Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Witnessing to Those Who Believe They're Persecuted

“Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Timothy 3:12, NASB). There is almost nothing about this verse that is true of the Latter-day Saints, though I am certain they would disagree with me =). Alpha and Omega Ministries spent our Friday and Saturday evening handing out tracts at the Mormon temple in Mesa, AZ. It was painfully obvious that this people group believes that anyone opposed to their faith is there to persecute them. True, the King-James-Only groups were there to mock them and stir up all sorts of emotions, but many non-Latter-day Saints were there just to talk.

AOMin has attended the Mesa Easter pageant and both General Conferences put on by the LDS Church since 1983 – I was approximately one year old (sorry James, I had to mention it =)). This was my eighth year handing out tracts at the Easter Pageant, and fourth year since I’ve officially been a part of AOMin. My style and motivation for witnessing has certainly changed over the years, but my message has remained the same: I desire Latter-day Saints to believe in the one true and living triune God of the Bible, and not in the god and gods of Mormonism.

I have spoken with hundreds, if not thousands, of Latter-day Saints, and you would think that after all of those conversations I would grow accustomed to watching Mormons pass me by with an evil glare. But I never have grown accustomed to it. Entire families would cross to the other side of the street to avoid being asked to read one of our tracts. You’d think we had the Black Plague or something =). Rich Pierce, President of AOMin, put it best when he described Mormons as having a “persecuted chip on their shoulder.”

In the face of such massive rejection, why do we spend the time handing out tracts to this people group? First and foremost, we desire to bring honor and glory to God by the faithful proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Secondly, we pray for the salvation of Latter-day Saints … that it might please God to grant them saving faith and repentance unto life. The Mormons are one of the most unreached people groups in the United States, and … my God can save anybody. No cultic system that spends time training their members not to read or consider opposing ideas can stand in the way of the Holy Spirit of God who saves to the uttermost those whom He has chosen to save.

Both nights felt like productive nights. Between Friday and Saturday I had five or six good conversations with folks. One conversation was with a convert from Roman Catholicism. Most of our time was spent discussing the Trinity, and how the Latter-day Saint belief that the three divine Persons are three beings contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture. We reached a point in our discussion where this gentleman understood the problem his beliefs were in the face of Scripture and attempted to divert the point by suggesting that the existence of the Roman Catholic Church proves the true church fell away. I let him know that (1) Christ’s Church was not set up like the Roman Church exists today, as a single organization; (2) the Roman Catholic Church developed over time as power centralized around Rome; and finally (3) that the true church could not have fallen away because Paul wrote that Christ would be glorified in His church throughout all generations (Ephesians 3:21). This LDS was a bit surprised by this information, especially the statement by Paul. I explained that Christ’s church has existed from the beginning, though not as the Roman Church, and concluded our conversation by urging him to turn from the false gods of Mormonism unto the one true God.

Emily joined us Saturday night, and was able to watch an interesting conversation started by a Mormon shot out a one-line jab, not really intended for a meaningful conversation. Thankfully the light turned red as he went to cross the street, and so I walked right up to him =). I handed him my tract with a question on the front: “One god, or many gods?” Inside are excerpts from one of Joseph Smith’s famous sermons he delivered at a funeral. I began by asking him the question on the front.

He responded with a chuckle: “There’s only one god.”

I followed up: “Which one? Because according to Mormonism the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are three separate beings and three gods.”

LDS: “Well, we only worship one god … our Heavenly Father.”

Me: “I understand that, but you still acknowledge the existence of more than one god?”

LDS: “And?”

Me: “The reason this is important is because the Bible says that there is only one being that is God.”

LDS: “So you believe that the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are all the same?”

I spent a few moments explaining the doctrine of the Trinity: One Being of God, three distinct Persons sharing God’s Being, and that the Persons are all coequal and coeternal.

Me: “As a Mormon, is it fair to say that you believe the Bible says that Elojim is the Father while Jehovah is the Son?”

LDS: “Yes.”

Me: “There are numerous places where the Bible says that Elohim is Jehovah. One verse is Psalm 100:3. Let me ask you: how can this verse make sense from your religious perspective? However, it makes perfect sense from a Christian Trinitarian perspective because the Bible describes each of the three divine Persons as Jehovah.”

We wrapped up the conversation shortly after this so my LDS friend could grab a seat. Though it may not sound like it, this entire conversation was less than five minutes long. My hope is that those few brief moments remain fresh in that gentleman’s mind and that his heart is troubled by the false teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I’ll spend some more time reporting on fruitful conversations in a later post, including my favorite conversation with some high school boys. Yup, I saved the best for last =).

Until next time,


  1. Four propositions make up the traditional Christian notion of the Trinity (first formalized at Nicea):

    1. The Father is God.

    2. The Son is God.

    3. There is only one God.

    4. The Father is not the Son.

    This comes from Augustine's summary of the doctrine.

    Take any THREE of those statements, and you have a coherent equation. Add all four together, and you have pure nonsense. Father and Son are either the same, or they aren't. You can't have it both ways.

    The problem is how traditional Christianity has imported an artificial set of philosophical concerns from ancient Greek thinking. The biggest culprit is the purely Aristotelian and un-biblical notion of "essence."

    You won't find "essence" in the Bible, because the writers of the Bible frankly didn't care about it. Essence is the most basic composition of what makes a thing what it is. If that thing shares its "essence" with another thing, they are the same thing.

    Seriously, try to explain the Trinity to me without using an analogy that doesn't commit the heresy of either modalism or tri-theism. Try it.

    I've never met a Christian yet who could do it, and I've talked to some pretty intelligent Christians.

    You could always use the standard excuse of "well, it's a mystery." As many have done before you. But this is no answer.

    Having a "mystery" is no excuse for making statements that violate the most basic fundamentals of logic. You might as well start debating about whether God can create a rock so big he can't lift it. Or whether God could ever just up and quit his job, and decide not to be God anymore. Once you reject logic as a means for understanding God, you have essentially admitted that we have no basis for talking about God at all (and your attempts to hand out flyers at Mormon festivals are silly). "Mystery" is no excuse for violating basic rules of logic.

    In fact, I would submit to you that something that cannot be conceptualized by the human mind can never be believed by the human mind.

    At best, the Trinity is an irrelevant piece of philosophical nonsense that has zero relevance to the life of any religious believer out there. In fact, the only people it seems to matter to are Christian apologists trying to score points against the opposing team.

    Ask any Christian on the streets to explain the Trinity and they will either give you a blank look, or attempt something that ends up advocating for either tri-theism or modalism. You cannot believe in the traditional formulation of the Trinity simply because it is impossible for any human mind to believe in something so obviously self-contradictory.

    But I agree with you on one point. All four of Augustine's formulations are REQUIRED by the Bible.

    Yes, you heard me right. I agree that all three are required by the Bible.

    So how do you get around that without sounding incoherent?

    Easy - you throw out this silly and artificial Aristotelian notion of "essence."

    Once you've thrown away that piece of ancient nonsense, the way opens up:

    Father, Son and Holy Spirit are united in PURPOSE, in WILL, in THOUGHT, and in LOVE. But not united in essence.

    Wham, bang. Coherent statement. Fully Biblical. And you're all done.

    The end.

    Welcome to Mormonism. Fully Biblical, without cribbing from Aristotle.

  2. Seth,

    It might help to explain the perspective you are coming from for any reader here to understand your purpose and what you've written. Your "Welcome to Mormonism" statement leads me to believe you're a Latter-day Saint. Though I haven't the foggiest idea how you found this blog? I assume you did a google search because you certainly didn't find this from my facebook profile.

    Next, Christians believe in the doctrine of the Trinity because the Bible teaches it. I have not ever made arguments defending the truthfulness of the Trinity based on history because church history is fallible. Only the God-breathed Scriptures are infallible, and is therefore the only source to correct our understandings of God. I also do not borrow from non-Biblical philosophical ideas to defend the Trinity, and I would not attempt to describe God by using any form of analogy or comparison with the physical universe. Truly, nothing and no one is like the God of Scripture.

    It's easy to attack arguments I have not used, ie, as if I defended the Trinity using history, church history, or unbiblical philosophies. But why not respond to what I have written?

    I will ask you to respond to the argument I made with the LDS gentleman about the Bible calling Elohim Jehovah. I look forward to your response.

    Until then,

  3. The word "elohim" is used in several different ways in the Old Testament. For instance, in certain passages, it is used in the PLURAL and even is used in reference to human rulers. I'm no expert in Hebrew, so I won't dive into this much more. I'd simply refer you to the following link on the subject:

    I addressed the Trinity because that was a large part of your post.

    If I have stumbled onto a private blog meant for friends and family, and not really intended for larger public debate, then you have my apologies. I have some "Google Alerts" set up on generic Mormon-related search terms. So I get a daily email from Google listing all the new content on the internet using those search terms. That's how I found you.

    If you'd rather not continue, I'll be fine with that decision.

  4. Seth,

    You are more than welcome to participate on this blog.

    I would still prefer if you would answer my previous questions to you: what is your religious perspective? And what is your purpose and motivation for commenting here?

    Also, please interact with my discussion about the bible saying that Elohim is Jehovah. Specifically, how does that make sense from a LDS perspective since you believe "Elohim" refers exclusively to the Father and "Jehovah" exclusively to the Son?

    I look forward to hearing from you.


  5. Oh yeah, sorry. Practicing Mormon, parents were LDS (dad was a convert and mom came from a part-member family). My purpose in coming here was interest in what other people are saying about my religion. My motivation in commenting was simply a reaction to your comments on the Trinity that you discussed with other Mormons.

    My response to your question would mirror that in the link I posted. The word Elohiem has different meanings in the Bible. It is used interchangeably to refer to a few different things. So clear categories are hard to draw.

    Mormons also have another theological concept that accounts for this - "divine investiture of authority." Here's a quote on the subject:

    [start quote]

    Latter-day Saints also believe that Jesus often spoke for the Father by right of divine investiture. Bruce R. McConkie wrote:

    "... since he [Jesus] is one with the Father in all of the attributes of perfection, and since he exercises the power and authority of the Father... the Father puts his own name on the Son and authorizes him to speak in the first person as though he were the Father."

    There are numerous examples of divine investiture in scripture. The clearest biblical examples involve angels speaking in behalf of God or Christ (Genesis 22:11—12; Exodus 3:2, 6; 23:20–21; Revelation 1:1; 19:9–13; 22:8–16), though Christ also spoke "as though he were the Father" on many occasions throughout the Old Testament (Genesis 17:1; 35:11; Exodus 6:3). Christ was also referred to as "the Almighty" (Revelation 1:8, 18; 4:8; 11:17). It is for this reason that many other Christians identify Elohim and Jehovah as the same person.

    [end quote]

    Finally, our position on this is based from a combination of the Bible and modern scripture, notably Doctrine & Covenants 110:1–4. You always have to keep in mind that Mormon exegesis draws from BOTH the Bible AND other scripture.

    Once you add in the other scriptures, the exegesis makes more sense.

  6. Psalm 100:3 says, "3 Know that the LORD Himself is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture" (NASB).

    Here is one of many examples in the Old Testament where Elohim is said to be Jehovah (Yahweh). Of course, the term "God" represents Elohim, and "LORD" represents Jehovah (Yahweh).

    In answer to the question: how can Elohim say He is Jehovah - which would be the Father calling Himself the Son -, you answer by saying that the Father authorizes the Son to speak from the first person as though the Son were the Father. How then are you able to distinguish between the Father and Son as distinct Persons (and in your case, distinct beings and gods) if the proper nouns do not allow one to do so?

    Secondly, appealing to Latter-day Saint Scriptures cannot be used to determine the meaning of the Bible, because the revelation of the Bible existed beforehand. Using the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants or Pearl of Great Price to interpret the Bible would be like a Muslim interpreting the Bible based upon the Qu'ran - anachronistic, and therefore eisegetical in nature.

    I look forward to your response.


  7. Seth,

    Forgot to mention that I am completely open to kind and thoughtful discussion, and I am happy that you stumbled onto my blog. You are certainly welcome here =)