19
Jul
08

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.

 

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19 Responses to “Witnessing to Mormons: Use the Word instead of Reason”


  1. 1 The Christian Ranter
    July 19, 2008 at 9:11 pm

    I remember a while back that a JW came to the door to talk and pass out literature. Whatever he said, I had a quote from scripture to contradict him. It was as if I didn’t even exist because he would just change the subject. Talk about a moving target.

  2. July 19, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    Well said.

    As a Mormon who debates with both ex-Mormons and Evangelicals, I’ve typically observed two different types of ex-Mormon:

    1. Those who felt like Evangelicalism or other traditional Christian faiths provided something that was missing from LDS worship; and

    2. Those who became bitter about ALL religion and are now atheists.

    I believe in my religion and wish none were leaving. However, if someone is going to leave Mormonism, I’d prefer they pick door one rather than door two.

    But I’ve found too often that Evangelical “counter-cult” tactics or witnessing tactics are focused on undermining faith rather than building it up. A focus on attacking Joseph Smith and Mormon history does this very effectively.

    The main message a Mormon takes away after having faith shaken via an attack on Joseph Smith is “something you had faith in turned out to be a load of garbage.”

    Guess what? It’s not that big of a hop, skip and a jump to applying that same logic to Jesus and the Bible. A lot of the ex-Mormons I’ve encountered think Christianity is just as “full of it” as Mormonism is. They happily cite negative “facts” they discovered on Christian anti-Mormon websites, but then they turn right around and apply the same attack skills to Jesus, and Paul, and Moses.

    Burned once, twice shy I guess.

    This is why I think the advice contained in this post is doubly important. I don’t even want to try to convince anyone reading this to stop opposing Mormonism. Wish you would, but I know that’s not going to happen. But I would at least prefer that you focused on making new traditional Christians rather than new atheists.

  3. 3 JLFuller
    July 20, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    One way of maintaining equilibrium in this conversation is to separate behavior from theology. Some lump the two together. But behavior is the issue with Mormons when it comes to addressing historic Christianity’s dark side. However some historic Christians attack LDS theology and ascribes it as a behavior. The two are light years apart. We Mormons look at the evils perpetrated in Christ’s name as Satanic in nature as I am sure many historic Christians do. But that is separate from what we believe are the erroneous interpretations of scripture and the resultant wrong turn we think historic Christianity took in the 4th and 5th centuries. But some commentators take LDS comments about Creedalism as an attack on historic Christianity as a whole. It isn’t. In fact we are much closer on most doctrine than we are apart. We should remember that. But demonizing us only serves Satan’s goals not Christ’s. We firmly believe that everyone is entitled to believe what they will. Everyone’s beliefs are entitled to just as much respect as we believe we are entitled. That is what we aim to practice.

    In many cases I can’t help but think the demonizing is a defense mechanism against LDS missionary work given the significant conversion rates. Dr. Richard Land of the SBC believes this is the case too according to his published remarks. He says “”There’s a special tension with Mormonism, because probably two of the more aggressive evangelistic faiths in America are Southern Baptists and Mormons,” Land agrees it really is a turf thing after all. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=7245768

  4. July 20, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    I think preaching Christ and repentance is exactly what we all should be preaching. I think we as Mormons could take this advice as well in our preaching, to not try to convince others through reason about the need for a restoration of priesthood authority or the historical pattern of prophets, but a stronger focus on the change of an individual, that repentance process, what makes it possible, and the greatness of that gift.

    I will say that when you apply this repentance and Christ centered message to Mormons you may continue to be frustrated that your words appear to have the effect of water rolling off a duck’s back. This is not because of some sort of arrogance or stubbornness but simply the fact that we completely agree with you. When the conversation is happening the Mormon hears your words and it comes across as preaching to the choir. We wholeheartedly believe in the cleansing power of Jesus Christ, that it is completely a gift of God, that He alone is our Savior. You may believe that you understand the Mormon view of salvation better than the Mormon in front of you but if you maintain that position I can guarantee that you will continue to be frustrated in your outreach to Mormons.

  5. July 20, 2008 at 10:03 pm

    A big Amen to this post. As a former Mormon and a Christian of 21 years standing I have spent many years witnessing to Mormons and, while I have found my knowledge of Mormonism interesting and sometimes helpful ( you can’t always not talk about Mormonism)I have always found the approach you encourage the most helpful. I have never quite understood those people who become experts in all things Mormon in order to witness to Mormons when the Lord clearly exhorts us to “reason from the Scriptures”. A conversation can range widely and its content is not always under our control but it can always be brought back to the bar of Scripture and a Christian need never be lost for words if he or she knows and uses the Word.

  6. 6 markcares
    July 21, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    Mormonism and Christianity sometimes appears to be teaching the same thing because both employ the same words but attach different deinitions to them. Once this is realized, and time is taken to carefully understand how each is defining tersm like repentance, then it usually becomes clear to both parties that the teachings truly are different. In my experience, after carefully defining terms, most Mormons no longer will say that they are in agreement with me.
    Just one example. Repentance, in official LDS teaching, is a process – one step of which includes abandoning the sin. In Christianity repentance is a changing of a person’s mindset. It ischanging from trusting in one’s own works to trusting in Jesus’ work as the basis for living eternally with Heavenly Father. The two are quite different. I don’t know of many Mormons who, after hearing that definition would say that they would agree with me.

  7. July 21, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    It seems as though we are becoming fairly general with some of our statements.

    “In Christianity repentance is…”

    Christianity is a very broad term. I am sure, out of the numerous Christian sects in our world, there are other Christians who do not hold your definition as their own, nor Mormonism’s definition either.

    I’m not sure I understand your definition of repentance, could you explain further? Also, what is the process called, for you, of correcting one’s mistakes and calling upon God to be forgiven for your mistakes?

    God bless.

  8. 8 markcares
    July 22, 2008 at 1:51 am

    Thanks Jesse for asking for clarification of how I defined repentance. The Greek word for repentence is literally a change of mind. Today we might say it is a change of our paradigm. The most common paradigm or mindset is that nothing is free – everything has a price. This holds true also in the spiritual realm where people naturally think that they have to earn their way into God’s good graces. You ask most people today if they think they are going to heaven and they respond by saying they think they will because they think they are good enough.

    Repentance is leaving that mindset behind and instead thinking and trusting that being acceptable to God depends not at all on our works, but totatlly on Jesus’ works. It’s not trusting in both Jesus words and our works, it’s relying solely on what Jesus has done. In other words, instead of thinking that I have to earn acceptance with God, I now see that my acceptance with God is a free gift rooted in Jesus substituionary life and death.

    Hope that helps. I don’t see this as a process at all.

  9. July 22, 2008 at 2:58 am

    I understand now what you mean, thanks :)

    Do you believe that God has given us commandments are required to keep, such as the ten commandments, or other commandments found in the Sermon of the Mount (i.e., love your enemies)? If yes, what would be the purpose of giving these commandments (where action, or “works,” are required) if our obedience to them merits nothing?

    In short, my question is really this: do you believe that all one must do is “rely solely on what Jesus has done” and we will be saved?

  10. 10 markcares
    July 22, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Your question about the commandments is a good and fair one. Before I answer, I want to thank you for your tone in our discussions. It is truly refreshing.

    It seems only logical that commandments are given to be obeyed. Why else would you tell somebody to do something? One reason is to show them their utter inability to keep those commandments. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20) By giving us commandments that we can’t keep, God wants to convince us that we can’t be good enough to please him. Once we are convinced of that, we will despair of our own deeds and look for help, look for a Savior. That is why it continues: “But now a righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe.”

    Say, for example, I thought I could swin across a wide river, but my father knew I couldn’t. Therefore before I tried, he went out and measured the width of the river and then had me try to swin that same length in the pool. Only after doing that would I realize that I couldn’t do it – that I couldn’t get across the river myself. This is probably not the best illustration but hopefully you get the point. The commandments, and our inability to keep them, reveal our sinfulnesss – a necessary step to our changing our mindset – our paradigm – and relying solely on Jesus.

    I have to run but hopefully I will have time in the near future to more fully answer your last question.

  11. 11 markcares
    July 23, 2008 at 12:18 am

    I want to expand a little bit on your question: “do you believe that all one must do is rely solely on what Jesus has done and we will be saved?” The short answer is yes. I believe my salvation or my being in God’s presence for all eternity in heaven, relies 100% on Jesus’ perfect life and sacrificial death. Jesus was my Substitute – through faith his righteousness (perfection) becomes my righteousness – his payment for sin becomes my payment for sin.

    But I also want to clarify what I mean by the word do in your question. Although it is true that I have to rely on Jesus, the power that enables me to rely on him (i.e.believe) is also a gift from God! All the bibilcal pictures of conversion have God as the active agent and man as being passive. We were dead in sin – we were quickened in Christ. We were blind, we were enlightened. We were born again. “no man can say that Jeuss is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost” ( 1 Corinthians 12:3) In other words, even my faith is a gift – it is not a work I do. I do nothing for my salvation.

  12. July 23, 2008 at 5:25 am

    I agree with you there that our faith, or testimony, in Jesus Christ, is a gift from God. Not obtained solely by study and logic, but delivered to us through the Spirit of God.

    My belief in the need to follow the commandments, and repent of those we have not followed, results from scriptures and revelation of justice and mercy.

    “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I” (D&C 19:16-17).

    “And thus mercy can satisfy the demands of justice, and encircles them in the arms of safety, while he that exercises no faith unto repentance is exposed to the whole law of the demands of justice; therefore only unto him that has faith unto repentance is brought about the great and eternal plan of redemption.” (Alma 34:16)

    I do attest that the atonement of Jesus Christ is all-powerful, all-encompassing, and can overcome all sin. However, I do not believe that nothing beyond a declaration of faith is required of us (correct me if I’m wrong, but it kind of seems like that is what you are saying is sufficient). I feel that would be showing irreverence to the sacred act which Jesus performed for us.

  13. 13 markcares
    July 23, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    Faith is not just a declaration of belief. As I have stated, it is a change of mind, a change of paradigm, if you like. Faith is where I am putting my trust. Am I going to trust in what I do or am I’m going to trust in what Jesus has done. By it’s very nature, trust really can’t be divided. I can’t tell the tightrope walker who offers to carry me acorss the tightrope that I trust him – but then ask him to put the safety net into place. My request for the safety net indicates that I don’t really trust him. Likewise the Bible says grace and works don’t mix. “And if by grace, then it is no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. but if it be of works, then it is no more of grace: otherwise work is no more work. (Romans 9:6)

    It is so vital not to mix our works with Jesus’ works. All our works do is ruin his perfect salvation. What a joy it is to have my living eternally with Heavenly Father given to me as a gift.

  14. 14 jonnymac8029
    July 27, 2008 at 7:15 pm

    mark,

    thank you for this post. i was talking with a mormon friend earlier today and felt completely unprepared. i came home and got on the computer to look up a lot of apologetics-y stuff when i came across your blog. thanks for the exhortation to preach the gospel.

    blessings brother,

    jonathan mcgregor

    phil. 2:13

    headymusings.wordpress.com

  15. 15 JesusLover
    February 22, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Mark:

    I know this is an old post but I need your help in responding to this statement my friend sent me. We have an agreement not to attack each other’s beliefs but he keeps sending me this stuff to persuade me to the mormon church. I do not feel attacked in the least but I want to respond to this statement in the best way possible – can you help me? I googled it and found it to be from the Discourses of Brigham Young.

    “Some might suppose that it would be a great blessing to be taken and carried directly into heaven and there set down, but in reality that would be no blessing to such persons; they could not reap a full reward, could not enjoy the glory of the kingdom, and could not comprehend and abide the light thereof, but it would be to them a hell intolerable and I suppose would consume them much quicker than would hell fire. It would be no blessing to you to be carried into the celestial kingdom, and obliged to stay therein, unless you were prepared to dwell there.”

    I think it is in response to an older email I sent him about my faith i Christ and Christ alone – in knowing that when I die I go straight to into God’s presence through His finished work on the cross and what peace that gives me.

    Thank you so much for your help. From statements he has made to me……………I know he is considering what I have told him but to a mormon (I think) even questioning leads to outer darkness.

  16. 16 markcares
    February 23, 2009 at 1:11 am

    JesusLover:
    The wonderful message of the Bible is that in Christ we are prepared right now to live in Heavenly Father’s presence. Just two days ago I officiated at the funeral of a 24 man who died from a brain tumor. I could comfort the family with the assurance that he, like St Paul, was now absent from the body but present with the Lord. He was present with the Lord because he was covered with Christ’s perfection. Perfection is what makes us prepared to live with Heavenly Father – and perfection is what Christ has given us. I would answer your frined by saying that, in Christ, you are prepared for being in the Lord’s presence.
    Hope this helps.
    Blessings,
    Mark

  17. 17 JesusLover
    February 23, 2009 at 3:06 am

    Thanks Mark:

    I know what I believe but I need help in explaining it in a better way to my mormon friend. Yes it does help and I will look up some bible verses to go with it.Also related posts.

  18. 18 Luke
    June 1, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    I’m not sure your response is any different than what Brigham Young is saying. Those who die “in Christ,” as you said, are “prepared to dwell” in His presence, as Brigham Young said. Those who do not die in Christ are not prepared to dwell in Christ’s presence.

  19. 19 Luke
    June 1, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    Though I agree that there are some differences in the way we define things, I’m not convinced that you’ve accurately represented the LDS definition of repentance. The LDS Bible Dictionary defines repentance as follows: “The Greek word of which this is the translation denotes a change of mind, i.e., a fresh view about God, about oneself, and about the world. Since we are born into conditions of mortality, repentance comes to mean a turning of the heart and will to God, and a renunciation of sin to which we are naturally inclined.” Sounds pretty similar to me.


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