Mormonism is undergoing a stereotypical identity crisis. I say “stereotypical,” because this is something it shares in common with a number of other sects, cults, and denominations.
Many religious movements begin on the margins of society. At first, their fringe status is self-reinforcing. By being persecuted or ostracized, this only serves to confirm and bolster their sense of in-group identity and solidarity.
But over time, they may become the victims of their own success. Or they simply grow weary of being on the outside, looking in.
As long as they operated as a closed subculture, they could maintain their own mythology. But when their kids begin to attend mainstream institutions, the in-house view of history doesn’t hold up.
This is the crisis facing Mormonism. When the intellectual cream studies abroad, under someone like Kenneth Kitchen or I. H. Marshall, the Mormon scriptures, the Mormon view of church history, and the Mormon exegesis of the Bible can’t survive the scrutiny. The result is a lot of soul-search and retrofitting.
Now, some religious movements are capable of internal reform. In principle, Seventh Day Adventism could reform itself to become an evangelical denomination. And that’s because, apart from its aberrant deviations, its theology isn’t all that different from, say, 19C Methodism.
I’m not saying that’s going to happen. Unfortunately, it seems to be headed in the direction of open theism. So maybe the window of opportunity is gone, assuming it was ever open a crack.
But there is a difference between Seventh Day Adventism and, say, Mormonism or the Watchtower.
Cults like Mormonism are irreformable because there’s nothing to work with. It’s rotten from the top down.
People like Owen act as if it’s possible to graft something more orthodox or evangelical onto Mormonism.
But you can’t do that with Mormonism, for Mormonism is thoroughly heretical. It’s a homegrown brand of paganism.
There’s no foundation to build on. Pruning won’t do. You’d have to cut it down root and branch. Completely excise the writings of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young at al. and start from the ground up.
Or, to put it another way, you wouldn’t attempt to start from scratch. You would simply ditch Mormonism and either attach yourself to some preexisting evangelical tradition or mix-and-match one evangelical tradition with another.
Mormonism itself is a lost cause. There’s nothing to salvage. You might as well attempt to graft Evangelicalism onto Scientology. Don’t seek the living among the dead.
Mormons, to have any hope of salvation, must make a clean break with their religious traditions. Their spiritual heritage is a yellow brick road to hell.