The Proposal of Baptist/Mormon Civil Dialogue (1899)

Is this the seedbed of Baptist/Mormon evangelistic dialogue/conversation?

The Menace of Mormonism was the missionary topic of our prayer-meetings Apr. 5. It is truly regarded as such by all those who are best acquainted with its history and motives. It now seems determined to propagate itself by the most aggressive and extensive missionary operations, more rapidly than ever.

“When I was acting-pastor of the First Baptist church, of Salt Lake City, during a number of months in the year 1888, I became convinced that other and wiser methods than have at least sometimes been employed, must be used to compass its destruction. This conviction has grown upon me from year to year since. Nothing can ever be gained by calling names, impugning motives, or using ridicule. If one could be convinced that sprinkling is not baptism, it could not be done by such means.

The same of any position or view held by any one. If one would show me an error in my life, hammer, tongs, blows, curses, would be unavailing; Baptist are not influenced by such agencies. I fancy that human nature is much the same among Mormons.

“Why not meet them on their grounds? The following idea may not be new, but I have never seen it advocated by any one. Let all the different great religious denominations appoint two or three representatives apiece, to act together in the capacity of a commission of inquiry, into the ground of the claims of Mormons concerning: (1) the genuineness of the gold plates; (2) the inspiration of Joseph Smith in translating them; (3) “The Book of Mormon is a later and better revelation than the Bible;” (4) the scientific identification of the ruins of the Aztec and Indian villages with places named in the Book of Mormon, etc., etc., etc.

“If these things are true the Christian world ought to know it. To prove their truth or falsity, ought to be considered none too light a task for the best scientific, historical, philological, or theological scholarship of the world. Here are claims concerning the history of a continent, as well as of God’s chosen people, Israel, which have been ignored or ridiculed too long. They affect Jew and Gentile; the red and white and black races. Whether they are the truth of God, or, whether they are the menace of a nation, the world ought to know.

“Let us thus meet these men as men in the spirit of Christ, and say: “If you have truth which we know not, help us to get possession of it. If we impose conditions which seem to you unreasonable, they may not seem so the rest of the world. If you then prove your positions, the glory of the victory will more than reward you for the rigors of the task. If untrue you ought to know it for your own sakes, and your childrens’.

“We have no doubt of the outcome. Nor should we be surprised if the Mormon Church gladly embraced such an opportunity of bringing its tenets before the most advanced scholarship of the world. If not, that very refusal would go far to show that because of their deeds they loved darkness rather than light. They could not refuse to appoint representatives upon such a commission.”

– Richmond A. Smith in Cedar Falls, Iowa; The Standard (May 27, 1899)

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