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A "Mouwtainous" Mistake

An Open Letter to Richard Mouw and other Academics involved in Apologetics to Mormons

By Keith Walker, Evidence Ministries


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Response to criticism of Richard Mouw (Off-site, WORD file)
CounterPoint: Richard Mouw's Apology

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• The views expressed within the pages of Apologetics Index are not necessarily those of the people whose articles are included in the CounterPoint section.

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[...continued from...]
The Ostlings, in their book on Mormonism, reported that Mormon leaders insist that the idea that God is omnipotent, omniscience-and much unlike what we are or could ever be-is more accurate than the simple notion that we are all becoming gods like God the Father is. A number of LDSwriters have been formulating the "becoming God" theme in terms that are common in Eastern Orthodoxy: that "we shall be like Him" in the sense of I John, but that we will never be Him.

Why do we need the musings of LDS writers when we can hear straight from God through latter-day prophets? What are the LDS prophets saying about this doctrine?

Another point: I have been told by many evangelicals that Mormons believe that the atoning work of Jesus Christ was accomplished in Golgotha and not at Calvary. Bob Millet has demonstrated from Mormon writings this this is not true-if the Cross had not occurred, he says, we could not be saved.

Here, for example, is how the LDS writer Glenn Pearson described the requirements for salvation in a popular Mormon book of the 1960s:"There has to be down payment of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Who has a broken heart and contrite spirit? One who is stripped of pride and selfishness. One who has come down in the depths of humility and prostrated himself before the Lord in mighty prayer and supplication. He has realized the awful guilt of his sins and has pled for the blood of Christ to be made a covering to shield him from the face of a just God. Such a one has made the down payment."

There are a number of different quotes, like the above, that I could show you, but instead, I would rather get to the heart of the issue. Why is it that you accept "non-canonical Mormon writings" that seem to agree with, or resemble, Christianity and then reject these same writings when they show a clear distinction between Mormonism and Christianity? Do you not see the inconsistency?

In none of this am I saying that Mormons are "orthodox Christians." But I do believe that there are elements in Mormon thought that if emphasized, while de-emphasizing other element, could constitute a message within Mormonism of salvation by grace alone through the blood of Jesus Christ. I will work to promote that cause. Most of you will disagree with that approach.

This is a mistake. You can not ignore the clearly non-Christian nature of Mormonism and emphasize on sound bites that sound Christian. I once told an LDS missionary, "If it were not for the fact that we are contradicting each other, we would be saying the *EXACT* same thing. He was confused. I must respectfully say that I think you have been confused as well. A wolf inside of a sheep skin is still a wolf. Please don't forget that.

But at the very least admit that we have not always been fair in our wholesale condemnation of Mormonism as simply a false religion.

No, it's much more than that. It is a cult that is leading millions of people to hell. As far as being fair, I have always endeavored to be fair in my evaluation of Mormonism. It does no good to misrepresent someone else's beliefs. If you think an apology is warranted, please, apologize for yourself only. I refuse to be implicated.

I have neighbors who are Mormons. They are completely aware of our ministry and do not like it one bit. But, because of the way we treat Mormons as people first, our children play together. We are careful not to give unnecessary offense to our friends, but I will not apologize for the offensive nature of the gospel. If we are preaching a message that does not offend, the message, not the approach or demeanor of the preacher, then we are not preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a right way and a wrong way to tell someone that they are going to hell. Rarely does someone get angry at me for telling them this. It is because they see the concern I have for them as people and not condemnation.

Second, some folks are upset about what they took as a call from me for evangelicals to join in the celebrations of the bicentennial of Joseph Smith's birth. I can see how people heard me say that we evangelicals should join in "celebrating" Joseph Smith's birthday, but that is not what I intended to say. Instead I said that I hoped that many evangelicals would participate in those events that would allow us all to "pay special attention to Joseph's life and teachings" during this year.

I was hoping that this is what you meant. After I read your comments in the paper, I remember looking at your words and hoping that you meant something else (your explanation) by them. I asked a friend of mine who attended the event if it was possible that you meant that we should participate in the events around Smith's birthday and not a celebration of his birthday. His reply was, "No one that I know took it that way." Although I was able to see a possibility that you meant something else, not every one did. I will not fault you for saying something that you did not intend to say, but this is an excellent example of how careful we should be with our words. Especially when dealing with Mormonism and those who have dedicated their lives to reaching out to Mormons.

I was thinking and speaking too much as an academic on this one, and I know that doing so created unnecessary confusion. For example, I am going to take part in a special conference at the Library of Conference, where I will respond to an LDS scholar's views on the contribution of Joseph's theology. Those are the kinds of events where there can be critical give and take, and I see this bicentennial year as a time when we evangelicals can try to sort out the good from the bad in Joseph's thought. There are some of his writings, for example, that sound quite orthodox, and others--such as the King Follett Discourse--that have views that are far removed from anything in the Christian traditon.

But ordinary evangelicals do not have opportunities to engage in those kinds of serious theological panels--thus I was talking too much as an elitist! At the same time, I would think this would be a wonderful opportunity to put on some events in Utah, perhaps in cooperation with local LDS folks, where people talk together about some basic themes in Joseph's thought. In our quiet dialogues, for example, we--evangelicals and LDS together--find many of his earliest statements to come close to a traditional Reformation (and Epistle to the Romans!) emphasis on salvation by grace alone, the unique substitutionary work of Christ on the Cross (and not just in Golgotha) and so on. The statements from D&C that I quoted, for example, sound straight out of an evangelical sermon.

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About This Page:

• Subject: A "Mouwtainous" Mistake
• First posted: Dec. 17, 2004
• Author: Keith Walker, Evidence Ministries
• Copyright: Keith Walker, Evidence Ministries
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