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Richard J. Mouw

Can a Real Mormon Believe in Jesus?

The exchange that takes place in this book--a frank but friendly exploration of the differences between Mormons and evangelicals by two people who have carefully studied each other's thought--is long overdue. Actually, I have been waiting for it since a Sunday night in the 1950s when I sat as a teenager in a fundamentalist church in northern New Jersey. Walter Martin, the well-known evangelical "cult expert," was doing a series of weekly talks in that church, and on this particular evening his subject was Mormonism. The session had been widely advertised, and the small church was packed. A dozen or so Mormons were in attendance, seated as a group near the front of the auditorium. We had seen them walking in, carrying their copies of the Book of Mormon. Martin was well known to both Mormons and evangelicals. His book The Maze of Mormonism had been around for a few years, and he had recently renewed his published attacks with a larger book, The Kingdom of the Cults.

Martin was an effective rhetorician, and I was captivated by the way he made his case against non-Christian groups. He had a fine one-liner, for example, about Christian Science: just as Grape Nuts are neither grapes nor nuts, Mary Baker Eddy's system of thought is neither Christian nor science. On this particular evening it was clear that the Mormons had come armed for debate, and Martin was eager to mix it up with them. During the discussion period, one young man was quite articulate as he argued that Martin misunderstood the Mormon teachings regarding atonement and salvation. Martin was not willing to yield an inch, and what began as a reasoned exchange ended in a shouting match. The young Mormon finally blurted out with deep emotion: "You can come up with all of the clever arguments you want, Dr. Martin. But I know in the depths of my heart that Jesus is my Savior, and it is only through his blood that I can go to heaven!" Martin dismissed him with a knowing smile as he turned to his evangelical audience: ...

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