What should we make of claims that the two faiths are on a path to reconciling?
For nearly 200 years, Mormons have both enraged and intrigued evangelicals. The rage has come from Mormon claims that the Book of Mormon contains new revelation superseding and correcting the Bible, and that Christians are apostates from the apostolic church.
The intrigue has come from the fact that Latter-day Saints (LDS) are so similar and yet so different. The Book of Mormon is remarkably Christ-focused, and presents a godhead resembling the Trinity. Yet later teachings by Joseph Smith deny the Trinity and claim that God the Father has both a physical body and his own father. Evangelicals have always been fascinated by Mormon beliefs that the Garden of Eden was in Missouri, that the New Jerusalem will be located nearby, and that American Indians are descended from the ancient Israelites.
Now the Internet buzzes with new debate over (president emeritus of Fuller Seminary) Richard Mouw’s pronouncement at First Things that Mormons are moving closer to historic Christian orthodoxy. LDS leaders, he proposes, are downplaying the Mormon teaching that God was once a man. A participant in Mormon-evangelical dialogue responded that, on the contrary, this teaching remains on the LDS Church website and LDS leaders are still teaching that God and humans are of the same species. Then a professor at Brigham Young University proclaimed that the LDS has no intention of revising its doctrine of God and humans sharing the same species, or of moving toward orthodoxy. A leading LDS intellectual added that Joseph Smith’s revelation of God once being a man was one of the great corrections that Christian orthodoxy would do well to adopt. Southern Baptist Richard Land interpreted this to mean that the Mormon Jesus is “not our …