The Mormon-themed Meridian Magazine posted an article last week titled, “Baptized Too Soon?” In it, author Joni Hilton confessed her proclivity toward blaming the missionaries when new Mormon converts fall away, wondering if
“…the missionaries were too hasty, and scheduled a baptism before the investigator really understood the gospel. Do they even have a testimony of Joseph Smith? Have they actually prayed about whether the Book of Mormon is true? Do they know what they’re committing to?” (Emphasis in the original.)
But upon further reflection, Mrs. Hilton noted that, “Nobody comes out of the waters of baptism a complete gospel scholar—everyone will continue to learn and add to their testimony.” Mrs. Hilton decided she needed to repent of her poor judgment in questioning the missionaries’ techniques.
Leading to her change of heart were a couple of statements from LDS leaders. One was this from Howard W. Hunter, the 14th President of the Mormon Church:
“Missionaries don’t teach the gospel; they cry repentance and instill in the people enough faith to have the desire to be baptized. At that moment, they are turned over to Christ, then, the Church teaches them. There are not many in the Church that understand this. They think that the missionaries haven’t spent enough time and haven’t taught them the gospel. Now, the missionaries aren’t to do that! We have six discussions. We take them that far, and that does not cover all the gospel, but then the Church spends the rest of this person’s life teaching them the gospel. We do the same thing with our eight-year-old children. No one in this Church should ever be heard to say, ‘The missionaries baptized this person before they were ready!’” (Quoted in the Meridian Magazine article without a source attribution. Bold in the original.)
The other statement was from an LDS apostle:
“The stressing of the Gospel lessons right at first, before the purpose and intent of the missionaries’ presence, can lead to confusion. Their initial reaction is the result of the Spirit testifying to them and where this is manifest baptism should be accomplished as quickly as possible, otherwise the Holy Ghost will leave them. Let me reiterate this: If you have people who receive the spirit but you don’t baptize them, they will lose the spirit. This is why you should baptize them as quickly as possible.” (Apostle Alvin R. Dyer, “The Challenging and Testifying Missionary.” Mrs. Hilton’s quote is somewhat different from the text I found in the complete talk posted online. I have here quoted from the complete transcript rather than as quoted by Joni Hilton.)
Thus, Mormon missionaries are not supposed to spend time teaching investigators the gospel. Rather, missionaries must strike while the iron is hot — get investigators baptized as soon as they indicate that they think the missionaries are servants of God (as explained in Elder Dyer’s talk). Converts don’t need to know the doctrinal content of the Restored Gospel or the unique doctrines of the Mormon Church. They don’t need to know the God Mormonism serves or the (different) Jesus it proclaims. They need only be convinced that Mormonism – whatever it is – is probably true. They are to be quickly baptized (before they can think too much about it and “lose the Spirit”), and then spend the rest of their lives (as Mrs. Hilton suggested) filling in the blanks.
Please understand that Mormons believe these investigators are receiving a testimony of the Spirit that Mormonism is true, hence the acceleration to immediate baptism. But both the Old and New Testaments encourage a very different approach to a Mormon missionary challenge than that suggested by these LDS Authorities. God tells us in the book of Proverbs,
“It is a snare to say rashly, ‘It is holy,’ and to reflect only after making vows.” (Proverbs 20:25)
It is a snare – a trap. We avoid this trap when we take our cue from the ancient Bereans:
“The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” (Acts 17:10-11)
This is important. God warns over and over again that we must be careful, discerning, questioning, watchful. Because “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
I pray it will not be you.
Echoing the Apostle John I implore you,
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1)