By Larry Ray Hafley
I am not an expert in Mormon theology. I rely on a number of studies published by brethren for insight and information. However, like most of you, I have had several sessions with Mormon “elders.” Each confrontation is different, as no two prospects are alike, but let me share with you some approaches I have attempted with the Mormons.
These actions are designed (1) to convert the lost soul; (2) to teach the truth that makes men free; (3) to shake the Mormon from his pedestal of confidence and assurance, to keep him off balance. (Allow Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses to dictate the lesson and you will be in reverse, trying to throw punches while falling backward. Mormons are used to being in control; they are used to setting the course; they are used to meeting people they can confuse, rattle and tie up in knots; hence, they are poised, confident. This air of assurance and domination must be snatched from them. Do not permit them to dictate the flow of the study.); (4) to cause the Mormon to doubt, to be puzzled, to question his system, his faith. (He may not admit it openly. He may verbally express his unwavering faith in Mormonism, but inwardly he should be wondering, questioning.)
Beginning The Assault
At the outset, I state my faith in the Bible and assert the same for them. Generally, at the start, they nod agreement. Yes, the Bible is God’s word; yes, they believe it. (After a period of discussion, they will often back away from faith in the Bible as the word of God, but initially, at the beginning, they usually agree that the Bible is the truth of God.)
Quickly, then, I may shift gears and comment concerning their “Elder” name tage. I tell them that I know they cannot be elders in the New Testament church and proceed to examine the qualifications for elders. This leaves most Mormon elders with empty looks on their faces. As you sit down to study, ask them about their families. “What’s your wife’s name?” “How many children do you have?” They will smile and acknowledge, “I’m not married.” With a serious look, you may reply, “Really? Well, that is strange because elders in the Lord’s church have to be married men with faithful children.” Cite the appropriate passages (1 Tim. 3:2-5; Tit. 1:6), and you have most young Mormons off balance and out of control of the situation.
So, study the elder question and press them about it. Be firm, be fair, be kind, but let them know that their elder status is not in harmony with the Bible and is contrary to truth.
A Temporary Aside
Often when pressed, Mormons resort to saying that they believe the Bible “insofar as it is correctly translated.” They usually do not say that until their doctrine is in a pinch, so when they do, you have them up a tree or in a corner (or both) on something. That is the time to keep them hemmed up, to exert more pressure.
In connection with their hedging on the reliability of the Bible, they argue that “the great apostasy” prophesied by the apostles (Acts 20:28-32; 1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Thess. 3; 2 Pet. 2:1,2) perverted the truth and the church and that God has restored it through Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Now, you have them. When it is convenient, they will cite Bible passages which allegedly sustain their view, i.e., “the great apostasy,” the Book of Mormon prophesied of in Ezekiel 37, etc. Ask them if they expect you to read from the Bible and believe a great apostasy was to come. “Yes,” they say. Ask them how they know it is correctly translated. How can we depend on Ezekiel 37? Assume that it prophetically reveals the coming of the Book of Mormon. It does not, but if it did, perhaps it is a mistranslation. How do they know? They are being arbitrary and capricious. When it suits them, the Bible is valid. One can read and know the truth when it seems to say what they believe, but if it does not fit their doctrines, then it is not reliable, not correctly translated. Simply show them their inconsistent, prejudiced view of Scripture.
My Favorite Approach
I tell the Mormons to imagine that we (they and I) are trying to convert a Jew. The Jew says he believes in God’s spokesman, Moses (Num. 12:6-8). The Jew says he believes in God’s covenant with Israel (Deut. 5:2,3). The Jew tells us he is in God’s kingdom, Israel (Exod. 19:6). The Jew seeks forgiveness and fellowship in the Levitical priesthood (Num. 18). He says there is no lawgiver, save Moses. He says there is no covenant, except the Old Testament. He says there is no nation of God besides Israel. He says there is no priesthood but that of Aaron.
At this juncture, I tell the Mormons how we are going to convert these Jews. We are going to assure the Jew that we appreciate his faith in Jehovah. We, too, believe in Moses as God’s prophet, in the Old Testament as God’s word, in Israel as God’s nation, and in Aaron as God’s High Priest, but we are going to show the Jew:
(1) Moses prophesied of another lawgiver, prophet, spokesman (Deut. 18:15-18). God said one would come after Moses whom the people should hear. For sake of argument, Jesus may or may not be that one, but at least the Jew knows someone must come after Moses (cf. Acts 3:22,23). God said so.
(2) The Old Testament says it will be superceded by another covenant unlike itself (Jer. 31:31-34). God said he would make another covenant with Israel unto which they would be bound. For sake of argument, the New Testament may or may not be that covenant, but at least the Jew knows there is to be another covenant unlike the one he is now under (cf. Heb. 8:8-13; 10:15-17).
(3) Prophets in Israel, God’s kingdom, spoke of another kingdom (Isa.2:2-4; Dan. 2:44; Zech. 9:9,10). God said he would set up a kingdom unlike the physical, political theocracy of Israel. For sake of argument, the spiritual house, the church , may or may not be that kingdom, but at least the Jews know there is to be another kingdom different from the one in which he has citizenship.
(4) The Old Testament speaks of another priest after the order of Melchizedec, not after the order of Aaron (Psa. 110:4). God said he would establish another priesthood which would necessitate a change of the law (Heb. 7:11-14). For sake of argument, Jesus may or may not be that High Priest (cf. Heb. 3:1), but while the order of Aaron existed, God spoke of another (Zech. 6-12,13).
While developing this line of argument, be as clear and precise as possible. The Mormons will follow it and agree with it. I am careful to enlist them (verbally as I proceed) in its construction. Then I spring the trap (cf. the approach Jesus used in Matthew 21:28-46. He led them along as he taught, then convicted them. Nathan did the same to David – 2 Sam. 12). I tell the Mormons that they need to do for me what we did for the Jew. They need to take the Bible and show me that there is to be another revelation. “Before you do, though,” I caution them, “remember what the Bible says about the New Testament system:”
First, Christ is not to be supplanted or replaced (as Moses was) in government, power, dominion or authority (Matt. 28:1820; Lk. 1:32,33; Jas. 4:12; 1 Cor. 15:24-28). His word is final, complete (Jude 3; Jn. 12:48; 2 Tim. 3:16,17; Gal. 1:8,9).
Second, the New Testament is complete, final, authoritative. It is “the everlasting covenant” (Heb. 13:20). The Old or First Testament speaks of the Second or New Testament, but where does the Bible speak of a third or later covenant? For the New Testament to be suspended, Christ’s sacrifice, mediation and intercession would have to be terminated or abrogated, but this can never be done because he ever liveth to make intercession and his sacrifice is forever valid (Heb. 7:22-28; 9:24-28; 10:11-14).
Third, the kingdom of God, as prophesied, cannot be destroyed and shall not be moved or shaken (Dan. 2:44; Lk. 1:32,33; Heb. 12:28; 1 Cor. 15:24-28). True, a great apostasy did occur, and “some” not all, departed from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1), but this did not affect the kingdom of God (cf. Lk. 8:11; Matt. 13:19; 1 Pet. 1:23-25).
Fourth, the priesthood of Christ is not to be removed for another because. (a) it is 6 6not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life” (Heb. 7:16); (b) “For He testifieth thou art a priest forever” (Heb. 7:17,21); (c) “this man, because he continueth ever hath an unchangeable priesthood” (Heb. 7:24).
These four facts of the New Testament are the true, not the figure; they are the substance, not the shadow; they are final, sufficient, complete, not provisional; they are permanent, not temporary.
Now with those immutable, fixed, inviolable statements of truth before us, ask the Mormons for an answer; ask them for proof for something else. (If they attempt a response, remind them of the reliability of the Bible – it is correctly translated!) Remind them again of the certain, everlasting, final nature of the New Testament. Somehow, they must overthrow the fixed, set, everlasting facets of the New Testament as we overthrew the temporary system of the Jew. That is their task. Hold them to it.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 9, pp. 272-273
May 5, 1988