Points to Bring Up with Mormons

I just had a long and hopefully fruitful conversation with some Mormon missionaries and I wanted to share how it went so that strong points can be identified and weaker points improved for future use. Let me begin by pointing out the passages of Scripture I used to structure the conversation:

Bible Doctrines that Mormons Don’t Believe

The Church Jesus started didn’t apostatize - Matthew 16:18, Matthew 28:20, 1 Corinthians 15:24-25, Luke 1:33, Isaiah 9:7, Psalms 72:5, Daniel 2:44, 7:14, 18, 27, 2 Samuel 7:16, Psalms 89:4, 29, 36, Hebrews 12:28

One God - Isaiah 45:5, Deuteronomy 4:35, 1 Timothy 2:5

Men cannot become Gods - Isaiah 43:10

God did not become God - Psalm 90:2, Habakkuk 1:12, 1 Samuel 15:29, Heb. 13:8, James 1:17, Malachi 3:6, Psalm 102:27

God is before all things - John 1:3, Colossians 1:15-17

Alcohol can be good - Deuteronomy 14:26, Proverbs 31:6, 1 Timothy 5:23, John 2:1-11

Marriage ends at death - Mark 12:25, Romans 7:2, 1 Corinthians 7:39

The Book of Mormon and Archeology

Metalworks that there’s no evidence of: 2 Nephi 5:15, Jarom 1:8, Mosiah 11:3, 8, Ether 7:9, 10:23

Enormous battles that there’s no evidence of: Mormon 6:2, 4-6, 11, Mormon 8:2, Ether 15:2

The conversation started with them saying that they believed Joseph Smith was a prophet and that you can know a prophet by his fruits. He produced the Book of Mormon, and so they invited me to read the Book of Mormon and pray to receive insight as to whether it is true. I replied that I thought the idea of knowing a prophet by his fruits was very appropriate. I said that I thought the Book of Mormon had serious problems with it, and if I’m supposed to judge the fruits, then I’d like to know how to answer the problems I see with it. I asked them if they would be willing to talk to me about the problems I see with it, and they said they would do their best.

The first thing we discussed was the Great Apostasy theory. I quoted Matthew 28:20 to prove that the Great Apostasy couldn’t have happened because Jesus said He would be with His Church forever. They replied that they interpret that passage to mean that Jesus would always be with people who try to follow His will, but not necessarily that He would always preserve the authoritative Church He had set up. I said that we should try to see which interpretation lines up with the evidence, and I the used the context to try to show that Jesus was discussing the authoritative Church when He said He would be with us forever. They repeated that that is not their interpretation.

In discussing different interpretations I think it is important to stress that the Catholic interpretation of the Bible has evidence to back it up. In this case the missionaries didn’t defend their interpretation using evidence, they just said it was their interpretation. My hope is that they were left with the impression that the Catholic interpretation has support in the text and that they weren’t able to defend the Mormon interpretation similarly. I think this is an important point. When it comes down to, “I interpret the text this way and you interpret it that way,” don’t leave it there. Say, “Okay, well I think there’s evidence that the Catholic interpretation is true,” and then show them that evidence. If they only have “This is my interpretation,” and you’ve got “This is my interpretation AND it has extra support,” then I think that’s very effective.

The second thing we discussed was some archeological problems with the Book of Mormon. I had them read with me some verses from the Book of Mormon that said there were great iron and steel constructions in America prior to its European settlement. I focused in on the fact that archaeologists haven’t discovered any evidence of these works.

In discussing this point I think it’s important to stress two things: when the Bible claims that ancient cities existed or that people in those times had iron weapons, archeologists can go to the sites where the Bible says they were and they find those things when they start digging. That verifies the Bible. But with the Book of Mormon archaeologists don’t find the ruins or weapons it says were there. That’s evidence against its truth.

The second thing to stress is how permanent the evidence of these great metalworks would be. There is no evidence of any kind of iron industry at all before Europeans discovered America, but the Book of Mormon says there was an enormous amount of iron being produced. Smelting iron takes some serious equipment and it doesn’t just disappear. Moreover, the Book of Mormon says that this stuff was used in weapons, temples, and palaces, and those things don’t just disappear. If there were so many iron artifacts, how come we don’t find them or the equipment they used to make them?

In this context I also think it’s important to point out that we have plenty of artifacts that aren’t made of iron. Copper and bronze and silver and gold artifacts are in abundance. But the Book of Mormon says there were plenty of iron ones too. If there were, they should show up with the other weapons, but there is no evidence that they were there.

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They made three responses to these arguments. One was that archeological discoveries are being made all the time, so perhaps they will discover these great metalworks in the future. This response is problematic because it compares apples to oranges. Archeologists discover more of the same stuff they already know is here – they don’t find a whole class of material and artifacts made from it that were dispersed throughout the land and have all been lost.

Another response was that archeology actually supports the Book of Mormon. As an example they said that ancient city ruins have recently been discovered in South America that match what the Book of Mormon says the ancient cities in America looked like. I asked them if they could bring me some more information demonstrating that.

A third response was to quote 2 Corinthians 5:7. They said that we should walk by faith and not by sight, and trust God’s word even if we don’t see how it is true. I replied that when the conversation started they had said that Joseph Smith should be judged by his fruits, and they pointed to the Book of Mormon as the prime example, but now that I was trying to do that they were saying that I should just accept it on faith alone. I said that the Bible also says not to believe every spirit but to test the spirits to see whether they are of God – 1 John 4:1. I asked them if they had tested the Book of Mormon’s claims to see whether they are true.

I think this was a very effective point to make because I think they saw how their message to me wasn’t being consistent. It also presented them with the question of whether they had judged their prophet by his fruit or tested the claims he made the way they were asking me to. That opens a door – hopefully they will go home and decide to test the Book of Mormon to see whether it is backed up by evidence.

The replied to this challenge by asking if I came to believe the Bible by testing it or by faith. I said that I was raised to believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but that when I became an adult I began testing its claims and that every time I did, it came out on top. I said this was very comforting to me. I gave two examples: I repeated the archeological examples where the cities and metalworks that the Bible mentions are verified by archeology, and I mentioned how the Bible’s prophecies can be dated to before they came true. The existence of real prophecies in the Bible that came true is evidence that it is from God. But with the Book of Mormon when you try to look for that kind of evidence, you don’t get it, but get the opposite. I asked them if they saw why that would bother me.

They said they understood that and one of them brought up three reasons to believe the Book of Mormon: she said she had prayed again and again asking God if it was true, she said it had changed her life for the better, and she said that Joseph Smith could not have fabricated the Book of Mormon out of thin air because he died a martyr’s death while reading it for comfort. I said that even false things can change your life, and I invited her to test its historical claims in the same way that we can test the Bible’s.

I think this whole section of our conversation was very effective. I think they saw that I was sincere and consistent in my claims about how to verify the Bible’s truth and how the Book of Mormon doesn’t match up. I hope that they will follow through by doing what they said I should do and test the Book of Mormon by looking into its historical claims to see if they are backed up by history.

Next we discussed several Mormon doctrines to see if they line up with the Bible. I said that I had heard that Mormons believe that there are other gods. I was going to use the Bible to show that there is only one God, but they said that they only believe in one God, and that they hadn’t heard that there were many gods. They said they would ask the people above them about it for me, and I thanked them and asked them to get back with me about it.

I think it is important to ask them to get back with you if they say they don’t know something. I am very confident that their religion does teach that there are multiple gods, but they don’t want to bring that up when talking to potential converts. By asking them to get back to me on it, I think there’s a better shot of getting to talk about it and compare it to the Bible’s teaching. Before they left I asked them if I could write down my questions so that they could look into them and get back to me on them, and I wrote down everything they said they would get back to me on.

Next we discussed whether marriages continue in heaven. They quoted Matthew 16:18 – “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” I said that Catholics interpret that to mean that the Church can make rules and release us from them, and I asked if they agreed. They said that was part of it, but they thought it referred to marriage too. I said, “Well, we can check the Scriptures to see if that’s true or not,” and I took them to Mark 12:25 where Jesus says that in the Resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage. I asked them if they believe that people in heaven marry or are given in marriage. They read the verse a few times in context and said they would ask some Bible scholars at their ward and get back to me, but that they knew that temple marriages are forever. I asked them if they could see why I thought that verse was a challenge for that and they said they saw why and would get back to me about it.

I think this was the most effective point I made. Not only was it the best example of using the Bible to determine which interpretation is more likely, but they seemed like they had never seen that verse in Mark before and really seemed to see the problem between that verse and their beliefs. I hope that seed bears fruit.

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The last thing we discussed was whether God had once been a man. They quoted Genesis 1:26 to show that God has a body because it says God made man in His image. I think the best way to answer this is to explain the Catholic interpretation of this passage and then go to the Bible to determine which interpretation is correct. Genesis 1:26 doesn’t imply that God has a body unless the “image of God” is physical rather than spiritual. But the Bible indicates that it is not physical because the Bible says that God is spirit in John 4:24 and that a spirit does not have flesh and bones in Luke 24:39.

Another piece of evidence that the “image of God” is spiritual is based on the context. By placing Genesis 1:26 right after the passage where God creates the animals, the Bible indicates that man’s creation in the image of God is what makes man special compared to the animals. But it’s not in our bodies that our main difference lies. It’s in our souls.

To prove that God did not become God I quoted 1 Samuel 15:29. It says God is not a man that he should change, and they replied that they believe that verse because they don’t believe that God is a man or that He changes. I said that if He became God that would be a change. They stressed that the verse doesn’t say He did not change in the past, it only says He does not change in the present because He is God.

To answer this I think it is important to use evidence to back up the Catholic belief that the unchangeableness of God is from eternity. Other verses such as Psalm 90:2 and Habakkuk 1:12 make this clearer.

After we discussed whether God was once a man they said they had another appointment and left. But the conversation we got in was large and I think I may have planted a lot of good seeds. Perhaps with prayer they may bear fruit and they may begin to question the Mormon faith. I think it’s important to share discussions like these so Catholics can know what points are effective and what points need to be improved.

Thanks for sharing all of this! I will print it for future reference!

I had the opportunity before I was catholic to talk to Mormon missionaries. They knocked on the door and I invited them to come for lunch a few days later. They did and we talked. We set a second appointment for them to get back to me. They did and we talked some more. I invited them to get back to me on a few things Then they came a third time with the “head missionary” guy. A permanent missionary I think. That conversation did not go well. He was gruff and angered and defensive.

Never saw them again, but I hope the two young men had some seeds planted.

You could also mention more recent evidence from DNA analyses that native Americans are not related to people in the Middle East but to Asians. We now know that originally people came to the Americas over a land bridge between Eastern Siberia and Alaska. The dates are still debated.

Interesting, I have talked to Mormons many times and they usually end up giving up on me. One even returned to the Catholic Faith and died a Catholic. He helped me understand the way they believe a lot. God Bless. Memaw

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