The more I listen to this interview — the more I enjoy and respect Dr. Millet. I have even listened to the extended interview now, which I definitely recommend. And while I have at least a few posts planned where I hope to express what I loved about this interview, as part 2 of this series, I want to highlight something that made me a bit uncomfortable.
Let me begin with my disclaimer — as some of you may have realized, I am struggling (as a member of the LDS church) with the way that church leaders (as of late) appear to be publicly distancing themselves from many of the tenets of the “gospel” that I grew up with. This is complicated by the fact that while I am happy to see many of these changes — I also am simultaneously fearful that as we “assimilate” into mainstream U.S. culture by playing up our commonalities with others — and distancing ourselves from the differences — we will ultimately weaken the church I love, by weakening the core beliefs/theology that once made us strong.
Anyway, to illustrate….during the interview, Dr. Millet was asked why Mormons target Christians as well as non-Christians with their missionary work. His response was as follows:
“Now, people will frequently ask us, ‘But why do you go to Christians who already have a church, who already have a belief?’ And, ‘Why don’t you just go to the heathen, you know?’ And there’s a practical answer for that. And that is — I’ve had pastors ask me this, and I’ve said to them, ‘How large is your congregation?’ ‘Well, about 700.’ ‘When you look out at that congregation, can you literally tell at one glance who of all those people have truly been converted? Who of all those people have had a personal conversion experience? Who of all those people have been born again? Who of all those people have, in your language, accepted Jesus as their savior? Do you know in each case?’ And he said, ‘Well, no, of course not.’ I said, ‘Neither do we.’ And so we approach everyone. “
Based on Mormon scripture, doctrine, and theology — isn’t the most honest and up front answer to this question the following: “We don’t consider any other church to have the legitimate authority of God — and so our missionary work must go to all people”. If I may quote from the Pearl of Great Price:
19 I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all awrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those bprofessors were all ccorrupt; that: “they ddraw near to me with their lips, but their ehearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the fcommandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the gpower thereof.”
Again — I can understand what he is doing here. He is trying to build on common beliefs — and he doesn’t want to offend.
But I ask you — is it completely honest? Or is it misleading? Is Dr. Millet telling the whole truth here — or only a partial truth? More importantly — as more and more devout LDS folks pick up on answers like this — are they not going to start wondering what’s going on…and where the church that they grew up in (and that the pioneers sacrificed for) has gone? All watered down and stuff?
Finally, for those of you who were missionaries — how focused were you on “helping people to accept Jesus as their personal savior”, vs. helping them to join the one and only true church? And if people told you that they had already accepted Jesus as their Savior, did you politely accept their response, and move on to someone else — or did you keep trying?