The SBJT Forum: Speaking the Truth in Love -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 09:2 (Summer 2005)
Article: The SBJT Forum: Speaking the Truth in Love
Author: Anonymous

The SBJT Forum:
Speaking the Truth in Love

Editor’s Note: Readers should be aware of the forum’s format. Russell D. Moore, R. Philip Robers, Robert Stewart, John Divito and Richard Abanes have been asked specific questions to which they have provided written responses. These writers are not responding to one another. The journal’s goal for the Forum is to provide significant thinkers’ views on topics of interest without requiring lengthy articles from these heavily-committed individuals. Their answers are presented in an order that hopefully makes the forum read as much like a unified presentation as possible.

SBJT: How can evangelical Protestants engage Latterday Saints with historic Christianity?

Moore: Evangelicals often wonder why Mormons believe such an incredible system: golden tablets translated with “magic glasses,” an advanced society of ancient American Indian Israelites who left behind no archaeological evidence at all, a “revelation” of polygamy that was reversed when Utah needed to do so for statehood, a “revelation” barring black Mormons from the priesthood that was reversed after the triumph of the civil rights movement, an eternity of godhood producing spirit babies, and special protective underwear.

What we must understand is that Latterday Saints (LDS) believe these things for the same reason that people everywhere believe the things they do: they want to believe them. Very few Mormon converts become convinced by rational arguments of the prophetic office of Joseph Smith. Indeed, Mormon missionaries don’t ask one to do so; instead relying on a “burning in the bosom” that the claims of Smith are true.

To understand the draw of Mormonism, evangelicals should read the works of Latterday Saints who explain why they love their religion. Some LDS intellectuals who have concluded, to their regret, that Joseph Smith constructed from his own mind the narrative of the Book of Mormon and the “translation” of the Book of Abraham are instructive here. Grant Palmer’s An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, for instance, warns that his conclusions are not for children or new converts. Demonstrating the roots of the Book of Mormon in the nineteenth-century world of King James Bible, freemasonry, occultism, and frontier Americanism, Palmer nonetheless remains a committed Mormon—because he loves the social and theological vision of the LDS culture. Likewise, Coke Newell, a convert to the LDS church in his late teens, lays out why a drug culture vegetarian would find the LDS church compelling. In so doing, he glories in the ancient mysteries of Mormon cosmology and eschatology: from a God and a Goddess who produce offspring to a future in which deified humans rule a vast cosmos. Newell makes clear th...

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