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Should We Dwell On Similarities?

By Bill McKeever

In recent years some within the Christian and Mormon community have been espousing a method of mutual understanding that urges dialogue revolving around common ground rather than discussions that make a clear distinction between Mormonism and the Christian faith. To imply that a Mormon could be wrong and run the risk of offense is considered by many in this camp as anathema. I admit I have my concerns about this new approach.

Am I surprised to hear Mormons expressing their appreciation to Christians who refrain from making them answer the hard questions? Not at all. No doubt many LDS like this new approach because it protects them from hearing things about their faith that may eventually cause them to rethink their positions.

However, it is apparent that not all Mormons agree with this new paradigm. Joseph Fielding McConkie, the son of Mormon Apostle Bruce McConkie (1915-1985), has been critical of Mormons who choose to dwell on similarities rather than on those things that make Mormonism unique.

On November 5, 2005, McConkie spoke at the Joseph Smith Symposium in Palmyra, New York. The title of his talk was “Two Churches,” an expression taken from 1 Nephi 14:10 that reads, “Behold there are save two churches only; the one is the church of the Lamb of God, and the other is the church of the devil.”

Like his father, McConkie makes no pretense that he believes all professing Christian churches outside of the LDS Church fall within the parameters of the church of the devil. It is no secret that McConkie and I rarely agree on doctrinal issues but in this case, I think my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ need to listen carefully to three comments he makes:

  1. “Perhaps we need to rethink the idea of seeking common ground with those we desire to teach. Every likeness we identify leaves them with one less reason to join the Church. When we cease to be different we cease to be.”
  2. “Truth, however, is more important than harmony.”
  3. “Any time we declare something to be true, we have picked a fight with that which is untrue… It is as certain as the night following the day that we will never be able to declare our message without opposition or without giving offense to some.”

I happen to agree with McConkie regarding the above points (though, of course, for different reasons). Shallow conversations that fail to define our unique positions do nothing to compel Mormons to see the importance of biblical teaching over “latter-day revelation” that tends to contradict it. While I am a strong proponent of displaying respectful behavior towards members of the LDS Church, I find it delusional to think that we can ignore the necessary message of the gospel and still somehow call this evangelism. At some point in their lives, Mormons need to confront the issues that separate their error from orthodoxy.

It is a temptation for Christians to take the easy path and merely be “friendly.” But is friendship alone really being “loving” in such cases? If we really believe Mormonism’s teachings are so egregious that its followers will not be able to enjoy eternity in the presence of our God and Savior, should we not do our best to present those differences?

Do we run the risk of offending some when we do this? Absolutely. The Gospel, by nature, is offensive to those who disagree. If a person is offended by the Gospel, it is proof that they need to hear what it has to say.

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