Last month we had Erin Padilla share her story of coming out of Mormonism and giving her life to Christ. You may see the pictures and the video on the site above.
LDS missionariesLDS Missionaries
It never ceases to amaze me how God faithfully continues each month to bring people across my path that I get to share Him with. For example, I was over at my folks’s place to do some things for them while they are away in California. One of those things was shoveling their driveway of all the snow we had. I was using their electric snow thrower, but there was so much snow, it was taking a while. Next thing I know, the LDS missionaries, who live a couple doors down, start helping me with their shovels. Didn’t even ask them; they just started shoveling. Really, really nice of them! I thanked them quite a bit.
While we were moving snow, I was praying that God would give me the words to minister to them and that they would be really open to them. After we finished, I asked if one of them was over at my folks’s place last month. He said he was. He was the guy from Mesa. The other guy from Lava Hot Springs, ID was new and replaced the other missionary from Seattle not long after we last met. Anyway, I had a really nice long talk (probably around 40 minutes or so) with these guys on a really nice day that was close to 50 degrees (yes, that’s nice this time of year for us).
I asked these guys why they believe Mormonism was true when there’s so much evidence against it. The guy from Mesa had been out longer, so he did most of the talking. He shared how he turned briefly to atheism for a period when he was raised in an LDS family. He later prayed and felt the fruit of the Spirit and also later asked if the Book of Mormon (hereafter BM) was true, and again felt God tell him it was. I then told him that I don’t see how that validates Mormonism. I have the fruit of the Spirit; I’ve prayed about the BM, but I take it that God told me it wasn’t of Him. I shared Jeremiah 17:9 and Prov. 14:12 with these guys on how the heart is deceitful and we can be easily mistaken. I asked if their feelings ever deceive them. He said his feelings did with atheism. So I asked why they can’t be deceiving him also about Mormonism.
He then started going into how amazing the BM is and someone like Joseph Smith could never put it together on his own. I told him that I think he was selling Smith out too short. He just wasn’t as dumb as he was making him out to be. I told him that I just read the day before how a famous non-LDS religious studies scholar, Harold Bloom, described Joseph Smith as a “religious genius.” Of course Smith didn’t have much formal education, but he was still cunning enough to put the BM together from various sources like much of the King James Version of the Bible as well as the View of the Hebrews. The latter was authored by Ethan Smith in 1823 and he was the pastor of Joseph Smith’s close early associate Oliver Cowdery’s family. There are a lot of similarities between it and the BM. I also shared with these missionaries how there are a group of islands off eastern Africa called the Comoros Islands, and I asked them if they could guess what the capital has been from the Medieval period. They had no idea, so I told them it’s Moroni. The hill Cumorah and the character Moroni are central to the BM story. I told them, “You tell me it’s just a coincidence.” I said that it’s much more reasonable to assume that somehow Smith found some map (or article) that had these locations listed.
I went on to describe how the BM contradicts the Bible. They asked how, so I said the first thing that comes to mind is the subject of racism, which is part of what I’m doing my doctoral dissertation on. The BM claims that the Lamanites were cursed with dark skin due to their wickedness and because of that they were segregated from their white skin brethren, the Nephites. Then in 3 Nephi 2:14-16, as the Lamanites repented, their curse was taken from them and they got white skin and were able to forgo their segregation. I told them, “If that’s not racism, I don’t know what is. But that would make God a racist and of course God’s not a racist. Now note how this all fits very well in the 19th century. It’s just like the other related hot topic in the early 19th century that is basic to the BM, viz., the theory that the Native Americans were really Israelites. However science rejects that.”
The missionary responded by playing the possibility card. He said that it could very well be that the BM people were only part of the people on this continent and we just haven’t found evidence of them yet. I told him that I grant the mere possibility, since anything’s possible, but why would I believe that these Native American Israelites ever existed… especially since the BM says these people would be as plentiful as the sand on the sea shore and the Doctrine & Covenants (another LDS scripture, hereafter D&C) says that Smith sent a mission to the western boundary of Missouri to preach to the Lamanites (less than 200 years ago)? So given that, isn’t it more incredible to think that God just made all that evidence disappear? In fact, there’s no non-LDS scholar who confirms the LDS story. There’s no uncontestable land, city, people, etc. that’s ever been found in the New World to confirm the BM story. Given that, it just seems like a fairy tale.
Now contrast that with the Bible. There are all sorts of scientific confirmations for it. Why for the Bible, but not the BM? This really got the missionaries thinking!
I also talked to them about how I just can’t believe in a God who needed the universe to become God as well as an infinite series of Gods before Him. For me, as a born-again Christian, God is the reason for literally everything outside His being. That is, by definition, an infinitely more powerful God than the LDS God who is just an exalted man. That God is just too weak for me.
We talked about the nature of faith as well. For them, faith was simply blind. It had no reasons. It was simply felt. The one missionary brought up Hebrews 11:1 defining faith as the assurance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen. I explained to them how this doesn’t entail that faith is blind or that it has no reasons. We both have faith in our beliefs concerning Joseph Smith. For example, neither of us were there watching Joseph Smith put the BM together. However, we can still have reasons that give us faith that he was or was not legitimate. For me, the evidence is overwhelming that Smith was a false prophet.
They asked if I was ever LDS, so I told them I never was, but my wife was and I shared her story of coming to Christ and the freedom she experienced of throwing away her list and entering into a personal relationship with Christ. The new missionary asked what a born-again Christian means, so I got to share how I was dead in sin and then Christ made me alive and right with God when I committed my life to Him. In John 3, Jesus told Nicodemus that unless one is born again, he wouldn’t see the kingdom of God. I shared how that happened to me one evening when I was about 4 years old. I was born of the water and the Spirit. All things became new and now I don’t have to worry about whether I was going to be with God or segregated into some lower kingdom. I quoted 1 John 5:10-13 to them and told them how I have eternal life now and don’t hope to have it if I’m only worthy enough by wearing the sacred garments all the time, keeping the Word of Wisdom, tithing, keeping myself from lustful thoughts, etc. I told them that just because I do religious things doesn’t entail that I’m saved, have a new life, or that I even have a love for God. I gave them Keith Green’s famous example of just walking into McDonald’s doesn’t make one a hamburger.
So since I’m right with God and have eternal life now, I asked, “Why would I need the LDS Church? Particularly, when your scripture condemns my church? Why think that’s true?” I brought up what Jesus supposedly told Joseph Smith in the 1st Vision account, viz., that he should join no other church for they were all wrong, all their creeds an abomination, and all their professors are corrupt (Joseph Smith History 1:19, Pearl of Great Price–another LDS scripture). I also brought up the BM teaching that there are only 2 churches–one of Lamb and one of the devil, and D&C 1:30 claiming they are the only true church.
They listened intently. I shared my heart with them. I told them I loved them and I wanted them to be able to go with me and spend eternity with Jesus in the presence of the Father. But I told them that I respected them and they’ll have to make up their own minds on all this.
At least a couple times, the one missionary said he could see where I’m coming from. More can be said about the particulars of the conversation, but I honestly felt like God was directing the whole event. I again thanked them for their help with my folks’s driveway. They had to go and help others remove snow. I’m so blessed to be used of God to challenge LDS people like this. May God use it in such a way that we may indeed be able to spend eternity with these guys!
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Ok here’s my summary [of LDSPhilosophy's video "Do Latter day Saints Believe in the Same Jesus as Other Christians?"]. A scientist gave a lecture about how electrons work based on the understanding of the day. A few years later that same scientist gave a lecture about electrons, but this time with a newer, more accurate model of electrons. Was he talking about two different things called electrons or two different understandings of the same thing? When atheists talk about how there was a man named Jesus who was a good moral teacher, Evangelicals seem to have no problem recognizing that they are talking about the same Jesus you believe in, they just have an awful understanding of who He is. Latter-day Saints believe some different things about Jesus than you do, but so a lot of other Christians throughout history. Basically, the only people that make the argument that we believe in a different Jesus are people that believe that belief in Jesus is all it takes to be saved, thus excluding Latter-day Saints from salvation.
And on the atheism question, if theism is the belief in a particular understanding of God, and atheism is a lack of that understanding, then many Christian groups, Muslims, ancient Greeks, the Norse, Hindis are all atheists. The problem with that is that’s not how anybody defines atheism
...I don’t think I quite did it justice, but it’s a start at least
[I replied:] As for electrons, there are still enough critical features in common with the various theories that it makes sense to refer to all of them as "electrons." The differences in the various theories leave enough of the core concept still there.
As I've mentioned to you before, I can agree that we, as well as atheists, believe in the same historical person who goes by the name "Jesus," but that in and of itself doesn't entail that 1) we have the same Jesus and 2) that anything goes or that everyone has the same Jesus (yes concepts have some stretch, but there certainly are limits), 3) let alone a true Christ. Not even Gordon B. Hinckley agreed we have the same Christ. He clearly taught that he didn't believe in the traditional Christ. Hinckley said, “In bearing testimony of Jesus Christ, President Hinckley spoke of those outside the Church who say Latter-day Saints ‘do not believe in the traditional Christ.’ ‘No, I don’t. The traditional Christ of whom they speak is not the Christ of whom I speak. For the Christ of whom I speak has been revealed in this the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times. He together with His Father, appeared to the boy Joseph Smith in the year 1820, and when Joseph left the grove that day, he knew more of the nature of God than all the learned ministers of the gospel of the ages.'” (LDS Church News Week ending June 20, 1998, p. 7).
Further, what did Christ mean when He taught us to beware of false Christs (Matt. 24:24), or why was it such a big deal for Him to make sure that His disciples got His identity right in Matt. 16 (“who do men say that I am?”) or the Jews got it right in Jn. 8:24, 56-8, or Paul when he taught to beware of a different Jesus (2 Cor. 11:3-4)? On this LDS philosopher's assertion, why bother? However, scripture is clear salvation is a matter of knowing God and not falling into idolatry (Jn. 17:3 and 1 Cor. 6:9-11). This is the same type of thing that is going on when someone is shocked by another's behavior and legitimately and aptly says, "I never knew him." Something fundamental was completely missed in knowing the individual. Obviously this is what I think is going on with the atheist as well as the Mormon Jesus.
As for the atheistic label applied to Mormonism, I've already admitted it depends on how the term "atheist" is used. Language is malleable here depending on the context. So if classical theism is true and we understand that Mormons are naturalists with no room for a true supernatural and the universe is eternal in spite of our God, then what follows? There is no God in terms of the supernatural. There are only at best gods in the natural realm. If the former is how most common people understand the term "God," then Jews, Christians, and Muslims are theists and Mormons are not. However, common people and usage need not utilize precise philosophical language. So in common parlance, LDS are theists since they believe in a God of sorts, who is an explanation for this world and an object of worship. That's fine.
Thanks brother Rob for your faithfulness in proclaiming the true Gospel found only in Jesus!:)
Thanks for taking the time to summarize these convos. Great stuff.
Thank you for sharing this story Rob. Your loving Christian witness is appreciated. May your testimony bear much fruit!
What a beautiful story!
I’ll be praying 🙏 for those two young men that the eyes of their heart will be opened!
You were just the guy they needed. Amen to God's divine appointments.
Thanks Rob for sharing with these LDS missionaries. I learned so much. May the Lord save these guys and may HE continue to direct your steps and use you for HIS Glory! Blessings in Him.
God bless you for being obedient and sharing the love of Jesus with them. Praying for them and for you to continue sharing.