|Can We Afford to Validate Mormonism?|
Now when the adversaries of Judah and Benjamin heard that the children of the captivity builded the temple unto the LORD God of Israel; Then they came to Zerubbabel and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them. Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither. But Zerubbabel and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel, said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God (Ezra 4:1-3)
Can We Fellowship With Mormons?
I was once approached by a Mormon leader who wanted me to join with him and his church to oppose pornography in the town where I pastored. My response to him was "I'm more afraid of Mormonism than I am pornography."
This Latter-day Saint was, of course, mystified by my answer. Im afraid my explanation-which seemed logical and consistent to mewas lost on him. At the same time, many Evangelicals do not understand why it is impractical for Christians to join with Mormons or other cultists in such endeavors.
Complicating the issue is the fact that Mormon leadership has reversed itself in the past seven or eight years. Where once the Mormon Church positioned itself as clearly outside the realm of mainstream Christianity, today it is very conciliatory, taking the position that Mormonism and "other streams of Christianity" have more in common than not. Throughout the country, Mormon leaders are soliciting the friendship of Christian clergy and in some cases even applying for membership in the local ministerial associations. Sometimes they are welcomed! Books such as We Are Christians Too! and, more recently, Are Mormons Christians? (the book concludes they are) are arguing that Mormons and Christians are brothers in the Christian faith.
Sometimes Christians succumb to the temptation to gloss over our differences with Mormonism in a very facile manner. In a recent development, Mormon leadership in Eastern Idaho asked to be part of the World Day of Prayer gathering. Not only were they invited, but an evangelical pastor, "speaking not for men, but for God," repented of his ill-will towards Mormons and called upon all evangelicals to do the same. While such action may appear laudable, the result is that it leaves people confused about the real issues which legitimately divide Mormons from orthodox Christians. In a similar situation, a ministerial group in Colorado invited Mormons to participate in Easter sunrise services, but denied access to the local ex-Mormon group.
Recently this newsletter dealt with why Mormonism is suddenly so interested in being perceived as "Christian." We documented the decline in the rate of growth of the Mormon Church within the United States and demonstrated that this decline was a result of the good job Christian apologists have done in warning the non-Mormon world about Mormon doctrine. We demonstrated that the Mormon Church has adopted a policy of "peace at home" so it can continue to make membership gains in the Third World. In other words, the Mormon Church wants to be viewed favorably by Christians in America where they are losing the battle for converts from Christian churches. That leaves it free to feed off the unwary in less aware lands. Their shift in emphasis to the Third World is working; in 1960 only 15% of Mormons lived outside the US, today half do.
Darl Anderson, a Mormon author, recently wrote a bookSoft Answers to Hard Questionswhich illustrates the strategy Latter-day Saint leadership has adopted to gain acceptance among the American Christian community. In it, Anderson says the purpose of public communication is to "promote public goodwill and positive attitudes (towards Mormonism) so that people will be more receptive to the blessings of the glorious Restoration." In other words he wants to conduct himself among Christians in a way which will make it possible to proselytize people who already are members of Christian churches. It is of interest that Anderson does a lecture series entitled "Win a Minister and Influence a Thousand."
Andersons opening sentence declares "A distinctive mark of a devoted Mormon is his burning desire to share the blessings of the glorious Restoration with others." It is self-evident that Andersons desire is to bring people into the Church of the Restorationthe Mormon Church. He devotes the book to describing ways in which to do that. His primary focus is upon dialoguing with Christian ministers in an attempt to get them to perceive Mormons as something other than a threat.
In a chapter from Andersons book titled, "How to Start Clergy Communication" he tells the following story:
At a monthly missionary report meeting of the Maricopa (Arizona) Stake, the sisters present, with tears in their eyes, told of two separate families who had been just so golden last week, but this week they had completely changed from attitudes of receptiveness to that of negative antagonism. . . .It was suggested that I go to the families and try to find out why. Each of the families readily explained the change came from talking with their ministers.
Anderson said that he decided to approach those ministers. At first they were openly hostile to him. After a while, however, they warmed to his gentle fellowshipping. He eventually persuaded them to let him join the local ministerial association. He continues:
The meetings were enjoyable and informative. They provided an excellent opportunity for considerable pleasant communication. Soon I was invited to serve on several committees.
Anderson said his actions made it possible to circulate a paper against the "God Makers" movie. He said his efforts "paid off in precious returns." Presumably the precious returns included the winning of people from the pastors churches.
In another example Anderson tells of winning a group of ministers in Palmyra, New York (where Mormonism was founded in 1830). He says:
When these ministers became convinced our motives were genuine, to be of service, to share understanding and good willnot to proselyte, the results were fruitful and rewarding.
I reiterate his stated goal: to promote goodwill so people will be favorably disposed to Mormonism s message. Andersons handbook, includes chapters like these:
"How to Make Friends of Clergy"
"LDS Sermon from a Protestant Pulpit"
"Ministers Children Join LDS Church"
"Bridges Between the Bible and the Book of Mormon"
"How Are the Apostle Paul and Joseph Smith Alike?"
"Love Thy Minister Neighbor"
In one Chapter"Do Mormons Steal Sheep?"Anderson tells of his conversation with a Methodist minister who was irritated because Mormon missionaries wanted to "steal his sheep." This was the conversation:
ANDERSON: What are they (the missionaries) going to do all day?
MINISTER: Steal my sheep.
ANDERSON: What will they say to your sheep?
MINISTER: Testify to them.
ANDERSON: Correct. The missionaries will bear their testimonies that Jesus Christ really lives and loves them, that He has spoken again from Heaven for their benefit and blessing, that He wants them to seek Him and serve Him, and that He will hear and answer their prayers. The missionaries will then do their best to get your sheep to kneel in prayer and ask the Lord if the message of the missionaries is true.
Of course what Anderson leaves out is that the missionaries message will be centered on the Mormon teaching that the potential proselytes should leave their church and join the Mormon Church. That is the only reason the missionaries are calling on them!
Andersons story does not represent what Mormon missionaries actually tell their proselytes. He is, at the very least. guilty of the sin of omissionand he is typical of Mormon leaders who are pressing for fellowship with Christians. We must not forget the stated purpose of the Mormon Church is to get people to leave their churches and become Mormons.
A recent personal experience illustrates this idea. I was in Evanston, Wyoming for a Sunday morning service. On Saturday night I challenged one of the towns two Stake Presidents this way: "President, wherever I go, I try to get Mormons to leave the Mormon Church and become Protestants." I did not say that insolently, but merely truthfully. I actually thought I was being courteous toh im. After all, as a religious leader in the city, he was entitled to know my intentions. I was doing what Paul did when he went to Mars Hill in Athens, to the synagogue in Corinth, and to the temple of Diana in Ephesus.
His reaction was unfathomable to me. Had he strongly asserted that I was wrong in my spiritual beliefs and was, therefore a danger to innocent souls, I could have understood him. We then could have discussed who was right and who was wrong. However, his reaction was to assert that it was wrong of me to try to get Mormons to leave the Church. When I pointed out to him that I was doing no less than what his own missionaries routinely did, he said, "Mormon missionaries dont do that." Now that mystified me. I asked, "Do you mean to say to me that no Mormon missionary ever tries to get a Baptist or a Presbyterian to leave their church and become a Mormon?" He said, "I never said that!"
You can waste a lot of time wondering how intelligent Mormons can come to the place where they want to win Christians to Mormonism while at the same time denying that is what they are up to, but you wont be able to answer the question. There is no explaining it; they are either deceived, or deceivers, or both. You cant figure it out and you do not need to. Your responsibility as an evangelical is clear. The Bible tells us what we are to do:
1. Love them.
2. Tell them the truth.
However, one thing is certainYou must not validate their spiritual condition!
When we fellowship with Mormons in such things as public worship, or when we send signals to people who are ignorant of the real methods, intent, and doctrine of Mormonism, we confuse potential victims. That is both counterproductive and ungodly. At its best it is naive and devoid of wisdom.
As evangelicals charged with taking the gospel to a lost and dying world, we must be both wise as serpents and gentle as doves. When you strip away the superficial public posturing, we must remember the Shema of Mormonism is this:
All other churches are wrong; all their creeds are an abomination in gods sight; and all who profess those creeds are corrupt. (Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 2.19)
Mormon scripture turns on this verse. It is the seminal verse of Mormonism). In this verse, God supposedly answered the heartfelt prayer of the young Joseph Smith and chose him to be the prophet of the restoration.
What is a Reasonable, Evangelical approach to Mormonism?
If we are to dialogue effectively with Latter-day Saints, we have to first establish our perspective is biblical, not social. We are not discussing how nice Mormons are. We will stipulate that by and-large, they may be very nice, patriotic, and even God-fearing people. That is not the issue. The crux of the issue is best understood when evangelicals take the perspective towards Mormons that the Apostle Paul took towards Jews: He loved them; he complimented their religious fervor, he wished they were saved; he knew they were not. That is exemplified by his statement in the book of
Obviously, we must live with and work with Latter-day Saints. We need to be good neighbors. We need to respect and honor them as fellow human travelers who agree with us on many moral issues. But, our highest calling towards them must be concerned, not for their citizenship, but for their souls.
I understand why some Christians get confused dealing with Latter-day Saint leaders. It is so hard for us to understand that such sincere and nice people can be so deceived in spiritual matters. We want so much for them to be OK. We love them. But they are not OK spiritually. They have put confidence in a doctrinal system that falls short of bringing them to salvation.
Mormonism is not Protestantism with doctrinal problems; It is as different from Christianity as Hinduism or Islam. It brings another gospel, with another spirit, and it produces another Jesus.
Earlier I said you can waste a lot of time wondering about the double-minded approach our Latter-day Saint friends take towards us. Their thinking in this matter is so confusing and so impossible for us to understand, that we are tempted to believe we may have misjudged their spiritual goals. Be sure that we have not. To demonstrate that one only needs to open Mormon scripture. The official attitude towards the rest of Christendom has not changed.
It is vital that we remember Mormonism views all Christendom as apostate. Calling itself the Church of the Restoration, Mormonism declares that it only has purpose if Christendom is to-tally apostate. To this very day that has not changed. The Churchs position is exemplified by the 100-page introduction to its current edition of its official seven-volume History of the Church. In it, we find the following remarks.
It is a most startling announcement with which the Prophet Joseph Smith begins his message to the world. Concerning the question, he asked God"Which of all the sects is right, and which shall I join? He says:
I was answered that l must join none of them for they were all Wrong, and the personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; they teach for doctrines the commandments of men; having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.
That is a tremendous arraignment of all Christendom. It charges a condition of universal apostasy from .... . .While the boldness of the young prophet is astounding, upon reflection it must be conceded .... . .nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints...there was no possible excuse for the introduction of a new Christian sect. But if men through apostasy had corrupted the Christian religion and lost divine authority to administer the ordinances of the gospel, it was of utmost importance that a new dispensation of the true Christian religion should be given to the world. (History of the Church, Vol. 1. p. XL)
Today, it is popular to treat all ideas as though they were as good as any others. Dr. Allan Bloom, University of Chicago professor and author of the best selling book, The Closing of the American Mind, points out how unpopular it is for anyone to stand up for absolute values. He writes:
There is one thing a professor can be absolutely certain of: every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative. ...The danger they have been taught to fear from absolutism is not error but intolerance...The true believer is the real danger. (p 25)
Mounting social pressure is persuading Evangelicals to be silent or accommodating to a variety of questionable ideas: homosexuality; pre and extramarital sex; abortion. But those of "The Book" have always had to weigh the cost of being popular against the cost of being well thought of. Jesus said, "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!" (Luke 6:26) And Paul says explicitly, "friendship of the world is enmity with God" (James 4:4)
For evangelical Christians the danger today seems to be that we will be too accommodating. That we will not hold fast to sound doctrine. Some have even suggested that evangelicals have done wrong by building doctrinal walls which exclude the cults. That is amazing. Those who think that dont understand the power of deception. Shepherds who do not protect their flockswith doctrinal wallswill lose their flocks to the cults.
The reason Jesus and the Apostles consistently spoke sharply to the Pharisees doubtless can be found in the understanding that false doctrine spreads like gangrene. (Il Tim. 2:17) For this reason, the Apostle Paul repeatedly emphasizes the need to deal with error with sound doctrine. Doctrinal differences are not secondary issues in fellowship. It is only on such stable ground that communion can occur. Speaking of "those of the circumcision" (which would be those who wanted to retain legalism within the framework of Christian liberty), Paul says: Their mouths must be stopped, because they subvert whole households, teaching things they ought ~ (Titus 1.11)
Mormon leadership wants to build bridges with the Christian community so that Mormon missionaries can pull Christians into Mormonism. That is irrefutable by common evidence. One example was related to me by my friend, Pastor Tim Moen from Emmett, Idaho. He said two Mormon missionaries called on him and told him they just wanted to get to know him and to have fellowship with him. He engaged them amiably (and yet wisely) letting them ramble on. Because they were naive (and perhaps youthfully arrogant) they eventually related how some of their companions had been able to make friends with a Baptist pastor and wound up converting three or four of his congregation. False, unbiblical communion will open up weak Christians to proselytizing Mormons. When we stand on podiums together in Easter, Christmas, and World Day of Prayer meetings, we tell ungrounded Christians that spiritual fellowship (which for Mormons includes the missionary discussions) are OK. We cause our weak brothers to stumble.
On the other hand, and from my perspectiveworse, is the fact that validating Mormonism publicly makes it very difficult for us to evangelize Mormons. We remove the urgency from our message to them. They need to flee Mormonism. But when Evangelical pastors worship with Mormons, that urgency is undermined. Would the Apostles have held a public prayer meeting with Pharisees? Should we invite the Bahais? The Buddhists? The Native American Shamans? The Muslims? The New Age gurus? The White Witches? I think not.
Im still more afraid of Mormonism than l am pornography. Those of us who truly love Latter-day Saints must not countenance such well-intentioned, but undiscerning activity. If there is any apologizing to be done, it is to be done by pastors who do not protect their flocks from wolves who come disguised as Christian brothers to seduce unwary sheep.
And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it. For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.
Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:
For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full. (IIJohn 6-11)
Our Faith Cant be Watered Down!
On January 19, 1976, something so amazing and unexpected happened to me that it was days later before I began to understand the transformation that had occurred, and even now after all these years, I am still amazed and overcome by the gift that I received that night. After two years of fighting with God, I responded to an altar-call and received Jesus as my personal savior.
That experience changed my life forever. I still did not understand such things as the triune nature of God, and it has taken years for me to even begin to understand His grace. But this one thing I do knowwhich I did not know before that nightI am saved by Gods grace. I know He loves me just the way I am. If I worked my fingers to the bone in His service, His love for me would not change even one iota. Before that night, I loved God and was trying my hardest to please Him, but after 30 years in the Mormon Church, I had never comprehended His all-consuming love forme.
The Mormon Church has changed in many ways since I left 16 years ago. When I was a Mormon, I took great pride in Mormonism and I wasnt the least bit interested in being considered a "Christian." I knew what I had was far superior to what mere Christians had. I had the full, unadulterated truth. It is amazing to me to watch the Mormon Church in action now going to great lengths and using tremendous financial resources to prove to the world that they are as Christian as any other group.
Because the Church desires Christians to view them differently, it is necessary to ask "Has Mormonism changed?" "Is it really just another Christian church with some offbeat practices and beliefs?" "Has it now come into line with orthodox Christianity?" As I look at Mormonism I cant see that anything inherent to Mormon belief has changed. It is just attempting to look better to Christians. The Church wants Mormonism to be easier to swallow. Perhaps Church leadership thinks they can get by with it in this day and age when we are asked to swallow so much.
I am concerned that many unwary Christians will fall fort he Mormon ploy. It is vital that we understand the difference between being a Mormon and the religion of Mormonism. I have never questioned that Mormons are truly warm, caring people. They do many honorable and virtuous things. But that does not change the fact that Mormonism itself is a cruel, relentless taskmaster that sucks the life out of its victims. Many of them would never admit it, but I know that it is true because I have been there. Worst of all, Mormonism keeps Mormons from having a personal, grace-filled life in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the 16 years that I have been a Christian, I have not always been quick to share my faith. At times I have been downright cowardly. I have spent six stress-filled years going to college and many times I have not spoken up when I should have. However my faith in Jesus has never wavered. I have loved Him when Ive sung in front of hundreds of people and felt Him moving in mighty and miraculous ways; I have loved Him in the depths of despair as I have kissed my beloved grandson good-bye as he went to be with Jesus.
I am convinced that this faith that I have found cannot be watered down. I love Mormons and Jesus surely loves them more, but they are not brothers and sisters in the Lord. The god that they serve is not the Jesus of the Bible. I am afraid that if we dont understand that, we will succumb to their pleas for unity and thousands of Mormons just like me will never see the need to find their own personal relationship with Jesus Christ.