Ever since assuming the presidency of the LDS, Gordon B. Hinckley has been on a charm offensive.
The strategy is been to present the two faces of Mormonism. There’s the real Mormonism, which is what it’s always been, and then there’s the prime time version, crafted for public consumption. To see the two faces of Mormonism on display, just compare two books by Robert Millet. The first, pre-Hinckley era version, written for insiders, presents the old us-v-them face image of Mormonism, playing up the differences between Mormonism and Christianity.
The second, Hinckley era version, written for outsiders, presents the kinder, gentler face of Mormonism, minimizing the differences. It’s all based on a big misunderstanding, you see. Yes, differences still exist, but these can be overcome through talk and more talk.
Sustaining and Defending the Faith
by Joseph Fielding McConkie and Robert L. Millet
Sustaining and Defending the Faith forthrightly presents fundamental principles of truth that stand untouched by the slander, misrepresentation, and ridicule hurled by the enemies of God. Indeed, as the book illustrates, opposition from the adversary is one way to recognize the Lord's true church. Another way is by the witness of the Spirit. The authors stress the importance of accepting modern-day prophets, prophecy, and scriptures; for there are many critics who claim that the Bible alone is sufficient revelation for all time, or that the words of a dead prophet take precedence over those of a living prophet. Such people, the book points out, have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof. Line-upon-line growth through the revealed word, then, is another characteristic of the Lord's church.
by Robert L. Millet
Are Latter-day Saints Christian, or do they worship a different Jesus? In this engaging book, Robert Millet clearly explains why Latter-day Saints claim to be Christians and compares their understanding of Jesus with the views of traditional Christian believers.
A leading Mormon scholar who has spent much of his career in conversation with traditional Christians and their writings, Millet discusses what constitutes Christianity and examines how the Latter-day Saints fit or do not fit within that rubric.
Intended to inform rather than to convince or persuade, "A Different Jesus?" clears away misconceptions and doctrinal distortions that characterize more polemical works about Mormonism. Millet points out the many beliefs that Latter-day Saints hold in common with traditional Christians, yet he also emphasizes differences where they exist.
"A Different Jesus?" initiates and will foster a significant dialogue between Latter-day Saints and traditional Christians. Of special value are a lengthy chapter that answers some of the most frequently asked questions about Mormonism, a glossary showing how key theological terms are defined by Latter-day Saints, and evangelical scholar Richard Mouw's foreword and afterword, which help set an agenda for future discussions between these religious traditions.
Now, you’d expect Mormons to refashion their public image. But they have some outside help from the likes of Paul Owen and Richard Mouw.
This raises the question of who speaks for Christendom, and who speaks for Mormonism. No one ever elected Dr. Mouw to speak for us.
Dr. Mouw’s chief distinction has been his promotion from serving as a college prof. at liberal Christian college (Calvin), affiliated with a liberal denomination (CRC), to the presidency of a liberal seminary (Fuller).
For some of us, this is more of a disqualification than a qualification.
As to Dr. Owen, he would have you believe that you’re not qualified to judge Mormonism unless you have some cutting-edge, insider knowledge of the LDS.
However, Dr. Owen doesn’t speak for Mormonism. Neither does a BYU professor. Owen has no official position in the hierarchy, and Mormonism is more hierarchical than a wedding cake—what with the “prophet,” the “Twelve Apostles,” the Quorum of Seventy,” &c.
Generally, Christian cults and heresies don’t try to change everything about the Christian faith. They mess with one or more central doctrines, but not the whole belief-system. That would be just too audacious to sell.
But it’s remarkable just how systematically unchristian the Mormon faith really is. In its doctrine of God, predestination, providence, creation, man, sin, salvation, Christology, ecclesiology, eschatology, &c., absolutely everything is alien to the Christian faith, from beginning to end, bold print to the fine print.
It’s as if Joseph Smith and Brigham Young took a popular, dog-eared anthology of Greek mythology, and simply substituted King Jamesean place-names and proper-names for the Zeus, Aphrodite, Olympus, and so on. Well, maybe that’s not quite fair. At least Homer had a sense of style.
How would you know if the LDS ever went Evangelical? Would you depend on late-breaking news reports from Paul Owen?
First, you have to hear it from the hierarchy.
Second, there would be a bitter, sensational schism. If Mormons split over the successor to Joseph Smith, and if they split over polygamy, just imagine the split if the LDS really did turn its back on all that neopagan mumbo-jumbo.
However, Mouw and Owen may be on to a genuine trend. You see, all that Mormonism had to do to become more Evangelical is to stay put and wait for Evangelicalism to become more Mormon. When “Evangelicals” like Mouw and Owen become honorary Mormons, Mormons become honorary Evangelicals. See how easy that was?
Because men like Millet and Robinson are not the official voice of the LDS, Hinckley & Associates are free to capitalize on the propaganda value of the charm offensive while retaining plausible deniability.
The real motion is all coming from the “Evangelical” side, while the LDS sets up some pretty strobe lights to create an optical illusion of apparent movement from its own side.
All they need are a few dupes on the other side to take the bait and play the chump. And, in a fallen world, they can always count on their imported court-preachers to spread the word.
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