Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Making the Most of Mormon Missionary Visits (Guest post)

by Aaron Shafovaloff
[Our guest writer today is a young man I met when I was guest-preaching in Tennessee in 2008. Aaron Shafovaloff (shah-FAH-vah-loff) lives in Utah, and is a missionary to Mormons. I was impressed by Aaron's sharp-minded love for the Lord and His word, and by his love and concern for Mormons. Aaron was kind enough to accept my invitation to contribute a guest-column on how to take advantage of the opportunity when God delivers a couple of lost people to our doorsteps wanting to talk about eternal matters. Aaron is one of the writers at Mormon Coffee, and at the Mormonism Research Ministry. Check out his article and video titled God Never Sinned — He Never Was a Wretch Like Me. Take it, Aaron]
Some of us get downright annoyed at Mormon missionaries knocking on our door. But when God sends spiritually needy people right to our homes, we ought ought to make the best of it.

Getting turned down and even having doors slammed in your face isn't fun. It's emotionally and physically draining. I know because many Mormons are rude to me on a weekly basis here in Utah on evangelistic outings. No matter how positive and polite I try to be, that I am trying to convert them from their Restoration to our Great Apostasy doesn't go over well. "Get a job." "What are you, an anti-Mormon?" "You should be ashamed of yourself." "What did the Mormons ever do to you?" "How much money do you get paid to do this?" "Don't you have anything better to do?"

All that, but at least I still get to pick up the phone and talk to my mom whenever I want. Mormon missionaries are typically only allowed to send letters/email once a week, and make a phone call twice a year to their family. Once on Christmas, and once on Mother's Day. They eat lots of Ramen noodles, Mac and Cheese, and anything else cheap that a budget-conscious bachelor pad might serve.

Mormons tell us all the time to take our tough and deep questions to the young missionaries, because surely these guys know the answers. But that is hardly the case. These are a bunch of young 19 and 20-year-olds who are playing the part of a Mormon tradition that is designed to help them plant deep roots of Mormon commitment and belief. Many of them are on their mission to participate in an adventure and figure things out for themselves, not yet having the deep belief in Mormonism that they wish they had. The two-year-mission largely functions in Mormonism to solidify that belief. It's a spiritually formative time in their life, and it's our duty to plant seeds of truth in love.

When a new set of missionaries (they usually cycle out to different proximate areas every three months or so) knocks on my door, it's usually because I have requested a new video resource they have advertised (do this!), because I have filled out a card in one of their Visitor's Centers or public events (never pass that up!), or because a neighbor feels like I really need to be converted (hey, they care!). I'm more than delighted to have them over. Know that you can practice warm hospitality without welcoming them as fellow believers. Welcome them in, have them sit down, and bring them somethings to drink (save snacks for a bit later to keep them a bit longer).

Ask them where they are from, about their families, and what their post-mission plans are. They will want to quickly segue to their religious message. They usually ask me, "So how much do you know about the Church?" I am forthright about my knowledge of the Mormon faith. "I have studied it for years, I find it fascinating, but I have some grave concerns." But what I know about the history and larger movement of Mormonism is inconsequential for the moment, because "I would love to hear what you two individually believe."

Allow the missionaries to spend some time delivering their message, but look for points at which you can ask questions about the fundamental nature of God. Because I never know how short or long their visit will be, or if they will ever return, I make it a point to quickly get to the heart of the matter. For me that usually entails asking if they believe God once was a mere man who had to progress unto godhood, and whether they believe this mere man was once perhaps a sinner. The responses are varied, but usually heartbreaking and shocking. (See God Never Sinned)

The most important passage that I know to share with a Mormon is Isaiah 43:10:

"Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me."

I recommend using this passage even if you only have a few minutes. Ask the missionaries to "share their testimonies", and patiently listen. They have a series of affirmations they will articulate here, usually something like, "I know the Church is true and has the restored priesthood, I know that Jesus is the Messiah, I know that the Book of Mormon is true, and I know the Thomas S. Monson is a modern-day prophet of God."

"Thank you for sharing your testimony. Would you mind if I shared a testimony as well?"


"The testimony I have to share right now isn't my testimony, it is God's testimony." At this point I try to avoid using terms like "Bible" and "scripture" and "word of God", and instead use the term "testimony of God." Referring to God's written revelations as the testimonies of God is perhaps the clearest and strongest way we evangelicals can communicate the nature of scripture to Mormons.

I open up the testimonies of God and put my finger under the passage to help them simultaneously read with their eyes as they listen with their ears: "God bears witness of himself in Isaiah 43:10, testifying, 'Before me no god was formed [PAUSE], nor shall there be any after me.' If we trust the testimony of man, how much more should we trust the testimony of God himself."

This also works great in the beginning of a longer conversation, as it preempts the feelings-oriented Mormon epistemology that they want to promote. Mormon missionaries are taught to foster a kind of atmosphere and attitude among listeners. The next step for them is to help you identify a set of positive emotions with the Holy Spirit. By preemptively referring to scripture as the "testimony of God", I have made it more difficult for them to appeal to human feelings as the chief, decisive vehicle of God's authoritative revelation.

Other topics that are great to cover are the unique priesthood of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 7), the explosively good news of the justification of the ungodly (Romans 4:4-8), and the importance of putting our feelings and thoughts in a system of checks and balances that realistically takes into account our finiteness and depravity and God's authority and omnipotence (Isaiah 40:8; Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:21). A wonderful list of passages put together by James White for witnessing to Mormons is available here.

You will inevitably be asked to read a section of the Book of Mormon and pray about that. On that issue please see an article by Bill McKeever.

A great way to get them to come back is not to hog the conversation, but to let them have their say. Practice using questions as a way of drawing out the topics you would like to address. Our interactions are not an endless emergent "conversation", but neither are they an overwhelmingly aggressive monologue (I have learned this the hard way). Keep a mental note of three or so tough questions that went unanswered, and write them down for them.

"Would you guys please research the answers to these questions, and come back another time to share what you found?" Insist on it with a free dinner. In some areas, Mormon missionaries are not allowed to eat meals at the houses of other Mormons. This is designed to encourage them to eat with non-Mormon households or at a Mormon house with non-Mormon guests. The problem is that many missionaries end up eating a lot of those Ramen noodles. Your kitchens are the solution to this wonderful problem.

At the end, they will ask for someone to close in prayer, usually the head of the household. Use the opportunity to pray to our awesome and eternal God. Thank God before everyone in the living room for the free and immediate gift of justification, forgiveness, and eternal life. Thank him for transforming your heart to love and follow Jesus. Thank Jesus that in him we have all the riches of knowledge and wisdom and understanding, and that without him, we have nothing, and that with him we have everything. And beseech the Spirit to help everyone in the room to pursue the truth of the gospel, lest we suffer that awful punishment that the Bible describes as never-ending.

Get their phone number in case you have to reschedule, and use that number to remind them of the dinner appointment that you're looking forward to. Trust me, this is important. They forget (either literally or sometimes intentionally) to show up and either never come back, or call to apologize, since something came up. Sometimes they are lazy, sometimes they are just busy. Give them the benefit of doubt and stuff them full of more dinner. Serve a dessert twenty minutes after dinner is over so that they feel obliged to stay longer than they would have. Keep inviting them over and over to eat more dinner, discuss more issues, and address more of the outstanding questions. It won't last forever, so make the best use of your time. Ron Rhodes writes,

"Don't move forward in a mad rush to discuss spiritual things, especially if you have the opportunity to work toward developing a personal relationship. When the Lord opens the door for witnessing, however, be ready to walk through it.

"The exception to this rule, of course, is if you know for certain that you will never see that particular Mormon again. Then you will want to cover as much doctrinal ground as possible, biblically refuting the most blatant heresies in Mormon theology and giving a strong personal testimony of what Jesus has done in your life." (Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with the Mormons [1995], p. 29)


Chris H said...

Thank you so much for this post. I love when Mormons come, and I'm really looking forward to using this post to minister to them.

DJP said...

That's great to hear, Chris.

BTW everyone, Aaron said he'd monitor the comment-thread. So if you have questions, fire away.

Krutches to R12 said...

This is a great help. I see Mormon missionaries in my town in Kansas all the time. I have yet to have one of them come to my door. But I stand ready to offer a cold drink and a warm greeting for starters.

Gary said...

A few years ago I interacted with a few Mormons that came to my door. The spiritual blindness and lack of critical thinking was heartbreaking.

Aaron is absolutely right that you should "look for points at which you can ask questions about the fundamental nature of God." And, I would add, about the nature of Jesus Christ. I, in my ignorance, inexperience, and lack of confidence, mostly let them steer the conversations. They were adept at avoiding topics that distinguish them for Christianity, so, it took three (long) visits to get at the heart of the matter.

Listen to them certainly, but keep this in mind: the Jesus they claim is not the Jesus of Scripture. The God they claim is not the God of Scripture.

LeeC said...

Great stuff Dan and Aaron. Thank you for your ministry to these young men.

We haven't ever had Mormons come over. Perhaps I should try some of the things mentioned here to encourage that.

We DO have a LOT of JW's though. Two weeks ago we had one where a mom stayed at the foot of our stairs sending her 10 year old or so son up to talk to us. It broke our hearts. We had an appointment that we could not put off so we tried to share the gospel as clearly as possible and they promised to come back another Sat.

We can usually get the first visitor to come back once with what we call a "handler" and reason with the Scriptures, but after that they usually "Can't make it" and they send in the more hardcore ones for one more visit.

These won't allow for any discussion only wanting to proseletyze and get out. We usually don't have any more JW visits for a year or so after one of those.

Rachael Starke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Terry Rayburn said...

Thanks Aaron & Dan.

Great compact resource(s)!

We always have lots of Mormon missionaries in Clarksville, TN.

I'm at the public library daily on business, and on Mondays it's hard to get a computer, because they flock there to use email :)

Anyway, God has given me a heart for them, and I feel like your post (and the side resources mentioned) have given me a spiritual breath of fresh air, while my printer is busy printing out these "helps".

A great assist for those inevitable and welcome encounters to come.

By the way, I had no idea they were "available" to return to my home, and even to have dinner!

By the way #2, on the whole I've found them to be (as you indicated) fairly uninformed on several parts of their own religion.

Thanks again.

chopstickschan said...

THAT was great! But, we seem to be too far north for Mormons...

Hayden said...


Good job on the resources. I even read your resources on 2 John which I have preached through helpful though I disagree with your exegesis. (Before I preached through it I was more firmly on the side that you stated but now after reading about 15 or so commentaries am not sure)

I am not trying to pour a wet blanket on your blog article, just wanting to tell others to make sure that they read some good resources on 2 John and do some exegesis as well and be Bereans.

I will pray for your ministry Aaron and hope that the Lord will continue to use you to bring down the Mormon house of cards.

Paula said...

Thanks Dan and Aaron. Rob Bell would be appalled! Great job! : )

We don't get many (any) Mormons in this part of Ohio, but lots of JW's. I'd love to see an article like this for that group. Most of what I've found is really a little too aggressive and in-your-face for my liking. Your article has a good mix of love and truth that I can apply to the JW lady who stops by occasionally (always, it seems as I'm running out the door or stepping out of the shower).

We have had some conversations, mostly futile due to their bizarre scripture twisting (2 + 2 = 6). The woman INSISTED to me that the JW's believe in salvation by faith alone, when I KNOW that's not true. I shared the gospel with her and she agreed with every word of it, yet I knew there was no meeting of the minds due to our fundamental difference in our belief in who God is and in the Trinity. It was very frustrating.

When I was growing up, my mom used to (literally) close the drapes, turn off her soaps, and make us kids hide in the back bedroom when JW's were spotted on the street. I don't know if she had some kind of JW radar or there was a JW phone chain with the neighbors. We had a whole family action plan - like that scene from the opening song of "Everybody Loves Raymond" when they'd see 'the family' heading across the street. : )

Tristan Guthrie said...

Last year I had some missionaries stop by a couple times and in the course of one of our conversations I referred to the common phrase "As man is god once was, as god is man may become" and both the missionaries nodded in approval and said they agreed. I then said, "doesn't that make god subject to some 'higher authority'". If this concept is true then Mormonism does not originate with their god as much as with some sort of "karma" that dictates who will and will not be gods. It's all very confusing. The missionaries didn't even attempt to answer and said "Well, there are just somethings our prophets don't tell us." Aaron, what are your thoughts on this? How would an "educated Mormon" answer that idea or is that even an accurate portrayal of Mormon theology? Thanks.

Rachael Starke said...


((Blushing beet red in mortification.))

I meant by "Andrew", I actually meant Aaron.

My apologies!!

Aaron S said...

Tristan, it's messy. Smith taught in a sermon shortly before his death the following:

> "If Abraham reasoned thus—If Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and John discovered that God the Father of Jesus Christ had a Father, you may suppose that He had a Father also. Where was there ever a son without a father? And where was there ever a father without first being a son? Whenever did a tree or anything spring into existence without a progenitor? And everything comes in this way. Paul says that which is earthly is in the likeness of that which is heavenly, Hence if Jesus had a Father, can we not believe that He had a Father also? I despise the idea of being scared to death at such a doctrine, for the Bible is full of it." (>)

Mormons are mixed bag on this issue. Some heartily affirm it, most try not to think about it, and a few others (like Mormon apologist Blake Ostler) deny it.

There is a further complication: There are varying views of what it means to eternally progress. Mormon apostle Orson Pratt taught,


Aaron S said...

> "But when they (the Saints) become one with the Father and the Son, and receive a fullness of their glory, that will be the end of all progression in knowledge, because there will be nothing more to he learned. The Father and the Son do not progress in knowledge and wisdom, because they already know all things past, present and to come."

But Brigham Young publicly and officially condemned this view in a First Presidency statement.

Ironically, Mormon Apostle went on later in Mormon history to describe prophet Brigham Young's view as a "deadly" and "damnable" heresy. He taught (sorry the long quote):

> Heresy one: There are those who say that God is progressing in knowledge and is Teaming new truths.

> This is false-utterly, totally, and completely. There is not one sliver of truth in it. It grows out of a wholly twisted and incorrect view of the King Follett Sermon and of what is meant by eternal progression.

> God progresses in the sense that his kingdoms increase and his dominions multiply-not in the sense that he learn new truths and discovers new laws. God is not a student. He is not a laboratory technician. He is not postulating new theories on the basis of past experiences. He has indeed graduated to that state of exaltation that consists of knowing all things and having all power.

> The life that God lives is named eternal life. His name, one of them, is "Eternal," using that word as a noun and not as an adjective, and he uses that name to identify the type of life that he lives. God's life is eternal life, and eternal life is God's life. They are one and the same. Eternal life is the reward we shall obtain if we believe and obey and walk uprightly before him. And eternal life consists of two things. It consists of life in the family unit, and, also, of inheriting, receiving, and possessing the fullness of the glory of the Father. Anyone who has each of these things is an inheritor and possessor of the greatest of all gifts of God, which is eternal life.

> Eternal progression consists of living the kind of life God lives and of increasing in kingdoms and dominions everlastingly. Why anyone should suppose that an infinite and eternal being who has presided in our universe for almost 2,555,000,000 years, who made the sidereal heavens, whose creations are more numerous than the particles of the earth, and who is aware of the fall of every sparrow-why anyone would suppose that such a being has more to learn and new truths to discover in the laboratories of eternity is totally beyond my- comprehension.

It's been hard for me to gauge whether the Pratt/McConkie view is mainstream, or whether the Brighamite view is the mainstream. Some Mormons believe that God is progressing in knowledge and power under his god, and others believe he has reached equal knowledge and power with his God (our spirit-grandfather).

You can see a bit a discussion here on whether gods remain dependent on their spiritual progenitors. Mormons are in a bit of a bind on that one, since to teach that God is now independent of his god implies that we can become independent of our God, yet to teach that we remain dependent on our God implies that God remains dependent on his god.

Like I said, it's messy.

Aaron S said...

Rachael, no problem, I knew who you were talking to :)

Aaron S said...

Sorry to post a fourth consecutive comment, but this might help.

Go here and scroll down third-way. I have written an article there, "What is the Status of the First Half of the Lorenzo Snow Couplet in Mormonism?" The couplet is "As man is God once was, as God is man may be", which you alluded to.

Rachael Starke said...

Was just in the process of deleting and reposting just so you wouldn't twitch slightly every time you checked the comment thread...


And re: your comments - that's why your recommendation of asking them what they believe is so helpful, and then pointing them to what God says. Sometimes we get sucked in by their fancy badges with the "Elder" title and think that means a whooole lot more than it does.

And that does raise a decorum question for me - must I call these teenage boys with their badges signifiying less than nothing Elder? I've never pressed them on it because it's been a while since I've had more than one conversation with them, but it just sticks in my craw.

DJP said...

I had a chuckle with the last pair I talked with - a 50's y-o-m calling callow punks "Elder." They flexed a bit for me.

If they won't next time, I think I'll go for "young white punk #1" and "young white punk #2."

Aaron said...

Great post, Aaron.

I've never talked to Mormons or JWs because I don't normally answer the front door, unless I'm expecting company. My profession keeps a lot of people from my door as well. But there is a new Mormon church nearly completed about 1 mile or so from my house and only a couple miles from church. Maybe myself and some of the other church members can try to evangelize (and at a minimum I would expect more missionaries).

Do you have any more hints on how to witness to Mormons at the local church?

Aaron S said...

Physically at their church? I have friends who sometimes go to "Gospel Doctrine" classes and sit quietly. The classes are sometimes very participatory so you might be able to pose some questions or point something out on the topic at hand. But if they even get a hint that you're there to proselyte, you'll likely be asked to leave or remain silent.

Perhaps the best thing one could do is show up for a Fast and Testimony meeting (which I think is the first Sunday of every month?). You can get up and "bear your testimony", where you can follow their style of communication to share what God has done in your life before the entire ward/congregation.

If you're a young college student, sign up for an "institute" class!!!

JD Gunter said...

Thanks for this post. We have Mormons come to our neighborhood regularly. My wife stays at home with our 3 year old son. She has a heart to evangelize the Mormons but I'm not sure how I feel about having two young men in my home when I'm not there. Any advice?

Aaron S said...

Of course, if you're an absolute wacko like me there are more options, like standing in front of the ward on the public sidewalk to hand out tracts, or even hold a poster board advertising a web site (like while you smile and wave. My friend Rob does that and it's usually a sure way to spend an hour in conversation with curious inquisitors.

But I realize that's not everyone's cup of tea ;-)

DJP said...

Aaron Shafovaloff — God's Disruptor!

Aaron S said...

JD, because of mission policy they won't come in anyway if its just her inside. Just ask the missionaries to come over at a scheduled time, and they'll usually be happy to. They get brownie points (they literally compare numbers and are even ranked) in their mission for meeting with non-members and getting them to make "commitments" (like to reading a chapter of BofM).

CR said...

Good stuff. I've only had Mormon missionaries in once.

I'm like you Dan on the elder thing. These were 20 year olds. So, I just called them by their last name. No Mr. or anything. Just their last name.

On the prayer thing, they asked me if they could pray and I respectfully said no because we didn't worship the same God. I like Aaron's method of we praying. The Lord won't hear the Mormon's prayer. Anyway, that caught them by surprise that I would not allow them to lead in prayer.

When these missionaries came in, I mainly focused on the gospel. Mormons are works-oriented so I tried really focusing on the fact that salvation is not of works. They said some weird stuff like God told Abraham to lie about Sarah with Pharaoh. Anyway, I think they got really frustrated. I tried illustrating with illustrations and the one guy got really frustrated and he said, I don't want to hear anymore illustrations.

Just weird. I think he was really frustrated, he ended by saying if you need any help with anything like cutting lawn, they would help. (I lived in an apartment complex and there was no lawn).

I think Aaron makes a good point about inviting them for dinner. These guys are starving kids.

Paula said...

CR said, On the prayer thing, they asked me if they could pray and I respectfully said no because we didn't worship the same God. I like Aaron's method of we praying. The Lord won't hear the Mormon's prayer. Anyway, that caught them by surprise that I would not allow them to lead in prayer.

This would be a great topic for a Pyro post! I've had a Jewish friend in the hospital refuse to let me pray for her unless I agree to not pray to Jesus. I couldn't oblige but told her I'd pray for her later anyway. I'd love to hear thoughts on how to navigate ecumenical prayers situations and the theological implications. In another post of course...not wanting to hijack this one : )

Terry Rayburn said...


Two questions:

1. Do you use the KJV as James White does in his booklet, or would you not consider that of much importance?

(I have used NASB for many years, but am considering memorizing the verses used in James' booklet.)

2. Do you think it's of any value to read the Book of Mormon, or are the second-hand printouts of LDS doctrines adequate?

(I was amazed at the resource you mentioned about testing your knowledge of the Book of Mormon, and seeing what is NOT in the book at all, yet is common LDS doctrine.)

valjohnjennings said...

Do you accept posts from a 68 year old mormon who regularly goes out with the "Elders" and has maintained a testimony while living in "Gentile" territory and
who's God, is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and who believes that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.

I consider myself Christian, if that means a disciple of Jesus
Christ. I consider myself Mormon if that means one who has read and has a testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

If you do not want to take time to read the Book of Mormon, try the shorter "Baptist version of the Book of Mormon" by Lynn Ridenhour.

Terry Rayburn said...


Just curious, do you understand that the LDS church teaches a multiplicity of gods, and that this is counter to the Bible?

I have asked this question of many "elders" and have never received a mature answer.

Either they are utterly ignorant of the teaching of a multiplicity of gods, or they kinda know it but have no answer regarding the Bible's clear teaching that there is only one God.

This is obviously not part of their pre-missionary training.

What say you?

Aaron S said...

Terry, I bring an LDS quad with me to Temple Square for evangelism, but in my own home I use a modern English translation unless they object. I'm happy to pull out the KJV. The key verses still ring loud and clear. I would just memorize in modern English and pull out the KJV when a Mormon insists on it or raises a related complaint. All things considered, I'd rather scripture communicate clarity in their modern heart-language than it tickle their superficial Elizabethan-language radar. Even when I quote from the KJV I modernize the text on the fly.

As for the Book of Mormon, it is with a few exceptions quite irrelevant to Mormon doctrine. If you're in this for the long-haul with Mormons, it's valuable to read it and say you have read it. When we do discuss the Book of Mormon, I like to discuss 2 Nephi 25:23, Moroni 8:18, and Moroni 10:32. All things considered, the Book of Mormon is a sloppy Protestantish text with little theological resemblance to Mormonism today. I tell Mormons that, doctrinally speaking, I for the most part believe in the Book of Mormon more than Mormons do (Moroni 8:18 being a key example).

Speaking of "after all we can do" (the key phrase from 2 Nephi 25:23)...

Thanks for stopping by, valjohnjennings. These words will be probably hard to read, but please finish reading them since they are important. Jesus commands us to "Beware of false prophets" (Matthew 7:15), so in order to act as disciples of Jesus, we need to obey this command. In the next verse Jesus says, "You will recognize them by their fruits." The fruits of Joseph Smith are clear and are worth evaluating. He secretly married 34 women, 11 of whom were simultaneously married to living husbands (that's polyandry, a multiple-husband form of polygamy), pressuring young women to marry him, even exhibiting the traits of a sexual predator. See more on this here. He was duped into doing a preliminary translation of the Kinderhook Plates and then bragging about it to his confidant William Clayton. His translation of the Book of Abraham has been proven beyond a shadow of doubt to be a fraud. And most important, his teaching in the King Follett Discourse contradicts plainly what both the Bible and the Book of Mormon teach.

God testifies about himself through David in Psalm 90:2, "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God."

Moroni 8:18 teaches, "For I know that God is not a partial God, neither a changeable being; but he is unchangeable from all eternity to all eternity."

Yet Joseph Smith went on to teach, "We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity, I will refute that idea, and will take away and do away the vail, so that you may see."

Please consider these things, val/john, as reasons why Christians reject Joseph Smith and his teachings.

Grace and peace in Christ,


Paul W said...

I have to admit, as a Latter-day Saint who once served a Full-time mission, I find this article a bit condescending and unkind.

I think you are trying to come from a place of love, but you come off as a bit "holier/more intelligent than thou"...

Just the way I see it as a Mormon. I'd be happy to answer any questions asked me. I'm still young and dumb (just 30)... ;)

DJP said...

It's very difficult to discern the feelings and attitudes of others, though, isn't it Paul? Only God can really do that. What if we focus on facts, and things "out there" anyone has equal access to?

There already are some questions you could respond to. Why not interact with the contents of Aaron's post, or of his last comments, for starters?

Rachael Starke said...

Paul W -

What in particular about this article made you think this? That argument is something Christians and Mormons get pretty regularly, is it not?

Aaron S said...

Not sure what your standard for unkindness is here, Paul, but if it's the type where it seems I don't want what's best for you, then I'm sorry. If it is simply that I am openly critical of Mormonism, I would encourage you to read this, and more importantly, the first few chapters of Proverbs.

Grace and peace in Christ,


Terry Rayburn said...

Paul W,

You wrote,

"I'd be happy to answer any questions asked me."

Feel free to answer the question I asked of valjohnjennings (without reply):

" you understand that the LDS church teaches a multiplicity of gods, and that this is counter to the Bible?"

Paul W said...

"What in particular about this article made you think this? That argument is something Christians and Mormons get pretty regularly, is it not?"

It's also something that most of us could work on as well...

Paul W said...

"Not sure what your standard for unkindness is here, Paul, but if it's the type where it seems I don't want what's best for you, then I'm sorry. If it is simply that I am openly critical of Mormonism, I would encourage you to read this, and more importantly, the first few chapters of Proverbs."

It wasn't the being openly critical of Mormonism, I would expect that :). It's just the general vibe of your description of the missionaries and your interaction with them. It felt condescending to me. . .but I may be over sensitive.

Rachael Starke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul W said...

" you understand that the LDS church teaches a multiplicity of gods, and that this is counter to the Bible?"

First let me clarify that in participating here I do not intend to argue or believe that I will convince anyone that my position or Mormonism in general is "the truth". . .that you should believe such.

I only hope to adequately explain my position and that we will come to a more mutual understanding and respect in our differing beliefs.

Okay, back to the question. Yes, I understand the principle of the thing generally. . .mainly that we can become like him through Jesus, joint heirs with Christ. . .gods.

I also understand the commonly held belief expressed by Joseph Smith in his King Follett discourse and Lorenzo Snow's couplet that has already been mentioned before. . .that God was one like us or that God must have had a Father, etc. This is a more tricky subject because there are many past leaders of the Church who have express such ideas and many current members that espouse these ideas to one degree or another (including myself). However, it is notable that none of this has been included in our Latter-day Saint cannon, nothing to this extent is mentioned in the temple ceremonies. I conclude that these are speculative ideas growing out of the things that we do know of our own future from LDS cannon.

One could flatly deny this reasoning and be fine in the LDS Church. I'll stop there for now.

Rachael Starke said...

Sorry Paul W. I didn't realize you were in the process of doing what I was exhorting you to do, :) Can't read your comment thoroughly as I have a house of marauding girls, but will try to later...

Paul W said...

I want to add to my last comment that for me and other LDS there is but one God for us. I know the Bible and I believe the words of the Bible. I may read and understand some of them differently than many of you. I don't believe that my understanding contradicts the Bible.

Aaron S said...

"However, it is notable that none of this has been included in our Latter-day Saint cannon

Mormonism has never been fundamentally a religion of sola scriptura, so why does this matter in the first place? Mormon leaders say lots of things outside the canon that members feel expected to believe.

nothing to this extent is mentioned in the temple ceremonies.

That's not entirely true.

As for rejecting Mormon teachings and still comfortably remaining Mormon, this goes far beyond King Follett Discourse theology. One can comfortably remain a non-temple-going Mormon and privately confess a staunch atheism to one's bishop and still often be encouraged to remain an active member. Mormonism does not have the same standard for retaining membership as it does for gaining membership.

Grace and peace in Christ,


Terry Rayburn said...


You're sliding past the core of the question.

To rephrase it, how in the world can you square the Mormon belief in multiple gods with the following very clear Scriptures [emphasis by me]?

Deuteronomy 6:4: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is ONE LORD:"

Isaiah 43:11: "...before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour."

Isaiah 44:6, 8: "Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God...Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any."

Isaiah 45:5-6: "I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else."

Isaiah 45:22: "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else."

Jon said...

Thanks for the article and the link to James White's verse memorization list. My Dad just recently had Mormon's come to his door and he talked with them a bit, but I'm sure this article would have given him some more things to talk with them about.

The Way of the Master program had an episode on Mormonism and the one question that they gave to ask a Mormon was on their view of Heaven. They stated that most Mormons believe that only a few will go into what could be called their Hell, but even "good" people will still get to go to one of their "heavens". So, my question for Mormons would simply be, "If what you believe about Heaven is true, then I have nothing to worry about, but if what I believe to be true then they will be going to Hell."

In your opinion, would that be a good or bad question?

Paul W said...

Aaron said, "Mormonism has never been fundamentally a religion of sola scriptura, so why does this matter in the first place? Mormon leaders say lots of things outside the canon that members feel expected to believe."

You are perfectly welcome to disagree with my, but it is my opinion as a practicing Latter-day Saint that anything not canonized or put forward by the First Presidency & Quorum of the Twelve as a group, is not "doctrine proper" and not binding upon the saints. Just because a "Mormon Leader" says something doesn't make it automatically "gospel", and just because a member of the Church may feel like they are required to believe something doesn't make it so.

As far as your link goes, I'd never really picked up on that before. . .that's interesting. It is coming from the mouth of Lucifer in the drama and we all know he likes to tell half truths and lies. I'll have to think about that one.

Paul W said...

Terry Rayburn said, "To rephrase it, how in the world can you square the Mormon belief in multiple gods with the following very clear Scriptures [emphasis by me]?"...

I can answer this by saying that "the Mormon belief in multiple gods" as you phrase it, is less a "belief" and more of an peripheral theory based on doctrine. It is not something truly pertinent to Salvation. It in no way should change one's relationship with God our Father.

In response to the scriptures listed, I agree wholeheartedly with them all. There is no God besides him for us. . .past, present or future. He is our only Father and our God.

Aaron said...

"I only hope to adequately explain my position and that we will come to a more mutual understanding and respect in our differing beliefs."

Paul, I have and do know many Mormons. I can say without equivocation that all of them have been kind, caring, wonderful people to know. The purpose of engaging Mormon missionaries or any Mormon for that matter, is not out of contempt but rather compassion! I feel such compassion for the Mormons that I know that I feel an obligation to tell them that their theology is going to send them directly to Hell. This discussion is all about doing that in the most respectful manner we can while making sure we express the truth of Scripture clearly and boldly.

The truth is that Mormonism and Christianity are contradictory with respect to salvation, the nature of Jesus, and the nature of God. That's a tough truth to sugarcoat. We believe in sola scriptura. Our doctrine comes only from Scripture and Scripture is sufficient not just for knowledge unto salvation but for practical living. "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." Saying that you don't have to accept non-cannonical teachings of your prophets and leaders is really just sidestepping the heart of the issue, which is that they are teaching principles that are contrary to Scripture.

Aaron S said...

> anything not canonized or put forward by the First Presidency & Quorum of the Twelve as a group, is not "doctrine proper" and not binding upon the saints

Sorry to be about promoting my own materials so much here, but I gave an entire talk on this at the Compassionate Boldness 2009 conference called, "A Holistic Approach to Mormon Teachings and Beliefs - Engaging What Matters Without Misrepresenting People". In short, there is no consistent official Mormon position on what constitute an official Mormon position, and both the Mormon institution and its members need to take more responsibility for widespread traditional teachings and beliefs even if they don't fit one's particular Mormon view of what constitutes the strictest abstract standard of what is "official doctrine".

Part of being a thoughtful Christian is realizing that prophets represent God and therefore are subject to a high standard. But part of being an intellectual defender of Mormonism seems to be making a load of excuses for Mormon prophets who said and did horrific things in the name of God (racist theology, relentless merit-orientation, Adam-God, polyandry, pressing teenagers to marry, etc.).

If you hang out at long enough, you'll learn quickly that Mormons strongly disagree over their varying opinions of what constitutes official doctrine.

Take care,


Aaron S said...

Sorry, I meant "pressuring".

Susan said...

Thank you for this series and for the work you do for the Lord, Aaron.

valjohnjennings said...

When Paul stood on Mars Hill and declared unto the Romans that Christ was their unknown God, he was speaking the reality that our Creator was Jesus Christ. He is the true God of heaven and earth. Satan is sometimes referred to as the god of this world, and he does affect the affairs of men and nations.

Paul also stood by and held the coats of those who stoned Stephen. This was while he was known as Saul and had not seen the resurrected Christ. He was witness to a disciople who saw God and Jesus Christ standing on the right hand of God. That is two personages. The Holy Ghost also witnesses of Christ. The only way they are one is that they function as one. How can the triune God of the third century who has no body, parts, or passions, be any different than those unknown gods of the Romans? God is real! So is Christ and the Holy Ghost. What merit is there in the resurrection if it does not make us heirs with Christ in having an eternal body, parts, and "with charity", passion for truth?

Yes I have heard the reports of Joseph Smith having done things that purport to evil. That his name is had for good and evil, even today, is a witness, to me, that he spoke the truth. I do believe that millions shall know brother Joseph again.

DJP said...

The difference being that Joseph Smith proclaimed strange gods, not the one and only God of Scripture, whose witness about Himself is in direct contradiction to Smith's teaching: "'You are my witnesses,' declares the LORD, 'and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me'" (Isaiah 43:10).

I can't witness to what Smith said and to what God says, because they contradict each other.

One must stand with God, not Joseph Smith. He cannot do both.

Anonymous said...

Joseph Smith preached a different gospel which is not a gospel at all. See Galatians chapter one.

Paul said in Galatians 1:8 (NET)
But even if we (or an angel from heaven) should preach a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be condemned to hell!

You stated: That his name is had for good and evil, even today, is a witness, to me, that he spoke the truth.

I would suggest that your test doesn't hold water.

For instance, Hitler's name is had for good and evil, even today. Those who consider it good are obviously all knuckleheads. No one in their right mind would suggest that Hitler spoke the truth. The point is that your test seems to be worthless.

Aaron S said...

valjohnjennings, some related thoughts:

You said, "he was speaking the reality that our Creator was Jesus Chris", but isn't that an odd position to take since LDS leaders have traditionally used that Acts 17 passage to say that we are literal "offspring" (Acts 17:28) Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother? If Christ is the one being spoken of, then how do you fit LDS authoritative usage together with your own usage of the passage?

Visions of beholding glory of two personages (Father and the Son) were not uncommon in Smith's time. But people didn't interpret that to mean that the Father and Son were two separable God-beings who weren't always in relationship. They rather traditionally interpreted it as two distinct inter-relating persons of the Trinity. Smith didn't even mention the presence of "two personages" until 1835, and didn't identify them as the Father and Son until 1838. In his handwritten 1832 First Vision account it was simply Jesus who appeared to him, or in other First Vision accounts, a host of angels. Smith's theology was on the move, and it transitioned from modalism, to binitarianism, to full blown belief in the plurality of God-beings. If you think that's just nerd-speak, please dig deeper. A lot of people have left Mormonism with that issue being part of the reason.

You ask, "What merit is there in the resurrection if it does not make us heirs with Christ in having an eternal body, parts", but I think this reflects a common Mormon misunderstanding of traditional Christian theology. We heartily affirm that we will forever have real resurrection bodies with parts. The same goes for the permanent resurrected body of Jesus Christ.

That the divine nature of God the Father and Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost is "without passions" is another phrase misunderstood (and misrepresented by Mormon leaders). It doesn't not mean that God is without desire. Indeed, we believe God is full of infinite desire (and in that sense, infinite passion), and always has had this white hot desire and love between Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

That God is "without passions" refers to the Christian belief that God is without mood swings. Or more fundamentally, that God's character and being isn't improved upon or changed. All the things that make God intrinsically glorious and beautiful don't change, nor do they need to. But that doesn't take away from the fact that God relates to humans in time and history.

Grace and peace,


Aaron S said...

Woops, I meant, "It [doesn't mean] that God is without desire"