There are 20 thoughts on “Seeing Ourselves Through the Eyes of a Friendly and Thoughtful Evangelical”.

  1. “Walter Martin, for whom he plainly has a lingering respect that I find myself utterly unable to share or even, really, to grasp.”
    You mischaracterize Richard Mouw’s feelings. I believe that Mouw has no such “lingering respect” for Martin, and indeed holds him in contempt as an example of callous, “overt antagonism.” The story you briefly allude to took place during a Q&A following a Martin presentation on Mormonism one night long ago at the Riverdale Bible Church in NJ, when Mouw was of high school age. The young Mormon holding his own that night was an LDS missionary. Martin repeatedly insisted that Mormons only believed in salvation by works, leading the missionary to burst into tears, attempting to declare what we actually believe. At which Martin exclaimed to the audience, “See how they lie?” The young missionary then said: “You’re not even trying to understand.” Young Mouw resolved then and there to try to understand. You can find Mouw’s vivid recollection of the event online at https://vimeo.com/22184895 (La Canada Presbyterian Church, April 8, 2011), beginning at about 14:54.

  2. This was an incredibly interesting article with lots of food for thought.
    It was fun to hear about your interactions with Richard Mouw and to hear some of his views regarding Mormonism and your responses to them. I would love to hear more about any interactions you had with the magnificent Ravi Zacharias. I am a huge fan of his. He is a brilliant defender of the gospel of Christ found in the Bible.
    Thank you for writing and sharing this article.
    “Joseph Smith puts justification prior to sanctification”
    I agree with the commenter. I think the above supposition is very clearly documented in the scriptures. I would add that in addition to Joseph’s own teachings on the topic, that were consistent with scripture, his personal life demonstrated this principle as well.
    It is documented in sections 84:48 and 88:2 that the covenant was confirmed upon Joseph and that Joseph’s name, (along with others of the first elders of the last kingdom) was entered into the book of the names of the sanctified.
    I believe this sanctification which appears to have taken place somewhere around September or December of 1832 could not have happened prior to the fulness of the priesthood/gospel being restored 1 1/2 years previous in the first part of June 1831.
    And yet, Joseph clearly needed to be justified prior to those events, in order to receive “thus sayeth the Lord” revelations, stand in the presence of angels, receive baptism and the other spiritual gifts that he received.
    He clearly was justified prior to his sanctification.
    “One is not regenerated, sanctified, or reborn in an instant.”
    What?
    I could not possibly disagree more with the above declaration. I think it represents one of the great myths of modern day Mormonism and it contradicts Biblical Christianity and the Book of Mormon.
    The Bible and the Book of Mormon are filled with examples of believers who miraculously experienced the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost which does indeed bring about the instant and ineffable regeneration, sanctification and spiritual rebirth through Christ’s righteousness, atonement and intercession, rather than by a long process of our personal works.
    I think the reason that people accept the myth is because they are not seeing evidence of the true baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost like they had in ancient times and at the beginning of the restoration movement. Hence, it feels like we need to spend a lifetime trying really really hard to complete a very arduous process of achieving sanctification from our own efforts.

    • —————————————————-
      “One is not regenerated, sanctified, or reborn in an instant.”
      What?
      I could not possibly disagree more with the above declaration. I think it represents one of the great myths of modern day Mormonism and it contradicts Biblical Christianity and the Book of Mormon.
      —————————————————-
      I agree. As the commenter says, “The Bible and the Book of Mormon are filled with examples of believers who miraculously experienced the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost which does indeed bring about the instant and ineffable regeneration, sanctification and spiritual rebirth through Christ’s righteousness, atonement and intercession, rather than by a long process of our personal works.”
      Here are just a few examples:
      https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/4.1-3
      https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/27.23-29
      https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/alma/22.12-23
      Please read these carefully.
      For me, being born again was not an abstract idea; I experienced it with great power. In the morning I was one person; in the afternoon I was another. My life has never been the same.

      • From your Mosiah 4 link:
        ” 6 I say unto you, if ye have come to a knowledge of the goodness of God, and his matchless power, and his wisdom, and his patience, and his long-suffering towards the children of men; and also, the atonement which has been prepared from the foundation of the world, that thereby salvation might come to him that should put his trust in the Lord, and should be diligent in keeping his commandments, and continue in the faith even unto the end of his life, I mean the life of the mortal body—
        7 I say, that this is the man who receiveth salvation, through the atonement which was prepared from the foundation of the world for all mankind, which ever were since the fall of Adam, or who are, or who ever shall be, even unto the end of the world.
        8 And this is the means whereby salvation cometh. And there is none other salvation save this which hath been spoken of; neither are there any conditions whereby man can be saved except the conditions which I have told you.”
        Isn’t this what Midgley was talking about: Ultimate salvation? It is common among Protestant belief that once accepting Jesus as Son of God and LORD, one is sanctified and therefore gains eternal salvation. That once done, the merciful gift of salvation, assured salvation, is not taken away no matter what. While Mormonism does indeed teach of instant redemption and sanctification, it is a well established doctrine that one *must* “endure to the end” lest that person risk the loss of salvation: ultimate salvation before the “bar of the great Jehovah”.

        • I believe that Dr. Midgley was confused about the meaning of “justification.”
          You wrote: “That once done, the merciful gift of salvation, assured salvation, is not taken away no matter what.”
          If I understand this correctly, not all evangelicals accept this doctrine (although probably most do), which is known as the “perseverance of saints” (“once saved, always saved”) and is one of the “five points” of Calvinism.
          “While Mormonism does indeed teach of instant redemption and sanctification, it is a well established doctrine that one *must* ‘endure to the end’ lest that person risk the loss of salvation.”
          I believe your understanding is basically correct. As Joseph Smith wrote, “There is a possibility that man may fall from grace and depart from the living God; therefore let the church take heed and pray always, lest they fall into temptation; yea, and even let those who are sanctified take heed also.” (D&C 20:32-34.)
          However, *you* should “take heed” not to think that “enduring to the end” has anything to do with salvation by works. In my view, it means to continue exercising faith in the Savior throughout life.
          “Pray always, lest you fall into temptation,” by the way, is an oft-repeated admonition of the Savior to his followers. It’s not original with Joseph Smith.

          • I think you and I are in basic agreement.
            Now, regarding Midgley, you make a good case tat he may have conflated “justification” and “salvation” but what if the context which with he write places both at the judgment bar of God? Would he then be conflating the two? Can one repent on his or her death bed and gain ultimate salvation? Protestants would answer yes but it would be difficult for a Mormon to say yes according to his or her understanding of the doctrines of salvation.

  3. Many thanks for this article and your work (along with many others) making the Interpreter available to us.

  4. Good article. As Christianity itself is more and more assaulted, I suspect that our interdenominational feuds will slowly subside as we all join together to fend off the Atheist/Islamic assaults on our faith.
    That said, I wish you would publish a primer on Islam from an LDS point of view. As far as I can tell, we don’t really deal with Islam much. Presumably there is more to the faith than the terrorist brutality thing, but, well, it’s also indisputable that Islam seems to be a rather violent faith.
    Based on what little I’ve read, it seems like Mohammed, if he even existed, had two periods: Medina and Mecca, and the Mecca one is good and where most of the good in Islam came from, while the Medina one is where all the bloodlust comes from.

    • Vance:
      I’m pleased that you think there’s a need for “a primer on Islam from an LDS point of view.”
      Why? Because I’m intermittently at work on just such a thing.
      It gives me reason to hope for at least one reader!
      Thanks for your kind note.

      • Dr. Peterson, please count on – at least – two readers! Though I suspect you may count us as two of many!

      • Well, at some point the gospel will be taken to the people of Islam–though I suspect it won’t be there long. Regardless, I’m not sure what to think of Mohammed. 1) Did he exist as portrayed or is it mostly legend written by calculating men looking for mythos to justify themselves? 2) If he did exist; he was clearly inspired. By whom? Was he inspired by God, or was he Satan’s attempt at striking first before Joseph Smith? Or did he switch sides at some point?
        3) The parallels with Joseph Smith are unmistakable. How, then, to deal with the questions of why is Joseph Smith a real prophet and Muhammed not?
        4) Comparing the Koran with Restoration scripture.
        There are so many questions, like even the nature of Sin and the need for a Redeemer; and the nature of Allah as compared to God. And so forth.

        • Vance asked: “2) If he did exist; he was clearly inspired. By whom? Was he inspired by God, or was he Satan’s attempt at striking first before Joseph Smith? Or did he switch sides at some point?”
          What the First Presidency said which kind of answers those questions:
          Based upon ancient and modern revelation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gladly teaches and declares the Christian doctrine that all men and women are brothers and sisters, not only by blood relationship from common mortal progenitors but as literal spirit children of an Eternal Father.
          The great religious leaders of the world such as Mohammed, Confucius, and the Reformers, as well as philosophers including Socrates, Plato, and others, received a portion of God’s light. Moral truths were given to them by God to enlighten whole nations and to bring a higher level of understanding to individuals.
          The Hebrew prophets prepared the way for the coming of Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, who should provide salvation for all mankind who believe in the gospel.
          Consistent with these truths, we believe that God has given and will give to all peoples sufficient knowledge to help them on their way to eternal salvation, either in this life or in the life to come.
          We also declare that the gospel of Jesus Christ, restored to His Church in our day, provides the only way to a mortal life of happiness and a fulness of joy forever. For those who have not received this gospel, the opportunity will come to them in the life hereafter if not in this life.
          Our message therefore is one of special love and concern for the eternal welfare of all men and women, regardless of religious belief, race, or nationality, knowing that we are truly brothers and sisters because we are sons and daughters of the same Eternal Father. (“God’s Love for All Mankind,” First Presidency Statement, Feb. 15, 1978)

  5. Professor Peterson is clearly right that we can and should learn something about our own faith by getting as clear as possible on how and why others see us. And Richard Mouw’s Talking with Mormons is filled with wise observations. And Professor Peterson has provided a remarkably generous, insightful review of Richard Mouw’s instructive book.
    However, despite his irenic, very generous way of understanding the faith of the Saints, it was for me discouraging to find him not grasping that we differ radically from typical Reformation dogma by insisting that, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, one both can and must become a Saint–that is, be purified, purged, regenerated and hence sanctified prior to the justice one can expect in the final judgment. Put bluntly, sanctification must necessarily come before justification. Latter-day Saints simply do not believe that an alien righteousness is imputed to totally depraved sinners at the moment they confess Jesus as Lord and Savior. But denying this key Protestant idea does not entail anything approaching self-salvation by mere human effort. To make that claim, one must ignore what is clearly set out in the Book of Mormon.
    Professor Mouw should have taken the Book of Mormon seriously. Insisting on becoming a Saint is not to be brushed aside as self-salvation. Only God can save us. One is not regenerated, sanctified, or reborn in an instant. The victory over spiritual death brought on by our own sins is available to all who care to accept the gifts God has freely and mercifully made available to us. We must turn to him in faith and faithfulness, as we seek and accept sanctification through the work of the Holy Spirit.

    • Dr. Midgley wrote: “Latter-day Saints simply do not believe that an alien righteousness is imputed to totally depraved sinners at the moment they confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.”
      You mean like Alma the Younger?
      I have great respect for Dr. Midgley, but I believe he is simply wrong about this.
      More information here:
      http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Justification
      Another example here:
      https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/mosiah/5.1-5
      ” Put bluntly, sanctification must necessarily come before justification.”
      Joseph Smith puts justification prior to sanctification:
      https://www.lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/20.30-31
      As does Moroni:
      https://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/moro/10.32-33
      Elder Gerald N. Lund give a very thorough explanation here:
      http://rsc.byu.edu/archived/sperry-symposium-classics/sanctification-and-justification-are-just-and-true

      • Here’s a statement I forgot to mention earlier. This refers to those who inherit the celestial kingdom:
        “These are they who are just [that is, justified] men made perfect [that is, sanctified] through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood.” (D&C 76:69.)
        First we are justified (declared “just”), then we are perfected (sanctified).
        Note that sanctification as well as justification comes because of the atonement (“through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant”). Latter-day Saints are fond of saying “Resurrection is a free gift, but exaltation must be *earned.*” If that’s the case, please tell me how many points I need to rack up before I can claim exaltation, and exactly how I can earn those points. How can we possibly think we can earn something as unimaginably glorious as the celestial kingdom? The truth is, we can’t. Well, how do we get there, then? Through the atonement. As we continue to exercise our faith in the Savior, the Spirit works with us (sanctifies us) until we become the kind of people who are able to live in celestial glory. This is sanctification.

      • One more example. Again, Dr. Midgley wrote: “Latter-day Saints simply do not believe that an alien righteousness is imputed to totally depraved sinners at the moment they confess Jesus as Lord and Savior.”
        Alma disagrees: “I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, *immediately* shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.” (Alma 34:31.)
        The Book of Mormon has many other examples, which I encourage you to seek out for yourself.

        • After reading Dr. Midgley’s statement one more time, I realize he simply doesn’t understand the meaning of “justification.” He wrote: “With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, one both can and must become a Saint–that is, be purified, purged, regenerated and hence sanctified prior to the justice one can expect in the final judgment.”
          He’s mistakenly thinking that judgment is the same thing as justification.
          Justification is a legal fiction wherein we are declared “not guilty” (just) even though we *are* guilty. This is possible only because of the atonement, and it comes at the *beginning* of the process rather than at the end. Again, I encourage you to read the explanation in the Encyclopedia of Mormonism:
          http://eom.byu.edu/index.php/Justification

    • “Professor Mouw should have taken the Book of Mormon seriously.”
      Why should he take it seriously when we Latter-day Saints do not? There are more than a handful of teachings of the Book of Mormon that we have simply discarded.

      • Professor Midgley was merely suggesting that Mouw might want to take the Book of Mormon teaching on the atonement more seriously.
        Book of Mormon teachings pervade LDS theology, a matter which Mouw might have encountered through a careful read of the book. See my “Book of Mormon Theologies: A Thumbnail Sketch,” lecture
        delivered at the September 2012 annual meeting of the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology (SMPT), at Utah State University, Logan, Utah, online at https://www.scribd.com/doc/251781864/BOOK-OF-MORMON-THEOLOGIES-A-THUMBNAIL-SKETCH .

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