Eric made a comment in a previous post that stated
I understand your main point — the framework of Mormonism is so different from that of evangelicalism (or, if you prefer, historic Christianity) that they can’t be considered the same religion. I wouldn’t disagree (in fact, LDS leaders often refer to non-LDS Christians as being people from other faiths).
But my observation after spending many years in both the evangelical and LDS worlds is that from everything I can tell, many Mormons and many evangelicals are having similar if not identical experiences in the relationship (for lack of a better word) they have with God. They talk in much the same way about their appreciation for their Savior, about the challenges of resisting temptation, about the joy they find in experiencing forgiveness, about the joy found in reading the Scriptures, about the desire to follow the teachings of Christ and so on. I’ve heard LDS talks about living the Christian life that, except perhaps for a quote from the Book of Mormon or an LDS apostle, could have been preached at an evangelical church, and the few evangelical sermons I’ve heard in the past few years wouldn’t seem out of place (except in speaking style) in an LDS context.
This may run counter to both LDS and evangelical dogmas, but I’m inclined to believe that in some sense many of us (both evangelical and LDS) do believe and are experiencing the same thing at some level that matters. I myself, even as a trying-to-be-faithful Saint, have little doubt that there are those outside the Church who are experiencing the Holy Spirit in their lives.
These photos serve to illustrate my point and explain how I can see such differences in Mormonism and Evangelicalism. When Mormons (or others) want to argue that Mormonism is Christian this is the view point they take in comparing the two.
As you can see, I’m extending the knife analogy that I made in the previous post. When wishing to emphasize the similarities people look at the place where the knife cuts. Another way to describe this is the “pragmatic end” of the knife. This is where the knife does it’s daily business in the life of the believer. Looking at the two blades it’s clear that they look very similar. They’re both made out of the same material, they both have a similar shape and size and they both cut. There appear to be some differences but it’s unclear what those differences are or if they matter to any degree. (if I wanted to extend the analogy further I could throw in a cleaver and a steak knife and call them Buddhism and Islam). What we can figure out from this angle is that both knives cut.
But when we turn the knives on their side and look at them more deeply we discover the back end of the knives.
From this angle we can tell that they are much different knives and that they cut in much different ways. It might be possible to get the Chef’s Knife to slice a loaf of bread, but it won’t work as well as the Bread Knife. The same is true if reversed, the Bread Knife can’t do the job of the Chef’s Knife very well. To assume that both knives can do the job of the other equally well is a serious mistake and it diminishes the capabilities of both knives.
I believe that some Mormons are able to garner a spiritual experience that is similar to an Evangelical’s, but it is in spite of the blade they are using not because of it. The act of cutting may not be as important as how something cuts. Every religion seeks to transcend the natural and put man in touch with the thing that created him. But not all blades cut the same. If Jesus is right that there is only one way to the Father, then it is in our interest to use the knife that does the job best. That some are able to find salvation does not mean the knife they are using is “Christian”.
I would encourage Mormons to take those Joseph-Smith-shaped notches out of the blade that Jesus gave us. Mormons would say “come add to what you already have.” At some point, modifying the knife changes the knife’s entire purpose.