Yesterday I had a conversation with two neatly dressed “elder missionaries,” or more commonly known as Mormons.
To be perfectly honest, I know very little of Mormon theology. I haven’t studied it or how to evangelize Mormons as much as I have studied Jehovah’s Witnesses’ theology, so I was not entirely prepared to converse with them. I know a few things I’ve read, but I’m particularly thankful to God that I remembered the following from The Book of Mormon,
“We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10: 3-5.)” 1
Moroni 10:3-5 reads, “Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts. And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost. And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.” 2
Why am I particularly thankful for these two quotes? Well, because I realized that the entire theology of Mormonism is based on sheer relativism/subjectivism and fideism. In other words, the way you can know whether or not Mormonism is true is if you receive a direct revelation from the Holy Ghost telling you that what is contained in the book of Mormonism is true. I asked the “elders” to confirm to me whether or not it was an accurate statement to say that the one way you can know for certain whether what is contained in The Book of Mormon is true or not is by a feeling in your heart, which they would call the Holy Spirit speaking to you, that makes you feel blessed and right about the book of Mormon. They replied in the affirmative. In fact, one of them repeated more times than I can count how his life had been blessed “by following the example of Jesus in obeying his commandments in the book of Mormon.”
As the logo for Nike would say, “If it feels right, do it.” They did not correct my statement, so it seems it’s a fair thing to say. This was enough for me to speak to them about how flawed that thinking is and to point them to the eternal, infallible word of God alone.
Here are some more quotations from Mormon literature that seem to support my conclusion that Mormonism is based on sheer relativism:
“I recall an experience with a zone leader in England who came to me during the lunch break at zone conference. He said, ‘We are teaching a lady who is blind and nearly deaf. She wants to know if the Book of Mormon is true. What shall we do?’ I did not have an answer at that moment, but I said, ‘I will let you know after our conference.’ During the afternoon session I had the distinct impression come as to how to help her. After the meeting I said to the zone leader, ‘Have this sister hold her copy of the Book of Mormon and turn its pages very slowly. When she has done this, have her ask if it is true.’ Though she could not read nor hear the words, she felt the spirit and power of the Book of Mormon, and it changed her life” (H. Bryan Richards, “Remember the Teachings of Your Father,” Ensign (Conference Edition), November 2004, p. 96).
“In order to know that the Book of Mormon is true, a person must read, ponder, and pray about it. The honest seeker of truth will soon come to feel that the Book of Mormon is the word of God” (Preach My Gospel, 2004, p. 38).
“In answer to our prayers, the Holy Ghost will teach us truth through our feelings and thoughts” (Preach My Gospel, 2004, p. 39).
Many professing Christians use the same line of argumentation to support a variety of unbiblical views. At the end of the day, their basis is not even The Book of Mormon, it’s their own gut feeling, which is very prevalent in our day. People who claim to have gone to heaven or hell and back support their views by claiming they had a revelation from God, Benny Hinn does as well, not to mention homosexuals, polygamists, and even pedophiles who are using the same line of argumentation to support their views, whether it’s from “God,” a god, goddess, or themselves.
At its very root, the problem can be stated as follows: “Because The Book of Mormon makes me feel right, because it has blessed my life, and because I believe it, therefore it is true.” So what these Mormons were basically telling me, although they denied it, was, “I am the source of all truth and morality. I dictate what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is false because I feel so.” When I used that same logic with them I said, “Well, the Holy Spirit has revealed to me that The Book of Mormon is wrong and that what you are teaching me is false. I have been blessed by believing that, it makes me feel right, and I feel it is so.” See how this is very conflicting? Mormonism, according to its own statement, stands or falls, not because of internal or external evidence, but with your own judgment of its veracity based on some illusory gut feeling.
This is why I believe that presuppositional apologetics is the right way to go always. The truth of God’s Word is axiomatic, meaning, self-evident and needing no proof (e.g. the existence of God). Things are right and wrong because God has established what is right and wrong. Things are true and false because God has established what things are true and false. I don’t tell an unbeliever, “believe in God and His word because it will bless you and make you feel good. That’s why I believe in God because it makes me feel good and He told me it’s true.” That is the message that, unfortunately, many so-called preachers teach nowadays. Health, wealth, and prosperity is the message you will most commonly hear from unfaithful and false teachers who preach “peace, peace!” to the people when calamity is surely to come. Here’s some food for thought, if we really are the ones who dictate truth, and what the Bible says, for example, can only be true so long as it is in accord with our feelings and thoughts, would we not naturally do away with difficult and hard doctrines such as the Trinity, Hell, conscious eternal torment, salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, by the Scriptures alone? Ironically, that is exactly what Mormonism does and, as we will see, what one of these Mormons explicitly told me.
I told them, “God’s Word is infallible and eternal because God revealed it. It does not contradict itself, it does not change, and it testifies to its own veracity. There is no higher court we can subject His Word to other than Himself. It is true because of internal and external evidence. Within its pages you will find its perfect harmony and unity and fulfillment of prophecy, and outside of its pages you will find countless archeological, historical, and prophetic evidence fulfilled. Can you say the same about The Book of Mormon?” The answer was, “oh yes, there’s countless evidence for it but, the main point is this: it’s true because it has blessed my life.” They will try to always bring you back to that subjective standard for “truth.” Hold them to this: What is the standard for truth? How can I know whether this book you’re trying to make me believe in is true?
If I use the same standard the introduction to The Book of Mormon says to find truth, can’t any cult and denomination, group and organization do the same? If everyone was to use the same litmus test, what would become of truth? It would be the death blow to objective truth. Oddly enough, that was what they told me, not in the same verbiage, but along those lines:
Me: So, if I use the same test and say that God has revealed to me that you’re wrong, what would you say to me?
Mormons: Well, we would respect the revelation God has given you and just encourage you to follow the example of Jesus and his commandments.
Me: Wait, but you believe The Book of Mormon is the revelation of God, do you not? If I’m dying and you believe the truth of the Book of Mormon, and I want to know how to be right with God, how loving of you is it to not tell me the truth and seek to drive me away from falsehood and into Mormonism?
Mormons: no reply.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has come far from its original leaders’ statements. These Mormons I was trying to witness to (which I will address in the next reflection) claimed to be Christians, while Joseph Smith said, “Nothing less than a complete apostasy from the Christian religion would warrant the establishment of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (Documentary History of the Church, Introduction, xl) [For more proof of this click here]. They claim to follow the example of Joseph Smith while denying many of his teachings. What’s worse, they claim to follow the example of Jesus while denying the foundational truth that he said, “‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mark 1:14, NASB). This “Gospel” is made reference to in 1 Corinthians 15:1-5, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures….” To which Gospel they added baptism and obeying the law. I will give the details on what was said about the Gospel in this conversation in a later reflection. And lastly, they claim to follow Christ and worship him, while entertaining a false theology that dishonors the Trinity and exalts themselves as the God of truth.
They also claimed to believe in both The Book of Mormon and the Bible. When confronted with the fact that all men are accountable to God, even those who may never hear the Gospel, the reply was, “That’s not fair! That’s not just! I don’t believe that.” I tried to show them, once again, that they had made themselves God by proclaiming what is true and what is false based on their own standards of fairness and justice. When I showed them Romans 1:18-23,
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”
“ What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written,“ There is none righteous, not even one;There is none who understands,There is none who seeks for God;All have turned aside, together they have become useless;There is none who does good,There is not even one.”“ Their throat is an open grave,With their tongues they keep deceiving,”“ The poison of asps is under their lips”;“ Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;“ Their feet are swift to shed blood,Destruction and misery are in their paths,And the path of peace they have not known.”“ There is no fear of God before their eyes.”Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks tothose who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”
And Revelation 14:9-11,
“Then another angel, a third one, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented withfire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever; they have no rest day and night, those who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name.”
After the reading of these passages one of the Mormons was visibly angered yet controlled, but he could not keep himself from saying once again, after I had told them “Guys, if you have a problem with that, take it up to Paul, but see how this contradicts The Book of Mormon and your gut feeling? You are not God. Your fallen standards of justice and fairness are irrelevant. Only God can establish that,” he said, “I don’t believe that. That’s not fair.” This is a form of idolatry. Regardless of what the Bible says, I am the one who tells God what is fair, what is just, what is true, what is wrong, what is right, and what is false.
The first problem to be dealt with in speaking with Mormons, or at least the way I handled it when I spoke with them, was addressing the question: What is the standard for truth? How do you judge what is right and what is wrong, what is true and what is false? The Mormon answer would be, “Well, pray and if you’re sincere God will reveal it to you. And if you’re revealed that it is false, well, you’re wrong, but we’ll respect your revelation.” Which is, needless to say, completely illogical and self-refuting. The Biblical answer would be Genesis 1:1, “Bereishit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’aretz” or, “In the beginning, God.” Remember, you have to distinguish between the conscious deceiver and the deceived. Many of these Mormons truly believe they are right and that they are obeying God, so “snatch them out of the fire” as Paul would say with gentleness and love, yet firmly and boldly declare to them they are following damning doctrines of demons and lead them to the Gospel of free and sovereign grace.
In our next entry we will look at what these Mormons told me about justice and fairness. What is justice? What is fairness?
1. Smith, Joseph. Introduction. The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi. Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981. N. pag. LDS.org. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Web. 11 Aug. 2012. <http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/introduction?lang=eng>.
2. Smith, Joseph. “Moroni 10:3-5.” The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi. Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1981. N. pag. LDS.org. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Web. 11 Aug. 2012. <http://www.lds.org/scriptures/bofm/moro/10?lang=eng>.