(Photo ‘Mormon Church’ courtesy of user More Good Foundation and Flickr)
Without a doubt, there is a conflict between Mormon beliefs and Christian beliefs. So great are the differences that the two cannot be reconciled with one another despite the frequent teaching to the contrary. I mention this up in order to establish that the two are very different and we need to recognize that. This letter though, is not about the doctrinal differences that exist between us. Instead, I write to you because you are damaging my testimony.
Certainly most people recognize that part of being a genuine Mormon is the concept of going on a mission. At a certain point in a person’s life they are sent to ‘minister’ to others on behalf of the Mormon church. For a predefined amount of time they spend day after day canvassing the neighborhoods of wherever they are sent hoping to make contacts and converts by sharing with them the teachings of the Book of Mormon. Nevermind that I think the Book of Mormon cannot stand up to the tests of authority that the Bible does. The concern here is the damage that you are doing for my testimony after you return home. I suspect that many of you fail to understand the harm that you are doing to people.
Damage to Christians
At this point your reputation precedes you. When you arrive to a town your presence is noted, even if you don’t think so and already people know what the plan is. They can expect you will be knocking on their door (or in our case, clapping at their gate). As they see you around the thought that enters into their mind is this: “They will soon be gone.” I’m not saying they want you to go or stay, only that they know you will soon be gone.
This is where the issue is found. Without fail now, when we tell people we have come to teach the Bible, the next question is “How long are you going to stay?” The astonishment when we say, “Permanently” does not go unnoticed. They are not anticipating this because they are used to people coming for a time and then simply leaving.
Such a consistent desertion by you has left them feeling not as a person, but as a project. Based on their observations they conclude you were here to fulfill your obligation and had no intentions of truly getting to know them. While temporarily engaged with them it was a return home that you were anticipating most.
This happens so repeatedly that not only do they expect it, but they have learned to not engage it. While being kind, they shut the door on lasting relationships with expectations that any outsider now, has only come for a time and will soon be gone.
Damage to Mormons
Why should such a response concern you? After all, I already noted that Mormon and Christian doctrine are in conflict and no doubt you want to see people engage with your own group. Yet, the difficulties engaging the culture that we are having as a result of your practices are not limited to us. They also affect your ability to offer a witness for your own faith. In truth, they have lost trust in you and so the testimony you are affecting is not merely ours, but also yours.
Damage to the Secular World
While lamenting the impact you are having on our ability to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, there is yet another issue at hand that is not being recognized. You are damaging people. You have created stumbling blocks for them, something that the Bible warns about doing (cf. Romans 14:13, 15:1-6; 1 Corinthians 8:9; 2 Corinthians 6:3). You have done so in two ways. First you have impacted their ability to build relationships with people. Instead there exists a level of distrust with anyone they do not know, and therefore they fail to engage with them. This creates the second effect. You have affected their ability to be saved from eternal damnation because they avoid people they do not know, thus limiting the opportunity to even preach a gospel of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Ultimately the damage has been done and will continue to be done until two important truths change. The dangers of what you are engaging in are the result of two things:
- Failure to Grasp the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20): You have failed to understand the truth of the Great Commission. The Great Commission prompts the making of disciples by the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. A disciple is not made without the work of God through His message. It is a message that proclaims faith alone apart from works, which stands in stark contrast to your reasoning for engaging in mission.
- Failure to Grasp the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:34-40): According to Christ all things hinge on loving God and loving others. This is true of the Great Commission, for without fulfillment of the Great Commandment, the Great Commission does not exist. Making a disciple requires the love that sacrifices time, energy, and patience.
I suspect that many people fail to recognize the damage that you are doing. After all, you did your work and now you are gone and it takes only a short amount of time for you to have forgotten where you once were. I hope though, that some thoughts will be raised here that will prompt a serious meditation upon whether or not you are doing more damage or more harm. Recognize that what you do not only impacts you, but others.