“Brett, can I share something with you?” Frustrated with her own inability to respond to the discrepancies I presented between Mormonism and Christianity, one of the women opted for a different approach. Instead of dealing with my challenges, she asked, “Can I share something with you?” “Yes, please do,” I responded, even though I knew what she’d say. “I have read the Book of Mormon from cover-to-cover. I testify to you that I know the Book of Mormon is true. I know that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. And I know the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is true.” Tears streaming down her cheeks, she awaited my reaction to her “testimony.” MORMON EPISTEMOLOGY Nothing is more central to the defense of Mormon scripture, Mormon doctrine, and the existence of the Mormon Church than a personal testimony. Also referred to as a “burning in the bosom” or “spiritual witness,” the Mormon testimony amounts to positive spiritual feelings about the LDS religion. At the end of the day, this personal, private, subjective experience is crucial to Mormon confidence, so you must be prepared to deal with it. We all have beliefs we take to be true. But how do we know they’re true? Good reasons give us proper justification. By contrast, good reasons are reliable indicators of truth, moving us from mere true belief to bona fide knowledge. In Mormon epistemology, good reasons are replaced with feelings in the form of a personal testimony. They’ve prayed about these matters and received positive feelings. This justification claimed by Mormons is usually the only rationale they can provide. Reason and logic are often deliberately cast aside, an approach actually encouraged by the LDS Church. Their website, www.mormon.org, features videos of Mormons telling their stories. In one video featured on the site, a girl shares that for the “biggest decision” of her life, she threw careful thinking out the door. Emotions become the arbiter of truth. Not only does the LDS Church endorse this approach, LDS scripture prescribes it. In the Book of Mormon, Moroni 10:4-5 instructs: "And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true. And if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things." This appeal is irrational and unbiblical. And several responses will help expose this defective Mormon epistemology.
Clarity before Agreement
ARE MORMONS CHRISTIANS? Is Mormonism merely another branch of the Christian tree? That claim isn't consistent with official LDS teaching. Mormonism’s founder and first prophet, Joseph Smith, prompted by his reading of James 1:5, prayed and inquired of God to reveal which church was the true church. According to Smith’s account, God declares all Christian sects not merely wrong, but corrupt. Mormon doctrine states that shortly after the original apostles died off, the first church had a complete falling away from the gospel, known as the Great Apostasy. Therefore, the Book of Mormon is severe in its judgment, condemning Christianity as “that great and abominable church” and “the whore of all the earth” (I Nephi 22:13), whose founder is Satan (I Nephi 13:5-6). Thus, the Mormon doctrine of the total apostasy of the church and the LDS scriptures’ denunciations of Christianity are incompatible with the claim they are merely another branch or denomination of Christianity. MORMONISM TEACHES CHRISTIANITY IS “ABOMINABLE” According to the Latter Day Saints church, Mormonism is the restoration of true Christianity. All other Christian churches are false churches. When LDS members attempt to soften or even deny these implications, we must simply point them back to their own authoritative sources. APPLICATION Point your Mormon friends to John 17:3 which says eternal life is knowing the one true God. If we have radically different views of God, then one of us is in trouble. If I’m wrong, I'd want to know. That’s why this conversation is worth having.
Ask Columbo Questions
START WITH THE ESSENTIALS Don’t jump in with polygamy, Mormon undergarments, temple rituals, or racism. Instead, stick to the essentials. TWO QUESTIONS TO START WITH 1. Who is God? 2. What is the gospel? Every false religion will deviate from Christianity on these two issues. FIRST TOOL FOR CLEAR THINKING: Columbo Question #1 When your Mormon friend says, “I believe in Jesus,” begin with a probing question like, “Which Jesus do you have in mind?” Your LDS friends will use the same terminology you use. If you don’t start with clarification, though, you’ll end with confusion. SECOND TOOL FOR CLEAR THINKING: Columbo Question #2 Once your LDS friend explains their view of Jesus, ask them, “How did you come to that conclusion?” or, “Why do you believe that?” Columbo #2 will give you their reasons for holding a particular view. Do they think Jesus is a created being because they think the Bible says so? Or is that taught in the Book of Mormon? Once you discover what a Mormon believes and why he believes it, you’re well positioned for a productive conversation. Even though you think their views are false, you are showing them true tolerance. When this kind of tolerance is practiced, it often creates the best context to share the truth with your LDS friends.
Mormon View of God
SAME WORDS, DIFFERENT MEANINGS Our eternal destiny depends on getting certain things about God right. This is the implication of John 17:3. So, do Mormons and Christians see God the same way? Mormons believe in God the Father, in Jesus Christ His Son, and the Holy Spirit. Just because Christians and Mormons use the same words does not mean they share the same definitions. Because Mormons and Christians use the same words, labels, and even phrases, our first step is clarification, and our first tool is Columbo Question#1: What do you mean by that? WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY THAT? For example, if you ask your LDS friends who Jesus is, they’ll probably say He is the Son of God. Notice, they have only offered more Christian terminology, another phrase that needs clarification. Respond by asking, “What do you mean by ‘Son of God?’” It may take a lot of questioning before the full Mormon view of God is on the table, so be patient and persistent. Once the Mormon understanding of God is clearly defined, we’ll need to compare it to the Christian view of God revealed in Scripture. This is the next step. HOW DID YOU COME TO THAT CONCLUSION? Ask Columbo Question #2: How did you come to that conclusion? If Mormons and Christians hold mutually exclusive views about God, we need to examine the biblical reasons offered. Does Scripture support the Mormon view or does Scripture uphold the classical Christian view? Rather than start with what we think Mormons mean by “God,” we’ll let Mormons speak for themselves. We’ll draw from three authoritative sources: Mormon scripture, the teachings of Mormon prophets, and official Mormon publications. On the topic of God, LDS authorities are clear: God the Father was once a man before he became God and has a physical body. WHAT MORMONISM TEACHES ABOUT GOD According to Smith, God was first a mere mortal in another world, worshipping and serving his own Heavenly Father. The Doctrine & Covenants tell us, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s...” (130:22). He progressed to godhood and received a glorified body through his obedience to the same gospel principles the LDS church teaches today. For Mormons, the Godhead consists of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, they are not three persons in one God; they are three separate gods. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are just the gods who created and rule this world. Mormon scripture teaches there are other gods with its reference to the “Eternal God of all other gods before this world” (Doctrine & Covenants 121:32). Not only did God the Father worship his god, but also that god worshipped another god. According to Mormon doctrine, you and I can become gods as well. In the final analysis, the Mormon worldview turns out to be polytheistic. According to LDS teaching, Jesus is not the second person of the Trinity. Rather his spirit comes into existence through the procreation of Heavenly Father and our mother goddess. Jesus is the firstborn spirit child of our heavenly parents. According to Mormon doctrine, Jesus and Lucifer are brothers. You and I are also spirit children, making Jesus and Lucifer our elder brothers. As a man, Jesus had to progress to godhood. He was not eternally a god, but became a god. According to Joseph Smith, this was revealed to the apostle John: “And I, John, saw that he [Jesus] received not of the fullness at the first, but received grace for grace. And he received not the fullness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fullness” (Doctrine & Covenants 93:12-13).