Back in the old days, Latter-day Saints
huddled in Utah and Idaho to escape persecution and set up their own theocracy. But in this new era, Latter-day Saints are scattered far and wide across the nation and the world. They are our neighbors, employers, clients, teachers, and congressmen. Our kids attend school and play soccer together. We're in aerobics classes together. We play golf together.
And Latter-day Saints share common ground, especially politically and morally, with traditional Christians
. We're all doing the best we can to keep our country great and to raise our kids right. But we don't see eye-to-eye on all matters of faith. If you are an Evangelical Christian, you may want your LDS friend to see the light while he or she wants you to see the light of the ''restored gospel.'' It's a conflict of interests right from the start.
Speaking of Christianity, people often ask, ''Aren't Mormons Christians?'' After all, it is called the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Mormons do pray ''in the name of Jesus Christ.'' And the Book of Mormon does carry the subtitle ''Another Testament of Jesus Christ.''
The Saints claim, in fact, not only to be Christians, but also to be the only true Christians, members of the only true Church of Jesus Christ on earth. LDS Scriptures deny the legitimacy of every other church, and reject essential Christian doctrines about God, Jesus Christ, sin, salvation, and the authority of the Bible
. But being a Christian, in my thinking, is less about what church a person joins and more about the condition of one's heart and soul in relation to Jesus Christ. Given that, some Mormons who have believed solely in Jesus might in fact be Christians, and some Baptists might not.
But rather than spend your energy debating that point, just be thankful if you have the privilege of befriending a Mormon, many of whom don't even have close friends outside the Church. The best gifts you can give your LDS friends are understanding and love.
Mormonism is much more than a religion; it's a way of life. The LDS Church offers a ready-made social community all over the world, unparalleled support for families, moral teaching to keep children on the straight and narrow path, a romanticized history, a healthy lifestyle, enrichment through quilting classes and Boy Scouts, and answers to life's difficult questions.
In general, Latter-day Saints take their history and doctrine by faith, or more accurately, by feeling. They know in their hearts
that the Church is true, and they invite investigators to seek a ''burning in the bosom'' to verify the truth of the Church.
Latter-day Saints aren't Saints because of the historical authenticity of their Scriptures. Typically, they don't worry about what the Smithsonian Institution has said about the Book of Mormon. They don't want to know every detail about Joseph Smith's and Brigham Young's personal lives. Mormons like what their Church has to offer and don't want to listen to damaging information about it. As Apostle Boyd K. Packer said in a famous speech to Church educators, ''Some things that are true are not very useful.''
There are, however, and have been since the beginning, Latter-day Saints willing to make the break from the Church. For instance, each of the Three Witnesses, whose testimony is printed in the front of every Book of Mormon, eventually left the Church. And in recent years, several high-profile Saints have been excommunicated from the Church for speaking out or writing on matters of historical authenticity or controversial topics such as feminism and Church repression of information. Others have quit the church in protest.
The Latter-day Saint equivalent of the ''backslidden Baptist'' or the ''non-practicing'' Jew or Catholic is the ''Jack Mormon.'' Jack or Jackie may be a convert who found out disappointing things about the Church after being baptized. Or he or she may be a born-and-bred cultural Mormon who just can't take all the control.
So you might meet a Mormon who is open to spiritual truth from outside the LDS Church. If and when you ''talk religion'' with your LDS friend, remember:
- To Latter-day Saints, the Bible is not authoritative; it is the only Standard Work that contains errors. You can't "prove" anything with the Bible. You can, of course, let the Bible speak for itself. Only the King James Version (or Joseph Smith's Inspired Version) is acceptable to a practicing Mormon. To use any other translation is to create another obstacle.
- Latter-day Saints do not see themselves as ''lost.'' In fact, they not only have Christ but also the ''fullness of the restored gospel.'' They have been taught to obtain exaltation by their own good efforts (though many would sincerely add, ''with God's help'').
- Latter-day Saints live under a strong hierarchy that doesn't invite independent reasoning about religious matters.
- Latter-day Saints use the same religious words as orthodox Christians (such as salvation, heaven, and gospel) but the meanings are often different. There are vast differences between the LDS and Christian concepts of God, Christ, and salvation.
- Leaving the Church is extremely hard on the psyche of long-time Mormons. The heavily trafficked online support site, exmormon.org, is dedicated to helping former Mormons through the trauma of leaving the Church. The site has no religious affiliation but helps Mormons regain control of their own thinking.
- A Christian's goal is not to help Mormons out of their Church; rather it is to share the good news about grace through faith in the Jesus of the Bible.
Christians are called to live humbly as a light among the people around them, and it's a gift from God if some of those people are LDS. In those relationships, let the love of Christ control you, rather than fear or hostility. It is not a compromise of truth to love an LDS friend. And your godliness and grace will penetrate hearts far more effectively brash argumentation ever will.
By the way, the Mormon missionaries who come to your door are worthy of kindness and love, but it's nearly impossible to build a friendship with them. They aren't allowed to be out of sight or hearing of their companions, and if one of them shows signs of doubt or weakness, he or she will be transferred to another site. They spend more than six days a week, twelve hours a day, preaching their faith. There's no room for doubt in a missionary's life. But Christ Himself would invite them inside to thaw out for a few minutes on a cold day or offer them a cup of cold water (not tea!) on a hot day.
Keep the anti-Mormon literature to yourself; some of it is inflammatory, offensive, and hard for a Mormon to understand anyway. Read it yourself and be able to discuss the concepts with your friend.
Some good advice for relating to Mormons is found in 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (NIV)
Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
When any person, Mormon or otherwise, comes to personal faith in Jesus Christ, it is a work of God. So above all pray for your LDS friends. As Jesus said, ''No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him'' (John 6:44, NIV
About This Article
This article is an appendix from the book, Gentile Girl: Living With The Latter-day Saints, by Carol Avery Forseth, Jan. 2002, Crossroads Press, Fort Collins, Colorado, ISBN 0-9714782-0-1. The articles is posted at Apologetics Index by permission.
See also: The Bible and Mormon Doctrine, by Carol Avery Forseth