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Elliff disputes statement by Mormon president

ATLANTA (BP)–SBC President Tom Elliff has disputed a May 17 statement by Mormon president Gordon Hinckley that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn’t “go around running down” other churches and engaging in public debate on differences.
Hinckley’s remarks, made at an Atlanta gathering of 12,000 Mormons, came in a reference to the upcoming Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Salt Lake City and the increased public attention to the belief of most Southern Baptists and other evangelicals that Mormonism is a non-Christian religion.
“That’s their opinion and they’re entitled to it,” Hinckley was quoted as saying in an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We don’t go around running down any other church. We don’t debate. We don’t argue. We simply teach affirmatively a message which we believe has come from God.”
Elliff, pastor of First Baptist Church of Del City, Okla., said Hinckley’s statement is not entirely true.
“While I appreciate Dr. Hinckley’s right to his beliefs and will ardently defend his freedom to state them, I must take issue with his assertion that Mormons ‘ … don’t go around running down any other church.’ The teaching of Mormonism clearly states their belief that theirs is the only true church and that all others, including Baptists, are apostate.
“Like Dr. Hinckley, Southern Baptists do not ‘run down’ other churches,” Elliff added. “We do, however, hold strongly to the open and truthful declaration of our beliefs, and are eager to subject them to the light of Holy Scripture. We gladly welcome anyone to an investigation of our history and doctrines and trust that Mormons would do the same.”
Most Southern Baptists believe that while Mormons utilize biblical and Christian terminology, their unique beliefs — particularly their concepts of the nature of mankind, God and Jesus Christ — separate them from historic Christianity to such a degree that they cannot authentically be called “Christians.”
Hinckley did express words of welcome for Southern Baptists, however, as they gather in Salt Lake City June 9-11.
“We hope that they have a wonderful time,” Hinckley said, according to the article. “We hope that our people will be hospitable toward them and they’ll come away feeling well about their visit.”
Tal Davis, an interfaith witness associate for the North American Mission Board, responded Southern Baptists’ “appreciate President Hinckley’s words of welcome, and it is our intent to return their hospitality with courtesy and graciousness. Nonetheless, we feel compelled to share the true gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ with the Mormons and other people in Utah we will encounter during the Southern Baptist Convention.”
The North American Mission Board is coordinating Crossover Salt Lake City, a June 5-14 evangelistic blitz held in conjunction with the convention in cooperation with churches in northern Utah.