Mormon blogger Mark Paredes does not like the fact that Evangelical Christians educate one another on the doctrines of Mormonism. In an article published earlier this week at the Jewish Journal Mr. Paredes complimented the Evangelicals “in the pew” saying they are decent folk; however many of them, he wrote, “are led by pastors who are theological cowards and liars to boot.” What earned Evangelical pastors such disdain? Mr. Paredes clarified later in the comment thread, “I did not say that ALL pastors were theological cowards and liars, just those who deliberately misrepresent LDS teachings, disseminate anti-Mormon material, and don’t allow Mormons to present their own faith.”
Mr. Paredes implied that non-Mormons cannot, or will not, accurately present Mormonism — but Mormons themselves can and will. He lamented, “If only pastors would follow what I call the Jewish/Mormon Model for Interfaith Inquiry. When Jewish and Mormon congregations want to know what other religions believe, they invite leaders from those faith communities to address them and answer questions.”
Here’s one problem with Mr. Paredes’ paradigm: Mormons themselves are not immune from misrepresenting Mormonism. A case in point is Mr. Paredes himself.
In the comment thread on this blog article “lcawyer” quoted the Lorenzo Snow couplet, “As man now is, God once was: As God now is, man may be.” Mr. Paredes responded, “Lorenzo Snow died in 1901, and the first part of his statement is not an official LDS teaching.”
Mr. Paredes noted the date of Lorenzo Snow’s death because he had earlier stated his rules of engagement regarding Mormon doctrine: “If you claim that Mormons believe something outrageous, be prepared to back it up by offering up a quote from an LDS leader or official source from this century (i.e., the last 12 years).” This challenger had broken the rule (although “lcawyer” had not referenced a source). It is the second part of Mr. Paredes’ response that supports my suggestion that sometimes Mormons misrepresent Mormonism.
Though Mr. Paredes said “As man now is, God once was” is “not an official LDS teaching,” President Snow’s statement has been favorably quoted in the following official Mormon Church sources in this century:
- The Friend, March 2002, page 23
- Old Testament Teacher Resource Manual, 2003, pages 13–19
- Teaching of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, 2010, pages 70-71
- Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, 2012, page 83
Furthermore, the doctrinal concept (as found in Joseph Smith’s King Follett Discourse) has been taught in the following official Mormon Church sources in this century:
- Doctrines of the Gospel Student Manual, 2000, page 7
- Gospel Fundamentals, 2002, 200-205
- Church History In The Fulness Of Times Student Manual, 2003, pages 251–262
- Gospel Principles, 2009, page 279
The Evangelicals I know make a great effort to research primary Mormon sources in order to accurately explain Mormonism to their fellow Evangelicals (and also to uninformed Mormons). Using a Mormon representative does not guarantee a more accurate presentation of Mormon doctrine than one would get from a non-Mormon who is adequately prepared. But Mr. Paredes thinks there is more to this than meets the eye. Explaining why Evangelicals will not invite Mormons to present their own faith in Christian churches Mr. Paredes wrote,
“The dynamic in play here is fear, not friendship. Lots of current Mormons used to be Evangelicals, and our church is viewed as a threat by their leaders. Fear is the catalyst for the whole anti-Mormon industry of books, videos, and speakers that have slandered and vilified our church for decades.”
I agree that fear is a driving force behind Evangelical opposition to Mormonism, but it’s not because Mormonism is viewed as a threat to Evangelicalism. The fear Evangelicals grapple with is concern for the souls of Mormon men and women. I admit it – I am afraid for the Mormon people and the coming day of Judgment each one faces. For if it is true that eternal life is knowing the only true God (John 17:3), I fear for every Mormon who holds a false God in his or her heart. On that day God will not be asking how many times you were taught to believe in a God who was once a man, or how recently the Church officially pronounced that God has not always been God. Aaron Shafovaloff put it this way:
“When Jesus looks at a person’s heart, he doesn’t see ‘official’ and ‘not official’ material. He sees truth and falsehood, belief and unbelief, righteousness or wickedness, light or darkness.
“Jesus never said, ‘That’s not official.’ He said, ‘You don’t know the scriptures,’ and, ‘It is written,’ and, ‘I say to you.’
“When Jesus criticized the religious elites for their oral traditions, can you imagine his response to a Pharisee who said, ‘But Jesus, that oral tradition, which we have fostered, perpetuated, acquiesced to, or even taught, isn’t official doctrine. Therefore you cannot hold us accountable for it.’”
Yes, I am afraid for the Mormon people who are turned away from God’s truth by the false doctrines and assertions of Mormonism. I am afraid Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from me” (Matthew 7:23).
Who is this god that Mormon prophets declare? And who are these prophets whose so-called inspired teachings only have a shelf-life of twelve years? I am driven by fear for the souls of the Mormon people to join Jonathan Edwards in crying out, “O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in!”