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2003 Conversations


Joy Williams: Rooted in Grace (December 29, 2002)

Judy Rachels: Christmas gifts (December 22, 2002)

Ralph Carmichael: New music for a timeless message (December 15, 2002)

Roger and Greg Flessing: Media, ministry and society's ungodly messages (December 8, 2002)

Rick Salvato: Meeting medical and spiritual needs around the world (November 24, 2002)

Asa Hutchinson: Drug Enforcement's top officer (November 17, 2002)

Bill Bright: 'Not I, but Christ' (November 10, 2002)

Ray Berryhill: Living by faith (October 20, 2002)

Owen C. Carr: Reading through the Bible 92 times (October 13, 2002)

Curtis Harlow: Combating campus drinking (September 29, 2002)

Wes Bartel: Making Sunday count (September 22, 2002)

M. Wayne Benson: The Holy Spirit knocks (September 15, 2002)

Dr. Richard Dobbins: Understanding Suffering (September 8, 2002)

K.R. Mele: Halloween evangelism (August 25, 2002)

Roland Blount: God makes a way for blind missionary (August 18, 2002)

Cal Thomas: Finding a mission field (August 11, 2002)

Lisa Ryan: For such a time as this (July 28, 2002)

Dallas Holm: Faith and prayer in life’s toughest times (July 21, 2002)

Paul Drost: Intentional church planting (July 14, 2002)

James M. Inhofe: Serving Christ in the Senate (June 30, 2002)

Karen Kingsbury: The Write stuff (June 23, 2002)

Michael W. Smith: Worship is how you live each day (June 16, 2002)

Wayne Stayskal: On the drawing board (June 9, 2002)

Fory VandenEinde: Anyone can minister (May 26, 2002)

Thomas E. Trask: Pentecost Sunday (May 19, 2002)

Stormie Omartian: Recovering from an abusive childhood (May 12, 2002)

Luis Carrera: Beyond the Shame (April 28, 2002)

Tom Greene: The church of today (April 21, 2002)

Philip Bongiorno: Wisdom for a younger generation (April 14, 2002)

Deborah M. Gill: Christian education and discipleship (March 24, 2002)

Norma Champion: Becoming involved in politics (February 24, 2002)

Steve Pike: A candid discussion about Mormonism (February 10, 2002)

Raymond Berry: More to life than football (January 27, 2002)

Sanctity of Human Life roundtable: Doctors speak out (January 20, 2002)

Chaplain Charles Marvin: Ministering in the military (January 13, 2002)


2001 Conversations

A candid discussion about Mormonism

(February 10, 2002)

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 O’Connell 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?

PIKE: 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 isn’t 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 don’t 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 God’s 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 don’t 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 argue doctrine?

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 Paul’s 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 Christ’s 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 LDS Temple.

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, item #03-3935

Recommended Web sites
• Through the Maze, www.mazeministry.com

• Utah Light House Ministry, www.utlm.org

• Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, www.carm.org

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