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I hope senior leaders compare the good feelings generated by Millet and Robinson's efforts, contrast them with the divisiveness and bad feelings generated by FARMS "apologists", and draw reasonable conclusions.

I was genuinely surprised by this statement. I personally would much rather read FARMS apologetics than Millet and Robinson's feel-good ecumenicalism. Millet only achieves this from the LDS side by resporting to inaccuracies about our own theology, particularly about the Godhead. At least FARMS apologetics strives for accuracy and detail in an effort to show (1) the reasonableness of the restored Gospel's peculiarities and (2) something genuine about Christianity and what it was initially compared with the Restoration (and by implication what that means for the rest of mainstream Christianity). If the "senior leaders" are swayed more by Millet's ecumencalism than by the hardball research being put out by FARMS, then I would view that as a negative development (1) because FARMS already has a hard enough job convincing senior leaders that investigation of the Gospel and BoM in specific cultural and historical context has merit and does not threaten a purely (and appropriately) faith-based belief in the scriptures, and (2) Millet's ecumenicalism, while indeed touchy-and-feely, does nothing to dispell the black gall vomitted at the Latter-day Saints by 99% of the evangelical world.

Of course, I have overlooked the possibility that your comment might have been completely sarcastic. . . .

No, I wasn't being sarcastic, John. If you really think that 99% of Evangelicals "vomit black gall" at Mormons and the Church, you need to make friends with a few Evangelicals. You might also consider how Protestants are supposed to take the harsher statements of the LDS position (see "two churches only" as painted in 1 Nephi and similar statements by various LDS leaders). There's a lot of mutual misunderstanding that needs to be corrected.

Millet and Robinson, as well as others no doubt, are working to dispel the hard feelings that have become part of the LDS mindset and that some Mormons seem to feel is part of the Mormon gospel. If Jesus could chat with a Samaritan (a Samaritan!), surely you can relate to Evangelicals in a friendlier way.

The fact that the Salt Lake non-LDS Christian community has rallied together against the Christian street preachers so visible at Conference has probably done a lot to vindicate the ecumenical efforts of those like Millet and Robinson.

I respect Millet a lot. I think he's done a great job of investigating doctrines that are fundamental LDS doctrines but which got overlooked a little too much the last 100 years or so. Mainly because for a long time Mormons were in this seige mentality where we in part defined ourselves in terms of not being Protestant. His stuff on Grace in the late 80's and early 90's was very important I feel.

I must admit though that I think we all went a tad overboard the other direction during the late 90's and that may actually be part of the reason for our decreased growth. I think we downplayed the doctrines that are different.

Regarding Robinson and a few others, I don't think he is being misleading. I think that he and others (to a lesser extent even Ostler) all believe what they say. And to be honest, a lot of the doctrines they quibble with are not "official" doctrines in the sense that they've been approved by the entire quorum. If we reject some of Brigham's more off the wall sayings on that basis, or even Orson Pratt or B. H. Robert's views, then consistency suggests that the more popular but unofficial doctrines are also open for such reinterpretation.

Now I disagree with them of course. I'm a big proponent of Nauvoo doctrines. Of course I do think you are right, John, in that some downplay the big differences in a fairly misleading way. (i.e. Pres. Hinkley's infamous interview on the nature of God) I think that is changing though. I think Pres. Hinkley's job as president was to bring to the forefront our common ground. I suspect the next prophet's job will be to re-emphasize our differences though.

Common ground does not a convert make, in my opinion. Sure it's nice to have good feelings and everything, but if the other side gets the impression that we all believe the same thing, then there is no reason to convert. Instead, we should be emphasizing the differences, even (and perhaps especially) on views of conditional and unconditional Atonement (i.e. "grace"). The most important difference on this superficial level is, of course, the BoM. We have it, they don't.

Dave, I know that your comment on evangelicals probably comes in the context of you personally knowing a few evangelicals who are very friendly and who have been very liberal and indulgent towards you in your throes of Mormonism. You might be very surprised, though, at what those friends' preachers are telling them at church. I have plenty of evangelical friends (I grew up in Dallas were practically everyone was evangelical), and I can say from experience that the official doctrine of evangelicals towards Latter-day Saints is not so friendly--in fact it is very intolerant and abrasive. Just like Millet wasn't really speaking for the whole Church in his ecumenicalism (e.g. as I pointed out, his watered down rendering of our beliefs on the Godhead and grace in order to make it pallatible to evangelical readers), Robinson was not accurately portraying the evangelical side. I think that very few evangelicals would share the same perspective as Robinson on LDS beliefs (and Robinson's presentation is even less ecumenical than Millet's).

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