Discussion follows new book by S.L. theologian
BOUNTIFUL — Latter-day Saints and evangelical Christians tried to trade in traditional Bible-bashing for understanding Friday night, discussing how to bridge the gap between the two religious beliefs.
The discussion came on the heels of a newly published book by theologian David L. Rowe titled, “I love Mormons: A New Way to Share Christ with Latter-day Saints.” Rowe, the dean of spiritual life at the Salt Lake Theological Seminary, said his book is an effort to tell members of different Christian faiths how to replace confrontational evangelism for active listening and respect for LDS culture.
“The intended spirit of my book is that of a beggar showing another beggar where the bread is and that bread is heaven,” Rowe said to the gathering of both LDS residents and members of other Christian denominations at the Grace Baptist Church in Bountiful.
Elder Alexander B. Morrison, an emeritus member of the Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said he appreciated Rowe’s effort to move from “ritual bashing” to a more loving approach.
Morrison added, however, that Rowe’s book was “replete with error of fact and interpretation” that only hinder good communication between the Christian faiths.
Morrison said he noted at least 36 errors about Mormonism in Rowe’s book, adding that one of the most egregious was a passage insinuating LDS members believe the martyrdom of Joseph Smith is equal in importance to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
“This is frankly ridiculous. Latter-day Saints love and revere the Prophet Joseph Smith, but we most emphatically do not worship him,” Morrison said.
The Rev. Gregory Johnson said the differences in opinion over Rowe’s book are among many examples of how bridging religious divides is “messy.” The only way to do it, he said, is to give up ideals of converting members of other faiths and try to truly understand each other’s cultures.
Johnson founded Standing Together Ministries, a group dedicated to creating a religious dialogue between Latter-day Saints and evangelical Christians.
Rowe said his book focuses on three C’s of overcoming religious differences: culture, communication and conversion. The last, he added, does not mean a conversion from religious institution but rather a spiritual conversion to Christ.
“We could leave one religious club and go to a different one with our heart remaining totally unchanged,” he said. “That kind of conversion is not deep enough.”