Ministering to Mormons
As we travel around the country each year, one of the most common questions people ask us is, “Do you have any advice on how to minister to my Mormon friends/family?” To preface this, there is no "magic bullet" point that you can bring up that will impact every Mormon person the same. There are a number of different elements that contribute to what would be the right thing to say to a certain person in a certain situation. Each person, relationship, circumstance, and environment is different. Because of this, we have compiled a list of general guidelines that may help as you minister to your Mormon friends and family. These ideas come from our years of experience having been raised Mormon, as well as approaches that we have implemented in our own ministry as we have reached out to the LDS people over the years. Our desire is to help you minister with greater power in the Holy Spirit, clarity and love to your LDS friends and family.
1. Pray for and love them
First, it is imperative that you have a heart overflowing with love and compassion for your LDS friends and family. Let your love for them and your desire for their salvation motivate you to lovingly share the Good News of Jesus Christ. Take note of Paul's heart toward his former people, the Jews:
"Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." (Romans 10:1-4)
Pray to have a heart full of compassion, empathy, love, and mercy towards those to whom you are ministering so that you truly desire to help them come to know the Biblical Jesus. Pray that their hearts will be opened and softened to receive the message of God’s Grace. Pray that the spirit of blindness may be lifted off of them. Paul teaches us in 2 Cor. 4:4 that the "god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel..." That spiritual blindness is a very real and tangible deception; our Mormon friends and family have been blinded from seeing the true and saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. As we pray for them to receive their sight, it's critical to remember, as Jesus said, "no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws [that person]" (John 6:44). It is important that we make those requests made known to God, but not to be anxious about anything (Phil. 4:6-7). Everything is in the Lord’s timing and in His will. Trust in the sovereignty of our loving God.
2. Preparation in the Word
Unfortunately, we have met many Christians who don't know the Word of God enough to understand what they believe, much less be able to communicate it to others. This preparation is paramount, because a Christian unfamiliar with the Word of God is like a soldier on the battlefield without a weapon. We encourage you to "do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15). Spend time in the Word as your daily bread, pray for guidance, and allow God to show you how to reach out to the Mormon people. Be grounded in your own understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you have the implanted word (James 1:21) in your hearts, then the Holy Spirit will bring to remembrance all that Jesus has said (John 14:26) and you will be "prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect" (1 Pet. 3:15). This gentle approach is extremely important, and we will get to that a little later.
3. Basic understanding of Mormonism
We strongly encourage anyone trying to minister to Mormons to have a basic understanding of Mormon doctrine. Here are a few links from some of our partner ministries that will help you in this area:
Just like in any culture, it is helpful to be familiar with the language they speak. This is particularly important when it comes to understanding Mormonism, because Mormons often use the same terms as Bible-based Christians (i.e. grace and salvation) but with completely different definitions. Without this understanding, it can feel like you are talking circles around each other. Having an understanding of their terminology will help you understand where they are coming from and equip you to more clearly communicate the Gospel message with them. We do caution you, however, not to get too bogged down in trying to perfect your knowledge of the LDS church and its many doctrines. It will not be through your knowledge and intellect of Mormon doctrine that those you are witnessing to will come into a relationship with Christ; but rather through the seeds planted in their hearts by the living and abiding Word of God.
4. Focus the message on grace
Lastly, we would encourage you to focus your conversations on the message of God's grace through Christ Jesus as delivered in the New Testament. We shouldn't be trying to win debates or intellectualize anyone out of the LDS Church. Rather than using church history or apologetics to convince someone of the error of their religion, we would counsel you to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, emphasizing the free gift of eternal life that is being offered through Jesus Christ alone. We then pray that God will open their eyes to how the Biblical Gospel of Grace conflicts with the Mormon doctrine of salvation by works.
We have learned over the years that when someone is shown the errors of the Mormon religion without having been given the truth of the Biblical Gospel, unfortunately, they often lose faith in God altogether. This is why we strongly encourage the focus of your ministry efforts to be on the message of God’s amazing grace. Our method is to help someone develop a personal, saving relationship with Christ and allow God, through His Word, to draw him or her out of the religious bondage of Mormonism and into the freedom of Christ’s grace. This is exactly what God did in our own lives when we left the Mormon Church; and God channeled all of our passion, zeal, and dedication that we once had for Mormonism into a desire and intensity to share the true, undefiled Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are not simply trying to bring people out of Mormonism; we are seeking to make disciples of Jesus Christ.
Here are a few tactical suggestions:
1. Ask questions for understanding
Make sure to ask questions to have them clarify what they have said and what they believe. Seek to really understand what they mean when they share their faith with you, especially if they use the same terminology as you. Be open and respectful in allowing them to share their beliefs.
2. Stay away from the Greek or Hebrew
Most of the time this would be unfruitful in a conversation because, generally speaking, Mormons don't trust the Bible in the way Christians do. They will see this as semantics and most of the time it will cause them to shut down.
3. Stay away from Mormon Church history, past prophets, etc.
In general, we would encourage you to stay away from digging up the skeletons in the Mormon Church's closet or any other apologetic approach. A lot of Mormons will simply discount anything you say as "anti-Mormon" if it puts their religion in a bad light. If you want to discuss with Mormons things their leaders have taught, we encourage you to use the most up-to-date information, i.e. addresses from their living prophet or twelve apostles in General Conference, Sunday School or Priesthood manuals; anything from their current website (www.lds.org), or anything from their accepted Standard Works of scripture (Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, and Bible).
4. Use the Word
Above all other tools and approaches, we encourage you to use the Word of God as your primary source of sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ. As Paul tells Timothy, "All scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work" (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It will be those seeds of God’s Word that will be implanted in their hearts and given growth according to God's will and time. Our job is to plant and water those seeds and wait on the Lord, because He alone will give the growth (1 Cor. 3:7). As we were once challenged in our lives, we invite you to challenge them to READ THE NEW TESTAMENT LIKE A CHILD.
We know that it can, at times, be discouraging when trying to talk to the spiritually blind; almost as if you are banging your head against a wall. It may feel pointless to try to reach out to those trapped in religious bondage because it seems as though there is no hope for their salvation. But think about how the first century Christians must have felt about Saul of Tarsus. He was persecuting the church of God violently, trying to destroy it (Gal. 1:13), and as you can probably imagine, many of the believers of that day must have thought he would never come to faith in Jesus as the Messiah. And then God, in His immeasurable love, changed Saul’s life and gave him a new identity in Christ Jesus; and he became Paul the Apostle, who preached Christ passionately and fervently until the day he died. There is no such thing as a lost cause; no one is outside of the grasp of God’s amazing grace. Look at us, for example. We ourselves were once zealous, religious men. We were self-righteous, arrogant and Pharisaical. We were not looking for God because we thought we had Him already in and through our religious institution. Yet despite all of that, God in His sovereignty was seeking us. He saved us and forever changed us by His love and grace that He richly poured out upon us; and this came through the reading and studying of the Word of God. We hope that our testimonies are an encouragement to anyone witnessing to those entrenched in religion; there is hope! As the scripture says, “With man it is impossible, but with God nothing is impossible” (Mark 10:27).
As you probably have seen, Mormons can be some of the most amazing people you will ever meet. They are kind, loyal, family-centered, and moral. It is crucial that you show them an outward display of love when you are sharing the Gospel with them. They need to know that you love them and have a sincere desire for the salvation for their souls. There was a saying that we used as Mormon missionaries: "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Any hint of sarcasm, anger, frustration or mockery of their beliefs will be seen by them as contentious; and this will cause them to most likely close-up and immediately put up walls. This was a defense mechanism that we were taught in the religion: put up a barrier and walk away if we felt any hint of contention. The Book of Mormon teaches in 3 Nephi 11:29, "For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another. Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away." We must remember what we are taught in Jude 1:33, to "contend for the faith." But when contending for the faith to Mormons, you should be aware of what they view as "contention" and avoid it as much as possible. Share the truth in love and with gentleness.
We echo the counsel that Paul gives us in 2 Timothy 2:23-25:
"Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth.”
We also encourage you to follow 1 Cor. 13:4 and be patient and kind, rather than irritable and resentful. We have personally seen countless hearts soften based on the bold yet gentle approach that we have used in sharing the Good News with love and kindness. We are to "[speak] the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15) and allow the Word of God to pierce their hearts. As it says in Hebrews, the Word of God is sharper than a two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12); allow God to pierce their hearts by the power of His Word.
Here are some additional resources that we suggest if you want to learn even more about Mormonism:
-Witnessing Tutorial- Truth in Love Ministry
-Please Open the Door- Truth in Love Ministry
-Answers for Mormons- Main Street Church of Brigham City
-Concern about Mormonism- Equipping Christians
-Speaking the Truth in Love to Mormons- Truth in Love Ministry
-Transitions: The Mormon Migration From Religion to Relationship- LDStransitions.com
-Mormon Scrapbook- Tri-Grace Ministries
-Christian Books on Mormonism- Utah Lighthouse Ministry
-Are You Saying I Must be Perfect?- Mormon Research Ministry
-Bible Verses on Mormon Topics- Adam's Road
-Topic List of Online Resources- Utah Lighthouse Ministry
-Dictionary of Mormonism- Truth in Love Ministry
-Terminology Differences- Utah Lighthouse Ministry
-Is Mormonism Christian- Institute For Religious Research
-Doctrines of Mormonism- Mormon Research Ministry
-Mormonism A-Z- Mormon Research Ministry
-Christian's Companion to the Triple Combination –Colleen Ralson
-Mormonism 101 –Bill McKeever & Eric Johnson
-Mormons Answered- Verse By Verse –David A. Reed & John R. Farkas
-Point By Point –Steven Lee
-Reasoning From the Scriptures with Mormons –Ron Rhodes &Marian Bodine
-Understanding Mormonism –Sandra & Conrad Sundholm
-Preparing for the Adventure Bible Study –Truth in Love Ministry
-Joseph Smith/Jesus Christ DVD -Good News for LDS
See our “PARTNER MINISTRIES” page for more great resources for ministering to the LDS people.
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