My Commute With a Mormon

Posted: April 12, 2010 by Greg Burkheimer in Apologetics, Christ & Culture, Christology

I have recently had the opportunity to discuss spiritual matters while carpooling to work with a co-worker who is Mormon. We do not always carpool but from time to time her normal ride is not available. At some time during our commute, the conversation usually turns to spiritual things. We have discussed matters such as, “where is God in natural disasters?”, “why do some not believe in a God?”, and the seriousness of sin. Our conversations have taken a turn where we now tend to discuss particular aspects of our faith. She has talked to me about how other “Christians” have mistreated her. She has also given me her testimony about how she came to be Mormon and why she believes Mormonism is true. She has even invited me to come to church with her and to watch the 108th General conference which was recently on TV. So, how should I respond? I do know some things about the teachings of the Mormon Church. Do I play dumb? Just tell her I am happy with my own religion and move on? Or, do I have a responsibility? Do I confront her with teachings of her church that go against what the Bible teaches? Where should I start? The following are some things I have found helpful.  I hope this will be an ongoing post as our conversations continue.

Pray

“And pray for me, that utterance may be given to me, that I may open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel(Eph 6:19) MKJV

For me prayer is the beginning. Ask for wisdom, discernment, guidance and protection. Understand that you are engaging in a spiritual battle. Read Eph 6 especially verses 10-23 and really meditate on it and examine yourself. Examine your motives. Are you just out to win an argument? 

  Be Respectful

“but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and be ready always to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason of the hope in you, with meekness and fear;”  (1Pe 3:15) MKJV

 Just as important as being able to give an answer for what you believe is how you give that answer. We usually focus only on the center portion of this verse “be ready to give an answer” but it is sandwiched in between two very important statements.

  • Sanctify the Lord God in your hearts

 -In other words, make sure the Lord is at the center of and rules your heart. Don’t let selfish desires or worldly passions take over.

  • With meekness and fear

-With modesty and without being prideful. With a reverent fear being gentle even if the question is posed to you in an evil and taunting manor.

Something Angie has brought up several times in our discussions is how another coworker who is a “Christian” has been disrespectful to her about her faith. Accusing her of believing things she did not believe, gloating in the fact that Mormonism is false and her faith is correct. “Our church is having classes on what you believe” she would say in a prideful manor. This experience sticks with her. “Our church does not judge and focus on other religions” she would say to me. Weather it does or not is not the point. The point is that we need to be careful how we speak to others and I would add to ourselves as well. Is it funny that Mormons have a wrong view of who God is? Is it funny that Mormons baptize for the dead? Is it funny that Mormons think that they have to earn their salvation? Is it funny? Yet many of us laugh and make fun of them instead of feeling a deep sorrow and compassion for them.

Stick to Essentials

There are many methods and techniques out there for witnessing to Mormons and you can learn a great deal from studying them. I have found that not everyone is the same and that many of those methods focus on things that are not essentials. I think it is important to be real and not follow a script. Don’t lead them on like you are interested in becoming a Mormon thinking you are some undercover agent for the gospel. When they realize you were never interested in the first place, they will see you as a deceptive person and it will compromise your message. Don’t bring up things that you do not know about just because you found it as a “good question to ask a Mormon” on a website. Stick to essentials and things you know, the nature of God and the plan of salvation are good places to start. Not Baptism for the dead and did Joseph Smith believe there were people living on the moon.

The Conversation

So, let’s move on to the conversation. I will refer to my Mormon friend as Angie and will try to recount the conversation to the best of my ability, but it will not be exact.  Angie has already invited me to come to church with her. We were on our commute home when the subject of the 108th LDS General Conference came up. Angie asked me what time my church service was. I told her the times and asked why. She told me that their general conference was on Sunday and was thinking I could watch if I wanted to. I told her I could probably record it and that I may watch. We talked about other things for a while before Angie brought up the topic again, reminding me I could watch the conference if I wanted to. At this point I decided to engage her about some of the LDS beliefs. Up to this point I really have not done that. I have mostly listened to her.

I asked Angie if I could ask her a doctrinal question, a question about her beliefs. Angie said yes. I asked her if the LDS church teaches that there is more than one God. Angie said no, we do not believe that. “The LDS church does not teach that you can become a God” I asked? There was a change of tone when I asked this question. Almost like Angie went into a defense mode. “Ok”, she said, and tried to explain to me how we can become like God and how we are all God’s children. So I asked if she would stop short of saying you can actually become a God. I can’t remember the response exactly but it seemed that while she may not believe that men can become God’s we can come very close.

Next I asked her about some quotes I have heard from LDS leadership and how I should understand them if there is only one God. I asked how I should understand statements like, “In the beginning the head of the God’s called a council of the God’s together”. Angie told me about  the creation account according to LDS beliefs but did not answer  my question about what this quote means if there was only one God? I asked again, how should I understand this statement? Again she told me about the creation account according to LDS beliefs but did not address the specific quote. I asked if the LDS church taught that God was once a man. My point was to try and show that if there was a time when God was not God then there would be no way to account for his creation if there is only one God? Angie said that God is a man. We are created in his image and that means He is like us. He has a body.

We then moved on to the subject of the Trinity. She was brought up Catholic and her understanding of what the trinity was growing up was a modalist idea. I agreed that modalism does not make sense and tried to explain what the trinity really was. “We have a problem”, I said, the bible teaches that there is only one God. Yet, we find in the bible that there is a person called the Father, a person called the Son and a person called the Holy Spirit. All three are referred to as God but all three are not the same person. The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Holy Spirit. They have their own wills and are found interacting with one another. Angie tried to stress the oneness of God as oneness in purpose, then she said that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were three God’s. As she said the word, “God’s”, I sensed her almost not wanting to say it, hesitating, holding back. Maybe this is because she had told me earlier that her church did not teach that there is more than one God. I told her this is the dilemma, either the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God or they are three Gods. If they are three God’s, then how do you deal with the verses that teach that there is only one God? Angie stressed that they were one in purpose and that she did not think that the Father minds sharing the title of God with His son. She also did not see why it matters. Does God really care if I think of Him as three God’s or one God?

This is where we ended. We were now in her driveway. She will be on vacation over the next three weeks. I hope that our conversation was fruitful and that she will think about what we discussed. I did tape the general conference and plan on watching. I hope we have the chance to continue our conversations when she returns.

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Comments
  1. Seth R. says:

    First off, I appreciate your respectful approach.

    But on the many gods issue…

    If traditional Christianity can make “One God” out of three beings, what is stopping Mormon theology from doing the same thing with many more beings?

  2. Greg Burkheimer says:

    Seth-
    Thank you for reading the post and voicing your thoughts. I think the question you raise is an important one. “If traditional Christianity can make “One God” out of three beings, what is stopping Mormon theology from doing the same thing with many more beings?

    The difficulty I was having with Angie was with what she was telling me her church taught concerning the plurality of God’s. It was not consistent with what I understood her church to teach. Was she ignorant of what her church is teaching on this matter, or am I the one misunderstanding? That was what I was trying to get at in a non-confrontational way. Not telling her what her church taught, but asking questions about it and having her explain it.

    The Trinity- One God in three persons. Three in one and one in three is how many Christians attempt to explain the Trinity. It’s a doctrine that most Christians have just accepted as a “mystery”. It is easy to get discouraged from the beginning with this doctrine. How can three be one and one be three? But, we have to ask, three what and one what? I like what St. Augustine said about those which inquire into the unity of the Trinity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, “in no other subject is error more dangerous, or inquiry more laborious, or the discovery of truth more profitable.”

    The development of the doctrine of the Trinity throughout church history is interesting and I am actually in the middle of a study on it now. The early church had problems understanding that the Bible teaches monotheism and at the same time the Father is said to be God, Jesus is called God, and the Holy Spirit is called God. There were the early Trinitarian heresies like Ebionism and Docetism. Then there were difficulties in communication between the East and West. Add to that a bunch of modern analogies that fall short.

    James White say’s that, “it is very rare that anyone actually argues or debates about the real doctrine of the Trinity.” That is because most of the time we don’t define terms and as a result confuse the matter more. Does traditional Christianity make one God out of three beings? I guess I would have to ask, what is the traditional Christian definition of the Trinity and what does it mean? If traditional Christianity makes one God out of three beings, and we define beings the same, then perhaps you could make the case that Mormon theology could do the same with their many more beings, although I have never heard of any Mormon apologists doing so. I think the heart of the question is what does traditional Christianity teach about the oneness of God and how does it compare to what the LDS church teaches?

  3. peggy rieke says:

    The Blue Letter Bible site has alot of useful information of how to respond to both Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses.

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