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Debate among Southern Baptists and Mormons continues, sparked by video

ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–Sparked by “The Mormon Puzzle,” a video produced by the North American Mission Board (NAMB), the discussion about Mormonism’s claims to be Christian has been raised to the highest levels. Letters to the editor columns in Utah newspapers have been filled for months with the discussion, and in April it was a recurring theme at the semi-annual LDS General Conference in Salt Lake City.
“There are some of other faiths who do not regard us as Christians,” said Gordon B. Hinckley, president and prophet of the LDS church. “That is not important. How we regard ourselves is what is important. We acknowledge without hesitation the differences between us.”
The video originally was intended as a training tool for Southern Baptists, in part because of the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in June. Distribution of the video includes more than 38,000 mailed free to all Southern Baptist churches.
There’s no doubt the LDS church is feeling the impact of the video, said Tal Davis, interfaith witness evangelism associate for NAMB. “They’re dismayed because they don’t think we understand what they believe and therefore don’t think they’re Christians. On the contrary, we do understand and therefore don’t think they’re Christians based on their views of God, Jesus, salvation and baptism.”
One reason for the popularity of the video beyond church training seminars has been its balanced approach, Davis said, allowing LDS theologians to explain their beliefs themselves and Southern Baptist leaders to offer the refutation.
Keith Markham, pastor of Mountain View Baptist Church in Layton, Utah, has found the video to be an effective witnessing tool in an area where Southern Baptists are often seen as antagonistic.
“The Mormon Puzzle is an integral part of our ministry,” said Markham. “It has had such good publicity out here that the LDS people want to see it.”
Mountain View church has 24 copies of the video, and “23 are out all the time,” said Markham. “Our church members are taking them to their doctors, dentists and neighbors.”
Sandra Tanner of Utah Lighthouse Ministry, located in Salt Lake City and one of the largest and most-respected Christian ministries to Mormons, said the video has become a critical tool for all evangelicals interested in witnessing to Mormons.
“We expected a good response from the video,” said Tanner. “At last we have a video we can show to our Mormon friends that isn’t antagonistic.”
Tanner, who is featured in “The Mormon Puzzle”, compared the new video to “The God Makers,” a generally accurate but sensationalistic video produced in 1982. “The God Makers generated a similar volume of responses, but they were much more negative. It was easier to dismiss it as ridicule from a fringe group of Christians.”
LDS leaders have a greater struggle with “The Mormon Puzzle” because “they cannot dismiss it as propaganda,” she said.
Another measure of the video’s impact is the recent release of “Solving the Mormon Puzzle” in which author Max B. Skousen tries to answer questions raised by “The Mormon Puzzle.” Skousen’s book is written independent of LDS church authorities and “is not considered a standard response of Mormonism,” Tanner said. “However, LDS leaders are using his book in an attempt to smooth their own members feelings about the video.”
According to Tanner, Skousen’s book is the standard sort of Mormon missionary response, and is “a shallow treatment of the theological issues raised in the video.”
“The LDS church is still not seriously answering the questions raised about the main differences between our faiths,” she said.
In addition to the video, a Mormon Puzzle kit is available which includes a training manual, “The Challenge of Mormonism” book and a poster. The kit is available through the Sunday School Board and Baptist Bookstores/Lifeway Christian Bookstores.

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  • Lynne Jones