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Radio talk shows highlight Mormon, Christian differences

SALT LAKE CITY (BP)–Two talk shows broadcast Sunday evening, June 7, on Salt Lake City radio stations focused on the differences between Mormonism and orthodox Christianity as Southern Baptists gathered for their June 9-11annual meeting.
“Religion on the Line,” hosted by Van Hale, and “Religion Today,” hosted by Richard Hopkins, on KTKK-AM featured conversations with Phil Roberts, director of the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board’s interfaith witness team. Roberts also is the author of “Mormonism Unmasked,” a book released in May by Broadman & Holman, the trade publishing division of the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board. In his book, Roberts is critical of Mormon claims to be a Christian religion.
Hale, a Salt Lake City businessman with 18 years’ experience as a talk radio apologist for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, focused much of his 5-7 p.m. time slot on why Southern Baptists and other evangelical Christians limit their scripture to the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments.
Hopkins, author of “How the Greeks Corrupted Christianity,” used his 7- 9 p.m. program to question Roberts about 37 historic Christian doctrines he believes are corruptions of biblical truth which Mormon scriptures purport to correct.
The debates highlighted the significant differences between Mormon theology and the doctrines of historic Christianity and revealed some surprising differences of opinion in Mormon ranks.
Hale took Roberts to task over Southern Baptists’ rejection of Mormon scriptures — the Book of Mormon, the Doctrines and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price — when the Bible itself does not list what Christians should consider God-inspired scripture. He asked why Southern Baptists reject the Book of Enoch as scripture when the Epistle of Jude quotes Enoch as a prophet. He also asked why evangelical Christians reject some books that Roman Catholics include in their scripture, as well as books like the Gospel of Thomas, which purports to be another record of the life and sayings of Jesus.
Roberts explained that historic Christianity has considered Christian writings to be scripture only if their doctrine is consistent with established scripture, if the writings can be proven to be ancient texts and if the character of the author is credible. The early church rejected many writings because they failed to meet those criteria, he said.
He said he rejects Mormon scripture as “extra-Christian” because it adds writings that do not meet those criteria and because it deviates from classical doctrines about God and Jesus.
During Hopkins’ program, Roberts was joined at the microphone by Mark Coppenger, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo. Roberts and Coppenger responded to Hopkins’ claim that second- and third-century Greek theologians imported concepts alien to Hebrew thought and created doctrinal error such as the Christian doctrine of the Trinity — which asserts the paradoxical claim that God the Father, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are in fact one God.
“Mormons are monotheists, but we also are polytheists,” Hopkins said. “We believe in one God, but we also believe in a variety of gods. Doesn’t the Bible teach there is one God but there are three who are God?” “The Bible teaches the divinity of the Holy Spirit, the Son and the Father, and that they are one,” Coppenger replied. “Mormon doctrine denies the traditional doctrine of the Trinity and has a vast plurality of gods.” Roberts countered that Mormon doctrines reflect more Greek influence than historic Christianity. “Mormonism is more Greek than Christianity ever thought of being,” he said. “The idea of pre-existent souls and that Adam and Eve had to sin before they had physical bodies and were able to have children is straight out of Greek gnosticism.” The discussion came back around to the question of scripture when Coppenger asked why Mormon television ads offer a copy of the King James Bible when Mormon founder Joseph Smith said the historic Bible was corrupted and made extensive changes to “correct” it. “I’m genuinely puzzled,” Coppenger said. “If the King James Version is flawed and Smith improved on it, why are you offering the King James on television?”
“I frankly am appalled myself when I hear members of the Latter-day Saints church putting down the Bible,” Hopkins replied. “The Bible is the largest standard work of the church and should be accepted as the Word of God as far as it is translated correctly. But the King James Bible is sufficiently accurate to enable a person to understand doctrine.” During the two-hour program, Hopkins took other stands at odds with what many LDS members believe. While Joseph Smith believed the churches of his day were corrupt “abominations,” Hopkins told his guests: “We’ll agree Southern Baptists are Christians. We’re certainly Christian, but we’ve never said we were orthodox Christians. Mormons are the true expression of Christianity.” And Hopkins distanced himself from the belief of many rank-and-file LDS members that performing good works for the Mormon Church is essential for salvation. Coppenger recalled meeting Mormons in nearby Ogden, Utah, during the Southern Baptist weekend Crossover evangelistic effort prior to the SBC meeting in Salt Lake City. He said he asked people why they thought God would let them into heaven and “without exception, Mormons said it would be because they lived a good life and obeyed the LDS ordinances.” “I listened in vain for any mention of grace, the blood of Christ, but everything they said was about good works,” he said. “I don’t deny that,” Hopkins said. “It’s unfortunate that for so many generations we have so emphasized the obedience side of salvation that people have lost sight of the fact that it is impossible to obey ourselves into heaven. We all need a savior.” Mormons who think good works are necessary to earn their salvation “are not understanding the theology and are probably giving themselves headaches over things they don’t have to,” Hopkins added later. “If they are relying on some other means than Christ for salvation, they are in serious trouble.” That position, Roberts said, directly contradicts what Mormon members are told.

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  • Mark Kelly