Yesterday afternoon I made a call into the Frank Pastore radio show to defend Richard Mouw’s comments that we Evangelicals need to apologize to the LDS. Frank acts like his an expert about Mormonism, but it’s obvious that he’s not saying anything that wasn’t given to him by Walter Martin and Ed Decker. It’s quite clear he hasn’t done any of his own research or come to any of his own conclusions (reading the Book of Mormon being a bare minimum to talk authoritatively about Mormonism). He’s kind of got a “Walter Martin said it, that settles it” attitude. It’s no surprise to find out that Walter’s daughter, Jill, is influencing his rhetoric, because EVERYTHING he said was right out of her playbook from the last couple of months.
Part of Frank’s diatribe was against an event at Mariner’s Church called “A Mormon and Evangelical in Conversation“. This is something that Greg Johnson and Robert Millet have done over 50 times now. (it’s influence on me is obvious) The two stand up and present the similarities and differences between Mormonism and Evangelicalism. Pastore was contending that Greg Johnson was selling out Evangelicalism and that Robert Millet was running all over him. But all of the callers that actually attended the event said that Johnson held his ground but it was Millet who made huge concessions. Many were quite surprised to hear Millet say that salvation comes by grace alone (a keystone of Evangelicalism).
Pastore chooses to ignore this and implies that Millet is just part of the vast LDS PR machine. He believes that Millet is not at all sincere in that belief but is just saying it to confuse Evangelicals into believing that LDS are no different. This accusation is just silly in my mind. First off, Millet has just as many critics on the LDS side as Johnson has on the Evangelical side. It’s quite clear that his comments are controversial in some LDS circles that reach all the way up into the 12 LDS Apostles.
Second, if Millet is confusing Evangelicals with his comments, he’s doubly confusing Mormons. 99.999% of Evangelicals have now idea who Greg Johnson is. They don’t consider him any sort of authority figure in Evangelicalism. But many many Mormons know exactly who Robert Millet is and what position he holds at BYU. They read his books and listen to what he says. If he tells Mormons that salvation comes by grace alone, and he doesn’t get disciplined, then Mormons are inclined to start believing that he is right. It’s of relatively small consequence if some Evangelicals believe him (because they think Mormons are heretical on a number of other topics), it’s a huge victory though if Mormons believe that Millet is right. That means other Mormons are going to start believing and living out salvation through grace alone. This is a MAJOR step in bringing Mormonism out of heresy.
What Pastore fails to understand is that Mormo doctine has a large oral tradition. A great deal of Mormon doctrine is not really written down in precise technical and theological ways. What many Mormons believe to be doctrine is often what they hear Mormon authorities and other teachers repeating. So if Mormons hear Robert Millet say that “salvation is by grace alone” or that “the Father did not have physical relations with Mary” then they start to believe that this is what Mormon doctrine is. What Pastore also fails to understand is that it really doesn’t matter if this is a contradiction to what deceased Mormon leaders said. It only matters if it’s a contradiction to what current Mormon leaders say (and right now NO ONE is publicly contradicting Millet, not even his critics).
I believe God is capable of making something big happen in the LDS church. I also believe that we are starting to see some early glimpses of it. I’ll admit that I’m an optimist about it. Pastore and others are looking at the same things I see and instead are choosing to view them cynically. In my view, grace is irresistible, even if Mormons are lying about their belief in its power, I believe they will come to embrace it. It’s too powerful to pick up and play pretend without it affecting you.