The prophet Jeremiah had a deep struggle with his burdens. He wrestled with God in Jeremiah 20:9 “But if I say I’ll never mention the LORD or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it.”
I love the imagery here. It’s as if Jeremiah was trying to hold back a volcano in his heart.
In this verse, we see that the more Jeremiah wrestled, the more God’s WORD stirred him up! The mystery of God’s work in Jeremiah’s life was undeniable. God’s endless life is uncontainable! God was doing a secret work that was becoming an outward manifestation.
This hidden work is what I like to refer to as an “Inner Revolution.”
Inner + Revolution
We can know God theoretically through facts and theories but to fellowship with Him as Savior, Father, and friend is what touches our hearts. Our understanding of who He is brings comfort. We begin to recognize that He is touched with all our infirmities and went through all things to identify with us. As we grasp this, we shift from self being our center to allowing Christ to be the eternal center, the One in control.
The consequence is revolutionary. Wisdom, peace, joy, love, gentleness, patience and meekness are all fruits and qualities that come from this eternal source. We can generate fragments of these fruits temporarily, but if they are to last, they must come from an inner life where God produces real strength. Without wonder, our knowledge is limited and reduced to information that does not touch our hearts.
As we believe, embrace, and fellowship with God, these qualities are transferred from the inner man to our outer lives. We then live in the effect and power of these fruits, and they govern our heart, and we begin to thrive.
In Isaiah 64:7, “And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirs up himself to take hold of thee.” This is a shocking reality that we can all relate to today. God is ready to do so much more than we can ask or think.
The prophet Amos also testifies in Amos 8:11: “’The days are coming,’ declares the Sovereign LORD, ‘when I will send a famine through the land—not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.’”
To be stirred-up is to live in the authority of the Spirit in our lives; to remind, rehearse and repeat to ourselves God’s promises; this will bring us deeper into a personal revelation of who He is in us.
A personal revelation is when we go beyond the knowledge of something, and we experience the life of the nature of God. Our heart is deeply touched, and there is a transference of life and wisdom.
There is the difference between knowing God theologically, based upon biblical facts, and knowing Him personally, through personal impartation.
As we discover the greatness of God and are aware of His presence, we stand in awe, and we are surprised by how good He is. Through such childlikeness, faith renewal comes, and we have a new insight that produces understanding, drawing us into the life of God.
Here are some ways to stir up yourself
Faith Promises: Who God is will complete His promises to us.
Thankfulness: Remember what God has done.
When the promise is fulfilled it will be divine timing.
Eternal Purpose: Remember why God has you where you are.
Where revival starts with us, then others.
How things unfold is God’s business, not mine.
People: Examples in your life that show you a living Christ.
Inner Revolution (defined)
This term describes the cause and impact of what we orbit around, and this produces radical results. The image of what we put at our center changes us. Think of an inner revolution or revival where areas of life that were once inactive are now passionately involved.
We may feel as if we are on fire. The wounded can love again. The untrusting can choose to be vulnerable and trust again. The unforgiving can release their burdens of self-justification and swallow injustice, knowing that Christ is God. He turns the bitter experience to a sweet purpose.
This radical change happens through a more profound death where we allow the Holy Spirit to take charge of all our rights and outcomes. We seek His face and the result is resurrection life.
As we radically rely upon the Lord, we become a testimony to the mystery of Christ.
Religion doesn’t produce revolution because its foundation is fairness and man’s best efforts.
Revolution happens as we are changed into the absolute truth of what we believe.
God brings us to the place of growth where we live in the meaning of what we believe.
Burdens to Burnings
We all have things we wrestle with—challenges we can’t change, such as people, problems or besetting sin. Burdens can be defined as anything that weighs you down and steals your strength and hope from God.
It starts with a distraction to capture our attention, then as we focus on that distraction it skews and misinterprets what we see.
This gives an opportunity for fear, guilt, and shame to rush in. We begin to move away in our heart as the weight bears down.
Burdens have a useful function in our lives—they can bring us closer to Jesus. None of us like friction, but often it is necessary.
Like the matchstick, carbon needs friction to set it ablaze.
Jesus often allows circumstances beyond of our control to be used as a roadway back to Him. If we walk alone, we will be crushed and overwhelmed by our troubles. The devil’s ultimate plan for burdens is to “wear out the saints” (Daniel 7:25).
When you love someone, you can sense their burdens. Often when one is in pain, we feel it too. Jesus felt every one of our infirmities in Hebrews 4:15 and he promises to be our sustaining power in Isaiah 63:9.
Knowledge of needs can touch our hearts and even give an attitude of concern, but through wrestling, in prayer, our burdens turn to burning. When this Inner Revolution touches our heart, we move with compassion—we are ignited and we help ignite others.
Love and grace are more than just words; they are healing agents of change.
God’s master plan is taking those weights and turn them into momentum that moves us forward. What was meant to hold us back, propels us forward!
Even when facing insurmountable odds, God carries us through. (Ezekiel 47:2-5)
Joseph shares with his brothers, in Genesis 50:20 “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” The prophet Isaiah in 58:17 declares “no weapon turned against you will succeed. You will silence every voice raised up to accuse you.” These verses point to divine reversals that come through prayer. Prayer shows us the unseen reality and purposes of God and His way through the burdens of life.
Here are some healthy questions to keep your heart on fire:
Heart Change – What is our focus on change? Real transformation comes as our heart changes not our behavior alone.
Perspective Change – Is God in the driver seat? Letting go is the beginning of restoration.
Language Change – Are our words creating something or defeating us?
Attitude Change – What is my filter? Attitude determines how I interpret things in our everyday lives.
Time Change – Build on small things that encourage you!
Do you see the progression here? Our situations may not change, but WE do! Just like Moses who stood in awe of the burning bush – so will others, who sit in darkness, notice the light burning brightly in you.
Continue focusing on God’s thoughts about you, this allows His light to shine through these jars of clay.
Passionate about reaching people from all walks of life, Jason Moore has been involved in worldwide mission work and discipleship since the age of sixteen. While living in Ukraine, he completed his internship in church planting, resulting in three new churches that continue to thrive today. As a graduate of Maryland Bible College and Seminary with a Bachelor’s in Biblical Studies, he leads the Pastoral Care team of Greater Grace Church in Baltimore, MD. He serves as a guest speaker in churches throughout the United States and overseas. With his wife, Leah, and son, Carson, he is dedicated to guiding people in discovering the riches of God’s grace. He may be reached through www.jasonfmoore.com.
The warning came exactly one week before we were scheduled to leave. It was a text message from Pastor Ronald, our representative in the Philippines. Puzzled by why he would text me since our correspondence was always via email, I opened my message box on my cell phone. What I read shocked me.
Rick, ISIS has kidnapped Pastor Danial of the church in the tribal area of Maasim, the church your team is scheduled to visit next week. We are trying to find him but until we do, we have to assume ISIS now knows about your team and your plans. You may want to postpone your trip.
For almost six months my team of five had been planning to fly to the Philippines to minister in the poor areas of Davao and the jungles of Mindanao. It was a trip I had taken every summer for seven straight years without a single problem although the State Department routinely warns American citizens not to go to this area. But now the danger was real and directed at my team.
I texted Ronald telling him to keep me posted then contacted my team. I knew Bonnie and I would go anyway, not because we were foolhardy, but because we knew God wanted us there. But I had to give each member of my team the opportunity to make a choice.
By that evening, the other three members let me know they were going too. I was proud of my team and the willingness of all of us to put our faith on the line. We were not going to let ISIS stop us from serving the Lord. The rest of the week I followed Ronald’s texts as if they were reports from a war zone which–in many ways–they were. The reports confirmed our decision and demonstrated the power of God. It was a tense week as we counted down the time to departure and monitored Ronald’s bulletins.
Six days before we were to leave, Ronald reported that Pastor Danial had been released but was still somewhere in the jungle. We were to learn later the miraculous means of his deliverance but for the moment we were concerned about his whereabouts.
Five days: Ronald reported that Pastor Danial was still missing but he and several pastors were planning to drive to the area at midnight to evacuate his family and look for him. My team prayed for the mission.
Four days: Ronald reported the mission was a success. They found Pastor Danial and drove him and his family back to his church to hide them.
Three days: Ronald reported that ISIS had Pastor Danial’s cell phone containing contact information for all of us and notes about our visit. He warned us that ISIS Commander Tokboy had called him several times demanding Pastor Danial be returned or he would hunt us down and in typical ISIS fashion, behead us all. My team talked it over and prayed. We decided to stick by our initial decision. We were going.
Over the next two days we packed, prayed and prepared ourselves. Ronald continued to report daily threats. Knowing that the family had left everything behind we raised funds to help them when we arrived.
After 22 hours in the air and sitting in airports, we arrived in Davao at 6:30 am. Ronald was at the airport to pick us up. It was hot and humid. We were tired. The jeep was small and cramped, but instead of going to our hotel we had Ronald take us to the church so we could meet Pastor Danial and his family.
When we arrived, Pastor Danial, his wife and eight children were sitting in a line on a bench under a canopy. Pastor Danial stood and smiled. He was short and had a weathered look about him. I was surprised at how thin he was. He didn’t look like someone who had just bested ISIS alone. Of course, I knew he hadn’t been alone.
I walked up and hugged him. “I’m so glad you and your family are safe.”
He smiled. After introductions, my team sat down to hear Pastor Danial’s story.
+ + +
He was alone in his church when two men with rifles walked in. They told him if he came with them they wouldn’t hurt him but Pastor Danial had heard enough stories to know that wasn’t true. Yet, he had no choice but to obey.
They drove him on a rut-filled dirt road deep into the jungle. He didn’t ask questions and neither of the men volunteered anything. He didn’t know if these were the New People’s Army or Islamic terrorists.
They stopped at a small clearing and then walked further into the jungle to a small camp. As soon as they arrived he saw the black ISIS flag on a pole. Islamic terrorist. They escorted him over to a hole about nine feet deep and a dozen feet across. Once on the edge they took his phone and pushed him in. He landed on his feet in the soft mud at the bottom. He knew his fate. He’d heard about these holes. No one came out of one alive.
He prayed and waited. He spent several days in the hole. Cold and coated with mud he got very little sleep. Occasionally, someone would drop down a little food and some water. Late on what seemed to be day three, four men, three with rifles and one with a handgun, circled the hole. The one with the pistol identified himself as ISIS Commander Tokboy. From Pastor Danial’s vantage point in the hole it was hard to make out his features but his voice was deep and laced with contempt.
“Are you the one that has been passing out bibles in this area?” Commander Tokboy asked.
Pastor Danial nodded.
“Then you are guilty of counter-Islamic activity. You must die.”
The Commander raised his pistol.
Pastor Danial closed his eyes and prayed for God to save him. At that moment a phone rang. He opened his eyes in time to see the Commander back away holding a cell phone. He couldn’t make out what was being said but it was clearly an argument and the Commander seemed upset.
After a short time, the argument stopped and Commander Tokboy appeared. He glared down at Pastor Danial. “You must have important friends. I’ve been told not to execute you. I’ll let you go but you will stop handing out Bibles. If you report this to the police or military I will kill you and your entire family.”
Pastor Danial only nodded as he looked down at the ground. He didn’t dare smile for fear the commander would change his mind and shoot. But he knew who the important friend was and he silently praised God.
+ + +
When he finished we all were quiet for a moment. It was so surreal, like something out of a movie. Eventually, Bonnie stood up and walked over to hug his wife. It seemed like the best time to give him the money we raised at the last minute to help his family. Both he and his wife began to cry.
Later that day, Ronald pulled me aside and said that Commander Tokboy continues to text him multiple times during the day demanding the return of Pastor Danial and threatening to find all of us and chop our heads off. I told him that though I was concerned I felt safe as long as we stay in or near Davao.
That’s far from the end of this story. It turns out we had nothing to fear but Commander Tokboy did.
Our original plan had been to spend a couple of days with Pastor Danial at his church and host a pastor’s conference. That, of course, had to be scrapped. In it’s place, Ronald found a small hotel on the Philippine Sea with a meeting room not far from our base in Davao. We decided to bring the pastors up from Maasim and have the conference at the hotel.
The pastors agreed. In fact, they were excited to leave the area. Even though they hadn’t been passing out Bibles and had not been harassed by ISIS they were understandably nervous.
The conference ran smoothly and the way it ended was nothing short of a miracle. It was clear to me that the pastors were unsure about returning home. So, I asked them to gather in the middle of the room. My team surrounded them and started at just a few minutes after 5 pm to pray that God would keep them safe.
At the end of the prayer they went to their rooms to pack so they could return first thing in the morning. Ronald took my team back to the hotel. We had settled in our rooms when the phone rang at a little past 9 pm. It was Ronald.
“Rick, I have great news. The pastors are in their rooms singing praises to God. They just got word that at 5 pm today the Philippine army raided Commander Tokboy’s camp. The commander was wounded in a shoot out and captured.”
And that is how God protects His people.
Richard Spillman is a retired Computer Scientist who typically writes Christian non-fiction (The Passion of Job and Do What Jesus Did, both available on Amazon) as well as a Christian blog (https://spillmanrichard.com). His latest passion, however, is Christian fiction. His first novel, The Awakened, is waiting for a publisher to pick it up. He is represented by Jim Hart of Hartline Literary Agency. The story asks the question: “What if Lazarus didn’t die a second time?” He was led to write it after avoiding being kidnapped by ISIS in the Philippines and then receiving death threats (to behead him in standard ISIS fashion) during the rest of his missionary service there. Besides the blog he is active on Twitter (https://twitter.com/awakenedtrilogy) and Instagram (http://ink361.com/app/users/ig-3176880720/spillmanrichard/photos) where you can see pictures from his missionary travels around the world.
Tonight, I heard a Jewish rabbi make the argument for a pro-choice stance in Reform Judaism. When I asked how they balance a pro-choice position against “Thou shalt not kill” she pointed to a semantic difference between murder and killing (according to the original Hebrew, she said.) She then alluded to a passage in the Torah regarding two men fighting and a pregnant bystander being hurt in the process. She said this story was proof that the unborn child was considered part of the mother—not an individual apart from the mother—because the value given in retribution was more akin to losing and arm or a leg; not capital punishment.
I looked this up when I returned home. Seems she was referring to Exodus 21:22-25 which pertains to Mosaic personal injury law. Here is the passage, from both the KJV and ESV and then finally from the Jewish Tanakh:
King James Version
“If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life, Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”
English Standard Version
“When men strive together and hit a pregnant woman, so that her children come out, but there is no harm, the one who hit her shall surely be fined, as the woman’s husband shall impose on him, and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if there is harm, then you shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”
As you can see, these two translations leave some question as to whether the child is included in the “life for life” retribution. The Jewish bible, however, seems to take things a bit further:
Jewish Tanakh (English)
“When men fight, and one of them pushes a pregnant woman and a miscarriage results, but no other damage ensues, the one responsible shall be fined according as the woman’s husband may exact from him, the payment to be based on reckoning. But if other damage ensues, the penalty shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”
So I can understand why someone reading this latter translation would think this was a clear statement from God that the life of the unborn child didn’t matter as much as the adult’s. The rabbi likened the unborn child to an appendage and even said the child wasn’t considered a person until it was at least half-born (e.g. the child’s head and shoulders had emerged from the vaginal canal.) This is absolutely stunning to me. I marvel at the disconnected thinking it takes to arrive at the conclusion that a few inches and being on the wrong side of the mother’s womb should mean it’s okay to destroy what God has created.
I asked how she rectifies science having proven life begins at conception and she defensively claimed, “Science doesn’t claim that; religion does.”
I’ll admit, this was the first time I had ever heard this rebuttal. I had to do a little research to determine if this was the case. Turns out I didn’t have to look far. Her comment is utterly false. The first thing I found upon doing a search for “life begins at conception” (without quotes) looked like this:
From here I found two pages dedicated to examples whereby secular university textbooks seem to clearly state genetic uniqueness and specifically, that the resulting cell from the egg and sperm marks the “beginning of a new human being.” (Moore, 2003.) I’ve reproduced the contents of those pages below.
I’ll leave you to come to your own conclusions on this material. Personally, I believe God values us so much He sent His only Son to die for us (which I can’t even begin to wrap my head around.) I believe every life is of massive value to our heavenly Father. We are His work, after all.
For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are Your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.
Psalm 139:13-16 NKJV
Assorted Quotes from Textbooks
The Developing Human Being
By Keith Moore, and T.V.N. Persaud
7th edition, 2003
From an introductory definition section:
“Human development is a continuous process that begins when an oocyte (ovum) from a female is fertilized by a sperm (spermatozoon) from a male. Cell division, cell migration, programmed cell death, differentiation, growth, and cell rearrangement transform the fertilized oocyte, a highly specialized, totipotent cell–a zygote–into a multicellular human being. Although most developmental changes occur during the embryonic and fetal periods, important changes occur during later periods of development: infancy, childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood. Development does not stop at birth. Important changes, in addition to growth, occur after birth (e.g., development of teeth and female breasts). The brain triples in weight between birth and 16 years; most developmental changes are completed by the age of 25. Although it is customary to divide human development into prenatal (before birth) and postnatal (after birth) periods, birth is merely a dramatic event during development resulting in a change in environment.” (p. 2)
“Zygote. This cell results from the union of an oocyte and a sperm during fertilization. A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).” (p. 2)
“Embryo. The developing human during its early stages of development. The embryonic period extends to the end of the eighth week (56 days), by which time the beginnings of all major structures are present.” (p. 3)
From chapter 2: “The Beginning of Human Development: First Week”
First sentence of the chapter: “Human development begins at fertilization when a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoon) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell–a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” (p. 16)
“Studies on early stages of development indicate that human oocytes are usually fertilized with 12 hours after ovulation. In vitro observations have shown that the oocyte cannot be fertilized after 24 hours and this it degenerates shortly thereafter.” [This would buttress our argument that sperm and ovum by themselves are parts of the parents and not entire beings. That there is a substantial change between gametes and zygotes.] (p. 31)
“The zygote is genetically unique because half of its chromosomes come from the mother and half from the father. The zygote contains a new combination of chromosomes that is different from that in the cells of either of the parents.” (p. 33)
“Cleavage consists of repeated mitotic divisions of the zygote, resulting in a rapid increase in the number of cells. The embryonic cells–blastomeres–become smaller with each cleavage division. First the zygote divides into two blastomores, which then divide into four blastomores, either blastomeres, and so on.” (p. 36-37) [We can use the cleavage discussion to show that now the embryo is operating on its own and developing.]
William J. Larsen
3rd edition, 2001
“In this text, we begin our description of the developing human with the formation and differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual” (p. 1)
“After the oocyte finishes meiosis, the paternal and maternal chromosomes come together, resulting in the formation of a zygote containing a single diploid nucleus. Embryonic development is considered to begin at this point. The newly formed embryo undergoes a series of cells divisions called cleavage as it travels down the oviduct toward the uterus. The cleavage divisions subdivide the zygote first into two cells, then into four, then into eight, and so on.” (p. 1-3)
Life Begins at Fertilization
The following references illustrate the fact that a new human embryo, the starting point for a human life, comes into existence with the formation of the one-celled zygote:
“Development of the embryo begins at Stage 1 when a sperm fertilizes an oocyte and together they form a zygote.”
[England, Marjorie A. Life Before Birth. 2nd ed. England: Mosby-Wolfe, 1996, p.31]
“Human development begins after the union of male and female gametes or germ cells during a process known as fertilization (conception).
“Fertilization is a sequence of events that begins with the contact of a sperm (spermatozoon) with a secondary oocyte (ovum) and ends with the fusion of their pronuclei (the haploid nuclei of the sperm and ovum) and the mingling of their chromosomes to form a new cell. This fertilized ovum, known as a zygote, is a large diploid cell that is the beginning, or primordium, of a human being.”
[Moore, Keith L. Essentials of Human Embryology. Toronto: B.C. Decker Inc, 1988, p.2]
“Embryo: the developing organism from the time of fertilization until significant differentiation has occurred, when the organism becomes known as a fetus.”
[Cloning Human Beings. Report and Recommendations of the National Bioethics Advisory Commission. Rockville, MD: GPO, 1997, Appendix-2.]
“Embryo: An organism in the earliest stage of development; in a man, from the time of conception to the end of the second month in the uterus.”
[Dox, Ida G. et al. The Harper Collins Illustrated Medical Dictionary. New York: Harper Perennial, 1993, p. 146]
“Embryo: The early developing fertilized egg that is growing into another individual of the species. In man the term ’embryo’ is usually restricted to the period of development from fertilization until the end of the eighth week of pregnancy.”
[Walters, William and Singer, Peter (eds.). Test-Tube Babies. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1982, p. 160]
“Embryo: The developing individual between the union of the germ cells and the completion of the organs which characterize its body when it becomes a separate organism…. At the moment the sperm cell of the human male meets the ovum of the female and the union results in a fertilized ovum (zygote), a new life has begun…. The term embryo covers the several stages of early development from conception to the ninth or tenth week of life.”
[Considine, Douglas (ed.). Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia. 5th edition. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1976, p. 943]
“I would say that among most scientists, the word ’embryo’ includes the time from after fertilization…”
[Dr. John Eppig, Senior Staff Scientist, Jackson Laboratory (Bar Harbor, Maine) and Member of the NIH Human Embryo Research Panel — Panel Transcript, February 2, 1994, p. 31]
“The development of a human being begins with fertilization, a process by which two highly specialized cells, the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female, unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.”
[Langman, Jan. Medical Embryology. 3rd edition. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1975, p. 3]
“The development of a human begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.”
[Sadler, T.W. Langman’s Medical Embryology. 7th edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins 1995, p. 3]
“Development begins with fertilization, the process by which the male gamete, the sperm, and the female gamete, the oocyte, unite to give rise to a zygote.”
[Sadler, T.W. Langman’s Medical Embryology. 9th edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins 2004, p. 3]
“The results of fertilization are (a) restoration of the diploid number of chromosomes, (b) determination of chromosomal sex, and (c) initiation of cleavage.”
[Sadler, T.W. Langman’s Medical Embryology. 9th edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins 2004, p. 48]
“The question came up of what is an embryo, when does an embryo exist, when does it occur. I think, as you know, that in development, life is a continuum…. But I think one of the useful definitions that has come out, especially from Germany, has been the stage at which these two nuclei [from sperm and egg] come together and the membranes between the two break down.”
[Jonathan Van Blerkom of University of Colorado, expert witness on human embryology before the NIH Human Embryo Research Panel — Panel Transcript, February 2, 1994, p. 63]
“Zygote. This cell, formed by the union of an ovum and a sperm (Gr. zyg tos, yoked together), represents the beginning of a human being. The common expression ‘fertilized ovum’ refers to the zygote.”
[Moore, Keith L. and Persaud, T.V.N. Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology and Birth Defects. 4th edition. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1993, p. 1]
“The chromosomes of the oocyte and sperm are…respectively enclosed within female and male pronuclei. These pronuclei fuse with each other to produce the single, diploid, 2N nucleus of the fertilized zygote. This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development.”
[Larsen, William J. Human Embryology. 2nd edition. New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1997, p. 17]
“Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed…. The combination of 23 chromosomes present in each pronucleus results in 46 chromosomes in the zygote. Thus the diploid number is restored and the embryonic genome is formed. The embryo now exists as a genetic unity.”
[O’Rahilly, Ronan and Müller, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996, pp. 8, 29. This textbook lists “pre-embryo” among “discarded and replaced terms” in modern embryology, describing it as “ill-defined and inaccurate” (p. 12}]
“Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote)… The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual.”
[Carlson, Bruce M. Patten’s Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3]
“[A]nimal biologists use the term embryo to describe the single cell stage, the two-cell stage, and all subsequent stages up until a time when recognizable humanlike limbs and facial features begin to appear between six to eight weeks after fertilization….
“[A] number of specialists working in the field of human reproduction have suggested that we stop using the word embryo to describe the developing entity that exists for the first two weeks after fertilization. In its place, they proposed the term pre-embryo….
“I’ll let you in on a secret. The term pre-embryo has been embraced wholeheartedly by IVF practitioners for reasons that are political, not scientific. The new term is used to provide the illusion that there is something profoundly different between what we nonmedical biologists still call a six-day-old embryo and what we and everyone else call a sixteen-day-old embryo.
“The term pre-embryo is useful in the political arena–where decisions are made about whether to allow early embryo (now called pre-embryo) experimentation–as well as in the confines of a doctor’s office, where it can be used to allay moral concerns that might be expressed by IVF patients. ‘Don’t worry,’ a doctor might say, ‘it’s only pre-embryos that we’re manipulating or freezing. They won’t turn into real human embryos until after we’ve put them back into your body.'”
[Silver, Lee M. Remaking Eden: Cloning and Beyond in a Brave New World. New York: Avon Books, 1997, p. 39]
The following is a collection of several key differences between Mormonism and Christianity. In most places, the differences are exclusive; the points being made can’t both be true.
The Authority of the Bible
Mormon – The Bible is God’s Word.. but only insofar as it has been translated correctly.
(8th Article of Faith of the Mormon Church) “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly…”
Christian – The Bible is God’s Inerrant Word
The inspired inerrant word of God. It is authoritative in all subjects it addresses.
(2 Timothy 3:16) “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”
Establishing the Authority of Scriptures
If Joseph Smith’s vision is right, there was no valid Christianity on the earth for hundreds of years. When did it disappear? 1st century. When did it reappear? 19th century. This means Christ and the Apostles failed in their efforts to establish a meaningful church. Their work unraveled into apostasy soon after the physical deaths of the Apostles and not even God could preserve His Word for earnest seekers until Joseph Smith resurrected and delivered it properly in the 1800’s.
Mormonism is pinned on four revelations:
The Book of Mormon
Doctrine and Covenants
Pearl of Great Price
KJV Bible (insofar as it is correctly translated)
To establish Scriptural authority, ask the following:
Oh, you read Greek and Hebrew?
How do you know it’s incorrectly translated?
Did the same God inspire all four books?
Are they all of equal validity?
Does God ever lie?
Can God be relied upon at all times?
Which is the oldest of these four texts? [Answer: Bible, which spans a period of over 5000 years.]
Don’t you think it’s proper to judge the younger revelations by the oldest revelation, because God who cannot lie, will tell us the straight story from the very beginning? And if the other books don’t agree with the oldest book, well then obviously something must be wrong with the younger books, right? (Martin, W.)
The Nature of God: One God of Many?
Mormon – There are many gods.
(Pearl of Great Price, Book of Abraham 4:3-) “And they (the Gods) said: Let there be light: and there was light…”
According to Mormon theology, all people represent the embryonic status of their own godhood. In a forum article, “Do Mormon Believe in Many Gods?”, the answer is given:
“Mormons believe that every human being is a God in “embryo” form, or childlike form. Just as a boy becomes a man or a girl becomes a woman, we believe men and women become Gods and Goddesses. We believe the purpose of this life is to move us along that path, and that this life is one of multiple steps in that direction. Of course if this is what we believe, then yes, we believe there are multiple Gods. In fact, there must be billions, trillions, or even more Gods.”
Additionally, when asked about the hierarchy of these gods, it is the Mormon belief that all these gods are equal in power and authority. Otherwise, a holier god could come along and usurp the authority of any lesser god resulting in utter chaos! So why do Mormons still say they only worship one god? They employ word-play at this point.
“To sum up, Mormons believe there are many Gods, but only believe in one God. Or to put it another way, Mormons know there are many Gods, but only know one God.”
Christian – There is only one God.
(Isaiah 43:11) “I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour.”
(Isaiah 44:6) “Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.”
(Isaiah 44:8-9) “Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.
They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.”
(Isaiah 45:5-7) “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:
That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”
The Nature of God: Was God a Man?
Mormon – God is a created being and was once a man.
God an Exalted Man
(Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.345) I will go back to the beginning before the world was, to show what kind of being God is. What sort of a being was God in the beginning? Open your ears and hear, all ye ends of the earth, for I am going to prove it to you by the Bible, and to tell you the designs of God in relation to the human race, and why He interferes with the affairs of man.
God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens! That is the great secret. If the veil were rent today, and the great God who holds this world in its orbit, and who upholds all worlds and all things by his power, was to make himself visible,—I say, if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form—like yourselves in all the person, image, and very form as a man; for Adam was created in the very fashion, image and likeness of God, and received instruction from, and walked, talked and conversed with him, as one man talks and communes with another.
In order to understand the subject of the dead, for consolation of those who mourn for the loss of their friends, it is necessary we should understand the character and being of God and how he came to be so; for I am going to tell you how God came to be God. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see.
These are incomprehensible ideas to some, but they are simple. It is the first principle of the Gospel to know for a certainty the Character of God, and to know that we may converse with him as one man converses with another, and that he was once a man like us; yea, that God himself, the Father of us all, dwelt on an earth, the same as Jesus Christ himself did; and I will show it from the Bible.
Christian – God has always been God.
(Psalm 90:2) “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”
(Isaiah 57:15) “For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.”
The Nature of God: Does God Have a Body?
Mormon – God has a flesh and bone body like ours.
(Doctrine and Covenants 130:22, Compare with Alma 18:26-27, 22:9-10) “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.”
(Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p.41) ”Therefore we know that both the Father and the Son are in form and stature perfect men; each of them possesses a tangible body, infinitely pure and perfect, and attended by transcendent glory, yet a body of flesh and bone.”
Christian – God is a spirit without flesh and bones.
(John 4:24) “God is spirit: and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth.”
[Note: Joseph Smith translated this passage to read, “For unto such hath God promised his Spirit. And they who worship him, must worship in spirit and in truth.” (JST, John 4:26.)]
(Luke 24:39) “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”
(Romans 1:21-23) “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.”
The Nature of God: Additional Comments
God Does Not Change
(Malachi 3:6) “For I am the LORD, I change not;”
(James 1:17) “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
(Numbers 23:19) “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”
We Are Called to Seek God’s Face
The first commandment given to Moses for the Israelites is found in Exodus 20:2-3, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” We must seek the one true God.
The Nature of the Trinity
Mormon – Three separate gods: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.
(Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p.38-39) “The Godhead: The Trinity:–Three personages composing the great presiding council of the universe have revealed themselves to man; (1) God the Eternal Father, (2) His Son, Jesus Christ; and (3) the Holy Ghost. That these three are separate individuals, physically distinct from each other, is very plainly proved by the accepted records of the divine dealings with man. […] Joseph Smith, while calling upon the Lord in fervent prayer for wisdom to guide him in his religious professions, saw the Father and the Son, standing in the midst of light which shamed the brightness of the sun, one of these declared to the other, “This is my beloved Son, hear Him.” Each of the members of the Trinity is called God, together they constitute the Godhead.”
Christian – One God, three personages: Father, Son and Holy Ghost.
The Trinity is the doctrine that there is only one God in all the universe and that He exists in three eternal, simultaneous persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Nature of Jesus: Jesus’ Conception
Mormon – God had sex with Mary.
(Journal of Discourses, vol. 8, p.115) “The birth of the Saviour was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood–was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers…”
(Mormon Doctrine, by Bruce McConkie, p.547) “Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers…”
Christian – Jesus was born of the virgin Mary.
(Isaiah 7:14) “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
(Matthew 1:23) “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”
(Luke 1:34-35) “Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
The Nature of Jesus: Who is Jesus?
Mormon – Jesus is Lucifer’s brother.
(Gospel Through the Ages, p.15) Jesus is the literal spirit-brother of Lucifer, a creation.
Because Jesus is a created being like the angels and like humanity, he is our spirit-brother.
(Gospel Doctrine, Joseph F. Smith, p.70) “Among the spirit children of Elohim, the firstborn was and is Jehovah, or Jesus Christ, to whom all others are juniors.”
Christian – Jesus is God.
Jesus is the eternal Son. He is second person of the Trinity. He has two natures: He is God in flesh, and the creator of all things.
(John 1:1, 14) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. […] And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
(Colossians 2:9) “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”
(Colossians 1:14-18) “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”
The Nature of Jesus: Additional Comments
(Matthew 24:5-8) “For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Jesus was a Polygamist?
Mormon apostle, Orson Pratt—in the November 1853 edition of the Mormon publication, The Seer—asserts Jesus married Mary and Martha and others.
The Nature of Salvation
Mormon – Salvation earned through works.
Salvation has a double meaning in Mormonism.
(Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p.78-79) “The first effect [of the atonement] is to secure to all mankind alike, exemption from the penalty of the fall, thus providing a plan of General Salvation. The second effect is to open a way for Individual Salvation whereby mankind may secure remission of personal sins…”
“As these sins are the result of individual acts it is just that forgiveness for them should be conditioned on individual compliance with prescribed requirements–‘obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel,'”
(Doctrines and Covenants 137:7–9) “For I, the Lord, will judge all men according to their works, according to the desire of their hearts.”
Christian – Salvation cannot be earned.
Good works are an outgrowth and testimony of regeneration in Christ; not the pass by which we achieve salvation. Salvation is the forgiveness of sin and deliverance of the sinner from damnation. It is a free gift received by God’s grace through acceptance of Jesus Christ and cannot be earned.
(Romans 11:6) “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.”
(Romans 6:23) “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
(Ephesians 2:8) “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
(Romans 4:5) “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
(Galatians 2:21) “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
Jesus says in John 8:24, “Unless you believe that I Am, you shall die in your sins.” Jesus assures us we are to rest in Him and Him alone. No additional revelation required.
(Acts 16:31) “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved…”
(1 Corinthians 15:3) “For I delivered to you as first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.”
(Ephesians 1:7) “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.”
(1 Peter 2:24) “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”
(Colossians 2:13) “He forgave us all our sins.”
We are not saved through works. How can anything we ever do be good enough before a Holy God?
(Isaiah 64:6) But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.
We Are to Accept No Other Gospel
(2 Timothy 4:4) “And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.”
(Galatians 1:6-9) “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!”
The Joseph Smith Translation (JST) boasts over 3,000 additions, subtractions and changes to the King James Bible.
“Joseph Smith, the first prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made a “new translation” of the Bible, using the text of the King James Version (KJV). This work differs from the KJV in at least 3,410 verses and consists of additions, deletions, rearrangements, and other alterations that cause it to vary not only from the KJV but from other biblical texts. Changes range from minor details to fully reconstituted chapters.” (Matthews, 1992.)
Discerning False Prophets
(Deuteronomy 13:1-5) “If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him.
And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the Lord your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the Lord thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.
(Deuteronomy 18:21-22) And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the Lord hath not spoken? When a prophet speaketh in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.
Mormon Division Doesn’t Add Up
In Mormon teaching, the primary catalyst that spurned Joseph Smith to seek the truth about God and the afterlife was his dissatisfaction with the confusion and strife between Christian doctrine. Today, the Mormon church suffers from this same fragmentation. The “one true church” currently enjoys over 100 different sects, all of whom claim they are the “one true church.” That’s a lot of fracturing in just 200 years from a church boasting a steady stream of God-sent “prophets”.
The Stakes Are Different
If the Mormon is right, their works-based religion allows nearly anyone into a level of heaven, so long as they keep doing good works; regardless of whether you’re Christian, Jehovah Witness, Unitarian, etc. On the other hand, if the Christians are right, the Mormon church isn’t even worshiping the right Jesus and has fallen prey to false doctrine which could lead many to hell.
(Matthew 7:13-15) “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.”
17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
What if Joseph Smith was wrong?
If you are beginning to question your Mormon beliefs, please understand you do not have to lose your faith in God, but you do need to get clear on who God is and who He is not. The disillusionment felt by Mormons as they begin to emerge from the Mormon church can be devastating, especially as they begin to lose the support of their Mormon friends, family and church. As a sad testimony to the gulf that separates Mormonism from Christianity, know this abandonment is definitely not a Christian response!
If you are earnestly seeking God’s truth, humble yourself before His cross and—for a brief moment—step outside your Mormon vows, priesthood, and doctrine. Stand before Him as a simple man or woman searching for His truth and pray this heart-felt prayer:
Open the eyes and ears of my soul and my mind
so I may hear your voice, and
explain this to me, teach me, save me
so I may serve you the way I ought to.
God’s Word can be relied upon completely. When it comes down to deciding between Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ, please believe Jesus Christ. So much of your life may be tied up in Mormonism, including your loved ones. Jesus says, “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26)
I pray that you will be humble enough and courageous enough to seek God’s Truth for us as it’s been preserved in Scripture.
As I prepared to engage my first Mormon missionaries, my research uncovered that many Mormons have been trained to run at the first whiff of debate. I felt if I was to keep these girls around long enough to speak into them, I needed to create a safe space for our discussion. I approached our discussion with many questions (which was easy since the Mormon marketing and missionary machine is truly a marvel) and the following points as my foundation:
We are Sincere Witnesses
It is in the spirit of witnessing to our perspective truths in the effort to persuade the other of our theologies that we engage in this conversation.
We are not just sharing our theological perspectives. As missionaries, we admit to the desire and hope to help move one another’s internal ‘needle’ toward a more inspired and correct understanding of God by sharing what we believe and why we believe it.
Seeking Spiritual Truth
During the course of a loving and open dialogue, we may not be completely versed in all facets of our faith. When those moments occur, we feel safe enough to admit our uncertainty.
A Loving and Safe Space for Dialogue
If anyone gets upset or angry and the conversation is cut short as a result, everyone loses.
(Interreligious discussions can often carry the added pressure to save the soul of the other. We must remember it is not our job to convert anyone; that is the work of the Holy Spirit. Our job is simply to get the other side to think!)
Against Relativism and Pluralism
We hold what we believe are truths; however, we recognize our truths differ. If we believe in God’s absolute domain, we recognize the presence of moral absolute and universal law, as set forth by our Creator. In comparing our own understanding of God’s teaching, we agree
One of us can be right, or
We can both be wrong, but
We can’t both be right.
Points for the Christian to Avoid
Don’t argue peripheral points, such as polygamy; you’ll spend too much time in the weeds.
While it certainly merits mentioning, don’t spend too much time attacking Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. Though failed prophecies, errant Egyptian translations, racism, poor character judgments and a myriad of other Mormon pitfalls salt this path, the argument is against the system, not the people. Our warfare is not against flesh and blood.
Points for the Christian to Address
According to a 2012 LDS survey taken to analyze why Mormons defect, here are the top five reasons Mormons leave the LDS church:
I ceased to believe the LDS doctrine/theology
I studied Mormon church history and lost my belief
I lost faith in Joseph Smith
I lost faith in the Book of Mormon
I lost confidence in the general authorities of the Mormon church
Obviously, then, these would be the places to start when beginning a discussion around the validity of Mormonism.
The survey, PowerPoint presentation and video by Mormon John Dehlin (indeed, the whole website, whymormonsquestion.org) was taken down somewhere in Spring of 2016. Last capture by Archive.org was April 24, 2016. Over 3,000 respondents were surveyed through liberal and former-LDS websites, forums, blogs and podcasts. During the survey, one respondent said:
“As I studied Church history and uncovered many controversial historical evidence, I would frequent LDS apologetic sites for answers (e.g. FARMS (now the Maxwell Institute), Shields, FAIR). I soon discovered those sites rarely dealt with the controversial evidences but rather often skirted or obfuscated the issue and frequently resorted to personal attacks on the individuals who were publishing historical information.”
I’ll do a deeper write-up on the survey findings in a future post as I believe the information is useful to both Mormons and Christians alike.
One hot evening in May 2016, I was putting away the lawnmower in our garage as I noticed two young ladies standing on our front porch. My wife and oldest son were pointing them over to me saying, “He’s the one you want to talk to.”
They came over and introduced themselves as sisters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As we stood in the driveway, we engaged in very agreeable conversation about the Trinity, whereby they explained they believed in three separate persons—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—and I countered with a brief explanation that it’s one God in the Trinity; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
When it became apparent we weren’t quite speaking the same language (though it sounded very similar,) I went to my car to bring them a Greg Koukl CD on the Trinity. I figured Greg could do a better job of explaining things than I was doing. The sisters immediately rejected it, saying while they were on their mission, they were not allowed to listen to any media, watch any media.. nothing. But they were allowed to have conversations with people.
By then my amused wife had come out to remind me it was bedtime for our kids. The missionaries and I set up another time to talk. I suggested exactly one week later, which I knew would give me more time to get clear on the Mormon position. The good sisters agreed and the date was set. As they left, they thanked me for “being so cool.” Apparently, they had been run off before by un-Christ-like Christians who hurled insults, calling them agents of the devil.
As I began to study Mormonism, one thing became clear. This was not Christianity. It sounded like Christianity and walked like Christianity, but it brought twists and contortions to God’s Word that plainly don’t exist when one spends time in textual analysis of the original Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic.
Through study, it also became apparent many missionaries run at first signs of conflict or Christian resolve. This was something I did not want. To quote a spiritual mentor of mine, “No contact, no impact.” Someone had cautioned me against letting them into my home, but as I discovered, this is caution for those Christians who are relatively new to their faith. While I was only about 7 months old from my born-again commitment, I was steeping myself in the works of Greg Bahnsen and Greg Koukl.
Over the next four weeks, the sisters and I met once a week. Their next visit, they brought another, older couple. The husband represented a member of the Mormon priesthood. As we sat in my home office, I sat on the hearth, deliberately and symbolically positioning myself between them and the inferno. By the end of that meeting, we had established introduced the concepts of Joseph’s failed prophecies and the notion that the apostasy meant Jesus and the Apostles failed to establish a meaningful church.
The third meeting messed me up. Just the three women this time, they took 20 minutes to show me a DVD on the origins of Mormonism, told “Little House on the Prairie” style. I wasn’t prepared for this and—though I agreed to watch the video to gain a deeper understanding into the marketing machine that is Mormonism—we parted ways that night with heaviness on both sides. One of the sisters was coming to the end of her mission and would be going back home to Arizona that next week. “Well, I suppose I’ll at least be able to see you in heaven after this life,” she said.
The stakes are different for we Christians, however. For me, I felt a sense of urgency to meet one last time; to speak into these girls and witness to them as best I could. In my own mind, I had not witnessed well this meeting. That night, I wept as I prayed for the four Mormons. Of the sisters, I knew their parents had to be wildly proud of them; I know I would be if they were my daughters.
For our last meeting, I had resolved to become more aggressive. This time, it was just the two sisters who appeared at the door. As the song goes, “by the blood of the Lamb and the words of our testimony,” I poured into them as best I could my own journey from Catholicism to agnostic to regenerate born-again. Through 15 pages of notes, I did my best to respectfully bring them back to the authority of the Bible, the nature of God and Jesus, and the differences between our notion of heaven and hell. Still, it wasn’t enough time.
As we parted, I let them know this would be the last meeting for a while. All the research and preparation was taking a toll on the rest of my work. They understood and we shook hands. We have kept in touch and I will continue to point them toward the truth of Jesus Christ and God’s Word. This blog post and the posts to follow are a part of that effort.