Recently I received some comments on an old article I wrote about Mormons being born again. I reached out to a friend of mine I met through this website who is a pastor at Addisville Reformed Church in Pennsylvania. I want to thank Doug Dwyer for taking the time to answer my questions and hope that it helps both Mormons and Christians from other faiths see where we have common ground.
1. What is your definition of a Christian?
Romans 10:9 speak of holding to Christ’s Lordship and his victory over the grave. Digging a bit deeper here I would say that a Christian is someone who has submitted himself (herself) to the lordship of Jesus Christ over their lives and has placed their hope and confidence in his atoning death and victory over death through his resurrection.
2. Do you consider Mormons to be Christians?
I consider you a Christian. I have met Mormons who I sensed the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives. I do not consider all Mormons Christians. Nor do I consider all Presbyterians or non-denominational or Catholics Christians. You have to live in the reality of Romans 10:9 and not all church going people, including Mormons, have sincerely done that.
3. Where do you see common ground between Christians and Mormons?
Wait-you just asked me if Mormons are Christians and then you ask me to speak of common ground between “Christians” and “Mormons” a bit confusing! Let’s change “Christian” to “Evangelical” as that is the group within Christianity that I identify myself with.
We share many things in common. Our culture, morals and worldview are similar. We both strive to know and love Jesus Christ. We both feel great concern for the direction our society is going. We both are the brunt of jokes by those in the world-with all the talk of tolerance Mormon and Evangelicals are not shown it by this society (I would say even more so Mormons). We both love our kids and want them to grow up to be God loving and people of integrity. We both look to the promised hope-Christ’s return. I imagine many Mormons and many Evangelical waking up in the morning and praying and hoping-perhaps today!
4. Where do you see difference?
Joseph Smith and the restoration. Evangelicals may seem very judgmental to Mormons but we are officially apostates in the Mormon understanding of the church. We (Evangelicals) find it hard to get a handle on just what it is that you do believe. The whole exaltation concept just sounds strange. The fact that there are many gods seems to fly in the face of our Scripture. Your temples seem mysterious. Your understanding of Priesthood and your belief in the Book of Mormon and native people being somehow Jews-seems foreign to us. Aaron-when I have asked you about some of these things-like exaltation you say “to me it means becoming more like Christ-I really don’t think much about it beyond that.” I’m not sure what to make of it! Is it a goal to become a god or is that just some doctrine from the 19th century that is no longer spoken of. That is just one example. There seems to be layers of Mormon teaching and thought-and because your beliefs are dynamic and evolving it is hard for us to wrap our brains around what you now think verses what was taught in the past. And what is still believed but not discussed very much-at least for now.
5. Where do you feel the greatest challenges are in building the gap between groups?
Because of our past history-we are suspicious of each other. Whenever Mormons and Evangelicals get to know each other-those old attitudes start to fade. When you begin to build relationships and get to know the person-it changes your opinion-I know it has mine.
Hatred grows when you dehumanize the other person.
6. Where do you see a need for Christians and Mormons to unite in a common cause and why?
The push to redefine marriage and the homosexual movements success in turning their agenda into a civil rights issue and what all that means for our churches. In the recent issue with the BSA (my church holds charters to Cub and boy scout units-both my sons went through scouting-Dan is working on his eagle and David is an eagle scout) I looked to your church to help me work through this issue based on the recent vote. We both need to be united when it comes to Religious Freedom in this nation. Disaster relief-during the recent tornado in Oklahoma when I saw Mormons and Evangelicals working side by side doing cleanup and recovery-that was a beautiful picture for me. I hope some friendships were made!
7. Is your perspective on Mormons the same as most Christians?
No-I have studied the Mormons and their story since I was in high school and have had a genuine love for them since then. Evangelicals are pretty ignorant about Mormons. They get the polygamous sects confused with your church all the time. Many think Mormons still have plural marriages-I set them straight about that. If many met and spoke to Mormons they would see them as being Christian. Among leadership I believe it is slowly changing and becoming more positive.
8. What is the greatest thing Christians can learn from Mormons?
You do a better job in the discipleship of your children. Family Home evenings, seminary before school, service in the church and mission-we fall far short when it comes to raising our children in the knowledge of the Lord.
I agree with everything Doug had to say and feel good that he sees some movement towards common ground between the faiths. I feel that it is slowly moving to where Evangelicals and Mormons are “playing nicer in the sandbox” and as Doug states, even working side by side.
What are your thoughts on these questions? Also, are there any other questions you would have asked?