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"I feel a spirit of contention!"

By Bill McKeever

It is not uncommon for Latter-day Saints to accuse Christians of having a “spirit of contention” when their doctrinal inconsistencies are being discussed. Such a rebuke is meant to make it appear that the Christian is somehow not exhibiting a Christ-like attitude and/or not playing fair.

Being accused of being contentious should be taken seriously only if you really are. If so, kindly apologize. If you feel this label has been unjustifiably used, you might ask how he defines contention and then show him what Jude states in verse 3.

Certainly no Christian should want to appear as mean-spirited; however, we are commanded in Jude 3 to earnestly contend for the faith. Some Mormons assume that Christ never intended for us to question anyone’s religious beliefs. In such situations you might politely remind him that both Jesus and His disciples often made it a point to challenge those they felt had embraced false teachings.

Can we contend without being contentious? I think so.

We are given some basic rules as to how to conduct ourselves when conversing with those with whom we disagree. In Colossians 4:6 Paul tells us that we are to present our message with grace, seasoned with salt. This is an interesting illustration for salt does have a tendency to sting when poured into an open wound. When we present Gospel truths into the wound of doctrinal error, it does tend to be uncomfortable. Because of this we must be sensitive to the fact that the Mormon may be especially defensive. However, bear in mind that declaring the truth, in and of itself, is not biblically wrong.

In 1 Peter 3:15-16 we are told that we should be ready to give an answer regarding what we believe, but it must be done with gentleness and respect (or meekness and fear in the KJV). Admittedly, this can be difficult since some Mormons seem to feel that these passages do not refer to them. Even though Mormon leaders such as M. Russell Ballard said members should be “kind and gentle in our conversations as we express our convictions and feelings,” some Mormons ignore this advice and choose to go out of their way to be rude and offensive. While some Mormons purposely use this behavior as a means of absolving themselves of a reasonable response, we must not allow such intimidation tactics to divert our attention away from the topic at hand.

In some cases using their own line can bring some civility back to the conversation. Letting an abusive Mormon know that he has “a spirit of contention” (be sure you smile when you say it) sometimes opens the door for a more meaningful dialogue.

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