David French, over at Patheos via Every Evangelical/Mormon Argument Goes Something Like This . . .., writes a very interesting article about the commonalities of Evangelical and Mormon discussions. Specifically, how such discussions turn into a kind of “Well my intellectual reasoning is better than your intellectual reasoning” schoolyard commentary. He brings up the following six points of proper discussion between Evangelical’s and Mormons that both sides should reflect upon before engaging in similarities and differences between Latter-day Saint Christianity and modern Protestant/Catholic/Evangelical Christianities.
1. Never assume you know anyone else’s beliefs. Yes, yes I know you earned a graduate degree in comparative religions and did your Master’s Thesis in “Christ Imagery in Early Mormon Hymns,” but that doesn’t mean you know what your counterpart believes or has been taught. In fact, your counterpart may actually disagree with this or that point of church teaching.
2. Don’t presume to dictate who is or is not a member of good standing of their own faith. My favorite retort to Mormons who don’t conform to stereotype is, “Well, if you believe that, then you’re not really a Mormon.” Last time I checked, the LDS church determined who was or was not a member in good standing of their church, while my elders did the same for my own church.
3. Let your counterpart describe their own beliefs. This point flows naturally from the points above. If I am going to disagree with someone, I prefer to disagree with the best expression of the opposing view.
4. Let your counterpart describe their own disagreements with your faith. It’s been interesting for me to hear LDS friends describe in their own words their disagreements with Christian orthodoxy. Often, I think they misunderstand my own beliefs almost as much as I have often misunderstood theirs.
5. Don’t Google obscure, inflammatory quotes. There are few things more unproductive than slamming a debating opponent with obscure, often out-of-context quotes by historical figures or church leaders. I’m a Calvinist Christian, but that doesn’t mean that I have all John Calvin’s writings on instant mental recall, know the context of all quotes thrown in my face, or even agree with everything he said and did. I am seeking to understand an overall world view, not to defend the particulars of any man’s biography or the totality of all their words and actions. For example, you’re not convincing a Christian that he shouldn’t read Psalms if you say, “Wasn’t David an adulterer?”
6. Recognize that God is in control. This is the Reformed Christian in me, but it is of immense comfort to know that no man is going to Hell because I wasn’t eloquent enough. I have a duty to do my best to advance the Gospel, but I’m a fallen, broken person, and my words will never be adequate or sufficient to convict the human heart of sin. A man’s eternal destiny is simply not up to me.