I have been amazed that there are so many Christians who have a heart to reach out to the Mormon people to bring the message of life and salvation solely in and through the True and Living Christ as the Bible declares. I admire the genuine love and desire of these faithful Christians who have this desire to reach out to and save these precious souls who are mired in Mormonism. But, as a former Mormon myself, I see that the average Christian engaging in outreach to Mormons (that does not either have a Mormon background or a long-time and very close relationship with Mormon people) has a very difficult time making headway with the Mormon people. Even with a good understanding of the Mormon mindset and of Mormon doctrines, the Mormon people are still very hard to reach. But understanding what the real hurdles and the great divides are that stand in the way may go a long way in making the Christian outreach to Mormons more effective. [But let us not forget that we as believers who minister the Word of Truth don’t do the real work – the real work and success is accomplished only by God, Himself. Jesus emphatically stated that: “[n]o man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him . . . .” John 6:44 (KJV)]
Understanding the Mormon Belief of how to discern Truth and How It differs from the Biblical View is the first step in increasing Christian effectiveness in Mormon outreach. Indeed, one of the biggest barriers to reaching the Mormon heart and mind is the Mormon doctrine and teaching of how we can find and know ultimate truth.
A. THE CHRISTIAN SOURCE AND STANDARD OF TRUTH
Of course, as bible-believing Christians, we look to Christ Himself and His Word as the source and Standard of Truth:
Jesus prayed to the Father: “Sanctify them through thy truth: THY WORD IS TRUTH.” John 17:17.
He also said: “Heaven and earth shall pass away: but MY WORDS SHALL NOT PASS AWAY.” Luke 21:33.
“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but THE WORD OF OUR GOD SHALL STAND FOR EVER.” Isaiah 40:8
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever. For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But THE WORD OF THE LORD ENDURETH FOR EVER. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you. 1 Peter 1:23-25
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1
"I AM the way and THE TRUTH and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
“If ye continue IN MY WORD, then are ye my disciples indeed; And YE SHALL KNOW THE TRUTH, and THE TRUTH SHALL MAKE YOU FREE.” John 8:31-32
So what is Truth? It is the Word of God. Christ is Truth, His Words are Truth. Over and over we are told to look to Him and to His Word as the pure source of life and truth. The Truth (Christ - the Word) shall make you free.
So, we know that God Himself has declared that the Word of God itself is the Standard of Truth. Deviate from it, and we have gone away from Truth towards the darkness – to what is not of God or His Truth. Where do we find the words of Christ? The Bible, of course!
B. Christ’s Apostles Also Made Clear The Way to Avoid Deception
In addition, Christians have been emphatically warned:
“but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 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.” Galatians 1:1-8
“But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he that cometh preacheth ANOTHER JESUS, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive ANOTHER SPIRIT, which ye have not received, or ANOTHER GOSPEL, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.” 2 Corinthians 11: 3-4
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:3-4
Thus, if any man or church preaches in a manner that deviates from Christ’ Words or the Words of His apostles (which Jesus declared would never pass away) –– it must necessarily be false teaching.
Pretty plain, simple and infallible.
But the Standard of Truth provided for by Christ and His apostles differs substantially from the Mormon Standard of Truth. But before we get into a discussion of the Mormon standard of discerning truth, it is important to understand what another great barrier to reaching the Mormon heart is.
THE FIRST GREAT DIVIDE - LACK OF MORMON BELIEF IN THE BIBLE
One of biggest problems in witnessing to Mormons is that, while we as Christians know that the bible is the Word of God and the Standard of Truth, Mormon’s don’t really believe in the bible. However, Mormons will assert until they’re blue in the face that they do, in fact, believe in the bible. They may even point to the Mormon Church’s eighth Article of Faith which states:
“We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far AS IT IS TRANSLATED CORRECTLY; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.”
Sounds fine and dandy, doesn't it? Not so fast. The phrase “as far as it is translated correctly” is what undermines the Mormon Church’s faith in the bible. But this is not all. There is one more piece that is necessary in order to get a full picture of the Mormon’s limited faith in the Bible.
The Book of Mormon (which allegedly was an ancient scriptural record of the inhabitants of North and South America between the time period of roughly 600 B.C. and 421 A.D. that was kept on gold plates and was received and translated by Joseph Smith by the power of God) has an important passage that opened wide the door for the Book of Mormon’s claim of superiority as scripture. Here is the most relevant part of that passage in the Book of Mormon:
“And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book [the Bible] proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God. Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles according to the truth which is in God. And after they go forth by the hand of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of tha great and abominable church which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, THEY HAVE TAKEN AWAY FROM THE GOSPEL OF THE LAMB MANY PARTS WHICH ARE PLAIN AND MOST PRECIOUS; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. And all this have they done that they might pervert the right ways of the Lord, that they might blind the eyes and harden the hearts of the children of men. 1 Nephi 13:24-27.
Remember that Mormons revere the Book of Mormon and other Mormon books as scripture. In fact, the first Mormon Prophet and leader, Joseph Smith, declared that the Book of Mormon is the “most correct book on earth”. So, when the Book of Mormon and their prophets declare that many “plain and precious things” were removed from the Bible, they believe it – sincerely.
Thus, the Mormon belief that the Bible has been corrupted and many important things lost from it means that the Bible is always suspect in the eyes of the Mormon Church and the Mormon people. Although they will proclaim loudly that they believe in the Bible, they actually believe in the Bible and use it only to the extent that certain passages can be pointed to which they assert confirms certain Mormon doctrines. Where the Bible deviates from Mormon doctrines and beliefs, it is ignored and passed off to the fact that the Bible has lost plain and precious parts and has been corrupted. Mormons actually think: “boy, it’s a good thing that we have the Book of Mormon, modern prophets and modern revelation, otherwise we’d be totally mislead like bible-believing Christians are.”
This fact alone makes it very difficult to preach the Word of God to Mormons. When Biblical passages are read and quoted to them, the average Mormon is rolling his/her eyes and thinking what a poor lost soul you are as a Bible-believing Christian that doesn’t have the “whole truth” as Mormons do.
With an understanding of that basic barrier out of the way, let’s take a look at what the Mormon Standard of Truth is and who it differs from our view as Christians.
MORMON SOURCES AND STANDARDS OF TRUTH
According to Mormon teachings and beliefs, the real sources of truth are:
1) Personal Testimony from an inner witness from the Holy Ghost
2) Mormon Prophet and General Authorities (God’s literal mouthpieces on earth)
3) Mormon Scriptures
Let’s briefly discuss each one and how they each apply.
MORMON SOURCE OF TRUTH - THE MORMON TESTIMONY
It is standard operating procedure for Mormon members to “bear their testimonies” (in church meetings, if asked about their church, if backed into a theological or logical corner, and on any other occasion which arises). The standard Mormon Testimony bearing goes something like this (it varies very little from person to person):
“I know that the Church is true. I know that it is lead by a True Prophet of God, Thomas S. Monson (or, insert the current church president/prophet). I know without a shadow of a doubt that Joseph Smith was a True Prophet of God and that he restored the one and only True Church to the earth. I am so thankful that I belong to the True Church and I know that if we faithfully follow its teachings we will be found worthy to return to Heavenly Father’s kingdom. I know that the Book of Mormon is true.” (often delivered with teary eyes and in all the sincerity and ferver that one can imagine).
I know, I know, I know . . . .
When asked how they “know” that the Mormon Church is true, Mormons will respond with an answer something like: “because I have studied and prayed about it and I have received a witness of the Holy Ghost that it is true.”
One of the first questions we should ask ourselves is: is “studying” only what the Mormon Church wants you to know about the Church really “studying” and learning about the Church (Mormons are deeply admonished not to read anything about the Mormon Church that is not church approved or that does not come from faithful Mormons that are “faith promoting” to the Mormon faith)? But, more importantly for purposes of this discussion, is the Mormon method of gaining a “testimony” really a reliable way to know the “Truth” about anything? Most importantly, is the Mormon Test of Truth really the way God has directed for us to learn and to know the Truth about the things pertaining to Him and to His Kingdom?
THE MORMON SCRIPTURAL BASES FOR GAINING A TESTIMONY
The Mormon Testimony is based on a feeling which Mormons ascribe to being a “witness” of the truth from the Holy Ghost (the truth in this context means the “truthfulness” of the Mormon Church and of all things related to God and His Kingdom). According to Mormon Beliefs, once you have received this spiritual witness of the Truth, you now know the truthfulness of the Mormon Church (that it is the one and only true church on the face of the earth and that it provides the only path to God’s Kingdom) and, thus, everything that the Mormon Church teaches is “the Truth.” Once one has received this “testimony” or “witness”, there is now no need to question anything about the Mormon Church – because you now “know” that it is all true. And once you know the truth, it is very bad to question or to abandon it, without the most dire eternal consequences.
Mormons often explain their reasoning something like this: “If the Book of Mormon is true, then the Mormon Church is true.” Another one: “If the Prophet Joseph Smith was indeed a True Prophet of God, then the Church that he founded is God’s one and only True Church on the face of the earth and the Prophet that leads the Church today is a True Prophet of God – the Lord’s actual representative and mouthpiece on earth.”
Mormons will generally describe this “witness” of the Truth as a “burning in the bosom” – a warm and good feeling in your heart. It is this warm feeling, according to Mormonism, by which we can know the Truth of all things.
The primary LDS source of this “test of truth” is found in two places, the first of which is in the LDS book of revelations (“revelations” received from God by the Mormon Prophet, Joseph Smith) found in the Doctrine and Covenants, Section 9, verse 8:
"But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me [God] if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your BOSOM SHALL BURN WITHIN YOU; therefore, you shall FEEL that it is right."
“But if IT BE NOT RIGHT YOU SHALL HAVE NO SUCH FEELINGS, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.”
Sounds foolproof, doesn’t it? Or not?
The other primary source for the Mormon’s claimed Test of Truth that is found in the Book of Mormon is Moroni 10:4-5 as follows:
"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.”
And how is it that the power of the Holy Ghost will manifest the Truth of the Book of Mormon to you? “Your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall FEEL that it is right.” D&C 9:8.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks (of the LDS quorum of the Twelve Apostles) further clarified: “I have met persons who told me they have never had a witness from the Holy Ghost because they have never felt their bosom ‘burn within’ them. What does a ‘burning in the bosom’ mean? Does it need to be a feeling of caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion? If that is the meaning, I have never had a burning in the bosom. SURELY, THE WORD ‘BURNING’ IN THIS SCRIPTURE SIGNIFIES A FEELING OF COMFORT AND SERENITY”. (Ensign, March 1997, 13).
So, in sum, the Mormon Church would have us believe that all we need to do is learn about the Mormon Church (as the Church teaches it – it would be absolutely wrong for you to read or to listen to anything that is not Church approved about the Church), read the Book of Mormon (actually, you don’t really need to read it all to know that it is true – just read some in it – or just feel the vibe from it if you can’t or don’t want to read it), then you must pray about it and ask God if what you have been taught/read is true. If you do so, the Holy Ghost will cause you to receive a burning in your bosom – a warm and peaceful feeling. When you receive that feeling – you now “know” the “truth of all things” concerning Mormonism. You can now proclaim that “I know the Church is true, without a shadow of a doubt” – even if you may really know very little about it.
But this is this “Testimony” really on solid ground? Is it really founded in Truth and reality?
By way of illustration (not a perfect illustration – as few are) of the Mormon logic of its Test of Truth, let’s imagine for a minute that the Mormon Church proclaims that it is an airplane. But when you examine it, it clearly has handle bars, two wheels, pedals and chain, etc. No wings, no engine, etc. It is obviously a bicycle. But Mormonism teaches that it is not really a bicycle - it is, in fact, an airplane and it proclaims that this airplane has, and it can still, fly (even though we don’t see it fly and we can’t demonstrate to you that it can fly or that it ever did – God wants us to take that fact on faith – if we could actually see it fly, there would be no reason to have faith).
Because of the Mormon Test of Truth (the “burning in the bosom”), Mormons can look you in the eye and tell you essentially that “I know that this “airplane” is truly an airplane (even though ever bit of physical evidence overwhelmingly demonstrates that this “airplane” is actually a bicycle and there is no way in the world that it could ever fly). If you point out that it doesn’t have any wings or other airplane features and that it looks an awful lot like a bicycle, Mormons will protest: “It is NOT a bicycle and I’m offended that you would try to convince me that it is. This “airplane” is not a bicycle, the evidence of the world may make it look like a bicycle but it is really an airplane and I know that it has flown and it can now fly anytime God wants it to. I know because I have studied what has been explained to me about this airplane by the makers and keepers of this airplane – the Church (if you want to know the truth about it, you need to ask the Church and not its enemies). I have pondered the message and I have earnestly prayed to know the truth about this airplane. It is indeed an airplane, as I’ve been taught. I know it because Heavenly Father manifested the truth about it to me through the Holy Ghost – that wonderful, peaceful, burning feeling in my heart – just as the holy word contained in the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine & Covenants promised that it would happen. Therefore, you can say whatever you want about it. You can try to prove to me that this airplane is not an airplane. You say that it has no wings, it has two spoked wheels, handlebars, pedals for power and no engine. But all of your “scientific evidence” means nothing to me. I feel a bad feeling when you talk about my beloved airplane that way. Because of the dark feeling I get when you talk, I know that you are trying to mislead me and I will not listen to you or anything that you have to say that is “bad” about my airplane – it is sacred and it is dear to me. Even though it may look an awful lot like a bike – it is NOT and nothing you can say or “prove” to me will convince me otherwise. And I know that if I continue to be faithful to the airplane and all that I am taught about it and told to do by its keepers, I will be worthy to return to live with my Heavenly Father. I feel so sad that you have been deceived by those who hate the airplane and teach lies about it. I am so grateful that I am not as weak and gullible as you were. I will be faithful to the airplane and to the truth, no matter what.”
This is not intended to belittle Mormon’s beliefs. Mormons are very sincere in their beliefs and testimony. But it is intended to help bring to light the logic and the method that they rely on.
Some good questions for Mormons along this line may be: “How many times did you listen to Elder Paul H. Dunn speak and you felt that burning in your bosom, testifying that what he spoke was true? Only to later find out that his stories were fabricated and not true at all. (Paul H. Dunn was a high-up Mormon leader of great fame and honor in Mormon circles who told hundreds of grandiose stories about himself and his incredible experiences – it was discovered years later that many of these stories and experiences were completely and verifiably false).
“How many times have you prayed to know what to do and received the ‘burning in your bosom’ only have what you had received the witness about not come true or turn out miserably?"
“How many times have you been ‘choked up’ and emotionally moved with that same warm feeling in your heart when you heard the national anthem and saw the flag go by at a patriotic event; or felt the same thing in an emotionally charged movie or concert?”
“What about Muslims and others that claim to have spiritual experience as a source of their “knowledge” that their religion is true.”
Even more revealing of the shakiness of the ground is that the Prophet Joseph Smith said "Some revelations are of God: some revelations are of man: and some revelations are of the devil." From David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, p.30 - p.31 (when explaining why one of his revelations had failed).
So, even a True Prophet of God can’t distinguish between a revelation from God and a revelation from the Devil? Do Mormons then think that we can tell the difference if Joseph Smith couldn’t?
MORMON PROPHETS – THE LITERAL MOUTHPIECE OF THE LORD
Another thing that is important to understand is the Mormons believe that the true teachings of Christ and His authority was lost from the earth after the death of His Twelve Apostles, through worldwide apostasy. During the time between the death of Christ’s apostles and 1820 (approximately 1800 years), true Christianity and true doctrine was not found on the earth – all had gone astray.
Mormons believe that, beginning in 1820, Joseph Smith, Jr. was called as a Prophet of God and that he restored the one true church to the earth. Doctrines and authority (priesthood) that were long lost during the period of apostasy were once again on the earth and remain here today, because of Joseph Smith.
Joseph Smith, like Jesus, called and ordained 12 apostles. After the death of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young became the rightful successor prophet and he as well had 12 apostles. Upon the death of an LDS prophet, one of the 12 apostles or members of the First Presidency (essentially assistants to the Mormon President) becomes the new prophet/president of the Mormon Church and a new apostle is called.
This is important to understand. The Mormon people revere Joseph Smith, Brigham Young and each succeeding prophet/president of the Mormon Church as prophets, seers and revelators - the literal mouthpieces for God Himself. These modern prophets' stature is every bit that of Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, etc. In fact, Mormon scripture and the Mormon Church declare that: "Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it.” Doctrine and Covenants 135:3.
Long established Mormon doctrine is that God would not allow the Prophet to lead the Church or the world astray and that the members of the LDS Church must follow the Prophet at all costs. Thus, the Mormons believe and adhere to the precept that once the prophet has spoken the thinking has been done. The Mormon’s duty is to follow and support the prophet and the general authorities of the LDS Church without questioning.
The living Prophet has more authority than scripture (either the bible or Mormon scripture). The Prophet is, after all, God’s literal mouthpiece on the earth today and what he declares is God’s word for the present day, unlike scripture or past prophets which spoke for God in days now long past.
It is difficult for bible-believing Christians to grasp the enormity of these Mormon beliefs and the barriers that they present to reaching Mormon hearts with the pure Word of God and the real Jesus. Unfortunately, as such, it is almost prerequisite that the Mormon be confronted with the reality of Mormonism’s many foundational problems that, when known, present a real credibility problem. The LDS Church, for its part, fights very hard to keep its members from learning the truth – and to try to present those who speak the truth about the Mormon Church’s false doctrines and twisted history and foundations as hate-filled liars. The persecution complex runs long and is a card the Mormon Church plays like a seasoned professional.
At the end of the day, we have been instructed that: “faith [cometh] by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17. So, no doubt, in order for anyone (including Mormons) to gain true faith for salvation in and through the Living Christ, one must hear the Living Word of God. For Mormons, however, getting to the point that they can actually "hear" the true message usually requires that the barriers must first come down.
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Very Good article. I have never been a Mormon, but I have studied the Mormon teachings and read parts of the Book of Mormon and the Articles of Faith. It does not take long to see variance between the BOM and the Bible!
I pray that others who are not familiar with the teachings of Mormonism will utilize what you have written in ministering to Mormons who come to their doors in their neighborhoods.
God bless you as you continue on in this particular work of exposing Mormonism and teaching Christians how to minister to Mormons.