People often ask me what the secret is to reaching Latter-day Saints with the simple gospel of grace. While I certainly don’t have any sure-fire methods to persuade any given Mormon to come out of Mormonism and into simple, saving faith in Jesus Christ, I have learned some hard-fought lessons that might be helpful to the concerned Christian who wishes to have more fruitful dialogue with their LDS friends and loved ones. I’ve decided to break these down into four Do’s and two Don’ts. First, the Don’ts.
Tip #1: Don’t assume that all Mormons are alike or that they all believe the exact same doctrines. Resist the urge to tell them what they believe, even if you are an expert in Mormon theology. Ask open-ended questions in the spirit of genuinely seeking to better understand their personal beliefs and values. For example, many well-meaning Christians are quick to point out to their LDS counterparts that Mormons are not saved because they believe in a “different Jesus.” While this may be true, I can’t think of anything that will more quickly shut down earnest dialogue. Better to say, “Hey that’s great, we both believe in Jesus and that He is the Son of God. Let’s talk about Jesus and what He did at the cross…” In the course of dialogue, your LDS friend will clearly see for himself how radically different (and superior) the Jesus of the Bible is compared to the Jesus of Mormonism.
Tip #2: Don’t refer to Mormonism as a “cult” when talking with a Latter-day Saint. Does the LDS church fit the definition of a cult? Absolutely. But the word itself is toxic, especially to the Mormon that has spent his or her entire life within the safe confines of what they believe to be God’s “one true church.” Furthermore, most Mormons associate the word cult with “occult” (an irony too extensive to discuss here), and will likely shut down dialogue with you if you insist on calling them cult members. Remember, our objective is not to win an argument but rather to win them to God’s truth! So bite your tongue on this one.
Tip #3: Ask your Mormon friends about their opinion of the Bible. Do they find it to be a trustworthy source of truth? If so, challenge them to read through the New Testament as if they were a child. In other words, to read it just for the sake of absorbing its message; not to prove or disprove any religious system, including their own. (Amazing things happen when religious people begin to read about God’s “free gift” of forgiveness and eternal life!) If, on the other hand, they believe the Bible to be corrupted and incomplete (as most Mormons do), ask them how they came to that conclusion. Ask them to provide you with proof to substantiate that claim. Ask them what they know about the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the powerful implications of that discovery. Be prepared to show them that the Bible has, in fact, been “translated correctly,” and transmitted to us over the many centuries with an astonishing degree of accuracy.
Tip #4: Jesus proclaimed in no uncertain terms that a man must be “born again” in order to enter His Father’s kingdom. Ask your LDS friend, “Do you believe that you have been born again of God’s Spirit?” If they respond affirmatively, follow up with, “And how did that born again experience impact you, change you, transform you?” Most Latter-day Saints I know would struggle to answer this last question. This then would be your opportunity to share with them the amazing ways in which God has radically changed your heart from the inside out. Find words to express the peace you have now that you know your sins are forgiven; that you are right with God; that you no longer fear death or judgment; and that you now genuinely love God and want nothing more than to live a life that pleases Him! No one can rebut your testimony.
Tip #5: Share your awe at the accuracy of Bible prophecy and, specifically, the ways in which ancient prophecies regarding Israel and the middle-east appear to be coming to pass right before our eyes: the re-establishment of Israel as a nation, the Jews’ desire to rebuild a temple on the temple mount in Jerusalem, the dusting off of ancient Babylon (and ongoing plans to rebuild it), etc. Keep in mind that Joseph Smith taught that “New Jerusalem” would be established in Jackson County, Missouri. In fact, virtually all of his end-time “prophecies” were America-centric, not Israel-centric. More and more Latter-day Saints are coming to realize that Joseph Smith’s vision of the end of days is not at all rounding into shape. It is our opportunity (and duty) to show our LDS friends that the Bible is, in fact, prophetically accurate in every detail. Let them come to their own conclusion that, although Joseph Smith was many things, a prophet he was not.
Tip #6: I am encouraged that Mormons are leaving their faith in record numbers, and I believe this trend will continue. Sadly, many leave the LDS church and have no idea where to turn, often concluding that if Mormonism isn’t true, then nothing is! Be prepared to answer their questions as they dip their toes into the cool waters of God’s grace. I highly recommend Answering Mormons’ Questions by Bill McKeever and Eric Johnson, a wonderful one-stop resource book to help you in this area. My new book Starting at the Finish Line: The Gospel of Grace for Mormons is unique in that it presents the “good news” of the gospel, and makes it sound like good news to the Latter-day Saint.
Dr. John Wallace is author of the ground-breaking new book, Starting at the Finish Line: The Gospel of Grace for Mormons. John was a devout member of the LDS church for 20 years but now serves on the pastoral staff at Calvary Chapel Westgrove in Garden Grove, California. He also practices dentistry in Southern California.