Wow, we are surprised! While we were in Salt Lake City visiting temple square, we were asked to fill out a visitor’s cards if we wanted more information or to receive a free video. Since we have not yet seen the video they offered, Becky filled out a card and requested the video.
We have requested information before, but have not always received it. Our house has been on the “black list” for quite some time so we really did not expect to hear from anyone. We were surprised to hear that someone had called our home even before we returned home from Manti. Becky has returned a few phone calls and we finally managed to set up a time for the LDS missionaries to come by and drop off the video.
They arrived this afternoon with the video we requested and asked if we had any questions. Becky got out the ice cream and we sat down in the living room and just got to know each other a little bit. We realized that they did not know who we were when one of the guys asked me what I do. I replied that I was a missionary and was very surprised that they did not ask about that at all. It was almost like they didn’t hear me. Have I mentioned at all that we were very surprised?
The LDS missionaries talked with us and were very cordial, but did not seem like they were going to get started at all. Becky kept prompting them almost as if she were teaching them how to begin the discussions. When they asked if we had any questions about their religion, I looked at the clock and jokingly asked how much time they had. They both were very serious when they said that they had a lot of time. Becky prompted them once again to begin their regular approach and off we went. The lead LDS missionary talked almost non-stop for about 20 minutes.
They gave us one of the pamphlets pictured above and started talking about the great apostasy. I could not help but think of all the times that a Mormon has said to me, “Why do you have to bash our religion? Why can’t you just tell me what is good about your religion without bashing mine? Elder J. was about to move on to his next point when I asked if I could ask a question about what we had just read. I pointed out that the paragraph we had just read was to be applied to our church. The paragraph read in part, “Jesus told Joseph not to join any of the churches, for “they were all wrong” and “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me…”
I asked how they would feel if this condemnation was to be applied to them. Elder J. said that it would not bother him because he hears things like that all the time. That was not the point I was trying to make so I rephrased my question.
Have you ever thought about how other people feel once they realize that this condemnation is to be applied to their church? Becky added that she thought it was a pretty harsh statement. Both LDS missionaries looked at each other and elder J. said that he had never thought about that before. We made sure that they knew that this information is offensive to those not of their faith. Both guys completely understood our point. They did not pull any punches when it came to the LDS doctrine that no church, other than theirs, had God’s authority.
What was really cool about this part of the discussion was that Elder J. said that out of all of the 13 months that he had been on his mission, he had never read that part of the pamphlet to an investigator before and he didn’t know why he read it this time. I chuckled to myself because I knew why God had him read that part. I used this as an opportunity to do some preventative maintenance and told him that when I preach the gospel, I have bad news and good news, but the good news does not make any sense without the bad news. I told them that I have had numerous people tell me that they only want to me to tell them the positive things about my religion without finding fault in theirs. Both LDS missionaries agreed with us that it is necessary and proper to tell people the bad news first. This will come in handy for when they learn about our ministry.
Although we spoke about many other things, there was another important issue that I want to discuss here. Elder J. paraphrased numerous verses in both the Bible and Book of Mormon. One of them was Matthew 7:20– Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. The context is speaking of how to identify false prophets, but rarely does a Mormon know that. Elder J. said that we could determine the truth of things by examining it’s fruit. In this case he said that we could examine Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.
He then transitioned into telling us to pray about the Book of Mormon to find out if it is true. Prior to this discussion, I never had thought about these two ideas as a contrast. I asked, “If we are to test the truthfulness of a religion or person by examining their fruit, why are we told to pray about the Book of Mormon?” Elder J. said that God wanted us to try for ourselves but once we get to a place where we need help, we can ask God. He gave an illustration of our daughter asking for help with a math problem. As a good father I want our daughter to try and figure it out for herself, but once she gets stuck, she can ask me for help.
I started talking about how I like the idea of examining fruit, but that I also thought that praying about the truthfulness of Mormonism is a misuse of prayer. For instance, if Elder J. didn’t study for his math exam and just asked God for the answers, God is not obligated to give him the answers. Both LDS missionaries agreed with me on this point. I took it a step farther and gave him a scenario.
“If one of the sister missionaries from temple square told you that God told her to have a physical relationship with you before marriage, and that to know the truthfulness of her revelation, all you need to do is pray about it, would you pray about it?” He admitted that he would not pray about it because God has already spoken about this and he knows that it would be wrong. I give this illustration to Mormons often and it helps them to see that prayer can be misused.
We told them that we would be more than happy to examine Mormonism and Becky even jokingly warned them that she is a “studier.” Both LDS missionaries understood our thoughts and feelings about this and are looking forward to our next meeting. Please join us in prayer for the salvation of these two guys. We also want to tell them about our ministry and pray that they do not find out about it until we tell them.