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).
Christian View of the Trinity
DO MORMONS AND CHRISTIANS WORSHIP THE SAME GOD? There are a host of characteristics separating the Mormon God and the Christian God. If these deities were identical, they would share all the same essential characteristics. Even a cursory study of LDS theology, however, shows that this is not the case. Mormons and Christians worship radically different Gods. THE ONE TRUE GOD OF THE BIBLE I like James White’s definition in the book, "The Forgotten Trinity," because it’s concise yet precise. Here’s my slightly modified version: “Within the one Being that is God, there simultaneously exists three coequal, coeternal, and distinct persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Each word and phrase is significant. Notice, there are three divine persons—Father, Son, Holy Spirit—in one being, God. Not three beings who are one being. Not three persons who are one person. The Trinity is three distinct persons in one being or one God. Simply put, there is one “what” and three “who’s.” Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist at the same time (“simultaneously”), have always existed together (“coeternal”), and are equally God (“coequal”). Christians don’t merely cite a single verse to prove the Trinity; rather, the Bible overflows with Trinitarian language from Old to New Testament. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share divine attributes. They share divine functions. They share divine names. They each receive worship. Premise 1: There is only one God. Premise 2: There are three Persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—called God. Conclusion: The three Persons are the one God. ONE GOD, THREE PERSONS First, the Scripture clearly teaches there is only one God. Look at Deuteronomy 6:4, Isaiah 43:10 and 44:6-8, Mark 12:29, and John 17:3. In attempt to reconcile their beliefs with the Bible, Mormons will agree, arguing there is only one God of this world. Notice in his response, the Mormon has modified the message of Scripture. In the book of Isaiah, God does not claim He is the only God of this world. He proclaims, “I am God, and there is none else” (Isaiah 45:22). Apart from Him, there are no other gods. So if your Mormon friend responds with this objection, ask him, “Can you show me a verse that clearly states there is more than one God?” and put the burden of proof back on him. Second, the Scripture teaches each person is divine in nature. For example, John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” In John 10:30, Jesus says, “I and my Father are one,” clearly understood to be a claim to deity when we examine the context. The Apostle Paul echoes this view of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-8. The Holy Spirit is a divine person as well. Acts 5:3-4 equates lying to the Holy Spirit with lying to God. According to 2 Samuel 23:2-3, the “Spirit of the Lord” is the “God of Israel.” Therefore, we conclude Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the one God. Passages like Matthew 28:19 support this conclusion, as Jesus commands us to baptize in the “name,” not names, of the “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Ironically, support for the Trinity can also be found in the Book of Mormon, in passages like Alma 11:26-29, Alma 11:44, and Mosiah 15:1-4. Discussing the nature of God is crucial, but point them back to John 17:3 throughout the conversation. Theology touches real life. Remind your LDS friend eternity is on the line. Our answer to “Who is God?” has profound, unalterable consequences for this life and the one to come.
Impossible Gospel of Mormonism
WHAT DO MORMON’S MEAN BY THE GOSPEL? Once again, to understand what Mormons mean by the gospel, we need to employ Columbo Question #1, “What do you mean by that?” What specifically do you mean by the words sin, atonement, forgiveness, faith, grace, salvation, and eternal life? Yes, Mormons and Christians use the same Gospel terminology, but they differ widely on definitions. General salvation is not the ultimate goal for Mormons; eternal life is. In Mormonism, eternal life means exaltation. Exaltation means godhood. The ultimate goal of every good Mormon is to achieve exaltation into the celestial kingdom—the highest level of heaven—become a god, and eventually rule your own world. Ask your Mormon friend, “What is the ultimate goal of your religious efforts?” Godhood is the goal. VERY BAD NEWS The gospel is good news, but this good news implies some very bad news: Sin (Romans 3:19-20). We’re made aware of our sin by God’s law, which demands moral perfection. Just a few verses later Paul declares, “all have sinned” and fallen short of God’s standard of perfection (v. 23). We’re all law-breakers and the just price to be paid for our sin is death (Romans 6:23). Is the Mormon gospel the good news of rescue? No. Instead, it echoes the moral demands of the law. According to the LDS scriptures, individual salvation is only achieved through perfect obedience. But as we know, perfection is impossible. Therefore, the “good news” of Mormonism is an “Impossible Gospel.” Ironically, it turns out to be more bad news for Mormons. Of course, Mormons deny perfection is required. In spite of this, most Mormons feel the pressure of perfection because they live under the unattainable demands of their gospel everyday. This gives Christians an effective tool—the Impossible Gospel—to share the good news of the true Gospel with their Mormon friends. THE IMPOSSIBLE GOSPEL The Impossible Gospel approach lets the Mormon scriptures speak for themselves. When it comes to the requirements of the Gospel, most Mormons think if you try your best, God takes care of the rest. They reason, “Nobody can achieve perfection.” The Impossible Gospel, however, shows them that according to their own scriptures, God does not grade on a curve. Instead, His law is a pass/fail test. You either get everything right or you don’t pass. DISCUSS MORMON SCRIPTURE We could use a number of Mormon scriptures to share the Impossible Gospel, but we’ll focus on six here. If possible, have your LDS friends read each passage to you out loud. #1: Moroni 10:32 – “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you....” Point out the if/then phrase in this passage to your Mormon friend. According to this verse, when does God’s grace kick in? Only after you “deny yourselves of all ungodliness.” Next ask, “What would it look like if you denied yourself of all ungodliness?” It means they would have stopped sinning. Finally, let it hit close to home by asking, “Have you denied yourself of all ungodliness?” If he says no, remind him God’s grace cannot be applied until they do so. #2: Moses 6:57 – “Wherefore teach it unto your children, that all men, everywhere, must repent, or they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God, for no unclean thing can dwell there, or dwell in his presence...” Mormons usually acknowledge their inability to be perfect, so they appeal to repentance in their scriptures. “If I repent, I should be okay.” Indeed, this verse indicates repentance is a prerequisite to enter the kingdom of God. But lead them into the next Mormon passage by asking, “What is repentance according to the LDS scriptures?” #3: Doctrine & Covenants 58:42-43 – “Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more. By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” According to this scripture, true repentance is confessing sin and forsaking it. So ask your Mormon friend what it means to forsake a sin. Doesn’t it mean you never return to it again? Yes. To forsake something is to abandon it. Mormon scripture reinforces the requirement of perfection. #4: Doctrine & Covenants 82:7 – “...go your ways and sin no more; but unto that soul who sinneth shall the former sins return, saith the Lord your God.” This passage is clear. If you continue to sin, your former sins are returned and counted against you. Forgiveness is foreign to this passage. #5: Alma 34:33 – “...therefore I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given to prepare eternity, behold if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.” This verse highlights the urgency of Mormon repentance. You cannot wait. This life is your only shot to accomplish true repentance, the forsaking of all sin. #6: Doctrine & Covenants 25:15-16 – “Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive. And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come. And verily, verily, I say unto you, that this is my voice unto all. Amen.” Use this final passage to summarize the Mormon gospel. Ask your Mormon friend to clarify the meaning of “keep my commandments continually.” Follow up by asking if they’ve met this requirement. If they answer yes, ask if they’ve repented lately. Repentance means they’ve broken God’s commandments and therefore, have not kept his commands continually. If they answer no, ask when they’ll achieve continual obedience to God’s commands. Remind them they’ll never reach exaltation until they do so (“except thou do this...”). These questions are meant to open Mormon eyes to the requirement of perfection inherent in the LDS gospel and our inability to meet it. The Mormon gospel requires something unattainable, perfection. But if it’s impossible for a Mormon to “deny himself of all ungodliness,” it’s impossible for him to be exalted in celestial glory. And that’s bad news for your LDS friends. Unfortunately, the news gets worse. Not only are the requirements impossible to uphold, but the Mormon gospel also turns out to be a false gospel. Paul has grim words for those who would proclaim another gospel: "I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." (Galatians 1:6-9) Preaching a false gospel is a grave offense and the consequences match it in severity. In love, we must warn our Mormon friends about the gravity of the situation.
Faith and Salvation
SALVATION EQUATION Mormonism: faith and good works lead to eternal life. Christianity: faith leads to eternal life and good works. SHARE THE GOOD NEWS At this point in the discussion, it’s time to open your Bible and share the good news of grace with your Mormon friends. Let them see the stark contrast of the biblical Gospel: "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life." (Titus 3:5-7) Read aloud from the great passages on grace, like Romans 4:1-8, Ephesians 2:8-9, and Hebrews 10:10-14. Let the Gospel of grace pour from the pages of Scripture, washing over their hearts and minds.
Objections to The Bible
At first glance, the Bible seems to be common ground for Mormons and Christians. However, when you begin to raise serious discrepancies between the teachings of the Bible and Mormon doctrine, a different view emerges. TRANSLATED CORRECTLY? After the King James Version of the Bible, Mormons have three additional sources of written revelation: the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price. Together these form God’s authoritative revelation for Mormons. But of the four, the Bible takes a back seat to the others. The Book of Mormon claims that important parts of the Bible were removed. According to I Nephi 13:28, after the Bible “hath gone forth through the hands of the great and abominable church,” there were “many plain and precious things taken away from the book...” How did this happen? Joseph Smith taught it occurred through the mistranslation of the biblical text. At the end of the Pearl of Great Price are Smith’s “Articles of Faith,” a 13-statement summary of Mormonism’s core beliefs. According to Article #8, Mormons “believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” This is often the Mormon’s first line of defense when presented with clear differences between the biblical data and Mormon doctrine. “Well,” they say, “the Bible has been translated over and over and contains lots of errors.” How should we respond? THE ACCURATE TRANSMISSION OF THE BIBLE Mormons use “the telephone game” as an example to show how the Bible has come down to us. The New Testament is equally distorted, just like the final message of the telephone game. But this approach is based on two misunderstandings. First, the telephone game is an example of transmission (the process of passing along some form of communication), not translation (the process of taking words from one language and putting them into another language). The Mormon’s complaint is not with the translation of the biblical text from Greek and Hebrew into English or other languages, but with biblical manuscripts being copied and handed down through the centuries. So Smith’s eighth “Article of Faith” is improperly worded, a bit ironic since Mormons take it to be scripture. Surely God knows the difference. Smith should have written, “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is transmitted correctly.” Second, the telephone game does not accurately capture the manner in which the New Testament was passed down. The New Testament was not transmitted orally, a mode of communication that is easier to distort. Instead, it was handed down in writing. In addition, during the telephone game a single individual passes the message to another individual who passes the message to a different individual and so on. Not so with the New Testament. Instead, there were many lines of transmission, as one letter was copied multiple times and copies were copied multiple times, eventually resulting in a host of manuscript copies. Finally, historians do not rely on the last person in line but look for earlier manuscripts much closer in time to the original. DETERMINING RELIABILITY OF MANUSCRIPTS Historians ask two primary questions to determine a manuscript’s reliability: 1) How many manuscript copies do we have? and 2) How close in time are the manuscript copies to the original? In the case of the New Testament, the evidence is staggering. In total, there are more than 20,000 handwritten New Testament manuscripts in various languages, far exceeding other documents from antiquity. But the question of time remains. We have 124 total manuscripts within 300 years of the composition of the New Testament. There is not a single Greek or Latin manuscript from the ancient world that comes close to the early dating of these New Testament manuscripts. The wealth of early manuscripts ensures that we can accurately reconstruct the original. That’s why the majority of biblical scholars, both Christian and non-Christian, conclude that the original words of the New Testament can be known with more certainty than any other text from antiquity. THE OLD TESTAMENT In 1947, a young shepherd discovered ancient Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament in caves at Khirbet Qumran, on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea. Some of the most significant findings were two well-preserved scrolls of the entire book of Isaiah. Old Testament scholar Gleason Archer examined the scrolls and wrote: "Even though the two copies of Isaiah discovered in Qumran Cave 1 near the Dead Sea in 1947 were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscript previously known (A.D. 980), they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text. The five percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling." The Dead Sea Scrolls confirm the reliability of the Old Testament text. A closer look at the transmission of ancient documents reveals the flaws in the telephone game analogy. The New Testament manuscripts are the most reliable ancient documents we have, hands down. If we take Joseph Smith’s caveat “as far as it is translated correctly” to mean—as Mormons do—transmitted correctly, then we can be completely confident our Bibles reflect the original Word of God. APPLICATION Let me offer three questions to pose to your LDS friend when he challenges the Bible’s reliability. Response #1: Ask, “What do you mean by that— that the Bible has been translated incorrectly?” If the Mormon claims the Bible is riddled with errors, it’s his job to show where. It’s completely legitimate to point out the errors. Aside from a few professional Mormon apologists, I have yet to encounter an informed answer to this query. My question is often met with a “Well, I’m not a biblical scholar” response. But if he can’t produce the goods, I have no reason to accept his claim. Response #2: Ask if he reads the Bible and if so, ask which mistranslated parts he avoids reading. If you knew the Bible contained serious errors, wouldn’t you make some effort to discover them and avoid them? You wouldn’t continue nonchalantly reading the Bible, would you? But most Mormons tell me they love the Bible and read all of it, betraying their use of the “translated correctly” objection as a convenient escape route from difficult questions. Response #3: Ask, “If the Bible has been mistranslated, what do you make of God’s promises to protect His Word?” Open your Bible and have them read Isaiah 40:8, where Isaiah declares, “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the Word of our God shall stand forever.” Point them to Jesus’ promise: “For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” (Matthew 5:18). God is big enough to preserve His Word and when He promises to do so, we should trust Him. THE WORD OF GOD STANDS FOREVER Christians have a wealth of evidence testifying to the Bible’s trustworthiness. In addition to the textual evidence, the Bible enjoys external corroboration from archaeology and fulfilled prophecy. Internally, the Bible speaks with one voice through more than 40 different human authors, answering our most significant questions and giving the power necessary to change lives. No such evidence can be harnessed for the Book of Mormon or the other Mormon scriptures. There is absolutely no archaeological support for the people, places, and things contained within it. Ironically, the Bible hasn’t been changed, but Mormon scripture has. Despite Joseph Smith’s claim “that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth,” there are almost 4,000 changes from the 1830 version of the Book of Mormon to today’s version. If you compare the 1835 Doctrine & Covenants with the 1833 Book of Commandments, its forerunner, you’ll discover clear edits to what was allegedly divine revelation received by Joseph Smith. Under careful scrutiny, the reliability of Mormon scripture crumbles. Under the same scrutiny, the reliability of the Bible shines. Thus we can put our trust in it, declaring with Isaiah, “the Word of our God shall stand forever.”
“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.
Responses to Mormon Testimony
For many Mormons, bearing their testimony is deeply personal, so be sensitive as you raise challenges. At the same time, be courageous because you must be honest with your Mormon friend. Present the truth with grace as you offer the following responses. RESPONSE #1: Show they never use this method of knowing for any other area of life. Do you pray to know that George Washington was the first U.S. President? Do you pray to know murder is morally wrong? Mormons will answer no to each. Follow up with, “Why not?” Then listen carefully to their response. For instance, when I asked a Mormon missionary working at Temple Square if she prayed about murder, she looked at me with disgust and retorted, “Of course not!” I followed up with a “Why not?” and she answered, “Because God prohibits murder in the Bible.” “Exactly,” I replied. Then I explained that no one needs to pray about truths already revealed in Scripture. We simply examine God’s Word to know them. In the same way, God has revealed the truth about Himself and the Gospel in His Word, so rather than pray for the meaning of Scripture to be revealed, we discover its meaning through study. RESPONSE #2: Show the liabilities of solely relying on a personal experience to know truth. You can do this in two ways. First, ask your Mormon friend, “Have your feelings ever been wrong?” If they’re honest, they’ll answer, "Yes." I’ll quickly add, “My feelings have misled me, too.” We’ve all been misled by strong emotions. Second, ask your Mormon friend what he’d say to a Muslim who read the Qur'an from cover-to-cover, prayed, then felt Allah told him the Quran was true. How would they respond if I said I prayed about the Book of Mormon and felt that God told me it was false? Subjective experiences have a place, but they have their liabilities, too. We need an objective source to judge between testimonies for contradictory religious views. After showing the liabilities of personal experience as a guide to truth, redirect your LDS friends to the most reliable guide, God’s Word. RESPONSE #3: Show them the biblical model of knowing. First, the Bible warns against trusting our hearts. Jeremiah 17:9 offers a sobering reminder of the condition of an unregenerate heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: Who can know it?” Yes, who can know it? And moreover, who can trust it? Second, the Bible commends a different method of knowing. In Acts 17, Paul and Silas share the gospel with the Jews in Berea. Verse 11 records the Bereans’ response: “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” What was the Berean’s noble-minded approach? Examination of the Scriptures to know the truth. We should do likewise, especially in light of Paul’s warning about false gospels in Galatians 1:8: “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” This is a grave warning for Mormons who preach a gospel different from the biblical gospel. Third, the Bible supplies alternate explanations for the source of good feelings. 2 Corinthians 11:14 tells us that Satan, the great deceiver, transforms himself “into an angel of light” and I Peter 5:8 adds that he’s on the prowl, “seeking whom he may devour.” “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17), not a feeling, is our primary weapon to fend off Satan’s lies. THE TESTIMONY OF GOD We must help Mormons transfer trust from their own heart to God’s Word. It is the objective and authoritative source of knowledge that stands against the winds of changing emotion. And there, in stark contrast to the Mormon testimony, we find God’s testimony: "If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater. For this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son: He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself. He that believeth not God hath made him a liar because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye...may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." (I John 5:9-13) As God Himself testifies, knowledge received from His Word leads to trust in the one true Jesus, not the counterfeit Jesus of Mormonism.
Let me give you a few last bits of advice as you engage your Mormon friends and family. BE PATIENT It takes time to reach our Mormon friends. They are so enculturated. Often, their families are Mormons. Their friends are Mormons. Maybe they’ve gone on a mission and invested two years of their life on a Mormon mission. They’re so inculturated into Mormonism that it takes time to extract themselves. It may take six or seven years for them to eventually walk away when they begin questioning it. So you and I need to be patient. We need to realize that our goal in each conversation is to simply put a stone in their shoe. Plant a seed. Give them something to think about with the ultimate goal being that they come to Christ. That doesn’t have to be the goal of every conversation because then you’re going to find yourself very frustrated. Just give them something to think about. Challenge them every once in awhile. Even if they don’t show on the outside that they’re moving your way, that’s okay. You don’t know what’s going on on the inside. Just be faithful and patient and realize that it takes time. The Mormon is made in the image of God. They are valuable, intrinsically. They have value and dignity even if they never come to Christ. We need to treat them with value and dignity and be patient with them as we walk with them. Number one, be patient. GET SOME RESOURCES Go to mrm.org, and there you will find a wealth of resources. Videos, articles on any kind of issue or objection that your Mormon friends are going to talk about. My friend Bill McKeever is an expert on Mormonism. He’s put together the website, it’s a great tool. You’re going to have to do some study in this process. BE INTENTIONAL Set up a time to go to lunch with your Mormon friend or family member. If you have a neighbor who’s a Mormon, go over and visit them. Set something up. If you don’t have Mormon friends, go to Mormon.org and sign up to have some Mormon missionaries visit you. I guarantee you that when you set something up like this and you’re intentional, that’s going to create some pressure on you to do your homework and get prepared. That challenge is going to help you grow, so be intentional. REACH OUT IN LOVE Make sure your motivation is love, and then communicate that to them. Communicate that you don’t want to simply debate. You don’t want to just argue. You want to have these important conversations because you love them, you care about them, and you care about where they spend eternity. Just like they want to have these conversations with you, hopefully, because they care about you and your eternal life. So you want to communicate to them that you’re sharing the truth, and you’re doing so in love.