The Church of Jesus Christ of
Latter-day Saints, known commonly as the Mormon Church, is often acknowledged
for its successful missionary program. Mormon men, at the age of 19,
are expected to spend two years serving their church. Many Mormon women
also serve at the age of 21 for 18 months. The church claims to have
more than 60,000 missionaries serving in 162 countries.
Assistant Editor Ashli OConnell
spoke recently with Steve Pike, director of church planting and development
for the Rocky Mountain District of the Assemblies of God, about dealing
with Mormon missionaries. Pike served for 10 years as a church planter
and pastor in Utah, where he cofounded Project Exodus, a ministry that
was aimed at freeing victims of false-faith groups in America.
EVANGEL: Why do you believe Mormonism
is so appealing to people today?
Over the past 15 years or so, the LDS church has successfully transitioned
itself from being viewed as a fringe cult group to being accepted by
many Christian groups as a legitimate denomination under the broad umbrella
of Christianity. As a result, many Christians now view the LDS church
as a "sister" organization with only minor doctrinal differences
from Bible-based Christian groups.
This perception will only be reinforced
by the public relations efforts of the LDS church during the Winter
Olympic Games. The net result of all this is that the average person
who encounters Mormon missionaries or members no longer views them as
a group to be avoided, but rather a legitimate religious group to be
considered. And, the fact is, when theological concerns are removed,
the LDS church is very attractive.
Among other benefits, joining the
LDS church provides a person with a strong social support network that
isnt always found in Bible-based Christian churches. The LDS church
also has enjoyed amazing success at developing lay leadership throughout
its organizational structure. Its short-term missions program is unparalleled
by any traditional Christian group. And the LDS church has excelled
at humanitarian efforts all over the world. All these assets and more
make the LDS church very attractive to the people of this generation
who tend to be less concerned whether a religion is true and more concerned
with whether it is good.
EVANGEL: What do Christians need
to know about LDS missionaries?
PIKE: Most LDS missionaries
are very young and relatively inexperienced. As such, they are generally
kind young people who are giving up what many consider to be the prime
of their lives in service to their church. They are primarily interested
in conducting "discussions" with interested seekers, rather
than engaging in debate with seasoned saints.
They are usually a long way from
home and serve with someone they have known for a relatively short period
of time. They are involved in constant activity six days a week. They
have limited contact with their families. With all this in mind, we
should remember to treat them with "gentleness and respect"
(1 Peter 3:15, NIV) and understand that the best thing we can do for
them is to help them see Jesus in us.
EVANGEL: What mistakes do Christians
make when confronted by LDS missionaries?
PIKE: The two most common
mistakes are rebuke and debate. "Rebuke" has to do with the
idea that if we tell them they are wrong using strong statements from
Scripture that the missionaries will "wake up," realize the
error of their ways and turn away from their deception.
"Debate" is based on the
idea that a logical presentation of scriptural facts will demolish their
belief system and lead them to salvation. Both these approaches are
usually unproductive in leading an LDS person to faith in Christ.
Since LDS people are taught that
Bible-based Christians have some of the truth but not all of it, it
is easy to see why rebuke and/or debate responses just dont work
very well. Witnessing to an LDS person is usually much more of a process
than an event. We need to pray that the Holy Spirit will use us over
time to help them begin to see through the veil of deception (2 Corinthians
4:4) and discover that salvation comes by grace through faith, not by
works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8,9). This process simply
takes prayer, time, anointed communication and authentic relationship.
EVANGEL: Some Christians invite
Mormon missionaries to their homes hoping to turn the tables and witness
to the missionaries. Do you advise this?
PIKE: Yes and no. No, if
you simply want to argue with them, embarrass them or prove them wrong.
Yes, if you want to enter into a process of redemptive relationship
that will help the LDS missionaries discover Gods grace demonstrated
in the person of Jesus.
Many people choose not to invite
LDS people into their homes because of the admonition of the apostle
John in 2 John 1:10: "If anyone comes to you and does not bring
this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him."
It does sound like he is saying that we should not even let a person
like a Mormon into our house. However, it is important to remember that
there were no "Holiday Inns" in those days. I believe that
John was admonishing believers to avoid providing a place to stay for
those who taught false doctrine. I dont believe John was forbidding
inviting them into your home to share the love of Christ. However, it
is generally a good idea to have other believers with you when you invite
LDS folks in. If you are alone when they come for the first time, invite
them to come back. Prepare for their visit with prayer and by inviting
other believers to be a part of your meeting with them. And plan on
a "redemptive relationship," not just a one-time encounter.
EVANGEL: Is it productive to
PIKE: Not at first. If we
think of leading a Mormon person to Christ as a process, then we must
recognize that the first stage is building a relationship. Relationship
will be followed by thoughtful discussion. Eventually, when an appropriate
level of trust and understanding is achieved, it may be appropriate
to challenge their doctrinal assumptions in a manner that is more confrontational.
I have found that LDS people are willing to listen to me, even when
I say things that are hard for them to hear, if they know that I truly
care about them.
EVANGEL: What advice would you
give to someone who is considering joining the Mormon Church?
PIKE: I would invite them
to look before they leap. They should carefully study the Gospels and
Pauls writings in the New Testament and see how these Scriptures
compare to the teachings of the LDS church. They should recognize that
although the LDS church has made great strides in presenting themselves
as another Christian denomination, the core LDS beliefs create a huge
gap between the LDS church and Bible-based Christian groups.
They must also realize that LDS
members are expected to proclaim without apology that the human organization
headquartered in Salt Lake City, Utah, is the "One True Church
authorized by God." They will be expected to agree that Christs
church ceased to exist from around A.D. 100 until 1830 when God restored
His church through a young man named Joseph Smith. They must realize
that many of the core LDS teachings are not shared with members until
after they have been baptized and participate in sacred rites in the
Many resources regarding Mormonism
are available from Gospel Publishing House or from local Christian bookstores
to help seekers make a fully informed decision about the LDS church.
For further study
Gospel Publishing House carries the following resource materials. To
order, call 1-800-641-4310 and ask for the item number indicated, or
order online at www.GospelPublishing.com.
Mormonism 101 by Bill
McKeever and Eric Johnson, item #03-6217
Reasoning From the Scriptures
With the Mormons by Ron Rhodes, item #03-6505
Fast Facts on False Teachings
by Ron Carlson and Ed Decker, item #03-1481
In Search of Truth
by Paul Smith and Clancy Hayes, student guide, item #02-0124 and leader
guide, item #02-0224
The Spirit of Truth and
the Spirit of Error by Keith Brooks and revised by Irvine Robertson,