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Friday, June 01, 2007

Really -- What is Mormonism? Most Evangelicals Would Be Surprised.

by Sharon

On May 31st Christianity Today online posted an article which addresses the issue of Mitt Romney and Mormonism, asking, "Can conservative Protestants vote for a member of what they consider a cult?" The article is co-written by Mormon professor Robert Millet and Christian author Gerald McDermott.

Of particular interest in this article is where it addresses the concerns evangelicals have regarding Mormonism's non-Christian doctrines. The authors write,
But evangelicals are reluctant to vote for a Mormon. Historically, evangelicals and Mormons have demonized each other. Evangelicals consider the Church of Latter-day Saints to be a cult and typically think Mormons are not real Christians.

Evangelicals accuse Mormons of adding new revelation (the Book of Mormon) to the Bible. They think Mormons teach that humans are saved by good works rather than by Jesus Christ, and that humans are of the same species as Jesus and can someday attain his status. In addition, evangelicals say, Mormons reject key Christian doctrines such as the Trinity and creatio ex nihilo (God creating the world out of nothing)…

Mormon beliefs are not as un-evangelical as most evangelicals think. Unlike Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons hold firmly to the deity of Christ. For Latter-Day Saints, Jesus is not only the Son of God but also God the Son. Evangelical pollster George Barna found in 2001 that while only 33 percent of American Catholics, Lutherans, and Methodists agreed that Jesus was "without sin," Mormons were among the "most likely" to say that Jesus was sinless.

Most evangelicals would also be surprised to learn that the Book of Mormon contains passages that teach salvation by the merits and grace of Christ ( "There is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah" 2 Nephi 2:8) and others that require personal trust in Christ for salvation, such as 1 Nephi 10:4-6: "All mankind were in a lost and in a fallen state, and ever would be save they should rely on this Redeemer."

Note the way the authors have presented the concerns of Christians: evangelicals demonize Mormons; evangelicals accuse Mormons; evangelicals think Mormons teach non-Christian doctrines about salvation and Christ; evangelicals say Mormons reject the Trinity, etc.; but evangelicals are wrong: "Mormon beliefs are not as un-evangelical as most evangelicals think."

Take a look at just one doctrinal issue raised by the authors: salvation. Speaking of evangelicals collectively, the authors write, "They think Mormons teach that humans are saved by good works rather than by Jesus Christ." The authors dance around this significant doctrinal concern. They set it up in terms which give the impression that evangelicals deeply misunderstand LDS soteriology and state that Mormon beliefs are not really so different after all. Millet and McDermott quote LDS scriptures which talk about Christ, mercy and grace, and apparently hope that will be enough to convince the uninformed reader that the Mormon view of salvation is compatible with evangelical (biblical) teaching. But of course it's not.

Mormonism rejects the idea that human beings are saved by good works without the aid of Christ; Millet and McDermott are correct to suggest that those who think otherwise misunderstand Mormon doctrine. But this is not to say that Mormonism embraces the biblical teaching of salvation by grace through faith alone based on the merits and atonement of Christ. The Book of Mormon says,
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. (2 Nephi 25:23)

This is not salvation by faith alone, but salvation by grace coupled with works (please see Paul's letter to the Galatians for an understanding of what the Bible says about this idea). The Mormon teaching on salvation is incompatible with the evangelical understanding of this doctrine -- the doctrine which is at the very heart of the Gospel and is treasured deeply in the heart of every evangelical Christian.

Millet and McDermott don't mention this disparity in their article. Furthermore, they don't tell Christianity Today readers what twelfth LDS President Spencer W. Kimball said about the Christian doctrine of salvation:
One of the most fallacious doctrines originated by Satan and propounded by man is that man is saved alone by the grace of God; that belief in Jesus Christ alone is all that is needed for salvation. (The Miracle of Forgiveness, 206)

I wonder; is this is what Millet and McDermott are referring to when they say Mormons have historically demonized evangelicals?

At any rate, Millet and McDermott have misled their readers about the compatibility of Mormonism and evangelical Christianity. They have obscured significant doctrinal differences with verbal slight-of-hand. But at the same time it seems they have taken care to keep from going too far. They write,
Of course there is still doctrinal distance between Mormons and evangelicals.

Yes, really an unbridgeable chasm. But Millet and McDermott make no effort to inform their readers of any specifics. If you're interested, some of the doctrines responsible for the vast spiritual distance between Mormons and evangelicals are documented here.



  • At June 01, 2007 7:03 AM, Blogger Brian said…

    I am indeed saddened to see the magazine that bears the name of our Saviour pandering to the very ravenous wolves that He warned us about (Matt 7:15). "Christianity Today" should be concerned with contending for the faith, not so much about placating psuedo-Christian religious entities. Millet is brilliant, and as a strategist he is striking in the soft spots of the Body's armor -- a "web only" section of the magazine, and slipping the message of Joseph Smith under the doors of the sleeping editors.

  • At June 01, 2007 12:25 PM, Blogger rick b said…

    I personnaly have no problems voting for a mormon.

    How many currant people running for president in 08 claim to be a Born again Christian? None that I know of, and how many past Presidents in the last 50 years were on fire born again Christians who made it know flat out where they stand with Christ.

    As sad as it is, I do not see a true Born again Christian getting into office. I know Bush claims to be one, but he does some things that at times makes me wonder, he also appers to avoid being bold and blunt in his postion as to where he stands with Christ. Rick b

  • At June 01, 2007 5:22 PM, Blogger Tanner & Emily said…

    I personally am overly disgusted by politics. And, I am hurt that a "Christian" would de-magnify a Very deep difference strictly for political purposes. I mean I might care if a Mormon is president, but I would care if a Scientologist was president too. God will put whom he chooses in power. Whether or not you would vote for this person or that has no eternal significance. But leading people astray for political there is something that will have eternal consequences. Unity is important, but not at the cost of truth. Jesus is the Way the truth and the life. I choose truth in Love over unity in Hell.

  • At June 02, 2007 3:47 AM, Blogger Austin said…

    I am saddened to learn of this deception. I pray for a follow up article to appear in Christianity Today that will make the truth known.

  • At June 02, 2007 8:28 AM, Blogger rick b said…

    Tanner said But leading people astray for political there is something that will have eternal consequences.

    What exactly do you think I said? Or are you reading to much into what I said. Your correct that God will put someone into power. But as near as I can tell, Hilary is an athiest and a liar, Obama, I understand is either muslim or holds some of their views.

    Mitt is a Mormon, Name anyone that is running who is an on fire Born again Christian. If you can name one and they are picked for the run to be president I will vote for them.

    Sadly it will only come down to two people, and I really believe neither will be true Christians. So if neither is a Christian, do we simply not vote, or do we vote for a pagan or cult member, either choice, vote or not, one of them will end up in office. Rick b

  • At June 02, 2007 2:40 PM, Blogger Renee M said…

    No one has really said why voting for a mormon may not be a good move. From what I've heard, Mitt Romney is a card carrying temple mormon. That means that he is one of the few LDS people who are allowed into the temple to do temple work. A mormon of this standing is expected to blindly follow the current prophet and do whatever he's told to do. I don't want a president who is not his own man. I want someone in that office that will go with his heart and put the welfare of the American people first.

  • At June 03, 2007 5:40 PM, Blogger Keith Walker said…

    I have written a response to this article on my blog. It is too long to post here.

  • At June 03, 2007 8:23 PM, Blogger Arthur Sido said…

    James White has a couple of great posts on this issue as well at

    The problem is two-fold. First, most evangelicals don't know what mormonism has traditionally taught and second they don't what THEY believe because they never hear doctrine from the pulpit. It is hard to recognize a counterfeit if you are unfamiliar with what the real thing looks like.

  • At June 04, 2007 2:10 AM, Blogger Aaron Shafovaloff said…

    I sent this quote to Robert Millet on March 10:

    "[E]very man and woman will receive all that they are worthy of, and something thrown in perhaps on the score of the boundless charity of God. But who can justly expect to obtain more than they merit?" - Joseph F. Smith, Journal of Discourses, 26 vols., v. 20, p. 30.

    On March 12 he responded with:

    Great quote! Thanks for sending it.



    No commentary required...

  • At June 04, 2007 2:36 AM, Blogger Aaron Shafovaloff said…

    Quoting the Book of Mormon to alleviate a Christian's concerns about the un-Christian nature of Mormonism can ironically be somewhat of a red herring. The Book of Mormon teaches modalism and a more traditional view of heaven and hell. But does that reflect modern Mormonism? Absolutely not. Mormonism "moved on" from the Book of Mormon long ago, only to return to it by retrofitting post-Nauvoo theology. They couldn't do that with the Lectures on Faith, and that's why they had to be decanonized. Quoting the Book of Mormon to portray Mormonism can be like quoting the Canons of the Council of Orange to portray Roman Catholics or quoting the Torah to portray Kabbalists.

    As much as some would like to pretend Mormonism believes in prima scriptura, it is a religion of "continuing revelation" centered around the current priesthood authority leadership, something deemed far more important than what Brigham Young called a "dead" book. Gerald McDermott has been suckered into Millet's smooth tongue, and ought to sober up and stop viewing Mormonism through the rosy lens of BYU neo-orthodoxy. He and Robert Millet ought to be quoting currently used church publications like Gospel Principles, True to the Faith, and various CES manuals. While so many are drunk off the flattery from inter-faith love-fests traditional Mormonism carries on at the lay level.

  • At June 04, 2007 4:38 PM, Blogger Random Goblin said…

    I'm pretty sure Hillary Clinton is a Methodist, and Barack Obama is a member of the United Church of Christ.

    Probably they're both far too theologically liberal to be categorized as "Born Again" Christians, but calling them an atheist and a Muslim is just fearmongering in my opinion.

    Also, "holding some Muslim views" could mean "believing in only one God," which describes most Christians, no? AFAIK, that's the most important "Muslim view."

  • At June 05, 2007 10:29 AM, Blogger Keith Walker said…

    I received a response from one of the editors at Christianity Today regarding my e-mail to them. I have posted it and my reply to our blog.

  • At June 05, 2007 2:38 PM, Blogger Tanner & Emily said…

    To: Rick B

    Sorry my comments were not directed at you or your comments but towards the post in Christianity Today. Sorry I did not intend to post a reply to your comments. Maybe to clarify that I don't care who anyone votes for. I just don't want someone to sacrifice 'Truth' for a political agenda, which to me seems like what the authors of the article are doing. So my apologies.

    God Bless

  • At June 05, 2007 5:12 PM, Blogger rick b said…

    Hello Tanner, I asked Sharon about your reply, she felt it was as you said, Sorry about me misunderstanding, I thought it was to or about me, simply because my reply was the second one and what you said seemed to almost apply to me saying I would vote for a mormon.

    Sharon posted a while back about a mormon running for presidet, I said in that topic, one good thing about it is, it will open peoples eyes to what they really believe by at least giving Mormonism some serious exposer, then we will have more chances to get the truth out. take care, Rick B


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