Why not just ask a Mormon?

From time to time the question comes up, “If a person wants to know more about Mormonism, shouldn’t they just ask the Latter-day Saints?”

Sometimes the point is raised as a critique, as if no one else has a right to comment on Mormonism except Latter-day Saints. It’s an attempt to invalidate any outside perspective.

But every faith group has the right to evaluate other faiths and their claims from within their own specific view of truth and reality. We can show respect to others when we do so. We can also get the beliefs of others correct even as outsiders to their experience. But it is legitimate to express a different perspective. For example: if you were thinking of buying a Ford truck, would you only ask the Ford dealer? Probably not. Why not? Because you might suspect that the Ford dealer’s view of his own products might not be completely objective. The Chevy dealer’s view of Ford trucks won’t be completely objective either, but his evaluation might help you get a better idea of the issues and questions.

A couple of years ago the LDS Institute (a campus center for Mormon students) at our local college was offering a class on Protestant Christianity. I called the teacher and offered to visit the class to explain some things about Protestant Christians that Latter-day Saints would probably not understand, and to answer any questions they might have. I figured that if they wanted to learn about Protestant Christians, who better to ask than  a Christian pastor? The Institute teacher declined my offer, stating that they preferred to follow their own curriculum.

Is there a bit of a double standard at work? Probably. But I wasn’t offended. I figured that the Mormons have the right to make sense of Protestant Christianity from their own point of view – just as I have the right to interpret Mormonism to people who share my point of view.

We should ask people about their own beliefs and values before we assume we understand them. But it is also legitimate to evaluate the beliefs and values of others in light of our own perspective on truth.

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