Southern Baptists Challenge Mormons'
Idaho Statesman Feb. 22, 1998. p.6A
By Kristen Moulton
The Associated Press
SALT LAKE City-The decades-old debate over Mormonism's
claim to Christianity is gaining decibels as the Southern Baptist Convention
prepares to bring 20,000 members into the Mormon heartland.
say they hope for polite discussion when they gather in Utah for their annual
meeting in June. But they have launched a campaign beforehand to educate
their members about the doctrinal under-pinnings of The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Baptists claim, share family and ethical values with main-stream Christianity,
but their funda-mental doctrines are beyond the Christian pale. And the
Baptists have produced a videotape and companion workbook to buttress the
jimFor their part,
Mormon church leaders are taking unusual pains to stress the faith's Christian
bonafides as they steel their own flock for the invasion.
to comment on the video or be interviewed about the theological jousting.
But twice this month Mormon apostles
delivered what were billed as "major addresses" defending
the church as explicitly Christian.
Defending the Faith
The speeches by Elders Boyd K.
Packer and M. Russell Ballard to Mormon college students were unusually
pointed, though consistent with the modern church's apparent push for an
acknowledged place in mainstream Christianity.
jimThose who would
make films about Mormon beliefs, Packer said, are "uninformed and unfair"
if they portray Latter-day Saints as outside the Christian fold.
at Utah State University, offered a point-by-point rebuttal to those "who
claim we are not Christians because of our belief in these revealed truths."
a issue are Mormonism's foundation beliefs: That church
founder Joseph Smith was visited in the 1820s by God and Jesus Christ, who
told him that all existing churches
were apostate;[--editor's note--This
is the nub of the Christian debate with Mormonism: Mormonism's claim to
be "The One True Church" is predicated upon clear, repeated Mormon
teaching that the Gospel of Christ was totally lost from the earth.
There can be no other reason for the so-called Mormon "Restoration"
if this loss did not occur. What is perplexing is that while Mormonism was
comfortable with that position in past decades, today they want to be both;
jimjima. The One True Church, and also
jimjimb. A member in good standing of the larger Christinia Church.
dualitty is schezoid--]
that Christ restored his true gospel through Smith,
together with prophetic and priesthood authority to perform ordinances necessary
to full salvation.
successors in the Mormon presidency down to current President Gordon B.
Hinckley have continued to claim they hold the earthly keys to that authority.
Christian groups also contend Mormons are not Christian because they rely
on works of scripture besides the Bible. Chief in the Mormon scriptural
canon is the Book of Mormon, which Smith said he translated by divine inspiration
from ancient gold plates given him by an angel.
Joseph Smith was the Lord's instrument by which the restoration of the gospel
of Jesus Christ in its fullness was accomplished, or he is not," Ballard
said. There is no possible compromise of this doctrine."
of difference concern Mormon beliefs that God and Jesus are separate within
a godhead that includes the Holy Ghost, that both have bodies and that grace
and good works are necessary for salvation. Mormons also believe that men and women eventually can become "gods
Christianity believes in the Trinity-that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit
are one god; that God is spirit; that grace alone leads to salvation and
that men cannot become gods. Most believe the route to heaven is through
Jesus, not through a single church.
Mormon church spokesman Arnold R. Augustin said Ballard and Packer chose
their own topics and wanted to equip members with ways of responding to
those who deny Mormons' claim to Christianity.
has no plans to focus resources on the Southern Baptists' scheduled convention,
Augustin said. But the fact that top Mormon leaders would publicly discuss
the argument both surprised and delighted Baptists and others who want the
doctrinal differences laid bare.
not seen this level of response before," said John Constance, an evangelical
Christian and owner of Intermountain Book in Salt Lake City.
Demand for video rising
for "The Mormon Puzzle" is on the rise-Constance just ordered
50 more copies-and he see the summer convention as an opening for debate
many mainstream Christians in Utah have longed for.
to create some interesting discussions," Constance said. "The
video has sparked something that is going to be useful in the dialogue."
too, have challenged Mormons' claim to Christianity. In 1995, the national
Presbyterian Church issued guidelines saying Mormons are outside the "historic
apostolic tradition of the Christian Church.
copies of "The Mormon Puzzle" video have been sold since July,
nearly 38,000 of them for distribution to Southern Baptist churches, said
Philip Roberts, director of the Interfaith Witness Team for the convention's
North American Mission Board, which backed the video production.
Southern Baptists wanted an objective look at the differences between Mormonism
and Bible-based Christianity. That's why they used religion experts from
Mormon-owned Brigham Young University and faithful Mormon families, to explain
the faith's tenets.