Engaging With Mormons: Three Main Matters To Consider
In 1830, Joseph Smith founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS) with a congregation of 50 people, and only 6 official members. Fast forward to 2017, and the LDS Church now boasts around 6.5 million members in the United States and about 16 million church members world-wide. All of that to say –the Mormons are here, and for the foreseeable future they are here to stay. As Christians, many of us have Mormon friends, neighbors, co-workers, family members, or have even had missionaries in white shirts and black ties knock on our door asking us if we’d like to hear the “gospel” of Jesus Christ.
Many of us know that something is wrong with the Mormon faith, but because they look like us, talk like us, and even go to church like us, we usually pass them off as “basically Christians” or cower away in fear from lack of understanding. While there is much that could be said for engaging with Latter-Day Saints, let me just offer three main things the Christian needs to be aware of as they seek to love and speak truth into the lives of the Mormons in their midsts.
1. Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid: Mormons are absolutely not Christians.
Most Evangelicals in the United States that I have engaged with usually think of the Mormons as a sort of Christianity, just with The Book of Mormon sprinkled on top. Even at the Evangelical Seminary I attend, I have been ignorantly chastised in the classroom for requesting prayer that my Mormon friends would come to know Christ. Perhaps it is because Mormons use the same language as us (i.e. grace, repentance, atonement, etc.), or maybe it’s because by and large Mormons are the kindest people we may have ever met, but for some reason it seems that the majority of Evangelicals in America have bought into the lie that Mormonism can easily function under the umbrella of Christianity that Catholicism, Protestantism, and Eastern Orthodoxy do. This could not be farther from the truth.
Just to name a few problems of many, the LDS Church denies the doctrine of the Trinity, the doctrine of Original Sin, and the sufficiency of Christ alone for Salvation, all the while affirming Universalism and teaching that the Bible was corrupted quickly after the last apostle died in the first century and that all Christian churches since then have been what is categorized in The Book of Mormon as the “great and abominable church, which is the most abominable above all other churches: for behold, they have taken away from the gospel of the Lamb . . .” (1 Nephi 13:26, The Book of Mormon). The LDS faith holds that they are the restoration of the true Church of Jesus Christ because apparently when Jesus told Peter and the rest of the disciples that the gates of hell would not prevail against his church, he was bluffing (cf. Matt. 16:18).
On the most basic level, the LDS Church gets the Gospel wrong. There are hundreds and hundreds of examples of this but for the sake of brevity take a look at this one:
The Bible says . . .
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV)
The Book of Mormon says:
“For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23, The Book of Mormon)
While a Mormon may tell you that they are “saved by grace,” make no mistake –they do not believe that they are currently forgiven by faith in Jesus Christ, but rather that they will be awarded the grace of Jesus Christ and be forgiven after they have lived a “worthy” and “perfect” life by white-knuckling it for all their days. To put it in evangelical terms, they believe in “salvation by works” on steroids.
2. Educate Yourself.
Anyone who has been sharing the gospel with Mormons for a while can tell you that half of Mormon-ministry is teaching Mormons what their church actually believes as well as opening their eyes to the logical, factual, and ethical fallacies littered throughout their faith’s history. Most Mormons have no idea that Jesus never taught, but actually taught the opposite of the coveted LDS doctrine of Eternal Marriage; most Mormons have no idea that Joseph Smith and Brigham Young and a slew of other Mormon leaders were dirty old men with 30+ wives (bonus fact: Joseph Smith’s youngest wife was 14 when he himself was in his late 30s); most Mormons have no idea that up until 1978 the LDS Church’s leaders were huge proponents of racism towards African Americans and that even now The Book of Mormon itself is a racist book, espousing that when the Lord cursed the children of Canaan he turned their skin black (cf. Moses 7:8, The Book of Mormon); most Mormons have no idea that the history department at Brigham Young University doesn’t have a shred of archeological or historical evidence for the events which The Book of Mormon claims to have taken place in North America; and most Mormons have no idea how historically outrageous the claim is that the Old Testament and New Testament manuscripts were corrupted after the 1st Century (i.e. –there are plenty of atheist who reject the content of the 66 books of the Bible but would never contend against the historical reliability of the manuscripts themselves).
The point is this, if you are willing to educate yourself on the teachings of the Mormon faith, you can be used in incredible ways to open your Mormon neighbor’s eyes to the demonic nature of the LDS Church. By God’s grace, you might even get to share the true Gospel of Jesus Christ with them in the process: that Jesus loves sinners, and died so that they might have new life in Him and experience his forgiveness here and now. Below are some excellent resources to aid in this endeavor:
The Mormon Scrapbook: A Christian’s Guide For Reaching Latter-Day Saints by Daniel G. Thompson
Under The Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
“The Gospel For Mormons” by Apologia Studios
3. Welcome Them In With the Love of Christ.
My wife Sara and I love Mormon missionaries for a few reasons: 1) They are often times the sweetest people you’ll come across that week; 2) It’s a lazy-man’s evangelism –these men and women will literally come to your front door to hear the good news of Jesus Christ; 3) Mormon missionaries are ready to engage and discuss with you what they believe because they have been groomed to do so –there’s no “open door” that you need to look for with Mormon missionaries or even your Mormon neighbors, they’re ready to talk anytime you are.
In regards to missionaries that you meet or that come to your door, it’s important to remember that these men and women have paid their own way and have put two years of their life on hold to be in your city. Often times they are made fun of, honked at as they walk down the street, have Slurpees thrown at them (that’s a true story), and are even on occasion told to vacate the premises of businesses and the like. They are lonely, homesick, over worked and only allowed to contact their families on Mother’s Day and Christmas. With all that in mind, can you fathom how much it means to them when that young Baptist couple down the street has them over each week for a home cooked meal and loving conversation? When Sara and I have missionaries over we always pray before hand that the way we treat them would be remembered years down the road when they come in contact with another Christian, and that by God’s grace we might get an email from them one day saying they had surrendered their life to Christ. Mormon ministry is slow, often times you will see little visible fruit, but every conversation you have about their beliefs, what the Bible teaches, and the grace of Jesus that’s available to them, is all another pebble on the scale that might just get to a tipping point one day. Don’t give up. Be brave and invite them in or set up a time to have them over for dinner. These people need you to love them and engage them and welcome them into your homes with the love of Jesus Christ.
If you have any questions please don’t hesitated to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
David Gaskins is a Colorado-born nobody who loves telling others about Somebody. He graduated with a BA in Theology from Colorado Christian University and is currently earning his M.Div. at Denver Seminary. He and his beautiful bride Sara reside in Castle Rock, CO. and attend Calvary Church in Englewood, CO. David and Sara hope to plant a church in Salt Lake City so that Jesus might become non-ignorable in Utah.