In 1830 it was possible and reasonable to regard Mormonism as a covert and potentially dangerous Christian heresy, since all there was to go-on was the theology and assertions of the founders.
But the expectation would have been that Mormonism would reveal its true nature over time.
And so we now have eight generations of evidence, and 'still' no sign (except, perhaps, the early Old Testament-like 'plural marriage' polygamy until 120 years ago) that Mormonism is producing the evil fruits of heresy - indeed it is apparently the most alive, most devout (e.g phenomenal numbers of full time missionaries) and most decent of the big self-identified Christian denominations in the developed world.
I have read or watched on video many of the modern LDS Church leadership, and overwhelmingly they are honest, forthright and essentially uncorrupted (in stark contrast to the bishops and most clergy of my own Anglican CoE denomination, for example!).
So (I would argue) that either Mormonism is the best concealed anti-Christian evil heresy of all time (which some people do indeed believe) and this evil will eventually reveal itself, or else it is truly Christian - despite whatever our theoretical analysis may say.
(Because that which claims to be Christian and shows no evil, must be good - since falsely to claim to be Christian would be a heresy revealing itself in evil.)
These may seem stark alternatives. Why should Mormonism necessarily be Christian simply because it is revealed as not being anti-Christian.
The answer is because the LDS church self-identifies strongly and explicitly as Christian, and places Christ at the centre of institutional and personal devotions.
If these claims and practices are false, then they cannot be neutral - since they would be blasphemous, idolatrous etc; and must be evil.
And yet we see no evidence of evil fruits. Quite the contrary.
The big question here is whether human experience is of any validity in evaluating a religion or denomination.
To reject Mormonism on grounds which were apparent at its foundation (I mean of course specifically to reject the CJCLDS - mainstream Mormonism) seems inevitably to suggest the rejection of human experience as being of importance in evaluating truth.
(Is 180 years not enough? How many years would be needed? If the fruits are still good at, say 300, or 500 years - would that make any difference to evaluations?)
I believe that we cannot dispense with experience, since human reason is so feeble and corruptible and human knowledge is so incomplete and distorted: therefore we cannot rely purely on analysis but must also take note of experience, of 'fruits' as they become apparent over time.
(At a personal level there is the crucial matter of one's own informed and prayerful discernment as to good and evil, truth and falsehood - but clearly on this topic individual discernment is divided!)
One topic that should be addressed in this light is how mainstream Christians/ Mere Christians/ real Christians should regard 'Liberals' (I mean theological Liberals) within their own denominations.
It seems clear that - for example - the minority of real Christians in the Church of England Anglican communion, among Roman Catholics and the Lutheran Church are in practice very tolerant indeed of Liberals in their own denominations (working with them, accepting their authority to a greater or lesser extent); and this tolerance is for Liberals who often aggressively deny or invert central doctrines and creeds, rewrite scripture, make public statements without historical or scriptural basis, introduce major anti-Christian organizational changes etc.
This tolerance of Liberalism is very clear and unambiguous since most mainstream church leaders in the West are Liberals - and these leaders include some of the most extreme anti-Christians. Yet criticism of these is generally muted; real Christians bend over backwards to give them the benefit of any doubt, give them chance after chance to change, go along with their anti-Christian wickedness for the sake of what should be subordinate values.
It seems undeniable that Liberal pseudo-Christians represent a very powerful and effective anti-Christian force in modern life; yet Liberal pseudo-Christians are tolerated and treated with patience and respect by real Christians in their denominations; meanwhile the same real Christians shun Mormons.
Am I accusing mainstream real Christians of hypocrisy or inconsistency with respect to Mormonism? You bet I am!
This combination of tolerance of real mainstream Christians towards actively-subversive unbelieving Liberals (the enemy) - indeed active cooperation with Liberals especially within the big denominations, combined with clear, uncompromising and strong anti-Mormonism (rejecting those who should be friends and allies), is something I despise! - indeed, I believe it is Satan's work and must delight the forces of evil.
I am saying that anti-Mormonism is common among serious mainstream Christians, who persist in treating the LDS church as if it was a set of theoretical ideas, rather than an enduring reality.
I am suggesting that the goodness of Mormonism is hard data which must be taken into account, not argued away.
I am pointing out that most mainstream Christian denominations are currently in a position of de facto inferiority with respect to Mormonism; they are in no position to criticize - on analytic grounds - that which is demonstrably and uncontroversially superior in its current Christ-centredness, devoutness and works.
In doing so, mainstream Christians are implicitly denying the value of actions in discerning the truth - and making Christianity a thing of abstraction, disconnected with observable realities.
In particular, I am drawing attention to the specific matter of marriage and families; and the fact that very few Christian denominations have sustained the centrality of these to the human condition in the way that Mormons have; and Christian denominations with low levels of marriage and few children have demonstrably gone wrong in some very serious and significant way.
The choice of above-replacement fertility in a church is a crude and simple measure; but is a summary of many other variables including the roles of men and women, leadership, an other-worldly perspective, devoutness; and attitudes to sexuality, marriage, family and children. When denominations chose to have fewer than two children on average, they have become corrupt.
Of course, chosen above-replacement fertility is not evidence of truth! But fertility is necessary to a denomination being essentially true, and net uncorrupt.
So we must, I believe, use experience in our evaluations.
And experience shows that most mainstream Christian denominations have become essentially corrupt; yet Mormonism has not (or, not yet).
And this understanding is confirmed by many other sources of evidence.
What is my conclusion?
That the current attitude of mainstream Christians towards Mormonism is unjustified - the LDS church should be regarded with respect by mainstream Christians, and indeed in a spirit of deference - as being demonstrably superior to mainstream Christianity in many ways.
And, for Heavens sake! - real Christians ought not to be so tolerant and
deferential to pseudo-Christian Liberals in their denominations!
The strength and goodness of Mormonism is, I emphasize, hard data; and the question posed to mainstream Christians is how to deal with this hard data, and learn from this hard data - not how to explain-it-away.
The potentially lethal danger of Liberal pseudo-Christianity also is hard data - yet the same real Christians who have negative, suspicious, condescending, and aggressive attitudes to Mormons are very prone to assume the good intentions and basic decency of these Liberal pseudo-Christians - many of whom lead the major Western denominations.
NOTE: I intend to be very selective about publishing comments on this post. When I say hard data, I mean hard data. Only those who are ignorant (most common) or untruthful or insane argue against hard data. But not on this blog!