Friday I had an interesting encounter with 4 Mormons on my doorstep. It reminded me of my previous encounters with Mormons. This would take me all the way back to college.
My freshman year room mate in college was named Mark. He was from Salt Lake City. If I remember correctly his father was a Muslim and living in Bahrain at the time. His American mom lived in SLC. He spent much of his freshman year seeking the truth. During the course of the year he professed faith in Christ. Being a nominal Catholic engaging in a variety of sins at the time, I didn’t really care. He would borrow my tiny Gideon’s NT (the “littlest Bible” he’d call it) that I received years early while in elementary school, during school time (yes, the Gideons visited our public school!).
In addition to a 4 Spiritual Laws tract that ending up just wasting away in my desk drawer, he gave me a 10-12 page handout comparing the Bible, the Book of Mormon and Mormon doctrine. For some reason I didn’t throw it away.
Approximately a year after his conversion I was converted. As a new Christian I started taking some religion electives and one was about Religion in America. Our prof brought in some guest speakers to share with us and answer questions. When I knew the President of the Boston Mission was coming I dug up that handout and studied it.
I asked a lot of questions, most of which went unanswered. What I did get was an offer of the Book of Mormon if I would read it. I took it with the best of intentions, but fell asleep each time I started to read it. Let’s just say I never finished it. It was a frustrating encounter because I really didn’t get satisfying answers. He was one slippery kind of guy. If you ask me what I believe I’ll point you to the Westminster Confession of Faith. Mormons and Masons point you to obscure and confusing books and then when you summarize them they say “I don’t believe that.”
Fast forward about 15 years during my pastoral ministry in Winter Haven. I had a congregant named Tod who grew up in Wyoming and hasn’t met a Mormon ad he hasn’t responded to. One of his “ministries” is inviting them into his home to present them with the gospel. I think he’s been black listed so it might be time for him to move. Well one day he gave them my phone number. Thanks, Tod.
Mid-afternoon a sweet young lady called me as a result of Tod’s request. She may still remember he phone encounter with the Presbyterian pastor. What quickly became apparent to me was that she had never really read the Bible. While she encouraged me to read the Book of Mormon, I encouraged her to read the Bible to see what it really said and see if the BoM was consistent with it. Like the President of the Boston Mission, she pretty much avoiding giving me direct answers to questions. In her case it was not so much being slippery, but (I think) ignorance. She was in way over her head but wouldn’t admit it. It ended with a “would you pray to God to see if the BoM is the Word of God?” My answer was that I knew it was not on the basis of what the Bible teaches. Tod was ever so delighted to learn that the Mormons had actually called me.
Fast forward another decade and another part of the country. For the first time they rang my doorbell. There were 4 of them so it must have been a training team. There was one woman, who was largely silent. One guy spoke most of the time, but the guy in the back seemed to be the trainer and evidenced some disapproving frowns at times.
They offered to help me. I replied that perhaps I could help them as I stepped outside. I gave them fair warning that I was a Presbyterian pastor just in case they decided to head for more fertile ground. They did not see it for what it was because they really didn’t know what a Presbyterian pastor was.
I was a bit surprised that people sent out to share their faith “door to door” would have so little knowledge of any differences between them and orthodox Christians of various stripes. So, in response to their question I explained briefly some of the differences between Baptists and Presbyterians. When I mentioned that we believed in infant baptism one countered that it wasn’t fair since the kids didn’t have a choice. I responded with the dead people they were baptized for didn’t either. After his confusing response, I explained baptism as a sign & seal of the covenant of grace and the reality of justification by faith alone. Quick gospel presentation #1.
They expressed a desire to come in and pray with me as Christian brothers. I said that I did not consider them as they consider me. They were a little surprised, I think. I did not want to offer them hospitality since they came in the name of a cult (2 John) though some may disagree with me. This led me to offer a question hoping to clarify things.
My question to them regarding the eternal Son was met in the affirmative. This was interesting to me since historically they have denied that Jesus has been the Son from all eternity. They have seen Jesus as literally the first born son (therefore there was a time when he was not born, therefore not eternal, an Arian error) of God, and the rest of us are also sons of God as pre-existing souls. The main guy mentioned that we are sons of God and will all receive an inheritance, referring to Romans 8. I informed him that that context of Romans 8 was the doctrine of adoption. We, unlike Jesus, are sons by adoption. This initiated a brief tour of the covenants focusing on Jesus as the fulfillment of the covenants to Abraham & David (Mt. 1). Quick gospel presentation #2.
They then affirmed some version of salvation thru Christ and grace. But their version was essentially working hard to earn grace to supply our lack. I pressed them on this, attempting to bring the fact that they have a backwards understanding of grace. I briefly went over Ephesians 2 that we were dead in sins & trespasses but made alive by God in Christ, that we are saved by grace thru faith, apart from works, and do good works as a result not the cause. Blank stares after quick gospel presentation #3.
Since they were making no progress with me they resorted to the “would you be willing to pray, asking God if the BoM is true” routine. Once again I repeated that on the basis of Scripture it isn’t. We discussed the meaning of “those from another flock” in John 10. There was hand shaking as I expressed gratitude that they had at least some knowledge of the Bible (I didn’t mention how erroneous that knowledge was). At least they tried, briefly, to engage me on the basis of Scripture.
Each time I interact with Mormons they don’t answer direct questions. Sadly they don’t even know what orthodox Christianity believes. As a result they think they are completely orthodox. At times I am not sure if they are ignorant of what the LDS has historically believed, if the church’s doctrine is changing or if they are being just plain dishonest about what they teach. Each time they end with that request that you pray about the BoM. As a result, they make subjective, not objective appeals, which undermine & ignore the authority of Scripture to weigh our experience.
I wonder if I’ve now been blacklisted, or if they will come back with someone better prepared to actually talk about Scripture. I suspect it is the former.