There is an Evangelist at our church. His name is Ed. I have never really had a concrete position on whether Scripture prescribes an “office” of Evangelist at the local church. The reason I am thinking it through now is that I never encountered such a person at the four previous churches I worked at or attended. So I assumed nothing—positive or negative. Even when I preached through Ephesians 4, I somewhat glossed over the issue in verse 11.
However, I am convinced that if there is such an office and gift that sets one apart (from the calling of all Christians to proclaim the coming judgment and testify to our hope and mercies of and in Christ) then we do have one in Ed. His passion and work in the areas of evangelism and apologetics for the sake of the gospel is beyond most anyone I’ve ever met.
Ed’s particular interest is in cults—Jehovah’s Witnesses, Adventists, Mormons, etc. And if you follow American politics even a little, you know that a presidential candidate—Mitt Romney—is a Mormon. [As an aside, if you don’t follow American politics, it is nothing worth getting into, trust me.] As a result, Mormonism is a topic of great interest for many, Christian and non-Christian alike.
The thread that runs through the discussions comes down to this question: “Is Mormonism Christian?”
Now, I’ve read books and listened to debates and to me there is no way Mormonism is Christian. But the majority Christians that I’ve talked with think otherwise. Further, I know some learned and faithful Christians who don’t want to be so stark with this divide. With that, I’ve always had a slight nudge on my conscience that I am being too dogmatic and rigid.
Back to Ed. He convinced me to spend a day with him at some Mormon historical sites nearby. There we would be able to talk with Mormons and find out what they believe, from their own mouths.
The short of it is that I came away from the day with a conviction that indeed Mormonism is not Christian. Here are six observations in spending the day with them:
- Their devotion to Joseph Smith—the Prophet—is parallel, if not greater, to that of Christ.
- The commitment to the teachings and institution of the Church of Latter Day Saints trumps their commitment to the Bible (which they confess they uphold as truth from God).
- When faced with the idiosyncrasies of their belief, they rely on their experience of faith. In other words, a few gentlemen said to us “you are thinking this through with your head, but I know the truth in my heart”. They also retreat to hierarchy, in that none of them would “speak for the Church” when confronted with a question that befuddled them.
- They have a sense of the sacred (places and times) that originate from their view of Joseph Smith (see #1). Any significant place Smith dwelt is somewhat of a mecca for them. I am curious if they view historic sites in Jerusalem and Israel in the same way?
- Their hope can never rest because it rests ultimately in doing enough good works.
- We were called “brothers” (as in Christ) but also told, by the same people, that those who don’t follow Smith’s prophecies are outside the Church and need to hear the true gospel.
Two final observations are worth noting. First, because I live in a Catholic-dominated area, I found little difference in evangelizing Catholics and Mormons. If you read the above six points and change some names, a fair description of the average Catholic is made. It is trendy to move away and slightly modify Reformation Orthodoxy. My time with the Mormons entrenched me in the justification-by-faith-alone camp. It is what all people of all religions need to hear. Yes, Mormons do speak of being saved by the blood of Christ, but when it gets fleshed out in practice, it is actually not where they put their hope. This is the same with my Catholic friends.
Second, because I have a rather bleeding heart when it comes to direct encounters with people, I couldn’t help but notice their sincerity. In one sense, the Mormons I met where beautifully devout people. But Ed reminded me what is really going on with this great phrase, “the beautiful face of evil”. Indeed, that is what any religion or person is portraying when the trappings of sincerity and meekness cover up and distort the fact that Jesus is the true Savior and King.