37: Why Are Mormons Seen as “Dangerous” by Some Evangelical Christians?

A recent article at the Patheos website by evangelical
Christian writer and publisher Warren Cole Smith made a big splash both on that website and in Mormon circles because of Smith’s argument that a Mitt Romney presidency would be “dangerous” for many souls who could lose their salvation if they were led astray by Mormonism’s false teachings about God and Christ. Smith hangs his case for a president’s religious beliefs being a strong enough influence for something like this to happen on several claims that many, including other evangelicals writing at Patheos, find dubious. Yet, according to Smith (and the number of “likes” his article received on the Patheos site), many people are sympathetic to his warnings.

Why do such claims arise? Why are there many who see Mormonism as so different from Christianity’s primary streams (Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism) that someone’s salvation might be threatened if they believed as Mormons do? Where does Smith and his “danger to souls” line of thinking fit along the Evangelical Christian spectrum of belief? How have Mormon attitudes and actions contributed to their being excluded by many as “Christians?” Are new forms of dialogue and seeing each other emerging that can lead the groups to learn important things from one other?

In this episode, Mormon Matters host Dan Wotherspoon is joined by Joanna Brooks, Jana Riess, and John Morehead, an evangelical writer and host of dialogues between evangelical Christians and Latter-day Saints . Even if discussions about the differences between evangelical/mainline Christian and Mormon teachings and attitudes seem like well-worn territory for many listeners, this podcast episode contains satisfying, frank talk about difficult issues as well as fresh insights and reasons for hopefulness that greater respect and understanding between the groups is on the horizon.

One of the key moments in this latest foray about Mormon differences and their “danger” discussed in the podcast conversation is Joanna Brooks’s Religion Dispatches interview with Warren Cole Smith. It’s awesome. Check it out!

Also, please visit Jana Riess’s blog, Flunking Sainthood, but especially at this moment to read her post about this discussion and the issue of where healthy dialogue about religion crosses the line into “anti-” territory.

We look forward to having a great discussion below! Please join in!

Comments

comments

58 comments for “37: Why Are Mormons Seen as “Dangerous” by Some Evangelical Christians?

  1. June 15, 2011 at 6:30 am

    As somewhat noted in the podcast, I think the whole situation would be a lot less tense if Mormonism was more up front about its radically different theology. In my opinion, this is yet another reason why evangelicals would do well to educate people on the important differences. If people were already widely aware of them, then we wouldn’t have to worry so much about “normalization”. 
    Also, I think having Romney as president would actually be a time of massive negative exposure of historic Mormonism. While some Mormons would surely try to capitalize on Romney’s position of prominence, I have a very difficult time believing that, overall, having Romney as president would help popularize the religion. Can you imagine having Mormonism’s history and theology under intense public scrutiny for 4-8 years in the The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Daily Show, The Huffington Post, etc.?

    Such a thought probably makes people like Michael Otterson shudder. In the age of the internet, it is not a clear win-win for Mormonism.PS: I’ve restarted my “Mitt Romney and Mormonism” blog here (from an evangelical perspective):http://MittAndMormonism.com

    • Jason
      June 21, 2011 at 4:21 pm

      I agree, Aaron.  The LDS Church and its followers are not prepared for the tidal wave of scrutiny that will surely arise if Romney were elected president. Just a couple things to add: You can bet that there would be discussions on what kind of underwear the President and First Lady wear. There would also be serious debate about the covenant in the temple requiring Mormons to give everything, even their lives, to the LDS Church. This covenant was the elephant in the room during the whole discussion. Some panelists emphasized the diversity among Mormons and that the Church would never exercise its influence over the members in a position of power. But what about that temple covenant? Activating the language of the temple covenant is not unprecedented. Recall Elder Ballard and others in the Proposition 8 broadcast wherein they made references to important temple covenants in relation to taking action. In all honesty, I cannot imagine the Brethren asking Romney to make an executive decision in their favor under the call of that covenant. But it’s a debate that might be had on the national scene, which would make many LDS uncomfortable.

    • Marvin
      June 21, 2011 at 4:29 pm

       I do not see that the intense scrutiny of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) will get for 4 to 8 years with Romney as president by The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Daily Show, and the Huffington Post will be any different than the scrutiny the church has received for the last 190 years.
      I am not sure that a presidents religion becomes popularized in this country. Nixon did not make the Quaker religion popular and Kennedy did not make the Catholic religion popular. I have no idea what other presidents religions were.
      It is my hope and belief that Americans vote based on the persons character and abilities not on religious differences.

      • Frankcox56
        October 27, 2011 at 8:55 pm

        I agree character is important and that is precisely why I would never vote for a Mormon. While the average Mormon knows little of their real history and tend to be good neighbours and law abiding citizens Mr. Romney is well aware of the “the White Horse Prophecy”  ,that they will step in and save the constitution and take over power . He is also well aware that the “Jesus” of Mormonism is no more the God of the Christians than the “Jesus” of Islam usually referred to as Isa or Esa.
        If he had character he would say he will be judged by Joseph Smith and Satan’s older brother, not the creator God of THE universe , Jesus Christ.
        He would say the god of the planet Kolob who evolved from a man had carnal knowledge with his “spirit wives” to produce all the souls on this particular planet and carnal knowledge with Mary to give his carnally begotten older son a body.
        He would say he, Glen beck , and all other ‘god” Mormon men get to spend eternity having sex to populate the planet they will create when they evolve into a god. He would say they can call their spirit wives in the temple or let them rot .
        If Mormonism is the “true” religion Smith claimed  his god told him it was , why do his followers  lie about the details and not just  claim all Christian’s  are  infidels as Smith , the self anointed “Mohammed of the West” considered all Christians to be.

  2. June 15, 2011 at 6:57 am

    Excellent discussion.  Definitely my favorite episode of MM to date.

    Dan mentioned wanting more clarification on why evangelicals see Mormons as believing in a different Jesus and I thought John gave a great response.  I thought it might be helpful to go a little more in depth on this issue, as I think it is an significant one.  The description of Jesus in John 1:1-16 paints a picture of an uncreated being who is the creator of all things and who is one with God.  This is a key passage on trinitarian doctrine as well as the uncreated nature of Christ, both of which are significantly different in Mormonism.

    Jana mentioned that she believes most Mormons would not see their works as something that saved them.  I can only speak from my own experience growing up in a devout Mormon home, but I was explicitly taught that my salvation was merit-based and that only the most righteous and obedient Mormons entered the celestial kingdom and attained the highest level of exaltation.  The 3rd article of faith states that salvation is made possible by the atonement but that obedience to laws and ordinances are also necessary.  This is another fundamental difference that has had a major impact on me personally as someone who grew up Mormon but now identifies as a non-religious follower of Jesus.  While I no doubt agree with many evangelical views, I think terms like evangelical can be very loaded and because they have different meanings to different people, I choose to identify myself only as a follower of Jesus (as described in John 1 and other Biblical references).

    These are just a few thoughts I had listening to the podcast.  I look forward to any responses or other thoughts from panelists and/or listeners.  Again, great espisode and thanks to everyone who participated.  So many great points were raised and all of it done in a mutually respectful and non-defensive manner.  Kudos!

    • June 15, 2011 at 4:38 pm

      While I disagree with it, I do understand the perspective of an evangelical saying that Mormons are not Christian.  We do not hold the “begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father,” view that almost all other Christians do (I do think there are some more liberal Christians working towards a social trinitarian view).  Our Jesus did not take upon our sins on the cross, but rather in the garden.  Our Jesus is still a resurrected being, seperate from God the Father.  Someone who seems to exist in time and space.  These are problems for the Christianity of today.  Interestingly, holding the lds views of Jesus would not be a problem in the 1st century.  Christianity was open to differing perspectives on Jesus back then.

      I agree with your thoughts on how the majority of members view works.  The last two plan of salvation lessons I’ve attended at church have emphasized works.  When the teachers of my class got to the “Judgement” circle they asked how we were judged.  The responses in the class were, “by your works.”  The teachers nodded and moved along.

      • June 15, 2011 at 5:43 pm

        Hey Ryan, thanks for your reply.  Sounds like there’s a lot we agree on.  However, I disagree that the things you mentioned are “problems for the Christianity of today” and I also disagree that the lds view of Jesus would have not been a problem in the 1st century.

        • June 16, 2011 at 6:12 am

          If they aren’t problems for the Christianity of today I’m not sure we would have been able to listen to this awesome podcast.  Some Christians will not accept our views as Christian.  This is what I meant by my statement.

          As far as the lds view of Jesus being accepted in the 1st century, I only meant our rejection of the trinity would not have been a problem, seeing as the author of Mark seemed to reject it as well.  My statement was broad, so if we got into the whole D&C 93 stuff or the fact that Jesus came to America then yes, these would probably be problematic.

        • Frankcox56
          October 27, 2011 at 9:11 pm

          The LDS Jesus is a problem anywhere , any time . First century Christians worshipped Jesus as the eternal God , creator of everything, not just a local god dude that evolved from a man.
          There beliefs were no different than orthodox views today , God does not change , nor does His Holy word.
          Same is true today. Mormons hold Jesus as a created being, the pro-created son a former man who first had carnal knowledge to give him a spirit and again with Mary to give him a body.

      • Eric
        June 15, 2011 at 6:33 pm

        Protestants also believe in a judgment based on works; it’s a Biblical concept, one not unique to Mormonism. 

        • June 16, 2011 at 6:15 am

          It is a Biblical concept, and it’s one Paul would have agreed with.  I’m not dissing the LDS view of works, but it is more unique.

          Go ask a Mormon if they’ve been saved.  Their reply: “I wouldn’t know.  I haven’t died yet.  I’ve done some things I regret and I’ll probably do some more things I regret before I die.  Only God can judge.”

          Now go ask a Protestant.  Their reply: “Yessir.  Since May 23 of ’73.  Hallelujah.” Theirs a difference.

          • June 21, 2011 at 2:23 pm

            When Christians say they’ve been “saved” and Mormons say they have “gained a testimony” of Jesus it is the same thing.  It is just a matter of semantics.

          • June 24, 2011 at 5:01 am

            I would say that there are times where it is a matter of semantics, but that is rare.  Bruce R. and Spencer W. Kimball both said they had testimonies of Jesus, yet a quick glance at Mormon Doctrine or The Miracle of Forgiveness shows they did not accept the Christian idea of grace.  Brigham Young’s talks on blood atonement just show how limited we have viewed the doctrine of grace.  We only have about 1 scripture about it in the BoM, D&C, and Pearl of Great Price.  It’s in 2 Nephi and it says we are saved by grace after all we can do.  That’s different than how an evangelical looks at grace.  I’m not saying one is superior to the other, but they are clearly different.

      • June 17, 2011 at 11:19 pm

        Hi Ryan,

        Thanks for your comment. I agree with most of your statements of difference between Mormonism and historic Christian orthodoxy, but the statement that “Jesus is still a resurrected being” is one which I personally believe to be true and which I believe to be both biblically based and a necessary implication of historic creedal orthodoxy.  The orthodox understanding of the two natures of Christ is that the Son permanently took on a fully human nature at his incarnation and has never abandoned it, and thus, as well as being fully God, is still a human being with a human body (albeit a resurrected, glorified body) and will forever remain so. This is why the New Testament speaks of “the man Christ Jesus” as the “one mediator between God and men” (1 Timothy 2:5)

        I will concede that this may be a thought which hasn’t occurred to every individual Christian in the historic churches and thus many in the pews may indeed think that Jesus somehow returned to being a disembodied spirit on his ascension to heaven (and many more have probably never considered the question), but I think they are mistaken in doing so by the standards of historic orthodoxy. It’s perhaps not something that’s discussed all that often, but I have been taught in at least two Protestant churches of different denominations that Jesus still has a physical body in his present glorified heavenly existence and have never been taught otherwise from the pulpit in any church I have attended.

        • Ryan Freeman
          June 18, 2011 at 2:49 pm

          I’m glad you brought that point up. I thought about not including that for the reason you noted. I think most devout Christians have considered this question and from what I have heard it’s a point of debate. Some Christians would consider a resurrected Christ orthodoxy while others may find it heterodoxical. Not to mention I would consider our resurrection different from any other Christian notion.

          But this is interesting to me because I can’t decide if orthodoxy really exists among Christians. With Grace vs works you have differing views (many are more than willing to side with C.S. Lewis on works). With the trinity you’ve got liberal pastors who reject it. With the resurrection I think you have some who say that it never happened (very liberal) and some who think he’s still a resurrected being.

          So who’s Christian? It’s very similar to this debate you can have of when you’re not a Mormon any more. Is it when you stop believing in polygamy? Or you become a gay rights activist? Or you stop believing in the BoM? I don’t think it’s any of that.

          • June 19, 2011 at 3:08 am

            On whether there is such a thing as Christian orthodoxy, it depends on what you mean by “orthodoxy”. If you are asking whether there is a body of doctrine to which every individual who self-identifies as Christian adheres, or one which is adhered to and taught by every minister or clergyperson, the answer is no. There is no doctrine which has not been questioned by some group of self-professed Christians – even the existence of God has been denied by a small number of theologians who continue to identify as Christian.

            However, if you are asking whether there is a shared body of doctrines held to be true by the various denominations of Catholic, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox Christianity, at least in their official teaching,  the answer is yes. These are the doctrines found in the historic creeds (particularly the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed). The resurrection of Christ is definitely a core creedal belief, as is his ascension into heaven and his future coming again in glory.

            With regard to the specific question of whether Jesus Christ currently exists in embodied form or not, this isn’t stated explicitly in the creeds, but I think it logically follows from Scripture and from the creeds that he remains embodied. I wouldnt consider someone a heretic if they believed in the orthodox doctrines of the incarnation, resurrection, ascension and Second Coming of Christ but somehow imagined him to have left his human body behind on leaving earth. I might think that they are somewhat inconsistent in thinking through the logical implications of their orthodox beliefs.

            On a related point, I find it rather ironic sometimes to encounter LDS folks contrasting a hope for bodily resurrection with a “traditional Christian belief” in living forever in heaven as disembodied spirits. I don’t really blame LDS people for thinking of this as the standard Christian belief, as on a popular level this often is how heaven is imagined both by committed Christians and by others with vaguer beliefs. However, in keeping with the teaching of Scripture (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15), the Apostles Creed specifies a belief in “the resurrection of the body”, making clear that the Christian hope is for a physical resurrection not just a contuinuing spiritual existence. I am looking forward one day to getting a resurrected glorified body one day of the same kind that Jesus Christ currently has: “we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2) Sounds great 🙂

          • Ryan Freeman
            June 19, 2011 at 9:04 pm

            I’m loving this conversation. Yeah, I was referring to all who identify as Christians. I agree that once you get into certain denominations then you have certain creedal beliefs which need to be accepted to to be considered a member.

            On the topic of whether Christians believe they will have a resurrected body I believe you have a divide. Ironically, I think they get scriptural support for this in one of the places you appear to get your idea for a resurrected body – 1 Cor 15. “It is sown a natural body it is raised a spiritual body…flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.” We could debate about what that means (I’d actually side with you) but again my understanding is that this is a point of debate among some Christians. Our view, though would in no way disqualify us as Christian. I didn’t include it to say that it would. I was more using it to give an over-view of our Jesus. Which has certain qualities that are unique from other people’s Jesus. The more of these differences you have with others the more problems you can run into.

          • June 22, 2011 at 5:57 pm

            Hi Ryan,

            If you’re still reading, you might find interesting two short articles
            published in Christianity Today magazine responding to questions from readers on these issues.

            J.I. Packer is an Anglican
            theologian well respected by evangelicals in various denominations and Timothy
            George is a fairly ecumenically minded sort of Baptist.

            J.I. Packer, ‘Good Question: Incarnate Forever”What is the scriptural and theological support for the teaching that Jesus, the God-man, remains eternally incarnate?’http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/march/25.72.htmlTimothy George, ‘Good Question: Heavenly Bodies”What do we gain from a bodily resurrection?’http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/february/38.84.html

          • June 22, 2011 at 6:01 pm

            [My previous attempt to post this got a bit scrambled, messing up the links in particular. I hope this works.]

            Hi Ryan,

            If you’re still reading, you might find interesting two short articles published in Christianity Today magazine responding to questions from readers on these issues.

            J.I. Packer is an Anglican theologian well respected by evangelicals in various denominations and Timothy George is a fairly ecumenically minded sort of Baptist.

            J.I. Packer, ‘Good Question: Incarnate Forever’
            ‘What is the scriptural and theological support for the teaching that Jesus, the God-man, remains eternally incarnate?’

            http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2004/march/25.72.html

            Timothy George, ‘Good Question: Heavenly Bodies’
            ‘What do we gain from a bodily resurrection?’

            http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2003/february/38.84.html

          • June 24, 2011 at 5:04 am

            Hey David, thanks for the links.  I have no doubt that some accept the views you are suggesting, but I don’t believe that all Christians do.  I have heard some say that they don’t.  I do appreciate your links though and especially the conversation.  It was enlightening.

  3. Gail F. Bartholomew
    June 15, 2011 at 10:50 am

    Dan,

    Thank you for gathering such a well suited group for this topic.  I have never heard the differences between the Christian and the Mormon perspectives so fairly compared and contrasted.  I agree that we as Mormons and most evangelicals look at our traditions through a 2 d. lens.

    I am grateful that you started to articulate the Evangelical perpective that puts us out side the tent of Christianity. I believe we as Mormons simotaniously put our selves outside the ten of Christianity, and complain that we not considered part of the family.  First of all we do call some of the documents foundational to Christiandom apostate even though other than the works of Paul most of the New Testament was written after the time when most Mormons would say the apostasy took place.  Also the part of the Nicene Creed most reveared is that it calls all Christiandom one church.  We reject this.

    More importantly I think as Mormons we view our deity much more pagan like than Christianity.  We endow our God with human chartaristics such as gender, literal parenthood, and physicality.  These are ideas that are very foreign to not only Christianity but all the monotheists;  Jews and Muslims as well. For thousands of years these very ideas are what motivated the Monotheists to put themselves above the rest of the world and call everyone else pagan, why would they not see us as out side the tent of Christianity?

    • LoveIsBig
      June 15, 2011 at 2:06 pm

      Interesting points. I’ve been listening to a Yale class on the Hebrew Bible (http://oyc.yale.edu/religious-studies/introduction-to-the-old-testament-hebrew-bible/content/sessions/lecture02.html) and the pagan worldview described in Lecture 2 sounded very reminiscent to me of the Mormon worldview. I’d never thought of it in such terms before, but we do seem to have big echoes from pagan views of deity (corporality, apotheosis, multiple gods who marry and copulate, siblinghood of the good and evil gods, the idea of eternal laws that even gods must follow, etc). The Yale lecture gave me greater insight into the perceived chasm between Mormonism and Christianity. 
      I think Mormonism strides between monotheism and polytheism in precarious ways. I’ve spent much time pondering whether Heavenly Father (the corporal, one-of-many-gods whom we strive to emulate) and the endless ethereal God of monotheism are two separate entities. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, perhaps, are striving to help us be as close to that One God as they are. Heavenly Father has power only in as far as He acts in accordance with the eternal laws of that higher One God. Anyway, the friction inherent in our rough theology can create some interesting sparks.

  4. Zelph
    June 15, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    The Mormon machine (LDS Inc) is indeed touchy, secretive and defensive.
    Possibly the richest church per capita and yet no independent audit of its finances and who gets what.
    Also very touchy about its history, origins, changing doctrines and policies:
    http://www.mormonthink.com
    http://www.20truths.info
    http://www.realmormonhistory.com
    http://www.wivesofjosephsmith.org

    • Anonymous
      June 15, 2011 at 4:04 pm

      Zelph, I won’t delete this scattershot burst of links rather than an advancement of a real argument, but I will ask that any future comments you make here be about the specific issues raised in the episode or that are closely related to the subject.

  5. June 15, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Jana: while Mormons may say it’s the Atonement of Christ that saves them, what matters so much more to, I’d say, MOST of them are very specified works– Baptism by priesthood authority, Temple Sealing by priesthood authority, Endowment by priesthood authority– these ARE works, works no one else but the Mormon church can perform.  So I disagree with you.  Mormons DO believe works will save them.  It is not enough just to believe in Christ.  You only get so far in the Mormon eschatology with that.  I’m a pretty strong believer in celebrating our differences.  Like Joanna, when asked about it I say Of Course we’re different!  I think those differences are important and exciting, and that we can only apologize so much before losing that uniquely funky flavor.Thanks for an interesting discussion!!

    • Todd
      June 15, 2011 at 6:38 pm

      An good analogy regarding mere belief vs. belief and works could be food.  I believe that food will “save” me.  But if I don’t pick up the food, put it in my mouth, chew, and swallow — all “works” — then my belief is in vain.  So, yes, I am “saved” by my “works.”  Faith = belief + works.

      O ye of little faith.

      Todd

    • Bpbpearce
      July 31, 2011 at 8:39 pm

      mormons believe that we are saved by the atonement of jesus so it faith and works as it says in the bible james1; 22-25 and james 2;  17- 22  or dont christians believe the bible

  6. Anonymous
    June 15, 2011 at 6:27 pm

    I think Mormons are dangerous to the souls of those that follow it’s teachings. It is a dangerous mix of works and grace. St. Paul warns the Galatians about this and goes so far as to say that those who add anything to the finished work of Christ “cut themselves off from grace”.

    This Jesus +, theology is not just a hallmark of Mormonism, however. Many churches are in the business of self-transcendency and spiritual ladder climbing. And it is a very dangerous and dubious way to go about the Christian life.

    Thanks.

  7. Tim
    June 15, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    well done.  Glad you brought John Morehead on to give an Evangelical perspective.

  8. Guest
    June 15, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    I don’t get why traditional Christians or Mormons can’t see that it is grace and faith (which we show by our works/obedience) – yes, it is by the grace of Christ we are saved – without His ultimate sacrifice (taking upon Himself our sins in Gethsemane AND dying on the cross as the ultimate and last sacrifice (which all other sacrificial lambs by the Israelites under the law of Moses are symbols of)), we would not be able to repent at all from our own sins. We cannot repent nor cleanse ourselves because we have sinned, only a sacrifice of one who has not sinned (and thus is not subject to the Fall of Adam (by sin) and it’s consequences (death – both spiritual and physical)) can cleanse us. Yet Christ still says we must repent (and John the Baptist preached repentance unto baptism), have faith (which we exercise through obedience which turns out to be our “works”). Baptism (and any other ordinance) is another way we show we obey – Jesus showed the example by being baptized Himself. It takes both – His grace by dying for us and us by our faith in Him. As James says: Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works. Even the devils claim that Jesus is Lord, and many others will claim “Lord, Lord” but only he who does the works will be accepted – i.e. feed the hungry, clothe the naked, follow Jesus by forsaking our sins and obeying the commandments and serving others. 

    There are so many things that can confuse the simple basics of the Gospel, but really it’s that: by grace we are saved. 

    Once we believe that Jesus saved us by laying down His life for us and that He truly did not sin and was the Son of God (i.e. have faith in Him), we show (exercise) that faith by changing our lives – becoming like Him (even though we will never be able to be fully like Him due to our humanity). Our works are null and void without Jesus laying down His life for us. But we do have to accept Him and change (repent) and follow Him – otherwise we are like the devils and others who claim “Lord, Lord” but have not done anything except claim He is Lord. The devils and those who do not feed the hungry, clothe the naked, take care of the widows, etc. will be cast out.

  9. Jesus Girl
    June 15, 2011 at 10:41 pm

    I think another issue evangelicals have is a perspective, right or wrong, that all Mormons are under the authority of the current president of the church, since he is considered a prophet.  That means, technically, that the President of the United States would have to submit to that authority as his ultimate decision maker….and the idea of a religious leader having that kind of power is frightening to a lot of people, evangelical or not.

    • Eric
      June 16, 2011 at 5:16 am

      That was the concern that many raised about John Kennedy in 1960, that he would be the pope’s puppet.

    • Bpbpearce
      July 31, 2011 at 8:46 pm

      so does that mean if we have a president who is of the evangelical faith that we will be ruled by their beliefs when  some of the things they teach is not what the bible says 

  10. JackUK
    June 15, 2011 at 11:16 pm

      A couple of thoughts and questions from a Brit, didn’t America have a similar debate to this in the 60’s when you were deciding whether to elect a Catholic president? How did that work out? Also, wouldn’t an actively evangelical president have to submit to the authority of the inerrant Bible if elected? Maybe that would influence some decisions like stem cell research funding for instance?                                                                                                                                                                                         

  11. happywater
    June 16, 2011 at 1:09 am

    The theological side of me believes that
    Mormons are not Christian (for some of the reasons outlined in the podcast and
    above), but my religious studies academic side believes that they are part of
    the big wide tent that is the very loosely linked Christian tradition. I don’t
    think that it is necessarily a bad thing to acknowledge some of the very real
    differences between our communities; however, I do think that it is a big
    problem when people equate not being considered theologically Christian with
    the ability to demean/persecute/put down/exclude from politics etc because you
    don’t consider them ‘one of you.’  It does seem that sometimes Christians
    use the ‘you’re not Christian’ as a way to justify inappropriate and even
    sinful behaviour against other groups.  So while I would affirm some very
    big (beautiful and fascinating) differences between Mormons and mainline
    Christian churches, those differences should never be a way to justify putting
    down or harming others.  The differences should only be understood for the
    purpose of dialogue and understanding each other’s perspectives. 

     

  12. June 16, 2011 at 5:21 am

    Would if the Christain churches accepted the LDS church as Christains would they stop trying to convert them? I associate with Christains of various denominations through the Emaeus Walk retreats. I do not try to convert them. I accept them as Christians. I know of a couple of cases where Christains out of politiness accepted some visits from the missionaries. When after the Christains expressed no desire to go further, the LDS ceased their association with the Christain neaighbour.

  13. Aaron
    June 16, 2011 at 11:24 am

    I ironically come from both sides of the fence (been baptized in a conservative Presbyterian church and in the LDS Church) and also studied Eastern Orthodoxy for a while. I definitely have a good outside/inside prospective of the whole conflict. Traditionally, Mormonism has been viewed as a cult or heretical church by Catholics/Orthodoxy/Protestants since it has been established. Now, this does seem hurtful, but Mormon teachings reject many traditional beliefs held by Christians. Granted, there are so many differences between mainstream Christians, it is hard to fathom that even the after-life is different. So believe in free-will while others believe in predestination. However, all these groups believe in the Trinity and several other doctrines held in the Nicean Creed. Mormons do not.

    I think that there is a fear of having a non-Christian serving as President. While I don’t believe religion should be a factor in choosing a President, I understand that others have the right to factor religion in making their decision of whom to vote for. Granted, you have to remember the faiths of the first Presidents too. George Washington was a lapsing Christian (extremely devout pre-Revolution, not so much practicing after the Revolution), John Adams was an Unitarian (rejected the Trinity, divinity of Jesus, and even hell), and Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were both self-described Deists. They all helped build up this country without destroying (in fact, the separation of Church and State help give rise to the Great Awakening and Evangelical Christianity). So, obviously non-Christians can help make this country a better place without destroying the souls and the entire Nation.

    Now, I read Aaron Shafovlaff’s comment (he is an Evangelical Christian who witnesses to Mormons) and I do agree that if Mitt Romney were elected, it wouldn’t give Mormonism any good light because the public press would have a field day with his religion. Now, granted, the press also had a field day with Evangelical Christianity when George W. Bush served as President, so this is pretty normal (in other words, the press isn’t picky about picking on any politician’s religious beliefs). I do believe that people have the right to know what a politician believes since religious beliefs will always effect how someone conducts their business. After George W. Bush, the question got pushed to the Republicans, “Do you believe in Evolution?” because of Bush’s promotion of the pseudo-scientific theory of Intelligent Design (which fortunately lost in the courtroom).

    Two things Mormons are going to have to do and both of them are really difficult. They are going to have to be more honest about what they believe and they are going to have to admit that they do reject many mainstream Christian traditions. Also, and John F. Kennedy had to do this, Mitt Romney is going to have to distance himself from his Church in the sense of him receiving his advice from Thomas S. Monson. If Mr. Monson made a public address that the President runs the country and never him (or that he supports the separation of church and state and quotes the Article of Faiths that apply to the situation), that might help as well. I admit, the only people that would have a harder time winning the Presidency then a Mormon is… a Muslim or an Atheist.

    • Bpbpearce
      July 31, 2011 at 9:05 pm

      well i think that is very unfair mormons are christians  and people should  stop saying that they are not.  i think that evangelicals just  don’t want any one to be president unless they are of the evangelic faith i don’t that Mitt  Romney  or any other mormon  would bring their belief in to it  they wuold do just as good  a job of been presinent as any one else

  14. KC
    June 18, 2011 at 2:12 am

    Do evangelicals and others have a valid concern that the LDS church would influence his presidency? Its easy to dismiss the concern that Romney would let the LDS church and its leadership influence his positions. But check out the recent controversy regarding Utah’s immigration bill HB116.  This Salt Lake Tribune article is about how LDS lawmakers view the Church’s recent statement on the bill. Essentially, some feel the statement is official and thus they wont go against it, others say well, its not signed by the First Presidency so its not binding, or the Prophet has not said it himself thus, Im not bound to it. So, in other words, if the Prophet did speak on it, it seems that would influence their positions  Viewing the Utah Legislature’s history of following the Church on issues in the past, its understandable that people would be concerned with the role the Church would play in a Romney presidency. Check out the article

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/politics/51983593-90/statement-church-lds-immigration.html.csp

    • Rick
      June 20, 2011 at 11:13 pm

      Good points, KC.  But I think a key difference is that as a US president, the constituents would not be majority LDS.  I think the reason the Utah lawmakers pretty much tow the line with the church is that if they didn’t, they would be voted out of office.  Of course Mitt’s beliefs and experiences will influence his decisions, but I’m not afraid that he will create a Mormon theocracy!

      Truth is, I’m a bit of an anomaly…I’m an exmo that would be fine with Romney or Huntsman as president.  Go figure!

  15. Mike Michaels
    June 20, 2011 at 4:14 am

    Broadly speaking, Evangelicals view Mormons as dangerous in the same vein that Mormons view Fundamentalist Mormons as dangerous – they represent an alternate interpretation of the same narrative.

    Mormons give lip service to being saved by grace. Everything about Mormon religious practice and culture rests on salvation by works. Aside from theological arguments, salvation by works is a psychologically damaging and abusive belief system. In Mormonism only the royalty are ever good enough.

    GBH did irreparable harm to interdenominational relations when he said in GC he did not understand the Nicene Creed. It was not so much an admission of ignorance as a license for Mormons to discount a key aspect of traditional Christianity. Mormons would throw a fit if any other denomination decried JS as a womanizing adulterer and unfit to be a prophet in their semi-annual church conference… But it was ok for GBH to throw the NC under the bus.

  16. anonymous
    June 20, 2011 at 3:41 pm

    The topic was interesting, the panelists were excellent. But I have a gripe that isn’t exclusive to this particular episode; it’s one that has been bugging me since the rebirth of Mormon Matters. Dan, please, please, do less explaining of HOW you’re going to moderate the discussion, and just moderate it as the need arises. You bog down the discussion rather than helping it along by all of that “go ahead and talk about this for a  minute, but soon I want to steer the discussion in this direction” stuff. Just steer the discussion already without all the hoopla. 

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      June 25, 2011 at 12:33 pm

      Thanks, anon. My background in philosophy showing through, I guess, always wanting folks to make sure where they are within the overall structure and flow of the argument (and here, in the case of these discussions, what’s coming up or if a moment we’re in is just a sidebar or a main thrust). In these panel discussions, I guess I have felt the opposite of you: if panelists know where we’re headed, it helps them get a sense of if we’ve moved on and some point of theirs they’d hoped to make is in danger of being left by the wayside. I have thought of it helping the discussion in the sense of there being fewer extended monologues in which a guest might be tempted to throw everything in all at once. I guess I can see how it might seem like something that bogs things down, and I will try to remember to experiment with doing less of it and see what happens.

  17. June 22, 2011 at 9:07 am

    This is an instant favorite, and not just because my name is mentioned twice.  But I can’t list it as my favorite, because that honor still goes to that episode of Mormon Stories, where John Dehlin interviewed a guy who compared the commonalities of LDS Temple rites with Masonry.   

  18. Scott Bennion
    June 24, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    I think there is some Mormon hurbris that can also disingenuous.  Joseph Smith established his credibility by calling into question the authority of the Bible and the historic Christian creeds.  He distanced himself from historic Christianity to point out the need for a restoration.  Early Mormonism seemed to emphasize that they were Mormons not Christians.  The emphasis was that Mormonism was the true church (D&C 1).  Now in the 21st century Mormons want to distant themselves from what Joseph Smith and early leaders claimed, they now metaphorically want to put their arms around the very people they discredited and say, “why do you call us Mormons?  We are Christians, just another type.”

    • Dan Wotherspoon
      June 25, 2011 at 1:23 pm

      Hi Scott,

      Great to have you join the conversation! I’ve very much enjoyed our many
      exchanges over the years.

      I’m in basic agreement with you on a key point or two and think Mormons definitely need to own
      their part of this alienation and war of defining who’s in the Christian club
      or not. The whole, “Why can’t you just take us at our word that we’re
      ‘Christian’?” semi-outrage truly doesn’t grasp the complexity of the situation.
      I definitely think your point about how JS established his credibility by
      distancing himself from the crowd and historic Christian takes on the Bible and
      views expressed in the creeds is dead on and something Latter-day Saints need
      to recognize better.

       

      It’s in
      your last point that I think you go off track a bit via an equivocation on the
      term “Christianity.” I don’t think the “why do you call us Mormons? We are Christians,
      just another type” actually makes the point you want it to make as I don’t see
      Mormons in any of their rhetoric along these lines actually thinking in terms
      of historic Christianity and the creeds but rather their simply being denied
      the label, “Christian,” in the public square. Said another way, I don’t see
      Mormons in these instances so much as distancing themselves from what JS and
      early leaders claim about Mormonism’s relationship to historical Christianity
      and its claims—I think most are fine seeing Mormonism as set apart from
      Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Protestantism and various takes on biblical
      authority and doctrines in the creeds—so much as not wanting the claims of
      those who ARE thinking and saying what they say about Mormonism not being Christian because of the line of reasoning about historical Christianity to win the
      day in our sound-bite culture in which a bunch of Well, we all know that Mormons aren’t
      Christian” claims are not going to be understood by those hearing this with any kind of
      subtlety.

       

      Are Mormons
      “metaphorically want[ing] to put their arms around the very people they
      discredited”? Other than in a way that we should all always try to embrace
      others as friends and seek mutual understanding that we hope can mitigate past or current hurts,
      I don’t think most Mormons are doing that. In my mind, very few Mormons are saying that Latter-day
      Saints see Jesus and the Godhead and really all that much else the way the
      other forms of Christianity do; they just don’t want to lose the spot they
      thought they’d gained in history and the public’s mind as a “Christian” tradition via the church’s name,
      and its beliefs in Atonement, resurrection, priesthood authority, attempts to be
      organized with same offices as the early church, covenants to “take upon [themselves] the name of Christ,” various emphases on acting in “Christlike” manner, etc.

      Cheers,
      Dan

  19. June 25, 2011 at 12:49 am

    Labels such as “TBM” and even Mormon are less than helpful in understanding who we are.  I would have been more impressed with John Huntsman if when asked, “Are you a Mormon?”, would have answered “tell me what you mean by ‘Mormon’?”.  Your true identity is not a label or anything that is a mental form.  You are bigger than that!  Labels are OK if they are functionally defined precisely but only for communication and not for self-identification.  One learning I like is in the “A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose” by Eckhart Tolle.  He writes:

    LETTING GO OF SELF-DEFINITIONS

        As tribal cultures developed into the ancient civilizations, certain
    functions began to be allotted to certain people: ruler, priest or priestess,
    warrior, farmer, merchant, craftsman, laborer, and so on. A class system
    developed. Your function, which in most cases you were born into,
    determined your identity, determined who you were in the eyes of others, as
    well as in your own eyes. Your function became a role, but it wasn’t
    recognized as a role: It was who you were, or thought you were. Only rare
    beings at the time, such as the Buddha or Jesus, saw the ultimate irrelevance
    of caste or social class, recognized it as identification with form and saw that
    such identification with the conditioned and the temporal obscured the light
    of the unconditioned and eternal that shines in each human being.
    In our contemporary world, the social structures are less rigid, less
    clearly defined than they used to be. Although most people are, of course,
    still conditioned by their environment, they are no longer automatically
    assigned a function and with it an identity. in fact, in the modern world, more
    and more people are confused as to where they fit in, what their purpose is,
    and even who they are.

        I usually congratulate people when they tell me, “I don’t know who I
    am anymore.” Then they look perplexed and ask, “Are you saying it is a
    good thing to be confused?” I ask them to investigate. What does it mean to
    be confused? “I don’t know “ is not confusion. Confusion is: “I don’t know,
    but I should know” or “I don’t know, but I need to know.” is it possible to let
    go of the belief that you should or need to know who you are? In other
    words, can you cease looking to conceptual definitions to give you a sense of
    self? Can you cease looking to thought for an identity? When you let go of
    the belief that you should or need to know who you are, what happens to
    confusion? Suddenly it is gone. When you fully accept that you don’t know,
    you actually enter a state of peace and clarity that is closer to who you truly
    are than thought could ever be. Defining yourself through thought is limiting
    yourself.

    Glen

    • June 25, 2011 at 12:59 am

      Posted this to an unintended Podcast, but it seems to fit!

  20. June 27, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    As a Mormon who has studied early Christianity pretty extensively, I have to concur that we in the LDS church have to come to a new understanding of what we currently mis-label as “the Great Apostasy” (from the title of the book by apostle James Talmage).  Our current teaching is anti-historical, not helpful to anyone who is really interested in engaging with complicated realities in the first few centuries of Christian history.  We need to back off the idea that professing any of the historical creeds makes someone’s belief categorically wrong or bad (in any way).  This will inevitably mean redefining the meaning of Restoration for us, which will be uncomfortable (particularly for those with strong belief in the historical truth of our myths and the infallibility of our prophetic leaders).

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  22. Nelson Chung
    September 14, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Evangelicals are on average not very well-educated. Unedeucated people are afraid of people with differing beleifs. It’s that simple

    • September 14, 2011 at 4:42 pm

      Is that so?  Nelson, where are the facts to back that up?  Some educated people are also afraid with people with different beliefs.  Generalizations like yours is the reason we have 9/11s and Mountain Meadows Massacres.

  23. Lone_creator_one
    January 16, 2012 at 2:26 am

    Let’s see, we Mormons believe in God, family, faith, education, work, and giving to the less fortunate. So why the paranoia when all those things are important for the total well being of us,us as Americans. We have contributed too to the building of this nation and in my own words , we built the west. We are builders, inventors, teachers, and caregivers to the world. I guess people fear what they don’t understand.

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  25. Harlan
    November 10, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    Someone said we “Mormons aren’t “up front” about our doctrine. (First off, there is no such thing as a “Mormon Church”. That term really exists only in the minds of those who would detract attention from the fact we are the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter Day Saints. And there are some who are too damned lazy–literally–to use our full name.) I beg to differ with the “not up front” perception. LDS missionaries are always up-front about everything. Which probably is the reason that the LDS Church had 14 million members in 2011, but now has 15 million members, as of September of this year.

    • Gail_F_Bartholomew
      November 10, 2013 at 7:00 pm

      Harlan,

      First of all I would ask you to go and listen to Mormonstories episodes 149-152 interview with Dayman Smith. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is not the name of our church it is a trade mark owned by the corporation of the first presidency. In the way you are talking about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is not really a church. So when people refer to our Church as the Mormon Church it is in mind a more accurate description of us that follow the theology Brother Joseph put for starting with the book of Mormon.

      Secondly how many Mormon Missionaries know about key things about our theology. Like king follett or what Brigham and Pratt argued about whether God progresses or not. Yes they know one account of the first vision, there are many basic important idems of information that at least I did not know about much less understand enough to be up front about.

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