|By Bill McKeever
People often ask why we have focused our attention on the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “Why Mormonism,” they ask. “Why not address other religions you may disagree with?” or, “Why not teach what you believe and leave the beliefs of others alone?” Usually such questions are accompanied with an insinuation that somehow our motives are based in some sort of deep-seated dislike for the Mormon people. Since many Mormons feel that such a reason vindicates their position (after all, they argue, Jesus said His people would be hated for His namesake), we doubt that such folks will ever be convinced otherwise.
Asking why we have focused our attention on Mormonism is like asking a missionary who ministers in China, “Why minister among the Chinese? or “Why share your Christian faith among Muslims or atheists?” I am sure that I speak for everyone at Mormonism Research Ministry when I say that the reason we have devoted our lives to researching Mormonism is that all of us have somehow been touched in one way or another by its people and/or its claims. To insist that these experiences resulted in a desire to see some kind of harm come to these people is both presumptuous and actually insulting.
Few would argue that the rapid rise of Mormonism over the past several decades deserves the attention of the Christian community. Hundreds of thousands become converts to Mormonism every year. We are convinced that if a more complete understanding of the LDS faith is made available to the general public, these numbers would drop dramatically.
Unfortunately this ignorance has also permeated the Christian Church. Quite often we receive rebukes from professing Christians who insist that the Mormon Church is a Christian organization. Back in 1994 I was at the opening of the Orlando temple when a well-meaning Christian woman came up to me and questioned our outreach efforts. When I started listing some of the teachings that clearly separated Mormonism from the Christian fold, all she could do was say that they did not believe those things. It was evident that she was sadly ill informed. If she were an anomaly, this type of response would not be as troubling. Unfortunately, far too many Bible-believing Christians come to the defense of Mormonism without having a firm understanding what this church stands for. This is a real concern we have here at MRM.
Mormon leaders invited the challenge
Many members of the LDS Church seem to be unaware that several of their own leaders have actually invited outsiders to challenge the truth claims of their church. For example:
Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the founder of Mormonism, said that “one of the grand fundamental principles of ‘Mormonism’ is to receive truth, let it come from whence it may.” (History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 5:499).
2nd President Brigham Young (1801-1877) boldly proclaimed, “Take up the Bible, compare the religion of the Latter-day Saints with it, and see if it will stand the test.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, 126).
George Albert Smith (1817-1875), who was a member of the First Presidency in 1871, “If a faith will not bear to be investigated; if its preachers and professors are afraid to have it examined, their foundation must be very weak.” (Journal of Discourses 14:216).
Apostle Orson Pratt (1811-1881) challenged his listeners to “convince us of our errors of doctrine, if we have any, by reason, by logical arguments, or by the word of God, and we will be ever grateful for the information, and you will ever have the pleasing reflection that you have been instruments in the hands of God of redeeming your fellow beings from the darkness which you may see enveloping their minds. Come, then, let us reason together, and try to discover the true light upon all subjects . . .” (The Seer p.15,16).
Why not focus on your own beliefs?
No one is an ideological “clean slate.” We all have our presuppositions and biases. That being the case it is often necessary to have a presupposed idea challenged in order to see the radiance of truth. In other words, as Mormon Apostle Orson Pratt mentioned above, if a doctrinal position cannot withstand logical arguments, if it is unreasonable or is not in harmony with what God has revealed in the Bible, it is essential that this point be made. To assume that focusing on erroneous beliefs is somehow “unchristian,” is to ignore the many times we see false ideas challenged in the Bible. Jesus often challenged the false premises of those He ministered to. We see this same pattern throughout the New Testament. Why would the apostle Paul have to ask, “Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth” if he had not provoked controversy for challenging truth claims? (See Galatians 4:16.)
If in fact the teachings of Mormonism qualifiy as an “unfruitful work of darkness,” if its doctrine and history is not based on truth, and its teachings will lead to the eternal misery of many, the Bible commands that it must be exposed. (Ephesians 5:11). What Christian, after discovering such an error, would want to remain silent knowing that believing such error will have enormous eternal consequences for many well meaning and sincere people? There is no more ultimate good than to proclaim the New Testament gospel, even if that proclamation runs the risk of damaging friendships and incurring desparaging accusations from those who may disagree with the message or misunderstand the motive. To place ourselves in this vulnerable position for the cause of Christ and His gospel is actually the fruit of true Christianity. To paraphrase Orson Pratt, “redeeming our fellow beings from the darkness which we see enveloping their minds,” moves us to address this subject.
Why not other religions?
It is not like we are ignoring the fact that other false religions exist. Quite frankly, we don’t have the time or the resources to effectively research every false religion in the world. The same conviction that causes us to reach out to the Mormon has caused others to reach out to various other groups. When the need arises, we have no problem referring people to such organizations.