Chapter Six

Encountering the Three Mormon Types

"Thank God I chose to read your book! After seven active years and dedicated years in the Mormon Church, I had found myself depressed, confused, and with many doubts and questions. [And I discovered] how little the leaders answer your questions…. I feel cheated, deceived, and spiritually raped by a doctrine and philosophy that I embraced and trusted. It has been more than difficult to break away from the hold that Joseph Smith and his Book of Mormon have on me….
"It’s hard to believe that those seemingly sincere and gentle men could continue to perpetuate such a lie. It’s also hard to believe that those I have come to dearly love may remain blindly devoted to this deception, for I believe that what I have discovered will have little impact on them…."—Kathryn

Each of the three distinct Mormon types requires a different approach. I sincerely believe each type can be reached. We bear the responsibility of approaching each with as much love, vigor, and accuracy as we can muster.

On the other hand, we must remember that ultimately only the individual himself can make the final decision. Every man will be responsible for his own soul at the judgment. In any missionary encounter three persons are involved: the witnessee, the witnesser, and God. You are only responsible for your individual role. If it is biblical, then you have done all you can do. As my friend Charles Trombly, a former Jehovah’s Witness, says, "We are in sales; God is in management. Don’t try to do His job." Paul said it this way: "One waters, another plants, but God gives the increase."

We can be sure, when we obey God’s injunction to "go into all the world and make disciples," that He will attend us with gifts of grace to make it possible for those we encounter to hear and respond. Therefore, we do our best in the most godly way we can, and then we leave the results in the hands of God.

The Discussion with the True Believer

The True Believer, in one way, is the easiest of all with whom to deal because he is the least likely to listen!

My advice in dealing with True Believers is to keep your expectations low, and to witness with great boldness.

Keeping your expectations low means to follow sales manager Robert Ringer’s unexpected injunction to "maintain a positive attitude by anticipating a negative outcome." When you understand that most sales calls do not result in sales, you will be more likely to risk witnessing. Witnessing really is salesmanship – presenting the good news in a package that can be heard, understood, and believed. But most missionary encounters do not result in converts. That’s a fact. Jesus said, "Straight is the gate, and narrow the way that leads to eternal life and few there be who find it." Paul said, "Through the foolishness of preaching, some are saved." That means that whenever you encounter True Believers you must understand that there is little chance they are about to change. They are the most firmly entrenched in Mormonism.

By deciding to be obedient, whether or not you get to see results, you will be emboldened. This can be a great evangelistic tool. Let me illustrate:

Mary is not a Mormon, but I am going to include her story because it illustrates boldness as a tool for dealing with any cult. Mary is a missionary for the Unification Church. She first contacted me at my office, representing her self as a "Christian worker." I quickly sensed her affiliation and asked her point blank, "Are you a member of the Unification Church?"

"Yes, I am," she replied. "But I don’t want to talk to you about that. I want to talk to you about some political concerns…."

"Well," I said, "that would be wasting your time and mine. I am very familiar with the Unification Church and with the front organizations like CAUSA – and I’m not interested."

"Just like that?"

"Just like that."

"May I ask why?"

"You may, but I’m not sure you want to. Look, here’s the nub of the problem. You and I are on different teams. I think you are in emotional and psychological bondage to a spirit of Antichrist. And it is going to do us no good to discuss anything."

Mary was taken aback. "How can you say those things?"

"My dear, I say those things after much study and prayer. Your leaders are false prophets who keep thousands brainwashed while humiliating them by sending them out to sell flowers."

In her missionary endeavors, Mary had probably never been spoken to so directly.

"You sound very sure of yourself," she said.

"I am very sure of myself. Here is my message for you. ‘It’s not too late. Repent! Flee the wrath to come. Flee the judgment of God.’"
She stared blankly at me.

"Listen," I said softly. "I told you that you probably wouldn’t want to know what I think."

She looked steadily at me and said, "But I do want to know what you think, because I have some doubts about my faith."

I’ll admit, I didn’t believe her. But my witnessing philosophy had allowed me to challenge her and now that same philosophy forced me to follow up.

It was worth five minutes to find out.

Those five minutes turned into two hours.

Two weeks later she came back and watched a video on the Moonies.

Two months later she came back, brought me some pumpkin bread, and spent another two hours listening to me explain the Gospel of Christ. I gave her some books and we talked about the saving blood of Christ and the infallibility of His Word.

As I write this, Mary and I have had a dozen meetings. Once while she was on vacation she wrote me saying, "Sometimes, Jim, I don’t think I can stay in the Unification Church another day." I have prayed with her that Jesus would come into her life. She has prayed, "If the Unification Church is wrong, then I renounce it." I don’t know that she’ll ever leave the Moonies; she may not. But my point is that no one had ever talked to Mary the way I did. It shocked her, but it also touched some deeply rooted doubts within her. For a moment the mask was ripped aside and she took a risk: She risked trusting me with her doubts. When she found out I wouldn’t violate her, she opened up even further.

The point is that when you encounter True Believers, you may as well risk a bold shot. You really have nothing to lose. This is a tactic some Mormon experts call "knocking the polish off their testimony."

Here’s one more example of an encounter with a True Believer.

Bob, the manager of a local restaurant, struck up a casual acquaintance with me. He learned that I was a former Mormon and asked me about it.

"Yes," I said. "I was a Mormon elder for ten years."

Bob, a Mormon, got an incredibly pained look on his face. "Why? How could you leave The Truth?"

Bob appeared to me to be a True Believer, and I suspected that he was an Arrogant True Believer. So I answered, "I didn’t leave The Truth. I left error,"

Before he could interrupt, I continued, "Bob, I had no option when I learned the facts about Mormonism. I had to leave."

"What facts?"

"The fact that Joseph Smith was a false prophet, that the Book of Mormon is not true."

"Well, that is your opinion." I knew Bob must be thinking of the classic True Believer position that the Book of Mormon was singularly without the error of other books.

"No, it isn’t my opinion," I said. "It is hard fact. See, Joseph said he translated the Book of Mormon from gold plates by ‘the gift and power of God.’ That it was the most perfect of any book on the face of the earth. But, in reality, the Book of Mormon has been changed nearly four thousand times in the last hundred and fifty years."

"That’s not true!"

"Let me ask you a question. Do you really believe the Book of Mormon has not been changed?"

"Of course it hasn’t been changed. That is just a lot of nonsense thought up by enemies of the Church."

And now I slowed ´way down the speech, checked my breathing, and launched into the first of my three objectives in witnessing to a Mormon.

Rule Number One: Isolate. In dealing with all cultists it is important to nail down – isolate – the subject of discussion. If you do not, you are set for a long series of meaningless trips around spiritual mulberry bushes. I isolated our subject with Bob by asking him to deal with one very specific subject: Had changes been made in the Book of Mormon?

"Okay. Let me define some terms. If the 1830 Book of Mormon was different from the one you are reading, would you admit changes had occurred?"

"There haven’t been any."

"What would the implications be if there were?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, if Joseph Smith says God gave him a perfect book and if later it was changed, wouldn’t you admit that Joseph was wrong?"

"It hasn’t been changed."

"But if it had been."

"But it hasn’t."

This tedious process of nailing down the premise is very important. I may only have one shot with this guy. If I don’t clarify exactly what I am talking about, he will slip out of the conversation without being challenged. I must get him nailed down to one point. One specific point.

Now I turn to my next objective.

Rule Number Two: Qualify. By this I mean ask the Mormon to qualify or change his position, if you are proved to be right. With Bob I said, "If the Book of Mormon has been changed in important ways, would you admit that it is not what Joseph Smith said it was?"

"I’ve already told you –"

"Bob, I understand you don’t think it’s been changed. If it hasn’t, you’re right and I’m wrong. But, for the sake of discussion, answer my question."

"Okay," he sighed. "For the sake of argument, if the Book of Mormon has been changed, then it isn’t what Joseph Smith said it was. But, I testify to you that it hasn’t been changed."

"I know you believe that," I said. "I once believed that, but I don’t anymore. But what either of us believes is not important. What is important is what the truth is, wouldn’t you agree?"

"Of course."

"Wouldn’t you also agree that if we had an 1830 Book of Mormon here, as well as a recent one, that we could answer this question very quickly?"

"Sure." Bob must have felt safe for two reasons; first, he was absolutely convinced the Book of Mormon was true; second, he could see I didn’t have an 1830 Book of Mormon.

"Well, obviously, I don’t have an 1830 Book of Mormon with me, but they are available. As a matter of fact, the Mormon Church makes photocopies of them readily available."

Now it was Bob’s turn to interrupt. "Well, that ought to prove that it hasn’t been changed. If it had, why would the Church make it easily available?" (1)

"The Church, in 1980, issued a photo-reprint of the 1830 Book of Mormon. It was printed on the same kind of paper as the 1830 book, the same size and shape. It was issued as memorabilia for the hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the organization of the Mormon Church. Deseret Book Company printed it with the blessings of the First Presidency. It was sold in Mormon bookstores for twenty-five dollars."

"Is it still on sale?"

"Yes, although sometimes it is kept under the counter and you have to press the salesperson to get it. It seems that Latter-day Saints were not particularly interested in purchasing it. Some realize that most people who buy it are using it to prove that changes have been made. I have purchased a dozen or more copies.

"But, Bob," I continued "the point is that anyone who wants to find out if I’m lying can do so by buying an 1830 reprint. So, you can tell me that it isn’t true. You can tell me that you have a testimony that the Book of Mormons was translated by the gift and power of God. But the fact is that anyone who wants to find out if the Book of Mormon is true can do so. You don’t have to rely on your subjective experience.

"See, Bob, either I am lying or the Church is. Every Mormon prophet has reiterated the Church’s formal position, that ‘the Book of Mormon is the most perfect book on the face of the earth, translated by the gift and power of God, singularly without the errors of other books.’ In fact, Joseph Fielding Smith, when he was President of the Church, was asked if it was true that changes had been made. He said, ‘Only sons of Belial would say that there have been thousands of changes in the Book of Mormon." (2)

"Well, Bob, somebody is either wrong or lying. Now the ball is in your court. I am telling you that anybody who wants to know the truth can find out for himself…."

I stuck to the point with Bob. He finally agreed to look for himself and I was now at the third of my three objectives in witnessing to a Mormon. I must verify.

Rule Number Three: Verify. By this I mean that when you have isolated a point to discuss with your Mormon friend, and when you have gotten him to agree to qualify his position if you are proved correct, then it is time to verify your point. With Bob I completed the third rule by sending him information in the mail verifying our subject of discussion.

Bob and I have now had several conversations. He always wants to go around the mulberry bush, but I make him stick to one specific point. It is a point I choose – a point I am very sure of. A point that I can document thoroughly. Only time will tell how Bob will ultimately respond. With True Believers, the only course you can follow is to "knock the polish off their testimony" by coming on strong and gentle, tough and tender, bold and specific.

Encountering Moderate Believers

Moderate Believers need to be handled a little more gently. They are more likely to talk reasonably with you. They’ll hear you out. But they may not be interested in pursuing the conversation very far – especially if they are Uninterested Moderate Believers. Therefore, we want to treat them with deference and respect. Nevertheless, we need to be firm and purposeful. Our goal is still to get them to specific points that can be argued with objective evidence.

When I feel I am encountering a Moderate Believer, I use diagnostic questions to find out if he is Interested or Uninterested. In the case I’m about to describe, I used a different point than I used with Bob.

It is often good to focus on the Book of Mormon, however, because all Mormons realize that the Book of Mormon story is central to the credibility of Mormonism. Also, it is easy to demonstrate, objectively, that the Book of Mormon has been changed thousands of times.

Be sure to keep our three objectives in mind: Isolate, Qualify, Verify.

To repeat for emphasis:

The first step is to isolate the subject of discussion – in this case, the subject is the validity of the Book of Mormon.

Then, you must qualify your prospect. You do this by getting a commitment from your contact that if you prove your point, he will make some change in his thinking. In other words if you demonstrate that the Book of Mormon has been changed, your friend must admit that it will make a difference to him. You have to get that commitment before you prove your point. Nothing is more disconcerting than going to the trouble to document and prove a point only to have your contact shrug his shoulders and move on to another subject.

Once you have isolated and qualified your prospect, you then need only verify – provide irrefutable documentation – to win your point, and hopefully move your friend down the commitment scale toward Doubter.

Here is how I used qualifying questions to approach one Moderate Believer – my mother-in-law.

Audrey was raised in England. She met my father-in-law there during the war. Audrey was unfamiliar with Mormonism before she met him, but after she married him and moved to a tiny Mormon settlement in Idaho, she discovered that religion was going to be a very important part of her life. Eventually she converted and became a fully active and believing Mormon. However, she has never had the same stubborn determination of her husband.

On several occasions she opened up to my wife, Margaretta, sharing some of her deeper, rather un-Mormon thoughts. She was a Moderate Believer, keeping her heretical thoughts pretty much to herself.

One Monday Audrey called my home and said she wanted to see the movie "The God Makers," which we show every Tuesday night at our church. Margaretta and I were shocked. Audrey showed up, watched the movie, then said to me, "Well, that’s not so bad." She was very gracious and good-natured. "I don’t agree with everything," she said, "but there is some truth in it."

"But it doesn’t disturb you?"

"No, not really. Oh, some parts of it are way off-base…."

I was quite surprised by her reaction. Pressing on I said, "Well, we are going to show the next movie, ‘The Temple of the God Makers.’ Would you like to watch it?"

"Sure."

Now, "The Temple of the God Makers" introduces little that is not covered in the "God Makers," so I was really caught off-guard by her reaction to it – she was steaming mad! What upset her the most was an animated sequence that shows the Mormon god Elohim, walking up to the door of the Virgin Mary to conceive Jesus.

Audrey was furious. "That’s a cheap shot. That is not what we believe at all."

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"We do not believe that Mary had sexual relations with God the Father. We believe she conceived by the Holy Ghost."

"Well," I said slowly, "I’m glad you believe that. That is the orthodox belief. But it isn’t what Mormonism teaches."

"It certainly is! Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Ghost."

I could see she was prepared to stick to her guns. On the other hand, it was obvious she did not know Mormon doctrine on this point.

So, my next step was to qualify her position. But what should the qualifying statement be? Obviously, it is a little early to say something like "If I can prove to you that the Mormon Church teaches that the god Elohim had sexual relations with Mary, then will you leave the Church?" That is too radical.

Audrey is obviously – and rightly – disgruntled at the concept of natural relations as the mode of Christ’s conception. I want to ask her a qualifying question that will demonstrate that her beliefs are not what Mormonism teaches. In other words, I want her to begin to question the authority of the Mormon Church in her life.

So I settle for a small gain. I ask this question: "Audrey, we could argue all night about whether or not the Mormon Church teaches natural relation between Elohim and Mary. You say the Church does not teach that and I say it does. But, let me ask you, if I could show you statements from five General Authorities of the Church, saying that Elohim had natural relations with Mary, would you agree that the Church teaches that?"

Now we went through the but-it-doesn’t’ yes-it-does routine for a few minutes. Finally she agreed that if I could give her the five statements she would agree that the Church taught it.

Then I provided the documentation. (See Chapter Twelve.)

Quite a small gain, right?

I agree, but small gains add up. After I sent the verifying documentation, I unexpectedly dropped by my in-laws’ home. My material was spread out on the table, along with all sorts of Mormon Church books. Both Audrey and my father-in-law were actively studying the subject that had so upset Audrey. And they were sure to find that I was right.

Now, other doors have begun to open with Margaretta’s parents. They receive my monthly newsletter, "Through the Maze." And they have come to our church a couple of times. Recently, Audrey asked Margaretta to do a musical program for her Stake Relief Society Banquet. Margaretta sang and shared – in her old home ward – with one hundred lovely Mormon ladies.

The subject of Mormonism comes up regularly now between us and our in-laws. The tension is nearly gone. And I believe Audrey had been downgraded from a Moderate Believer to at least a Closet Doubter.

[Note: As of 2002, Audrey has still failed to make an evangelical connection with Jesus Christ. "I have tried to be born again," she says, "but it doesn't take." At this writing I see her slipping gradually back into full-fledged Mormonism.]

Encountering Doubters

Doubters are the easiest to encounter. Simply ask them a huge qualifying question like, "If I could prove to you that thousands of changes have been made in the Book of Mormon, would you leave the Mormon Church?"

The reason for asking the qualifying questions is to see how ready the person is for change. There is no sense providing to a Doubter that Joseph Smith is a false prophet unless the contact is going to do something about it.

You say that nobody could remain a Mormon and believe that Joseph Smith was a false prophet. Well, thousands of people go to the Mormon Church every Sunday knowing that.

I have a friend who knows Joseph Smith was a false prophet. And he knows that the Book of Mormon is not Scripture. And yet he is a Mormon College professor! None of his friends knows about his doubts. He is in church several times a week, holds responsible positions in the Church, and holds a temple recommend. And he is one of thousands. He says someday he will have the courage to leave. But right now his concerns for his family, his job, and his friends keep him from being honest.

Encountering the three Mormon types becomes easy with practice. As you learn to relax and let God do the managing, you are released to make sales calls. And occasionally, just like in selling or fishing, you land a big one.

 

  1. I chose not to ask Bob to deal with the implication of his statement: Somewhere within him, he obviously thought the Church would suppress, or at least not make readily available, evidence that put it in a bad light. Rather, I stuck to one specific point – that the Book of Mormon has been changed.
  2. The Improvement Era, December 1961, pp. 924-925.