We received an e-mail from “Wes” in January that came off rather strong:
Oh, bye the way, aren’t you just a bunch of ignorant biased, hateful, anti-christ, jealous, bigots who have nothing better to do than to persecute mormons who never did anything to you? I’ll answer the question for you: Yes.
Not knowing his background or his experiences, I could only assume that, like many other Mormons, Wes had been brought up to believe that critics are driven by hatred. I sent the following response:
Wes, have you seen our article which quotes LDS leaders criticizing and opposing Christianity?
Do you live in Utah? If so, I’d be glad to take you to lunch sometime, on my own tab.
Grace and peace in Christ, who justifies the ungodly like me by faith apart from works (Romans 4:4-8),
It usually helps mitigate the “it’s always wrong to criticize other religions” with examples of how early Mormonism was especially prone to criticize. Also, I find it extremely helpful to sit down with someone and give them a more holistic picture of our heart and our message. But Wes responded:
Chuckle. I appreciate the kind words, but I know what you are really thinking, your hatred is not masked adequately enough. The whole coming-on-strong-and-talking-smack-then-trying-to-be-nice-once-someone-smacks-you-back-thing does not work very well with me. Your hatred for the Mormons is simply ridiculous and cowardly. If you really had any courage you would openly attack Islam with the same fervor you attack Mormons. But you fear for your own safety, you know as well as I do how forging Mormons are (Mr. Hoffman was on your side remember).
A. Jesus Christ was the son of God
B. Jesus Christ died for our sins
C. Jesus Christ Rose from the Dead.
These three elements, my Mormon-hating friend, make Mormons Christians. Do Muslims believe this? Who is a bigger threat to Christianity, Muslims or Mormons? Again, thank you for helping me see what a bunch of lying weenies anti-mormons are. Your lies and deceit have opened my eyes.
Wes, it seems that perhaps no matter what is said in done, at the end of the day you want to believe that we hate you. To be honest, this seems a bit conceited. If you’re not willing to dialog with me and to have a friendly lunch with me face to face, I’m not sure what else I can say to mitigate your view of us. We will certainly continue talking “smack” about the falsehoods of Mormonism, but we will continue to pray for our Mormon neighbors as want to share in God’s compassionate heart for them. We have your spiritual welfare in mind, and don’t want to see you miss out on the best that God has to offer you.
Grace and peace in Christ,
I read your email again and realized the whole “face to face” thing you wrote sounds like some kind of lame tough-guy talk. If you want to fly down here to Phoenix I will gladly pick you up at the airport, drive you out into the desert, give you a good old beating, then drive you to the ER. By the looks of you, it wouldn’t take much (I’m 36, 6′ 220 lbs). In the future I would avoid the read between the lines tough guy talk, it make you sound like a bigger weenie than you already are.
This exchange reminds me of a broader issue in Mormon/evangelical interaction: accusing evangelicals of hatred as a means of insulation.
I have a mix of emotions about this whole issue. Part of me feels angry at Mormonism for fostering in so many of its people a paranoia over exposure to opposing viewpoints, and in fostering the assumption of unadulterated hatred in those who actively promote those opposing viewpoints (negatively and positively). It is such an oppressively effective way to prevent better understanding, meaningful relationships, and a less restricted pursuit of truth. It is the sort of social control that leads many people outside of Mormonism to associate it with the term “cult”.
Another part of me grieves. Why are Mormons cutting off so many good relationships in Utah? I have known of too many situations, personally and also through friends, where otherwise wonderful Mormon people abruptly sever loving, meaningful, joy-filled relationships to insulate themselves and their family from unsettling information. I have, on multiple occasions, had great multi-faceted friendships with Mormons that ended because the man would go home, share a concern he had developed over being exposed to some sort of historical or scriptural information, and the wife would adamantly protest having any further significant contact with me. To comply with the demands of their wife, they would sheepishly tell me that their wife doesn’t want him to continue talking with me (especially about religion) because it planted too many “seeds of doubt” (a popular phrase). That hurts. And the gossip that ensues (apparently designed to keep other friends and family away from unsettling information) can be so evil and malicious. I’m sure this hits home all too close for some of you who have also attempted to share the truth for the first time in a relationship.
I also have a general feeling of disappointment in people. I have seen people—even emotionally frail, loving Christian women—accosted with hurtful accusations of hatred when the very thing they are doing is reaching out with love. In response, the Christian will do everything they can do help the Mormon understand that they love them. But the Mormon will simply not have it. In many cases, the only explanation they are willing to accept for active opposition to Mormonism is pure, unadulterated hatred.
Every situation is different and calls for a different kind of response. As Christians, we need to be in daily prayer for the Mormon communities we live in, that God would open doors and open hearts. We need to do the best we can to help people understand that we love them, so that when the Spirit guides us to love them in a way they don’t want to be loved, it is more unnatural for them to flee to a method of insulation. We need to be strategic about finding ways to break the Mormon stereotypes of Christians, so that we prompt them to rethink everything they’ve ever been told about us. But efforts at breaking stereotypes can only go so far. As I understand it, this is ultimately an issue of the heart. Christian men also need to decide when to step in to protect their families from being emotionally and relationally manipulated.
And for those of us Christians who participate in online discussion with Mormons, let me suggest that, when possible, you take them out to lunch or dinner. Especially when things get heated. When you do it, you don’t even have to talk apologetics, or make the event a giant religious discussion. Do it to help others understand that you really do love them, that you are interested in them as whole people, and that you want the best for them. Be humble, admit your mistakes, and be vulnerable.
There is hope. Mormons all over the state of Utah are turning to the Christ who was always fully God. God is not silent. He is at work to advance his kingdom one heart at a time. Praise God that he instrumentally uses weak vessels like us to reach people. Praise God for all the friendships God has provided where people have not fled to a means of insulation.
Grace and peace in Christ,