The Mormon Appeal, Yesterday and Today -- By: Chad Owen Brand

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 09:2 (Summer 2005)
Article: The Mormon Appeal, Yesterday and Today
Author: Chad Owen Brand


The Mormon Appeal, Yesterday and Today

Chad Owen Brand

Chad Owen Brand is Associate Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and is Associate Dean of Biblical and Theological Studies at Boyce College. He is the author of numerous articles and reviews and has served as pastor or interim pastor in a number of churches. Dr. Brand served as an editor for the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Broadman and Holman, 2003), and also edited the volume and wrote a chapter for Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: Five Views (Broadman and Holman, 2004).

Introduction

Mormon theology seems like such a strange thing to evangelicals who look closely at it. Mormon people, on the other hand, appear normal by contrast; in fact, as for appearance, they seem quite attractive, moral, family oriented, and committed to their faith. But it is the faith beliefs and churchly practices, not the lifestyle, of the Mormons that are so off-putting. Odd doctrines, like the eternity of creation, multiple gods, the preexistence of the soul, the deification of men, and virtual universalism all seem quite bizarre. Odd practices, such as secret temple proceedings, baptisms for the dead, sacred undergarments, and deep secrecy as to the leadership structure at the top of this oligarchical (episcopal?) organization are only a few of the things that have caused orthodox Christianity generally to consider the LDS “church” a cult.1 Yet, both in the 1830s and today, Mormonism has been a religious tradition with wide attraction. Outsiders, especially religious outsiders, and even more especially evangelicals, are curious to know just what that appeal is. They are curious to understand how Mormon leaders have been able to charm to their cause people whose theological worldview is (apparently) quite different from that of the LDS. In the present time, these questions have taken on a heightened sense of importance. The LDS church2 seems to be going through some measure of transition, taking on the face of a tradition more in continuity with mainstream Protestantism. Evangelicals are curious to know what is going on in the smoke-filled rooms (metaphorically speaking, of course) in Salt Lake City and the faculty lounges in Provo. We may never really know, of course, but the question still begs to be answered—Is Mormonism becoming more mainstream Christian? The compass of this paper will not allow any kind of serious or definitive answer to any of these questions, but it will gesture in the direction of some possible answers.

Early Mormonism was a complex phenomenon. Evangelicals who have the impression that a critique of Mormon roots is a f...

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