By Kent Larsen
Dartmouth Club Denies Mormon Student; Says Mormons Aren't Christian
HANOVER, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Saying Mormons are not Christian, the
Dartmouth Summer Christian Fellowship has told a Mormon student she
can't be a leader in the group. Meredeth Brooks, a member of The
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had expressed interest
in the Summer Christian Fellowship, a non-denominational evangelical
group on Dartmouth's campus. While both Brooks and the club claim
that they have reached "an understanding," what the campus newspaper,
The Dartmouth, calls a "series of miscommunications" had led to a
conflict between Brooks and the service club's leaders. Now Dean
Stuart Lord of Dartmouth's Tucker Foundation is investigating the
The dispute and investigation is another example of the ongoing
dispute between Mormons and Evangelicals about recognizing Mormons as
Christians. In Brooks' case, friends suggested that joining the group
would be fun, according to Patricia Crossett, a Dartmouth staff
member and the LDS Institute instructor on campus. Brooks apparently
looked at joining and, after a series of miscommunications, Summer
Christian Fellowship (SCF) leaders told her that she could not be a
leader in the organization because of her religious beliefs.
However, Brooks then somehow received a copy of an internal SCF email
message, which Crossett calls "anti-Mormon," sent by SCF advisor
Craig Parker. The message, which advised SCF leaders on how to
respond to Brooks, was basically a theological analysis of the
differences between Mormon beliefs and traditional Christianity.
But the message contained a harsh reference to the book of
Galatians, which Parker said applied to Mormons, that read in part
"if any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you
received, let him be accursed." Parker was later quoted in The
Dartmouth as saying "I meant that only as a statement against
theological positions that try to misrepresent the gospel ... against
what I would call theological undermining." He also emphasized that
the email was not directed at an individual nor was it intended to be
seen by Brooks. "I regret that she ever received that," he said.
In a statement to The Dartmouth, Crossett said, "I'm sorry he would
send an email like this to or about Meredith." But she added,
"Christian denominations don't seem to get along ... that's just the
way it is. I'm a great believer that various groups can invite who
they want to be a part of them."
Brooks then wrote an e-mail message to SCF's leaders, saying she felt
that the clubs actions indicated a belief that Mormons are not
Christian. And she disputed that belief in the message, "I have no
doubt in the wide world that I am indeed a Christian. It's rather
bigoted of the SCF to be exclusionary based on their fundamentally
wrong and naive categorization of my religion."
SCF leaders explained their position to The Dartmouth, saying that
Mormon beliefs are so fundamentally different from "traditional
evangelical" views that they would blur the group's message. SCF
leader Joel Wickre told The Dartmouth, "We're welcoming of all people
to be part of our fellowship, but as an organization, we want to be
true to the things that we believe and consistent in our theology."
That message led to a meeting between Brooks and SCF leader Alex
Jordan, at which they reached an understanding. Jordan said that the
"very delicate" and "painful" issue and been resolved but, "I am
upset that she is upset." But Brooks said, "I went away from [my
meeting with Jordan] knowing that I wouldn't really be accepted as a
Christian member of that organization." She now wants to drop the
whole matter, "As an idealist and as a Latter-day Saint, I believe in
forgiving and moving on."
But for now, that may not be possible. The college prides itself on
its openness and tolerance, and the allegations of intolerance by the
SCF have reached the attention of Dean Stuart Lord of Dartmouth's
Tucker Foundation. Lord said he must look into any allegation of
intolerance, "If a student of this community feels that they haven't
been respected or honored, we must pay attention to that. We must
seize this as an opportunity to learn."
And Tucker's investigation could make a difference. The Tucker
Foundation was created by Dartmouth's Trustees to further the moral
and spiritual life of the college. The foundation, which is run by
Dean Lord, oversees religious life on campus, supporting a wide
variety of religious groups and providing the College Chaplain. Since
the Tucker Foundation has recognized the SCF, although the Foundation
does not provide funding for the group, Dean Lord could withdraw that
According to Crossett, Dean Lord met with her and Brooks this
morning, and was scheduled to meet with the SCF leaders and Parker in
the afternoon. Mormon News' call to Dean Lord's office was not
returned before this story was sent. At issue are questions of
fairness, such as whether SCF's policies were clear from the
beginning and whether those policies are consistently applied.
Crossett notes that as the LDS advisor on campus, she received an
invitation to participate in the SCF last summer, and that other
groups that are not "traditional evangelical" participate in the SCF.
Darmouth's own religion experts say the dispute is part of a broader
conflict between Mormons and Evangelicals. The chair of Dartmouth's
Religion Department, Ronald Green, says that the dispute arises as
the LDS Church has increasingly emphasized its belief in Christ and
beliefs that it shares with evangelical protestants, and college-age
church members don't remember a time when the LDS Church didn't
emphasize those beliefs. Religion Professor Charles Stinson notes
that the deep doctrinal differences between the Mormons and
Evangelicals have led to a debate among the Evangelicals about
"whether the Mormons are a type of Christian church or whether they
are an outside-the-fold kind of religion."
Mormon News' own coverage shows that this dispute has arisen
throughout the US, as LDS Church members assert their belief in
Christ and Evangelical Christians assert that Mormons are not
Christian because they don't have "traditional" Christian beliefs.
And the disagreement is showing up outside the US as well. An article
this week in the Scottish Daily Record reports that the St. George
School in Gravesend, Kent, England told LDS Church member Jacqueline
Holder that her 11-year-old son, Jacob Tulip, could not attend the
school because Mormons are not Christian.
Club faces intolerance charge
Dartmouth College The Dartmouth 13Jul01 D2
By Itham Peltan
School Bans Mormon Boy
Glasgow Scotland Daily Record 19Jul01 D2