Category Archives: Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor

Overcoming Antagonism with Good News

In January, the Pew Research Center released a study called Mormons in America.  Among many interesting questions about the life and perceptions of Latter-day Saints, the survey asked Mormons how they feel about their relationship with evangelical Christians.  Fifty percent of the people surveyed said that they believe evangelical Christians are unfriendly toward Mormons.  The number rises significantly among those Latter-day Saints who served a two-year proselytizng mission.  65% of returned missionaries said that evangelicals are unfriendly toward Mormons.

This was confirmed recently when I was speaking at a church in California.  A woman came up to talk to me about her brother, who has been a Mormon for 30 years.  In a recent conversation he told her that he believes the Southern Baptist Church is committed to destroying the LDS Church.  I don’t know why he feels that way, but his comment underscores the perception many Latter-day Saints have that evangelicals are against them and their church.

I think this perception comes, in part, from traditional methods evangelicals have used to evangelize Mormons.  Often these consist of trying to prove Mormons wrong.  Our witness has been largely negative, so its not surprising that they would assume we are trying to tear down their church.

I’ve been thinking about how to frame the good news to Mormons in a positive light.  Here are four positive gifts we can offer Latter-day Saints in our conversations with them, rather then just telling them they are wrong:

1. We can offer the fulfillment of the human desire for transcendence.  We have a joy that comes from finding our proper place in the universe, as finite creatures of a magnificent, infinite God.

2. We can offer the delight of an intimate relationship with God as Father.  Although Mormons refer to God as Heavenly Father, my observation is that their relationship with God is more like that of a servant than a child.  As a servant, you obey out of duty and obligation, and receive rewards in direct proportion to your obedience.  We approach God as his children, delighting in Father who lavishes blessing on us generously, in an intimacy with him that leads to obedience out of joy and love.

3. We can offer a sense of security before God.  Latter-day Saints do not believe they can know in this life where they really stand with God or whether they have done enough to merit the celestial kingdom.  We can bear witness of an assurance that comes not from our own efforts, but from the promises of God – confident not in our own merit, but in God’s mercy.

4. We can offer the goods news of God’s grace lavished on us in Jesus Christ.  When the pressure to perform becomes overwhelming, or a person realizes he is not worthy enough, or when she is crushed by the weight of trying to earn eternal rewards, we can point toward God’s unconditional favor.  Jesus has already done everything we need.  It’s our simply by recognizing our spiritual poverty and trusting in him.

For more about these four gifts, see pages 108-110 in my book, Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor.

Seminars in California

On March 24-25 I will speaking at River Oak Grace Community Church in Oakdale, California.  If you are near the San Joaquin Valley, please come join us.  Or if you are interested in scheduling a similar presentation at your church, let me know:

Saturday 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.: “New Approaches in Engaging Mormonism”

With Mormonism prominently in the public eye, this seminar will review the changes and the constants in Mormon faith, analyzing current trends and developments to equip you with the most recent strategies for engaging Latter-day Saints with the gospel.

  • Discover why it is important to understand Mormonism as more than just a belief system.
  • Gain insight into how to share the good news of God’s grace in ways that sound like good news to Latter-day Saints.
  • Learn how to help the people leaving Mormonism to find a new faith and a new spiritual home.

Sunday Morning Worship Services 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.: “Major Impact with Minor Offense” (Acts 19)

The preaching of the gospel had powerful fruit in Ephesus that affected the whole community.  Yet Paul’s reputation was such that, in the eyes of the locals, he had not acted blasphemously toward what they held sacred.  Thus it is possible to preach the gospel with eternal and culture-transforming effect while not creating unnecessary stumbling blocks.

Sunday 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.: “Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor”

Those of us who know Latter-day Saints respect their family commitments and moral values, although we may question some of their core beliefs.  Who are these people?  What matters to them?  How do they view us?  How do they live out their lives?  If we understand the values and practices of our LDS neighbors and friends, we can be better prepared to have meaningful faith conversations with them.

  • Understand the powerful experiences that shape the Mormon identity.
  • Explore the six core relationships that define Latter-day Saint life.
  • Learn effective principles for communicating wisely with LDS friends and neighbors.

Church Planting Insights in LDS Culture

Last fall I mentioned the Transitions curriculum, an excellent new resource to help former Latter-day Saints navigate the journey into a new faith and church life after leaving Mormonism.  I had the privilege of being involved in this fine program.

As part of their research into the post-Mormon journey, the producers of Transitions also explored the implications of that journey applied to planting churches in the LDS cultural sphere.  Check out these insights here: Notes for Church Planters.

My Book Reviewed

My most recent book, Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor, recently received a very favorable review at the Christian Book Preview site.  If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, you can order it from Utah Advance at our store.  Click here: Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor.

Retro Take on Current Issue

I was organizing some old files when I came across this statement which I drafted in 2001.  At that time, the question “Are Mormons Christians” was spurred by the publicity surrounding the impending Winter Olympics in Salt Lake.  Looking at my statement, I see that nothing has really changed in the last 11 years:

“I do not presume to be able to discern, concerning any individual, her true spiritual condition or the nature of his relationship with God – regardless of religious affiliation.

“While I respect the right the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) to define itself as Christian, and I understand its arguments for doing so, it is my position that the LDS Church stands clearly outside the framework of historic, Biblical Christianity.  I assert this because the LDS Church rejects many of the core Biblical beliefs that have historically defined the Christian faith.

“While I recognize that Jesus Christ does have a central position in the doctrine and practice of the LDS Church as Son of God, Redeemer, Savior and Lord, it is my position that the LDS Church presents the identity and nature of Jesus Christ in a way that is substantially different from the testimony of historic, Biblical Christianity.  Furthermore, in spite of superficial resemblance of language, the meanings assigned by the LDS Church to such key concepts as “Son of God”, “Redeemer”, “Savior”, and many others, also differ considerably from the historic, Biblical Christian faith.

“I find it meaningless to argue about the fitness of assigning labels such as ‘Christian’, knowing that such titles mean different things to different people.  I do, however invite open discussion of the significant and fundamental theological differences between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the historic, Biblical Christianity which I represent.”

“Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor” Is Now Available

My new book has now been released.  You can order it from the Utah Advance store for the best price available.  This book gives insights into Mormon life and culture that will help traditional Christians understand and relate to friends and acquaintances involved in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  It highlights essential elements in the experience of life as a Mormon—stories, practices, teachings, community activities, and beliefs—to help Christians form faith-sharing relationships with Mormons.

The book relies on my experiences growing up Mormon and living in Utah for the last three decades, as well as on current research that utilizes many Latter-day Saint sources. It explains the core stories that form the Mormon worldview, shares the experiences that shape the community identity of Mormonism, and shows how Mormons understand truth. It will help you understand how most Mormons see themselves and others around them, illuminating why people join the LDS Church and why many eventually leave.

Understanding Your Mormon Neighbor suggests how Christians can befriend Latter-day Saints with confidence and sensitivity and share the grace of God wisely within their relationships.

The book includes discussion questions for individuals and small groups, black and white photographs and charts, and an appendix that includes “Are Mormons Christians?” and “Should I Vote for a Mormon?”