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Monday, November 24, 2008

Are All Evangelical Critics Anti-Mormons?

I have communicated with a number of Evangelicals who, by their own admission, are critical of the Church and its teachings. In our dialogues together, I have at times used the phrase "evangelical anti-Mormons" to which some of my corespondents have taken umbrage. They say that they are not anti-Mormon but instead anti-Mormonism, or something similar. Others have at times expressed their view that Mormons can be too dismissive of critical voices by just labeling them as "anti-Mormons".

I would like to discuss the question as to whether or not any Evangelical[1] critical of Mormonism is an anti-Mormon.

In response to this inquiry, I would have to affirm that indeed not all Evangelicals who are critical of Mormonism constitute an anti-Mormon. Many of them have sincere questions and doubts as to the validity of the truth claims of Joseph Smith and the Church. Just because they have questions, that does not mean that they are "anti-Mormon". The Prophet Lehi affirmed that opposition is needed in all things, and I see this fulfilled in part by the role of apologists vs. critics for or of the Church. We all, as humans, have our questions and point of view; none of us, after all, are perfect in knowledge and objectivity. Therefore, to question things is a natural part of life.

On this blog and elsewhere, I have challenged conventional Christian doctrines and expressed my disbelief in the theories of those critical of Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. In my view, apart from my spiritual conviction that the Book of Mormon is true, I see the evidence in favor for Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Does that make me "anti-Christian" because of such? No. No more than an Evangelical disbelieving in the claims of Joseph Smith automatically becomes an anti-Mormon.

However, why then do I use that phrase and to whom am I applying it to? When I mention "Evangelical anti-Mormons" I am most of the time speaking specifically of men and women such as Jerald and Sandra Tanner, Ed Decker, Joel Kramer and others; all of whom are Evangelical Christians and all of whom are staunch opponents of the Church. These individuals have devoted their entire lives and ministries to combating Mormonism. It is not just a question of disagreeing with Mormonism; these individuals are fighting Mormonism. They have produced an endless stream of books, articles, newsletters and DVDs criticizing the claims of the Church. It cannot be denied, therefore, that these individuals, who have focused their entire efforts on debunking Mormonism with great hubris (usually mixed with some vitriol and virulence) and loud declarations, are not just critical of Mormonism but decidedly opposed to it[2]. Hence the name "anti-Mormon".

Therefore, in my future dialogues with you, let me state for my Evangelical friends and associates that, unless your words and or actions speak contrary, I will try to not assume of the bat that you are an anti-Mormon. This is something I have been guilty of in the past, and I am sorry for such. I will in all ernest try to respectfully dialogue without any snarkiness or triumphalism unbefitting a Latter-day Saint.

And what do I ask in return? Only that you provide the same courtesy for me and my fellow Latter-day Saints. Lets us both approach the table in a feeling of mutual trust and respect for each other, so that, in the end, we can discover the truth.   

Notes:

[1]: While this post is speaking specifically of Evangelicals, other religious, or areligious, individuals can apply themselves to this situation.

[2]: Bill McKeever, for example, brags that his organization has been "challenging the claims of Mormonism since 1979."