Sunday, July 3, 2011

When Mormons Knock


A few days ago, I had the privilege of hosting two very nice Mormons after they unknowingly knocked on the door of one of the most eager of homes in Virginia to share the Catholic faith with nonbelievers.   In the past, I have brushed off these missionaries (as they call themselves) by simply telling them I'm Catholic.  I thought this is what us Catholics were supposed to do. But then I listened to a very good Lighthouse CD called From Mormon Missionary to Catholic Church by Thomas Smith.  This convert informed me that we should always open our doors to the missionaries because they need to see people of other faiths living out their faith.   He said most of the time, these missionaries lived very sheltered lives and had no idea that there were people who also lived faithful lives with different beliefs.  Also, he says that our witness could plant a seed a doubt in their minds, which could lead them to conversion.   As you can imagine, many of the homes they go into are ill educated, nonpracticing Catholics who are easily swayed. Our missionaries boys affirmed this well known fact to us and expressed surprise over our convictions. 

So when the Mormons knocked, the day we got back from vacation, I was ready.  My better half was not.  He answered the door and almost shooed them away with a "bad timing" excuse.  When they asked if they could come a different time, I quickly answered, YES! tomorrow!  Later Eric tells me he was so glad I invited them in because he also didn't know what I said in the above paragraph.  The extra day turned out to be the perfect amount of time to prep for our evangelization talk.  My husband scoured the CatholicAnswers.com and I listened to my CD again.  It also gave us time to think about what our attitudes should be- full of love for neighbor and God.  Not defensive or confrontational, I kept telling my husband who can get very.... um, passionate about his beliefs.

3:00pm the next day rolls around and who knocks again, but our poor, sweet and naive Mormon boys (ages 19 and 20).   We treated them like brothers and had a very delightful 2 hour conversation.  We were ready for a good debate, but it turned out that there were not as ready.  The didn't have very good Bible knowledge or arguments.   They mostly asked us question about our faith and as time when on, we could tell they were sincere questions.  They had very little knowledge about the Catholic faith, and even had a hard time holding up their beliefs against ours.   They were so sweet and kind, but just not not what I thought the Mormon missionaries would be like.  We shared conversion stories, family and school background, and our deepest convictions about our faith.  It was truly enjoyable!

Evangelizing with my husband was such a good thing for our marriage too.  With the graces of our marriage, the Holy Spirit made us a seamless tag-team.  If I got stuck on a thought, my husband was able to pick up the pieces of my scattered brain and put it all together.  I don't feel like I did as good of a job at explaining things as my husband did, but he tells me I helped to further explain things that he got stuck on.  It was an exhilarating feeling to evangelize with him and feel those sacramental graces flowing.  It was one of those rare times in a marriage when you for certain that this marriage is not about me or him, it's about a union made by God; joined as one.    From our "evangilization on the beach days", we knew that when one person was talking, the other was to pray for the Holy Spirit to speak through us.  We did this and it made everything feel so natural. 

One of the boys asked what our belief on the Trinity was and how we wrap our heads around it.  I asked him if he had ever heard how St. Patrick used the three leaf clover to teach about the Trinity (funny, since I didn't know his name was Patrick).  He hadn't.  The Mormons are pseudo Christians (though they don't admit to this) because they don't believe in the true Trinity.  They don't believe that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are ONE God.  In fact, they don't even believe that Jesus is really God.  They said he had god-like qualities.  This is why it can be very deceiving when Mormons come knocking. They couch their beliefs in Christian language and make it seem like we believe the same thing.  This is what they kept telling us.  My husband was very good and gentle about asserting that we don't.  We believe Jesus is God.  If a person believes in everything else, but doesn't confess that Jesus is God, then what's the point?   I could see Patrick's wheels turning in his head when we explained the Trinity and why Jesus can be nothing but God. 

They also asked about heaven more than once too, which I thought was peculiar.  We were aware the strange Mormon ideas of heaven.  Populating planets, becoming Gods, etc.  We asserted that Heaven will be bliss just being in the presence of God.  There is no such thing as time or space in Heaven, so there's no really doing, it's just being; and being in the presence of God who love is more joy than we can ever imagine here on earth.  I could also see the wheels turning at this point.  Mormons believe that each planet has their own god.  They don't like to admit this either because deep in all of our hearts, we know for certain that this is not true.  From their responses, I could tell they wanted to believe too-- that there is ONE God who loves us all--throughout all space and time.

At the beginning of the conversation, they were surprised to learn that Eric and I had both done some evangilization work before (in college).  Before they left, they asked if we did this sort of thing on a regular basis for our Church!  Haha.  We said we'd love to, but right now, we are working on converting our little heathens before we venture out of our home.  total joke. Our kids convert us more than we convert them.  They knew what we meant though. 

Passing along a Catholic bible was a big accomplishment too.  Mormons are only allowed to read the King James version of the Bible, which is the most inaccurate version of the Bible in language and content.   In fact, their teaching on heaven comes from an inaccurate translation of the words for heaven and earth! We tried to convey the message of their flawed Bible to them throughout the conversion, however we weren't so good about the history and specifics about the translations.   At least before they left, one of them willing took the NAB version (New American Bible) from us.   He assured us that he would read it and come back with it someday, so we hope that we will have another good discussion in the future.

At the end of our discussion, they asked Eric to lead a prayer.  They watched us and our son make the sign of the cross and when we finished, one of them was trying it out for himself (the one whose name was Patrick and who asked about the Trinity. Interesting, huh?).

One of little secrets that we learned about Mormons from the CD is that they are given the title- Elder, and their first names almost become obsolete.  Elder Johnson, Elder Smith, etc.  becomes the only name they are referred to by other Mormons.  Not even their missionary partner knows the other's first name most of the time.  So, to find out their first name and call them by that, strips them of their authority and makes them more vulnerable.  Thomas Smith said on the CD that a protestant missionary did this to him, saying that when he died, God would be calling him by his first name- not his title.
Eric and I were waiting for an opportunity to get it out of them and before they left, Eric goes, "I'm not very good with last names, can I get your first names so I can remember you?"    It worked like a charm, even though one of them stopped himself for a moment before giving in.  We were then able to say goodbye to the boys with their real names.

I believe a seed of doubt was planted (especially in Patrick) and so now I pray for Patrick and Zachary and I asked your prayers too.  



11 comments:

AE said...

you GO girl!

melody said...

Awesome! You guys rock. :) Thanks be to God for the opportunity you had and the good things you did with it for him. God bless Patrick and Zachary and let those seeds grow!

Allison said...

nice job! that's funny you mention that cd...I just got it a few weeks ago...haven't had a chance to listen to the whole thing yet. Glad you guys could influence these boys!

Alma said...

Sarah:

The account of your encounter with Mormon missionaries was interesting to read. You do have a couple of things that aren’t quite right regarding Mormon theology. Perhaps the most important is that Mormons do believe that Jesus is God. While it’s true they don’t have the same concept of the trinity as most of Christianity, that doesn't really negate the fact that they consider Jesus God.

And, Mormons don’t believe that each planet has its own God. Mormon theology teaches that Jesus Christ has created worlds without number; and He is their God.

Missionaries do know each others’ first names; it’s been more than 30 years since I was a missionary and I still remember all my companion's first names. Knowing their names or calling them by such doesn’t really have any bearing on their authority—but it is considered respectful to call them by their title. I have a friend here locally, a “Father Peter.” I wouldn’t think of calling him “Pete” or by his pre-ordination given name.

Alma

Sarah Harkins said...

Alma,
Thanks for stopping by. I suspect you found me via google search or something of that sort. I was afraid this would happen since I do not want Patrick or Zach to get reprimanded. I suppose their superiors will hear about this now.
I wasn't going to post this account for this reason, but I decided it would beneficial for the Catholics who read my blog.

As for the differences of facts. I will have to go with what I heard from the Catholic convert, Thomas Smith and CatholicAnswers.com where the fullness of truth is always brought to light. I believe your religion can be deceptive, which makes me distrust you.

I can see your point about the titles. I'm sure there are differences of beliefs in the various Mormon communities. Maybe Thomas Smith's community was more puritanical about that sort of thing. I don't mean to be disrespectful, but, I do not believe a priest (or Elder) in the Mormon religion and a priest in the Catholic religion are on equal playing grounds since every Mormon male becomes a priest at the age of 18. It seems it is more equivalent to Mr. Mrs. or Sir except with religious flair. A priest on the other hand, is ordained by God through apostolic succession and leader of his flock. We call him Father, because he the spiritual father of his church. These were boys who were confused and mislead.

I can see why Mormons are always comparing their beliefs with Christian ones. It must be very beneficial to winning over members. But I do not respect this tactic. I believe in unveiling the truth at all times.

God Bless You, Alma.

Alma said...

Sarah:

I've been thinking about your reply quite a bit today and feel compelled to make a couple more comments. You shouldn't worry that those missionaries would be reprimanded. I can't imagine what in your comments would indicate a need for a reprimand. Also, their "superiors" don't have access to the internet and their mission president (the only one who could reprimand them) wouldn't be the least concerned about their visit to your home. They were doing what they're supposed to do. I came across your blog because I have a tab in google notifying me of news and blog postings using the word "Mormon." Your comments looked interesting.

Actually there aren't differences of facts; just opinions. I can assure you that if what you learned from Thomas Smith's CD is what he actually claimed, he has not told you the truth. I tried to embed a couple of quotes in my previous message so that you could see for yourself that I was not being deceptive; but I'm not that technically adept. Unfortunately, Christians have always been slandered as being dishonest (Romans 3:8), but I would ask that you wait until you have evidence of me being deceptive before you paint me with that brush.

I went to the Lighthouse website and the blurb for the CD is just plain mistaken. For example, they write, "Since they don't believe Jesus is God ..." You can see for yourself that we do believe Jesus is God by looking up a couple of passages of Mormon scripture that specifically refer to Jesus Christ as God: "THUS saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great I AM, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made; The same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes; I am the same which spake, and the world was made, and all things came by me. (Doctrine and Covenants 38:1-3) Similarly, the Book of Mormon repeatedly refers to Jesus Christ as God. (Ether 3:17-18, 3 Nephi 11:14, Mosiah 15:3). You can look up all those passages at LDS.org. (http://lds.org/scriptures/dc-testament/dc/38.1?lang=eng#primary)

Mormon males who are deemed worthy are ordained priests at age 16; but only full time missionaries and those we call "general authorities" (apostles, and other full time church leaders) are referred to as "Elder." Is it really valid to disregard that courtesy of convention merely because you don't believe that those elders have real authority? I don't believe my friend Father Peter has real authority either, but I (and all Mormons I know who refer to him) still call him "Father Peter."

Incidentally, we too believe in apostolic succession--that Peter, James and John were sent by Christ to ordain Joseph Smith. So, technically, only Mormons and Catholics have a leg to stand on when discussing apostolic succession.

Thank you for your kindness in responding to my message.

BeckyK said...

If only we all could be as confident in our faith as you demonstrated! Your experience was very inspiring! Thanks for sharing!

Sarah Harkins said...

Alma,
I've done some more research and everywhere I look says that Mormons believe that Jesus is a god- with a lower case g. Maybe you are misinterpreting that part of your book of Mormon? Catholics believe that Jesus is the only God there is in all the universe. Do you believe that? If not, then we are not talking about the same person.

The boys did mention something about the apostles scattering after Jesus went back into heaven. We didn't know what they were talking about until I came across this idea on another website explaining it better. So you believe that when the Apostles dispersed, no one had the truth for over 1800 years until God saw fit to enlighten Joseph Smith in 1823. I'm sorry, but there is just no reconciling this one. You cannot be more wrong.

Here's me copying and pasting b/c I just don't have the time to go into all of this:

CAN EVERY MORMON HONESTLY ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS?

Any Christian can easily see how far Mormonism is from the truth. Not only do the Mormons have to reconsider their faith in the teachings of the Mormon church, but they also need to face the reality denied by the teachings of their accepted authorities:

1) Why should anyone believe in the Book of Mormon? A Catholic believes in the Bible because the Church is able to verify the Historicity, Veracity, and Integrity of the Scriptures. He knows that the Catholic Church assembled the Book in the first place.

2) Why did Smith's three main witnesses, Cowdrey, Davis and Scales write the book, "Who Really Wrote the Book of Mormon? (Vision House Publishers, 1977)? Why did they leave the Mormon Church, even though they claimed to have seen Smith’s tablets?

3) Modem archeology does not support the Book of Mormon's tale. Ask, for instance, Do you really believe that horses existed in America at that time (1st Nephi 18:25; 3rd Nephi 3:22)? Why is there no evidence of any civilization in America before the Indians?

4) Why did Joseph Smith become a freemason in 1842, 12 years after he published the Book of Mormon? Why does the Mormon so much resemble the Masonic rite?

5) Why do you hold the Bible to be true? Many questions may be used which you might use against any Bible-only believer.

6) Why does the Bible say there is one God, and absolutely no other? See Exodus20:2-3, Deut 6:4 Isaiah 43:10; 45:5; 1st Cor. 8:4; Ephesians 4:56; and John 12:3. Mormons will often use Genesis 1:26 where God says, "Let us make man in our image" (Christians understand this to refer to the Trinity). Show them Genesis 1:27. How is it that Joseph Smith or any other man can have the capacity of God? If God did not create matter, then where did matter come from? Something cannot come from nothing. Remember that Saint Michael the Archangel said, "Who is like unto God?"

7) Why does the Book of Mormon declare Mary to be a virgin when you believe she had sex with God? Further, that Jesus was born in Nazareth (1" Nephi 11: 13-20), and not in Bethlehem?

8) Why is it that there is no mention of a total apostasy in any history ever? Surely it could not have gone completely unnoticed!

9) How can there have been a great apostasy when the Church Fathers taught Catholic Doctrine? And how could the Church have lost the Troth since it was the Catholic Church who defined the Canon of the Bible?

10) Why doesn't the Book of Mormon not say anything about baptizing people who have already died? The Mormons believe heavily in this teaching, basing it on 1 Corinthians 15:29. If this practice is so important, why is it mentioned only once in the Bible? Why is it that no one except Joseph Smith ever taught to baptize dead people? Why does the Book of Mormon deny this possibility in Alma 34:31-35, Alma 5:28, 31; 2 Nephi 9:38; Mosiah 16:5,11; Mosiah 26:25-27?

Alma, I hope you never stop searching for the truth. It's been a pleasure. God Bless you!

Alma said...

Sarah:

I fear you may be looking in the wrong places if you’re finding that Mormons believe that “Jesus is a god –with a lower case g.” You won’t find such an explanation in any literature produced by the LDS Church. As I cited above, according to Mormon doctrine and scripture, Jesus Christ is the God of Israel. From the first page of the Book of Mormon you can find that the purpose of that book is to convince everyone “that JESUS is the CHRIST, the ETERNAL GOD.” Those words in upper case are exactly as they appear in every copy of the Book of Mormon.

We are talking about the same person if we’re referencing Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Son of Mary who died for our sins and rose again the third day.

The “copying and pasting” you provided is seriously flawed. It’s as though someone took criticisms of Mormonism, placed them in a blender and gave them to you—so that much of it doesn’t make any sense. Just a brief reply to the items you listed should give you an idea about the quality of the information you found:

1) People should believe the Book of Mormon because God has promised to tell anyone who reads it sincerely and asks Him in faith if it is true will get an answer from Him. The reasons for believing the Bible must be more than its historicity. There is no way to verify any of the miracles which are related in the New Testament. Those elements are accepted by faith not because they have been verified.

2) The book you refer to written in 1977 was not written by Joseph Smith’s witnesses. All of Joseph Smith’s witnesses died in the 1800’s. The authors you cite above (Cowdrey, Scales and Davis) were essentially con men. Their book falsely claimed that Cowdrey was a descendant of Joseph Smith’s witness Oliver Cowdery among other ludicrous assertions. Joseph Smith’s actual 3 witnesses to the Book of Mormon plates were expelled from the Church for violations of church standards. Two were allowed to return after repentance (Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery) and a third (David Whitmer) died outside the Church. Each maintained to his death his statement of having seen the plates. What better evidence against collusion could there be than for Joseph Smith to expel his primary witnesses—essentially daring them to expose him if possible?

3) Modern archaeology doesn’t support elements of the Bible either. Are you aware of any authentic evidence of the tower of Babel, the Garden of Eden or Noah’s ark? How about evidence of over a million Jews wandering in the Sinai Peninsula for 40 years? There isn’t any; but I suspect you still believe in Moses, Adam, and Noah.

Your claim that there is no evidence of any civilization in America before the Indians is troubling on three accounts: 1) there have been many civilizations in North America the preceded the Indians: Mound Builders, Olmecs, Toltecs, and Clovis. 2) American Indians are descendants of these preceding civilizations and the Book of Mormon account stipulates only that American aborigines descended from earlier inhabitants of this continent. Your question supposes that there were no earlier inhabitants; which is false archaeologically. 3) Your appeal to archaeology is a double edged sword. You obviously want it to negate LDS belief in the Book of Mormon; but it also stipulates human habitation on this continent long before the biblical account of Adam and Eve. If you’re going to disallow Mormon scripture based on archaeology, are you willing to be consistent and disallow biblical history on the same basis?

continued--

Alma said...

4) Joseph Smith became a freemason in 1842 because it was a sociable thing to do—and he hoped it would defuse animosity towards his people. Discussions about similarities with previously established practices are useless. The similarities between the Greek myth of Hercules and the Gospel of Jesus don’t necessarily mean that the later version (Christianity) is dependent on the earlier one.

5) I believe the Bible is true because I have faith that God spoke to prophets and apostles and preserved their teachings for our benefit.

6) I don’t know why the Bible says there is only one God while it also says there are many. (Psalm 82, John 10:35 and 1 Cor. 8:5) Man can have the capacity of God if God gives him that capacity. There is a doctrine among your Orthodox brethren known as Theosis, which means becoming Gods. Peter said that Christians would be “partakers of the divine nature.” (2 Peter 1:4) The difference between us and God is primarily our natures. If God shares His nature with us, that’s how we get the capacity of God.

You wrote, “Something cannot come from nothing.” I believe that; but Catholics don’t. They believe that God created everything out of nothing (ex nihilo.) If you’re going to refute Mormonism, you have to stay on the side that doesn’t stipulate Mormon theology as a given. Otherwise, it’s hard to see where you’re coming from.

7) You need to check your sources a little better on this one. The Book of Mormon says Jesus would be born “at Jerusalem, which is the land of our forefathers” not Nazareth. Bethlehem, anciently was considered a village in the land of Jerusalem. As far as I’m aware the Book of Mormon is official doctrine of Mormonism. It says that Mary was a virgin after Jesus was born. As long as that passage is part of our canon, that’s official Mormon theology. Anyone who says otherwise is ignorant of what constitutes official Mormon theology.

8) There are lots of references to a total apostasy in the New Testament.

9) Because Jesus and His apostles taught that there would be an apostasy and the New Testament chronicles much of its accomplishment. That’s why Paul could write to Timothy and tell him that “all they which are in Asia be turned away from me;” (2 Tim. 1:15.) If all in Asia (incidentally the site of Nicaea) had rejected Paul, it’s not hard to imagine that this was the start of an unfortunate trend.

10) Mormons don’t baptize dead people. They baptize the living as proxies in their behalf. Many people in history have taught proxy baptism for the dead. See this article “Baptism for the Dead in Early Christianity”: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/books/?bookid=21&chapid=104

noreen said...

Wow, that's a long an intensive yet heartfelt conversation you had with Patrick and Zachary as well as the one being played out on your blog with Alma. I think this all points to the disunity among Christians that goes against the Word of God. There is much confusion and division that takes the focus off of The Most Holy Trinity.

Sarah, I applaud your zeal and knowledge of Our Faith to witness in a loving manner to your guests. I've no doubt they saw the image of Christ in you and your husband and that the Holy Spirit was guiding your conversation. Your willingness to discuss theology and apologetics with Alma is a shining example of Christ's love for us all!