Encouraged by LDS Piety: A Baptist Response to Robert Millet

Robert Millet offers a treatment of the Latter-day Saints (LDS) way of following Jesus that is refreshing in its familiarity, at least to this Baptist: search the scriptures, pray always, love and serve others, gather in church community. It is hard to argue with that list — though what to make of scripture, what love and service are understood to require, what precise norms and values are communicated in church, these are left unspoken.

I have reached a point where I am skeptical both of diffuse forms of Christianity in which expectations of believers are minimal or unclear, and of focused forms of Christianity in which expectations are high and clear but may not fully reflect the radicalism of the love and justice of the God we meet in Jesus Christ.

I have been watching the LDS flock with interest in relation to US politics. Here I will lay my cards on the table: I believe that Donald Trump has seduced many white evangelicals away from Jesus; but that they were eminently seducible is also sadly clear. I have noticed somewhat greater resistance to Trump and Trumpism on the part of many LDS Christians. The examples of Senator Mitt Romney and candidate Evan McMullin, both of Utah, both Republicans, both very clear about Trump, have been most encouraging. I have hoped that the high-demand, high-engagement, high-commitment form of Christianity offered by the LDS might be the main factor leading to increased antibodies to the virus of Trumpism.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Confessing Church demonstrated ninety years ago in Nazi Germany that the best Christian answer to quasi-Christian political seduction is not a flight from Christian faith into “spiritual but not religious,” but a radical recommitment to the real Jesus we meet in the Gospels. This is the path I hope for as I look from afar at the LDS Church. If this is their path, the LDS contribution to the health of both church and nation here might prove indispensable.