On our other thread, Seth R. made this comment:
Mormonism generally does a pretty good job of highlighting the problems with classical Christian thought. You can’t just expect people to forget all that, and pretend they didn’t see it. Why aren’t there prophets anymore? Why aren’t there temples? Why did God stop talking around 100 AD? Why did his “plain word” in the Bible result in such a complete mess of denominations? And what on earth was John Calvin smoking when he came up with the TULIP? And what IS this three-gods-in-one stuff, and why can no one explain it to me?
Then later followed up with:
I think our very existence is an attack on traditional Christianity.
Assuming that you are LDS and you agree with Seth’s statements, my question is, what sort of reaction do you expect from traditional Christians as the ones your religion attacks?
Over the years, I have heard Mormons complain about all of the following things:
- That we refuse to accept Mormons as Christians
- That we publish books, tracts, Web sites, and pamphlets which aim to proselyte Mormons and dissuade others from joining Mormonism
- That said publications are often misleading, dishonest, not very accurate, or outright malicious
- That evangelicals distribute literature and proselyte at LDS events such as the Manti pageant and General Conference
- That evangelicals often behave very poorly at said events
- That we teach Sunday school classes and make films aimed at exposing the problems in Mormonism
- That said films and Sunday school classes are malicious, dishonest, misleading and inaccurate
- That we create entire parachurch ministries aimed at proselyting Mormons and educating people on the problems in Mormon theology and history
- That we proselyte Mormons at all.
I think most of us will agree that 3, 5, and 7 are bad. But what about the rest of them? If attacking traditional Christianity is an intrinsic part of what Mormonism is, and that can’t be changed, can you really expect traditional Christians to change the other things on that list?
People have asked me what exactly I was expecting. It’s difficult for me to answer that question because so many different Latter-day Saints over the years have given me different answers on their expectations for the future of evangelical-Mormon relations. I agree that I can’t expect Mormonism to change all of the distinctives that make it Mormonism. The question is, what’s essential to Mormonism? What could it theoretically change? Let’s take a poll:
Could Mormonism still retain its distinctive identity if . . .
Note that I’m not asking whether or not you want to see these changes. I only want to know, would the church still be the church if it made any of these changes? Which ones are going too far and why?
I should probably explain why this has been such a shock to my system. I began studying the church when I was 16. On Tuesday, September 21, 1999, when I was 17 and a senior in high school, I wrote this in my journal:
I know that God is calling me to Provo, that he’s going to provide a way. Even now He’s carving a path for me to take. I don’t know why He wants me there. He didn’t say why He wanted me there, He just said to “go.” I don’t know if asking questions will do any good.
There is such a tremendous work for me to do… to be part of the bridge that is being built to [the] LDS [church]. There’s so much to read and to write and to study.
Ever since I did my post on the 2009 Gospel Principles manual, I’ve been gradually realizing something.
There is no “divide.” There is nothing to bridge. There’s just a wall, and Mormons are the ones who built it.
I’m sorry if I sound cynical, but I don’t really know what Mormons expect from us anymore, nor do I know what I can hope for in terms of improvement on the LDS side. I’m open to suggestions.
UPDATE: As my thoughts on this issue have developed since posting this, and I know the discussion has grown too long for many people to read the entire thing, I would encourage newcomers to this post to at least read my remarks here before responding to the OP. Thank you.