An evangelical pastor who grew up in a Mormon family and later embraced the biblical Christian faith said traditional Christians should talk “real issues” with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints instead of just calling it a cult.
“It is very clear there are very significant theological differences between Mormonism and traditional Christianity,” acknowledged Ross Anderson, who was raised in California as an active member of the Mormon faith and is now a teaching pastor at Alpine Church in northern Utah.
But the word “cult,” as it is commonly understood, does not rightly describe Mormonism, he told Standard Examiner Friday while talking about his new book, Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor.
“We are just arguing labels rather than talking about actual issues,” said Anderson, director of Utah Advance Ministries which plants “culturally appropriate” churches in Utah and ministers to former Mormons.
On whether or not Mormons are Christian, Anderson said, “The answer is yes and no, depending upon how you define the word Christian.” He argued that the question applies to an individual and not an institution necessarily.
Traditional Christians use the word in one sense and Mormons in another, “so we talk past each other,” he said. “Mormons say ‘We live like Christians,’ so they take an ethical view. Traditional Christians say there are theological differences.”
He agreed there are certain beliefs that traditional Christians have that are not shared by Mormons.
Mormons, for example, do not believe in the Trinity – one God in three Persons. Moreover, they believe there are “divine” books outside of the Bible, including the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price.
Speaking to The Christian Post, the ex-Mormon had earlier stated that instead of telling Mormons what they believe, or should believe, evangelicals should first ask them what they believe. Anderson turned to the evangelical faith after a friend introduced him to literature showing key differences between Mormonism and Christianity.
Another former Mormon, Beth Johnston of Idaho, had told The Christian Post that trying to win an argument with Mormons was not advisable. “Too many times I see people spend time trying to tear down the Mormon faith, talking about controversial topics like polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, blood atonement, etc.,” she said. “All of these things are important for sure – and may very well lead someone out of the Mormon Church, but will it lead them into a relationship with Christ?”
Anderson said his new book, published by Zondervan, describes Mormon life and culture to people of faith who are not members of the LDS church and helps evangelical Christians engage Mormonism differently than in the past.
He said he was sympathetic to Mormons. “So it’s not an anti-Mormon book at all … Though no longer part of the inner circle, I retain a respect for Mormonism’s values and a certain cultural resonance with its people.”
The book also carries a chapter on issues surrounding Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith.