Memoirs of a former evangelical anti-Mormon

UPDATE 3/28/2009: “The short bus rides again” — More abuse and rampant stupidity from the inhabitants of CARM’s Mormonism forum.

"The realization dawned on me that in embracing the evangelical countercult ministry, I had joined the team that was riding the intellectual short bus, and I wanted off."

"The realization dawned on me that in embracing the evangelical counter-cult ministry, I had joined the team that was riding the intellectual short bus, and I wanted off."

In the Beginning…

September, 1998. I was a 16-year-old girl starting my junior year at a new high school and had finally talked my parents into purchasing a computer that could access the Internet, something that would change my life forever. One of the first people I ran into at the Yahoo! chat rooms was an 18-year-old freshman attending Brigham Young University who was very eager to share his faith with me. At that point in my life, I was attending an evangelical Presbyterian church which I loved. I had participated in a mission trip to Mexico over the summer and was about as “on fire for Christ” as a teenage girl can be: promise ring, WWJD bracelet, bumper sticker on my guitar case that said “REAL MEN LOVE JESUS,” and Supertones CDs. I had heard a few negative things about Latter-day Saints from various sources, but overall, my attitude towards Mormons was unwritten and as pure as the driven snow, kind of like Lindsay Lohan when she was in The Parent Trap.1

My new online Mormon friend encouraged me to start learning about his church, so I did. I read the First Vision story at the official LDS church web site and made friends with the Latter-day Saint kids at school. I ordered a copy of the Book of Mormon and started taking the missionary discussions. I suppose that the local Latter-day Saints who knew me thought I was well on my way to conversion, but something was not right.

I have often wondered why I turned to evangelical anti-Mormonism so early in my investigation of the LDS church. I harbor little doubt that my LDS friends were sincere in trying to share their faith with me, and for the most part they avoided attacks on my own faith. The best answer I can come up with is that I was offended by some of the basic principles of Mormonism. For example, when one of the missionaries was explaining why I needed to be baptized in their church, I objected, “But I’ve already been baptized. Why should I do it again?” His flippant response: “You didn’t get baptized, you went swimming.”2 It did not sit well with me to have someone belittle what I considered sacred, but even more unsettling was the logic behind that statement. When all is said and done, the LDS church teaches that evangelical Christianity is inadequate, evangelicals do not have the Holy Spirit, and evangelical baptisms are worthless no matter how sincere the intentions behind them. I had intuition enough to see the subtext behind the frequent attempts at conversion, and it angered me.

The Descent

Like any good teenager, the first place I went when I wanted to hear about Mormons from someone other than the Mormons themselves was the Internet. I started plowing through anti-Mormon web sites and absorbing the information I found there, finding that anti-Mormon criticisms broadly fit into two categories: (1) criticisms from evangelicals (2) criticisms from atheists/agnostics/ex-Mormons. Sometimes you will see a bit of cross-over with ex-Mormons becoming evangelicals, but most of the evangelicals involved in counter-cult ministries have never been Mormon themselves, and very rarely do people who leave the LDS church become evangelical. Since the agnostic critics were just as critical of evangelicals as they were of Mormons, I mostly stuck with materials from various counter-cult ministries: Bill McKeever, Matt Slick, James White, the late Walter Martin, and the Tanners. I heard negative things about Ed Decker early on, but friends at my Presbyterian church still gave me one of his books and I read it. The God Makers was on the shelf at the church library, but I did not read it until much later. Books I owned or read near this period of time included Is the Mormon My Brother? and The Forgotten Trinity by James White, Kingdom of the Cults by Walter Martin, Blood on the Doorposts and Lucifer Dethroned by the Schnoebelens, Questions to Ask Your Mormon Friend by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, Answering Mormons’ Questions by Bill McKeever, and What You Need to Know About Mormons by Ed Decker. I exchanged some e-mails with Bill McKeever and called in to his radio show once or twice.3

It took me all of a week’s worth of reading to discern in my 16-year-old mind that Mormonism was crazy and only crazy people believed it. “These people must be stupid,” I remember telling myself. My attitude turned from genuine curiosity to scorn and derision. If a web site made a cheap joke at the expense of Mormons, I laughed at it. If something was unspeakably offensive to Mormons, I tried to bring it up. I found a web site that had a transcript of the entire Mormon temple ceremony with pictures and illustrations of garments and temple clothes, and I read it all. I would sometimes fire off a line from the temple ceremony in a chat room with Mormons present, just to upset them and hurt them, and I did it with a smirk on my face. Yes, that’s right, I hurt people on purpose, and I enjoyed it. That’s what evangelical anti-Mormonism does to you.

People who support the counter-cult ministry would probably interject at this point that their intention has never been to culture that kind of behavior. I would reply that their intentions mean very little, it’s their results that matter, and I was one of their results whether they like it or not. I’ve heard the talk that goes on when evangelical anti-Mormons think Latter-day Saints aren’t in the room, the sneering and the condescension. You cannot spend major parts of your life thinking and preaching that the followers of a competing religion are deceived, blind and going to hell without looking down on them in some form, and condescension easily breeds hate and ridicule.

Seeds of Doubt

Later that year I began posting on Mormonism-themed message boards under the handle “Junia.” The first board I began spending time on was called “Answering Mormonism” and it was run by Larry Ingram.4 Posting there put me in touch with a whole new side of Mormonism: LDS apologists. There were several men posting there who were heavily involved in LDS apologetics or had web sites themselves: Wade Englund,5 Kevin Graham6 and Michael Fordham.7 Most of the other LDS posters there were pretty well-versed in LDS apologetics even if they did not have web sites themselves. When I would bring up a talking point or argument from an evangelical book or web site, they would easily point me to an LDS response at SHIELDS, FAIR, FARMS or another Mormon apologetics site. Mormon apologists had dismantled nearly every evangelical anti-Mormon book or web site I had read, and the ones that weren’t directly addressed still used arguments and material that had been debunked elsewhere. I would later expand my participation to the discussion boards at CARM and FAIR, putting myself into contact with even more LDS apologists.

I began to notice something about the evangelical counter-cult ministry which bothered me immensely: the evangelicals were not responding to the LDS fiskings of their arguments, they just kept peddling the same material as if it was the final word on the subject and no one had refuted it. I adamantly searched the evangelical web sites for responses to their LDS critics and came up almost entirely empty-handed. It had reached the point where LDS apologists weren’t even taking the evangelicals seriously anymore. Gary Novak had a web site which thoroughly mocked almost every anti-Mormon site there was, and Wade Englund had a site where he posted parody look-alike sites of the major anti-Mormon hubs.8 That was all very intimidating to me as a teenager trying to get a handle on why Mormonism was not true.

The realization dawned on me that in embracing the evangelical counter-cult ministry, I had joined the team that was riding the intellectual short bus, and I wanted off.9 But something else was making my stomach turn. Recall what I said earlier about my attitude towards Mormons during this time, and how I looked at them in condescension and ridicule. Could I really claim I was doing all that under the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit? The more I thought about it, the more I had to admit that the Holy Spirit had withdrawn from my life at about the same time I got involved in the counter-cult ministry. That hurt more than anything else.

I began to distance myself from evangelical anti-Mormons, but disavowing them altogether was still to come.

“One Heck of An Anti-Mormon”?

About halfway through my senior year of high school, I began talking to Matt Slick from the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry (CARM), both at the CARM forums and on AOL Instant Messenger. I tried to call him out on his failure to respond to LDS critics of his work and eventually agreed to let him call me on the phone and talk to me about it. He managed to temporarily convince me that the LDS apologists were impossible to deal with and their criticisms were just more deception and petty games. He said that he was genuinely concerned about my involvement in Mormonism and was only trying to convince me of their deception because he cared about me. I did not feel like my intellectual doubts with the counter-cult ministry had been answered, but I was touched by his seemingly honest concern for me. By that time I was trying to get in to BYU, and I told Matt about that. Much to my surprise, he approved of that course of action. “Wow, you could make one heck of an anti-Mormon,” he told me.

In turn, Matt sounded tired and worn out. Running CARM was apparently a thankless job and he did not have a lot of people helping him at the time, so I agreed to serve as a moderator on his Mormonism forum. A lot of tension quickly evolved between Matt and I due to the fact that evangelicals were allowed to say anything about Mormons and were never disciplined or called on their un-Christ-like behavior, but if a Mormon apologist posted a response to Matt’s arguments and articles on Mormonism, Matt would just delete his post and ban him. I was constantly sticking up for the LDS participants on the forum and trying to reign in the nastier evangelical locals. The evangelicals were soon questioning my faith just because I wouldn’t let them get away with posting things like “Mormonism teaches that God raped Mary.”

An evangelical participant named Scott W. developed a particularly unhealthy obsession with me and began pouring through my personal home page for “dirt” on me. He criticized me for wanting to attend Brigham Young University (something Matt Slick was aware of and had approved of), saying that I was “dabbling in Mormonism.” He pointed out that I had links to pro-LDS sites like FAIR on my homepage; I had links to anti-LDS sites as well. I was just trying to represent both sides of the discussion. I had links to scholarly articles about the authorship of the gospel of John and Gnostic texts like the gospel of Mary, which he claimed meant I endorsed those views. He did not seem to care that I also linked to solid evangelical apologetics sites like Tekton and the Christian Think Tank.

I answered all of Scott’s criticisms of me when he raised them on the CARM forums, and instead of responding to my answers, he just re-posted the same criticisms as if I had never responded, claiming that I was “afraid” to answer him. A few days later, Matt Slick opened a chat with me on AIM and brought up the exact same set of criticisms that Scott had been pushing. Clearly Scott had been sharing his theories about me with Matt in private.

The next day Scott W. announced on the CARM forums that Matt had told him I would no longer be a moderator. I was stunned that Matt Slick, the guy who had claimed to have so much genuine concern for me, would boot me from moderating at his forums and not even have the decency to tell me himself. Sure enough, the passwords to the moderation part of the CARM forums had been changed with no forewarning from Matt. I e-mailed Matt to ask him what had happened and why he had made that decision. I tried talking to him about it when I saw him on AIM. He never answered my e-mails or responded to my AIM messages. It’s been over eight years since this happened, and I have yet to hear another word from Matt Slick. So much for all that genuine concern. Not treating Mormons hatefully enough got me thrown under the short bus.10

Parting Words

My experience with LDS scholarship and apologetics killed my confidence in the intellectual merits of the counter-cult ministry. My experience with Matt Slick and CARM killed my faith in the counter-cult talk of sincerity and concern for the lost. That was all I needed to say good-bye to the evangelical anti-Mormon movement forever. I do not doubt that there are sincere, well-meaning people involved in certain counter-cult ministries, but I will remain forever cynical of the fruits they are producing.

I believe that there is a need for evangelicals to expound on the differences between our beliefs and the teachings of Mormonism. I believe it’s fair game for us to say why we’re right and they’re wrong. I do not believe screeching about how Mormonism is a cult and Mormons aren’t Christians is the right way to go about it.

If you are reading this article and you do not know me, please do not kid yourself into thinking I am not a “real” evangelical just because the notion of an evangelical criticizing the counter-cult ministry makes you uncomfortable. Every belief I hold to concerning the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, heaven, hell, the church, the Bible, and soteriology can be backed up by the writings of a major evangelical teacher or author. I am not the bad guy here. It’s the counter-cult ministry that has been on the wrong path for years, so if you do not like something I’ve written here, I suggest that you take it up with them.

1 That joke was shamelessly plagiarized from Sceilence of Ysera on the World of Warcraft forums. I just couldn’t resist.

2 Dear Mormons: This is a very, very stupid thing to say to someone who is investigating your church. If you say this to an investigator from a traditional Christian background, you are very, very stupid.

3 I would just like to clarify that I never had anything but a positive experience with Bill McKeever. I haven’t kept up with his work since I was a teenager, but if any person in the countercult ministry has his heart in the right place, it’s him.

4 That message board is now defunct, along with what appears to be all of Larry Ingram’s web sites. I have no idea what he’s doing now.

5 I don’t believe Wade has a web site of his own anymore, or at least I can’t find it anywhere. He’s still active on the Mormon Apologetics & Discussion Board (a later incarnation of the FAIR discussion board).

6 Kevin Graham has since stopped believing in the LDS church, but he was one of the more active Internet apologists for a long time. His old web site can still be seen here.

7 Michael Fordham lived in the Tacoma area and I met him in person shortly after I began posting on “Answering Mormonism.” I don’t think he has ever had his own web site, but he has written some articles for FAIR, see here for example.

8 I don’t believe Wade’s parody site exists anymore either.

9 Thankfully, I was not the first evangelical to come to that conclusion. Carl Mosser and Paul Owen pretty much made the same observation in their ground-breaking 1997 paper.

10 Years later, while I was attending BYU, Scott W. contacted me and apologized for the way things went down at CARM. I don’t think he was sorry for the underhanded tactics he used in getting me booted as moderator, but he was sorry he had turned his back on me altogether afterward. He went on to insist that I was not a true Christian nor saved, but the initial apology was a nice gesture.

UPDATE 2/09/2009: When I originally published this blog post, I listed Scott W.’s full name and linked to his testimony which he had posted on another evangelical blog. Part of me is glad that I did this since the owner of that blog immediately got in touch with him and he was allowed to come present his side of the story in the comments below. In hindsight, and in the interest of forgiveness, I’ve decided to remove his full name and the link to his testimony, though I stand by my story as I presented it. I’ve made minor edits to the comments below to conform to this.

UPDATE 12/05/2009: I have posted some new thoughts and reflections on this post.

RELATED POSTS:

Memoirs of a former evangelical anti-Mormon
Me, religion, Mormonism: The earliest experiences
The other Mormon guy I loved
Visiting the LDS Ward
The Missionary Discussions, Part 1
The Missionary Discussions, Part 2
The Book of Mormon, Part 1
Enter JP Holding
Trips to Utah
The Book of Mormon, Part 2
Things I like about the LDS church
And never the twain shall meet
And another thing…


Comments

Memoirs of a former evangelical anti-Mormon — 84 Comments

  1. Bill McKeever? I have never been able to sit down and chat with this fellow. But I am glad, [BJM], you would not peg him as evangelical anti-Mormon ilk.

    And Scott W.? I know him. He has a solid heart for God.

    So is there a link somewhere in that I can read your personal testimony for the Lord?

  2. Yikes. That’s rough.

    But before I (a Mormon) get too smug, I should note that my own forray into apologetics hasn’t been always pretty either. I have found myself increasingly jaded, more likely to ridicule apparently stupid comments, increasingly biting and sarcastic, and increasingly contemptuous of fellow human beings.

    I find myself entertaining increasingly uncharitable thoughts about Evangelicals, considering them dull, repetitive, unintelligent, and remarkably lacking in self-observation.

    I think these thoughts in spite of my personal knowledge of many admirable, sincere, and intelligent Evangelicals.

    I find myself ashamed that I allow my encounters with less admirable Evangelicals to poison my view of the whole, in spite of the wonderful people I know are there.

    I think this mindset serves no one. But I just… can’t… help it… when I’ve got someone sitting there spouting a bunch of idiocy about DNA studies, all the while blissfully unaware that the same DNA research would undermine accounts such as Genesis. Do they really just not get it? Or are they willfully refusing to listen?

    Grrr…

    And the uncharitable and sarcastic thoughts begin to flow again.

    Where did you turn when you dropped the counter-cult ministry? I could use a lift.

    I also thought you might be interested in the following link:

    http://johnwmorehead.blogspot.com/2008/10/lds-religious-disaffiliation-narratives.html

    I have long been suspicious that ex-Mormons tend to go atheist rather than Evangelical (or other denomination). This was just personally apparent to me, since it seemed obvious that the same tools used to deconstruct Mormonism could just as easily be turned on the Christian narrative and belief. I knew so many atheist ex-Mormons who would gleefully quote Sandra Tanner, or use the arguments of other Evangelical counter-cultists when it suited their purposes. But Evangelicals would truly be fools to think these people are their allies. They think Evangelicals are just as full of rubbish as Mormons.

    To me, it seemed highly likely that the more common exit route for Mormons was atheist/agnostic rather than Christian. But my views are purely anecdotal. But apparently I’m not the only one who has noticed this trend of ex-Mormons jettisoning faith altogether rather than getting “the correct faith.”

    One thing I wonder though. Even if the counter-cult ministry knew about these trends among ex-Mormons, would they care?

    I’m not sure. The impression I get from talking to some anti-Mormons is that they really don’t care where I end up in the hereafter. But are rather concerned with using an exchange with me as a kind of example. They want to show their fellow Evangelical onlookers how they “demolish the Mormon.” As if putting on a good show with me enhances their “street cred.” While others seem anxious only to discharge their duty with me and wash their garments of my blood. Like I’m another notch on their belt to show God at the judgment bar.

    Hard to really feel the love.

    Like I said, I really need to stop chasing these people.

  3. “And Scott W.? I know him. He has a solid heart for God.”

    I’m not going to judge him in that regard. I only know what I know of him, and that’s my experience with him at CARM as related here and what happened years later.

    When he contacted me to apologize for what happened with CARM years later, he asked if he and his wife (I believe her name was Claudia) could talk to me on the phone, and I agreed. He rigorously asked me about my testimony, my belief in the Trinity, my belief in the Bible and its inerrancy, and what I thought about Mormonism. He also asked about my activities as an evangelical. I was reading the Bible every day, going to an evangelical Christian Bible study once a week, going to an evangelical small group with other women once a week, meeting for one-on-one time with my pastor on the BYU campus once a week, and regularly attending the local Assembly of God. I explained that I accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was 10, long before I ever knew anything about the LDS church, and had done my best to follow Him ever since.

    I had precisely two points of disagreement with Scott: I’m not Calvinist and I believe it is possible that some Latter-day Saints are saved in spite of having things doctrinally wrong about God. Based on that, Scott insisted that I was not saved and told me I needed to repent and accept Jesus Christ as my Savior. It was clear to me that Scott had decided before he ever called me that I was not saved and nothing I could have said over the course of that long conversation would have convinced him otherwise. I believe Scott made some serious mistakes in his dealings with me, but no one is perfect.

    I’ve never posted my testimony to this blog, but I’ll add it to my list of things to write about.

  4. Hello. It’s been about 7 or so years since we had that telephone conversation. My wife and I remember it well. She’s sitting with me as I write this email.

    I NEVER made any statement to the effect that you’re not an evangelical believer. I never judged your evangelical conviction. I sincerely think that you’ve conflated two or more people into one conversation.

    Both my wife and I agree with this as we both were “witnesses” to that conversation.

    On the other hand, if you have a problem with what we said to you on the phone, you need to take that up with us privately before you go on the WWW with slander. This can hurt the reputation of a brother or sister in Christ.

    Scott W.

  5. I’m afraid you and Claudia are remembering wrong Scott. I haven’t conflated anything. I noted the conversation in my journal the day we had it. You insisted that I was not saved and told me I needed to accept Jesus Christ as my Savior. Nothing I have written here is slander.

    You expressly rejected me as a sister in Christ, so I make no apologies for not contacting you to discuss your behavior privately. What went down with CARM was a public affair, and the conversation we had on the phone was directly related to that.

  6. Seth, I appreciate your perspective and that’s an interesting study you’ve linked to. I’ve heard counter-cult apologists say that they would rather have someone be atheist or agnostic than Mormon. I don’t want to say who because I may be remembering names wrong, but I’ve definitely heard it before.

    There was a book I read in which the author talked about his experience in working with Ed Decker’s Ex-Mormons for Jesus, where he mentions that he found out almost no one involved in Ex-Mormons for Jesus was actually ex-Mormon. I believe it’s one of the reasons the group had to change their name to Saints Alive. I *think* the book was The Gainsayers by Darrick T. Evenson (who later left the LDS church himself).

    It’s one of the reasons I’m not in favor of overtly and directly trying to pull Mormons out of the LDS church all of the time. I would rather see the LDS church reform from within than go down the tedious path of converting people out of Mormonism, then trying to turn them back to evangelical Christianity.

    BTW, forgot to say, where did I go when I ditched the counter-cult ministry? I decided that I did not care if I was the only evangelical in the world who thought the counter-cult ministry was on the wrong track with Mormons, I was going to do and say what I thought was right. I soon found out that I was not alone though; Rock Canyon Assembly of God in Provo became my church for that reason, and Standing Together Ministries is another group with a similar attitude towards Mormons. Don’t know if that helps you at all, but there is hope for more positive dialogue and outreach.

  7. [BJM],

    I’m truly surprized we’re having this exchange. I spoke about this phone conversation with my wife tonight as we enjoyed a walk together. She and I both remember with total confidence that I did not say or insinuate what you have publically accused me of. In fact, we remember being kind with you and closing the conversation with peace.

    So I guess I must close this exchange with an appeal to Scripture which asserts that such charges must be confirmed by two or three witnesses. My wife and I are two witness who agree.

    Sincerely,

    Scott W.

  8. Scott, we closed the conversation in peace after I told you that Jesus Christ was already my Savior and I had no way of disavowing Him so that I could pretend to accept Him again just to please you.

    The Bible also says, “But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:36) You may not remember what you said to me on the phone that day, but God does.

    I wish you and Claudia the best nonetheless.

  9. [BJM],

    I cannot judge your heart, but it seems you may be struggling with bitterness (?) towards individuals. Genesis 37 -50 may be an encouragement to you as Joseph has many, many reasons to become bitter, but, through his genuine faith in God, was able to thank God for all things and for his Almighty hand of Providence in his life. BTW, I also believe that true faith, founded in the truths of Scripture, will give such a confidence that direct questioning of one’s true status in Christ will not bring such disturbance. Yes, it is uncomfortable — but who’s approval are we seeking? Others? Or the approval of Christ as he is revealed in Scripture?
    I’d also encourage you not to name so many names. Personalities, i don’t think, are the focus of your points. And remember charity and kindness should grace even controversial communications.
    We are told to examine our selves (to see if we are indeed in the faith) and to search the Scriptures. Wish you the best

  10. Thanks [BJM].

    I’ve heard some positive things about Standing Together Ministries, but don’t know too much about them. I believe Rock Canyon Assembly of God is just up the street from my parents’ house (I grew up in Provo – but live in Colorado now). Glad you found a way to stay happy in the faith (I always think it’s unfortunate when social squabbles undermine religious observance – no matter what religion).

    As for reforms… I think Mormonism is going to be a mixed bag.

    On correcting Mormon misconceptions about Evangelicals, I think there is great cause for optimism.

    On getting Mormons closer to an acknowledgment on Christ’s grace – also great cause for optimism. You might check out the writings of Stephen Robinson and Robert Millett on the subject. They are both prominent Mormon scholars who vocally advocate for a resurgence of Mormonism’s inherent (and surprisingly strong) grace theology. I think it’s taking hold too.

    On reconciling Mormon views of the Trinity… That’s tougher, but possibly still doable. If you guys are willing to put up with a “Social Trinitarian” view of the Trinity, I think we might reach a point where we can put up with each other. If not, I don’t see much progress.

    On the divinization of man. We might be able to meet in the middle on this one since the LDS view isn’t really all that different than the Eastern Orthodox view of “theosis”… except on one major point, which may sink the whole deal:

    The ontological divide between God and humanity.

    Unfortunately, I think this one is going to end up being non-negotiable for both sides. The fact is, Mormons reject creation ex nihilo and collapse the ontological divide between God and man. I just don’t think there’s any way Evangelicals are ever going to be happy with that. And Mormons show no sign of softening on it. If anything, we’ve hardened our position on it since the 1950s.

    The best that can be expected is probably an agreement to disagree and moving on to other areas where we are closer to a deal.

  11. Thomas, I think you give good advice. I would not say that I’m struggling with bitterness, I put the events I’ve described in this post behind me years ago. I wrote this post because the other things I’ve blogged about on this blog (and plan to blog about) are affected and informed by my history with the counter-cult movement. I’ve had this post in my mind for a while now, and I’ve thought for a long time about if I wanted to give names and specific details. In the end, I decided I would because 95% of what I’ve written happened in public under real names. Besides, I think details are much more interesting to the readers than just generic references to “counter-cult apologists” and “LDS apologists.” I’m sure that if I did not give names, someone would accuse me of making things up altogether.

    I never for a second doubted my salvation because of what some people have said to me, I simply find it very telling that even solid, active evangelicals will be branded “non-Christian” if they refuse to bow to the altar of Mormonism-is-a-cult. People can think of me what they want; when I was struggling to toe the counter-cult line, I was in spiritual turmoil. Now I have peace. (Well, I struggle a lot with missing my mother who died recently, but I feel pretty good about my relationship with Latter-day Saints)

  12. Seth,

    It is great to hear your insight. I agree with so much of what you write! Stephen Robinson I have read a ton of. I never had time to take a class from him at BYU, but I take great pride in the fact that his long-time teaching assistant was my matron-of-honor at my wedding. Millett I have not read, but I heard he was working on a How Wide the Divide 2 with Greg Johnson of Standing Together. Greg was the leader of the evangelical Bible study at BYU for the first semester I was there, before he founded ST, and he is an awesome guy. But yeah, I’m pretty sure I could read Robinson from the pulpit of an evangelical church and no one would know the difference.

    Theosis is one point where I feel evangelicals could move a little closer to Mormonism, a la C.S. Lewis and some others. While I don’t think the C.S. Lewis ideas on theosis are the same as the LDS ideas (namely because of the different natures of God in the respective doctrines), I wince when I hear evangelicals complain about the LDS belief in “becoming gods.”

    I don’t really expect the LDS church to budge formally on its other doctrines without some kind of major change of heart from the leaders in the form of a revelation. However, would you believe that just last year, my husband and I had the missionaries over to dinner, and one of them claimed he had never heard the teaching that God the Father used to be a human who had to progress to become God? I brought it up and he said, “We don’t teach that, I’m a lifelong member and I’ve never heard that.” Both my husband (who is an RM and active member himself) and the other missionary said I was right.

    It’s pure anecdotal evidence, but I do wonder if the Church is doing less emphasizing of its more divisive doctrines. Then again, it could just be one guy who really, really didn’t pay attention in church growing up.

  13. Well… it doesn’t help that we are really, really short on details as to exactly what God was doing.

    Joseph’s King Follett Sermon seems to imply that God the Father experienced mortality in the same way Christ did – as a perfect and divine individual who laid down his life and was resurrected.

    But, honestly, we don’t really know. It’s all speculation. Some LDS scholars say God was always God (just in different form), some think he was once a “sinful man.” But doctrinally, it’s anyone’s guess as to the details.

  14. The current “nice” Mormon-Evangelical dialogue books (that I know of) are:

    “How Wide the Divide” – Stephen Robinson and Craig Blomberg

    “Bridging the Divide” – Robert Millet and Greg Robinson

    “Claiming Christ” – Robert Millet and Craig McDermott

    They’re all pretty short and probably something you’d be interested in reading. I personally think “How Wide the Divide” is the best of the three. Both scholars came to the book intending to have a respectful debate, but definitely a debate critiquing each other’s positions.

    Bridging the Divide is more of a stream-of-consciousness-style commentary on how an LDS and Evangelical scholar grew to become friends in spite of their differences – although they do ask pointed doctrinal questions (but that doesn’t seem to be the main thrust).

    Claiming Christ is good too, but kind of schizophrenic. The problem is that the authors seem to be approaching the book from different assumptions and goals. Millett comes to the book looking to “bear his testimony” and share his experiences with scripture (like in Bridging). McDermott, by contrast, comes to the book obviously looking to pick a fight. A respectful and fair fight, but a fight nonetheless. So Millett is being warm and fuzzy and McDermott is being scrappy… It’s alright, but a bit frustrating in execution.

  15. CARM is a great resource, but I agree that it is wrong to let “Christians” just use bad attacks on the Mormon faith. There is enough wrong with the LDS church to not use false attacks.

  16. I’ll try to include here some of what I have seen and believe, being one of those unsaved and currently unwashed agnostics.

    I might be lacking in any clear and concise understanding of the Bible. I read the Old Testament via http://www.thebricktestament.com/ , which is quite admittedly a more jaded look at things because I can’t stop laughing at the law section with the picture of the Lego man defiling the plastic bear whose expression truly seems to suit the moment in spite of the fact that this is what expression was intentionally and permanently molded onto its face. I also have http://www.skepticsannotatedbible.com/ , and quite happily take every annotation therein with a grain of salt since some of them are utterly retarded and completely refutable with a little common sense. If the comments on the Brick Testament offend, I do sincerely apologize since I do not consider any less of the faith because of this particularly strange depiction of the scriptures. I’ve at least looked into the differences between various versions of the Bible, and while I am the first to admit my Christian education lacks a well-rounded gusto, I would still consider myself better-educated in the faith than most non-believers.

    Most of my perception of Jesus comes through with the impression of a kind, caring figure who believed deeply in compassion for others. Both my parents were formerly practicing members of Christian faith; my father a Baptist, my mother a Catholic. For my father, his church’s heavy-handed condemnation of things they refused to even view for themselves drove him away from the organized part of religion if not the belief itself. My mother was so unhappy with how the Catholic faith treated her in a truly old-fashioned Catholic upbringing that she has become a Wiccan and chosen to accept the embrace of her own sense of spirituality. Both of them have taught me one thing quite consistently, however: Jesus was awesome, no matter what you choose to believe as to the nature of His being. Do I believe He was the son of God? I think it’s possible, yes. But the God in question is where I call skepticism in.

    Taking this into account, I don’t understand how those who have embraced and accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior can bicker so harshly and cruelly with one another. Jesus presents as a figure who would be saddened by such displays, where those who should be spreading tolerance, love, and charity are instead niggling at each other over differences in interpretation and belief. Someone so full of love as Jesus could never wish for these conflicts to be the focus of anyone’s mind and heart, let alone wish for their dogmatic mongering to cause harm to others. I’ve been one of those people who have made fun of Christians of all kinds, bitter and reproachful because I refused to even TRY to understand or accept any view point other than my own. I’ve hurt a lot of people being that kind of person; they know who they are, and I’d like to make great apology to them for my ignorance and hatred being allowed to govern my reasoning.

    You’re absolutely right about this kind of vitriolic behavior being the intellectual short bus. It has been since there have been creatures around cognizant enough to be aware that other people are different than they. Part of my anger came from those who would condemn me wholesale for not becoming part of a faith I’ve never felt I can believe in. I gave up my own little Wiccan bout for the very same reason: a lack of connection and faith. I haven’t found what’s right for me, but if I never do connect with Christianity I don’t want to be told I’m going to burn for all eternity or other such rubbish. The same goes for those who believe different views of Christianity and end up fighting one another. No one wants to be told their belief system (or non-committal belief system in my case) is wrong and will cost them horrid, unbearable damnation. Nothing is more cruel than a kindness falsely given, and I often get the feeling this “concern for my soul” is really just a terror tactic to get me to believe something I’m either not ready for or may never truly accept.

    Nowadays it seems more important to me to be understanding and respectful. It took a lot of hard lessons and shameful behavior before I learned it, but now I spend time with people of different faiths who are more interested in what we have in common to share with love and kindness, and debate our differences with respect for the base humanity and intelligence that should be given to others. This isn’t to say this right is eternally granted; some people forfeit this privilege at the door since this respect must be mutual in order to work, but even they get a chance to try to convince me something I have been thinking might be wrong. There are those I’ll never agree with, but very few I will actually dislike for it. They always fall into the category of those who teach ignorance and hatred as a course of action, much like the counter-cult ministries seem fond of doing. Who would want to believe in a belief set that features God and/or Jesus as a figure who approves of cruel condemnation for differences that aren’t so big when you stop and look at the big picture? I know I wouldn’t.

    It’s sites like this that get my blood boiling: http://objectiveministries.org/kidz/ . Of course, it only boils for a little while before I stop and laugh at the spiteful, poo-flinging ignorance touted by such people. If anyone wants to screech hatred from the top of their lungs or plug their ears and hum loudly when anything that might contradict them pops up, they can do so and I can chuckle to myself and move on. It does make life easier to let go of anger like that, doesn’t it?

  17. Oh, and sorry to comment-spam, but I’d like to add one more point: CHRISTIANS HAVE MADE ME A BETTER PERSON. I have been BETTER and MORE KIND after listening to their loving, understanding, respectful opinions.

    ONLY THESE KINDS OF CHRISTIANS HAVE EVER, EVER, EVER COME CLOSE TO MAKING ME CONSIDER ACCEPTING CHRIST AS MY LORD AND SAVIOR. NOT ONE PERSON WHO HAS TOLD ME I WILL BURN IN HELL HAS DONE ANYTHING BUT PUSH ME AWAY. This is simple fact. Only those Christians who demonstrated what I consider to be truly Christ-like behavior have ever made me interested in Christ. That’s all there is to it.

  18. [BJM], if you think you can improve upon public evangelical engagement with Mormonism, you’d be most effective in being a doer and not just a talker. In other words, don’t just complain about it, but provide a living, breathing model of interaction that others can learn from.

    Unfortunately, it seems most that complain aren’t being realistic, holistic models of engagement. They often limit themselves to interacting with (and even pandering to) non-mainstream pockets of Mormonism. Or they limit themselves to an abstract notion of “official doctrine” instead of more holistically engaging the breadth of modern Mormonism’s institutional channels of influence (those, by the way, come out of Salt Lake City, not Provo), mainstream Mormon beliefs, and extant oral traditions. Or they strictly insist on a myopic academic model of discourse that is out of touch with common people.

    In other words, I would challenge you to be an example of engagement on the internet to common Mormon people in a way that lovingly and intelligently both preaches for the purity of the real gospel and specifically warns against falsehoods that keep people away from the truth. I can assure you that merely preaching against the evangelical counter-cult community is not going to be very edifying without some sort of alternative model to provide.

    Grace and peace in Christ, who only justifies those who stop working and start trusting the God who justifies the ungodly by faith apart from works (Romans 4:4-8, contra the JST),

    Aaron

  19. Well said Aaron. Any dialogue with mormons must by nature start and stop with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The idea of a “dialogue” with a false belief system is foreign to the Bible.

  20. Aaron: Clearly you know very little about me if you think I am merely a “talker” and not a doer. I spent five years at Brigham Young University surrounded by Latter-day Saints, being a living example of what I believe and getting to share my faith on a daily basis, and it got noticed. It’s counter-cult ministers who think crawling the Internet in search of trophy chat transcripts with inept, ill-prepared Mormons constitutes “witnessing” to them. Pretty laughable to someone who has sat in a classroom full of Mormons and questioned the lectures of scholars from FARMS.

    Thanks for urging me to be an example, but I’m extremely confident I’ve been a better example and brought more Latter-day Saints closer to God than 99% of the counter-cult ministers out there. And I think Mormons need to hear that not all of us approve of the behaviors and methods of the counter-cult ministry, so they’re gonna hear it from me.

    Laura: I appreciate your feedback as always. You are one of the reasons that I firmly believe an attitude of love and respect will always be a better path than one of fear and condemnation.

    Seth: I did not know that Greg and Dr. Millet had already written their book! I have been out of the loop for a while with my daughter’s disability and my mother’s illness. I own How Wide the Divide, I’ll have to check out the others you mentioned. There was a book I read while I was at BYU, it was not a dialogue but it was a book by an LDS guy trying to give a respectful overview of what evangelicals believe. It was called Understanding These Other Christians and it was very respectful and sincere. I would like to see evangelicals write books about Mormons with that sort of attitude.

  21. Not to strain out a gnat, but if using the broad sense of “dialogue” (an interactive communication), I would have to disagree. But I think we’re on the same page. Of course we interactively communicate with non-believers. The idea of “dialogue” becomes problematic for me when it is restricted to dispassionate communication or to mere perspectival descriptions of what “you believe” and what “I believe”. Christian dialogue should ultimately include sincere questions, self-descriptions, and bold assertions that get personal (spoken upon the authority of God’s word). Why? Because when Jesus came, he preached repentance and the kingdom of God.

    If our dialog is based on integrity and honesty and evangelistic principles, we should be able to look a dialogue partner in the eyes and say, “I sincerely want to understand you and I sincerely want to convert you.” As soon as dialogical model is stripped of evangelistic passions, it no longer deserves to be promoted as a model of evangelism.

    Grace and peace,

    Aaron

  22. [BJM],

    My original comment is not intended to be an accusation that you, in your personal life, don’t live out the model you wish to promote. I for one think it is rad that you were able to go to BYU and engage Mormons over Christ and the truth.

    The point of my original comment (perhaps unclear) is to challenge you to flesh out by example the model you wish to promote in the very online context you critique models you dislike. You’ll make a lot of online Mormon friends by critizing your brothers in counter-cult ministries, but that comes across as cheap pandering if you don’t show us (the same audience that read your blog post) what your idea of evangelistic interaction should actually look like. It’s one thing to merely mock and tear down Christian brothers you disagree with in a public venue, but it’s quite another to supplement that with an example (in the same venue) that edifies and builds up.

    Grace and peace,

    Aaron

  23. Thank you for clarifying, Aaron. Blogging about how I think evangelicals should approach Mormons is definitely on the agenda. I felt that pointing out some of what we are doing wrong was a good first step, but there’s definitely more to come as my time permits. Take care.

  24. CG, I’m back briefly tonight after a full day of ministry.

    The apologetics deal that one observes in the Intermountain West is a mixed bag; and yet CG, dialogue agenda pushed on us in the West sometimes has much to be desired in the way of hearty love, authentic sincerity, courage and freedom to share biblical conviction, and real sacrifice.

    To all: Better than blogs, modern books, and conferences, I love to delve back in the ways of how biblical prophets, apostles, elders, deacons, and missionaries through each one of their individual, unique personalities were led by God in approaching others, confronting others, and gossiping the true gospel to others. The biblical guidebook is the ongoing, inexhaustible treasure house of God’s nature and His ways. Remind me of this often.

    thinking of heart issues,
    et

  25. Very rarely have I encountered an Evangelical in online debate mode who bothered much with telling me why his or her religion was desirable. Most of them devoted the lion’s share of the exchange to telling me why my religion stinks.

  26. Hi [BJM],

    I just wanted to say thank you and that I appreciate your courage in sharing what your experiences in an honest way.

    I also appreciate you being specific and naming names, for two reasons.

    1 is because that is how I found this. I am a participant on the CARM forums, and while in one way I find them to be a very helpful resource, there are some issues with their moderating and administration that have been greatly troubling.

    This is the precise reason I went searching the net, for feedback from any others, who may have experienced the same things.

    It seems as though some of the people in CARM’s inner circle, are more interested and focused on gossiping and arguing, then they are at actually encouraging others in the name of Christianity.

    Their attempts to dominate and control, without any accountability to those that participate on their forums, are what is particularly troubling to me, as I’ve seen NUMEROUS people, just like yourself, have experiences with SUPPOSED Christians, and then leave very discouraged and disheartened.

    The other reason I think it’s good to name names, is that it’s precisely these PHONY christian leaders who are worried about protecting “an image”, that SHOULD be called out.

    Since when does any Christian have “an image”?

    I thought there is NO ONE whom is righteous.

    The ONLY one that is righteous is God, and our savior Jesus.

    So this guy worried about his image, seems to be someone quite obviously someone who has become “puffed-up”, and lost his focus (if he ever truly had any”.

    Galatians 6 tells us quite clearly, that anyone who thinks himself to be something, when he is really nothing, deceives himself.

    I’d direct your “friend” to that piece of scripture, while he’s so worried about his “image”.

    Anyways, I gotta run, but thanks again.

  27. Hey Mark, thanks for sharing your own experience here. I haven’t given CARM more than a passing glance since this happened, but I’m not surprised to hear that things haven’t changed much.

    I’d say more but I gotta run, will say more later. Take care.

  28. So, I spent a little time reading the CARM Mormonism forums since my last post, and yup, the quality of discussion there is about what I remember. Evangelicals answering every reference to Brigham Young and Joseph Smith with “He was a false prophet and a liar!”, dismissing all LDS testimonies out of hand as automatically spiritually bankrupt, ridiculing celestial wives and spirit babies (because you know, it’s impossible to ridicule the rest of Christianity in a similar fashion). The quality of input from the LDS participants that I saw wasn’t a heck of a lot better, but I suspect all of the really capable LDS apologists have long since left out of boredom or been banned.

    Anyways, if my story does anything, I hope it shows evangelicals that you can be a strong Christian witness to other sects and faiths while still telling the counter-cult ministry to take a hike. I hope it shows Latter-day Saints that not all of us are interested in dialogue that involves calling your leaders liars ad nauseam.

    I think Aaron was right earlier that it’s easy for me to sit back and say what I think other people are doing wrong, and I don’t intend to stop there. I still plan to write about what I think is a better approach to Latter-day Saints. All in time.

  29. Hey, I meant to tell you that some of the responses to you here I found to be pretty obnoxious.

    Aaron’s was one of them.

    It’s amazing when people don’t like your opinion, they things they come up with.

    And as you RIGHTLY said – “how do you know what I’ve done or not been doing?”

    But as he moves to lecture you, he totally moves past his own wrongs and issues.

    As for CARM, what troubles me about that place is that while it is SUPPOSED to be a Christian forum, it seems more about idle gossip and pointless bickering, and what’s even MORE troubling, is that it seems as though the administrators of the site, seem to not only be caught up in that, but what’s worse is that is seems apparent that they use their administrative powers to further this agenda, and manipulate the outcome of their participation.

    So not only is the focus wrong, but the means are corrupt.

    I would REALLY appreciate hearing your insights, as a former moderator there.

    I’m still not sure what to think, because Matt has provided a lot of really good counsel material on a wide variety of subjects, and at times seems pretty sincere.

    But other times he seems quite corrupt.

    I’m not sure what to think.

    Send me an email, if you don’t wish to share this publicly.

  30. Mark, I’m not sure that there’s much more insight I could give you than what I’ve written in my initial post. There were very few moderators at CARM at the time and I never spoke with any of them but Matt. My moderating stint was short-lived, probably lasting about two months. I mentioned deleting a post there in my journal entry for February 29, 2000, so I was a moderator before then, and my account of being removed from moderation is dated March 29, 2000.

    I’m hesitant to condemn him now based on what happened in 2000, I can only tell you what I knew of him then. He came on talking a good game (he’s a much better debater vocally than he is in writing) and seemed very passionate and sincere, and I initially believed he was really concerned about Mormons, but the way he treated Mormons on his forums began to bother me. Back then, capable LDS apologists were regularly responding to his posted arguments on Mormons. His responses to their arguments were poor and he knew it, so he would just delete them or try to act like it was the same ol’ same ol’ and brush it off. Wade Englund was one person who kept responding though, and Matt began grumbling about banning him and eventually did so. When I would disagree with him about deleting a post or banning someone or tried to say that we should encourage the evangelical participants to be more respectful of Mormon beliefs (and I was always as polite as possible about bringing it up), he would get irate with me. I just felt bullied most of the time, and when he brought up Scott’s complaints about the links on my web site, I really felt bullied. Who the hell were these two grown men to be telling an 18-year-old girl what she could and could not be linking to on her personal homepage?? (And please note that Scott did later apologize)

    He would also regularly hang out in chat rooms attempting to engage unsuspecting, unprepared Latter-day Saints so he could post a chat transcript on his web site of what Mormons “really” believe. I’m not a big fan of this technique because anyone can find an unprepared bumpkin of any religion in a chat room somewhere and make them look dumb. Heck, Bill Maher just made an entire movie doing that to people (mostly Christians) in person.

    I left CARM feeling that Matt’s actions and behavior, both towards me and towards Mormons, belied his claims to genuine concern for them. The Bible says it does not matter how much good work you do or how much you give for God, without love you’re nothing (1 Corinthians 13:3). I never felt love for Mormons there, not behind the scenes and not publicly on the forums, and I see little evidence that things there have changed.

    If you want to see the work of an evangelical who (in my opinion) does a superb job interacting with Mormons in an online setting, register at http://www.mormonapologetics.org and look up rhinomelon’s posts. If you’re wondering if CARM is a waste of your time, I’d say it is, and the sooner you leave the happier you’ll be. Hope that helps.

  31. Jack, I”m impressed. You stick to your guns but you’ve got some sense in how to and how not to actually reach out to Mormons. Wish there were more like you…

  32. What a great, although tragic story. You and I took different paths but we ended up with the same journey and destination away from counter-cult approaches to new religions like Mormonism. Thanks for sharing with us.

  33. Globbergirl,

    I feel the vibes of your heart for these people the LDS Mormons, and I agree, and thank you. Yes, we need more people who can show Christ’s love, and respond to them with some intelligence. I, my self, have lived in SLC Utah for over 13 years. Consequently, over those years, some “Utahans” were Mormon; they were my doctor, my dentist, my boss, my college teachers and some of them my friends, even found respect among some high intellectual Mormons I’ve shared with…, even so however, I never was became a Mormon, but I know all about them, all about their strange teachings and doctrines, history and biblical short comings, and even witnessed to the so-called “jack Mormons” on every “cruise night” as an evangelist with the gospel of Jesus, but this didn’t make me an anti-mormon, and yet I am somewhat against them; I suppose its because of the amount of knowledge that I have read on them. In any case, I believe that the Mormons use the term anti-M to defend themselves, and/or to ward off any man who stands against their religion. I am someone who understands the differences between the Christian religion and the Mormon Lds belief system.
    Moreover, I believe that every true Christian should use what ever means possible to reach these people, but with God’s love. For without love, no matter how hard you try, your message can’t be heard. We should teach in such a manner that is without fault in character, to show at least some intellecual demeanor, as to express a degree of study, that informs the public the clear doctrinal information, without undue emotion, so that these people can see outside of the stone box, which has yet to be found, in a most remote hill, in up state NY.

    Rp.

  34. Ray, I definitely think there is such a thing as an anti-Mormon. The Wikipedia article on anti-Mormonism is actually pretty good at explaining it, though I don’t agree with the categories in which they group anti-Mormons. I think that skeptical anti-Mormons (those who are atheist/agnostic/deist) belong in a category of their own separate from any types of evangelical anti-Mormons.

    That said, there are definitely Mormons with persecution complexes who abuse the term and claim that anyone who has some sort of criticism of the church is an anti-Mormon. That’s not the case. Folks like me certainly have criticisms of the church, but it isn’t our theme or our focus. I’ve specifically avoided doing posts which outright criticize the LDS church for the time being because I don’t want this to be seen as just another blog that criticizes Mormonism.

  35. Jack,

    Just wanted to say thanks for posting your story. I told Meredith about my run-in with you and she told me how totally awesome you are. I can see why! (Also, it is thanks to you that I have a few relatives who share my love for Christian rock!)

    On another note, I think it is great to know that there are so many people out there who understand that you can totally disagree with someone’s religious views and still recognise that they are good people. As I have so often tried to explain to others, I don’t believe that Mormons (or any group, for that matter) have a monopoly on the “goodness” market. :D

  36. Alex,

    It’s good to meet a relative of Meredith’s.

    During Fall Semester 2001, when Mer and I were roommates, she came with me to the Five Iron Frenzy concert in Provo. We had a blast. I remember there was this guy in the crowd who was rather heavyset with a really nasty mohawk who kept mashing against Meredith until she finally shoved him back hard. He turned around and glared at her for a second, and she glared right back, and I seriously thought that guy was going to be leaving the concert on a stretcher… LOL.

    It was so great that she came with me though. BYU was a lonely experience at times and it’s hard to get Mormons into Five Iron Frenzy, but Mer came with me and she loved it. She even bought a band t-shirt. I sure do miss her.

    I’m glad you enjoyed my story, welcome to the blog and thanks for dropping by.

  37. Bridget,

    As a complete non-believer in any of the religious traditions, but an avid seeker for a Higher Being, I want to say that it is nice to see people be honest, like you have done.

    Being from out of state (VA), and a so called “atheist”, Utah can be an interesting place. I’ve stayed since it is a great community with good ethical foundations, regardless of what the dominate religion is.

    I bore over the tedious altercations I’ve seen displayed down at the LDS Conference Center. In fact, just tonight I was down at the Gateway Mall in downtown Salt Lake City and received many pamphlets from Evangelicals (I assume), which I’m totally cool with. However, as soon as a guy handed me one about Joseph Smith I became very annoyed.

    Why is it that people feel they need to slander? Why do they need to go after Joseph Smith if what they have is from God?

    Do they think God is not capable enough to touch people’s hearts without having to resort to slander?

    Do they really not know much of their own histories? Mormons have strange doctrines and history that’s for sure, but why do evangelicals think they are so much different? Did God not forsake them during the reign of the Holy Catholic Church? Why did it take Martin Luther to bring back the correct understanding in regards to a Pontiff?

    Get a life counter-cult ministries. that or just be like the mormon boys and only bother us for two years.

    I’d love to hear Aaron or his friends thoughts on that.

  38. Pingback: The dynamic of anti-Mormons and Mormons « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  39. Thank you for your post and comments. As an LDS convert I can appreciate your point of view, even when it doesn’t necessarily fit with mine :)

    I, too, need to be sure not to group those who sincerely criticize the Church with those who seem to hatefully antagonize.

    God Bless!

  40. I just realized that I never commented on this post. I’m a little late.

    As far as I’m concerned, this entry is the authority text on CARM. Consider it canonized.

  41. Bridget:

    Greetings. I’ve seen some of your posts on Mormon Discussions and that is how I found this blog. Seems you get a little heat from both sides of the fence–which may be an indication that at the heart and soul of both sides there is a war going on, however politely it may be waged (or not so).

    While I understand your point–I think–that dialogue with LDS (I am an Evangelical too, btw) should rise above condescension and simple accusations of dishonesty among LDS leaders, I tend to agree with Aaron who seems to basically be asking what practical improvements would you suggest?

    I think the danger here is the whole concept of bridge-building itself. What is the purpose? Of course, as Christians, we are to love those around us (whether LDS or not) and share the hope we have at every opportunity, but on the other hand, we are never told that we should build bridges to deception in the process. That’s where it gets tricky. The hard truth is that either Mormonism is one of the most insidious deceptions ever pawned on mankind and should therefore be exposed as such, or it is the truth and we should all convert (even Orson Pratt would agree). Unless the Biblical God does not exist, I agree with Pratt (on that point) and see very little room for middle ground. Mormonism itself has defined the ground rules by insisting it is the only true church and its prophets are the only ones with God-given authority.

    The truth of the matter is, either God and Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph Smith or they did not. Either the Book of Mormon is what it claims to be or it is not. Either that–and much more–is true or it isn’t. If it isn’t, then what are the implications?

    I don’t know of anyone who advocates attacking the Mormon laity for their sincerely held beliefs. I know that online discussions can easily degenerate into name-calling cat-fights, but that is the nature of the internet. I’ve seen both sides fall into this and am probably guilty of a little myself–though I try not to be.

    I produce a weekly radio program that attempts to expose the deception in as loving a manner as possible. We feature the personal testimonies of former Latter-day Saints. You can listen to the program online, if you’d like to, here:

    http://outofmormonism.libsyn.com/

    I would appreciate any comments or suggestions you might have.

    All the best,

    Roger

  42. Pingback: Seth Payne » Blog Archive » More on CARM and the Brilliant Theo1689

  43. Jack…you are breath of fresh air. I too am involved in a war at present at CARM. Pride won’t allow me to let it go. I pray that God will give me the strength to do so. Maybe this blog entry will help me do so.

  44. Hey, Bridget, thanks for sharing your journey–which I believe was directed by God–into the bridge-builders’s zone. You truly have stepped off the short bus. May God continue to empower you and increase your wisdom and project your ministry.

    The blood of Jesus can cover SO MUCH unintentional error if we will only believe in him and follow him. Whether we are a Mormon or an evangelical, his light and joy grow ever brighter in our hearts as we pursue him. The light is small at first, uh?

  45. To Roger:
    Have you ever interviewed on your show someone who used to be a non-Mormon Christian and is now a Mormon Christian? I met a Mormon like that once. He told me he was a Christian before he became a Mormon—he described to me his relationship with the Lord—and said that he is still a Christian today as a Mormon.

    I appreciate your efforts to be as loving as possible.

  46. Dittos on the breath of fresh air comment. Also, turns out we were at BYU at the same time. I wish I could have known you back then so I could meet you in person.

    I got involved in the Interfaith Dialogues led by Robert Millet at BYU a few years ago. This last year, my wife and I hosted 3 dialogues in our home. Greg Johnson would let me know when a group of evangelical students would be coming through town, and I would email a bunch of friends, and we would spend 3 or 4 hours at our house, in little informal circles of 4-6 people.

    They are SO fun. My wife and my main goal is to have an atmosphere that is comfortable for even the most shy person to ask those long-held questions that they’ve always been too nervous to ask. I’m very glad we met Greg, and I hope we get to do a lot more in the future.

    Anyway, I’m looking to read more of your blog in the future. Feel free to contact me by email.

  47. All very interesting. Everybody has a story. For me, I finally left Mormonism when I left Christianity. To the degree I have a spiritual home, it is mostly in the Synagogue. A deep interest in “the search for the historical Jesus” 10 years ago has waned. Little if anything about more traditional Christianities of Mormonism interests me anymore except, very occasionally, what I accept to be the extraordinary religious genius of Joseph Smith. And Bart Ehrmann. Enjoy James Kugel. To obnoxious anti-Mormon evangelicals, concerning Mormonism I’m prone simply to the observation that, “anyone who can believe the Christian Bible to be the word of God can believe anything.” Regarding interfaith dialog, etc., in addition to appreciating anything that increases civility and service, I’m reminded that everyone involved is still waiting, in one way or another, to triumph over the others.

    Shalom

  48. Prufrocks: Regarding interfaith dialog, … everyone involved is still waiting, in one way or another, to triumph over the others.

    It saddens me to hear you say that, because it’s not true. I think you and I might have different ideas of what dialogue is, or even missionary work.

    The purpose of dialogue is to understand the other person. The purpose of missionary work is to persuade the other person (or, to create an opportunity for the Spirit to convict them). But in neither case are people necessarily “waiting to triumph” over another person. I’ll freely admit that some people involved in dialogue or missionary work do it with self-congratulatory motives, but I definitely know that most do not.

    Whether a person’s beliefs are true or not, an “evangelizing” zeal to persuade someone else of those beliefs does not stem from some desire for “triumph.” It stems from a desire for someone else to be happier or better off than they currently are. To assume that it’s about interpersonal victories is like assuming that immunologists just want to triumph over their patients, or teachers just want to triumph over their students.

    It saddens me to hear such a cynical take on dialogue. Is it because you’ve had that kind of experience in the past? If so, I’m sorry to hear that and I hope you have better experiences in the future, where you don’t feel like the other person is motivated by just wanting to “win.” We hope to remedy that problem you bring up by creating better experiences with the kinds of dialogues we host.

  49. The point was religious triumphalism not interfaith dialogue as a vehicle for evangelizaton. Your comment “to create an opportunity for the Spirit to convict them,” however, is a minor and particular expression of it. That fact is, that Christianity and Islam, for instance, are triumphalist religions. As are the sects and denominations within them. It is NOT a matter of the particular dialogue itself being an attempt at conversion. Not at all. It IS a matter, undeniably, that each person who has an ultimately triumphalist outlook and who is engaged in interfaith dialogue and service, is still living, and waiting, in full hopes and expectation of the eschatologic triumph of their religion. I applaud interfaith dialogue, effort and activity. I applaud the civility, friendship, connection, understanding and work they foster. The fact remains, participant who belong to triumphalist religions and denominations are, indeed, waiting for the ultimate triumph. Christians, for instance, in dialogue with Muslims and Jews, are there in wait “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

  50. Prufrocks ~ So, you dislike obnoxious anti-Mormon evangelicals. Is this your idea of improving on their methods?

    anyone who can believe the Christian Bible to be the word of God can believe anything.

    Mormonism just goes to show that anyone who can believe that the Christian Bible is the word of God can believe anything.

    Jesus would turn over in his grave if he ever found out [SNIP]

  51. Ms. Jack says: “So, you dislike obnoxious anti-Mormon evangelicals. Is this your idea of improving on their methods?”

    Did I leave somebody out? The whole thing is rather like debating whether or not the tortoise really did beat the hare, is it not?

  52. Ms. Jack says: “So, you dislike obnoxious anti-Mormon evangelicals. Is this your idea of improving on their methods?”

    Sorry…did I leave somebody out?

  53. I just find it ironic that you would offer advice to obnoxious anti-Mormon evangelicals when you favor a rather obnoxious approach yourself.

    The whole thing is rather like debating whether or not the tortoise really did beat the hare, is it not?

    I’m thinking more like Megan Fox sharing her wisdom on how to act.

  54. I’m sorry — what advice was it that I offered to evangelicals?

    I didn’t create the Christ Myth from out of the Jewish life and Roman death of Jesus. Neither did the Mormons. They merely adopted and adapted it. The Mormons are no more ridiculous or less sublime than any other branch version of Christianity.

  55. Prufrocks, I think Jack’s point is that there might be a lack of self-awareness on your part. You’re not listening to the ironies in your comments.

    You say that you’re in favor of “civility, friendship, connection, and understanding.” But in the next breath you say that all Christians’ (and Muslims’) beliefs are no more true, valid, or important than an Aesop’s fable. That kind of casual dismissal of others’ beliefs, and through a pretty demeaning comparison, hardly seems civil, friendly, connecting, or understanding.

    Civil dialogue doesn’t mean you have to pretend you believe the same things we do, or that “everything’s true, so everyone’s right.” It’s OK to be candid and say you don’t find another’s beliefs persuasive. I’d just suggest finding a better way to say it than you have so far.

    That said, I think I understand now how you’re using triumphal. Sorry for misunderstanding you.

    Prufrocks: Each person who has an ultimately triumphalist outlook and who is engaged in interfaith dialogue … is still … waiting, in full hopes and expectation of the eschatologic triumph of their religion. … Participants who belong to triumphalist religions and denominations are, indeed, waiting for the ultimate triumph.

    Do you see this as a bad thing? Why is that?

  56. No more true, valid, or important than Aesop’s fable? I said that? I’ll admit to Mormonism being no more ridiculous or less sublime than any other Christianity. But Aesop?

    Do I think religious triumphalism a bad thing? It depends. Religious triumphalism can be, in the 21st century, as it has been in many a previous one, devastating to the unorthodox, heathen, heretic, infidel or unbeliever. Centuries of murderous Christian antisemitism in Europe, for instance, rooted in non-historical NT polemic, politics and propaganda, enabled Hitler’s holocaust. Christianity is a triumphalist religion. Islam inherited its triumphalism from Christianity. As long as interfaith dialog helps keep the level of murder and mayhem down, I’m for it. Still…it’s interesting…

  57. Prufrocks ~ Nathan R. nailed it. You’re here commenting on an article that’s all about the evangelical counter-cult ministry and how rude and condescending they are–how ineffective that approach is–and yet you’re being rude and condescending yourself.

    I’m also somewhat miffed by the positions you’ve laid out here. You think mainstream Christianity and Mormonism are equally ridiculous, and while that isn’t how I would term it, I do understand why someone would think that. Certainly the Bible has a lot of bizarre things in it that an unbeliever would freely ridicule, and certainly evangelical Christians who ridicule Mormon beliefs while thinking their own are perfectly normal and sane are severely lacking in self-awareness; I made this point earlier with comment #29.

    However, you claim affinity for Judaism, a religion where adherents generally profess belief in the Tanakh. Do you think that the contents of the Tanakh are less “ridiculous” than the contents of the New Testament? Because personally, I think the theological contents and historicity of the Old Testament are significantly more difficult to defend than that of the New.

    I’m actually a fan of Judaism and have long felt that Christianity’s divorce from its Jewish roots to the point of antisemitism was unfortunate. But that’s really a subject for another thread some other day.

    .להתראות

  58. Ms. Jack, I also believe Mormonism and Christianity are equally sublime.

    Reform Judaism recognizes much of Tanakh contains myth and allegory, etc. And Jews are free to be Jews while not accepting all of Tanakh to be literal. (For me, the nice things about Judaism and Tanakh is that there’s no bloody human sacrifice for sin atonement; their’s no virginal conception in Isaiah 7; nor a God nor His creation which have any need or use for either of them. But, then, as you say, Judaism is another another thread :)

    שלום

  59. Prufrocks: No more true, valid, or important than Aesop’s fable? I said that?

    I was referring to your comment that interfaith dialogue “is rather like debating whether or not the tortoise really did beat the hare.” Maybe I should say “implied” or “hinted” or “could easily be interpreted as” instead of “said.” Sorry.

    I’ll admit to Mormonism being no more ridiculous or less sublime than any other Christianity.

    OK, it’s nice to hear that you include “sublime” on your list of possible descriptors. :-) I had only gotten the impression that you thought of them both as merely ridiculous.

  60. Actually, I’m embarrassed. I admit, I’d long since forgotten that the tortoise and hare were Aesop. So I do plead guilty.

    But with qualification: I have never applied that comparison, here or anywhere else, to the type of interfaith dialogue I have already acknowledged to have value. I apply it, as noted, to the nonsense of interfaith argument and bashing of the the type that, in her anti-Mormon evangelical youth, Ms. Jack espoused.

    I’m surprised. A careful reading or reading of my original post shows it to be rather benign: an observation specific to obnoxious evangelical anti-Mormons (the kind Ms. Jack finally chose to leave); and being reminded of the religious triumphalism that exists in participants of interfaith dialogue. An awareness that first came to me during a 2-day interfaith conference of SDAs, Muslims and Jews.

  61. Ms. Jack, “… personally, I think the theological contents and historicity of the Old Testament are significantly more difficult to defend than that of the New.”

    Yet, they’re a pillar of the latter. Is that building the shaky on the shakier? Why not just apply an equal degree of critical honesty to both of them?

  62. Nathan: “But in neither case are people necessarily “waiting to triumph” over another person.”

    I think you gave a very uncharitable reading to Prufrock’s statement, where he wrote: “Regarding interfaith dialog, etc., in addition to appreciating anything that increases civility and service, I’m reminded that everyone involved is still waiting, in one way or another, to triumph over the others.”

    You appear to imply that the triumph he’s referring to is one group of people dominating or convincing (or worse coercing) other individuals not of that group.

    My take was that he was referring to the day in which everyone expects God to reveal the real “truth” to all, and as each group believes it has “the truth”, everyone expects that their group will be proven by God to be “the one true way.” IE, that God with vindicate or make known the one true way (ie, “my/our” church/religion).

    I didn’t interpret his use of the word “triumph” to mean any form of person-over-person domination, but rather how everyone believes that _God_ will triumph (ie, the 2nd coming where all the baddies are killed off) and “true believers” will be vindicated. And, of course, every sincere believer thinks they are on God’s side.

  63. What would have happened during Jesus’ ministry if the Jews had accepted him as the Davidic moshiach?

  64. Christian scripture and doctrine accuse the Jews of rejecting Jesus as their Messiah, and for being responsible for the death of Jesus (i.e., Matt 27:5, John 19, Luke 23, Mark 15). From the Mormon view, and from the evangelical view, and from the anti-Mormon angelical view, what would have happened if the Jews had accepted Jesus as their Messiah instead? Including, for instance, regarding atonement and salvation? Is there a congenial interfaith concurrence?

  65. I don’t fit into any of your categories, but I’m pretty sure that from a Mormon POV, your “what-if” could never have been anything other than a hypothetical. It was foreordained to happen, like the fall of Adam and Eve. At the very least, God knew humanity well enough to be certain of the outcome.

    The only person involved in the equation who could have prevented the atonement from happening was Jesus himself. And if he had chosen at any point to call the whole thing off, we would not be saved. No resurrection, no exaltation.

    Everyone else involved was pretty much already pointed in the direction of Gethsemane and Calvary. Had some of the people involved decided to accept Jesus as the messiah, someone else would have crucified him. With human nature and God’s omniscience involved, the outcome was never in question.

    Anyway, that’s the Mormon view. But don’t ask me to vigorously defend it in a debate, because I don’t personally have a dog in that fight. Other than the dog of hating stupidity and misinformation.

  66. Actually, I have a different point of view (and I’m Mormon).

    I think that that if the Jewish nation had overwhelmingly accepted Jesus Christ as the Messiah, he could have and would have still performed the atonement—by suffering in the garden of Gethsemane and/or something similar to that. I think he could still have taken upon himself the sins of the world without requiring the Jewish people reject him at his first coming.

    As you said, it’s hypothetical. But I tend to lean away from interpretations that require someone to sin in order for God’s plan to advance. It seems to remove genuine choice, and it seems to build one group’s eternal felicity on a foundation made of another person’s necessary punishment. For a discussion of this idea as related to the LDS doctrines of Satan, see this discussion.

  67. Ah, good call, Nathan. Mormons believe that the atonement was performed primarily in the Garden of Gethsemane. The Crucifixion only sealed the deal, more or less, and Jesus’s death was necessary for his subsequent ressurection.

    Which means even if the Jews ad unanimously accepted Jesus as their King and God, he still could have suffered in Gethsemane, died, and been Resurrected.

  68. The whole question is a moot point. The Jewish people did not reject Jesus before his crucifixion. The most likely historical scenario is that he was brought up on charges by a few of the Roman collaborators (who were Jews). He was then crucified by the Romans in an attempt to keep the peace during the always explosive Passover celebration.

    Jesus was “rejected” by the Jews long after this all happened. And, the “rejection” is more of a misrepresentation of history by Christians who were trying to curry favor with the Romans. It was prudent to pin the crucifixion on the Jews because then Christ would not be someone legally condemned in a Roman court, and hence a dangerous criminal in the eyes of the Romans. If that were the case the Christians would literally be worshipping an enemy of the state. However, if you could show that the crucifixion was at the behest of the Jews, then the Romans need not fear him, as it was purely a local matter.

    In any case, it’s quite probable that there were many Jewish converts in the diaspora and there were Jewish-Christians in Palestine for a few centuries after Jesus’ death. That’s not a rejection. What did happen is that rabbinic Judaism clearly had to assert that Jesus wasn’t the Messiah, because otherwise they would be Christian. However, this happened many years after the fact, no representative of rabbinic Judaism was involved in Jesus’ crucifixion.

  69. Thanks for sharing.

    I am a mainstream evangelical who just joined the CARM forums recently. I was shocked by how atrocious the Mormon subforum is. It is just fill with evangelicals who want to clobber Mormons over the head with their words. Only one of the posters in that forum seemed to want to engage in a meaningful and respectful dialogue with Mormons.

    I pointed out some very bad errors an evangelical was making with the Greek language, and what was the response? I immediately got branded as being a Mormon pretending to be an evangelical. This happened despite the fact I repeatedly said I reject Joseph Smith, the BoM, and the LDS Church multiple times.

    The state of affairs at CARM is pitiful. I ended up getting my account suspended soon thereafter due to “interfering with evangelism.” I find that funny, because what goes on there certainly isn’t evangelism.

    Needless to say, I found some better forums to participate in (the Mormon Dialogue and Discussion forums). The atmosphere there seems much more respectful, and the level of discussion is much deeper.

  70. The Mormons merely show that anyone who can believe the Bible is the word of God can believe anything. The Bible is meant to be understood not believed. Including an understanding of how the Hebrew scriptures were used in the fabrication of the Christ myth from out of the Jewish life and Roman death of Jesus.

  71. Enjoyed the article–but the comments are iffy at best. My philosophy is pretty simple. Any religion-oriented philosophy which resorts to attempting to erode someone else’s sincerely-held beliefs in order to edify their own is practicing a major form of hypocrisy in my opinion. Edifying one’s faith VIA attacking or belittling someone else’s is the epitome of hypocrisy. The litmus test of one’s sincerity for me is whether any given religionist attacks another’s faith as a tool of conversion. If I am unable to persuade anyone of the truth of my own LDS faith, allowing it to stand on its own merits, then I am wasting my time talking to that person.

  72. Pingback: mormonism - Page 18 - Christian Forums

  73. Matt Slick and cohorts a joke. They use degrading language, mockery,
    corrections as if they are the ones who know it all, etc. If the other party does he will get suspended or banned. I believe in objective spiritual truth, with all other contradictions a lie.

    But the only way dialogue can work is if we have a level playing field. Like the child who is constantly chided, CARM has ‘correctors’ who chide you over and over as if you are a child, and mockers, cut’n’pasters, even crazies who say whatever and are ignored by all.

    But YOU are expected never to respond in like manner if YOU are not within bounds of what they consider orthodoxy.

    ORTHODOXY of the Christian Church is decided by one thing and one thing only: the writings, attitudes, inspiration of the first generation. This has to be the ideal and includes the singular teacher of the age, Christ himself.

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