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Encountering the Mormon Missionaries – 15 Things They May Be Reluctant to Tell You

To hear a Viewpoint on Mormonism podcast from June 19, 2015, click Missionaries at your Door 

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By Bill McKeever

Today the number of full-time missionaries sent out by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) numbers in the tens of thousands. Most of these are young men and women in their late teens or early twenties, but the Mormon Church also has within its ranks retired people serving as full-time missionaries. Mormon missionaries are easy to recognize by their black name badges that identify them as either an Elder or Sister in this organization.

The primary goal of the Mormon missionary is to seek out and baptize individuals into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). Using a subtle, semi-memorized presentation, the missionaries hope to convince you that your church is wrong and your need to embrace what they call the “restored gospel.”

Since the missionaries are authorized to represent their church, many non-members may mistakenly assume that they are quite knowledgeable and capable of answering just about any question regarding LDS doctrine or history. This is hardly true. While the missionaries are, for the most part, very zealous in their efforts to share what they believe to be true, we have found that many of them are also quite ignorant when it comes to many aspects of their faith. We have encountered many missionaries who have fervently denied many of the teachings of their leaders. In most cases we do not feel they are purposely lying; rather, they are genuinely unaware of what has been taught in the past.

Because there are many issues the Mormon missionaries are reluctant to discuss if you are meeting with them, you might ask beforehand if you will be allowed to ask any question you’d like. The chances are they will probably say yes because they won’t want to appear to be hiding anything from the public. Below are some suggested questions you might ask.

1) They may be reluctant to tell you that they will use terms that are often very familiar to Christians, yet the LDS Church defines those same terms very differently.

For example, the missionaries will insist that they firmly believe in “grace,” but may not explain that grace is understood to be an enabling power that helps them keep the commandments that are necessary if they hope to achieve “eternal life” or godhood. “Salvation by grace” simply means to be resurrected from the dead.

ASK THEM: When you say you believe in___________, what exactly do you mean? How do you define this word (or phrase)?

2) They may be reluctant to tell you that they have been instructed not to feel compelled to answer every objection you may make about their faith.

According to page 109 of the 2004 missionary manual, Preach My Gospel, ”Our main task is to declare the gospel and do it effectively. We are not obligated to answer every objection.”

This same manual states, “When first teaching this doctrine (the Fall of Adam), do not teach everything you know about it” (pg.50).

ASK THEM: Will the answers you give represent official positions of your church? If not, where can I find official teachings that will give me a more accurate understanding of your church?

3) They may be reluctant to tell you that their church’s founder, Joseph Smith taught that God was once a man and that he was not always God.

Joseph Smith taught,

“We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see” In that same message he also taught, “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg.345.)

In a book commissioned by the LDS First Presidency, Mormon Apostle James Talmage wrote, “In spite of the opposition of the sects, in the face of direct charges of blasphemy, the Church proclaims the eternal truth: ‘As man is, God once was; as God is, man may be’” (James E. Talmage, Articles of Faith, 1984, pg.390; page 430 in the missionary edition).

ASK THEM: How do you reconcile such a teaching when Psalm 90:2 reads, “…even from everlasting to everlasting, you are God”? Why would a person find this teaching to be blasphemous? If it is necessary to first be a human before becoming a God, where did the Mormon God come from?”

4) They may be reluctant to tell you that when LDS leaders speak of Jesus being the only begotten son of God “according to the flesh,” that this has been interpreted to mean that God the Father physically impregnated Mary.

In the December 2013 edition of the LDS magazine Ensign, it stated,

“Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is called the Only Begotten Son because He is the only person on earth to be born of a mortal mother and an immortal Father. . . Modern prophets have testified: [Jesus Christ] was. . .the Only Begotten Son in the flesh, the Redeemer of the world” (“The Divine Mission of Jesus Christ: The Only Begotten Son,” Ensign, pg. 7. Brackets and ellipses in original. See also Gospel Principles, pg.53).

In an official LDS Church manual, it cites 6th President Joseph F. Smith who said,

“ are children begotten? I answer just as Jesus Christ was begotten of his father. The difference between Jesus Christ and other men is this: Our fathers in the flesh are mortal men, who are subject unto death: but the Father of Jesus Christ in the flesh is the God of Heaven” (Family Home Evening Manual, 1972, pg.125).

ASK THEM: If we are all the literal children of God, wouldn’t Mary be one of his daughters? If Christ was begotten just like mortals are begotten, doesn’t this mean God is guilty of incest?

5) They may be reluctant to tell you that Jesus and Lucifer are considered spirit-brothers.

Twelfth Mormon President, Spencer W. Kimball stated,

“Long before you were born a program was developed by your creators. …The principal personalities in this great drama were a Father Elohim, perfect in wisdom, judgment, and person, and two sons, Lucifer and Jehovah” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, pp.32,33. Ellipses mine).

In a Melchizedek Priesthood Quorum manual, Seventy Milton R. Hunter wrote,

“The appointment of Jesus to be the Saviour of the world was contested by one of the other sons of God. he was called Lucifer, son of the morning. Haughty, ambitious, and covetous of power and glory, this spirit-brother of Jesus desperately tried to become the Saviour of mankind” (Gospel Through the Ages, pg.15).

ASK THEM: How can Jesus be the brother of something He created? John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; and Hebrews 1:1-2 make it clear that it was through Christ all things were created, including Lucifer.

6) They may be reluctant to tell you that LDS leaders have publicly admitted Mormons do not worship the same Jesus as professing Christians.

Speaking in general conference in April of 2002, 15th President Gordon B. Hinckley stated,

“As a church we have critics, many of them. They say we do not believe in the traditional Christ of Christianity. There is some substance to what they say” (“We look to Christ,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2002, pg.90).

“And virtually all the millions of apostate Christendom have abased themselves before the mythical throne of a mythical Christ whom they vainly suppose to be a spirit essence who is incorporeal uncreated, immaterial and three-in-one with the Father and Holy Spirit” (Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, Mormon Doctrine, 1966, pg.269).

ASK THEM: Why would these leaders say such things if, in fact, the Jesus of Mormonism is the same Jesus worshiped historically by Christians?

7) They may be reluctant to tell you that their church’s second prophet, Brigham Young, taught that Adam was God and the only God with whom we have to do.

In a conference message on April 2, 1852, Brigham Young declared,

“Now hear it, O inhabitants of the earth, Jew and Gentile, Saint and sinner! When our father Adam came into the garden of Eden, he came into it with a celestial body, and brought Eve, one of his wives, with him. He helped to make and organize this world. He is Michael, the Archangel, the Ancient of Days! about whom holy men have written and spoken–He is our Father, and our God, and the only God with whom we have to do” (Journal of Discourses 1:50).

In the same sermon Young said,

“What a learned idea! Jesus, our elder brother, was begotten in the flesh by the same character that was in the garden of Eden, and who is our Father in Heaven. Now, let all who may hear these doctrines, pause before they make light of them, or treat them with indifference, for they will prove their salvation or damnation.” (Ibid.) 

ASK THEM: Was this a true doctrine when Brigham Young taught this? If so, why doesn’t your church teach this today? If this is not a true teaching, wouldn’t that make Brigham Young a false prophet who led his listeners astray?

8) They may be reluctant to tell you that Joseph Smith was not only a practicing polygamist who had around 33 wives, but that at least ten of his wives had other living husbands (polyandry).

Respected Mormon historian, Richard L. Bushman, notes:

“All told, ten of Joseph’s wives were married to other men. All of them went on living with their first husbands after marrying the Prophet. The reason for choosing married women can only be surmised. Not all were married to non-Mormon men: six of the ten husbands were active Latter-day Saints In most cases the husband knew of the plural marriage and approved” (Joseph Smith—Rough Stone Rolling, pg.439).

In a Q&A session held in Stockholm, Sweden on November 28, 2010, Seventy and Church Historian Marlin K. Jensen stated,

“Polygamy is when a man has multiple wives. Polyandry is when a man marries another man’s wife. Joseph Smith did both. . . .”  In that same meeting, Richard E. Turley, Jr., Assistant Church Historian, remarked, “Did Joseph Smith practice plural marriage? Yes. Many church members don’t know it but the answer is yes. Did Joseph Smith practice polyandry? The answer is yes.”

ASK THEM: Where in Mormon scripture is polyandry allowed? Can you name any civilized society that allows such a practice? Where in the Bible is this practice justified?

9) They may be reluctant to tell you that plural marriage is not a totally dead issue in Mormonism. Though it is currently wrong for a Mormon man to have more than one living wife, there is nothing wrong in Mormonism for a man to be sealed “for time and eternity” to more than one woman if the other women are deceased and not sealed to any other men. Polygamy is certainly something that will be practiced in the hereafter.

According to the 2010 Handbook 1: Stake Presidents and Bishops,

“If a husband and wife have been sealed and the wife dies, the man may have another woman sealed to him if she is not already sealed to another man” (pg.20).

In a talk given at Brigham Young University on January 29, 2002, Mormon Apostle Dallin H. Oaks confirmed that he fully anticipates spending eternity with Kristen M. McCain, whom he was sealed to in the Salt Lake Temple on August 25, 2000. Oaks’ first wife, June Dixon Oaks, was sealed to him in marriage on June 24, 1952. She died in 1998. Oaks said, “When I was 66, my wife June died of cancer. Two years later I married Kristen McMain, the eternal companion who now stands at my side.”

ASK THEM: If some Mormon men are looking forward to being married to more than one woman in eternity, why does the LDS Church give the impression that polygamy is not a teaching within Mormonism?

10) They may be reluctant to tell you that the Book of Mormon fails to contain any of the unique teachings that clearly separate Mormonism from Christianity.

Joseph Smith said,

“I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book” (Joseph Smith, History of the Church 4:461. See also Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.194).

ASK THEM: Where in the Book of Mormon does it teach these necessary precepts? Where in the Book of Mormon does it teach these Mormon doctrines: That men can become Gods? That God was once a man? That God is married? That Jesus and Lucifer are brothers? That tithing is necessary to be exalted? That marriage is necessary in order to become exalted or that polygamy was condoned by God?

11) They may be reluctant to tell you about their secret temple ceremonies which, until April 1990, portrayed Christian ministers as hirelings of Satan.

ASK THEM: What exactly do you do in your temple ceremony? If they hesitate and say the reason they can’t answer is because the ceremony is “sacred not secret,” ask them if they consider the Book of Mormon, the sacrament, or marriage to be sacred as well. If so, why are they allowed to talk about these things? If it is wrong to talk about what takes place in their temples, why does the Bible give so many details as to what took place in the temple in ancient Jerusalem?

12) They may be reluctant to tell you that LDS leaders taught the Bible has been corrupted throughout the centuries and cannot be trusted fully by itself.

Joseph Smith claimed,

“I believe the Bible as it read when it came from the pen of the original writers. Ignorant translators, careless transcribers, or designing and corrupt priests have committed many errors” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pg.327).

ASK THEM: What portions are in error? What textual evidence can you produce that shows a particular passage to be translated incorrectly? Do any Greek or Hebrew scholars support your position?

13) They may be reluctant to tell you that in order to gain entrance into the highest form of Mormon heaven, the celestial kingdom, you must have the permission of Joseph Smith. Faith in Jesus alone, Mormonism teaches, will force you to spend eternity in a lower form of heaven.

Tenth LDS President Joseph Fielding Smith stated that there is “no salvation without accepting Joseph Smith” (Doctrines of Salvation 1:189-190).

An LDS Church manual cited Brigham Young who said,

“From the day that the Priesthood was taken from the earth to the winding-up scene of all things, every man and woman must have the certificate of Joseph Smith, junior, as a passport to their entrance into the mansion where God and Christ are-I with you and you with me. I cannot go there without his consent” (Search These Commandments, 1984, p.133. See also Journal of Discourses 7:289).

ASK THEM: Where in the New Testament does it teach that we must place such faith in anyone but Jesus Himself?

14) They may be reluctant to tell you that, should you join their church, you would be expected to give total allegiance to their living prophet and various other leaders. Criticism of such leaders is considered an act of apostasy.

Joseph Smith stated,

“That man who rises up to condemn others, finding fault with the Church, saying that they are out of the way, while he himself is righteous, then know assuredly, that that man is on the high road to apostasy; and if he does not repent, will apostatize, as God lives” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, pp. 156-57).”

Sixth LDS President Joseph F. Smith said,

“The moment a man says he will not submit to the legally constituted authority of the Church, whether it be the teachers, the bishopric, the high council, his quorum, or the First Presidency, and in his heart confirms it and carries it out, that moment he cuts himself off from the privileges and blessings of the Priesthood and Church, and severs himself from the people of God, for he ignores the authority that the Lord has instituted in his Church” (Joseph F. Smith, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, p.365).

Thirteenth LDS President Ezra Taft Benson warned,

“The prophet and the presidency–the living prophet and the First Presidency–follow them and be blessed, reject them and suffer” (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 334).

ASK THEM; Would I be required to obey current LDS leaders even if they taught something that contradicts the Bible?

15) They will not tell you that you may experience the joy of full salvation by simply believing that Jesus Christ paid the total debt for man’s sins by dying on the cross at Calvary.

Commandment keeping plays a major role in a Mormon’s salvation. Contrary to the teachings found in the Bible, the Mormons reject the simplicity of Ephesians 2:8,9 which reads, “For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Mormon scripture teaches,

“And again, every person who belongeth to this church of Christ, shall observe to keep all the commandments and covenants of the church” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:78).

LDS Apostle James Talmage referred to justification by faith alone as a “pernicious doctrine” (Articles of Faith, pg. 480, 1977 ed.).

Tenth Mormon President Joseph Fielding Smith said,

 “To enter the celestial and obtain exaltation it is necessary that the whole law be kept” (The Way to Perfection, pg. 206).

Twelfth Mormon President Spencer W. Kimball taught,

 “However powerful the saving grace of Christ, it brings exaltation to no man who does not comply with the works of the gospel” (The Miracle of Forgiveness, pg. 207).

ASK THEM: Was Paul discussing “personal salvation” (exaltation or godhood) in Ephesians 2:8,9 or was he discussing “general salvation” (resurrection from the dead)? Since faith is not required for “general salvation” according to Mormonism, it would appear that Paul was discussing “personal salvation.” If that is so, why does Paul deny that works are necessary to achieve this when the LDS Church says works are absolutely essential? You might also ask if they are keeping all of the commandments. If they are not, you may ask them what level of heaven they are destined for.

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