Ask a Mormon on 106.7 KROQ

The Kevin and Bean Show on KROQ recently had a featured called “Ask a Mormon”. Interesting what they decided to discuss. Their guest is an ex-Mormon, but by no means a raving lunatic.

It’s at the 14 minute mark if you want to fast forward. The Kevin and Bean show is a long running morning program on a popular rock station in Los Angeles, so you can expect to get everything that might come along with that. Sadly for us Evangelicals, I think they handled the subject matter much more respectfully than many of our own radio host would have.

Click here to download.


unchristian-kinnaman “Christianity has an image problem.”

What if I told you that the top perception of Christians among those in Generation X and Mosaics was that we are first off, anti-homosexual, then hypocritical, judgmental, sheltered, too political and only interested in people if they’re going to convert. Would you be surprised? hurt? offended? Or does that sound about right?

It seems to be a far cry from Jesus’ prayer for us that we be known for our love. How come that’s not at the top of the list, followed by trustworthy, accepting, caring, loyal and gracious? Isn’t that what we want to be known for. . .

Almost exactly 15 years ago I met my first college roommate. I had traveled to California on my own with 2 suitcases and nothing more. I arrived in my dorm room before my roommate and sat in a very empty room. Several hours later Dave Kinnaman arrived with a cargo van full of stuff and a small army made up of his family to carry it all in. Dave’s memory is that I looked overwhelmed by all the stuff he was bringing into the room. I think my thoughts were somewhere along the lines of “oh good he’s got a stereo and a word processor.” Little did I know that one of my eventual lifelong friends was entering that room along with all of that stuff.

Dave and I stayed close throughout college and roomed again our senior year as we shared an apartment with 2 other guys. We have many memories of a number of antics that can’t be shared in a public blog. We served as groomsmen in each other’s weddings and welcomed each other’s children into our worlds. Since college we with a number of other friends have at times been in daily email contact as we’ve shared our takes on the latest in the sports world or felt the need to get any inane thought off of our chests. We’ve also prayed for one another and confided together as we have experienced the many up and down hills life has to offer.

For these reasons I am extremely excited that Dave has published his first book. “unChristian” Since college Dave has worked at The Barna Research Group and has now worked his way up to earn the title President. So he’s earned the right to be heard and in fact without knowing his name many Christians have been listening to what he has to say for quite some time. I’m also excited because I think it’s a message the Christian world needs to hear.

We are not presenting ourselves or Jesus to the world the way we would want to. As readers of this blog know, this is something I’m quite concerned about in regards to what Mormons think of mainstream Christians and something I am working to counteract. With startling sociological research Dave shows us just how off the mark our message has become to all younger Americans. What I really enjoy about the book is that he’s found a way to not condemn or criticize Christians for this turn in perception. But instead he simply states the facts and then leaves it the reader to question “is this what we want?” and more importantly “is this what Jesus wants?” He also does a skillful job of not encouraging us to water down our message or give up those things that are important to us.

Wow, We Can Get Ugly

I mentioned in a previous post, that there is a disagreement in Evangelicalism on how to approach Mormonism. If you would like to hear how heated it can become you should listen to these two episodes of the Frank Pastore show. There is definitely a wing that almost says if you don’t hate Mormonism as much as I do, then you must be Mormon.

I should give a couple of early indications of what you are going to hear. Frank Pastore in the last couple of years has been trying to do the Sean-Hannity-thing. He’s almost as good at it as Hannity which makes him sound like a really unpleasant person and not some one you would want to emulate as a Christian. In real life, he’s a nice guy (with a desire for ratings). Also, the advertising on the show is extremely over-sold. There are a LOT of commercials. You get about 2.5 hours of new content in 6 hours which is why I don’t listen to the show live. Be prepared to fast forward. I would edit it down, but I don’t own the copyright, so I’m not going to mess with it.

Regardless of who you are I guarantee that it will elicit a strong reaction from you. (and thus the success of the Hannity impersonation)

From August 15
1) Listen to the interview with Craig Hazen in the second hour. Notice how confrontational Pastore is with Hazen. Hazen throws in some key words in this controversy: jealousy and limited ministry resources.
2) Listen to how un-confrontational Pastore is with Jill Martin Rische.
3) The disparity between what Millett says in front of Evangelicals and what he says in front of LDS is big. I’m wondering why more LDS aren’t upset with Millett for distorting Mormonism.
4) It’s sounds like to me the issue isn’t that Greg Johnson isn’t distorting Christianity, it’s that he’s not going after Mormonisms unique claims hard enough.

From August 16
1) Listen to Jill Martin explain her own backstory to this controversy. She got left out of the clique.
2) Interesting that she rips Craig Hazen for praying inside the Mormon Tabernacle, Pastore says nothing. This despite Pastore telling Hazen the day before that he had no problem with the prayer.
3) Kurt Van Gordon hypocrisy as he accuses Greg Johnson of attacking his ministry while at the same time attacking Greg Johnson’s ministry. I have not heard every word out of Johnson’s lips but it’s my impression that he says nothing about what other ministries are doing. He personally told me, “they should keep doing what they are doing, I’m going to try something different.” I’m interested to know how many more conversations Van Gordon has been able to have with high ranking Mormons since 1991.
4) Van Gordon wants to know who and where Evangelicals are being confrontational with Mormons. How about going to Temple Square on October First.
5) Van Gordon alleges that Evangelicals are being won over to Mormonism as a result of Standing Together Ministries, but Mormons are not being won over to Evangelicalism. This is patently false and Greg Johnson can give names and phone numbers.

My own impression is that fewer and fewer Evangelicals are willing to participate in traditional Anti-Mormonism (or street Evangelism in general). This is putting a strain on some long standing ministries and they are lashing out at what they perceive to be their threat for ministry dollars. No money, no ministry. I think it’s gross how we can treat one another at times.

Hat tip to Summa Theologica

What Do We Do With You

I’d like to highlight an internal conversation that has been taking place in the Evangelical community for the last couple of years. The basic point is: we are somewhat at odds as to what to do with Mormonism. For the past 150 some-odd-years the typical response has been to offer nothing but hostility and firm rebuke to Mormons for following a false prophet and in the process accepting false doctrine.

The easiest way we have found to do this is the highlight the moral failings of Joseph Smith, to show the falsity of the Book of Mormon as an actual historical story and to expose a great many inconsistencies in both the history and doctrine of the LDS church.

Several years ago, Greg Johnson of Standing Together Ministries started encouraging Evangelicals to view Mormonism not as a cult but as a culture. As such we should find culturally appropriate ways to share our message with Mormons as we would in any “foreign” mission field. There are many who feel that Standing Together is watering down the gospel rather than fighting against falsehood.

An article was recently published in an Evangelical journal, highlighting many of the failings of Standing Together’s methodology. John Morehead recently wrote a rebuttal to that article. You can find it here

John has chosen to moderate the comments on his blog (wisely I think). But Todd Wood at “Heart Issues for LDS” is hosting a discussion between John Morehead, myself and Aaron Shafovaloff, a staff member of Mormonism Research Ministries (a traditional counter-cult ministry). If you’re interested in that conversation you can read it here.

Calvary Chapel is a Cult

Have you seen all of these Calvary Chapels pop up all over the place? I live in Southern California and they are everywhere. Calvary Chapel is a total cult.

They believe in the inerrancy of the Bible and in the importance of expositional teaching. They believe in pre-millenialism AND in a pre-tribulational rapture. They’ve got their own bible college that’s not even accredited and I think they teach all of their pastors to sound exactly like their founder, Chuck Smith. Cult, cult, cult!

Okay, my spoof is over. I don’t actually think that Calvary Chapel is a cult. But if you actually go to a Calvary Chapel and you read my “accusations” against it you probably thought “yeah, so? how does that make us a cult? I’m glad we believe those things and I’m going to stick up for them against a jerk like you.”

This is exactly how Mormons feel when we lead with the cult accusation. There may be excellent reasons why the LDS church qualifies as a cult of Christianity BUT if that’s where we start with them, they have no reason to believe that we actually want to befriend them and have true concern for them. Instead we’re telling them we want to combat them and tell them all the reasons we think they are wrong (and perhaps that is exactly what some want to do). But if we do that we should expect them to fight back. In my experience, picking fights is about one of the worst ways to change minds and one of the best ways to solidify people against your point of view.

Honey attracts more flies than vinegar.

Are Evangelicals Being Duped by Millet’s PR Spin

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.