Preparing for the Encounter
Preparing for the Encounter"I, like your wife, was raised as a devout Mormon attending all Church functions as a youngster, graduating from seminary classes while attending high school in Utah, and finally graduating from BYU."I like so many, was a disappointment (to myself and my family) when I married outside the Church."Your book has helped me to finally come to grips with the hidden feelings of failure I experienced when leaving the Church."Elizabeth
I recently received a pitiful letter from a Christian girl who had fallen in love with a Mormon a "returned missionary." Julie had been raised in a Christian home, the daughter of an evangelical minister, but she hadnt been educated about Mormonism.
Julies new boyfriend, Charles, was handsome, dedicated to his convictions, articulate. And he was leading her into Mormonism.
No one had inoculated Julie against Mormonism, because talking about someone elses faith is considered "negative." No one ever told Julie, for example, that Mormons (as we will see later) believe in the existence of many gods. Since no one had mentioned the pagan polytheism of Mormonism, Julie had grown up regarding Mormonism as simply another denomination.
Charles, of course, was not about to bring up the subject of polytheism. Rather, as she wrote me, Charles "bore her his testimony" from "the bottom of his heart" with "every fiber of his being," believing that Joseph Smith was a True Prophet of God who restored the One True Church.
Charles told her how the Three Witnesses had sworn that they had seen the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. (He did not tell her that all three had been excommunicated from the Mormon Church after they lost confidence in Joseph Smith and accused him of lying, adultery, and "deep error and blindness.") (1)
Nor did Charles mention occult temple ceremonies or that polygamy would be restored in heaven. He simply stressed the "wonderful Mormon family life" (which, as we will see, is not borne out by statistics) and led her through a series of often twisted proof texts about water baptism, priesthood, and prophecy.
It was a garden path for Julie.
Now she wrote me a tear-stained letter saying, "Everything I have believed is under attack. Mormonism seems so logical. And I cant think my way out. Can you please help me?"
Moved as I was by Julies cry for help, unfortunately I could be of little help. She did not want to break away from Mormonism. By the time she wrote she was already convinced that Mormonism was "logical" and that it would be immature to continue to hold onto the faith of her childhood.
I read Julies letter to my eighteen-year-old daughter. "Dad," Erin asked with anguish, "why was Julie so uninformed?" My daughter was frustrated that the young womans family and church had sent her unprepared into a world full of cult missionaries. My daughter knew what Julies parents apparently did not know: that by the time she came home asking questions, she was already neck-deep in doctrinal discussions.
I find it pitiful that the daughter of an evangelical pastor had to write a stranger to get elementary information about Mormonism.
An Hour of Decision
Julie didnt get training in Christian foundation thinking because our Christian society fails to recognize the attack of the cults. We do not fully understand the threat of the cults. (2)
Confronting cults is distasteful. Dealing with heresy has always been distasteful. But to fail to take appropriate action against heresy is an equally dangerous extreme. Consider:
Jude said he would have preferred to write about Christians common faith, but that he was constrained to "contend for the faith," because godless men had "slipped in among you" (Jude 3-4.)
Peter wrote of "false teachers among you [who would] introduce destructive heresies" (2 Peter 2:1-2).
John said the spirit of antichrist would spring up from within the Christian Church. That men would rise up within Christianity and lead people out of the churches. "If they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us" (1 John 2:19).
The apostle Paul called these men "savage wolves" who would spring up within the Church, men who would rise up and "distort the truth in order to draw away disciples" (Acts 20:29-31).
"Keep reminding" the people of orthodoxy, Paul said; "correctly handle the word of truth" and prevent the spread of nonsense. Of men like Hymenaeus and Philetus (who taught heresy about the Resurrection) he said, "Their teaching will spread like gangrene [and] destroy the faith of some" (2 Timothy 2:14-18).
"There are many rebellious people deceivers [who] must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households," he told Titus (Titus 1:10-11).
Those of us who encounter heresy do so not because we enjoy it, but because it is necessary. Hilary of Poitiers, writing in the fourth century, said:
The errors of the heretics force us to deal with unlawful matters, to scale the perilous heights, to speak unutterable words, to trespass on forbidden ground. (3)
We need to wake up to the fact that we are in a war for souls. The Mormon Church fields 29,000 full-time missionaries (about as many as the entire evangelical Church) and these missionaries garner half to three-quarters of their converts from members of Christian churches.
Cults thrive because the Church of Christ allows them to do business without intellectual challenge. We march with determination toward the Promised Land, "while the Devil takes the hindmost."
The tragedy of the cults manifests itself in many forms. Like the pain of a distraught woman whose daughter was marrying a Mormon. Like Julie, in the first part of this chapter, the girl had been raised in a Christian home and sent to a Christian college where she fell in love with a returned Mormon missionary.
"Pastor Spencer," the woman told me, "my daughter says I cant even go to her wedding. Her fiancé tells us that after the wedding, there will be no more discussion of religion. We tried to talk to him but you wont believe what he told us."
"Well," she sniffed, "he said he knew how we felt. But we needed to remember that he was a returned missionary, and he was used to watching families cry as he led their children into Mormonism."
Three Basic Decisions
If we are going to meet the challenge of the cults, we must make some elementary decisions:
First, we must decide to defend ourselves against the cults. Many denominations will not mention the word Mormonism, much less take an open stand against it. None of the Christian television networks speak openly about Mormonism. As an individual Christian, you must decide what your position is going to be.
Second, we must prepare for the battle. That means we must educate ourselves. Personally, it means you must read and study the cults and the biblical antidote. Corporately, the Church of Christ must preach and teach openly against cults. "Doctrine" can be a musty-sounding word. Julie, though she was the daughter of an evangelical minister, had no idea of the basic Christian theology of the Trinity. She was duck soup for such arguments as: "If there is only one God, to whom did Jesus pray in the Garden of Gethsemane?" We have to pay the price to educate ourselves and others.
Third, we must learn patience. One psychological study on "snapping" (the phenomenon of extreme social alteration required to join a cult, see Appendix D) indicates that it may take years to jettison all the hang-ups of the cult. I find it takes as much as five years for an active Mormon to come out of the Mormon Church.
But no matter how long it takes we must pay the price of confrontation. If we dont go, whom will God send?