The other day I was getting ready to take the kids to our park when there was a knock on the door. Thinking it was a present from Amazon, I looked out only to find an even greater present: three Mormon missionaries. I’m sure you’ve experienced this. A long time goes by before your last visit and you start getting excited about the next time Mormons come knocking at your door. Every time I see Mormons, I get this sudden urge to talk to them. And every time I walk away discouraged and saddened for how blinding their religion is. And the cycle continues. Over the last few years, I’ve had many interactions with Mormon “elders.”
Mormons are usually very sweet people. They genuinely believe their religion, and they do believe that what they teach is the truth. They believe their religion is best and that you will be happiest if you follow it. But what is fascinating is the training that they receive before coming to your door. They are taught to focus on the positives. They are all about image and the way they present themselves. They are, in fact, salesmen, and they sell their product through smiles and offering “hope.” Over the last couple of years, I’ve asked Mormons what they are selling. I say, “Ok, you guys have come all the way to my house and to my door, what do you guys want me to do?” “What are you guys offering?” and whether it was Virginia, California or a random Chick-Fil-A in Georgia, they all said, “Happiness in this life and hope for the next!”
Their training teaches them to smile big, to not argue, and to focus on the positives of their religion. They are trained to talk about family, and about being with family for eternity. They are discouraged from bringing up controversial topics. No matter what you say, it seems like they nod as if they agree, and when you point out to them that they shouldn’t be agreeing, they agree with you again and say that they agreed with most of what you said. In other words, they are taught to be “winsome.” And this winsomeness ultimately manipulates some people into giving this false religion a try.
I’ve noticed over the years that some people in the church do the same, even some preachers are tempted to do this from their pulpits. We put on our best face. We ignore the difficult topics the Bible talks about and just focus on the love of Jesus. We focus on family as well, and on more happiness in this life and hope for the next. And as I think about the Mormon religion, I see three areas in particular where Christians are tempted to behave similarly.
- The Difficulty of the Christian life
Jesus seemed to fight against having false converts. Everywhere He went, He seemed to want to talk about how difficult the Christian life was. Luke 9:57-62 is a great example of this. It says,
As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Most of us would be tempted to compromise for the sake of a “follower” and yet Jesus’ response to a potential follower is “if you follow me you will have a hard life.” To the next two guys, he demands complete devotion and attention. Jesus doesn’t want half-hearted followers; He also doesn’t make following Him look like it’s going to be a trip to Disneyland. On the contrary, He expresses how difficult it is, and how someone must really count the cost before picking up their cross to follow Him (Luke 9:23).
Mormons are taught to focus on how great life will be and how much happiness becoming a Mormon can bring to your life. And Christians, as well, for the sake of a convert, seem to neglect the difficulty of the Christian life and want to convince people to become Christians so they can improve their marriage, relationships, wealth and health, when Jesus clearly said that becoming a Christian can divide families (Matt 10:35), ruin relationships, and bring persecution (2 Tim 3:12) and loss of money. We must declare to people that following Christ is difficult and has temporary pain, but it will bring true hope and joy that is eternal.
- Urgency of the need
Mormons believe that everyone will get a second chance to hear the Gospel in the next life. They also believe that salvation is a process that happens over a long period of time. I like to ask the “elders” what would you say to me if I were on death row and I asked you, “How do I get to Heaven?” During this last visit, the guy said, “I would just say, repent and be baptized.” I said, “Be baptized? I’m about to die!” So, another guy said, “Don’t worry, you’ll get a second chance in the next life!”
As crazy as that sounds, at times we act just like they do. We tend to let many Christmases go by without sharing the gospel with family. We spend many hours sitting on planes next to people without giving our testimony, and we have many lunches and dinners with co-workers without explaining the truth about Christ. The Bible continually urges people to repent as soon as possible. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:20, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Just a few verses later he declares, “Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation.” This is the apex of urgency. And the Bible calls us to take this urgency with us everywhere we go. There simply is not a second chance after death, and there isn’t as much time as we want.
- Eternal destination
Ultimately, the reason for the urgency is the fact that death is coming and then comes the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). Mormons not only teach about a second chance but also teach that there is no hell. They teach that there are three heavens, with the first level of heaven not being as great as the next two levels, but certainly not as bad as the biblical concept of hell.
Christians, too, are tempted not to talk about it when sharing the Gospel. Despite the fact that we believe in it, we simply are too uncomfortable sharing the truth about the subject. While Mormons completely reject the idea of hell, we believers know what the Scripture says about it, we know that Christ talked about it far more often than He even talked about Heaven, and we must include it in our Gospel conversations. Sometimes we leave it out thinking that it is simply wiser to eliminate from our Gospel conversation despite Jesus’ example and the Bible’s repeated warning about hell.
The devil has created a masterpiece with the Mormon religion. He’s set it up where the evangelists are very moral and sweet young adults with great smiles and with a message that resonates with a worldly heart. We must resist the urge to copy them. We must preach the Gospel the way God wants us to. Obviously, Christian false teachers omit the difficulty of the Christian life, hell, and the urgency of the need of salvation mainly because they don’t believe it and want people’s money. This post is not directed at them, it is more directed to true believers, so many of which are very sweet and gentle. Unlike Mormons, though, they have the Holy Spirit and believe the Gospel. They desperately want their family members, co-workers, and neighbors to believe the Gospel, but because of fear and sometimes lack of confidence, they might omit essential components of the Gospel. If you are one of these people, I’d like to commend you for your love, but I’d like to encourage you to re-think your approach and look more like Jesus than Joseph Smith.