Ten Lies I Told as a Mormon Missionary
by Loren Franck
The Bible predicts a dreadful fate for liars. For instance, while banished on the island of Patmos, the Apostle John saw that "all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8). Similarly, the beloved disciple writes, liars are doomed to an eternity outside of God's presence (Revelation 22:15). Because Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44), lying is extremely serious sin.
As a full-time Mormon missionary from 1975 to 1977, I lied for the church countless times. Like my colleagues in the South Dakota-Rapid City Mission, which served the Dakotas and adjacent areas, I spoke truthfully about my background, but touted many Mormon teachings that contradict the Bible. After my mission ended, however, I examined these doctrines more closely. The harder I tried to reconcile the contradictions, the more evident they became. So, after extensive prayer and study, I resigned my church membership in 1984. Cheated and betrayed, I lacked spiritual life for the next 17 years. But God, knowing those who are His (John 10:14; 2 Timothy 2:19), drew me to Christ (John 6:44) and saved me in 2001. My spiritual emptiness was replaced by the abundant life only the Savior can give (John 10:10). And now, like millions of Christians worldwide, I have everlasting life through my faith in Him (John 3:36; 6:47).
I can't remember all of my missionary lies. Some were small, others grandiose, but all were false and misleading. Here are ten I'll never forget.
1. We're Not Trying to Convert You
Of all my lies, this was the most frequent. I learned it well while in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which was my first assignment. A standard door-to-door proselyting pitch began with, "We represent The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." Interrupting, many people said they had their own religion. "Oh, we're not trying to convert you," I responded. "We're sharing a message for all faiths."
But Mormon missionaries have one overriding goal, and that's to bring converts into the church. Clearly, this was the purpose of my mission. I didn't trade the Southern California sunshine for the Dakota snow merely to build interfaith relations. My calling was to teach the church-approved missionary lessons and then baptize the people I taught.
2. The Bible is Insufficient
According to their eighth Article of Faith, Mormons accept the Bible as the word of God only when it's translated correctly. How convenient for a missionary. When a non-Mormon's interpretation of scripture differed from mine, I frequently blamed faulty Bible translation. And since I believed the Bible was missing "many plain and precious things," as the Book of Mormon claims in 1 Nephi 13:28-29, I urged prospective converts not to trust it completely.
And yet, Mormon proof texts had few translation problems. Throughout my mission, I used only those Bible verses that steered prospects away from their church and toward Mormonism. But what kind of Christian believes that an all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving God gave mankind an inadequate version of His word. Actually, the Bible is more than sufficient. With its 66 books, 1,189 chapters and nearly 740,000 words, it's the divine road map to eternal life through Jesus Christ.
3. We're the Only True Christians
For decades, the Mormon Church has tried to blend with mainstream Christianity. Accordingly, during my mission a quarter-century ago, I worked hard to convince prospects that Mormons believe in the biblical Jesus. But Paul warned of deceivers who would lure Christians away from "the simplicity that is in Christ." These false teachers preached "another Jesus" and "another gospel" (2 Corinthians 11: 3-4) and were accursed (see Galatians 1:8-9). How interesting that Paul also cautions against false apostles, such as those in the Mormon Church (2 Corinthians 11:13-14).
So which Jesus and gospel do Mormons preach? While a missionary, I taught that Christ was the firstborn spirit child of the Father in a premortal life. (The remainder of humanity was born as spirits later in this "pre-existence.") But I didn't tell prospects this was a literal birth, the result of literal fathering, as Mormon prophets and apostles have claimed. If asked, I taught that the devil was born as one of God's noble spirit sons during the pre-existence, but had rebelled and started a war in heaven.
Consistent with Mormon doctrine, then, Christ and Satan are spirit brothers. But the Bible teaches that Christ is God (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; John 1:1), that He has always been God (Psalm 90:2), and that He always will be God (Hebrews 13:8). Born into mortality some 2,000 years ago, Jesus is "God... manifest in the flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16). He is far grander and holier than "our Elder Brother," as Mormons dub Him. Jesus and Satan aren't spirit brothers, and true Christians don't believe such blasphemy.
4. We're the Only True Church
I usually told this lie during the first of seven 30-minute missionary lessons, which presented the Joseph Smith story. According to our script, Smith prayed in 1820 about which church to join. He claimed the Father and Son appeared and told him that all Christian churches of the day were wrong. Smith said he was forbidden to join any of them, that their creeds were abominable and their professors all corrupt. "They draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me," the Lord allegedly added. "They teach for doctrines the commandments of men" (Joseph Smith — History, verse 19). In subsequent lessons, I told prospects that Mormonism is the true church God restored through Smith.
But the Bible says such a restoration was unnecessary. Admittedly, there was partial apostasy after Christ's resurrection, but never a complete falling away. In fact, shortly before His crucifixion, Jesus promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18). During my mission, however, I argued that the gates of hell did prevail against Christ's church.
Shortly after renouncing Mormonism, I learned a scriptural death blow to notions of universal apostasy. Addressing Ephesian believers 30 years after the Ascension, the Apostle Paul writes, "Unto [God] be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen" (Ephesians 3:21). God received glory in the Christian church from the time of Paul's writing to the present day, and He will receive such glory throughout all succeeding generations. Therefore, the church must exist from Paul's day throughout eternity. This annihilates Mormon claims of complete apostasy and makes restoration of Christ's church impossible.
5. We Have a Living Prophet
Whether in wintry Winnipeg or the balmy Black Hills of Rapid City, I criticized Christians because their church lacked a living prophet. Mormons claim the true church must have one. My favorite Bible proof text to back this claim was Amos 3:7, which reads, "Surely, the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets."
When prospective converts remained skeptical of living prophets, I quoted Ephesians 4:11-14, which apparently requires living apostles and prophets until believers unify in the faith and understand Christ completely. However, writing in the past tense, Paul is actually referring to apostles and prophets of Jesus' day. Otherwise, verse 11 would read that the Lord "is giving" or "will give" apostles and prophets. Of course, God did reveal His will through Old Testament prophets, as Amos 3:7 affirms. But for the last 2,000 years, He has spoken to believers through Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2).
The truth about Mormonism's living prophets is further illuminated in Deuteronomy 18:22. "When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord," the scripture reads, "if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him." Isaiah 8:20 contains a similar warning: "To the law and the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
False prophets who led ancient Israel astray received the death penalty (Deuteronomy 13:1-5; 18:20), and all who profess to be living prophets should consider the consequences. Mormon prophets might appear grandfatherly and sincere, but they're not God's living oracles. Since the Mormon Church was founded in 1830, its prophets have uttered a striking number of false prophecies. (See chapter 14 of Jerald and Sandra Tanner's "The Changing World of Mormonism.")
6. The Book of Mormon is Scripture
Joseph Smith claimed that the Book of Mormon is the most correct book on earth, adding that man would become closer to God by following its precepts than by obeying any other book ("History of the Church," Vol. 4, p. 461). Replace "Book of Mormon" with "the Bible" and Smith would have told the truth.
When teaching missionary lessons, I boldly maintained that the Book of Mormon is scripture. I spent myriad hours convincing prospects that it's a sacred record of Christ's activities in the western hemisphere. Yet many Christians I contacted realized the book "borrows" heavily from the Bible and other sources. And in stark contrast to the Old and New Testaments, virtually no archaeological and anthropological evidence supports the Book of Mormon. Why not? Because it's fiction. When Christians want to read scripture, they turn to the Bible.
7. You're Saved By Works
More than any other Mormon lie, this undermines Christ's atonement, which is the most sacred doctrine of the Bible. Mormons usually equate salvation with resurrection. Likewise, they refer to eternal life as "exaltation." I did both while teaching prospective converts. I relished the church's third Article of Faith, which claims, "through the atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel."
Trying to bridge the doctrinal divide between Mormons and Christians, I emphasized that salvation is by grace "after all we can do" (2 Nephi 25:23). What classic Mormon double-talk. Unmistakably, the Bible says eternal life is a gift from God (Romans 5:15; 6:23) to those who believe in Christ (John 6:47), call upon Him (Romans 10:13) and receive Him as Lord and Savior (John 1:12). Contrary to Mormon dogma, this gift cannot be awarded meritoriously.
Equally clear is that salvation results from God's grace through each believer's faith, not from obeying a checklist of laws and ordinances (Ephesians 2:8-9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5). All who confess Christ and believe in Him from the heart shall be saved (Romans 10:8-13).
Most Mormons know little about imputed righteousness — and neither did I during my mission. Essentially, as Christians know, the Lord credits believers with His perfect righteousness and charges their transgressions to His sinless spiritual "account." Paul explains this doctrine masterfully in Romans 4 and 2 Corinthians 5:18-21.
When teaching the Mormon gospel, though, I emphatically denied imputed righteousness, which is the essence of the atonement. I stressed that eternal life is earned by perfect obedience to all gospel laws and ordinances. Yet the Bible says that "there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not" (Ecclesiastes 7:20). As the Psalmist writes: "They are all gone aside. They are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one" (Psalm 14:3; compare Romans 3:10-18).
How many Mormons perfectly obey all gospel laws? None. As the Bible asserts, even the church's current prophet can't keep God's laws thoroughly enough to merit heaven (1 John 1:8). And if he can't, how can anyone else?
8. People Can Become Gods
Given its explosive nature, this tenet was rarely shared with prospective converts. Missionaries try to entice people into Mormonism gradually, and presenting the doctrine of plural gods is seldom the best way. Several contacts learned the concept from their pastors or read about it on their own, but it was new to most prospects.
"Our Father in heaven loves us so much," I often said, parroting our lesson script, "that He provided a plan [Mormonism] for us to become like him." I didn't mention that Mormon godhood includes spirit procreation throughout eternity. Neither did I hint that the Mormon God was formerly a mortal man, had lived on an earth like ours, and had earned salvation through good works. However, such polytheism strips God of glory and sovereignty. No wonder the Bible condemns it so strongly. When discussing plural gods on my mission, I sidestepped Isaiah 44:8 whenever possible. "Is there a God beside me?" the passage reads. "Yea, there is no God; I know not any." Other verses amply testify that only one God exists in the universe (Deuteronomy 4:35, 39; 6:4; Isaiah 43:10-11; 45:21-23).
When confronted with these scriptures as a missionary, I usually countered with, "Those verses mean we worship only one God, that there's only one God to us." And if that failed, I lied further: "The Bible isn't clear on this subject. Fortunately, the Lord told Joseph Smith that mortals can become gods." Smith might have had a revelation, but not from God.
9. You're Born Again By Becoming a Mormon
One of my favorite missionary scriptures was John 3:5. "Verily, verily I say unto you," the Savior explains, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." To Mormon missionaries everywhere, being born of water means baptism into the Mormon Church. Birth of the Spirit refers to the gift of the Holy Ghost, allegedly bestowed after baptism.
Unfortunately, during my mission, I didn't know what it means to be born again. I completely misinterpreted Paul's declaration that "if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17; compare Galatians 6:15). According to the Bible, believers in Christ are reborn spiritually as sons and daughters of God (John 1:12; 1 John 3:1-2). They experience a complete Christian conversion of mind and heart. Membership in a church organization might foster social activity and fellowship, but it's not spiritual rebirth.
10. Temple Marriage is Required for Eternal Life
I participated in well over 100 Mormon temple ceremonies from 1975 to 1982, including my own marriage in 1977. Based heavily on freemasonry, temple rites are the church's most carefully guarded secrets. And "celestial marriage," which supposedly weds men and women eternally, is probably the most important temple ordinance. While a missionary, I frequently told prospects they needed temple marriage to gain eternal life.
Yet the Lord says marriage between men and women is irrelevant to the hereafter. "The children of this age marry, and are given in marriage," He declares. "But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage… for they are equal unto the angels...." (Luke 20:34-36.)
The Bible does teach eternal marriage, but not the Mormon version. The union is between Christ, the Bridegroom, and His collective body of believers, who are the bride (Matthew 25:1-13; John 3:29; Romans 7:4; 2 Corinthians 11:2).
I close with a few words about "testimony," which is a missionary's emergency cord. When I couldn't rebut an antagonistic statement scripturally, I fell back on my testimony. For instance, while proselyting in Grand Forks, North Dakota, I was once asked where the Bible mentions the secret undergarments Mormons wear. Caught off guard, I admitted that the Bible says nothing about them. I could merely testify that God revealed the need for these garments through living prophets. But my testimony wasn't based on scripture or other hard evidence. Rather, it was founded on personal revelation, which is extremely subjective. Essentially, my testimony was nothing more than a good feeling about the church and its teachings. In Mormon parlance, it was a "burning in the bosom." But burning or not, it wasn't from God.
If you're a Christian, I urge you to "earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). That faith, the pathway to heaven, is found only in the biblical Jesus (John 14:6). But if you're a Mormon, it's time to prayerfully re-examine your beliefs. Do you know you have everlasting life? No. Can you obey all the commandments perfectly and earn a place in heaven? You can't.
I regret the many lies I told during my Mormon mission. When I received Christ, though, I confessed them (and my other sins) and received His forgiveness (1 John 1:9; Colossians 1:13-14). "He that heareth my word," Christ assures us, "and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life" (John 5:24).
Loren Franck lives in Los Angeles, California, with his wife, Verlette, and their young son.