Mormons 1

I sat down today with the Mormon missionaries who visited our house a few days ago.  The two young ‘Elders’ were joined by a man who was probably in his mid-50’s.  The Elders led the meeting, but they involved him in the discussion and he offered his perspectives occasionally.  We met at the Mormon meetinghouse in our town.  A ward is a unit of organization in Latter Day Saint (LDS) parlance.  Multiple wards are organized into stakes.  

We met in a small classroom – one of at least a dozen such classrooms in the building.  Education and training is clearly a core value of Mormonism, at least based on how they allocate their building space.  
They began their discussion with me by focusing on the importance of the ‘fact’ that there is a prophet on earth, conveying the Word of God to the people just as in Biblical times.  They asked if I knew what a prophet was, and I told them I did.  A disclaimer – I haven’t told them that I’m a pastor.  They haven’t asked.  I’ve told them that I do a variety of things, including being an adjunct instructor for a university (which is true!).  I’ve indicated that I have a decent understanding of the Bible, and that I believe the Bible and therefore want to make sure that the Book of Mormon – the primary LDS scripture – conforms to the Bible and doesn’t contradict it.  My intent in not disclosing my primary vocation is two-fold:  I want to hear as much of what they might say to any prospective disciple as possible, and in the process I pray to have the opportunity to ask questions that lead them to question what they are trying to teach me.  I don’t feel that this is dishonest, since I am critically and faithfully evaluating their teachings – something they have asked me to do – and they were the ones who approached me and asked for the opportunity to talk.  
They explained that prophets were sent after periods of apostasy, and that each prophet represents a new ‘dispensation’.  They didn’t define either of these terms, and I’ve not pushed them for better definitions yet.
They then transitioned to talking about Jesus – the greatest of the prophets and yet more than a prophet, the Son of God.  The previous prophets pointed to Jesus’ coming.  He set up the Church and gave us his law, testified to with miracles.  They quoted John 3:16 here to describe the roll of Jesus.
They talked about Jesus calling 12 disciples who were essentially prophets with a small ‘P’.  They could teach what he told them, but they were not full Prophets in the sense of a new dispensation.  So long as they were alive, Jesus was truly presented and taught to the people.  But once the disciples had been killed off, people began to lapse into apostasy.  The memory of Jesus and what He said and did began to falter.  One of the key roles of the disciples had been to properly (with authority) baptize people into the Church.  Apparently this priestly authority, passed along by the laying on of hands by a proper authority, was never continued after the disciples.  
However, today, any 12-year old boy can become a properly recognized priest of Jesus Christ by the laying on of hands.  This brings them into a priesthood of service (they haven’t named this priesthood yet, or distinguished it from the other priesthood in Mormonism, but I trust they’ll get to this eventually).  They are taught about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and are able to focus on serving others.  
So, the disciples died and so began The Great Apostasy.  It also happened to be the longest one, dragging on for roughly 1800 years before Joseph Smith received divine revelation to restore the true authority of the Church.  They quoted James 1:5 here to support how Smith went about this.  Smith was told not to join any church, but rather began to receive divine revelation.  The result of this was the Book of Mormon, which acts in counterpart to the Bible, forming another testament of Jesus Christ.  The Book of Mormon begins with a family in Jerusalem fleeing to the New World (yes, the Americas), and then describes God’s interactions with the peoples of the New World, culminating in Jesus coming to the New World.  
They then indicated the logical path to proceed in our discussions.  I would be given a Book of Mormon and asked to read it and pray about the truth of it.  I was assured that the power of the Holy Ghost would direct me as to its truth through a literal warm feeling in my heart.  
At this point the older gentleman began speaking about how blessed we are to have both testaments of Jesus Christ (the Bible and the Book of Mormon).  He began to talk about how sketchy the Bible is in many respects because it wasn’t written down until 1000 years after Jesus (hugely inaccurate – I assume he is just ignorant and not actively trying to lie about this.  In my experience, while Mormons quickly affirm the equal validity of the Bible, they are just as ignorant about it as many Christians).  But now, because of Joseph Smith, we have two separate testaments to Jesus Christ to guide us.  
They then asked if I would be willing to be baptized on October 6.  I told them that would depend entirely on how our discussions went, but that if indeed the Holy Ghost convinced me that Mormonism was true, then I would be willing to take this next step.  I asked them if it mattered that I was already baptized.  They indicated that while being baptized by another church was a good step in the right direction, it didn’t ultimately count because it wasn’t done with the proper priestly authority.  That authority resides only in the LDS church.  They loosely referred to Ephesians 4:4-6 at this point.  
Today laid the basic groundwork, but was heavy on generalized teaching rather than specifics.  Jesus was talked about but his importance was not really defined.  The major issue was to highlight the LDS church as the only one true church, the only one with divine authority, and the only one through which the prophetic voice was still at work.  In addition to a hardback copy of the Book of Mormon, I received a pamphlet to read through as homework for our next meeting.
They took me on a tour of their meetinghouse afterwards.  Illustrations on the hallway walls depicted key scenes out of the Bible (in the more public areas) and the Book of Mormon (as we journeyed further into the building).  They showed me the classroom where high school students gather every weekday morning at 6:00 AM before they start school, to receive instruction in the Mormon faith.  Their chapel looked much like any other church.  Decor was sparse throughout beyond the illustrations of Biblical and Book of Mormon events.  
We meet again tomorrow – woohoo!

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