Open letters are not my preferred method of communicating. They are usually not-so-clearly-disguised ways of humiliating an opponent publicly in a forum where he cannot easily defend himself. That is certainly not my purpose here. I write now as we spoke face to face—as friends.
In this case, an open letter seemed to be a helpful way to provoke future reflection and conversation, and especially to encourage my Christian friends to engage LDS missionaries and members with some potentially fruitful topics of discussion. Many of my friends feel that talking to you is a waste of time. I do not. Clarifying truth is never a waste of time, and I think we accomplished that to an extent. My hope is that others will do the same.
With that in view, here are a few high points from our discussions, as I recall them.
Test of a Prophet
Several times when we talked, you correctly pointed out that “It all comes down to whether Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.” This might raise some eyebrows among my Christian friends, but I would have no problem accepting Joseph Smith as a true prophet, provided that I am shown that he meets the same requirements that every prophet of God has always met. No prophet has ever been accepted solely on his own word. When Moses said, “Thus says Yahweh,” he backed up his claim with appropriate support. Even Jesus Himself saw it necessary to provide verification of His claim (see John 20:30-31).
Nature of God
You explained to me the LDS teaching that God was once a man like us, who has become God. As you quoted one Mormon prophet, “As man is, God once was. As God is, man may become.” I won’t labor this point here since I’ve emphasized it in our conversations. But it is worth repeating a good observation that you made from Malachi 3:6, “I am the LORD; I change not.” That would require that God has never been anything in His essence that He is now and will always be. There seems to be a conflict here that hasn’t yet been resolved.
Another key LDS claim is that it teaches the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Again, I would have no trouble accepting that claim, so long as I am shown that LDS teachings about the gospel were in the gospel originally. So, for example, if Jesus’ gospel originally included certain requirements, such as baptism in an authorized temple by someone with priesthood authority, then it should be fairly simple to find that requirement plainly stated somewhere in the Bible. Only in that case would LDS teaching be a true restoration rather than an innovation.
With further study and being truly open to the Holy Spirit and His Word, I think that issues such as these can be resolved. I look forward to more truth-seeking conversations.
Grace to you,