I heard Richard Mouw say something and I must concur. We Evangelicals need to apologize to the LDS. I think there are far too many of us who think we know what Mormons believe without ever asking Mormons themselves. I am personally guilty of this. I am now of the opinion that no Evangelical should ever authoritatevly talk about Mormons to other Christians unless they have at the very least read the Book of Mormon cover to cover and know the current prophet’s first and last name. And that’s the bare neccesity. Many don’t qualify, they just happen to have seen “The God Makers” once or twice. We have made errors in our descriptions of LDS beliefs.
I think there are some reasons for this, none of them excuses. They include:
1) It’s hard work
2) Some of our trusted “authorities” have been sloppy and we haven’t peer reviewed their claims and corrected their mistakes.
3a) Evangelicals are taught that the word of God is static. If some one says “this is what God says is true forever” then we assume that doctrine will always be true. Mormonism has “living and breathing” doctrines and scriptures. We mistakenly apply our static paradigm to your beliefs.
3b) We encounter Mormons who don’t know or don’t want to know much about Joseph Smith’s history. When we encounter Mormons who don’t know that Joseph Smith started polygamy, we apply 3A and assume they also must not know their own church’s beliefs on Adam-God, blood atonement or whatever other now defunct Mormon doctrine.
4) Urban legends grow and take constant weeding. Not until Snopes.com came out did people even begin to think to question all of those “stories” (no matter their subject).
5) In the Evangelical mindset some Mormon doctrines are not only heretical they are utterly blasphemous. The villification of the LDS has already been accomplished as a result of those beliefs so it’s no longer important to set the record straight on other things we misunderstand.
6) In the EV mindset, Joseph Smith is a false prophet. There is NOTHING more wicked than taking the Gospel message and confusing and corrupting it with false doctrine. This makes Evangelicals angry and we unfortunately mistake the Beast for the Dragon. We view LDS as sheep-stealers instead of lost sheep. This is in my mind our greatest sin against the LDS.
LDS should not confuse the wackos outside of General Conference with the average Evangelical. In fact, don’t confuse them with Christians at all. Most Evangelicals know VERY VERY little about Mormonism other than being told that it is a cult. They have no idea why it is considered a cult, they just know to avoid it. There’s not that many of you. 4 million in a world of 6 billion is not very significant, so exposure is limited. I am in a weekly Bible Study of 14 people. There are only 3 of us who have spent more than 5 minutes in conversation with any Mormon. My wife and I (because I have sought you out) and one guy whose family is related to Porter Rockwell and apostated one generation ago.