See the original onthe Church Executive website at this link.
5/14/2008 1:40:20 PM
More than 500 Mormons and Evangelicals met last month (April) at the Tempe Institute of Religion at Arizona State University to participate in an interfaith dialogue hosted by Greater Phoenix Latter-day Saints Interfaith Council and the Arizona Ecumenical Council. “A Conversation Between a Mormon and an Evangelical” was led by the Reverend Gregory Johnson, founding pastor of Ogden Valley Baptist Church in Utah, and Robert Millet, dean emeritus of religious education at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. The two have been leading similar “conversations” since 2001. Last November they published the book “Bridging the Divide: The Continuing Conversation Between a Mormon and an Evangelical” which contains excerpts of the public dialogues.
Millet and Johnson, both headstrong in their faiths, spent two and half hours questioning each other’s religions and sharing their own spiritual journeys. As reported in the East Valley Tribune, “The two men repeatedly implored people of all faiths to engage in thoughtful, nonjudgmental dialogue. “Love is the ultimate apologetic,” Johnson said. ‘The ultimate defender of your faith as a Christian is how you love people.’ “
“We are not in conversation just to make points with one another,” said Johnson, founder and president of Standing Together, a ministry “to advance biblical unity and spiritual transformation in Utah.” He said they have engaged in intense dialogue to share “truth as we best understand it.”
“Once in a while, we need to ask ourselves the hard question, ‘Am I sometimes too proud, maybe even arrogant, to suppose that someone of another faith can actually teach me something – that I can learn something from him?’ ” asked Millet
Often, he said, when people have contrasting religious beliefs and disagreements, “we say, ‘flight or fight,’ ” Johnson said. It is manifested by family pledges to not discuss religion at Thanksgiving meals, for example. He recounted how often families have been “split right down the middle” when, for example, someone has left an evangelical church or the Mormon church and joined the other.
“It has severely tested marriages, it has put children opposite their parents, it has broken some families up,” Johnson said. “That breaks our hearts to think there are people, in the context of loving family relationships,” who let religious choices break bonds among loved ones. It runs counter to Christ’s purpose on earth, he said. “Jesus died on the cross because he loved a lost world.”
Johnson offered a litany of issues commonly raised with Mormons: whether Jesus and Lucifer were spirit brothers, the ban of black males from the priesthood before the doctrine was changed in 1978, the practice of polygamy until it was banned in 1890, and blood atonement whereby it was once taught that certain sins required the blood of the sinner to be shed to gain forgiveness.
“People are down on what they are not up on,” Millet said. “And not many people are up on what the central teachings of the Latter-day Saints happen to be.” The BYU professor said those topics and others are “peripheral teachings.” He said there is a “tendency and the temptation on the part of people outside my faith to define me and to define my faith for me and tell me what I believe and what I don’t believe.”
About the authors
Reverend Gregory C.V. Johnson is founder and President of Standing Together, a ministry that exists to advance biblical unity and spiritual transformation in Utah. Though raised in the Mormon Church, Reverend Johnson became an evangelical in his mid teens. After graduating with Honors and a Masters of Divinity from Denver Theological Seminary he has served as a Baptist Pastor in Utah since 1992. He was the founding Pastor of the Ogden Valley Baptist Church. Reverend Johnson’s passion for Christian unity led him to create Standing Together in 2001 to foster Evangelical/Mormon dialogue.Greg and his wife Jill Johnson have four children and live in Utah. This is his first book.
Dr. Robert L. Millet is professor of Religious Education, Outreach, and Interfaith Relations and emeritus Dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Millet is a distinguished Latter-day Saint author and speaker with more than 50 published books and 140 articles on virtually all aspects of Mormonism. He appears frequently as a commentator on BYUTV and in other visible roles at assorted media outlets as Manager of Outreach and Interfaith Relations for Church Public Affairs. His recent books include /A Different Jesus/ (Eerdmans, 2005), and /Grace Works/.
Millet is considered one of the foremost scholars on the Joseph Smith Translation (also known as the Inspired Version) of the Bible.
Millet received a Ph.D. from Florida State University in biblical studies and contemporary theology and a Master’s Degree in Psychology from BYU. Millet has been a member of BYU faculty since 1983.
Millet has six children with his wife, Shauna Sizemore Millet, whom he wed in 1971.