A Review by Bill McKeever
In the October 1994 Ensign article titled “Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness,” Mormon writer Robert J. Matthews expounds on the fact that the ninth commandment is a “strong declaration against … gross understatements, fabrication, or the willful giving of any explanation not supported by the facts.” He went on to say, “Even sharing the truth can have the effect of lying when we tell only half-truths that do not give the full picture. We can also be guilty of bearing false witness and lying if we say nothing, particularly if we allow another to reach a wrong conclusion while we hold back information that would have led to a more accurate perception. In this case it is as though an actual lie were uttered” (pg.54).
Mr. Matthews continued on page 55, “Lying and misrepresentation in all of their forms are wrong, no matter how they may be rationalized, and those who silently let these evils pass unchallenged are also doing wrong”. On the following page he states, “There are many ways in which language is twisted, warped, or packaged to convey misleading thoughts.”
On several occasions I have asked Christians if they have ever heard a Mormon acquaintance say, “We’re Christians just like you.” I think just about everyone who talks with Latter-day Saints on even an irregular basis has heard a Mormon say this. Such a comment is certainly deceptive given the fact that one of the first teachings a new Mormon convert learns is that of the First Vision and Christianity’s alleged “apostasy.” No Mormon who believes they are a part of the “only true church on earth” can, in good conscience, also insist they are “like” Christians who are not a part of the LDS Church. Far too many factors make this impossible.
Mormons often fail to clarify their positions when they speak to non-members. They will say they believe in “Jesus Christ,” trust in the “scriptures,” believe they are “saved by grace,” and have been “born-again.” They will talk about “eternal life” and things like “heaven,” but unless they are specifically pressed for a definition of these terms, they rarely volunteer what they mean when they use such terminology. Is this not an act of lying as defined by Mr. Matthews above? Surely if the Mormon allows that person to assume Mormonism is similar to Christianity by “holding back information that would have led to a more accurate perception,” they have done exactly what Mr. Matthews says should not be done.
BYU professor and Mormon apologist Robert Millet instructed future Mormon missionaries to use this tactic when asked what he calls “antagonistic” questions regarding the unique history and doctrines of Mormonism. He said, “We never provide meat when milk will do.” “We seek to answer any serious question by finding the most direct route to the Sacred Grove.” “Don’t answer the question they ask, answer the question they should have asked.” Deflecting direct questions is also encouraged here.
Holding back information is especially a problem in the foreign field. It is not uncommon for Mormon missionaries to purposely refrain from discussing doctrines which clearly separate Mormonism from the usual perception of Christianity. They are well aware that to do otherwise would risk any chance of a return visit.
In many foreign countries the local population is at a severe disadvantage. Very few books are printed in their native language that critically examines LDS teachings. In many areas they do not even have a translated set of the standard works. At best they may have a copy of the Book of Mormon (or selections). Since the Book of Mormon does not reflect modern LDS teaching on many critical issues, this only adds to the deception.
In saying all this, I think caution should be exercised before assuming that a Mormon is actually lying. There is a big difference between expressing false information unknowingly and knowingly giving false information. Having spoken to hundreds of very sincere Mormon missionaries over the years, I have found that most of them are really unaware of their church’s doctrine and past history. When the naive missionary hears a non-member reciting statements from LDS leaders that are unfamiliar to him, it is all too easy to assume the citation must be either out of context or made up. I usually allow the missionary the benefit of the doubt while encouraging them at the same time to be more informed about the organization they represent. I don’t expect young people in their late teens and early twenties to know all there is to know about their church. But I do want to remind them that if integrity means much to them, and they find the citations I use to be accurate, the fact that they found them troubling should compel them to do further research. Hopefully they will eventually come to the conclusion that this is not a church worth defending and that they can have a genuine relationship with the Jesus of the Bible without Mormonism’s baggage.
Unfortunately, when it comes to religion, full disclosure to a prospective convert is not mandatory. One of the reasons many religions flourish is because new investigators are not told the whole story. Few are aware of what they are getting themselves into. This is true of the LDS Church as well. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints continues to masquerade as a Christian organization by suppressing information, misrepresenting history, and redefining Christian terminology. We challenge the Mormon Church to quit being dishonest with prospective converts, either in this country or abroad. We ask that the LDS Church tell people up-front what Mormonism really teaches. They owe it to their investigators to explain those doctrines that make Mormonism unique, and distinct, from biblical Christianity. In other words, they should quit twisting language and conveying misleading thoughts and follow your own admonition, “if we tolerate lying to any degree, we are accessories to deception” (pg.57).