Archive for July, 2008


Cult – Culture


     “Is Mormonism a cult?”  That’s a question I’m often asked.  And it’s a question I don’t answer with a simple yes.

     That’s because there are different definitions of the word cult.  The classic Christian definition of a cult being a religious group that has deviated from Christianity to such an extent that it is no longer Christian fits Mormonism.  The problem is that that is not how many people define the word “cult” today.

     Mormons surely don’t.  To them a cult is a group of people living together in communal settings where total control is practiced and where children often are forcibly separated from their families.  Mormons are understandably shocked then when somebody says that the Mormon Church is a cult.  Telling Mormons that they are members of a cult quickly and effectively burns any bridges you might have built to witness to them.

     But I also don’t think it’s that helpful, even among Christians, to talk about Mormonism as a cult.  I prefer adding three letters to the word cult and think of it as a culture.  Mormonism is a culture.  It has traditions all of its own.  It has its own language. It has unique taboos. It’s a culture. The more we see that, the more loving and effective our witness to Mormons will be.   Friends, present Christ to Mormons in a culturally-sensitive way.  Especially tell them about Jesus with words that they understand.




     A big word in Mormonism is the little word, “if”.  Almost everything in Mormonism is conditioned by that little word “if”.  The Mormon prophet, Spencer Kimball, said:  “All blessings are conditional.  I know of none that are not.”  Mormon men can enter the priesthood only if they are worthy.  Their advancement through it also is conditioned on their worthiness.  Mormons can enter their temples only if they are worthy.  On and on it goes.

     Even forgiveness is conditional.  Spencer Kimball also said: “Your Heavenly Father has promised forgiveness upon total repentance and meeting all the requirements, but that forgiveness is not granted merely for the asking.  There must be works – many works – and an all-out, total surrender, with a great humility and a broken heart and contrite spirit.”

     “If” is a little word but it’s crushing many Mormons.  It’s the reason numerous Mormons have given up trying to live their religion.  They realize that they can’t keep all of the requirements of Mormonism.

     There’s a good chance you know Mormons like that.  Such persons need to be introduced to God’s unconditional grace – the grace that has no “ifs”, “ands”, or “buts” connected to it.  They need to be pointed to Jesus’ work for them, rather than to works they need to do.  And they need you to make that introduction to God’s unconditional grace.  Friends, take that time. Make that effort.  Introduce Mormons to the Jesus who has removed the if for them.




Why Jesus’ last words “It is finished” is so important for Mormons


Right before Jesus died on the cross, he said: “It is finished”. In the Greek language for which the New Testament was written in, this short phrase is just one word. This same Greek word was sometimes written across bills of debt in the same way we stamp a bill today with the words, “Paid in Full”. When Jesus uttered these words from the cross, he was announcing that mankind’s debt of sin had been paid in full – by him.


On Easter morning, God the Father dramatically showed that he accepted this payment by raising Jesus triumphantly from the dead. Jesus’ empty tomb is our receipt from God Himself that Jesus paid for all our sins – that God used the indelible ink of Jesus’ blood to write across our debt of sin the wonderful words, PAID IN FULL.


This short message is something that not only do we need to remind ourselves of often, but it is also something your Mormon friends need to hear repeatedly. Mormonism teaches that they have to pay the vast majority of the debt back themselves. The Book of Mormon says, “For we know that it is by grace we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23) That phrase, “after all you can do” not only contradicts what Jesus said, but can also serve as a tremendous burden to conscientious Mormons. Who can at the end of each day confidently proclaim that they had done all that they could do? Honest persons will quickly see instances where they hadn’t. In striking contrast are Jesus’ words: “It is finished – your debt has been paid in full.” Friends, that is the wonderful news your Mormon friends need to hear.


My encouragement for you today is to speak that wonderful truth in love to Mormons.




Don’t tell Mormons they believe in a different Jesus


One of the worst things you can tell a Mormon is that they believe in a different Jesus. Many ex-Mormons have told me that fewer things angered them more when they were Mormons than being confronted by well-meaning Christians with this statement. Mormons can’t understand why anybody would say that. They have a very high regard for Jesus. They are members of the Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter-day Saints. Nothing seems more ridiculous to a Mormon than when a Christian tells them that they have a different Jesus. When Christians confront Mormons with that statement, than they typically will have cut off all lines of communication with them.

 It’s much more effective to get into a discussion with a Mormon not on who Jesus is, but what Jesus has accomplished for us. Instead of confronting them with what they believe about Jesus, ask them questions. Give them the opportunity to tell you what they believe. Focus especially on the question, “Did Jesus do everything for us to live with Heavenly Father or do we have to do something in order to live with Heavenly Father?” That’s a telling question because Mormonism says they have to do a lot to live with Heavenly Father. You then can share with them how differently you believe. You can tell them that you will be in heaven for all eternity with God the Father, not because of anything you have done, but only because of what Jesus has done for you. In this way, without saying it, you can effectively show them how differently you view Jesus.


So, my friends, may I encourage you today to speak the truth in love and respect to Mormons.



How a Christian can say “I’m Perfect!” to a Mormon


“Are you perfect?” I hope you can answer that question with a resounding “YES”! Claiming you are perfect is not being arrogant – it’s called having faith. It’s a statement of faith which reflects the truth that God considers as perfect all people who trusting in Jesus Christ for their salvation.


Stating that you are already perfect in Christ is one effective way to bring into sharp contrast the difference between Mormonism and Christianity. And that’s very important. But it is also very difficult. Showing the difference between Christianity and Mormonism is something many Christians struggle with in conversations with their Mormon friends. The reason why they struggle so much is because Mormonism sounds so Christian.


I don’t believe any professing Mormon would ever claim to be perfect. Their whole focus is on progressing towards perfection. Years ago, one Mormon man told me that it would take him ten thousand eternities to reach perfection! Wow! Talk about a depressing thought! This reveals to me just how desperately Mormons need to hear the good news of perfection in Jesus Christ.


Before we can tell Mormons that we can be perfect in Christ, we ourselves have to be confident of this important truth. The Bible is what gives us that confidence. It does so by describing believers as saints. The Bible tells us how Jesus’ righteousness, his perfection, becomes ours through faith. It points us to Jesus’ death and how, by that one offering, we, through faith, are perfected forever.


“So, Are you perfect?” Because of Jesus you can answer that with a resounding “YES!” Confidently tell your Mormon friend about your perfection in Jesus.


My name is Mark Cares, encouraging you to speak the truth in love to Mormons.



Witnessing to Mormons: Use the Word instead of Reason

How many soldiers would want to go into battle with toy guns? Talk about a ridiculous thought. But that is something many Christians do whenever they witness Jesus Christ to others, especially when they try to witness to Mormons.


The Bible clearly points us to the right weapon. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword.” In his wonderful imagery of the Christian as a soldier Paul lists only one offensive weapon, namely, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” God’s Word is our powerful God-given weapon.


When Christians talk to their Mormon friends they too often keep that sword in its sheath hanging over their mantles. Instead of using it, they rely on the tiny toy sword of human reason. They try to reason Mormons out of Mormonism by talking about such things as the size of the golden plates, the skeletons in Joseph Smith’s closet, or the problems with the Book of Mormon. Far too often, Christians debate Mormonism with Mormons without ever witnessing Christ to them.


How much better, and how much more powerful it is to unleash the power of the gospel, namely, the message of forgiveness through Jesus Christ. As Paul told the Romans, the gospel “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes”. Tell your Mormon friends about Jesus who saved them, not by showing them what they have to do to save themselves, but who saved them by doing everything for them. Focus the discussion on Jesus, not on Joseph Smith.


My name is Mark Cares, encouraging you to speak the truth in love to Mormons.



Share how to be completely worthy

 A number of years ago I read about Chinese water torture. A person is tied down and then water is slowly dripped on his forehead. It may sound completely harmless at first, but after hours and hours of incessant dripping, the localized pressure of the constant dripping creates great stress and agony for the person.


I have noticed in the Mormon church that there is an incessant urging to its members to be worthy or to become perfect. Hardly a week goes by without being told, in some way or another, to strive to be worthy. Matthew 5:48 is quoted often which reads, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” All this emphasis on striving to be worthy or becoming perfect can be nothing less than torturous with great stress and anxiety for many in the LDS church. It can often lead them to despair.


In striking contrast, think of the tremendous comfort that Christians receive from passages like Hebrews 10:14 which says: “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Christians don’t have to strive to become perfect or become worthy because we receive perfection through Jesus. Jesus came to keep God’s law perfectly for us because we could not do it alone. He came to pay for all our sins with his death on the cross. He became our substitute. By faith, God now considers all those who trust in Christ as their substitute to be perfect and worthy enough. That is the great message He wants us to hear and to accept.


That message of Jesus’ being perfect or worthy for us is the message Mormons desperately need to hear. That is the message you need to share with them.


My name is Mark Cares, encouraging you to speak the truth in love to Mormons.






July 2008

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