Richard Mouw has written an essay entitled, ‘Mormons Approaching Orthodoxy’. Mouw has been instrumental in reaching across the ‘Christian’ – Mormon divide. Along with several other Christian leaders, he works directly with LDS General Authorities and Mormon Scholars to create a dialogue between the two groups.
As has been stated several times by Evangelicals, perhaps with Mouw’s lead, ‘Mormons seem to be moving toward Christian teachings.’ But a lot could be said about this ‘revelation’. First and foremost, Evangelicals are coming from a position where for decades, even centuries, they have followed a framed narrative of Mormon doctrine. As the two sides have begun to speak and help close divides, the Evangelical leaders have come to know and notice more of what the church is about and what it actually teaches. To them, this would be a different doctrine from the narrative they were taught and then advanced themselves. Therefore a look behind the Mormon curtain, because it has always been different from the Evangelical narrative of Mormonism, may appear ‘new’ as compared to their understanding. To be fair, there has been an apparent ‘focus’ in recent years from church leaders on certain topics familiar to Evangelicals such as grace. Also, a quick look at the LDS.org and Mormon.org websites show the Bible as a central message of the church. Of course for members of the church, that is not new.
Dr. Mouw makes a reference to a change of doctrinal focus with the Lorenzo Snow Couplet “As man now is, God once was; As God now is, man may be” and then follows with Gordon B. Hinckley’s public responses to reporters on this doctrine. President Hinckley answers the reporters thoughtfully, in essence saying that we don’t focus on the teaching that God was once a man. That is true. I rarely hear anything about that doctrine from church leaders, in manuals, or at church. But to someone from the outside looking in who has might take on a doctrine vastly different from theirs, it is easy to make it more central than what it really is. We can see this when many Christians, including Mormons, take verses of the Quran out of context and assign a ‘central’ tenet to a people and religion out of complete ignorance. It is always easy to tell others what they believe.
Most members of the church would not agree with Mouw’s statement that ‘Mormons Approaching Orthodoxy’. We know that the eternal truths of the gospel have been taught since the time of Joseph Smith. that the focus of the gospel and the church has always been Christ, his example and atonement. And that priesthood and temples are central part of the God’s plan to grow and progress toward ‘joy’ and a return to God. What can be said however is that the church is changing. That is, we are becoming a truly global religion. and that can bring change to the priorities and even vernacular of church leaders. For example, as has been noted in a previous post, the term ‘God’ seems to be in higher use than in previous years as compared to ‘Lord’, ‘Savior’, and ‘Heavenly Father’. This may be a better introductory term for those in many parts of the world that have no religious background. Also, to those not familiar with Christianity, the Book of Mormon as ‘Another Testament of Jesus Christ’ would have no context if the person being introduced to the book had never read or heard of the Bible or Jesus Christ. Ergo, the message and vernacular may require some tweaking.
Mouw should be congratulated on reaching out to Mormons despite our theological differences.
Mormons Approaching Orthodoxy