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Born Again Mormons?

November 22, 2008

Is anyone else confused by the concept of Born Again Mormons? I sure am. I haven’t actually read Shawn McCraney’s book yet, but I’ve read some of his views on his website and have an idea of where he’s coming from. He was raised in the LDS church and was born again 4 years before he left in spite of believing many LDS doctrines, including the LDS teaching on the nature of Christ. He was born again after listening to a pastor on the radio and then calling upon the Lord for salvation. He says the point of his ministry “seeks to get Latter-day Saints, whether active or not, to give Jesus a chance in their lives. To become born again in spite of the religion they belong to. Why? Because once He has them, He leads them to where He wants them to ultimately be. He did me.”

I am thrilled by Shawn’s testimony and by his outreach to Mormons, but I have mixed feelings about his suggestion that born again Mormons should stay in the church to try to reform it (which I read about here). On the one hand, I love the idea and have personally been praying for God to raise up “Martin Luthers” in the LDS church who will cry sola gratia, sola fide, sola scriptura, sola Christus, Soli Deo gloria! (by grace alone, by faith alone, by Scripture alone, in Christ alone, Glory to God alone!) But, on the other hand, I wonder how long truly born again Mormons can remain in the church if they are really standing for the truth. Things didn’t go so well for Micah Wilder when he started sharing his testimony of faith in Jesus Christ alone with the mission president on his Mormon mission. After a thorough scolding and warning that he was following the devil, he was sent home from his mission (where he proceeded to influence his parents to read the Bible and they ended up leaving the Mormon church as well).

I reviewed the statement of faith on the Born Again Mormons website and I agree with almost all the points wholeheartedly (with a couple of exceptions). I don’t know any current, active members of the LDS church who would agree with these points, however.

For example:

  • Born-Again Mormons worship one God who consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We Believe that God is Spirit and man must worship Him in spirit and truth. We believe that God has never had a beginning and will never have an end.
  • Born-Again Mormons embrace the Bible as the only inerrant Word of God. Any reader can be inspired by God through any reputable translation.
  • Born-Again Mormons recognize the Book of Mormon as a piece of 19th century literary fiction aimed at teaching Jesus Christ. We reject the story of its origins.
  • Born-Again Mormons recognize prophecy as a gift of the spirit but not as a means of providing new canon to the world. All revelation must therefore comply with the existing Word of God. The spiritual gift of prophecy is not limited to certain men.
  • Born-Again Mormons recognize man as a creation of God who only becomes a child of God through spiritual rebirth.
  • Born-Again Mormons embrace the idea of baptism and strongly recommend the practice to all regenerated believers as an outward sign of a life committed to God. We reject the idea that baptism is necessary for salvation.
  • Born-Again Mormons accept the biblical concepts of hell, while remembering that our God is an all-good God.
Can someone agree with all of these points and yet remain active in the LDS church?
My new fo-mo friend, David, has some wise insights over on his blog. After 40 years in Mormonism he became a born again Christian last year and has some questions on how someone could truly be born again and yet remain in the LDS church. He points out that “a key aspect of being born again is a renewing of the mind” and “it takes time to unlearn this ‘other gospel’ of Mormonism (Galatians 1).” He believes “the place to do it is NOT IN the Mormon church.” Links to his posts on this topic are listed below.

Are Mormons Born Again? – Intro

Are Mormons Born Again? – Part 1

Are Mormons Born Again? – Part 2

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. November 22, 2008 11:55 pm

    another good post

  2. November 24, 2008 12:15 am

    The trouble I have with Shawn McCraney’s work is how consistently it misrepresents not only LDS folks, but Evangelicals as well.

    I, too, don’t believe someone who fully embraces sola scriptura and other extra-biblical things you mentioned above would care to stay Mormon for long. In the second edition of McCraney’s book he tries to make it apparent that he believes no one would remain LDS in any way other than to stay and proselyte.

    McCraney does a sufficient job pointing out a few areas where Mormons can improve generally, his own personal experiences are the better parts of the book, but as far as scholarship, his book is extremely poorly done.

  3. Brad permalink
    November 24, 2008 3:06 pm

    A few things to comment on from McCraney’s website (though there are many):

    …nothing plays a more important theological role than the idea that there are certain laws and principles that have always and forever existed – even before God – which must be adhered to and followed in order for God’s people to progress. Such a far-reaching theological premise will help all readers understand why so many other seemingly unusual doctrines and practices (relative to the orthodox Christianity) exist within the Church.

    Really? I wasn’t aware there was ANYTHING before God, including any “laws and principles”. This goes DIRECTLY against the Bible. If this excerpt from Chapter 7 in his book means he’s in agreement with that, then he truly doesn’t understand Scripture.

    Born-Again Mormons recognize the Book of Mormon as a piece of 19th century literary fiction aimed at teaching Jesus Christ. We reject the story of its origins.

    Aimed at teaching Jesus Christ? Which one – Christianity’s, or Mormonism’s? To say it’s aimed at that is not to make a good distinguishment between Mormonism and Christianity, but to actually lend creedence to their argument that they are worshiping the same Christ!

    Born-Again Mormons recognize no other book but the Bible as the Word of God, but agree that other books have the ability to move man toward Him.

    This comment, as it relates to “Other LDS Books of Scripture” on his website, is as harmful as the previous comment – it does nothing to distinguish between Mormonism and Christianity, and the different versions of “God” they each worship!

    Born-Again Mormons believe in actively supporting the LDS Church in an effort to bring other members to the Lord. We will do all that is asked of us except teach certain LDS theologies and/or sing certain LDS hymns which are in direct conflict with biblical truth.

    What!!?? “Actively supporting”? Are you kidding? Here’s the problem – the LDS church IS NOT bringing other members to the Lord, b/c it’s not THE LORD they’re bringing their members to! It’s the distorted, wrong idea of what God is that they’re bringing members to. To make this statement that he does is yet another example of the lack of clarity that is being made.

    Born-Again Mormons accept the idea of heaven and reject any and all descriptions of it outside of biblical authority.

    What exactly does this mean? Do you accept the Mormon view of Heaven (in all its parts), b/c they believe their version is based on the Bible, too? Or do you accept the Christian version, which we also believe is based on the Bible? This is a pretty vague statement whereby you haven’t really had to say what you believe about it. Can you be more specific?

    Born-Again Mormons accept the biblical concepts of hell, while remembering that our God is an all-good God.

    And what exactly does this mean? Does the concept of an “all-good God” have a bearing on what you think hell will be? What exactly are your “biblical” concepts of hell? B/c Mormons have what they would also call a “biblical” concept of hell. You’ve been to vague to be effective, and left open the door.

    All in all, ministries like this are extremely dangerous. They try to “bridge a gap”, if you will, between Christianity and another belief system (in this case, Mormonism), but try to do so without saying certain things, without trying to be offensive, so as to try and gain understanding from the other side. But the Gospel – the true Gospel – IS, by its very nature, offensive, and should never be watered down. Wrong is wrong, and incorrect beliefs are incorrect beliefs, no matter who holds them. What McCraney is unwilling to do is call an ace an ace, and a spade a spade. I don’t believe the Bible gives us that option – wrong is wrong.

    If you’re born again, you’re born again, period. You know what a born-again Mormon is (if they’ve TRULY been born again)? A Christian – they’re NO LONGER A MORMON, and shouldn’t want to be identified with that any further!

  4. November 24, 2008 7:13 pm

    “…nothing plays a more important theological role than the idea that there are certain laws and principles that have always and forever existed – even before God – which must be adhered to and followed in order for God’s people to progress. Such a far-reaching theological premise will help all readers understand why so many other seemingly unusual doctrines and practices (relative to the orthodox Christianity) exist within the Church”

    I didn’t see this comment before and on the surface it looks extremely heretical, but I think what he’s saying is that the “unusual doctrines and practices” exist in the LDS church because of this theological premise which he labels “far-reaching.” I don’t think he personally agrees with the theological premise, he’s simply trying to explain to his readers this premise to help them understand the LDS mindset (and from my experience, not all LDS agree with this theological premise either). It’s hard to know without actually reading the book which I should do, but he does preface this statement with this sentence: “From the concept of God and His nature, to Adam and Eve in the Garden, from serving a full-time mission, to working in the temple or vacuuming the cultural hall, nothing plays a more important theological role…” He seems to be trying to explain the LDS view, not his own.

  5. November 24, 2008 7:37 pm

    What!!?? “Actively supporting”? Are you kidding? Here’s the problem – the LDS church IS NOT bringing other members to the Lord, b/c it’s not THE LORD they’re bringing their members to! It’s the distorted, wrong idea of what God is that they’re bringing members to. To make this statement that he does is yet another example of the lack of clarity that is being made.

    I think you are missing McCraney’s point (if I understand him correctly) which is that Mormons might, despite what the LDS Church teaches, become born again while trying to participate in the LDS Church. His book sets himself up as a prime example of such a thing (though I would argue he isn’t a prime example of a member of the LDS Church). So McCraney is saying that after a person becomes born again, according to his personal definition, that person could remain in the Church and “support it” by going to activities, meetings, etc. while trying to teach other people about their new beliefs regarding Christianity.

    If a stranger walks up to a Mormon and tells them they believe in the “wrong Jesus,” the Mormon will likely pay no mind. If a friend who goes to Church with a Mormon tells them the same thing, in a friendship, the Mormon would likely be more apt to consider that opinion.

    His emphasis is very strongly on the correctness of certain beliefs (knowing and believing in the post-biblical creeds, the new Greek-centered ontology of God, etc.) rather than on what the New Testament teaches about what it means to be born again.

    So while I disagree with McCraney theologically, I see that his method is better than shouting people down. This very blog itself seems to be on the tack of McCraney’s approach; trying to be respectful, etc. though again I often disagree with its presentation of Mormon beliefs.

  6. Brad permalink
    November 24, 2008 8:39 pm

    And if a Mormon, who becomes a born-again Christian (and hence, NOT a Mormon), stays in the LDS church, if he truly lets others in the church know his REAL beliefs (which are NOT Mormon), he will not be converting anyone, but instead will be under extreme pressure from his LDS churchmembers to either change back or leave. It would only be if the person did NOT readily acknowledge his different beliefs, in which case, has he REALLY made a change?

    The gospel is offensive, even if the people delivering the message aren’t. That’s its nature. Trying to change that won’t work.

  7. November 25, 2008 12:43 am

    *sigh*

  8. November 25, 2008 12:57 am

    “If a stranger walks up to a Mormon and tells them they believe in the “wrong Jesus,” the Mormon will likely pay no mind. If a friend who goes to Church with a Mormon tells them the same thing, in a friendship, the Mormon would likely be more apt to consider that opinion.”

    I guess I have a different take on this. To me, if someone in my church told me the Jesus my church taught was the wrong Jesus I would think, “well, it must not be that critical of an issue to you since you go here too.” I think if we do not separate over major doctrinal differences (such as those having to do with the nature of God), we could be aiding the work of the enemy by minimizing the differences and preventing people from seeing clearly the chasm that separates the two world views so they can make a choice. The Bible commands us to withdraw from those who teach false doctrine (I Timothy 6:5).

    It’s interesting you made the point that you thought a stranger telling a Mormon they have the “wrong Jesus” would do nothing. In one fo-mo’s story, this exact scenario had a lasting influence in drawing her away from Mormonism toward Biblical Christianity. Her story is here.

  9. Susan permalink
    November 25, 2008 6:41 pm

    Here’s my question…is Shawn winning people to Christ? From my limited evaluation of his ministry, he seems to be very forthright about what he believes, both inside and outside of the four walls of the ward. To be honest, I’ve considered doing the same thing (going to my own church on Saturday nights and my friends ward on Sunday mornings). I did attend one Sunday and learned a lot about how they think, interpret Scripture, etc.. It really would help to open up some great discussions. And if Shawn is firm in what he believes, is diligent in his study of the Bible, and surrounds himself with other Biblical Christians at other times throughout the week, I don’t see why he can’t use this as his mission field. Greater is He who is in him than he who is in the ward.

    I can understand the arguments and concerns expressed in the other comments. But I also think that sometimes we need to be less quick to react out of fear or assumptions and look a little deeper. If God is in what Shawn is doing, then who are we to try to fight God? I may be way off….what he’s doing may be totally wrong. But I can’t help but think about the places Jesus went and the people that He spent the most time with…as well as the opposition He received from the “religious” people of His day.

    Just a thought.

  10. November 26, 2008 3:06 am

    Hi Susan, Thanks for your comments. I absolutely don’t think what Shawn is doing is “totally” wrong. I hope my comments didn’t give the impression that I think that. I’m just wrestling with some of the concepts, as with any methodology, weighing the positives and negatives of the approach. As I said in my post, I have mixed feelings about some of his suggestions. There are things I really like about his approach and some concerns I have. I agree with you that visiting LDS services is a great way to learn about LDS culture and beliefs. I think a person has to be careful, though, not to over-emphasize the similarities/avoid the differences since those are the crucial issues. Also, it seems like the modus operandi of current LDS methodology to emphasize the similarities w/Evangelicals and minimize the major differences. That makes it hard to ever talk about the critical (*eternal*) issues that divide us.

  11. Susan permalink
    November 26, 2008 4:55 pm

    Hi Jessica,

    Your post came across as you intended 🙂 I didn’t get the impression that you were totally opposed to the idea. And we do need to be very wise that our efforts to witness don’t go against God’s directiion to us in the Bible.

    I was honestly more concerned with Brad’s very strong opposition and comments…not to try to call him out or anything…but I was a bit caught off guard by his reaction. I read through the Born Again Mormon site a couple of weeks ago and had a very different feel about it.

    I think that sometimes Believer’s react before really thinking something through…and that strong reaction could actually become a stumbling block to those who witness it. I’ve done this myself many times, so please don’t think that I am trying to shame anyone or claim some superiority.

    Shawn doesn’t seem to shy away from the crucial issues…at least not that I could tell from the information on the website. He actually seems very bold in his testimony concerning what is crucial in regards to our eternal destiny.

    He’s got some big “dreams”…but our God loves those kinds of dreams 🙂 Let’s not assume that He can’t turn darkness into light within the LDS church. God can do more that we could ever ask or imagine….pray BIG!!

  12. Brad permalink
    November 26, 2008 6:28 pm

    I was honestly more concerned with Brad’s very strong opposition and comments…not to try to call him out or anything…but I was a bit caught off guard by his reaction. I read through the Born Again Mormon site a couple of weeks ago and had a very different feel about it.

    And honestly, Susan, I’m more concerned about your lack of opposition to certain things (which I’ve noticed not just on here, but on other blogs as well). Do you want to know why YOU react differently to things than ME? B/c we’re wired differently. Doesn’t necessarily make either of us right, or either of us wrong, it makes us different. Although one of us COULD be right or wrong about a given topic, the fact that we REACT differently to them doesn’t make it so. You may want to consider that.

    I think that sometimes Believer’s react before really thinking something through…and that strong reaction could actually become a stumbling block to those who witness it.

    Don’t like your implication. But that aside, I also think that sometimes believers’ lackadaisical attitudes and indifference towards issues and unwillingness to call beliefs “wrong”, lends itself towards others believing their beliefs are right, when in fact they’re not, and also can cause them to look at Christians and say “why the divide? Why are some of you opposed to (name your topic), and some of you aren’t? You all (Christians) can’t even agree!” And that’s a bad thing for Christianity, b/c we should all stand against what’s wrong, and fight for what’s right.

    And just b/c a person’s reaction isn’t the same as yours, doesn’t mean the person hasn’t researched it, as you imply. I’ve heard McRaney before – I disagree with him. But that disagreement doesn’t necessarily come from a shotgun reaction to it – it comes after I’ve looked into what he says and believes, based upon what I’ve heard him say and what his website defines as his beliefs.

    I’ve done this myself many times, so please don’t think that I am trying to shame anyone or claim some superiority.

    It’s hard for it to not come across that way, Susan. What else did you mean, then?

    While we may disagree on the means, my guess is we agree on the end – that God be glorified, and people be saved.

  13. November 26, 2008 6:58 pm

    jessica, you said: “Also, it seems like the modus operandi of current LDS methodology to emphasize the similarities w/Evangelicals and minimize the major differences. ”

    I’m all for dialog that not only emphasizes the similarities, but also makes no attempt to hide or downplay differences, so long as such differences are not strawmen.

  14. Susan permalink
    November 26, 2008 8:13 pm

    Hi Brad,

    I was referring mainly to your exclamation marks, all caps, etc., in your comments. It came across as argumentative and angry (or at least it did to me…maybe not to others). Which is contrary to Scripture and tends to turn people off from what we are trying to say. You make valid points in your comments, but sometimes people will tune us out if they feel like they are being yelled at. I see a lot of Believer’s these days reacting defensively and in anger…and it seems to be building a barrior between us and the people that Jesus wants us to reach out to. The only people I remember Jesus yelling at in the Bible were the religious hypocrites.

    It is evident by your comments that you take a great deal of time to look into things and study them out, and for that I am grateful. As I said in my comment, many Believer’s just react…without really considering the issue or how God wants them to address it. They also tend to treat the person as the enemy, but our battle isn’t against flesh. Unfortunately, I was combining my reaction to your comments with my perception of things I’ve been hearing a lot lately from other Believer’s (on the radio, tv, internet, at church, etc.) You obviously aren’t just blindly reacting…I just think that you might have a greater impact if you expressed your beliefs in a softer manner (of course, again, that’s my personal opinion…my interpretation may not be the same as others who visit this site).

    Many times we can identify things in other people that we have struggled with ourselves…hence, I have taken on the argumentative tone many times myself and witnessed the inneffectiveness of it…so I’m more sensitive to it when I see others doing the same thing.

    I must not be coming across clearly in my comments here and elsewhere, because I don’t think anyone who knows me well would categorize me as lacksadaisical or indifferent about speaking the Truth. I am always in prayer that the Spirit will guide me in focusing on the areas He wants me to focus on…at the greatest point of need in that individual and what will reach their heart. I know I am an imperfect human being, so I will fall short…and it’s easy to be misunderstood in this atmosphere. I can see that you are my Brother in Christ, and I’m sure that we agree on many things. I pray that the Lord will bring unity to our hearts and help us to fix our eyes on His goal together.

    Blessings to you!

  15. November 26, 2008 8:41 pm

    Bhodges, you said, “I’m all for dialog that not only emphasizes the similarities, but also makes no attempt to hide or downplay differences, so long as such differences are not strawmen.”

    Cool. I look forward to discussing our differences and hearing your views on what you consider to be “strawmen.” If you have found some of these on my blog I welcome the feedback. Please feel free to comment on the other posts if you feel I have some strawmen arguments. I noticed that you mentioned previously that you did not always agree with my presentation of Mormon beliefs. Hey, I’ve never been a Mormon myself. I’m continuing to learn and welcome your responses and comments. I look forward to reading more of your blog in the future as well. Love the title of your blog, btw. 🙂 Very creative.

  16. Brad permalink
    November 26, 2008 9:03 pm

    Nor would anyone who really knows me categorize me as reactive or not thinking things through or researching things thoroughly.

    As I mentioned, we will react differently to similar scenarios, based on personality types. In and of itself, that doesn’t make it bad. Bold type I use to set off comments from others – makes it more easily distinguishable from my reply to those comments. And since voice inflection, tone, etc… can’t be measured on a blog, I use exclamation points, caps, etc… for those things when writing. Unless you’re advocating speaking only in a monotone voice, surely that can’t be bad…

  17. Susan permalink
    November 27, 2008 12:38 am

    Thanks for the comments, Brad. I know that we can all learn from each other. Again, I appreciate all of your research and your heart for wanting to reach out to the LDS community.

    I hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving 🙂

  18. Utah Man permalink
    December 2, 2008 5:52 am

    If any posters here are Bible-believers, lean heavily on I John 4:1 & I Thessalonians 5:21 regarding this movement.

    BornagainMormon movement, a.k.a. McCraneyism is the first successful effort to blend the LDS religion with contemporary evangelicalism.

    One-on-one contacts with Mr. McCraney & his right-hand men (kennington & “FWANSON”) revealed that they are not at all what they appear to be on Youtube and their TV broadcasts. They are extremely angry and vindictive people behind the scenes.

    McCraney himself cannot handle any form of criticism…even when it’s constructive.

    He does not have a good testimony here in Utah with Christian workers. Tales from reliable sources of his anger and arrogant demeanor are revealing.

  19. Confidential permalink
    February 19, 2009 8:23 pm

    If you would like to see Shawn’s demeanor, I would gladly show you the emails he has sent me. He is even using the word cease and desist. On television he gives his email and says he welcomes questions and comments. His emails to me reflect the opposit.

  20. May 21, 2009 4:58 am

    We would ask that all here will do one thing – look at the fruit of the ministry – meaning, ask yourselves “Have people come out of Mormonism and into a relationship with Jesus as a direct result of our methods?” The response? Praise God, yes! BY THE HUNDREDS. Which makes all these criticisms and judgements (found here and in other places) bearable. Please read ALL we say and all we do IN CONTEXT before you listen to the criticisms that just focus on the parts of our ministry which have been teased apart from the whole. And for those out there who find us rude, I would suggest they would have found John the Baptist of the same ilk.

    Shawn

  21. November 26, 2012 11:34 am

    I actually received an email where Shawn denies that born again mormons would remain in the mormon church. Confusing.

  22. Nicky permalink
    December 20, 2012 11:09 pm

    It’s always been my understanding when Shawn McCraney uses the phrase ‘born again Mormon’ to mean a person who was an LDS but became a Christian. It doesn’t have to mean they remain in the church. That was just his experience. On his show he often gets calls from “LDS” whom are actually Christians who go to a Christian church. They are called LDS because they once were. It’s like saying Jewish-Christian for someone who was brought up a Jew but converted to Christianity. Mormonism is more than a belief system, it is a culture. I’ve never once heard Shawn McCraney suggest to a person to remain in an LDS church.

    Also, I wrote an email to Shawn which was pages long and didn’t expect to hear back from him, but was pleased to find that he had taken the time to read my long-winded testimony and sent back a very thoughtful and helpful reply that completely lifted my spirits.
    I’ve seen him get really angry and short-tempered on his show, but I respect him for being honest about his feelings. However, it’s usually a righteous anger. He never gets angry at LDS people who challenge him. He only gets angry at LDS people who hide what they believe, won’t answer direct questions or try to discredit the bible. To be honest, I would get mad at that too!

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