Easter Message: Robert Millet Lecture at Benchmark Books

By March 23, 2008

The Juvenile Instructor is happy to present here a lecture by Robert Millet given at a book signing at Benchmark Books in October of 2007. We want to recognize our friend Brent Brizzi for his painstaking work of recording and transcribing the lecture. In addition to this one, Brent has provided us with transcripts of additional lectures given at Benchmark Books in the recent past which he has in the past distributed, and has been gracious enough to make available to our blog. This lecture and accompanying Q&A session is quite lengthy, but there are a number of gems here. I have edited it only slightly for incidental content [bathroom directions, etc]. Enjoy:

Curt Bench: Bob has written over fifty books, and I don’t know any author that’s had three new books come out in one month. “What Happened to The Cross”, this is from Deseret Book. “The Vision of Mormonism”, Paragon House, a national press, and I’m going to let him talk, I don’t know if he wants to focus on any of these books or not. “Claiming Christ, a Mormon, Evangelical Debate”, and next month, I happen to get an Advance Reading Copy of “Bridging The Divide, The Continuing Conversation Between a Mormon and an Evangelical”, written with Greg Johnson, the one I was telling you about, so now we have it in print, part of the fun of going to hear him, is to hear the question, answer session, hoping we’re going to have a real good one here tonight too. Because people ask, they don’t just lob softballs do they?

Bob [Robert] Millet: No, they’ve got some stingers, get beaned once in awhile too.

Curt: I started reading this last night, and a little bit today, also has a great question, answer section to the book. As far as the, just some of the official stuff, I can’t remember all these titles, so this is a great introduction they sent along with this book, so I’m just gonna read this. Dr. Robert L. Millet is professor of religious education, outreach and interfaith relations at Brigham Young University. Before joining the BYU religion faculty in 1983, Professor Millet received his Bachelors and Masters degrees from BYU in psychology and a P.H.D., from Florida State University in religious studies. Since being at BYU he has served as chair of the Department of Ancient Scripture, Dean of Religious Education, and Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding. He is the author of over 50 books, and 150 articles, dealing mostly with the doctrine and history of the LDS church, and its relation to other faiths. He, and his wife Shauna are the parents of six children, and reside in Orem Utah. That’s as good as introduction as I think I would be able to do. Only to add, that Bob Millet is not only a fine author, and speaker, but he’s funny, he’s witty, and he’s a good man, and I’ve become very impressed with him. We had lunch, he came to lunch with some friends of mine, and not too long ago, and we just had a delightful time, and now so you’ll be able to share in that as well. So I’m going to turn the time over to Bob Millet, and then, he’ll speak for 15 or 20 minutes or so, and then we’ll open it up to questions and answers, following that we’ll have you come and sign some more books for you. My wife, Pat, has been working hard to provide some refreshments for us with a little Halloween décor, and I’ll pass around these slips, so fill’em out, put your name on it, we’ll have a drawing after, it’ll be kind of fun to give away some books, in case they don’t sell. (laughter).

Comment: Introduce yourself.

Curt: I’m Curt Bench, I’m the owner, and chief bill payer.

Bob: Well I’m delighted to be with you tonight, this is a, this is a sweet experience for me. I’m embarrassed to say, Curt I’ve never been to this

Curt: You should be embarrassed

Bob: Well, I am embarrassed, because I love out of print books, you said, you began this in 74?

Curt: Well, not this, but in the books

Bob: Searching for books?

Curt: In Deseret Book.

Bob: I started in 73, and it came with just realizing, Curt you may remember back then, back in the late 60’s, and into the early 70’s, there were still a lot of really fine out of print books located in strange places in Utah, such as hardware stores, Christensen’s Department stores, in Spanish Fork, in you name it, and I traveled, I loved on Saturdays, hopping in the car and just traveling the Wasatch Front, looking for places, little bitty towns, where in the back somewhere they’d have their little book section, books that had been there forever, and that’s how I built my little collection up. I can remember for example that there was a period when Parley Pratt’s, Key to Theology had been out of print for quite awhile. Sam Wellers was selling it for about 2-300 dollars which back then was a lot of money to me, it still is a lot of money, but that’s what they were selling it for. I happened to be down in Louisiana, my home, visiting my folks, my wife and I were there. I turned to my dad who was in the Stake Presidency, and I said dad we used to have a Seventy’s book store didn’t we, and we used to have that in the chapel, he said yeah, but they don’t do that anymore, but I said what’d they do with the books, he said I think they’re still in the closet. So we drove over to the Stake Center, he opened the closet, there were these, I must have seen ten books I’d been looking for, but there were two copies of Key To The Science of Theology, they were a $1.25 each, (laughter).

Curt: I’ll pay you $2.50 (laughter).

Bob: Well, anyway, so I’ve often said if I didn’t do what I did for a living, I’d like to do what he does for a living because I, this is a wonderful place to work. Well, I don’t know what to talk to you about, I, I uh, I don’t particularly, Lyndon Cook said it well once, “I love being an author, I just hate being a writer”. (laughter). I can really identify with that, because I, it’s hard work, and uh, and yet my problem now, it’s a great source of frustration for me, is that next month, no December, I turn 60, that is so frustrating to me because I want to be 35 again, because my mind just races with things to do, and my body doesn’t race like it used to, and so I find myself winding down in the body, but the brain keeps working, and I’ll always, I’ll wake up at 3 in the morning thinking something just has to be done, and so I’ve had some fun in the last several years as Curt indicated, much of what I’ve done for the last five years, by the way of writing has been if not directly, at least indirectly related to my work in interfaith relations. Even the other book I did for Deseret Book called “Getting at the Truth”, was really a response to many of the questions that either come in anti-mormon writings or that people, honestly and earnestly ask of us, and so, uh, that area has spawned a whole host of things, I just a, I’ll give you an example, we have a Sperry Symposium coming up in 08, and I forget what the uh, what the theme is, but it’s something along the lines of the groundwork of the restoration, or something like that, and I decided that I wanted to do something, I’ve spent so much time with my Evangelical friends, most of whom are very, very seriously Calvinistic, and uh, I decided to do something, a paper on a that I’ve entitled “Tiptoeing through the Tulip, Joseph Smith Confronts Calvinism”. And it has been such a delight to go back and reread, and read, and search, and read again, things that I have come across before to try to better understand my reform friends, and um, and the problem I face now is, it was due on October 1st, and I went to the, because I wasn’t done writing, when I finally finished it was 50 pages long, he said Bob it can’t be more than 25, so I sent him something with 30, but that’s my next book project because I can see that little 50 page project is easily a 200-250 page, um book, but much of what I’m doing now seems to be pointed toward our relationship with other churches, so um, I continue to do that. I’m also working now, and this is hard, it may be one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’m working on a little book now, that will deal with doubt, the whole matter of how I deal with doubt, and how other people have dealt with doubt, and come through, how we come through even in spite of your doubts, or I think it was Hugh B. Brown that said we have to serve our apprentice with doubt, our apprenticeship with doubt, before we’re qualified to say we know, and so I, I would say I’ve been at BYU 25 years, and I love teaching, but I would say the last ten years have been the most, uh, spiritually, professionally, personally enriching, and rewarding of anything I have ever done, because I have come to gain a broadened perspective on life, on God, especially my brothers and sisters of other faiths. I have tremendous respect for people of other faiths, and to see them with whole new eyes, because I see in them people who love God, want to please him, and so for me to denounce them, or for me to dismiss them, or marginalize them seems so out of line, and so, I’m as committed, if not more so a Latter-day Saint as I’ve ever been, but that doesn’t, that doesn’t make me into a bigot, and so I’ve had some fun watching my mind grow as I’ve read, and read, and read, and read, and read, and read, and read, Christian writings for the last, traditional Christian writings for the last ten years. Um, I don’t have anything else to say…Curt, I’m said out. Would you like to ask questions, or anything that you would like to ask about? Yessir.

Q: I admire you for having these discussions with other faiths. Through those experiences have you seen any outside of our faith change over, or do they become more true to their faith, and the LDS become more true to their faith?

RM: That’s a very good question. I’ve actually seen, I’ve actually seen, the thing I’ve seen the most is a deepened, and a broadened friendship, fewer people prone to throw stones at us, more people that are prepared to say, “I don’t know, I don’t know that the Mormons do believe that, I don’t believe you should say that, and I hope the same has been true for me, and my colleagues, we’ve had a running dialogue now for eight years with a group of Evangelical scholars, and a group of Latter-day Saints that meet twice a year, we meet once at Fuller Seminary, we’ll meet at Fuller Seminary, or BYU, then we rotate, then in mid-year we meet at the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature meetings, wherever those are. In the summer meetings those are 2 and 3 days, of just long days, addressing a particular topic, we will have read a document, we will have read an Evangelical document or book, an LDS document or book on that, and we have had marvelous conversations, beginning with, well the first thing we talked about was source of truth, scriptures, atonement, a whole three days on grace and works, um fascinating two days on the Trinity, slash Godhead. We built up to our discussion of authority, and first vision, we knew that would take some time to be ready for, and that was magnificent, and those discussions are broadened, and the group is growing, and the influence is spreading, and some, some, some wonderful friendships have grown, I’m saying this is the most, to me the most significant thing that has happened. Something like this, we’re sitting at our meeting at Fuller two years ago, and we’re about to split up, we’ve finished our discussions, there’s just such love, and trust, and goodwill in that group that’s come to know each other, and love each other, and finally I said look before we split lets decide our topic for next time. Rich, Richard Mouw, whose the president of the Fuller Seminary, and Rich and I are good friends, and I said Rich and I will work out a reading list, and Rich interrupted and said, “I don’t want to talk about reading list, I want to talk about location”. I said are you against coming to BYU now, he said no, no, I love BYU. I said well what do you want to do, he said “I want to meet in Nauvoo”, I said what, he said yeah, we want to meet in Nauvoo. Don’t we want to meet in Nauvoo, and he turned to his group, and they all said yeah, we want to meet in Nauvoo. So the following May, twenty of us met in Nauvoo for four days, I’ve got to tell you it’s one of the most deeply moving experiences of my life, (he began to choke up here a little with emotion). Um, there’s something, I think we all know this, there’s something about the spirit of the place that touches anybody that’s an honest truth seeker, and these people stood up in a kinda testimony like way with tears, these are important scholars with tears running down their faces, saying this has been a spiritual experience for me, thank you. Well, we just held our meeting recently, last June at Fuller, and I asked the same question, Rich said, I don’t want to meet at BYU, I said you really don’t like BYU do ya? He said, no it’s not that, I want to meet in Palmyra. So this, this summer we’ll meet in Palmyra, that’s the way the relationships have grown. Now back to your first question, in other words, there are more people out there, there’s a growing number of people out there that we’re making friends with, and are much less prone to believe the first thing they hear from a critic. Have I seen people join the church, yes I attended a baptism last Saturday, and you’d be interested in knowing what tipped the scales for her. She sat in my office at BYU, and I said what was it, she was Evangelical, she met a boy, got to know him, they went to college together, then they both went to Law School at Pepperdine, both graduated from Law School have moved back this area, and I said what was the, what was the clincher for ya? She said, I believed the Book of Mormon to be true, she said that was the first testimony I gained, after I prayed about it, she said, but, the straw that broke the camels back was the anti-mormonism. She said the bitterness of it drove me away, um, I obviously let my colleagues know that, they’re not the ones that write that stuff anyway, but, uh, anyway it’s been a enriching experience, have I seen others, yes. Now the other is true, is equally as true, is it possible that a Latter-day Saint will go the other direction? That’s one of the risks you face, when you do this kind of thing. Have I seen that, I’ve seen one or two that have chosen to go the other way.

Q: How did this relationship start?

RM: It was just really a strange thing. I was Dean of the college of religion, and we invited…Stephen Robinson had written his book called “Are Latter-day Saints Christians?” “Are Mormons Christians?”. The book had sold fairly well in the LDS market, but it had also made its way into the market out there, and a group of scholars at Denver Seminary had reviewed it, and they invited Stephen to come, and he felt like he was being invited to a massacre, so he didn’t go, but he did manage to start a conversation with Craig Blomberg (sp) at Denver, out of which came the book, “How Wide The Divide”, which is a very important groundbreaking work, as far as the conversation between a Mormon, and an Evangelical, and doctrinal things. Well after that in 1997 we invited another professor from Denver to come to BYU to give a presentation, and he did, and he shared with us his doctoral, much of his doctoral work was on Melchizedek. He had studied under F.F. Bruce, the great New Testament scholar in England, and we, I was trying to hear as much as I could, but the secretary kept coming up, saying there’s somebody that needs to see you, and I was so frustrated, so I was just catching things here and there, and in that meeting happened to be two other pastors, one an Assemblies of God Pastor, and one a Baptist Pastor, and I made a comment, and one of the times I was there he heard me, and came up afterwards, and we chatted, and to make a long story, short we got to know each other, became good friends, began going to lunch together about once a month, I would honestly say that he’s probably, other than my wife, he’s probably my best friend. She said, well he oughta be, you spend way more time with him than you do anybody else, (laughter). We have been all over the world together, and I have to tell you what an enriching thing this is, it has been just phenomenal. I mean, its not like, I mean I have job, I don’t have to go out and seek new things to do, BYU for some reason wants me to be there occasionally, and so, but, people are calling all the time. Would you be willing to come to Dallas? Would you be willing to come to Colorado Springs, those are hotbeds for Evangelicalism, ok, and would you put on a presen, (he meant to say presentation here, but didn’t quite finish the thought), and the people have just been absolutely delightful, they’ve been warm, accommodating, it’s not that we agree on everything, but the spirit of collegiality that has existed in these exchanges have just been, I think have changed us all.

Q: Are any of these people looking to go to China?

RM: In their own work?

Continued: In their own work

RM: Yes,

Continued: How are they preparing to do it?

RM: In much the same way I suppose we are, they’re trying prepare a new generation of people who can go over, and preach the gospel. They…

Continued: Well, you know you hear a lot about BYU Hawaii, and their program. Are they similar in their approach?

RM: Here’s the difference, uh, missional work for Protestant organizations, it’s quite different than ours, because there is no central, there’s no central line of authority. That means that every church for example, or every para-church organization sends out it’s own missionaries. So there’s no generalized proselyting plan, there’s no generalized approach, and so it would be hard to speak of a general approach, it’ll just be this, that Christians, traditional Christians from all over the world are as eager as we are to get into parts of China.

Comment: We saw this 17 years ago in Bulgaria, when they got religious freedom, the following year 120 different religious organizations came, you know, dragging their cross or whatever.

RM: Well, what’s his name? Jenkins, Philip Jenkins books in the last few years, very fine scholar at Penn State, his whole, his whole message is the growth of Christianity is south, the growth of Christianity, obviously is South America, and Africa. I went to hear a, I went to a Pentecostal church, just a while back, and a preacher who was from Africa preached, delightful man, what a great preacher, but he described his ministry, he said: Year and a half ago, my friend and I started with six members, we now have five thousand. He said, we anticipate that within a year and a half, we’ll have thirty thousand, and that’s the way Christianity is growing in Africa, and of course, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints could grow almost as fast, if not faster, if, if we had leadership, we grow a little differently you see, we grow, we’re supposed to grow really from centers of strength, and so we’re going to grow a little more slowly there.

Comment: We put priesthood leaders in, when the baptism fonts are hardly dry.

RM: That’s a blessing and a curse.

Q: Bob, do you think the conversations, the dialogue you’ve had, will have any impact on the attitude, the attitude of the Evangelicals in the political scene?

RM: Well, no I’d have to think too much of myself to think that, and I don’t think so. I think its affected certain people, I think its affected certain key people. I’m of a mind, that if, if a Christian says, I wouldn’t vote for Mitt Romney because he’s a Mormon, that’s a little mind. But, for that matter, if a Mormon says I’m going to vote for Mitt Romney because he’s a Mormon, that’s a little mind too, and neither one of those impress me very much, and so, um, I think what has to happen is this. There have to be enough people who say, who become convinced that this is not a theological race. I don’t know if we have time for that to happen. There are not enough people who A, know that the primaries are not that far away, there are not enough people who know what a Mormon is, see this isn’t quite the same as with John Kennedy, people like to point back to, to 1959, 1960, it isn’t quite the same, there are some similarities, but two things, Kennedy distanced himself from Catholicism, Romney’s not gonna do that, 2 everybody knew what a Catholic was. You may have been worried that the Pope was going to be whispering in the Presidents ear, but you knew what a Catholic was, cause you had Catholic friends, that’s not true with Mormonism, and so um, it’s worth about nothing, I think Mitt has to make a public statement about his religious views, I think, I think it’s absolutely necessary.

Q: Have you conveyed that to him

RM: Uh huh, I’ve met with his team on more than several occasions.

Q: When you say it’s necessary, are you saying for his political career it’s necessary, or it’s just as his role as a Mormon, he ought to do that?

RM: No, for his political career, uh, for that matter, well, let me tell you what the message I think has to be. I think he cannot go about the business of trying to answer all of the doctrinal, theological issues, I think that’s the greatest question in the minds of most people that are thinkers is this. Where does Mormonism with a belief in a Prophet at the head fit into a democratic society? Do you know what I’m saying? That’s the greater issue.

Comment: They don’t know how it’s going to work.

RM: They don’t know how it’s going to work, if we’ve got a man, if we’ve got a man at the head of our country, and a prophet who speaks, and we have this saying in our past, that when the prophet speaks, the debates over, well that makes people nervous, and so I think he not only has to get up and declare himself, that he feels he’s a Christian, and this is how he feels about Jesus, but I think more important…Rich Mouw said this to me a year ago, “He said Romney, but not just Romney, Mormons need to make it clearer how you feel you fit within American society, given your theocratic leanings”, I think that’s a pretty darn good question.

Comment: It seems to me that one of the issues is, is that theology is becoming more important than values.

RM: Yeah, and that’s problematic.

Q: How does that work?

RM: Well, no that scares me, it scares me because, and I think Hugh Hewitt said it well in his book, when he said, he said do we really want to set precedent with this? We want, we want a person not to be elected because he’s of a certain religious persuasion. Isn’t that what we fought a revolution about? And uh, and so, I think, I mean, I like Mitt Romney, and whether he gets elected or not, that’ll come or won’t come. I’m more worried about the state of the union to be honest with ya. I’m afraid, though, though I, though I love my friends of the Evangelical faith, I’m afraid that the religious right will have an impact here, that is too, um, too strong. I’m just, I’ve read about eight books now by very prominent people who expressing the same thing, saying: We really don’t want to get back to where we’re controlling the political races based upon a persons religious beliefs do we? And so, it’s a little frightening to me, not just this election, but it’s precedent setting.

Q: Do the Evangelicals see what they’re doing?

RM: I don’t, I don’t know if they do, uh, some of the, I’m saying some of the more prominent ones, are the ones that are looking at this more carefully, and to the extent, now I don’t know all that’s going on, but to the extent that someone who has a massive following, like a James Dobson, focus on the family, or a Franklin Graham, to the extent that they open their mouth and say this isn’t, we’re not electing pastor here, and get the people to thinking about it, but uh, yeah I don’t know, I mean I have Evangelical friends, most of my Evangelical friends that I work with, they’re as worried about this as I am. They say if the guys our best candidate, we vote for him, Mormon, or whatever, you know so. I think it’s, I, I don’t know, I think it’s had enough impact to, to effect things that way, I wish we had started ten years earlier, but, um, but the kinds of things that we’re doing, lend themselves to answering these kinds of questions.

Q: Unintelligible, Backlash of the religious right, which is awakening unfortunately to a political alignment….My question to you is perhaps, I’ve seen how you’ve made evolution, and your own personal evolution towards bridging that divide with an Evangelical calling. My question is. What about bridging that with non-Christian, such as Islamic, Muslim, other, the Jewish faith? Because again when we look at the growth, as you mention the growth being in a south, you know in South America, but Mr. M asked the question, what’s happening in Asia, what’s happening in Indonesia, what’s happening in places where you know, where Muslim Fundamentalism is really the dominant faith in the world?

RM: No question, no question. You asked the question, and my response to you, is I couldn’t agree with you more, somebody’s gotta step up and do it. I’ll tell you what I’m asked all the time, back in Christianity, I’m asked by Catholics constantly. Why aren’t you doing this with Roman Catholics? And, my response is, I would love to, I only have so much energy, not that I think, I think a lot of people, this is a kind of a work that is odd, this isn’t about the head at all, cause I ain’t very bright, but I have a heart for this, and if you have a heart for it, that makes up for a lot of dumbness, ok. And, uh, and so, I was in New York City, I was visiting with Richard John Newhouse, Father Newhouse is a very respected Catholic voice, and he said to me, I know the work you’ve been doing with Evangelicals, I applaud it, you gotta keep it up. When are you going to start doing it with us? So the interest is there, now the same is true, I’ve had the same thing expressed to me by Jewish Rabbi’s, I’ve had the same thing expressed to me by Muslims, so the interest is there. Now, let me just say this, the problem is we’re new at this, as a people. Even getting college students at BYU when we host, we host about six different groups during the year, Evangelical groups who come to BYU for an experience, and among the first things I say to both of the groups, the LDS, and the others, is this. Let’s start with something that’s going to jar you a bit, this is not about conversion. I mean both groups take the great commission very seriously, to go into all the world and make disciples. I say this is not about conversion, this is not about making that person one of you, it is about helping that person to see where you’re coming from, and vice versa. So what I would say is, um, it’s been a wonderful ten years, it hasn’t, it hasn’t been all joy ride. I’ve had a few slaps on the hand, some heavier, with heavier hands than others.

Comment: Such as, tell us a story.

RM: This is on tape, (laughter).

RM: Just before I retire, we’ll tell that story. No, there’s just some people this makes nervous, because, it, it rings of ecumenism. Which is not what I’m about, which is not about what we’re doing, this is called conversation, this is called building friendships. I mean you know, people think, what doctrine are you gonna trade? Ok, you get rid of the Trinity, I’ll get rid of “Baptism for the Dead”, No, it’s not about that. But that’s what, when you say interfaith, that’s what people think, and by the way they think about that on both sides, and so when they come to our dialogues, you can begin, you know, when you feel at the beginning there’s a little bit of tension, what’s gonna happen here? By the time we leave, I think most of that is dissipated. I couldn’t agree with you more, we’ve got to do this more. I’ve been with General Authorities, I’ve been with Apostles, as we have met with large groups of Pastors, and as we flew away from California, that member of the twelve turned, and said, we’ve got work to do my friend, we’ve got a lot of work to do, we are not understood. I said, you’re saying we’re not understood.

Comment: Concerning the community, the cloistered community that we’re in here in the state of Utah, in particularly in certain institutions, but, the fear that people have of embracing those people of other faiths, those denominations whether they’re Christian or not, and I just feel like they’re so, they’re shortchanging themselves, and I think they can embrace all, and have that respect, and understanding

Comment: They think it lessens their faith, well why would it lessen their faith?

RM: It doesn’t lessen your faith, in fact if anything I’m stronger now than I was ten years ago. I have a deeper appreciation, I’ll tell ya, I have a deeper appreciation for some views they have, there are some things they write, that I just eat up. When so, and so writes a book, I’m the first one to read it, other things, I step back and say, I’m listening now for example to a friend of mine in California, who is a very prominent Evangelical thinker, I just finished listening to two cd’s of his that were sent to me on Calvinism. And I find myself saying, John my man I have great respect for you, I just can’t buy it, it’s too depressing, (laughter), it’s just too closed for me, but, I think I understand it better, I know where he’s coming from, and I respect him for believing that way, he, the sovereignty of God is everything to him. And I have not had, it certainly does not make you more arrogant, it makes you less arrogant, and you’re right, you only have to get away from this valley for a little bit, and think in little broader terms, in my case it was kind of an eye opener, when I discovered, I remember asking my friend, how many Evangelicals are there, and he said there are about 700 million. Oh, uh, you know, I mean you know, to know that we have broken great ground and we’ve moved up to about 2 percent, 2 tenths of 1 percent of the world’s population, that puts things in perspective, you see what I’m saying. We’re growing yes, but, my goodness, there’s a big world out there, and I think the other thing I’d say this isn’t just a Mormon phenomenon. Where ever you have a majority culture, you’re going to fight against parochialism, and narrow mindedness, and that’s part of what Greg and I have tried to go out and do, in this valley in particular, is to say just cool your heels, don’t be so uptight, uh, I mean unfortunately too many Latter-day Saints, when that persons not of their faith moves in next door, we make friends with them, we bring them goodies, and then we ask them the great question, and when the answer is no, we’re just not interested, but we love being here, we don’t know what to do with ourselves, and we certainly don’t know what to do with them. You know if we can’t baptize them, we don’t know what to do with them, and so the answer is, my goodness, maybe we could be…friends, you know.

Q: What do you think Elder Holland’s agenda was in his talk?

RM: He talked to me about it, before he gave it.

Q: Yeah, can you tell us a little bit, what in general, what was he thinking?

RM: He was talking to the Christian world, to make clear, to try to make clear what our stance on the Godhead, and the Trinity is, and why we do not accept the doctrine of the Trinity, and yet, why we believe we’re Christian, that was the purpose of the talk. In fact he called me to tell me about it, and said call Greg, and tell him what this is going to be on. So Greg was watching conference that day, called me right afterward, I said are you offended, he said no, no I wasn’t offended, I thought it was great, in fact I just wrote him an email. Well, I think, well I know the intention was to speak out, and to show that you can speak out in a kindly manner. Stand for what you believe, express appreciation for your friends of other faiths, but say, this is why I’m convinced I’m a Christian, and I don’t believe in the Trinity, so that was his purpose.

Q: Is the Trinity really that big of an issue?

RM: Not in everyday life.

CQ: The Protestants I talk to, it’s the fact that we think we can be…

RM: Be like God?

CQ: It’s the big issue that they think is sacrilegious.

RM: To be totally honest with you, even that one, man becoming as God, is less bothersome to them, than God was once a man. Because, frankly, if you give me ten minutes with them, I show them enough New Testament passages that have deification implications, to where they come away saying, “Well, it doesn’t mean what you think it means, but it sorta sounds like that doesn’t it?” Which is…My whole point, is folks, you’re not just, we didn’t invent this, if we hadn’t come on the scene, you’d still have multi, multi millions of people who are in the orthodox tradition who take deification very seriously, and so, uh, whether they mean by it this, and they mean something different than we do, well of course they mean something different than we do. You wanna stop this?

Curt: Well, in the next minute or two, maybe we could take another question.

Chris Bench: I have one though.

Curt: Oh, you do to?

Curt: Speaking of books. Who? What non-Mormon authors do you turn to over and over, and who would you recommend that we read to broaden our…

RM: Depending on what you want to read, I’ll tell ya, some of the best thinkers in the Evangelical world in terms of theology would be people like John Stott, people like J. I. Packer. Had a beautiful experience this summer, Greg and I went back to Regent College in Vancouver Canada, and this is the 2nd time we’ve done this, we spent two weeks at Regent College, an Evangelical Graduate School, and we took a two week course in, two courses actually, two courses, two weeks, cram course in, one was in, um, the early church fathers, and one was in Puritan theology, and Puritan life, and the one in Puritan theology was from James Packer. Probably one of the most influential Christian theologians in the 21st century, so Packer, Stott, are two of the most critical. The Christian that I find among the most enjoyable to read, that I think everybody here would just love reading, is Phillip Yancey.

Curt: I was going to ask you about him.

RM: Phillip Yancey is remarkable, his book, uh, “The Jesus I Never Knew”, is a classic. The book he just wrote on prayer, oh my goodness, it’s the finest thing I have ever read on prayer, so that, there’s just certain people who have really, I think, we’re silly not to read some of their stuff. It isn’t because, I’m reading so I can set them straight, it’s, I’m reading them because I’m learning, he’s showing me things, oh my goodness, I’ve never thought about that, you know so, I think there are some great, some great thinkers. The other person that’s very influential right now on both a popular, and a very scholarly level is a man by the name of N.T. Wright, Tom Wright, he writes, uh, he wrote a book very, very much intended, I don’t think to replace, but to secede “Mere Christianity”, called “Simply Christian”, that is just excellent, it’s excellent.

Curt: I think we have it here.

RM: It’s not “Mere Christianity”, but it’s good.

Q: What is the name?

RM: N.T. Wright, Tom Wright, and he is the Bishop of Durham, now this is a very interesting thing, he’s Bishop of Durham, which means he’s the third most influential, the fourth most influential man in Anglicanism. But, he also happens to be one of the finest New Testament scholars among the top two, or three in the world. So he writes, both very highly technical theological things, but he also writes very enjoyable popular things. Wright is an excellent one to read. He also, that’s it, “Simply Christian”, (Responding to Curt finding/holding up the book). He did one too, that’s his theodicy, you know what I mean by that? How to deal with the problems of God, and human suffering, that’s called something like, um, Dan, what’s it called? (Dan Wotherspoon was in attendance). (RM, answered his own question): God and, God and Justice, or something like that, but I read that, it’s just been out within the last year, it’s excellent, but those are names of people, Phillip Yancey is, is worth it, he’s worth getting in to.

Curt: We’ve got his “Church, Why Bother?”

RM: That’s a good one.

Curt: “My Personal Pilgrimage”

RM: That’s a good one.

Curt: “The God We Never Knew”, oh that’s Borg, sorry.

RM: I was gonna say, yeah, you’ll get a different reading from Borg, yeah.

Curt: I thought I picked out Yancey, “Sole Survivor”, Dan just finished I think.

RM: That’s, for somebody, for somebody who does serious thinking about church. Why hang onto the church, that’s what he addresses. What’s the subtitle to that?

Curt: “How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive The Church”. (laughter).

RM: He goes, and he picks out people whose writings, influenced him enough to keep him in the church, ok, because the church for him, let me give you an example of his kind of writing, this is what he says in, “The Jesus I Never Knew”, he says. What is it, what was it about Jesus that caused the most despicable elements of society to be attracted to him? The prostitutes, the sinners in general, the tax collectors, the shepherds, and then he said, and why is it those same people feel so very uncomfortable around us? He said, that I fear that in the church, in the Christian church we have created an atmosphere of respectability, a climate, a culture of respectability, and that, I mean that just sent chills down my spine as I read that, because I see that, and you see that. Well, that’s the kind of writer, Yancey is beloved by his people, but, he occasionally takes a potshot at Evangelicalism, because that’s what he is, he’s kind of a, he’s a journalist by training, and uh, and so he’s kind of a social critic. Any other questions?

Chris: He’s a terrific writer.

RM: He’s a great writer.

Chris: Question along similar lines. Richard Bushman discussed his modern day scholars, and how they view Mormonism. You have Harold Bloom whose probably the biggest supporter of the Mormon tradition, and then Richard Mouw, is kind of this up and coming, who else is out there that’s gonna be most sympathetic?

RM: Be a friend?

Chris: Uh huh.

RM: I’m thinking of, um, Sarah Barringer Gordon, at um, Penn, Penn State. She’s trained in both history and law. She has a, she has a pretty darn good understanding of Mormonism. There are others, if he had the time he’d do it, Nathan Hatch wrote his wonderful book, back in the 80’s, called “The Democratization of Christianity in America”. I hosted him, I hosted him when he came to speak at the forum at BYU, he’s a delightful man, he’s Evangelical, but with the Provost at Notre Dame for ten years, ok, this is a wonderful American religious historian who really feels like we just haven’t taken as people, as a world, he says we haven’t taken Joseph Smith, Mormonism, and especially the Book of Mormon seriously enough. I think there are more, and more people coming, I think right now I’m blank, but I think there are people that are growing up, um, I’ll tell you who will be, it’s something as simple as this, Randall Baumer, who is at Columbia University, uh, Barnard College at Columbia, uh, Randy’s become a dear friend. What I, what I do is, I think that what happened to me once I got into this, God blessed me, I just lost all fear, probably all propriety too. (laughter). But I would read a book, and it was so, it was so good, I’d get on the phone and call them. “I just loved your book, when are you in town? I want to come see you.” Well sure, I have never had anyone say, oh no, I would love to meet you, then I’d invite them back to BYU, and they’d present there for three or four days, and so we’d begin, well Randy Baumer, and I built up a relationship like that, and it’s this, and here’s one of the results of what we were talking about. Not long ago a young man called, and uh, he said Professor Millet, “yes”, my name is so and so, I’m at Columbia, I’m working on a doctoral dissertation, and one aspect of it deals with the Mormon movement, and, and, I went to my professor, Randy Baumer, and he said, he could help me a little bit, but he suggested I call you to get information on this. Well, the more we can have that happening, and that grew out of us becoming friends. Do you know what I’m saying? I’m not saying me, but friendships, and so, I think there are more and more people who are ready to take Mormonism seriously. I think the Claremont situation will prove very interesting, Dick Bushman will be there at least a few years, and a,

Curt: Tell them what you mean by, people probably don’t know.

RM: Yeah, about four or five years ago, President Bateman asked me if I would travel to Claremont to meet with the Provost of the Claremont Graduate University, um, I said fine, why? And he said well they’re talking about some very interesting things about, about Mormon Studies, go ask her what she’s interested in, and what she wants to do, so I went out, I went out and met with her, she happened to be what she called lapsed LDS, she had taught at the U of U, she had been administrator at the U, I can’t even now think of her name, but now is the president of New Hampshire, University of New Hampshire, but she was just leaving, but before she left she said there’s an idea afloat in the School of Religion, Karen Torjesen, the Dean, they’re talking about the possibility of a program in Mormon Studies, she said, we want major religions to be featured, we want a chair with each of those, and so to make the story short, uh, there’s been established the Howard W. Hunter, Chair at Claremont Graduate University. Richard Bushman will be the first holder of that chair, and uh, and it’s not that a person will go major in Mormonism, be a little tough to get a job after that. (laughter). But rather, they might major in, they might do their degree in comparative religion in America, U.S. History, with emphasis in Mormon Studies. My friend Greg Johnson has already been offered, I mean the Dean there said, if you come here, and do you doctorate, we’ll let you write your dissertation on what you, and Bob have been doing for the last ten years. I mean it’s that kind of thing, they’re eager for Mormon students to come there, so that’ll open up this fall.

Curt: I think we’d better wrap it up

RM: There was one more. S. Do you have a question?

S: Oh, not one that I would ask in public. (laughter)

Curt: That’s usually what his questions are like. Um, if you’ll join me in giving a big hand to Bob Millet. (Applause).

Curt: My little two cents worth here, I think that one of the main reasons that a lot of this has not happened before, is because there’s only one Bob Millet. And he is…

RM: Yeah, but, you can take that either way. Like my wife would say: God be praised. (laughter).

Curt: Not everybody agrees with what he’s doing or everything that he’s doing, but my sense is that he has opened some very important doors, and those doors are going to continue to open, and I think he’s a pioneer, and I think it’s the Genesis of a great thing that’s going to continue to enfold, I really do believe that, and um, and it’s kudos to him for doing it, and having the courage to do it, and I hope there are other Bob Millets actually….

RM: We’re raising up some young, and they are so impressive, I mean that’s one of the things that the leaders of the church, and the leaders of the University have asked me, and who will take your place? So, we’ve got some young persons at the University now in training, and they are, they’re fabulous, they come with a disposition to want to do this, you know.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


Comments

  1. This is very excellent. Thank you for providing transcripts of these events for those of us who can’t be there. On my site, I focus on interfaith dialogue between Evangelicals, Mormons and others, so I’m very interested in these developments. I’ve also been able to meet people in various faith traditions who also are reaching out and trying to build these relationships. As Millet points out, there are definite challenges but the rewards are great.

    Comment by aquinas — March 23, 2008 @ 1:08 pm

  2. Thanks for this transcription, Brent, and thanks for posting it, Jared. Curt’s closing statement resonates with me. I don’t always agree with everything Bob Millett does or says, but I think he’s done some great things, and really opened some doors for Mormonism to be addressed by evangelicals.

    Comment by Christopher — March 23, 2008 @ 3:06 pm

  3. […] at a book signing, Robert Millet spoke on his various adventures in interfaith relations.  A transcript has been provided courtesy of The Juvenile Instructor.  Recently, they have put out transcripts on […]

    Pingback by Robert Millet: Ten Years in Dialogue « Summa Theologica - Interfaith Dialogue — March 23, 2008 @ 3:19 pm

  4. […] Juvenile Instructor.  Jared posts a Robert Millet interview.  Bob mentions a presentation on Calvinism from a John […]

    Pingback by Easter LDS Blogspotting « Heart Issues for LDS — March 25, 2008 @ 5:11 pm


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