Mormon Church-Approved Outreach

LDS MissionariesMormon missionaries have been responding to the Broadway show, “The Book of Mormon,” all across the country. The Fresno Bee recently explained that Mormon missionaries stand outside of the theatre before and/or after the show to answer people’s questions and hand out copies of the actual Book of Mormon.

This news story stood out to me because of the flack I’ve taken over the years for doing a similar thing outside of various Mormon venues; that is, being available before and/or after Mormon pageants to answer people’s questions and hand out literature. Many Mormons have told me I should not be there. They say it’s disrespectful and ruins their family outings. They often say, “We wouldn’t do that to you!”

But Mormon missionaries are engaging in a similar outreach approach, and LDS Church leadership whole-heartedly approves it!

Certainly there are some differences between what I do at a Christian outreach and what the Mormon missionaries are doing, but the basic idea is the same. So with that in mind, I’ve rewritten some portions of the Fresno Bee article to reflect how it would read if the journalist was writing about a typical Christian outreach at a Mormon venue. (I’ve chosen the annual Christian outreach in Nauvoo, Illinois for my example.)

Anyone planning to attend the [City of Joseph Pageant] in [Nauvoo] next week…should be prepared to see missionaries, real ones, as they approach the [pageant grounds].

They won’t be picketing, just politely offering information about what [the LDS] religion is really about…

Since the [City of Joseph pageant] opened in [Nauvoo]… the [Nauvoo Christian Visitors Center] has encouraged its [missionaries] to conduct themselves with “dignity and thoughtfulness” in their response to the show…

[Steve Dealy], who presides over the [Visitors Center], home base for [outreach] missionaries from around the world, said a number of missionaries will be handing out copies of [The Nauvoo Times] outside the [pageant grounds].

1July08[Christian] missionaries have done the same in many other cities where [LDS pageants have] toured. Based on their experiences, [the director] expects to give away between [4,000 and 5,000] copies…

“We don’t want to harass anybody. We just want to be available.”

…a public affairs assistant for the [ministry] in Nauvoo, said of the [pageant]: “We’re not really saying we’re against it. We are just saying, ‘Hey, if you want to know the true story of [Mormonism], we’d love to tell you that.’”

“Of course, [the pageant] isn’t reality,” [a Christian might say] of the musical, “and it’s the very distortion that makes it appealing and often funny. The danger is not when people laugh but when they take it seriously — if they leave [the pageant] believing that Mormons really are [biblical Christians].”

While the [Christian ministry] isn’t “opposed” to the musical,… “we would like the truth to be known about what these guys (Mormon missionaries) … really [want you to believe].”

I’ve never read a traditional media story that reports so positively on Christian outreaches at Mormon events. But if such a news story were written as above, it would be true. Even so, Mormons might not see it that way, perhaps objecting that the Mormon missionaries are merely providing a positive response, via their scripture, to a show that mocks their faith; while Christian missionaries are distributing negative literature that criticizes the Mormon Church.*

Well, without getting too far into this anticipated objection, I’ll just say that LDS pageants (and temples) mock my faith, and the Book of Mormon (that is handed out by LDS missionaries) criticizes my beliefs. There is no difference of substance between the Mormon outreach and the Christian outreach here.

Yet there is a difference worth mentioning. The Broadway musical aims only to entertain audiences. It is a musical parody that never pretends to be anything else: it makes no truth claims. But Mormon pageants and temple open houses aim to gain converts to Mormonism — proselytizing is a prime element of each event. In addition, Mormonism makes many truth claims; and these declared “truths” have the potential to negatively impact a person through all eternity.

Free Speech at MantiBecause the stakes are so high, Christians often stand outside Mormon events, engaging in evangelism with a commitment to be “kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting…opponents with gentleness.” We hope and pray that by doing this, “God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth” (2 Timothy 2:24-25).

Christians have been doing this for decades, patiently enduring accusations and denunciations from Mormons and their friends. Now, at long last, we have LDS leadership’s tacit approval of our outreach approach. I hope this means we can now move past the common Mormon objections to our outreach presence, and instead talk about what really matters.

*Just to be clear, the literature I’ve handed out during these Christian outreaches has certainly discussed Mormon doctrines and history, but it also explains my own, biblical faith. The format of this literature is very often a compare-and-contrast approach.)

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.

This entry was posted in Christianity, Friendship, Interaction, and Evangelism, LDS Church, Mormon Missionaries and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Mormon Church-Approved Outreach

  1. historybuff says:

    It’s ironic and a bit hypocritical that the LDS should criticize Christians for saying critical things about Mormonism. After all, the first thing that LDS missionaries do while proselyting is tell the Joseph Smith story, usually quoting from one of their scriptures, the Pearl of Great Price.

    Here is the Pearl of Great Price, describing God himself proclaiming that all other churches are false:
    “I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.” “ Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith-History 1. 19

    Next, the missionaries will turn to the Book of Mormon itself, which proclaims that traditional Christianity – all of it – is the Great and Abominable Church of the Devil, the Whore of All the Earth. 2 Nephi 10:16. That covers basically every religion that isn’t Mormon.

    So, traditional Christianity is “wrong”, “an abomination”, “corrupt”, the “Great and Abominable Church of the Devil”, and the “whore of all the earth”? I guess we should be relieved that the LDS are not being really critical….

  2. Mike R says:

    Mormonism’s worse nightmare is be to publically exposed — to have their strange doctrines out in the open for the general public to see . Mormon leaders have worked hard at crafting a specific image that portrays Mormons in such a way that for Christians to try and minister to them in public settings makes it appear they are being hated etc . The way many LDS have been led to reason will then cause their famous “persecution complex ” to kick in and then LDS will simply accuse anyone passing out literature to them ( for one example ) as persecutors in one way or another . Mormons have even coined a phrase to emotionally aid them from listening to those seeking to witness to them , or seriously pondering the content of the literature being offered them . That phrase is :
    “anti ……” . Thankfully there are some Mormons who see the weakness of that phrase and do listen to what Christians want to share with them .

    It goes without saying that at public events there are some persons who do not conduct themselves in a decent manner towards the Mormons gathered there . However , do Mormons broad brush everyone at these public events attempting to witness to them about Jesus as ” anti ……” ?
    We’ll probably never know the full answer to that but I’m guessing that for the vast majority of Mormons their answer would be yes .

  3. falcon says:

    So a guy says to his friend, “How do you catch a moose?” The friend replies, “I have no idea how you catch a moose.” The guy says, “You go where the moose are!”
    There aren’t many moose where I live so I have to post on MC and just lately, moose have been spotted on facebook. I think you get my metaphoric drift.
    When I first started posting on MC, which was nearly at the beginning of the blog, we’d get all sorts of Mormons posting here. Now they are as rare as moose. So God has provided me with an opportunity on facebook where one of the few Mormons I actually know and are “friends” is always posting LDS stuff. So I’ve begun to hunt moose. Whenever he posts a personal testimony or some LDS propaganda, I reply. Recently he accused me of bashing. I don’t bash because it’s a poor method of hunting moose. So, anyway, I had to tell him that we were having a conversation and he needed to not be so defensive.
    The latest post is a personal testimony about miracles and life saving occurrences that God has provided for him. So I got to post how I was spiritually dead and am now spiritually alive through faith in Christ Jesus.
    I don’t know if he’ll unfriend me at some point but he’s sure giving me a wonderful opportunity to hunt moose since he has a lot of LDS friends.

  4. historybuff says:

    Dear Moose Hunter —

    Why don’t you try explaining to him how you like a lot of the things Joseph Smith said, quote him on polygamy, then shift into the Church’s current statements on Joseph Smith’s polygamy? It’s worth a try…

  5. falcon says:

    Buff
    Here’s the deal and I’m sure you’ve encountered this. These wide-eyed chapel Mormons, especially the priesthood holders, believe they have spiritual power. They’ll claim that they’ve prayed for the sick and that (the sick) have recovered. They will claim miraculous occurrences in their lives even that their lives have been spared from certain death or terrible injury. Their whole life is defined by their LDS community of friends and they often have status in the group. They are full bore into the program.
    Why would someone with that mind-set even care about something that, next to their fabulous experiences, status and illusions of spiritual power, is not important. I’ve heard enough exit stories to know that something has to happen even to get them to consider that the one true church is not what it’s cracked-up to be. I think ex-Mormon bishop Lee Baker said it took him five years to exit after that initial “nick” in the paint job of his testimony.
    It’s all a real delusion.

  6. falcon says:

    I must say that I spend a lot of time watching videos on YouTube of former Mormons talking about their exit out of the LDS church. I have a sort of former Mormon hall of fame of my favorites. It’s very instructive listening to these folks because a pattern emerges of what an LDS sect member goes through on their way out of the LDS program.
    Lee Baker says, “I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” Earl Erskine says, “I know more about Mormonism now that I’ve left than I did when I was a member.” Both of these men had been bishops in the LDS church. Mitz Nelson, in a training for folks doing witnessing at the Manti Pageant, instructs that someone witnessing to an LDS can’t really know what small thing that they might say or do that will have an impact. She reported that her daughter remembered a Christian woman praying with her. Micah Wilder talks about being on his LDS mission, marching into a Sunday night service at a Baptist Church with the hope and dream of converting the entire congregation. The pastor met with him after the service and patiently listened to his presentation with the agreement that Micah would then listen to him. Micah says that within ten minutes the pastor destroyed everything he believed in. The (pastor) challenged him to read the NT as a child would and Micah spent the next several months doing just that. The rest is history. Grant Palmer discusses his “Ah-Ha” moments as he seriously studied Mormonism.
    Our presentations might not be perfect but I do believe in divine appointments. But in order to do the work of the ministry, we have to be available and allow God’s Spirit to work through us.

  7. historybuff says:

    too true.

  8. falcon says:

    I thought it might be fun to post this ten minute presentation. I remember reading the book “Power Evangelism” back in the 1980s. So I thought I’d post this just to stir the pot a little bit.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qxda3Y57cX4

    I haven’t heard much about this in years, nor have I thought about it much. It popped into my mind when I was riding my bike this morning and processing this thread and my recent Evangelism efforts. I’ll share a couple of occurrences that I’ve had and let the reader judge one way or another.
    I think I’ve probably alluded to at least one previously. I’m somewhat hesitant for a couple of reasons to post about it.
    Anyway, as I was having this intense back-and-forth on fb with a Mormon, I got this picture in my mind of a heart. Sort of like those “Sacred Heart of Jesus” pictures I use to see as a Catholic kid. The heart had a dagger on it but not in it. As I thought about it, I was led to pray that God would take that dagger and pierce this young man’s heart so that the gospel of Jesus Christ would flow in and penetrate his heart. I’ve continued to pray this in the past few days. I have a dream of this young man coming to Christ and becoming a force for the Gospel of Jesus Christ within his LDS circle; bringing many to the Lord. In the past I was having an intense interaction on MC with an LDS and I got this picture of a heart with a chain wrapped around it with a big padlock. I asked God to break that chain on the person’s heart.
    I often wonder if God would ever allow us to do the kind of proselytizing that use to take place with the disciples of Jesus as recorded in the Book of Acts? I think that would flip the LDS world up-side-down at the Manti Pageant and some of the other places. Remember when Jesus encountered the Woman he didn’t know at the well and told her things about herself. She was converted on the spot and went and told everyone in her village and they came streaming out to see Jesus.
    Well who knows? Maybe God doesn’t operate that way any more. Maybe the dispensationalists are right. But then maybe they’re not.

  9. falcon says:

    It would be a lot easier and probably more effective if a person was blessed by the Spirit of God to manifest the Gifts of the Spirit while evangelizing the LDS. Think of how great it would be to be able to have a Word of Knowledge about a person you were witnessing to. As it is, witnessing at these events is sort of like what they label in sales as a “cold call”.

  10. Mike R says:

    I think when it comes to bringing the true gospel of salvation to the Mormon people there are numerous ways that can be done . Showing up at public events like the one held in Manti Utah is but example . Praying before hand is a must and being polite is vital , the rest is in God’s hands .

    My wife and I , along with some other Christians have stood outside of the Jehovah’s witnesses District Conventions and attempted to dialogue those who were coming and going . None would stop and talk and very few would accept a tract . Some among our group had signs printed with a toll free telephone message . That was years ago. We will never know the full extent of our outreach but hopefully many ended leaving their false prophet led organization and accepting Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior as a result of calling that phone number . We certainly planted a lot of seeds . The rest is in God’s hands .

  11. falcon says:

    Mike
    I probably told you about the conversation I had with the guy who heads the Christian Outreach Center in Nauvoo. He and some folks would go down to an event in the evening to do some mission work. He said a couple of other “Christian” groups would show-up each attacking him and then each other. He said it was quite a spectacle. It seems to me that some of these folks have a lot of unresolved issues that boarder on psychological pathology.

  12. Mike R says:

    falcon,

    I suppose at these events there are those who show up that can make it difficult for others to reach out to the Mormon people with the true gospel . There are those who are against Mormonism but unfortunately treat the Mormon people , and even the Christians there at these events , with little respect .

    I like what historybuff shared about some of things that Mormon leaders have said about non LDS .
    It’s good to bring those up to Mormons at the right time .

    P.S. at one Jw District Convention the only person who actually stopped and talked to me was a Baptist woman who had been invited to attend by her Jw friend . She told me to stop ” picking on these fine people ” . Yep , that kind of surprised me .

  13. falcon says:

    Mike
    Andy Watson has some real scary stories about attending JW events; he was invited. They do this strange thing where they have “communion” but only the “worthy” can take it. So the guy in the pulpit takes it and then the ushers pass the elements through the congregation and they are just suppose to pass it on because they are not worthy. Andy takes it and I guess there was a minor dust-up because he did.
    He figured out a strategy for witnessing to these folks that was pretty effective. He told me that the goal should not be to play Bible passage ping-pong with them. He said the key was to get them to lose confidence in Watchtower. That can be done by showing them all of the predictions they’ve made and how none of them came true. I guess they had a lot of people leave after the last one in the 1970s.

  14. Mike R says:

    falcon ,

    Jw’s celebrate communion ( they call it “The Memorial ” or ” the Lord’s Evening Meal) only once a year and only those of what’s left of the 144,000 ( Rev 7 &14 ) can partake , they are the only ones who are born again and will go to heaven after they die . The other 7 million plus Jw’s remain on earth . Andy was correct , the most effective way show a Jw that he or she has been fooled into joining a false prophet led organization is to try and show them they can’t trust their “prophet ” ( Governing Body) to be a reliable in interpreting the scriptures . They’re textbook false prophets .

    We can see Jesus’ warning in Matt 24:11 come alive when we read what Mormon ( and Jw ) leaders have taught about important doctrines ( Jesus , salvation etc ) . The people who follow these latter (last) days false prophets ARE reachable for Jesus ! We get to plant seeds of truth by witnessing to them . They are precious people who deserve to hear the truth .

    I wonder if any Christian groups or individuals are also standing outside of those theaters where the Book of Mormon play is booked ? The Mormon Missionaries are passing out the Book of Mormon , so Christians can offer info about Mormonism to those attending the play .

  15. falcon says:

    It’s really difficult to say what’s an effective way to make an impact on someone whom you’re trying to influence. Sales and marketing experts do research to try and come up with the most effective and efficient way to sell products or win someone to their way of thinking. I don’t know how many various evangelism and outreach programs that Christians have tried over the past 2,ooo years but I’d say that the first century Church was probably the most effective. We can read through the NT and get more than a hint of the approach and techniques.
    I was thinking about the Apostle Paul and his efforts to win his own people, the Jews, to Christ. At one point in at least one place, he gave up and said he would spend his time with the gentiles. Christian missionaries have probably been sent to just about every area on earth. I saw something a few years ago where a map had been drawn in an area dominated by Muslims, the point being that it needed to be evangelized by Christians.
    Our country has a history of “Enlightenment”. We need to pray that the area that is dominated by the LDS church experiences an enlightenment and that God’s people are ready, willing and able to bring the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to these very religious people.

  16. falcon says:

    I would imagine that the LDS church has its own particular methodology for identifying prospects and attempting to convert those (prospects) to Mormonism. We know they send out pairs of missionaries to hit the streets and cold call. We also know that individual members are “encouraged” to invite prospects over at which time the missionaries just sort of spontaneously, drop by. I did hear that efforts are now being made by LDS to use social media to identify prospects.
    I notice with the few Mormons I’m friends with on fb that they’ll post things about the glorious, wonderful and magnificent LDS church. But I think the best approach they use is highlighting their commitment to “heavenly father” and how he is working in their lives and on-and-on. Very generic stuff that makes it all look and sound like some regular mainstream religious group. There’s a real emphasis on the personal and emotional.
    Here’s what I’ve noticed about LDS who exit the program. They generally do it on their own. Something bugs them about the sect and they start doing personal research. That’s a big step. In Lee Baker’s case, he began to do research when a young Christian man asked him about Joseph Smith’s claim to have done more than the apostles or Jesus Himself to keep his sect together. I think Lee says it took him five years, using LDS church material, to finally and gradually realize that he wasn’t apart of the one true church.
    I’ve been following Micah Wilder’s group “Adam’s Road” on fb on their recent tour through the western states. He posted a picture from one of their stops of a group of people heading out to Utah to start a church. That’s serious business. Not that handing out tracts at an event isn’t serious, but starting a church isn’t a “one and done” sort of out reach.

  17. falcon says:

    I can’t go too many posts without pointing out how difficult it is for the LDS church to bring a prospect into the sect and then move them along to become full-blown temple Mormons. Mormonism is a very demanding religion. That’s the nature of the beast. Few people are going to surrender their lives to a religious sect although there are those that do. There has to be a “hook” to get them in and then something to integrate them and keep them from jumping ship. The biggest challenge for the LDS church are the inactives or those who just sort of float along.
    Think about it; two-thirds on the membership rolls are inactive. Grant Palmer said that the biggest challenge for the LDS church is keeping the young people in the sect. He gave a statistic that half of the missionaries go inactive within five years of completing their missions.
    And here’s another thing. Ever hear of the Swedish Rescue the LDS church was involved in?
    http://www.utlm.org/newsletters/pdfnewsletters/121saltlakecitymessenger.pdf

    Regardless of the approach, it’s important that Christians be prepared to both answer questions, provide information and welcome those LDS members who are questioning their faith and need answers as to the hope that is within us.

  18. Joshua Valentine says:

    Hey all! Been busy. Wanted to let you quickly know about this piece of interesting.

    First, Sharon, thanks for the article. I will definitely try to use this information in my own ministering at events. (Manti was great by the way! I’ll write you soon.)

    So, the interesting:

    The LDS Church is going to include a picture of Joseph’s seer stone in the October Ensign. The article is already available online. There’s plenty there to make into a post and discuss – everything from what is said, not said, and the pictures brought up but no excuse for still not depicting accurately!

    Check it out!
    https://www.lds.org/ensign/2015/10/joseph-the-seer?lang=eng

  19. falcon says:

    JV
    I picked it up on fb from Sandra Tanner and posted it on an LDS friend’s page. Actually I’ve posted two articles and all is silent. Maybe I am officially not a friend on fb any more. But I know he has a circle of LDS fb friends so maybe there’s some shock value there. However we all know that with true believers it doesn’t take long to come up with a rationalization. Before we know it, they’ll be selling seer stones at the temple as part of the experience. Another revenue stream will be tapped.

  20. Mike R says:

    Well falcon I guess the Mormon hierarchy got tired of your talking about Joseph Smith’s ” magic rock” , and so they were forced to show a picture of it . For all those LDS who thought this rock was all a lie by non Mormons attacking their faith , now they can take more seriously what some Christians have told them . Maybe they will begin to discover how counterfeit the Mormon gospel is . Let’s keep praying for the Mormon people .

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