It’s mid-day and two young gentlemen walk up to you and say, “Hello, we are missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we were wondering if you would like to hear about our church?” At this point, your mind is formulating a few possible thoughts. Perhaps one might be, “Oh great, these guys.” Another might be, “I must give a defense for the hope that is within me.” Possibly your mind might be a jumble of the two.
Now, what if, as Great Commission Baptists, you take a different approach? What if you invite the missionaries inside and listen to what they have to say? This is not a correction piece, nor is it suggesting that many people do not let the Mormons in their space. Still, it is more common for people like me (a seminary student) to want to flex our theological knowledge more than listening, praying, and speaking the gospel message to the Mormons.
A recent story from a Mormon missionary demonstrates the problem as well as mirroring much of my own story. Micha Wilder was a zealous Mormon who went on a mission and found the True Jesus. He just published a book about his experience that you could pick up here. What strikes me about Micha’s story is that he encountered Christians daily, with most of them shrugging him off, telling him he was in a cult, and ultimately to hell. While those things are true, this is not the most impactful way to share the gospel with someone.
I, too, had a similar experience when I was a teenager walking the streets with the missionaries. I was a zealous Mormon who wanted to go on a mission to share my faith. One day, while in Madison, South Dakota, we encountered a woman doing yard work. The Elders introduced themselves, and I will never forget the woman’s response, “you need to find yourselves a real religion!” I am not quite sure what she meant by that, but it did not make me want to convert to Christianity at all.
As Great Commission Baptists, we exist to share the gospel and go on missions. So, living out the gospel should be second nature to us. We must show our love for Jesus and that He is our Savior, Lord, and King, or no one will change their minds about what they believe. Telling a Mormon missionary that his faith is weird and cultic is not a strategy I would suggest. Below I will list three strategies for engaging the Mormon missionaries.
1. Invite them in for food and drink.
These are young men and women who have lived with their parents and are fresh out of high school. Some struggle with homesickness and are immature, so to have an adult figure show kindness to them will build rapport. In addition, sharing a meal or giving them a cold drink will loosen the tension a bit and provide them with the opportunity to share their worldview.
Be sure not to offer them coffee or tea, as that may come off as snark. Some don’t drink caffeine, so be sure to have something that they can drink. Open the conversation with a simple, “what is your church all about?” Or, “I have heard a lot about your faith, but want to hear what you believe from you.” These are great worldview questions that will equip you with how to respond. Caution must be taken into consideration though, Mormon language sounds very Christian, so prepare to ask, “what do you mean?”
2. Offer them your phone number or email address.
When I was preparing to go on my Mormon mission (I never went), I remember that I wouldn’t have a phone or access to the internet except on special holidays like Mother’s Day and Christmas. But times have changed, and the Missionaries have phones and email now. So, if you do not have the time to sit down and speak with them, exchange information. Be sure to be the one who makes the first move. Remember, these are young men and women who are already in a different context. Show the hospitality and intentionality to have these gospel conversations. This also gives you the advantage to not make it a one-time discussion.
3. Colossians 4:5-6 is the heart of these conversations.
Paul was an excellent communicator. We see this in Acts 17 and throughout his letters. A key factor to his success (other than the Holy Spirit) was his ability to communicate to others in their context. We can do the same but must “walk in wisdom and let our speech be gracious.” It is easy for a person like me, who knows Mormonism and lived in that faith, to spout off discrepancies, but that’s completely missing the point.
Gospel conversations with Mormons must be gracious and focused on the gospel. We have an advantage because part of their Standard Works is the KJV Bible. Pointing them to some of their proof texts and explaining how Evangelicals understand that passage differently is not debating; it’s correcting (2 Tim. 3:16). Also, end the conversation with a challenge. Challenge them to read the Gospel of John. If they ask you to read something in return, do it; this will allow you to set up another meeting to discuss what you read.
As Great Commission Baptists, we pride ourselves on our evangelism and going to fulfill the great commission. Mormons are included in the great commission, and we need to be intentional about bringing the gospel to them instead of keeping it from them. I hope this has been an encouragement for you.
This article is written by one of our students, Eric Wendt. If you want to know more about his testimony as a former Mormon, please check these two podcasts.