Yesterday, a video was put out by an evangelical pastor who filmed two Mormon missionaries in Guatemala without their permission and fired a barrage of questions at them, without even giving them a chance to reply back properly, and tried to fluster them into saying something wrong.
This kind of one-sided argument, intended only to embarrass someone in public, happens a lot to the missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are familiar with it. Clearly the pastor wasn’t really interested in talking with them, or listening to their answers, but in talking TO them and showing off what a great debater he is on social media.
We’d like to briefly cover some of the pastor’s arguments here, then talk about a much more important lesson that has meaning for all of us.
When it comes to the trinity, first, the doctrine of the Trinity as most Christian faiths believe it today was not laid out or decided upon until over 300-400 years after the death of Christ. Our beliefs about the Godhead center upon Jesus Christ as the glorified Son of God, who prayed to His Father, a separate and distinct being. It is this separate being (God the Father) who spoke from Heaven at Christ’s baptism in the River Jordan, and who we see as a loving Father that we can draw closer to and seek to know as Christ prayed we could, rather than an unknowable and mysterious being. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland described our beliefs beautifully in his conference talk, titled “The Only True God and Jesus Christ Whom He Hath Sent“.
Baptisms for the dead
Baptism for the dead? It’s recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:29 in the Bible by the apostle Paul. Although it isn’t a common practice in most faiths these days, it was something also practiced by the early Christian saints.
Misconceptions about Joseph Smith
And Joseph Smith wasn’t hanged, he was martyred. Yes, he was charged with a variety of crimes dozens of times, though any actual evidence of a real conviction is seriously lacking. But yes, he was charged. Does this make his testimony or teachings false? Jeremiah, Peter, Paul and many other biblical prophets were also imprisoned and suffered for the sake of Christ. By their fruits ye shall know them. Also Joseph Smith did not have 140 children as the pastor claims, and the current research reveals that there are no verifiable children of Joseph except by his wife Emma. This video explains why some Mormons practiced polygamy during the nineteenth century, which was discontinued by the Church more than 100 years ago.
True worship, true Christian religion, in our opinion, is what brings people closer to God and to each other in harmony, peace and love. It’s not for someone to make money out of, it’s not meant to divide people, but to bring them together “for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12).
We do believe, however, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was restored by God himself with the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the priesthood, God’s authority delegated to men through the proper channels to do His will. It is the true and living church, which we believe is lead and guided by God, through revelation to His living prophets and apostles.
We join together with other faiths to declare that salvation comes only through Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God. Our church bears his name, and we strive to follow His commandments even though we are all imperfect, because that’s how we can learn to rely on Jesus Christ and His atonement, let Him change our hearts, and find joy.
Because of the joy we’ve gained through the restored gospel, we do want to share it with people of every faith and religion. But hopefully you’d never hear a faithful Mormon tell someone of a different religion that their beliefs were false, that they didn’t know or really believe in God as the source of their salvation, because it’s simply the wrong way to have a faith-filled conversation. In the Book of Mormon, when the resurrected Lord visited the ancient American continent around A.D. 34, He taught, “For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me” (3 Nephi 11:29).
These young missionaries throughout the world, who willingly donate 18 months to 2 years of their lives, along with tens of thousands of senior missionaries who serve despite their advanced age, do so because they want to serve the Lord and the people of the communities where they have been called.
We can guarantee that they would much rather spend their time serving people, and fulfilling both their spiritual and physical needs than arguing with people whose main purpose is to gain attention and put down others’ beliefs. That was why one of the elders kept inviting the man to find a quieter place, to really sit down with them to chat, pray, and study, a place where the Holy Spirit could be felt more clearly.
So, if you run into one of these young Mormon missionaries, give them a chance to serve. Arguments don’t strengthen or build people’s spirituality, the spirit of the Lord does that, and can confirm the truth of these precious doctrines directly from the Lord to you, better than anything else.