Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Talking To Mormons

I haven't blogged much about mormonism for some time. the early years after we left are marked by a lot of blogging about mormonism as a catharsis from being in a cult. People still know my background and that background shapes a lot of what I think now, why I am suspicious of authoritarian religious models and top down hierarchy. I don't take anything anyone says at face value without first studying it for myself.

Anyway. a friend of Facebook had some questions about talking to mormons and the kind of questions to ask. Encountering a mormon family or a pair of missionaries can be befuddling. They seem so nice and sincere and use so many word that we hear in the church. I put together a little summary for her and thought it might be helpful for others who are looking to minister to people trapped in mormonism, how to talk to them, the questions to ask, the need for specific definitions. This will hopefully be helpful to others. The so-called Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has shifted marketing strategy to try to gloss over the enormous differences between mormonism and orthodox Christianity and far too many Christians have given little thought to the central, exclusive teachings and doctrines of Christianity. Ignorance of Scripture and doctrine is a road to being deceived, something cults like the mormon "church" exploit. What follows is a slightly modified version of my Facebook message to her, it is very cursory but it gives a good starting point....

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In talking to mormons and asking questions the first answer is never enough. Who is Jesus? The Son of God. Ok so far so good. What does that mean? That is where the differences come up. The issue a lot of Christians run into is that we use many of the same words as mormons but they mean different things, so a solid definition is critical to any meaningful conversation.

I usually lead with questions about the person and nature of God the Father and Christ. Are they unique? Have they always been as they are? Can mankind become like them? That can burn up a lot of time. It is critical to know what Christianity teaches and why. It is also helpful to know what mormonism teaches, namely that God was once a man, Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers and that mankind can attain godhood. Questions like "Has God always been as He is now?", properly couched, is a tough one to answer because the mormons know that the answer is no but they don't like to say it. Other good questions have to do with salvation, how is a sinner saved? The proper mormon response is a lot more complicated than faith. This is from the official LDS webpage:

Salvation from Sin. To be cleansed from sin through the Savior's Atonement, an individual must exercise faith in Jesus Christ, repent, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (see Acts 2:37-38). Those who have been baptized and have received the Holy Ghost through the proper priesthood authority have been conditionally saved from sin. In this sense, salvation is conditional, depending on an individual's continuing in faithfulness, or enduring to the end in keeping the commandments of God (see 2 Peter 2:20-22). 

One of the issues that mormons bring up is that "God always used prophets to lead His people so doesn't it make sense to have prophets today?" The response to that is the beginning of the 1st chapter of Hebrews which I have found many mormons and even their missionaries have never noticed.

Mormons are pretty cagey about their real beliefs. The Book of Mormon, a ludicrous book that is pretty obviously (in retrospect) the work of Joseph Smith, contains very few distinctive mormon doctrines. Things like vicarious baptism for the dead, holy undergarments that are supposed to provide protection, the idea of Jesus and Satan being brothers, the exaltation of man becoming a god, polygamy, etc. are not found in the BoM but are found in their other canonical works, the Doctrine & Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price.

There are a couple of good webpages I use for reference. I have a lot of the actual materials but these groups specialize in witnessing to mormons:

Utah Lighthouse Ministry

Mormonism Research Ministry

CARM's page on mormonism

God never sinned

Hope that helps, I am happy to provide any other info you can use!

1 comment:

Bethany in Mid-MO said...

Thanks, Arthur! This is helpful information!

Bethany