I want to pose a hypothetical scenario.
Let us say that a council of Christian leaders convenes for a meeting at Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois to discuss the question of Mormonism’s relationship to the historic, orthodox Christian faith and issue a ruling on the matter.1 The Council of Deerfield is attended by prominent leaders from all across the Christian spectrum including members from the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Church of England, and representatives from all manner of evangelical, Pentecostal, and mainline Protestant churches.
The findings of the Council of Deerfield are as follows:
- Just as Christianity was eventually classified as its own religion rather than a branch of Judaism in spite of its Jewish origins, Mormonism is best categorized as a new world religion rather than a subset of Christianity in spite of its initial Christian heritage. The Council stresses that Judaism is considered its own world religion, yet Mormons already claim more adherents than Jews.
- If Mormonism is to be considered a form of Christianity at all, it is a heretical one, having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.2
- The Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price are an abomination in the sight of God and all their professors corrupt.3
The Council of Deerfield makes the following recommendations in proceeding with members of the LDS faith:
- Members of Christian faiths should be discouraged from seeking baptism in the LDS church in the strongest terms possible.
- Members of Christian faiths should attempt to share their faith with Latter-day Saints whenever possible with the goal of proselyting Mormons out of the LDS church and into orthodox Christianity.
- Converts from Mormonism should be re-baptized by an ordained or licensed Christian minister, even if they had a baptism in another Christian church before joining the LDS faith.
- Christians are strongly discouraged from receiving communion in LDS church meetings. Local Christian churches are advised to discourage Mormon visitors from receiving communion with them—although the Council of Deerfield does not condone slapping anyone’s hands away from the communion table.
- The Council of Deerfield takes no position on whether or not it is acceptable to pray with members of the LDS faith, recognizing that there exists a difference of opinion among Christians on this matter. The Council only recommends that Christians prayerfully consider the matter themselves and come to their own conclusions.
These recommendations shall stand until a time when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints should reform its teachings on the following issues and bring itself in line with historic Christian orthodoxy:
- Its “finite theism in which God at some point in eternity past was merely a man and not divine”;
- Its “view of the universe as not eternally contingent on the will or being of God”;
- Its “denial of the necessity of prevenient grace to overcome humanity’s sinful disposition in the process of conversion or regeneration”;
- Its “denial of Trinitarian monotheism”;
- Its “denial of the classic Christian understanding of the relationship of the two natures of Christ;”4 and
- Its canonization of the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price in their current form.
At which point the Council shall reconvene to reconsider its ruling on the matter.
The ruling of the Council of Deerfield is endorsed by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Church of England, the World Evangelical Alliance, the World Council of Churches, and almost all other independent Protestant denominations and ecumenical bodies. As a result, counter-cult activity aimed at Mormonism dramatically decreases. Instead of referring someone to Mormonism Research Ministry or Utah Lighthouse Ministry when members of Christian churches have questions about Mormonism, Christians are generally referred to the Council’s analysis and ruling. It is only if they still have questions afterward that other sources on Mormonism are recommended.
Why this hypothetical scenario? Mormons often say that they do not attack other Christian faiths. Evangelicals and other Christians usually respond by pointing to passages such as JS-History 1:18-20, which sure sound like an attack on our faith to us. To this Mormons typically reply that those passages are just part of the church’s foundational, exclusive truth claims, which is somehow supposed to make it less of an attack on other Christian faiths.
The fact is, the reason Mormons are able to have foundational denunciations of other Christian faiths is that they came later. Evangelicals can’t exactly go back into the biblical canon and insert a passage that says “Mormonism is not true.”5 However, historically the Christian faith has always responded to new heretical sects and teachings by issuing rulings through councils and defining orthodoxy through creeds. A council ruling would hold the same function in traditional Christianity as JS 1:18-20 does for Mormonism.
With that in mind, here are my questions:
- Are the rulings and recommendations of my hypothetical Council of Deerfield reasonable to Mormons? Why or why not?
- Assuming that such a ruling does decrease counter-cult activity, would this situation be preferable to the way things are currently done, where most denominations have no official position on Mormonism and confusion on the issue abounds? Where the work of arguing that Mormonism is a heresy is largely carried out by small, independent parachurch ministries?
- Would your answer to #2 be the same even if the rulings of the Council of Deerfield became incredibly well-known and accepted among lay Christians so that Mormon missionaries began finding it more difficult to proselyte among Christians?
 I have no idea where such a hypothetical council would meet, so I am using my own seminary location as an example. This scenario is 100% fictional and (to my knowledge) has never been proposed, not by TIU or anyone else. This post represents my own opinions and not those of Trinity International University or any of the other denominations and organizations I mention.
 JS-H 1:19
 These first five points are listed by Blomberg as “the five most objectionable common Mormon doctrines, admittedly not all held by all Latter-day Saints.” See Craig L. Blomberg, “Is Mormonism Christian?,” in The New Mormon Challenge, ed. Francis J. Beckwith, Carl Mosser and Paul Owen (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2002), 489.
 Cf. JS-H 1:20, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.”