When people come knocking… Part 2 – Mormon Elders

Just as I was thinking about what to write for this post, I had the privilege of speaking with some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I think we had a very productive time. No one confessed to changing their minds during our talk, but important things were discussed. At the outset, my visitors told me that they believe both the Bible (KJV) and the Book of Mormon.

When I talk with Mormons, I usually begin by asking them a hard question. The hard question is this:

“If I have the Bible, why do I need the Book of Mormon?”

My purpose in asking this is to find out if the Book of Mormon gives me new information about the salvation that Jesus brings, or does it just give the same information.

If the reply is “Just the same information”, then I ask why should I bother with the book of Mormon?

If the reply is “It gives new information”, I refer them to Galatians Chapter 1.

Today I found that, after getting the first answer and giving my follow-up question, I got the second reply in a modified form.

I was told that message of Jesus ceased to be effective after the apostles died. The church messed with the message and important truth was lost. The important truth was restored in the 1830s in the USA when Joseph Smith heard a voice from heaven in answer to his prayer that he might know the truth about God. He received that restored information from an angel.

So I referred them to Galatians Chapter 1. Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, told the Galatians that they had abandoned the gospel that he and the other apostles preached, and that the Galatians had embraced a false gospel. Paul said they had adopted “another” (heteron) gospel, meaning an entirely different type of gospel, which was not another gospel of the same type (allo).

I suggested to my new friends that we have to make very sure that the gospel that we are trusting is not a ‘heteron’ gospel. We have to test what we believe against the gospel presented in the Bible that the Christian church has had since the days of the apostles. Even if that other ‘gospel’ is brought by an angel from heaven, it still has to be tested against that standard. If it is another (heteron) gospel, Paul says let that angel who brought it be accursed.

My friends then said that Joseph Smith had seen a vision of God the Father and the Son and had heard the Father say of the Son, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” They said that this adds weight to his testimony.

I referred them to the first Chapter of 2 Peter, where Peter spoke of his preparation for death. He was writing things down, so after his death, the church would have a permanent reminder of the gospel. This practice was followed by John, Matthew, Paul, James, Jude and other Gospel writers. Peter then refers to the truth of his witness. He was not making up clever myths, but saw Jesus transfigured and heard God the Father’s voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son…”

But the big thing is: Peter said that we have a more certain prophetic word than a voice from heaven. He was referring to the prophetic scriptures, that is, to the Old and New Testament of the Bible that the Christian Church as possessed since the days of apostles. Peter was saying, and still says, that we don’t need modern-day apostles, or new revelations of the Spirit, because we have the Word of God written in the Bible.

For this reason, when asked if I felt that the book of Mormon was a prophecy from God, I said I’d rather tell what I thought. I said that I have no need for a book of Mormon. I have the Gospel already written down for me by the apostles and prophets in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. As for Joseph Smith, if he really wanted to know what God’s true message was, he had all that he needed in the Bible. He had no need for an angel from heaven to speak with him. The Bible that had already been translated into English for him to read for himself.

We talked about a few other passages that made it clear that truth about Jesus is fully given in the Bible that Church has always possessed. I did agree that the church has not always been careful to believe and act according to that Bible, but that is the fault of church people, not the Bible’s fault.

When we had come to the conclusion that we believed very different things about Jesus and how we might know him, they asked me to pray, which I was happy to do. I prayed that the Lord Jesus Christ would allow us to understand his gospel as we read his Bible, and that we would not follow a different gospel, which is no gospel at all.

When people come knocking… Part 1 – Jehovah Witnesses

Talking to people about the good news of Jesus Christ is a vital (and it can be a joyful) part of Christian living. Not every Christian gets the same opportunities to do this. Some places have a cultural reluctance to talk about Christian teaching. In many areas of our lives we meet people who have a determined hardness against discussing the gospel. But occasionally, we meet people who are at least interested in talking about the Christian Bible and about Jesus Christ. Some even come to our front door to do so. I’m talking about Jehovah Witnesses and Mormon Elders. I’d like to encourage Christians, people who know the Lord Jesus Christ and love him in sincerity, to talk with these people. They have a zeal for God, but they don’t know Him. I’ve a few suggestions of things to talk about when they come knocking. This post will focus upon things to mention when talking to Jehovah Witnesses. There are so many ways in which JW people deviate from the Bible’s teaching. It is often hard to find a helpful topic upon which to speak. I usually concentrate on three areas:

  1. The absolute sovereignty of God in saving otherwise un-savable people.
  2. The divinity and humanity of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
  3. The need for new birth if anyone is to be part of the Kingdom of God.

The first and second points tend to go together in my conversations with JWs. They have to do with our utter sinfulness and rebellion, and God’s extraordinary mercy, love and power. We are God’s creatures, but we disobey him daily. Even our best efforts fall short of righteousness and deserve death. More than this, because of Adam’s role as our representative before God, his failure is ours. In Adam we broke the agreement that God made with us. We have forfeited life and are bound over to death, everlasting death. We cannot do anything to save ourselves. But God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit made a second agreement between themselves. The Son of God would come as the second Adam to represent his people (Genesis 3:15). Jehovah-Jesus, as the Good Shepherd (compare Ezekiel 34 and John 10), would come and put right all that we had done wrong. Jehovah-Jesus would take to himself a human nature to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Jehovah-Jesus is Saviour; beside him there is no other saviour (Isaiah 43:11 and Acts 4:12). Our right standing with God depends completely on who Jesus is and what he has done for us. He alone is our righteousness. The third point is a gift from God to sinners. We cannot bring ourselves to new birth. It is the Holy Spirit’s work in applying the salvation, that Jesus won, to individual sinners. He brings us to new understandings and attitudes. He makes us a new creation in Christ Jesus. Our Lord Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again or he would not be able to enter, or even see (perceive/understand) the Kingdom of God. This is important, because the people from the Watch Tower organisation who come to your door will tell you that they are not born again. Yet, the place where they meet is called a Kingdom Hall. They say that they are in the kingdom (as long as they remain faithful and survive the final battle), but they say they are not born again. Only 144000 special Christians are re-born; the others are not. These others deny that they need to be born again. Against such thoughts, Jesus says that it is essential that people be born again, or they will never enter nor understand the kingdom of God. Note that before he was born again, Nicodemus did not understand or see the necessity of the new birth. Our JW friends are in the same condition as he was. They too need what Nicodemus received by God’s grace. They, along with anyone else who is saved, must be born again.