The Special Problems of Talking to Mormons
The Special Problems of Talking to Mormons
"I picked up a copy of your book in a Christian bookstore that I frequent. I must admit that I bought your book in order to study what you were saying about the Church and understand why you had left it [so I would be] better equipped to disprove what you were teaching
. Instead what you wrote just made me desire to learn more
"I just want to let you know that there are those that you do reach . There are still a lot of questions that go through my mind but . I want you to know that I have received salvation."Bruce
Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, said men live on the moon. Why he said that, no one knows, but he did. He said the moon-dwellers were about six feet tall, dressed like Quakers, and lived to be a thousand years old. (1)
Of course no one believes that today. Well, almost no one. My friend Bob Bryant had a conversation with an otherwise intelligent engineer who found a way to believe in Smiths "moon people."
Bob and the engineer were discussing the prophecies of Joseph Smith. Bob mentioned several of the Smiths old prophecies that did not come to pass including the prophecy that we would find inhabitants on the moon. Bob said, "Look, weve been to the moon. Weve sent astronauts there. There are no tall Quakers."
The engineer had to admit that it looked like Joseph Smith had been wrong on that one. But, a few days later, approaching Bob tentatively, he reopened the conversation. "I know youre not going to like this," he said. "But Ive been thinking maybe the men Joseph Smith talked about live under the surface of the moon. He may yet be vindicated."
Bob swears the guy was serious. And I believe it, because I have had dozens of similar conversations with Latter-day Saints who were otherwise reasonable, but who became irrational when it came to their faith.
How, you ask, can a bright, educated person swallow something like that? How can he be so dedicated to a system that he is willing to believe almost anything?
I asked that question of Dr. Walter Martin, a man known throughout the world as a foremost authority of cults. Dr. Martin is the author of The Kingdom of the Cults and The Maze of Mormonism. We met at a terrace coffee shop overlooking the golf course at Elkhorn in Sun Valley, Idaho, where we were both addressing a convention on Mormonism.
"Jim," Dr. Martin said with characteristic enthusiasm, "the problem is that Mormonism has altered the thinking process of Mormons in the area of religion! A Mormon can think very rationally about his job, what clothes to wear, and things like that, but when you push the button on religion he stops thinking and gives you what he has been taught."
"You mean he fails to think reasonably about his spiritual life?"
"Thats it exactly."
I told Dr. Martin that his observation confirmed my own experience with Latter-day Saints. "Its almost as though they are blind in the area of the spirit."
"Its worse than that. They have given up their right to think independently. They cannot hear spiritually." Paul said, If our gospel is hid, it is hid because the god of this world had blinded their minds. "
The "god of this world" is Satan. Interesting. Sipping coffee on a sun deck in Sun Valley with Dr. Martin, watching swallows sweep out across the golf course, the idea of Satan deceiving millions of people seemed like a distant thunder. Soon I would be returning to the workaday world of pastoring in Mormondom. I knew from personal experience the frustration of dealing with a people who totally and blindly submit to Church hierarchy.
I thought of a young girl I had recently spoken to. I asked her to explain why the Book of Mormon states that Jesus was born at Jerusalem, when historically He was born in Bethlehem. She, of course, did not believe it said that. I remembered the fear in her eyes when I showed the passage to her in her own Book of Mormon. (2) She was shaken and perplexed.
But a few days later when I saw her, she was again full of confidence. "I talked to my bishop about the Book of Mormon passage," she said.
"Great," I replied. "What did he say?"
"Well," she said, "Jesus was born in Bethlehem the bishop admits that. But because Bethlehem is only twelve miles from Jerusalem, its technically okay to say He was born at Jerusalem."
Dr. Martin interrupted my reflection. "Talking about spiritual things to Mormons," he said, "is like trying to describe a rainbow to a blind man. You are talking about a rainbow to a guy who doesnt know what color is."
I think the biggest hurdle for the evangelical Church is to get past the idea that Mormons are Protestants who simply have some doctrinal problems. Nothing could be further from the truth. Mormonism is a religious system that stands in direct opposition to basic teachings of the Bible. For example, Mormonism teaches:
Life in the Church/State
Mormonism advertises the virtues of Mormon family life, refusing to look at the facts about deteriorating Mormon society. For example, Utah, which is 67% Mormon, records divorce rates, child abuse rates, teen suicide rates, rape rates, and child homicide rates consistently higher than the national average. (10)
The Mormon Church wields remarkable power over its membership, especially in the heartland of Mormondom where it owns both of Salt Lake Citys daily newspapers, the largest TV and radio station, most of the downtown real-estate, and the biggest department store. The Mormon Church also owns Utahs largest life insurance company, has interests in railroads and sugar refineries, and it takes in more than $3 million a day. (11) And a Mormons life is no less regulated outside Utah. At one time or another, Mormon volunteer laborers have manned Church-owned farms in the Midwest, canneries on the West Coast, a 300,000-acre cattle ranch in Florida, a peanut butter factory in Texas, and an apartment complex in New York. (12)
In Utah, the Mormon Church controls the state legislature and dominates nearly every municipal government. All of Utahs U.S. Congressmen are Mormons.
The Revelation Question
Mormonism is rooted in what it calls "The Restoration" the idea that all spiritual authority was lost from the earth with the death of the last apostle in the first century. God "restored" the Church of Christ through Joseph Smith. Joseph was led to gold plates by an angel named Moroni, and translated the plates "by the gift and power of God" into the Book of Mormon.
Yet such restoration is apparently never final in Mormonism. God seems to change His mind on issues such as polygamy and priesthood. For, in spite of the views of such modern Mormon authorities as Ezra Taft Benson that it is "the most correct book on earth," (13) the Book of Mormon has been heavily edited since it was first published in 1830.
Mormons believe that God inspired the Bible, and according to the Eighth Article of Faith it is the Word of God, "insofar as it is translated correctly."
In other words, God inspired the Bible but He did not preserve it. The Book of Mormon and other Latter-day scripture exists to restore "the many plain and precious truths which have been lost from the Bible."
High-ranking Mormons can speak the "Word of the Living Prophet" and such utterance is as binding as Scripture. Brigham Young said, "I have never preached a sermon and sent it out to the children of men, that they cannot call Scripture. Let me have a privilege of correcting a sermon, and its as good a Scripture as they deserve." (14)
So Mormonism claims, as the Church of the Restoration, to be Gods answer to what it sees as confusion among the denominations. Mormonism, however, clarifies nothing. It is in fact, extremely complicated and confusing. It is full of change and paradox. For example:
A Packaged Religion
People who are interested in Mormonism are told to pray about the legitimacy of the whole package of authority sources that include Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, the current Prophet, and the Mormon Church. The faithful Mormon fails to differentiate between God and the Church. It will be a source of wonder to him that you are able to do so.
Mormon converts are required to forfeit their right to question authority. They are told to trust the "feeling" they get in response to their investigative prayer. Once they make that purely subjective determination (called their "testimony"), they have found "The Truth." They are to believe whatever they are told from that point.
Eventually (but never immediately) the Mormon convert will be asked to believe in polytheism, polygamy, and bizarre temple ceremonies such as symbolically slitting ones own throat for faithlessness. When they question these things, they question their entire commitment to the Church. Once they have "their testimony" they are taught to trust that subjective experience in the face of all logic and reason. Each month a "fast and testimony" meeting is held for Mormons to gather together to reinforce their commitment to the Church by publicly declaring their allegiance to the Church and the Prophet. (16)
Foundation of Fear
We must never forget that Mormons themselves are victims of a system and organization a church. Until we realize how much of a delusion Mormonism is, we will not have the reservoir of patience required to deal with our Latter-day Saint friends.
We need to know how deeply the intimidation of Mormonism goes. Christians who have never experienced the bondage of a cult system cannot easily realize what these people are up against.
Since I wrote my first book on this subject, Beyond Mormonism: An Elders Story, I have received thousands of letters and phone calls from Mormons. One common denominator runs through all the conversations: fear. Black, sticky fear. Paralyzing fear. Mormons who want out cant get out. Those who choose to brave the odds and leave their Church often pay heavy prices. Some lose their families.
I wonder that any escape. In fact, without a great undertaking of grace, they would not escape. But they do, often with brilliant displays of courage:
A thirteen-year-old girl from Murray, Utah wrote me to say that she had accepted Christ three-and-a-half months earlier. Her parents are "twice-a-week" temple Mormons. "The tension is building very quickly in our home," she wrote. She added, "Even if I have to lose my family [for Christ] it will be worth it."
A 74-year-old woman from Kansas, after she and her husband made the decision to leave the Mormon church wrote: "Home teachers are still coming. We wish they would not . They tell us they are commanded to come . Could you tell us what excommunication is [like]? We dont want to have to explain to a bunch of elders . Please what is our next step?"
A Mormon woman from Texas said since she has been born again, she has experienced many abuses from the Mormon Church. And she has suffered at the hands of her husband who is a Stake Missions President. "They tell me I am a follower of Satan and threaten me. My husband has hit me a number of times and left bruises. I cant get far enough from the Church to get well or recover from being brainwashed . Can you please, please be my friend?"
A few days ago I received a letter from a young airman stationed in Maine. He is a Mormon who is struggling with his faith. Something is lacking, but he doesnt know what it is. He sneaked into a Baptist church one evening where he saw a magazine with my testimony in it. He wrote me full of questions. He opened his letter fearfully: "Im confused and upset . I am afraid to write you, but the Spirit says, Do not be afraid. dont not send anyone to see me, please. I am afraid. But you can send me a letter . Writing to you has been one of the hardest things I have ever done I cant talk to anyone."
I didnt urge him to leave Mormonism. I urged him to get to know Jesus Christ. To read the Bible. To visit an evangelical church. I asked him to risk talking to a Christian pastor.
A Call to Compassion
I dont get impatient with my Mormon friends who struggle with the stickiness of escaping Mormonism. Rather, I weep for them and pray for them. I realize that "our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (See Ephesians 6:12.)
The first step to helping Mormons is to come to terms with the fact that Mormonism is a system hatched in hell and birthed in the occult necromancy of Joseph Smith. The next chapter of this book documents the dark beginnings of Mormonism. This is a discussion that is not pleasant, but is necessary. Mormonism makes it necessary. Hilary, Bishop of Poitiers, said in the fourth century that the errors of the heretics force us to discuss repugnant things. (19) Jude said he would prefer to speak of our common faith, but he was "compelled" to contend for the accuracy of the faith (see Jude 3).
I want you to know how Mormons think. What they feel. How they have come to the doctrinal abyss of Mormonism.
Knowing what you are up against will give you the foundation for deciding if you are willing to pay the sacrificial price of loving Mormons.
I think you can do it.
And I believe you will be motivated for the task by preparation. Knowledge is a source of enthusiasm.
There is, within Latter-day Saints I meet, a growing hunger. A cry for deliverance.
God has heard their cry.
Perhaps you will be the instrument He will use to bring a Mormon soul to Jesus Christ.
1. The Young Womans Journal, "The Inhabitants of the Moon," 1892, Vol. 3, p. 263.
2. Alma 7:10.
3. Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, Bookcraft, Salt Lake City, 1979, pp. 193, 589-590, 751.
4. Journal of Discourses, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1966, Vol. 1, pp. 50-51.
5. Journal of Discourses, Vol. 4, pp. 259-260: Vol. 1, 345-346.
6. McConkie, pp. 238-239; Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, p. 3.
7. W. Cleon Skousen, The First 2,000 Years, Bookcraft, pp. 355-356.
8. Speech at Brigham Young University, Jan. 10, 1984.
9. Speech at Brigham Young University, March 2, 1982.
20% of all murder victims in Utah are under the age of 15 five times the national average (Salt Lake Tribune, Aug. 13, 1982).
Authorities have dubbed Utah "The fraud capital of the world." U.S. Attorney Brent Ward says 10,000 investors lost $200 million between 1980-1982 in Utah-connected frauds (Salt Lake Tribune, "Swindlers Find Utah Easy Prey," Aug. 25, 1985).
The divorce rate in Utah is consistently higher than the national average (World Almanac, 1986, pp. 261, 779).
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, Utah marriages last only two-thirds as long as those of the nation as a whole. And the most common age for women to divorce in Utah is age 20 (Denver Post, "Utah: Inside the Church State," Nov. 20-28, 1982, Special Report, p.10).
Forty percent of all women marry in their teens in Utah and out of those who have children in their teens, two thirds are pregnant out of wedlock (Los Angeles Times, June 26, 1983, Part I. P. 25).
Teen suicide in Utah is 20% higher than the national average (Salt Lake Tribune, "Suicide Among Utah Teens Continues Grim Climb," July 8, 1985, p. 8B).
Utah is the 34th most populous state, but ranks 13th in child abuse in the nation (Salt Lake Tribune, Child Abuse on Rise in Predominately Mormon Utah," June 26, 1982, p.6A).