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.
[cont’d next post]