LDS Theologians Explain Faith's Beliefs
by Peggy Fletcher Stack
Salt Lake Tribune 2-7-98 P1
dean of religious education at LDS Church owned Brigham Young University,
is on a self-appointed mission-to deflect some of the hostility between
Mormons and Southern Baptists.
jimIn the past
five years, Millet and several colleagues have met and discussed their beliefs
with leaders and theologians from the evangelical Baylor Seminary in California
to Billy Graham's Wheaton College in Illinois. They also have visited Catholics
at Notre Dame and other Catholic universities.
that those who condemn Mormon theology as not being Christian should at
least understand the doctrine. The theological gulf between adherents of
the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and traditional Christians
will remain, he said, but perhaps the antagonistic rhetoric might be softened.
people, 'Help us better understand the Baptists, and we'll help you understand
the Mormons,'" Millet said. "My hope is that after people meet
with us and spend a few days with us, when something pejorative is said
about Mormons, they might say, 'I'm not sure I believe that or they might
call and ask us.'"
is particularly pressing as Southern Baptists prepare to hold their annual
meeting in Salt Lake City in June, during which time they plan to evangelize
among Mormons and non-Mormons alike.
jimIn a strongly
worded speech on Sunday, Mormon Apostle Boyd K. Packer rejected the claim
that Mormons are not Christian.
one thing to say that we are not their kind of Christians," Packer
told a packed audience at BYU. It is quite another to characterize us as
not being Christian at all."[editor's
note--See my article, "Are
jimLast spring, President
Mark Coppinger of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City,
Mo., met in Provo with Millet and Stephen Robinson, BYU professor of ancient
scripture. Coppinger was accompanied by Philip Roberts and Tal Davis of
the Southern Baptists' Committee on Interfaith Witness.
jimThe group discussed
the faith's doctrinal differences.
Christians are "committed to inerrancy and sufficiency of the Bible,
devoted to the Great Commission task of evangelism," Coppinger said.
the orthodox creeds embraced through the centuries. We believe that God
is a spirit, Jesus Christ was the only begotten son who died for sinners,
and that his blood shed for sinners is the only hope for salvation."
that the Bible alone is God's word, while Mormons have several additional
books of scripture, including The Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants
and Pearl of Great Price.
jimThe two groups
also disagree about the role of God's grace.
biblical view of grace is that "people are saved by grace and not at
all by works," Coppinger said. "We do not enhance our access to
the highest heaven by being wed in the temple or by tithing or what have
that "more is required of men and women than a verbal expression of
faith in the Lord, more than a confession with the lips that we have received
Christ into our hearts," Millet said this week in a devotional address
without question, that the power to save us, to change us, to renew our
souls, is in Christ," Millet said. "True faith, however, always
manifests itself in faithfulness. God works evidence our faith, our desire
to remain in covenant with Christ, but they are not sufficient."
met again in December in Kansas City, primarily to talk about the video,
"The Mormon Puzzle," made by Southern Baptists to explain LDS
beliefs to their people.
for their reactions to the video," Coppinger said this week. "It
is a bad thing to misrepresent another group. We want to speak with knowledge
and Robinson objected to the video's claim that Mormons do not believe in
God's grace at all.
that our understanding of grace is deficient or mistaken in one thing, but
to suggest that we have no notion of grace in our beliefs is a misrepresentation,"
went on much longer than any of the participants anticipated, six or seven
a big white board our with magic markers, "Coppinger said. "We
would draw a diagram and ask what they thought."
the conversation as "a serious exchange where we clarified our positions."
"were cordial, but it was an intense six or seven hours," Millet
said. "They were so insistent that we are not Christian that the conversation
didn't get as far as we had hoped.
that the Baptists were trying to persuade the Mormons of the error of their
concerned hoped that those on the other side would see the light and convert,"
he said. "We made no bones about it. We are not pluralists or relativists.
We don't think that just any sincere view of the Bible is valuable and life-giving."
Mormonism is "wrong-headed" and "clearly divergent from the
teaching of Scripture," Coppinger said. "We would like to see
Robert Millet become and evangelical Christian. He knows this."