EDITORS’ NOTE: The following information, adapted from the North American Mission Board’s www.4truth.net apologetics website, is the sixth of six parts to be carried by Baptist Press this week. The initial article appeared in Baptist Press Mon., Dec. 10.
ALPHARETTA, Ga. (BP)–There is no need to be defensive or hostile to Mormon missionaries who come to your door.
I have always found them to be intelligent, honest and cordial people who need an equally sincere Christian to share the truth with them lovingly. Do not view them as enemies, but as dedicated people who have been misled.
Love them. Pray for them. You can make a difference. Mormon missionaries have had the door slammed in their faces more times than they can count and have heard weak attempts to refute their beliefs. Dare to be different! Remember that people do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Here are a few suggestions you may use when meeting with Mormons:
1. Set the agenda.
Mormon missionaries have several presentations they would like to share with you. I recommend that you, not they, start the conversation by admitting that since no one is 100 percent accurate about everything they believe, it is possible that you could be wrong on some things you believe. Tell them that you are satisfied with being a Christian but are open-minded and would like to discuss some issues concerning their beliefs that are bothersome to you. Ask them what it would take to convince them that Mormonism is false. When they say there is nothing, ask them, “If the bones of Jesus were someday discovered and they did a DNA test on the bones and compared it with a DNA test on the shroud, and if somehow it was clearly and irrefutably concluded that these were the bones of Jesus, would you continue to be a Mormon since the Bible said that the tomb was empty because Christ had bodily risen and ‘If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless?’ Would that at least cause you to consider that Mormonism may be false? What if the gold plates from which Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon were someday discovered and translated by 20 professional Egyptologists and if their translation bore no resemblance to the Book of Mormon, would that make you seriously consider that maybe Mormonism is false?” Most will agree that these would certainly make them think long and hard.
2. Establish that the Bible is reliable.
This is important. According to those who have devoted their lives to helping Mormons find the truth about Mormonism, many times when a person leaves Mormonism they become skeptical because they include the Bible with their other Scriptures. Once they see that their own Scriptures are not from God, they may assume the Bible is not either. Take the time to show them that the Bible is trustworthy. This gives them a solid place to go when they leave the Mormon Church. I have found that most of the time, Mormon missionaries will end up agreeing with me that the Bible is reliable after the evidence in Part 2 of this series is presented to them.
3. Discuss the challenges to the Book of Mormon posed by archaeology and history.
Since you have discussed the trustworthiness of the Bible with them, they will now be able to see a big difference between the Bible and the Book of Mormon. They will be shocked to find that Mormon archaeologists from BYU have admitted that unambiguous Book of Mormon archaeology is nonexistent.
4. Discuss the challenges to the Book of Abraham presented by professional Egyptologists who have translated the papyri that Joseph Smith used.
This point in particular destroys the credibility of Joseph Smith. If Smith’s translation of the Book of Abraham is completely wrong, then there is no reason to believe his translation of the Book of Mormon is any better. His claims of having a God-given ability to translate and to being a chosen prophet of God become dubious.
5. Be prepared to address the value of feelings.
In my own experience, I have found that Mormons have very little to say in their defense after the above has been pointed out, except that God has confirmed in their hearts that Mormonism is true. In this series, we have noted that feelings can be misleading and actually prove nothing. Since you and your Mormon friend both have feelings that your beliefs are true, external evidence is the only test. And Mormonism fails to pass.
In conclusion, when Mormons knock on your door, embrace the opportunity.
Show yourself to be a loving and knowledgeable Christian. The object is not to win an argument but to try to lead a sincere person to the truth. Therefore, present the evidence in a patient and loving manner. The Apostle Paul wrote: “And the Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will” (2 Timothy 2:24-26 NASB).
Christianity is trustworthy because the text of the Bible is pure and much of it is confirmed by archaeology and secular history. We also have the proof from Jesus’ resurrection (endnote 51, continuing from endnote 50 in Part 5).
Mormonism, on the other hand, offers no proof of its truthfulness. There is no confirmation of the Book of Mormon from archaeology or history. Translations by professional Egyptologists of the Book of Abraham papyri are completely different than Joseph Smith’s translation. If his translation skills are in question for the Book of Abraham, they are also in question for the Book of Mormon. Mormon scholars admit this is a serious problem, and attempts to reconcile it fail. Mormonism’s only “proof” is the confirmation God gives when one reads the Book of Mormon. However, this evidence is weak, since people of other religions claim God has convinced them of their own religion’s truthfulness. Who’s confirmation can be trusted, and why?
When you consider Mormon doctrines such as the plurality of gods, God having been once a man, man becoming a god, Jesus created by God, an afterlife much different than Jesus describes, and various salvation requirements, Mormonism presents a gospel much different than we find in the Bible. Therefore, the Apostle Paul’s words in Galatians 1:8-9, KJV, may very well apply: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so I say now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
These are sober words for Mormons, who are not in a position to be confident of their own salvation. They are zealous for God. But so were the Jews Paul wrote about in Romans 10:1-2 and prayed for their salvation. They believe in Jesus. But so did the Gnostics who were heretics of the early church, who, like Mormons today, taught a concept of God and Jesus that was fundamentally different than what the apostles taught. They do great works in the name of Christ. But so did those of whom Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7:21-23, saying, “I never knew you.”
Many Mormons have been brought up in the Mormon Church and it is difficult to jettison what one has believed his or her entire life. Encourage the Mormons with whom you are sharing to pray and think about their personal situation. It is their souls that are on the line. Ask them, “Suppose you learned that some stock you had inherited from your parents would soon be worthless because the company had just announced that it was going out of business. You may not like that fact, but you would welcome an opportunity to sell the stock and get out of it before losing it all. Then you could put your money in a safe place. If you would do that with your money, how much more with your eternal soul! Why hold on to a false hope and lose everything when you have the opportunity to embrace the truth and be saved?”
Mike Licona is the director of apologetics & interfaith evangelism at the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board.
51 For a defense of Jesus’ resurrection, see Michael R. Licona. Cross Examined (Virginia Beach: TruthQuest Publishers, 1998).