By Sharon Lindbloom
LDS Professor Robert L. Millet was asked to explain the main reason for the remarkable growth of the LDS Church. He replied, “The Church offers answers to some of life’s oldest questions: Where do I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going after death?”
These three questions have traditionally held a prominent place in Mormon conversions. A proselytizing pamphlet published by the LDS Church in 1996, The Search for Happiness, suggests these are the questions people ask themselves when trying to find meaning in life. The same sentiment is expressed on Mormon.org, an official LDS Church website for those investigating the Mormon faith. According to one Latter-day Saint author, the fact that the LDS Church has the answers is evidence that it is the one true church. (Michael T. Griffith, “Twelve Signs That the LDS Church is the True Church“) Many say it was a personal quest for these answers that led them into Mormonism.
For example, the March 2006 issue of Ensign magazine relates the spiritual journey of Jack Brown. Raised in a Christian home, Mr. Brown would tag along as his father and uncles toured the countryside performing in a gospel quartet. Mr. Brown wrote that after he became an adult, “I began experiencing an unusually strong and unexplainable desire to learn about God and my relationship to Him. I needed to know who I was, where I came from, and what my purpose here on earth was. I searched everywhere for answers.” (Mr. Brown’s story is found in the Ensign, 3/2006, pp. 14-17)
Mr. Brown thought he would find his answers in the Bible, so he spent hours reading and praying. He called on his two uncles who were ministers, but they were unable to help him. Then the Mormon missionaries knocked on Mr. Brown’s door and he put his urgent questions to them. “I was secretly very impressed at how these young men could have answers to questions which others much older couldn’t answer,” he wrote.
Mr. Brown’s testimony is not unique. In nearly two decades of ministry among Mormons, I have heard similar accounts from a great many LDS converts. Very often their stories begin with their restlessness over these three important issues. They tell me they searched high and low, but try as they might, they found no pastors who could answer their questions. Only the LDS Church had answers.
I have often wondered about the Christian pastors interviewed by these Mormon converts. How is it possible that a pastor—a spiritual leader who is charged with teaching and proclaiming matters of eternal consequence—is not able to answer such basic questions about the beginning of life, the purpose of life, and what follows life?
I decided that I needed to interview some pastors myself. I contacted 13 ministers from New York to Oregon, from North Dakota to Nevada. They represented many different denominations from mainline, to evangelical, to charismatic. I asked these ministers the three questions that seem to preoccupy people who end up becoming LDS. Every pastor had answers to my questions; and (this will surprise Latter-day Saints) the answers were all essentially the same. Naturally, the replies went into greater depth, but in a nutshell the pastors said:
- Where did I come from? You were created by God in His image for a relationship with Him. (Psalm 139)
- Why am I here [on earth]? To bring glory to God and have fellowship with Him. (Isaiah 43:7; 1 John 1:3)
- Where am I going [when I die]? All will face a judgment after death. Those who through faith have a relationship with God’s Son Jesus Christ have eternal life; those who do not have the Son in this way do not have life. (Hebrews 9:27; 1 John 5:11-12)
I also asked these questions of a senior Mormon missionary serving in Nauvoo, Illinois. His response was traditional Mormon doctrine—significantly different from the Christian response. He said (again, pared down): You lived in a spirit world with Heavenly Parents before coming to earth; you are on earth to be tested and proven worthy to return to live with your Heavenly Father; after you die you will go to a place that is far better than earth, a place of glory. The missionary did not provide any scriptural references to support his answers, but I believe he could, if asked, provide support from latter-day sources.
Given the fact that Christian ministers, as well as Mormon missionaries, seem to have answers for these three crucial questions, how do we explain the oft-repeated testimonies from converts to the LDS Church who say nobody outside of Mormonism could help them?
I once spoke with an LDS man (Ron) in Missouri who told me a similar conversion story. He said that before becoming a Mormon, he had gone from church to church asking these three questions, but he had no success in obtaining answers. As Ron continued to tell his story, he mentioned that one pastor had told him he would be separated from God for all eternity if he died rejecting Jesus. I stopped him and asked, “You said no pastors could answer your questions, but didn’t that pastor answer you?” Ron admitted that was true; so I suggested, “It’s not really that the pastors couldn’t answer you, but that they didn’t give you the answers you wanted. Is that right?” Ron agreed that was a more accurate assessment of his experience.
Indeed, this seems to be what happened to Jack Brown as well. As he related his conversion story, he wrote, “I searched everywhere for answers. And I wanted answers that made sense…” Later, recounting a discussion with his uncle, Mr. Brown explained, “[My uncle] was understanding but had no satisfactory answers.” And finally, “When the missionaries started telling us about where we came from, why we’re here, and where we’re going, I knew my prayers were being answered. Everything rang true, and a warm feeling in my heart told me, ‘This is exactly what you’ve been searching for.’” (emphasis mine)
Almost echoing Mr. Brown’s quest, another Mormon conversion account recently appeared in an LDS newspaper. In this story of a mother’s conversion the question is different, but the results are the same: “…her mother believed in God, but had lost faith in organized religion when no pastor or preacher could give a satisfactory answer of the condition of her two sons who died in childbirth. …she said she’d listen [to the LDS missionaries] if they could tell her what became of children who died in infancy. …Their answer resonated with her, and in a short time, she and her husband and older children were baptized.” (Church News 4/15/2006, p. 11; emphasis mine)
What do these conversion stories have in common? None of these three people who later converted to Mormonism were just searching for answers; they were searching for someone who would tell them what they wanted to hear.
The Apostle Paul warned Timothy about this phenomenon: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
These LDS converts (and I daresay others as well) did just that. They searched until they found teachers who would confirm what they hoped for. In due course, they turned their ears away from truth and were turned aside to fables.
Mormonism claims to have answers. Scientology claims to have answers. Islam and many other religions claim to have answers. But having answers isn’t the key. What matters is the content of those answers. There are plenty of religions willing to tell people what they want to hear; but an appealing answer is worse than worthless if it isn’t the truth—no matter how well it fulfills our desires or soothes our itching ears.
If the truth is what we really want, there is an unfailing source for answers to all questions of eternal significance: The Holy Bible. It is a two-edged sword dividing soul and spirit, joint and marrow (Hebrews 4:12). It speaks the truth despite what we hope to hear. And this is what it tells us: If we want lasting peace and inner contentment, to find meaning and purpose in life, we need a Savior. In truth, Jesus Christ is the only answer for the deepest longings of our souls.