Oklahomans describe theological differences between Southern Baptists, Mormons

An Oklahoma Baptist University professor and Oklahoma City Mormon leader discuss the theological differences between Southern Baptists and Mormons.

The Oklahoman/October 15, 2011

The notion that Southern Baptists and Mormons have different theological viewpoints is nothing new, a local university professor said Friday.

Mark McClellan, dean of the Hobbs College of Theology and Ministry at Oklahoma Baptist University, said there are several theological differences in what the "historic Christian Church" — which he described as mainline Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church, to some degree — believe, and the faith beliefs to which members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ascribe.

Kevin Graves, president of the Oklahoma City Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints agreed with McClellan's assessment of those differences, but he also said the theology being debated can be interpreted in more than one way.

"Clearly there are thousands of religions, each one with a different theological belief," Graves said.

McClellan said the historic Christian Church and Mormonism differ on the role of the Bible.

He said the historic Christian Church believes that the Bible is the revealed word of God and is the one inspired and authoritative Christian book.

He said, and Graves agreed, that Mormons have not one book, but a set of standard books which they ascribe to: the Book of Mormon; the King James version of the Bible; Doctrine and Covenants, a collection of revelations of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism; and Pearl of Great Price, a collection of smaller works.

McClellan said the historic Christian Church is monotheistic, viewing God as being one eternal God. He exists as one God in three persons (the Trinity): the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit eternally, McClellan said.

By contrast, he said Mormons believe there are a number of gods. McClellan said Mormons don't have the same view of the Trinity, either.

He said they believe that God the Father was once a man and that there were creations before God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Mormons also believe that men can become gods, McClellan said.

Graves said McClellan's assessment of this aspect of Mormonism is true. He said Mormons believe in God, the eternal Father, His Son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost.

"That interpretation (McClellan's) can be taken a lot of ways," Graves said.

"We are children of God and as we are with our own children, we seek for our children to become like us," Graves said.

McClellan said another difference can be found between views of grace.

He said the historic Christian Church says men are saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ alone. By contrast, Mormonism holds that men are saved by grace but by also being obedient to the requirements of the Book of Mormon and Mormonism.

Graves agreed with this assessment, adding further, "We believe that man will be saved by grace after all he does in his actions. Grace does require action on our part."

Finally, McClellan said Mormonism was founded on the premise that the historic Christian Church had been corrupted since the second century and was therefore false. By comparison, he said the historic Christian Church, "even though we have had our differences which have resulted in denominations, has been the historic Christian Church since the first century."

Meanwhile, McClellan said describing Mormonism as a cult, as one Dallas Southern Baptist pastor recently did, often is seen as an attack on a person's morals and values.

He said while Southern Baptists and Mormons do not ascribe to the same theology, "it (cult) may not be the best term today because it carries with it a sense of attack."

He said the term is generally used to describe a movement that claims to be part of the Christian faith but does not affirm the doctrines of the historic Christian Church.

McClellan said he embraces friendship with his Mormon neighbors.

"I'm glad to have them as my neighbors and my friends but the question is: Do we believe in the same (doctrinal) tenets? And we do not," he said.

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