By Eric Johnson
When we log onto our e-mail, we never know just what to expect. When we first put up our website (www.mrm.org) in 1996, we could not have predicted how popular the site would become. And during these years, we have received numerous comments, especially from Mormons! Here are just two examples:
Russell Burnham, a Mormon, wrote,
“What do your really hope to accomplish by contending with other religions? Do you not know that contention is of the devil, and that if what you’re saying is not good or praiseworthy then it is not of God? I certainly do not feel enlightened or inspired when I visit your website!”
Max Marchand, who describes himself as an inactive Mormon as well as former Catholic and Baptist, wrote,
“I know of no Mormon groups who spend their time trying to tear down ‘Christians.’ I am sure the occasional young, unskilled missionary will bash on ‘Christians,’ but once instructed on how un-Christlike this is they stop. You stop!”
These are just two of thousands of such LDS “fan mail” letters, as we call them, that we have received since 1996, many of which complain about our mere presence on the World Wide Web. Are we, as Burnham puts it, contentious? Are we really trying to “tear down”? In fact, are we “anti-Mormon” with hatred toward the Mormon people as claimed by many others? When the context of what we do is considered, especially in light of the examples given in the Bible, the answer to all of the above is absolutely not.
Standing Firm for the Faith
We do not take lightly the charges leveled by angry Mormons against both our ministry and us personally. We constantly evaluate what we are doing to make sure it is God-fearing and not self-serving. If our main goal in life was to mock Mormons and make up lies about the LDS faith—as many who e-mail us claim we do—then we would admit that we are a pretty low people. However, we believe our motives are right, as they come directly from our love of the truth as well as the Mormon people. As Galatians 4:16 puts it, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (all references come from the KJV unless otherwise noted)
Consider the following situation. Suppose I was walking down the sidewalk in your neighborhood when I spotted your house on fire. It is very clear from my vantage point that your house has no chance of being saved. Suppose I decide to take action and attempt to rouse you and your family by banging on the door and yelling, “Get out, there’s a fire!” What would be your reaction? Would it be, “Leave me alone! And quit being so negative!”? Unless I had cried wolf one too many times, probably not. If you were reasonable, you would at least check out the situation. Once you smelled the smoke and saw the flames, you would realize that I did the most loving thing I could possibly do. In the same way, this is why we are on the Internet. We only ask that you check out what we have to say. If what we write does not mesh with truth, then reject it. If it’s true, though, then this could be the most important information that you will ever uncover.
In his final epistle—this from a cold Roman prison cell—Paul penned some pertinent words to Timothy, Paul’s young charge. Here in the book of 2 Timothy we find some insightful words that explain the importance of doctrine and the attitude those in the Christian ministry ought to have. Perhaps you might want to get out your Bible and read 2 Timothy along with this article to see if www.mrm.org is a biblically sound idea.
Chapter 1: Condemning False Doctrines
In the first chapter, Paul reminded Timothy that “God hath not give us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” With this power, love, and sound mind, then, Paul commanded Timothy in verse 13 to “hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me.” This, in fact, was a theme throughout Paul’s many letters, as correct doctrine to him was as vital to the Christian life as food and water are to the physical body.
The theme is constant in Paul’s other epistles. In Galatians 1:8,9, he claimed that anyone who preached “any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached” should be “accursed.” In 2 Corinthians 11:4, he said there could be different interpretations of who Jesus was, yet only one version was correct. And 1 Thessalonians 5:21 clearly commands the Christian to “prove all things.”
We need to understand that Paul was not bashful about stating his beliefs. A common tactic Paul used during his traveling ministry was to go directly to a city’s synagogue upon his arrival (Acts 17:2). While he had every right to appear in the synagogue, it was not always appreciated by every Jew in attendance (Acts 17:5). In fact, some of the things Paul did were so despised by his detractors that he was lashed on five different occasions, was beaten with rods three times, and was even nearly stoned to death (2 Corinthians 11:24-25). Paul’s evangelism stepped on some people’s toes, especially with some of the staunch Jewish leaders who vehemently disagreed with his theology.
But Paul did whatever he could to win some to his belief that Jesus was the Messiah. In essence, he became all things to all people (1 Corinthians 9:19). He went to Mars Hill in Athens in Acts 17 and even philosophized with the leading thinkers of the world, talking to them on their terms. In the same way, we do not go out of our way to unduly upset the Mormon people. We hold no animosity with the Latter-day Saints. However, it is true that our message has offended many Mormons because we are, in essence, saying that Mormonism is not true, hence it is not Christianity. The possibility of having our motives challenged cannot stop us in sharing what we believe to be correct.
Chapter 2: Usurping Fruitless Debates
After telling Timothy to hold true to good doctrine, he brought up a specific example in chapter two of who not to follow. Apparently two men named Hymenaeus and Philetus were teaching false doctrines about the resurrection and thus “overthrow(ing) the faith of some” (v. 18). Their teaching, Paul said in the previous verse, will spread like a cancer. Paul didn’t try to hide the identity of these false teachers, but he clearly identified them and their wrong doctrine to keep others away.
Paul then spoke about why it is wrong to argue merely for the sake of arguing and how centering on peripheral issues merely leads to division. Verses 23 and 25-26 say the following:
“Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels…. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (NIV).
One of the most difficult things we have to do in this ministry is to determine the difference between a meaningful and meaningless discussion, especially when it comes to answering e-mail. On the one hand, we are commanded to hold firmly to true biblical doctrine and to share our faith with others (i.e. Matthew 28:19-20, Acts 1:8). On the other hand, we are admonished to stay out of discussions or debates that turn into fruitless trysts and become, in essence, a waste of time. Even Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 10:14 to “shake off the dust of your feet” whenever a recipient rejects the Gospel message brought to him. In other words, we need to realize that we are merely salesmen. God is in production. Therefore, we cannot force anyone into a saving faith in God.
One of the listed policies of our web site is to answer only one question at a time. There have been a number of times when argumentative Mormons bombard us with a dozen or more questions and expect an immediate response. The reason we don’t normally respond to such inquiries is not because we can’t answer their questions. Rather, we only have so many hours in the day. This policy has helped us identify those who merely want to argue for argument’s sake and those who want to have some very edifying and serious conversations. Those who are serious are willing to take the time to dialogue, one question at a time. Much fruit has been produced when we have had patience and not, as Jesus said, merely thrown our pearls before the proverbial swine.
Chapter 3: Living by the Scripture
Moving into the second half of 2 Timothy, Paul talks about those who are “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (3:7). Verse 8 refers to two men who opposed Moses. In the same way, those who resist the truth are “men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the truth.” Verse 9 leaves a promising note when it adds that “their folly shall be manifest unto all men.”
What is the best way to combat error? No doubt it is understanding and applying the Word of God. Verse 15 says Timothy knew the Holy Scriptures from childhood. This is what made him “wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Verses 16-17 read,
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
Of course, many have tried to minimize Paul’s words in these verses. A common argument is that he was only referring to the Old Testament since the New Testament was not yet put together. In a sense, this is correct. However, the New Testament is the testimony of the fulfilling of the Old Testament through the story of Christ and the Christian church of the first century. Even the apostle Peter correlated Paul’s writings with scripture in 2 Peter 3:16. Later church councils declared the authenticity and authority of the New Testament writings, and finally, at Carthage in the 390s, the Christian church finalized the canonization of the New Testament books that we have today.
One thing we are very careful to do on our web site is to document everything with the Bible and other Mormon scriptures as well as the teachings of the LDS general authorities, among other LDS sources. Since the Mormon Church officially lists the Bible as scripture, we would think that it would support, not contradict, LDS doctrine. As the many articles on our site point out, the Bible and Mormonism are definitely incompatible.
Chapter 4: Taking a Stand for Truth
Finally, Paul begins this chapter by writing these words in 4:3-5:
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”
His admonitions are strong but not impossible. Christians are to stand firm for sound doctrine. Indeed, there are many wolves who have dressed up in sheep’s clothing, as Jesus warned his followers in Matthew 7:15. We believe that it would be wrong for us as Christians to bury our heads in the sand and pretend that everything is OK when there are many false teachers who are doing their best to chip away at the pure Gospel message. Instead, we need to 1) watch; 2) endure afflictions, including the times when we are unfairly called names; 3) do the work of an evangelist (something each of us at MRM feels we are called to do); and finally, 4) make our ministry for the Lord count.
We at MRM are committed to following the instruction of Paul as recorded in 2 Timothy. To do any less would dishonor our Lord.