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Mormons and Evangelicals
As part of the “Mormon Moment,” many have analyzed the relationship between The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS, Mormons) and Evangelical Protestants. Poll data has shown that a large majority of Protestant pastors in the US think that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a cult (this view is false), and that nearly half of Evangelicals think Mormons are not Christian (also false).
Many commentators, and not just Latter-day Saints, have observed that these common opinions are based on distortions of fact. In 2004, Richard Mouw, a prominent Evangelical and president of Fuller Theological Seminary in California, publicly apologized to Mormons:
“We evangelicals have often seriously misrepresented the beliefs and practices of the Mormon community. Indeed, let me state it bluntly to the LDS folks here this evening: we have sinned against you. The God of the Scriptures makes it clear that it is a terrible thing to bear false witness against our neighbors, and we have been guilty of that sort of transgression in things we have said about you.”
Mouw was referring to the actions and statements of some Evangelicals in the “countercult” movement, who have for decades argued against Mormon doctrines and practices. Their tactics have often included misrepresentation and logical fallacy. Their methods have filtered into the consciousness of ordinary Evangelicals, who have unfortunately adopted unsound arguments and conclusions.
Mormons generally see other Christians as friends and allies in important matters. The LDS Church does not seek to obscure legitimate disagreements over doctrine or its own distinctive truth claims, but Mormons do object to unsound arguments which belittle and disparage Mormons’ genuine love for and faith in Christ. Respectful dialogue and partnership in worthy aims would be of greater benefit to all.
Dr. Mouw has recently released another book: “Talking with Mormons: An Invitation to Evangelicals.” He reiterates his earlier apology and invites Evangelicals to be more conscientious when discussing doctrinal differences with Mormons, and to avoid approaching any interaction as “spiritual warfare.” Mouw posits that “a person can fall far short of a robust theological orthodoxy and still be in a genuine relationship with Jesus.” In other words, accusing Mormons–who believe in Jesus as the Savior and worship Him–of being “non-Christian,” based upon one’s narrow and self-serving theological definitions is presumptuous and more confusing than enlightening. If one who receives communion each Sunday in remembrance of Christ’s atonement is not Christian, then does the term even have a real meaning beyond bestowing or withholding personal approval?
We invite journalists and observers to keep in mind that there is often a great deal more to be known about Mormon-Evangelical interactions than it appears from the most partisan and strident participants. Mormons are Christians, not cultists, and it is only via willful misunderstanding or unfortunate ignorance that one could conclude otherwise.