, giving him my imprimatur, would make me a participant in his false teaching. I understand that some can distinguish 2 John by noting that he is running to be President, not coming to us as a teacher. Is that a distinction that really makes a difference under these circumstances? I do not believe so. Secondarily, I do not trust his “evolution” on abortion and gay marriage/civil unions.

    Obama speaks about Christian faith. He lectures and instructs those that listen, but then articulates beliefs that are not Biblical. Further, he articulates those unbiblical beliefs as arising out of his Christian faith, contrary to Jude 4. His “evolution” on homosexual marriage is the most egregious example of this conduct. He idolizes human institutions, especially government. Moreover, his stance on the legalized killing of children is simply reprehensible. Finally, and this has become more obvious in the last year, Obama is clearly more interested in supporting Islamic concerns than Christian ones. I am not saying he is Muslim. I am not contending that an American president should be a Christian theocrat. An American president should not, however, claim a Christian faith and then pander to Muslims, especially to the detriment of Christians as well as national security (which is one of his primary responsibilities). I will say he provides no evidence that he walks in the light, and the evidence suggests that he walks in darkness. He holds himself out as a teacher, and thus also runs afoul of 1 John 4:1-3.

    Luther reportedly said he would rather be lead by a wise Turk than a dumb Christian. Fortunately we do not yet have to make such a choice. We, however, have two professing Christians that meet the Biblical definition of false teacher. Obama proclaims faith, but then professes unbiblical, abominable positions as resulting from that faith. Romney was a bishop and stake president in a cult, and his ascendency cannot but result in more souls being led astray. I cannot in good conscience vote for either.

    • Matt

      This is not reason. You pretend that your biblical beliefs are the most important thing. It sounds to me, though, that it is your sectarian pride that is most important. If Obama is reelected he will appoint Supreme Court justices that continue the long march away from the biblical beliefs that are so important to you–and they will enshrine in constitutional law anti-religious notions that you haven’t yet even contemplated. If you and “Christians” like you fail to cast a vote to stop it, are you not like Saul standing by holding their coats?

      This is precisely the type of foolishness that has plagued Christians for centuries. The Master taught that “whoever is not against us is for us.”

      • Thomas Mitchell

        Read the portions of Scripture to which I refer and you may understand what I am talking about. Yes, my Biblical beliefs are important and I am not going to idolize human instituations.

        • Matt

          The funny thing is that you think I do not well know the portions of Scripture to which you refer, and that on their face, you are wrong. Mitt Romney does confess Jesus Christ. You just have the audacity to judge him because he doesn’t believe exactly the same as you do. It is typical sectarian foolishness.

    • Dwight


      I sympathize with your dilemma about whether you can in good conscience vote for any of the candidates that will be listed on the ballot for President. But perhaps I can suggest some other ways of looking at the problem.

      The Bible has several examples of the Lord’s people being able to follow His teachings while living under a government led by unbelievers — and sometimes even while serving in high capacities within those governments. Consider Joseph in Egypt and Daniel in Babylon. Also think of Esther. Each of them was placed in a powerful political position that enabled them to deliver God’s people from danger or even extinction.

      Then look at Christ’s teachings during a time of Pagan Roman Rule.

      Now, do you really think that Christ would think it best that you simply abandon the role you have been given as a voter in this society simply because you do not have a perfect choice? Or would He rather expect you to put forth your best effort to make an environment in which God’s people can prosper and in which they can best further His work?

      Casting a ballot is not asking you which candidate is the best Christian. It is asking you to choose which candidate will give God’s people the best chance of following God — even if that leader is a Heathen or an unbeliever.

      On a more practical note: You may not trust Romney’s “evolution” on abortion and civil unions. But you should have no question on where Obama stands on those issues. Which candidate is more likely (even if it’s not guaranteed) to enact laws that protect Christians’ right to follow their beliefs?

      One way to look at Romney’s “evolution” with more trust is to realize that the Mormon religion has a rather long list of “Do’s and Don’ts.” Indeed, many Christians say that this is one of the essential matters that derails Mormons. Well, as part of that culture, they are very accustomed to the idea that not every one of their doctrines should be encoded into law. As nearly as I can tell, Romney has always been one who would teach people individually that abortion is wrong. His evolution is simply deciding that this is a belief that can be taught from the Bench as well as from the Pulpit.

      I would encourage you reconsider your decision to leave the top of your ballot blank. Think about whether you made that decision in your own moment of despair, or whether you really think that is how you should act.


    • LMA

      Here is one of many false claims: “Mormon doctrine rejects the doctrine of the Trinity, but does so by teaching that Father, Son and Holy Ghost are not of the same substance, and that Jesus was a created being that has become a god. This teaching contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture found in John 1.” I mean, we can talk about what is meant by “same substance,” but Mormons and other Christians agree that the Godhead represents three distinct Persons. Any other claim contradicts the Bible. The truth is that Mormons adhere to the Bible more closely than non-Mormon Christians, who elevate extra-Biblical teachings to the same level as the teachings of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Scriptures. So, for example, Mormons believe in the literal truth of every word of the first chapter of the Gospel of John, including especially the first three verses. We do not reject or contradict those words. Any claim to the contrary is a lie, and bears false witness against the speaker’s neighbor, in violation of a Commandment that has never been repealed or modified. Self-proclaimed Christians should take care that they speak only the truth about their neighbors, that they do so in love (John 13:35), and that their words stop short of the judgments condemned by the Savior (Matt. 7:1) lest they bring judgment upon themselves (Matt. 7:2).

      • Thomas Mitchell

        How do Mormons believe that Christ was a being created by God and “was God” and that all things were created by and through him?

        • LMA

          Thomas Mitchell, Mormons believe that Christ is the son of God (John 3:16) and that he was God and was in the beginning “with” God. (John 1:1-2.) He was “with” the Father at the time of Creation. (Gen. 1:26; John 1:2.) It is hard to read the New Testament and not get the impression that Jesus is the Son of God, sent by the Father to redeem the world. What part of that do you dispute?

          • Thomas Mitchell

            I do not dispute any of that. Part of the problem is that you are trying to sidestep the issue by an inaccurate view of creation. Creation is not just the creation of this world, but the entirety of all created matter. Mormons do not appear to believe that God and Christ and the Holy Spirit are all of the same substance and wholly different than created matter. Thus their rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity and claim that it was a late created doctrine. The doctrine was articulated in response to heresies, but the truth that underlies the doctine is evident throughout the Old and New Testaments.
            There are other issues with Mormon beliefs (such as their view of Scripture and Canonicity), but I chose to focus on what I see as the most fundamental one, the one that puts them on a collision course with the warnings of Romans 1.

          • Deputy

            Thomas one thing you must understand is that in my Mormon faith the creation isn’t just a matter of matter. It is the belief that all things were created spiritually before they were created physically. So the creation is two parts of a whole. This also explains the LDS belief that Christ is Jehovah of the Old Testament. That is why God (Jehovah) in the Old Testament didn’t have the physical traits of a body. Yet when Christ (Jehovah) was born of the virgin Mary, begotten of the Father, He gained a body of flesh.

            I don’t know what doctrine you believe, and don’t expect you to just jump on board the LDS train. Please, just understand that before doctrine can even be argued, both sides must be understood. I am sure that my explanation is likely to be incomplete, but it will give me something to study on.

          • LMA

            Deputy, you’ve offered a good response to Thomas – thank you. I’d add that Thomas says this: “Mormons do not appear to believe that God and Christ and the Holy Spirit are all of the same substance and wholly different than created matter.” He uses the phrase “do not appear” to express uncertainty – which is wise, since most or all of what he thinks he knows of us he learned from critics who have a motive to distort our beliefs where they do not, in fact, lie about them. I would encourage him to understand before he condemns – this avoids the problem associated with bearing false witness which, last time I checked, was still a sin.

            Of course, it is difficult for me now to affirm or deny his statement about “of the same substance,” because I have no earthly idea what he means by that phrase. Likely he doesn’t either. The Bible teaches that the Godhead (look, Thomas, I’m using a term FROM THE BIBLE – try it, it’s fun!) but I’ve searched beginning to end and can’t find “homoousios” or “of the same substance” anywhere. Huh. So whatever he means by it, it isn’t in the Bible. You would think that people who want to lecture others about Biblical fidelity would be concerned with Biblical fidelity, but I guess not. It’s just a club to use against others. Sort of a double standard.

            Thomas says, “Creation is not just the creation of this world, but the entirety of all created matter.” Check. We believe that. No problem there, Thomas. Make a note, please.

            Thomas says that we reject the doctrine of the Trinity but that “the truth that underlies the doctine is evident throughout the Old and New Testaments.” So, one of the problems here is that we are using labels instead of definitions. As I say, we believe in the Godhead. (E.g., Col. 2:9.) So, what is the difference exactly between a belief in the Godhead and a belief in the Trinity? What I would answer is to say that “the truth that underlies the doctine is evident throughout the Old and New Testaments.” So there you go. All you have to do is read the Bible and you can understand the truth.

            Thomas’ problem is that he can’t or won’t be satisfied with leaving it there. While he brushes aside any reference to Hellenistic influences on the 3rd and 4th century church(es) or the Councils of Nicene and Constantinople, he can’t resist the temptation to dig into their proceedings in order to come up with terms like “of the same substance,” whatever that means. My own feeling is that the interpretation is either true or not, depending on exactly what is meant and how well it does (or doesn’t) square with the Bible. I am unable to understand why this would be controversial.

          • Thomas Mitchell

            I am replying to you and Deputy here. The word translated as Godhead in Romans and Collossians is actually two different Greek words. I will leave it to you to study the underlying Greek and the context of those two verses. Collossians 2 is actually a fairly decent response to some of the Mormon heresy. By “of the same substance” I simply mean Jesus is GOD the Son while God/Jehovah/Elohim is GOD the Father and the Holy Spirit is, well GOD the Holy Spirit. One GOD in 3 persons. The good illustration, simple but effective is this. I am a father, son and husband. I am a single person, but have 3 functions, am all 3 at the same time. That example does not convey the fact that all 3 have existed from eternity and to eternity.

            Mormons tout their disinctives until challenged or until those disctinctives have consequences. What disctinctives are you actually willing to stand by?

    • Bobby B.

      I can’t vote for Mr. Obama because I have read both DREAMS FROM MY FATHER and AUDACITY OF HOPE. I can trust him about as much as I can Donald Trump. Both are loud talking hollow men.

    • john f.

      Thomas Mitchell, you wrote “Mormon doctrine rejects the doctrine of the Trinity, but does so by teaching that Father, Son and Holy Ghost are not of the same substance, and that Jesus was a created being that has become a god.”
      Despite my earlier comment in response to LMA above, I don’t think that the creedal Christian concept of the “One Substance Trinity” necessarily need imply a fundamental difference between our nature as humans created by God and God’s nature, though I acknowledge that the perceived need to recognize such a difference (a need informed by Greek philosophical input) is precisely the source of the concept of homoousios itself for creedal Christians and, unsurprisingly, this alienation is precisely where they tend to go with it.
      From a Mormon perspective, since our belief in the unity of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit stems from the biblical notion of the Godhead (unencumbered by abstract philosophical — and extra-Biblical — Trinitarian gloss), our understanding of their oneness is and should remain primarily shaped by John 17. We can and should continue to take this literally — in John 17 Jesus prays that we humans who follow him can become one with Jesus (and the Father) just as (meaning, “in the same way that”) Jesus is one with the Father. And, in fact, that is precisely what Jesus wants for us, if you take his intercessory prayer at face value. In the Mormon view, not only is Jesus Christ of “One Substance” with the Father, but also each of us is meant to be, and through Christ’s intercession can be, “One Substance” with the Father.

  • JR

    Tim — You give a good speech but your actions show that while you are “troubled” by the filming of what Mormons hold sacred, you have no problem offering a platform for its viewing. Thanks a lot. You preach to evangelicals while offering them the very fodder that will continue to fuel their cult-like obsession with Mormonism.

    • Stevo

      Good Call. The fact is that Mike Norton (No Name Noah) says the Mormon Church is weird. Yet, he’s the one who claims to have made CROP CIRCLES in Logan!!! No lie — google the Deseret News article “Origin of crop circles still under question.” NO BRAIN NOAH is part of the Cult of Crop Circles. And Bad video production! But in all honesty, it was wrong for Tim to give this side show a platform. I honestly don’t believe this does much to help Mormons and evangelicals bridge the gap. Would Richard Mouw have done this? Don’t think so. Would Christ have done this? He, after all, tossed those who desecrated the temple out (you have made it a den of thieves). Here we have someone who give a forum for this type of individual.

    • Larry Easton

      JR, that’s hardly fair to Tim. He hasn’t provided a “platform” for the video under discussion, YouTube has (and more broadly, the internet). Tim has merely intervened to offer his thoughts in a discussion that will happen with or without him.

      I happen not to agree (at least at this point) with him in his defense of Mormonism but it certainly appears to me that he’s trying to build a bridge. I’m left scratching my head I wonder at your portrayal of Tim. He’s only trying to frame the issue rather than to allow what he perceives to be ignorance that opportunity.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I understand that point of view, but my job is to be a commentator on these things. I chose *not* to host the video — I could have had it display on the blog. Instead I just included a link to view it off-site. And as I mentioned, I might not have chosen to shine a light on it if it were not already going viral.

  • Alejo

    The issue I have with Evangelicals is that they pretend that they are the truest Christians and that there is no Christianity outside their own understanding of it. Evangelicalism is mainly an American phenomenon, just like Mormonism. Both deny historic Christianity to a greater or lesser degree and seem to believe that they restored true Christianity. Mormons are Evangelicals on steroids. Both have an elevated image of America as a new Zion. Both believe they are a restoration of true Christianity. Both are quite exclusivist. Both depend on heavy proselytizing. Both have a limited view of history. Both have a deeply suburban character. And there are many more similarities. America is the mother of modern heresies. JW’s, Mormonism, Seventh-Day Adventists, Oneness Pentecostalism, Christian Science etc. The great Christian heresies of the 19th-21st centuries have either been born in the US, like Mormonism, or have been successful imports from the motherland, Great Britain, that have spread here more easily. It’s time we realize we’re a nation of Christian heresy. Let’s get along and recognize that.

    • LMA

      Ha! Good line. “Mormons are Evangelicals on steroids.” This happens to be my view as well, but I don’t regard it as insulting to Mormons.

  • Curtis

    I agree we need more civility all around.

    But both Mormons and creedal Christians admit they have totally different understandings of the nature of God. So why do we try to confuse things by lumping both religions under the same name “Christian”? Muslims also believe in the God of the Bible, and in Jesus Christ, but nobody would claim that Muslims are “Christian”. So what is to be gained by calling Mormons “Christian”?

    The origin of all of this confusion and mockery is that two religions are trying to use the same name. Choose different names, and I’m sure the two religions can co-exist just fine together.

    • LMA

      “So why do we try to confuse things by lumping both religions under the same name ‘Christian’”?

      Um, because we all believe in the divinity and atonement and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that He lives, that He is our Savior and the He leads His Church in the world today. That’s why. 1 John 4:2. The term “creedal Christians” isn’t found in the Bible and is only relevant as a human-proposed way of describing faith in Christ Jesus. When the creeds are examined, Mormons really have no quarrel with them as such.

      As far as nomenclature is concerned, it is poor nomenclature for one branch of Christianity to try to claim to be the whole. Adjectives were invented to define subsets of sets. For example, Protestant Christians, Catholic Christians, Eastern Orthodox Christians, Mormon Christians. See how that works? It’s easy. Adjectives to go with the noun.

  • Rick Middleton

    Wow, this effort to build bridges of understanding between evangelicals and Mormons, after what, 150 years, sure does come at a convenient time, as there is a desperate effort to get a Mormon in the White House, and evangelical votes are very necessary in that project.

    I think if you are really concerned about mockery and verbal vitriol, perhaps look at how your people speak of the Nancy Pelosis and Jesse Jacksons of the world.

    • LMA

      Oh, come on. No one was vilified worse than GW Bush. Four years later they STILL can’t stop trashing the man.

  • Joe

    I find it very interesting the Evangelical Right/Neo Conservatives have outmaneuvered them selves by not being honest about Mormonism as a cult. Anybody after 30 minutes of research will find that Mormons believe in the Book of Mormon as their holy book which they lift above the Bible, Jesus is a created being, Joseph Smith is considered the highest prophet although married to other men’s wives, women can only go heaven through temple marriages with a true Mormon believer, god was once a man and Mormon men have the opportunity one day to ultimately to become a god, etc.

  • Larry Easton

    “Laughably appalling” was a bad choice of words. I apologize for being needlessly offensive. From a biblical perspective I was surprised by Smith’s claims though. The Book of Mormon did and still does strike me as an effort at recasting scripture within a new narrative. It also suggests, to me, that Smith was not much of an exegete.

    I think your use of the term “extra-biblical” is unhelpful. You refer to doctrines as extra-biblical. That seems an inaccurate use of the phrase. To be sure there are doctrines a plenty within Christendom. But our biblical canon, which, while reflecting some variety, is largely agreed upon and entirely ancient.

    The Book of Mormon, aside from its numerous errors in science and geography offers a view of doctrine and the church so at odds with the scripture that it demands an adherence to one over the other. I am familiar with the insistence among LDS adherents that the two books are compatible, but they cannot, in practical terms (and if words do indeed mean things) be reconciled.

    Making matters more difficult, two additional texts as well as the sayings of the various Mormon Prophets also exist at odds with fundamental biblical truths. The reliance of some on arguments that the notion of the trinity evolved only later seems remarkably weak to me. That, however, is of little concern to me.

    God, man, Jesus Christ and salvation are presented in terms wholly incompatible with the gospels and the epistles. There is a difference between an open canon and clear contradictions. These cannot, it seems to me, be simply swept aside as differences of opinion … doctrinal disparities which, at the end of the day, amount to little. They are so great, in fact, that the LDS Prophets said recently …

    “One doctrine presents a particular challenge. It is our firm conviction that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, as the revelations state, “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth.” (D&C 1:30.)
    This doctrine often generates resistance and repels the casual investigator.
    Should we not then make one accommodation and set this doctrine aside? Would it not be better to have more accept what would be left of the gospel than the relatively few who are converted now?
    Our missionaries sift through thousands to find one convert. Our harvest may seem impressive, but we are but gleaners. As the scriptures have foretold, we gather “one of a city, and two of a family.” (Jer. 3:14.)
    Some have recommended that we confine ourselves strictly to evidences of the gospel: happy family life, and temperate living, and so on.
    Could we not use the words better or best? The word only really isn’t the most appealing way to begin a discussion of the gospel.
    If we thought only in terms of diplomacy or popularity, surely we should change our course.
    But we must hold tightly to it even though some turn away.
    It is little wonder that our missionaries are sometimes thought to be overbearing, even when they are most courteous.
    If our main desire is to be accepted and approved, surely we will feel uncomfortable when others reject the gospel.
    Inevitably (and properly) the “true church” doctrine emerges very early in any serious discussion of the gospel, for there is no better place to start such a discussion than with the First Vision. And there, in that very first conversation with man in this dispensation, the Lord presented it in unmistakable clarity.
    Joseph Smith sought answer to the question “which of all the sects was right … and which … should [he] join?” (JS—H 1:18.) Surely he supposed that somewhere the “right” church was to be found. A simple direction to it would end his search. He could then join that church, live the tenets it proclaimed, and that would be that.
    But that was not to be. In response to his humble prayer, the Father and the Son appeared to him. When he gained possession of himself so as to be able to speak, he asked “which of all the sects was right, that [he] might know which to join.” (JS—H 1:18.)
    He recorded this:
    “I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: ‘they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.’
    “He again forbade me to join with any of them.” (JS—H 1:19–20.)
    That is very blunt language. Little wonder that when he repeated it, the troubles began.
    If ever he was tempted to disregard those words, they were repeated and sustained in subsequent revelations. A little more than a year after the Church was organized, the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants was revealed. In it the Lord said that the Book of Mormon was given in order that his servants “might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually.” (D&C 1:30; italics added.)
    After making it clear that he was “speaking unto the church collectively and not individually,” the Lord warned, “I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” (D&C 1:31.)
    Yield on this doctrine, and you cannot justify the Restoration. The doctrine is true; it is logical. The opposite is not.

    I bear testimony that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is, as the Lord declared, the only true and living church upon the face of the earth; that with it, He is well pleased, speaking of the Church collectively. And that, individually, if we are humble and faithful, we can stand approved of Him.”

    The leaders of the LDS understand the stark differences between themselves and the balance of Christendom. In their minds we are apostate. It is difficult to imagine accord on any level when the men who best understand your texts, doctrines and nature understand the impossibility of that effort.

  • LMA


    Thank you for your apology. There is good reason to speak respectfully to one another across religious differences. John 13:35.

    You’ve written at some length, and I fear that my reply will not do justice to it, but I have what we call a day job. I’m sure you do too. Discussions like this are like eating potato chips for me and, as with potato chips, sometimes I have to set them aside through an act of self-discipline. Still, I think that there are some comments that I ought to offer. It seems to me that your response concentrates on two central issues: this matter of extra-biblicality (is that a word?) and the distinctions that Mormons draw between their own doctrines and those of the rest of Christianity.

    First, I disagree that my use of the term “extra-biblical” is unhelpful. And I think that your argument on that issue isn’t particularly apt. You say: “To be sure there are doctrines a plenty within Christendom. But our biblical canon, which, while reflecting some variety, is largely agreed upon and entirely ancient.” But this misses the point entirely; indeed, it seems intended to change the subject. It is not the canonized Bible that troubles me – as should be obvious – but rather the accretion of interpretations, doctrines and theologies on top of the canonized text that ought to be questioned, examined and re-examined.

    If that proposition is stated in the abstract, I suspect that you’d agree with it. You and I agree, presumably, that the text is controlling and that human interpretations and inferences ought to be regarded critically for their faithfulness to that text. I’m no theologian, but I received evangelical Christianity with my mother’s milk and have been a student of Mormonism since my conversion 15 years ago, so I think that I have at least some basis to reach conclusions on these matters. My point about extra-biblicality is that when Mormon belief is measured against your theology, there are of course radical departures. There are also more points of agreement and similarity than you folks generally will credit.

    (As an aside, that’s why these discussions are like potato chips for me! As a former evangelical and now a Mormon, I understand first-hand how tendentious and even dishonest are the syntheses of our views when offered by many of my former co-religionists. The story about Walter Martin and the young Mormon at the top of Timothy’s article truly resonates with me. I would love for you, other ministers, and evangelicals generally to understand more sympathetically before you launch into your many predictable condemnations. All of which, by the way, I have examined.)

    So, what I am saying is, it is not fair to judge the essential Christianity of Mormonism by comparing its doctrines to theologies that have evolved out of interpretations of Biblical text when those theologies might yet be subject to critical comparison to the text itself. For example, there are evangelicals (and you may be one; I don’t know) who will tell you very seriously that baptism is not necessary for salvation, even though there are scriptures which say it is. We might be able to have a nice theological discussion about which viewpoint is correct, but it would be unfair in my view to read someone with the “wrong” interpretation out of Christianity, simply on the basis of that disagreement.

    This is what happens with the trinitarian argument. There are people who don’t understand EITHER their own trinitarian theology OR the Mormon view of the Godhead (Col. 2:9) who are nevertheless pleased to shout, “You’re not Christian!” just because they think that there’s a difference between the two. You see that on this page.

    Then you say, “The Book of Mormon, aside from its numerous errors in science and geography offers a view of doctrine and the church so at odds with the scripture that it demands an adherence to one over the other.” Since your claim about errors in science and geography is expressed as an aside, I won’t deal with it here, except to say that there are similar “errors” in the Bible, too, if you want to play that game. I don’t, particularly, but wish that those who look at the Bible’s historicity with rose-colored glasses would not be so quick to take them off when the Book of Mormon is the issue. But with that 0ut of the way, let me just tell you that you are wrong to assert that the Book of Mormon “offers a view of doctrine and the church so at odds with the scripture that it demands an adherence to one over the other.”

    Wrong. As in “factually erroneous.” There are exactly no examples of “a view of doctrine and the church” in the Book of Mormon that are “so at odds with the [Bible]” that they cannot both be accepted as scripture. You have zero basis for making that claim, and it is an example of the type of ignorant criticism from evangelicals that pains me so deeply.

    In my considered view, there are differences – some very significant – between your theology and mine. But there is no contradiction between my theology and the Bible. I say, therefore, that any denial of my Christianity rests on shaky, extra-biblical ground.

    Second, you argue, as I read it, that Mormonism can’t be part of Christianity because Mormonism explicitly distinguishes itself from the rest of Christendom. My answer is to say that your argument is not strictly logical (sets have subsets, Larry) and that we ought to look at similarities as well as differences before reaching any conclusions.

    But of course there are differences. Mormonism claims – with Biblical foundation, by the way – that the Lord’s church must be organized, through a priesthood consisting of the priesthood offices (among others) mentioned in Ephesians 4:11-14. We claim that the priesthood was lost through the prophesied apostasy of the Church. (2 Thess. 2:3.) We claim that the Church has been restored and that God has revealed and continues to reveal matters of importance to his servants, the prophets. (Amos 3:7.) Those things and more distinguish us from other Christian sects.

    But where we are NOT distinguished is in our fundamental belief in the godhood, incarnation, ministry, redemption, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Where we are NOT distinguished is in the fact that we look to Christ for our salvation from death and sin, and that it is by grace we are saved. Where we are NOT distinguished is in our belief is that the Bible is the Word of God. Where we are NOT distinguished is our belief that we, each of us, can become joint heirs of the Father with Christ, and that eye hath not seen, nor hear heard, what God has prepared for those who love him. Where we are NOT distinguished is our belief that discipleship in Christ is to be demonstrated by love, one to another, and that inasmuch as we serve the physical and spiritual needs of the least of our brethren among us, we are serving our Lord.

    I claim these beliefs as Christian and would thank you to acknowledge that.

  • Larry Easton

    Again, the differences are significant and real in my studied opinion. My deeper concerns lie with the matter of faith in Christ. If the historic teachings of Mormonism continue to enjoy bearing on it’s theology then it presents a Jesus different from that found in ancient scripture.

    I often think of the thief, who, hanging upon his cross somehow enjoyed a sudden epiphany concerning Christ. His confession of faith? Simply, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom”. That simple profession, encouraged by a sudden revelation of Christ’s lordship yielded salvation.

    That is God’s chief aim. Can a humble heart discover that Christ within the Mormon church? II think so. I hope so. Can it become encumbered and forfeited through the error which someone might later encounter? I don’t know. That seems a foolish and an unnecessary risk to me. WHich finds me at odds with the LDS.

    Perfect agreement is impossible. I take real issue with any number of the doctrines which divide the Christian Church, but we generally agree on the essentials. I enjoy rich fellowship with believers from across the spectrum. I enjoy the Common book of prayer as an addition to my devotional practices. I find deep intrigue and beauty in aspects of the mysticism and asceticism of the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Church.

    I simply cannot see, however, that appeal in Mormonism. It’s appeal, for me, is crushed by its genesis. That foundation seems inescapable to me.

    That, however, is I’m sure, meaningless to you. You’ve sorted out and settled into your positions. You might, though, better understand the concern most evangelicals have. I’m not sure Tim’s diagnosis is reflective of most evangelicals. He was of course making an argument for more constructive dialogue, so those examples better served his purpose.

    This isn’t sectarian pride or narrowness. Its a concern rooted in love for people.

    • LMA

      If you can’t see it, then you can’t see it. That’s fine. I mean, it is all up to you, and each of us, anyway. God knows our hearts. It is kind of you to say, “Can a humble heart discover that Christ within the Mormon church? I think so.” I’ll affirm that for you by saying, I know that to be true.

      Of course, you then ask and answer, “Can it become encumbered and forfeited through the error which someone might later encounter? I don’t know.” That’s odd because most evangelical theology in my experience presents salvation as a one-time deal, so that once you’re saved, you’re saved. It’s of interest that you only want to find an exception for other believers in Jesus Christ, even though (I think?) you’d happily express that promise to someone who engages in a life of sin after a moment of repentance and faith at a revival meeting. Oh well.

      It all depends on what you find to be error. You say, “If the historic teachings of Mormonism continue to enjoy bearing on it’s theology then it presents a Jesus different from that found in ancient scripture.” But, I keep telling you, that’s false. I keep telling you, those words are spoken in ignorance. I tell you plainly now: Mormons believe in the literal truth of EVERY WORD written about Jesus Christ in the Old and New Testaments. If you don’t understand that, then you don’t understand us … and you should understand before you condemn.

      And you should understand us by speaking to us. So many get their information about what we believe from those who do not share our beliefs, and who have a motive to slant their interpretations of our beliefs where they do not, in fact, lie about them. Stop doing that.

      Last, I’ll just comment on: “It’s appeal, for me, is crushed by its genesis.” I am sure that there were many of the scribes and Pharisees who said the same thing about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Everyone who thinks that they’ve received everything that God intends to reveal says the same thing. They’ve never once been right.

  • The author is making a concilatory step in the right direction. He admits that evangelicals have misrepresented Mormon doctrines and teachings and treated us with cruel hatred. It is the evangelical belief in “eternal security” or “once saved, always saved” that permits them to act in such a manner. They believe they can lie about Mormons and still retain a remission of their sins. That is a false notion. Sincere doctrinal disagreements can be worked through. The ones who hate their Mormon brothers deny the love of Christ. That’s harder to fix. John wrote: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” Nobody who loves Christ has any reason to despise the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      I wouldn’t say that evangelicals “believe they can lie about Mormons and still retain a remission of their sins.” The ones who join in the mockery and misrepresentation of Mormonism are entirely convinced they’re telling the truth.

      • LMA

        Mr. Dalrymple, may I disagree with you here? Before I do, let me thank you again for your Christ-like love, kindness and thoughtfulness, as well as your intellectual honesty, in your articles. I believe that you have displayed the love (caritas) spoken of by the Apostle, Paul, in the 13th chapter of 1st Corinthians. So, I disagree only hesitantly.

        And only in part. I’m sure you’re right that MANY who “join in the mockery and misrepresentation of Mormonism are entirely convinced they’re telling the truth.” But I think there are others who are not, at least not in the details. What I mean is, there is a cottage industry – as you’re aware – of counter-cult ministries, some of whom are specifically focused on opposing Mormonism. I think that they grab counter-arguments wherever they can find them, and that they’re not always particularly careful about fairness, honesty or rigor. I think that they will advance the arguments even after they have been shown to be false.

        • Larry Easton


          I think you’ve constructed a caricature evangelical. A creature so one-dimensional and devious, you find little difficulty in swatting away critiques. It’s an age old tactic sure to protect you from difficult questions and reasoning which might yield uncomfortable choices.

          You demand civility from those you debate with but operate under a rather flexible set of rules yourself.

    • john

      Mormons have to convince themselves that they personally are the object of Christian’s hate, so they can hide behind this when their heresies are exposed to the light. As for mocking, I suppose that we should just cut out this part of the Bible and burn it, since it doesn’t fit in with the current mentality of some deceived Christians that we should have common ground with heretics:

      1 Kings 18 (New International Version)

      18 After a long time, in the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” 2 So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab.
      Now the famine was severe in Samaria, 3 and Ahab had summoned Obadiah, his palace administrator. (Obadiah was a devout believer in the Lord. 4 While Jezebel was killing off the Lord’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.) 5 Ahab had said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs and valleys. Maybe we can find some grass to keep the horses and mules alive so we will not have to kill any of our animals.” 6 So they divided the land they were to cover, Ahab going in one direction and Obadiah in another.
      7 As Obadiah was walking along, Elijah met him. Obadiah recognized him, bowed down to the ground, and said, “Is it really you, my lord Elijah?”
      8 “Yes,” he replied. “Go tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’”
      9 “What have I done wrong,” asked Obadiah, “that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death? 10 As surely as the Lord your God lives, there is not a nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to look for you. And whenever a nation or kingdom claimed you were not there, he made them swear they could not find you. 11 But now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ 12 I don’t know where the Spirit of the Lord may carry you when I leave you. If I go and tell Ahab and he doesn’t find you, he will kill me. Yet I your servant have worshiped the Lord since my youth. 13 Haven’t you heard, my lord, what I did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the Lord? I hid a hundred of the Lord’s prophets in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water. 14 And now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ He will kill me!”
      15 Elijah said, “As the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today.”
      Elijah on Mount Carmel
      16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab and told him, and Ahab went to meet Elijah. 17 When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”
      18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
      20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel. 21 Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
      But the people said nothing.
      22 Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”
      Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”
      25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it.
      Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
      27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
      30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs[a] of seed. 33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”
      34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again.
      “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench.
      36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
      38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
      39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!”
      40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered there.
      I didn’t see Jesus criticizing Elijah anywhere in the Bible for this behavior. In fact, Jesus said:

      Jesus to the Church at Ephesus:
      If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. (Revelation 2:2)

      And John,

      Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 7-11).

      Christians must stop ripping Jesus teachings out of their context, and apply the whole message of the Word of God in dealing with those false believes who seek to infiltrate our ranks. (Galatians 2)

  • Alice

    It really is a discussion between the believers and non-believers of the Nicene Creed. I have found that most Protestants with whome I speak are not aware of the Nicene Creed other than as a source of phrasing for their Worship service. These individuals are not aware of the origin or impact on ‘historical Christianity’. Many who speak to me from the Bible are really just speaking from the Nicene Creed.

  • Deputy

    How about we get a broad overview of Mormon. LDS, doctrine. This is going to be very brief and very general, there will not be specifics. If you want to learn the specifics track down some missionaries and ask them, that is what they are there for.

    We believe that we were all with God before this life as spirits.

    God wanted all of us to gain a physical body to grow and learn..etc..etc. Which required an Earth for us to live on. It also involved the need of a Savoir, because God knew we would make mistakes.

    Jesus answered that He would do it, He would make the sacrifice necessary to pay for our sins and allow us to return to Him.

    Lucifer refused to go along with this plan.

    There was a war in heaven and a third of the host was cast down out of Gods presence.

    Adam and Eve were tempted by Lucifer to partake of the forbidden fruit, which leads to the fall.
    -Side note “The Fall” is considered as a part of the plan God established, although Lucifer didn’t realize that he was helping God.

    Mankind comes down to Earth and sin abounds, Christ comes and performs the necessary atonement for us to overcome our sins.

    We live and die. Our bodies are buried in the ground and our spirits await judgment in the spirit world.

    We are resurrected (our bodies and spirits are united in their perfected glory), then we are all judged according to our works. This means did we do the things that God asked of us to do.

    Then we all receive a degree of glory equal to our performance. Celestial is the best, then Terrestrial, then Telestial. Then for the worst of the worst of the worst the really almost impossible to get to kind of bad, Outer Darkness.

    If this doesn’t raise questions then you are clearly not curious enough. There is so much in this alone to have theological discussion through eternity.

  • Liz Earnest

    Just a comment in general. I applaud the majority of discussion here on both sides. This is the first comment section that I have been able to read all the way through involving Mormon Christians and Evangelical Christians and not gotten a belly ache and left the site. Thank you for the sane and civil discourse even through intense disagreement. Thank you Tim for calling out the seemingly un-Christian behavior of professed Christians. I personally define Christian as a person who believes in the saving atonement of Jesus Christ and strives to live by His teachings, primarily shown in Matt. 22:35-40 “35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying , 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it , Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” I truly believe if ALL professed Christians followed these two commandments and treated ALL with the same respect they wish to be treated with (remember the Golden Rule?) the world would wholly be a better place.

  • “I’ll address the question of how evangelicals should respond to hidden videos that seek to humiliate Mormons.”

    How exactly do inanimate objects “seek to humiliate” a group of people? When I was asked why I made the videos in question, I thought I made it clear the videos were made for education purposes. I did NOT say they were made “to humiliate” anyone.

    Just wanted to clarify that.

    • Timothy Dalrymple

      Thanks, Noah. I’ll let anyone who watched the videos judge for themselves. I understand you believe you’re doing a service by unmasking a nefarious religion. I don’t doubt you really believe that.

  • Usquire

    Enjoyed the perspective offered by the OP, and the comments…well, I just get a kick out of ultraconservative (evangelical and mormon alike) political bickering over who’s leading who to hell and over exactly how intolerant God demands us to be. It’s priceless as long as I can convince myself it’s confined to a small minority of fundamentalists. When I can’t it’s a little scary.

  • Mari

    Timothy, thank you for your perspective and defense (I think?) of the Mormon church. It has been interesting to read the comments here. There were many times I wanted to jump in and yell, “YOU DON’T HAVE A CLUE WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT!” to both sides, but for the most part, it has been a fairly civil discussion to follow, and that gives me hope. 🙂

    There are so many false teachings about Mormon doctrine, that it is no wonder non-Mormons get hostile towards Mormons, and vice versa. A girl I knew in high school absolutely believed that because I am a mormon, I had hidden horns and would someday eat my own children. My sister-in-law was told by her aunt that at her temple wedding, she would be forced to have sex with her husband in the temple, in front of the bishop and male temple leadership, and then maybe even she would have to have sex with the bishop and other male leadership, too. I am constantly being told that my husband has other wives, and that I believe that Joseph Smith was Jesus’ father. Oh! And I am told that I can’t eat chocolate (as I munch on Halloween candy).

    Anyway, here is what I can tell you…. I know that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior. I know that is only through my Savior that I can ever live with God after this life. I know that God loves all of his children regardless of who they are, what they believe, and what they do. I also know that when we sin, God is disappointed with our choices, but he will never turn his back on us. He knows our potential, and he gave us a way to return to him…. we just have to do our part. Our part is to live our lives to the best of our ability. We strive every day to live like Christ did. Loving our neighbor, serving those in need, and pointing the way back to our Father in Heaven.

    On these basic principles, most Christians agree. I live by those principles. How does that make me misguided or destined for hell?