Here’s a commentary from Greg Koukl. He talks about dealing with Mormons, and what their approach to evangelism says about them.
Here’s the problem:
When LDS missionaries knocked on my brother Dave’s door while he was working, he took off his tool belt and sat down to talk with them. When he began to press them on their case, though, they took offense. “We just came here to share our point of view and now you are trying to have an argument with us,” they said. “We’re not here to argue with people. We just want to talk about our view and our experience.” Dave pointed out that they knocked on his door for the purpose of changing his point of view. They weren’t just “sharing.”
Sometimes they’ll take another tack. When you try to offer evidence counter to their view they’ll say, “You’re persecuting us.” I have heard that as well. I’m not sure if LDS missionaries are actually taught to take that approach when challenged. Maybe they just see it modeled by their mentors, or maybe they have a persecution complex, but this is ready on their lips the minute you offer an objection to their point of view.
How do you get around that? If those young men I saw pedaled up to my house and knocked on my door, I’d want to politely set some ground rules.
And here is the ground rule for dealing with Mormons:
Here’s the way I’d introduce the first question: “Great. I’d be glad to talk to you. I just want to be clear on a couple of things before we get going. Do you think your religion is actually true, I mean really true?”
Now this is a “yes” or “no” question. Either they’ll say “yes” which is the right answer, because they do think their religion is true and that’s why they’re proselytizing or they’ll say “no,” in which case I would ask, “If you don’t think Mormonism is true, then why are you knocking at my door?” So they are probably not going to say that. They might say, “Well, it’s true for us.” Then I’m going to ask what that means. If it is just “true” for them that is, just their opinion that works for them then why should I listen? I have my own “truths” that work for me. What we are getting at is the fact that they actually believe their view about religion is right and ours is wrong. It’s not just true for them. That’s why we should change our religion and become Mormon.
Of course, that’s a politically incorrect way of putting it, and they may be uneasy having their position stated so baldly. (I had one LDS young man say, “I would never say anyone else is wrong in their religious view,” a statement he ultimately retracted after my probing questions forced him to think a little more carefully about that remark in light of his missionary efforts.) To ease the discomfort you might say, “I’m not in the least offended by that view. My religion is a missionary religion, too. We think we’re right and others are wrong in so far as they differ from our beliefs. I just want us both to be clear on our positions. We both think we’re right and the other is mistaken. That’s all.”
We continue. “Okay, so you believe your view is correct. That’s why you’re here. If my view is different from yours, then mine is incorrect and I should change my view if I’m a reasonable person and become a Mormon. So what this discussion is about is who’s view is true, yours or mine. Is that fair? Great — come on in.”
I can remember like yesterday my encounters with Mormons in high school. I told them about the evidences for the Big Bang, and then asked them to square their view of eternally existing matter with the Big Bang. And they replied “we don’t really try to make our religion fit with what science shows”. Later on when I started working, I got into a debate with another Mormon. I noticed she was reading the Book of Mormon. So I asked her why she had chosen Mormonism out of all the other faiths. And she said “because it makes me feel good”. It just doesn’t seem like Mormonism is a religion that you arrive at after some careful investigation, because none of the ones I’ve know or read seem to be able to defend it to me when I ask them.
Here’s another commentary from Greg Koukl. In this one, he gets a visit from Jehovah’s Witnesses. They come to his door, ring the door bell and ask him if he wants some of their apocalyptic literature.
So Greg says this:
“I’m a Christian pastor,” I said, directing my comments to the younger convert, the one less influenced by the Watchtower organization and more open to another viewpoint. “In fact, I’m studying theology right now.” I held up the tome I’d been reading, Turretin’s 18th century Institutes of Eclentic Theology.
“It’s clear we have some differences, including the vital issue of the identity of Jesus. I believe what John teaches in John 1:3, that Jesus is the uncreated Creator. This makes Him God.”
And they run away!
“You’re entitled to your opinion and we’re entitled to ours,” was all she said. No question, no challenge, no theological rejoinder. This was a dismissal, not a response. She turned on her heels and started for the next house–young cadet in tow–in search of more vulnerable game.
Third, they don’t take the issue of truth very seriously. Religious evangelism is a persuasive enterprise; the evangelist is trying to change people’s minds. He thinks his view is true and other views are false. He also thinks the difference matters. Follow the truth, you win; follow a lie, you lose–big time. A commitment to truth (as opposed to a commitment to an organization) means an openness to refining one’s own views, increasing the accuracy in understanding, constantly searching for more precision in thinking.
A challenger could always turn out to be a blessing in disguise, an ally instead of an enemy. An evangelist who’s convinced of his view would want to hear the very best arguments against it. One of two things is going to happen.
He may discover that some objections to his view are good ones. The rebuttal helps him make adjustments and corrections in his thinking, refining his knowledge of the truth. Or it may turn out he’s on solid ground after all. Developing answers to the toughest arguments against him strengthens both his witness and his own confidence in his religion.
But my visitors didn’t wait to hear my thoughts to inform their own beliefs, so they might know the truth more accurately. They didn’t pause to hear the reasons I reject the Watchtower’s authority, so they might try to refute me and gain confidence in their own view.
I remember my own days of dealing with Jehovah’s Witnesses who were trying to convert a member of my family. They came back to our door and I stepped outside the house and shut the door behind me. Then I asked them about the failed predictions for the end of the world that their organization had made, especially 1914, 1975 and so forth. They had never heard of the predictions that their organization had made, so I showed them the printouts I had made. Then I asked them why I should trust their organization to tell me the truth, if they were trying to make these prophetic statements and failing so miserably. They left and never came back.